Renaturing the Denatured Spiritual Self
Loraine Van Tuyl, PhD, CHT, is a holistic psychologist, shamanic healer, Depth Hypnosis practitioner, and author. She has guided visionaries, educators, healers, artists, and psychotherapists from the Native American Health Center, the UC Berkeley Counseling Center, and at her private practice, the Sacred Healing Well. She’s the author of Amazon Wisdom Keeper: A Psychologist’s Memoir of Spiritual Awakening. She also designs retreats in Costa Rica for nature wisdom keepers.
Born and raised near the edges of the Amazon rainforest of Suriname, I’ve been listening and dancing to the rhythms of nature for as long as I can remember. Armed with a rusty machete and dressed in old clothes and oversized black boots, I pretended to be Mowgli, Tarzan, or a freedom fighter like the famous rebel slaves Baron, Boni, and Joli Coeur I’d learned about in history class. Thanks to my role models and imaginary friends, Anne Frank, Helen Keller, and Joan of Arc, I began to grasp and channel a parenting book around the age of eight, long before I knew what channeling meant and what my heroine’s journey would evolve into and ask of me.
I’d already gathered that some of my insights, interests, and reactions to people and life were not “normal.” I seemed too sensitive, too particular, too precocious, too stubborn, too pensive, too wise, too opinionated, too perceptive, too intense, too passionate, too weird, too ambitious. I began to separate and collect these parts of myself like out-of-place jigsaw puzzle pieces that belonged in a different box. The more puzzle pieces I collected, the clearer I became that they were creating an image and story that had to do with far more than just parenting. These split-off pieces were influenced by the ancient mystical traditions and the soulful, but overshadowed worldviews of racial and cultural groups that were as diverse and commonplace as the air and wildlife surrounding me.
A diary was a luxury that kids my age didn’t have, so I tucked these insights and puzzle pieces away in a special file in my mind. Regularly revisiting it, I breathed in the wisdom and felt it nourish my cells, blood, bones, and soul. The connective karmic tissue dipped into past life memories, premonitions, guiding dreams, and through long ancestral roots that spanned various continents—Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America.
A military coup upended my life at the tender age of ten. Three years later, at the height of ordinary adolescent mayhem, my family immigrated to Miami, Florida to escape ongoing threats, censorship, kidnappings, and violence in my native country. Not until my potent daily sanctuary was suddenly gone did I realize the magnitude of my loss. I began to water the seeds that had been sown into my fertile soul throughout my formative years. My attempts to reclaim what I’d lost funneled into a passionate interest in psychology.
I received my doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology from the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology (now Palo Alto University), but not without struggle. I longed for more sacred spaces that offered my soul’s natural complexity and yearnings the depth and expansiveness that it needed to blossom, re-integrate, and heal. It was clear to me how 21st century, high-pressure Western lifestyles in the US collapsed many of our subtle layers of wisdom and intuitive potential into coarser, disconnected, streamlined thought patterns and treatment interventions.
In my mind, the emotional crises, physical symptoms, and “mental dis-orders” that clients and I struggled with were natural, healthy signs of resistance to an overly narrow bandwidth of body-mind potential that wasn’t able to incorporate the fullness of life. By tapping into my own instinctual knowing and rediscovering my own wiser and wider baseline, I was able to embrace this inner tension as multidimensional healing wisdom. I decided that it was important to protect my sacred integrity and wholeness rather than treat it as a disruptive nuisance that sabotaged my best interests and efficiency.
I felt re-energized by the realization that pursuing what was best for me at my deepest core could also be what was best for my clients. I began to write my book and struggled to ground my experiences. During profound and life-changing awakening memories; ancient Mayan revelations; a near-death-like experience (NDLE); and an “extraterrestrial” braid-in experience during my dark night of the soul, a series of nature wisdom teachers serendipitously crossed my path. These teachers guided me along many twists and turns to become the certified Depth Hypnosis practitioner, ordained minister, shamanic and holistic healer, spiritual teacher, and author that I am today.
The majority of my clients these days are going through similar, intense STE’s. Many have had a strong connection to their expanded self and soul since childhood and have paid a hefty price by trying to fit in and shrink the parts of themselves that matter the most. Our task and hardest challenge these days is to demote the dominant Westernized ego-self back to being a smaller and integral subset of our infinite, essential, and illuminating souls. We often discover that mental dis-orders may be the result of shunning and dis-membering what is most natural and spiritually in “order.” However, our scarcity and fear-driven Western worldviews have taught us these spiritual experiences are too “crazy,” threatening, mentally “dis-ordered,” and “out there.”
Although we may fear the worst when learning to surrender to the flow of life and the heartbeat of nature, letting go of old forms of mind-control and excess mental interference allows us to flourish with greater creative abundance, strength, and clarity than ever before. I feel blessed to have witnessed that for a growing number of change-makers (who we need to empower now more than ever) this renaturing of the whole soul is the ticket to greater health, effectiveness, deeper re-membering, and re-minding of our innate capacity for joy, vitality, and clarity of life’s purpose.
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