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Neurodiversity, Altered State of Consciousness and Sacred gifts

For many months now, I have been wanting to write this essay, as my personal experience of the world, my own neurodiversity & ADHD, and my shamanic gifts have weaved together a thread that I wish to share with you.

In recent years, the world of autism, neurodiversity, and ADHD has been more deeply explored and revealed a new paradigm, truth, and possibility for those of us who often feel different in our connection to the world around us and within us.

Societal norms, wounded family dynamics, and conformism in the capitalistic and anthropocentric machine, has been the model for a few centuries and has now shown its limitations, dangers and extreme violence. As the insanity of this fast-moving ship grows, the intensity of the denials and oppression increase.

Those who do not conform, who do not see the world through that model of science without moral, who believe that humans should not be at the center of our decisions but in a council of beings that includes all life (see the amazing work from Joanna Macy “Council of all being”), and who do not want to mold themselves into those narratives have been rejected and often qualified as “crazy” (origin of the word 1580s "broken, impaired, full of cracks or flaws,") or weird (from Old English wyrd, c. 1400, "having power to control fate,").

Alternative education systems, alternative health, and alternative spirituality (beyond the main religions) are often looked upon with suspicion and dismissive statements, weird and crazy being a part of them.

What is not in the norm is crazy = “broken, impaired, full of cracks or flaws.” It is indeed a violent, excluding, and damaging statement. It indeed protects the perpetrator from seeing itself as the root cause of the issue. We see this in our society, our communities, many family dynamics, and most of the systems of oppression in place in today’s “modern” world.

Modern industrial and colonial (broken) societies always prevented those with a different and expanded awareness (autistic, neurodiverse, ADHD, gender fluid, sexually non-conformist, native people, poet, mystics, witches, tree huggers, etc.) to be included as they threaten the very foundation on which those societies rely upon to keep going, oppressing, and controlling.

Those who sustain and keep participating in and perpetuating those systems are the ones that are probably more misguided if you were to see from a higher view on what is happening. But to keep going and avoid addressing the deep issues at stake in our world, they need to keep living with their fake sense of identity and therefore must label those with different views as crazy (broken), will attempt everything to control and oppress those outside of their world view. In a world that is so obviously flawed and filled with brokenness (unless for those in denials), it is quite ironical and indeed the definition of insanity.

When it comes to being different, native peoples’ approaches to such differences, were, across the word, always seen as a gift to the community. If you were to see the world through different lenses, you could retrieve and share a wisdom that others could not access, and this diversity was always welcome, cherished, and embraced.

Modeling on the understanding of how Nature and ecosystems work, Native people have always understood that every part of a system is (and must be) in relation and in service to the system. They understood that, even if not fully understood, the “creator / God” had brought this new mystery into manifestation. That there was a reason for it, not for us to judge, exclude or alienate.

In times of crisis, sickness or conflict, those gifted with an “out of the norm” view, were part of the council of elders, invited to share their views and wisdom, and those views were often essential in the resolution of those systemic issues. Those unusual “weird” gifts were the medicine for the healing of all. This extended to those with different sexual preferences, gender identifications, or neurodiverse patterns. Never was this seen as a problem, as it was always a part of the solution.

The inclusion was going even further. There were no hospices for the elderly. No classrooms for the children (“it takes a village to raise a child”). No asylum for the crazy. Hospitals were circles including the “sick” and the “healthy”. Everyone included. Everyone together. Everyone in relation and cooperation. Everyone a student. Everyone a teacher. Everyone gifting. Everyone receiving.

New paradigms and solutions were the result of the sacred weaving of all relations, of all views, of all expressions of uniqueness. Like the mycelium connecting all trees in a forest, it was understood that resilience, strength, and power came from inclusion, cooperation, unconditional love, and acceptance.

In shamanism, medicine work and animism, we seek the views from allies, spirits, guides, that are not always “visible” through the eyes, not always immediately accessible through the physical reality. This includes work with prayer, meditation, plant medicines, dream work, daydreaming, play, drumming, sound, dancing, breathing, etc. Trans-states can be achieved in such various ways that it is indeed a part of our natural skill sets and wisdom. Altered states of consciousness are here to pierce the veil of reality and access deeper truth, alternate points of view. They are the bridges into alternate realities and deeper wisdom.

If answers could not be found in “this” reality, they were explored in “other” realities. It was not crazy, not weird, it was common sense.

As shamanic practitioners we rely on those states to get a broader and always wider (wiser) understanding of trauma, ailments, and imbalances. We understand that things are not always what they look like on the surface. That there is a wiser world under and behind them. Those alternate realities are never centered exclusively around the individual, but always weaved into the system, collective, families and communities the individual relates to. The dis-ease is not a personal responsibility, but a collective endeavor where everyone acknowledges his and her own participation in it. We heal alone, and together. We heal in circle. We heal in relation and in connection.

Over the past 15 years of my work as a medicine man, I have met countless people who were able to finally understand themselves, their souls and give meaning to their lives through those experiences and healing practices.

I have hundreds of examples of wisdom and healing experiences retrieved from altered states of consciousness. I think some might qualify those as “crazy” at first look, but when under close examination, what we discover is far from flawed.

I would give one example. A few years ago, I had the beautiful opportunity to sit in a traditional “tree dieta.” A “dieta” consist of drinking a decoction of the tree/plant (in this case made from the Oak tree bark), every day for an extended period (7 days here). And sitting in silence, without connection to the “world,” just with Nature. After a few days, the Oak tree came into my dream, and during the day through streams of consciousness. He taught me so much that I wrote pages and pages of messages. How do I know it was the Oak tree speaking? How do I know this was not just a made-up imagination, or “crazy?” After the dieta, I went online and Googled, “Oak tree wisdom,” and read many articles about Celtic druids who had nurtured that relationship with the Oak. To my “surprise” the messages they shared were sometimes identical to the letter to those I received.

What is fascinating to me here is that those altered states of consciousness and neurodiversities seems to tap not just into the singularity of the individual, but in a much broader universal consciousness. They are portals, bridges into an unseen world that is rich with wisdom, meaning and deeply ancient stories.

It is as if those states are the necessary places to connect “beyond the self” into something all mystics, from all times and places, have called “God,” or “universal consciousness.” Like a library of wisdom built since the birth of the universe, accessible to us when we let go of the grip of the Ego, the illusion of knowing, the possibility of radically new learnings. It is where our soul can and will find meaning, and where we will retrieve our sacred gifts.

In allowing ourselves to open those doors of perception we can retrieve wisdom, healing and completely shift our own consciousness and personal pain. What I have seen again and again is that the devastating experiences of pain & trauma, and the heavy stories attached to them, can be transformed, shifted into new narratives and new ways of being and relating. In many ways we are taught that healing is possible once we let go of the self-identity created by others, once we surrender into something all spiritual seekers are attempting to re-discover. Authentic belonging.

I believe that in many ways those who dwell there from neurodiverse individuals to medicine men and women, are showing the way for us all to discover our true power in the deepest parts of our soul and heart. They are teaching us how to relate with the unseen, the mystical, the unknown and the darkest parts of ourselves and our world. They are the necessary ambassadors into the new world.

All ancient cultures had the necessary tools and rituals to experience this while giving meaning and context to those experiences. No one was weird, no one was crazy. Everyone was uniquely gifted. Illnesses were not a problem to fix, but a gift to be understood. Today, on the contrary, our society often denies access to those tools and rituals for those who are most in need. It creates barriers and additional traumas that blocks a true understanding of their life, emotions, psychology, and bodies.

We medicate and numb the feelings, emotions, minds, and bodies. We isolate the individual in need of connection and safety. We label each ailment with alienating words. We amplify the rift between each other, and we perpetuate the sense of unbelonging. We distort and destroy the gift of being different. We emphasize the need to conform for survival. This results in the numbing of the masses and requires consistent denial. Fear wins over love and acceptance. The opioid crisis, sky rocketing alcohol consumption, depression, social anxiety, and teenagers’ suicidal rates are some of the many consequences.

“The world will benefit significantly from talents such as empathy, emotional intensity, certitude, sensitivity, ability to detect details, depth of thought, will to embrace, and many other things that we need in a time where alienation, coldness, superficiality, and emotional hardness are predominating.” ― Jenara Nerenberg, Divergent Mind: Thriving in a World That Wasn’t Designed for You

Another reality is possible. As many elders have shared with me, we are co-creators of our reality and in writing a new personal myth, we can completely change the way we live our lives, the way we connect to our bodies, emotions, and minds, and finally cultivate new states of joy, peace and connection.

From the Greek philosophers, through Carl Yung’s philosophy to the most advanced modern psychiatry, there is a thread of invitation into the sub-conscious, the unknown, the personal dream world and mythic landscape. Holistic healing happens when we can access this part of the self. We recognize that most of our reality is invisible as most of the universe is made of dark matter. As above, so below.

People who are neurodiverse, autistic, live with ADHD or other “conditions” where the “seeing & feeling” are different from conventional norms are living in what a medicine man/woman would call altered states of consciousness. Those states allow them to see the world through a deeper and often magical reality, and because of that those same individuals can get closer to the creator in their daily lives because they have a view that goes beyond what can be seen or felt with the common senses.

Yet when such states, behaviors, ways of relating, are pathologized (pathology "science of diseases," 1610s, from French pathologie), it immediately puts these individuals and their diversity in the category of “to be fixed,” or “to be changed.” Naming what is different or what we do not understand as “crazy” or “weird” in an attempt to keep the “status quo” alive, to avoid feeling / accepting our own differences, to keep buried our unresolved/unseen pain. It always comes from a fear of change, a fear of evolution.

"Mind at Large has to be funneled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system. What comes out at the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness that will help us to stay alive.... Certain persons, however, seem to be born with a kind of bypass that circumvents the reducing valve. In others, temporary bypasses may be acquired either spontaneously, or as the result of deliberate Spiritual exercises," or through hypnosis, or by means of drugs. Through these permanent or temporary bypasses there flows something more than, and above all something different from, the carefully selected utilitarian material which our narrowed, individual minds regard as a complete, or at least sufficient, picture of reality." ALDOUS HUXLEY

In a world that is obviously sick, in ecological collapse, and cultural struggle, the opportunity for different views, for radical changes, should be embraced and welcomed. Curiosity should prevail over judgment and opinions.

How will we find the solution if we do not explore alternate possibilities, new radical thinking, and deeply dive into the shared collective pain and ancestral wisdom?

As Einstein wrote “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” That would be the definition of crazy, right?

What does this mean?

- It means we must let go of all our preconceptions.

- We need elders, rituals and ceremonial tools to travel those places.

- We need to willingly enter altered states of consciousness to heal and change.

- We need to retrieve new information and wisdom from those places

- We need to educate through alternative ways that are non-conventional

- We need to include those who perceive the world through very different lenses.

- We need to open our society to those on “those fringes” and listen to them deeply

- We need to bring them in the middle, the center, the heart of the conversation.

- We need to welcome the bridges that are created by neurodiversity, autism, ADHD

- We need to embrace alternative and ancient healing as part of the wider and wizer medicine

Those are the sacred gifts we need to embrace: our capacity for each one of us to not only dream, but co-create together, to see beyond the physical manifestation of the world as a much deeper, broader, and often wiser, reality.

I also believe that we need to cultivate the tools, and places, where such gifts can be better understood and welcomed. Native traditions all around the world are filled with rituals, ceremonies and sacred items that help such processes. From vision quests, to sweat lodges, from journeying to shapeshifting, from dream work to direct experience of the divine, there is an immense diversity of exploration, and therefore, new possibilities.

Finally, we need to make every effort to include everyone. To listen deeply to every narrative. To receive individuality and neurological differences as a sacred gift for the world. To stop making uniqueness of expression a disease or a problem to fix.

We need to accept what we cannot understand or see, the dark places in our psyche, and the invisible realities that our common senses cannot perceive.

We need to reclaim the power of altered states of consciousness, alternate ways of learning, healing and seeing the world as the root system to create alternate possibilities for humanity.

It is in those spaces of the “not-knowing” that dwells the mystery of creation and the possibility of our salvation. It is in those places that we will finally allow evolution to flow more truthfully and freely.

If you are feeling called to this mystery, if the world as it is does not answer your deepest desire, if the actual systems feel oppressive and in total misalignment with what your heart desires: You have been called to be envoys, ambassadors and manifesters. Called to explore, called to create new possibilities, called to welcome a new reality, called to share your unique perspective.

You have been called to reclaim and offer your most sacred gifts.

Welcome to the place of change. Of life. Of the sacred.

Angell Deer

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