As a shamanic healer and medicine man, I understand the importance of identifying and addressing spiritual blockages that can hinder our growth and progress on the spiritual path. Here are ten significant spiritual blockages, along with their descriptions, why they pose a problem, and advice/practices to heal and remove them.
This is not an exhaustive list “one size fits all” list but is based on what I have observed over the decades of my own healing and supporting others in their transformation and healing.
I believe that knowing what our most common blocks are can help us focus on specific practices, find the right support, and potentially make profound breakthroughs on them, essential for our spiritual and human development.
Fear is a powerful emotion that can paralyze us and prevent us from embracing new experiences or stepping out of our comfort zones. We will avoid new experiences or experiences that are out of our comfort zone preventing some new experiences to rewrite the stories of the past.
Fear blocks our spiritual growth by limiting our potential and keeping us stuck in familiar patterns. The familiar is not always liberating even if it provides some sense of safety.
One of the opportunities is to embrace fear as an opportunity for growth. Seeing fear as the edge of our known territory of experience and facing experienced our fears head-on through practices like meditation, breathwork, and exposure therapy. “I cannot do it” can become “I did it”.
Over time I have experienced that walking with fears (instead of being paralyzed/stopped by them or trying to fight them) can develop new trust in ourselves and the universe.
Attachment refers to our excessive reliance on external people, things, or outcomes for our happiness and fulfillment. It can also come into a trickier form like the attachment to certain emotions.
The problem is that attachment keeps us chained to the material world and prevents us from realizing our true spiritual essence. It leads to suffering when we cling to impermanent things. We are not allowing ourselves to be fully present as we want to control the future.
One of the practices I have found very healing, even if it requires a lot of practice and discipline of self-awareness is to cultivate detachment and non-attachment. I want to be clear that this is not about feeling “non-emotional" and separate from people/emotions or situations” but more to develop a skill of presence and awareness that allow one to detach from the situation and object while staying engaged with it.
For example, you can practice mindfulness and observe your attachments without judgment but with curiosity and compassion. Another good practice is to embrace impermanence and focus on inner fulfillment rather than external validation. As inner fulfillment and a sense of joy and peace develop, we build resilience and a stronger capacity to face the ever-changing “outer world”.
The ego represents our sense of self-identity and individuality, often driven by desires, judgments, and the need for control. It is in many ways a false identity as it is not based on our ultimate spiritual and universal truth but based on our many stories, experiences, and culture.
The problem with the ego is that it separates us from our interconnectedness with others and the divine. It creates divisions, conflicts, and an inflated sense of self-importance. We believe the problem is always out there and we can get locked into the false belief of knowing/owning the ultimate truth. In this way, it also blocks deeply our potential for transformation and growth.
Even if this is a life practice to notice what is coming from this distorted sense of self, the best practice is regular self-inquiry and introspection to understand the nature of your ego.
When we develop humility, compassion, and gratitude we can start seeing some of the veils of the Ego dissolving. When we realize that ultimately, we do not know, our sense of self becomes wider and less limited to our own experience.
Another way that is very common on the shamanic path is to engage in acts of selfless service to dissolve the ego's grip. When I realize the gift of being in service to something bigger than the self, the Ego gently dissolves.
Resentment arises from holding onto past grievances, anger, and bitterness towards others or oneself. It often led to increasing isolation from others, and a reinforcement of Ego and “being right” preventing vulnerable and safe connections with others.
From a shamanic perspective, we believe that many chronic illnesses are born from such energetic vibrations. It is an inner fire that is raging and has nowhere to go than “burn our inner core”.
Resentment also blocks the flow of love and forgiveness. It keeps us stuck in the past, preventing spiritual growth and inner peace. We will spend a tremendous amount of mental space, energy, and emotions to maintain such states and it will ultimately and slowly suck the life out of our spirit and heart.
One of the great ways to release resentment is through forgiveness. Realizing that we are all humans, imperfect and perfect at the same time. That we will often hurt each other because of our unhealed trauma and past.
If I can find forgiveness for the time I did not show up in the best way, hold my angry inner child, and find compassion for my shortfall, I will find a way to have true compassion for others and resentment will lessen more often and more quickly.
I recommend practicing forgiveness meditations, writing letters of forgiveness (even if you don't send them), doing a 21-day Hoponopono practice, and trying to see the wounded child in others when they have hurt you. You will find compassion and find love back for so many people when doing this.
5. Guilt and Shame:
Guilt and shame stem from feelings of remorse or inadequacy due to past actions, often linked to societal or cultural conditioning. We have shamed and learned to believe we are not good enough, inadequate, or “less than” others.
The problem is that guilt and shame create very powerful (and not always visible) self-destructive patterns, low self-worth, and prevent us from embracing our true potential. We stay stuck in our small or old ways.
Often connected to anger and resentment we will also find ways to project this guilt and shame with anger through constant running away or hiding from a potential self.
It is often a very hard cycle to break as anger is often much more visible to most than their own deep shame.
One of the practices is to first check if our anger is trying to protect some old shamed parts of us. Have we experienced being told we were not enough? Was love conditional as a child? Did we ever feel fully embraced even when we failed?
Then practice self-compassion and self-forgiveness. Engage in shadow work and inner-child work to explore and integrate repressed aspects of yourself. Many shamanic practices, and ceremonies, are designed to “see the unseen” and access the subconscious parts of the self.
I really recommend seeking support for such hard but essential work as a big part of this work will also need to be done in relation to others (being witnessed and still loved in those moments of guilt & shame is a powerful life-changing experience).
6. Lack of Self-Love:
Lack of self-love manifests as self-criticism, self-doubt, and a negative self-image. It will also prevent us from being able to deeply access the area inside us that need attention and healing.
The issue is that without self-love, we struggle to accept ourselves fully and experience deep joy and connection with others. So, we will have patterns where we try to hide parts of ourselves, play roles and unhealthy behaviors with others, and can also fall sometimes into deep depression or self-harm, and even suicidal behaviors.
Even if that sounds corny or easy, I really recommend my clients to cultivate self-love through affirmations, like watching themselves in the mirror every morning and saying, “I love you”, “I love all of you” repeatedly for 5 minutes and feeling what comes up. Journal about it.
It will come as odd at the beginning but keep going. After a few days or weeks, you will experience a shift.
I also recommend self-care practices. When we do not self-care it is often because of a lack of self-love, and we fall into patterns of saving others.
Self-care also calms and nourish our nervous systems, which helps to relax into self-love and often allows access to releasing the deep grief of the self-harm we caused ourselves with negative thoughts and constant inner-critic spinning in our mind.
If as a child we were not held in unconditional love when we failed, some deep inner-child healing is also needed to deepen the experience of true unconditional self-love.
Finally, practice self-acceptance when you did not show up “as well” as you had hoped for. Be curious and loving with your self-criticism, self-doubt, and negative self-image.
Where did you learn such patterns?
Which experience made you feel that way when you were young or still today?
And develop a practice to celebrate your strengths and uniqueness so you can train yourself and make space for the immense good that you are.
7. Unhealed Trauma:
Unresolved trauma from past experiences or childhood can continue to influence our emotions, behaviors, and beliefs for most of our lives if we do not attend to it. It is probably the most common pattern I see in the work I do, and in myself!
Unhealed trauma keeps us stuck in repetitive patterns with ourselves and others, in our relationships, and in all aspects of life. It also limits our ability to trust and connect with others. We keep fighting or running away without ever solving the root cause that we might carry and see the issue in “others”. We can easily fall into a bouncing pattern of victim & judge, and it will ultimately hinder our spiritual growth.
I often recommend seeking professional support from a trauma-informed therapist. Especially therapists who work with body sensations and methods like IFS, EMDR, and somatic experiencing.
Many shamanic healing practices are designed to help us connect to the body's sensations and emotions to process them. Plant medicines are a great example of powerful “trauma therapist” healers.
I also like to explore dream work and our “protection narratives” to rewrite our own personal stories.
8. Lack of Boundaries:
Lack of boundaries refers to the inability to set healthy limits and assert one's needs, leading to overwhelm and energetic depletion. If we have not learned to say no, we will often say yes when in fact we are not truly ready, available, or open to a full yes. Without clear "no" in our lives, our "yes" have little to no value.
We often learned as a child to please our parents and caretakers to feel safe, to connect, and to belong. We have learned that somehow others' needs are more important than ours.
Without boundaries, we become susceptible to energy drains and manipulations and lose sight of our own desires and authentic expression. We will end up keeping alive relationships that do not serve our higher growth. We will step out of our integrity and authentic belonging and feel loved and safe, keeping us further away from our potential and spiritual development. We will shrink our needs in order to please others.
One of the difficult but essential practices is to learn to set and communicate boundaries with compassion despite the fear we will feel setting them. We need to be ok to lose connection with others if they are not capable to respect our boundaries and in order to do this we need a “full cup” of self-love so we do not fill this cup with other people's broken love.
To do this we also need to practice self-care and prioritize our needs. If we are self-reliant and loving, we do not need constant approval and boundaries are easier to set.
9. Fixed Beliefs:
Fixed beliefs are rigid and dogmatic views that limit our openness to new perspectives and hinder deeply our personal and spiritual growth. It is deeply connected to our ego, and a false sense of self-power when knowing better than others. We protect ourselves by limiting our experiences and larger possibilities of knowledge.
The issue is that fixed beliefs create separation and judgments, and hinder our ability to evolve and connect with others on a deeper level.
This is something so prevalent in today’s world and Western culture as we lost our capacity to stay connected with others even when we disagree with them. We would rather be right than connect.
We think we know exactly what happened, what someone felt, and what someone's experience is, so we lose connection by painting a distorted and very limited view of other people's experiences.
One of the best practices is to cultivate open-mindedness and curiosity. I like to assume that I do not know anyone ever. That there is a mystery in the other. That if I had that person life's experience, I would have probably acted in the same way.
It is also good to engage in practices that challenge your beliefs, such as reading diverse literature, attending workshops or conferences, and engaging in respectful dialogues with those holding different viewpoints.
Getting to know with compassion and curiosity other people's experiences can help dissolve strong beliefs and experience the mystery of others.
10. Spiritual Bypassing:
Spiritual bypassing involves using spiritual practices or beliefs as a way to avoid or escape uncomfortable emotions or life challenges. It is very common to see the narrative in spiritual's communities of “it is all love” and to try to keep ourselves in constant “high vibration” by limiting the beauty of the human experience to what only feels good.
We also often see how some patterns, behaviors, and feelings, are qualified as non-spiritual so there is a kind of constant judgment and high standard on everyone giving a very distorted and false view of what it means to be spiritual.
Spiritual bypassing prevents true healing and growth by avoiding the necessary inner work and integration of challenging experiences. It prevents us to descend into the painful and messy parts of the self and to show ourselves as a “work in progress”. We also often numb our emotions to belong and feel accepted or be perceived as “spiritual”.
The key to avoiding this is to embrace the full spectrum of human experiences as the exact reflection of the full divine experience. As my teacher often told me, the more human you are, the more divine you are.
This can take deep work to understand and feel that every part of the self is sacred and divine. To not ever hide the messy self. And to be vulnerable in what is a work in progress for us.
Where do you hold a narrative that something in you is not spiritual? Not perfect?
Can you explore with curiosity and deep self-love this narrative?
There is the big work.
You can also practice mindfulness to stay present with your emotions. When strong emotions arise do not try to change them but try to silently sit with them with a gentle breath. Why do I feel I have to change them or there is anything wrong with them or me?
You can also engage in shadow work, or therapy, or seek guidance from a spiritual teacher or mentor to navigate challenging emotions and experiences. I often feel that a loving reflection and holding can help us process more deeply what might scare us when alone.
Remember, everyone’s healing journey is unique, and it's essential to honor your own process. You are a unique being with the same goodness, and sacredness as everyone else, you are, like everyone and everything, a manifestation of God’s creation.
So, if you feel stuck with some of the above blockages and patterns, seek the support and guidance of experienced healers, therapists, or mentors to navigate these blockages and foster your spiritual growth.
Spiritual growth is not blocked when we have those “problems” but when we avoid them and do not work on them. They are only problems when they are unconscious or ignored. People who are deep into their spiritual path will not have fully resolved any of them but are aware and committed to this work and transformation.
There are beautiful, ancient, and powerful shamanic healing practices, rituals, and ceremonies that have proven for eons to help us navigate this life as human beings while nourishing our spirit and soul.
As a last piece of advice, be gentle with your step and take it one step at a time. Slow growth is always more embodied and authentic than big jumps into a self we are yet to meet and embrace!
With my love,