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I made some bad decisions academically this week that are going to somewhat hose my GPA. Dad won't like that--he'd much rather be paying the tuition of a student that's pulling better than a 3.0 and I'm not sure I'm gonna pull any A's this semester. But I'm not going to mope about that because what I need to do is keep going forward.


There's a Peruvian shaman named Amaru Li who is well-known in the Baltimore area--apparently he comes around about once or twice a year to teach classes, check up on some students, fundraise for a foundation to get clean water to villages in the Andean highlands, etc. Today, he was giving his introductory mini-workshop at Mystickal Voyage, the metaphysics shop/community center that I like to frequent. Does it surprise anyone that I was super-excited about attending that? I wasn't sure what to expect, really--I actually checked out two ethnographies on Peruvian shamans and curanderos and read up on the beliefs and practices beforehand. I'll admit that I partially did that because I'd never heard of Amaru Li before and I didn't no his reputation. For all I knew, he could have been a fraud with South American trappings. Ayahuasca is pretty popularized in some circles, etc, etc.

Suffice to say, Amaru Li was not a fraud. It was for the most part a two-hour question-and-answer session, with him telling stories from his life and explaining his worldview. It was pretty light on cultural-specific content (except in the cases of a story or two), but because I'd done some reading I could tell he wasn't namedropping for the flavor of it, but rather streamlining things. He was more interested in conveying a general 'shamanic' worldview. It was a pretty newbie workshop in some ways, and it was clear he had some more modern and academic ideas integrated into his practice and beliefs--but I wasn't expecting something exactly out of a book where the fieldwork had been done in the early nineties at the absolute latest. Curandero practice, shamanism, and even Catholicism in Latin American at large all take influence from new ideas (Catholic saints as spirit guides and allies in healing f'rex), and integrate them with already existing knowledges and tradition. So in retrospect, that wasn't too surprising and was really more comforting and reassuring. You don't have to live in the past to shamanize.

One thing that amused me and gave food-for-thought for later was his brief description of 'compacting', that is, making a compact or connection with the local land spirits, one's magical and healing tools, one's guides and spiritual allies. The rough process sounded a bit like my unusual experiences in the UMBC library last year. As I joke now, "I like working in the library--and the library likes me, too." I haven't really felt anything in a while, though. Maybe this is because my work ethic and dedication has slacked a bit, and/or I've been neglecting this relationship in some other way. Or maybe it's because after a year of working there, the wonder of the stacks becomes somewhat routine, so I'm not paying as close attention. Or more likely, a combination of All of the Above. It's a bit daunting, though--how do you determine what a library, or a guardian spirit of a library, wants? The building seems a bit young and a bit too modern to have a traditional sort of wight, but my suspicions and experiences remain. I'll talk about the Library Monkey in greater detail (such as there is) another time.


Hm. This was supposed to be a post about shamanism and therapy, and my interests in both. Pia's recent post, and some of the commentary, put me in mind of that. Therapy and counseling was always something I had an interest in as a possible vocational path; it stems from having a long ling of positive experiences with various counselors and psychs, and then noticing that this perception and experience wasn't necessarily common. (I actually cried at my last meeting with Dr. Steinberg. Sure, we'd only seen eachother two or three times a year...but for 11 years? I have great affection and admiration for him, he's why I want to be a psychiatrist.) I was reading something like Serge King's Urban Shaman, or Harner's Way of the Shaman, and the author was talking about how the purpose of the shaman was to heal, and to serve a community. Those two ideas really resonated with me--at least, a practical use for all this magical spiritual woo-woo stuff! With retrospect and just a touch of ego-pandering, I suspect the self-centered focus of some new age/wiccan/occult stuff didn't really appeal to me. What could I do with this that I couldn't do acting in ordinary reality, including become a better more enlightened person? The practicality appealed to me. I'd be lying if I left out how appealing the ease of journeying, core shamanism-style, seemed, or the idea of having spirit guides, etc. Totemism is probably where my more selfish attractions come in.

While I'm working on a psychology major right now, with an emphasis on clinical psychology, I'm not planning on immediately pursuing the qualifications and experience needed to become a therapist. I'm actually planning on getting into a nursing school.

This is partly a strategic decision--becoming a Registered Nurse is an extremely flexible job qualification, desirable and useful in a wide variety of fields. There's almost always a shortage of nurses somewhere. And it puts me in direct contact with people, the role of the doctor in modern American medicine is often much more distant. There are also a lot of different sub-fields to branch into and out of. I could look into psychiatric nursing, social outreach, hospital administration, becoming a Nurse Practitioner (which is a doctor in all but title, complete with ability to run one's own practice), etc, etc. It's a more stable job market even in uncertain economies like the one I'll be dealing with for the foreseeable future. I can go back to school later after I've been in the workforce a while, or take classes on the side, etc.


The other interesting medical/healing/shamanism intersection that's appeared lately in my life is PTSD. My mom, the amazing friend I made the first day at UMBC, and someone I look up to and admire here on livejournal, Pia, all have PTSD. All to different degrees--Mom had basically recovered by the time I knew it was an issue, but still. Three significant people in my life is reason enough to want to learn and educate myself a bit--and with two wars and veterans-to-be yet to come home, there will be more Americans and people with PTSD as well. One thing I've learned from Pia (and somewhat from my Abnormal Psych 285 class) is that that kind of damage can be frequently misunderstood and misinterpreted. Olivia's very vocal about how her background has affected her--she spent her first semester at UMBC scamming free food and suspicious and confused at just how nice and trusting everyone was.

Culture clash between black and white, urban and suburban, or other differences of class or culture come up frequently between us--sometimes as humor, sometimes frustration, sometimes with one of us 'translating' for the other. I really try hard to be a trustworthy and reliable friend to Olivia, to be a contrast to what she's been disappointed by in the past. Maybe things look a little uneven if I have a car and tend to be generous when spending money or resources on friends. I hope that doesn't make her feel too guilty or indebted. But, well, good fortune should be shared. Olivia shows me around Baltimore, teaches me about a culture or two completely different from my own, and knows all the best places for cheap tasty food, cool thrift stores, and inexpensive and awesome entertainment. She's also big on concerts and is on the promotion crews of at least one of her favorite bands. Girl has a gift for getting invited backstage, I swear. Also very handy in a mosh pit, considering her wing-chun skills. Also a pretty good witch and psychic--but she'd be in a lot better shape, she knows, if she could sort some of her emotional and mental issues out.

Olivia and I have very little in common at first glance, and it probably takes a second or third glance to see where the similarities and reasons for friendship come in. (Or an astrologer's eye--her birthday is the day after mine). But...being her friend challenges my preconceptions and worldviews, and makes me learn and consider new things. Her charisma and wit aside, that's something I value. I know that if I'm ever in a bind or a bad situation, and there was something she could do to help, she'd be there.


Hooboy. You can tell my sleep schedule is all messed up. 3:42am is OH GOD WHY AM I AWAKE TIME. or at least, it should be. Small wonder I didn't wake up until 2:30 on Thursday. In my defense, when I came home this evening, it was to find my brother had indeed caught the flu, had been alone in the house since 5:30 pm, and had spent the last three and a half hours vomiting up anything he tried to stomach (including saliva), curled up under his comforter shivering with the chills, and so on. So the first order of business when I got home was changing and rinsing out his vomit bucket and towel, asking him about his symptoms to confirm it was the flu, griping that I couldn't find the thermometer to check him for fever, and cleaning up all the broken glass from when he dropped a cub trying to get to the sink to retch into it. I hope I don't get sick myself, I haven't had a flu shot. Or, at the very least, I hope I don't get sick until, say, Monday evening. Ideally, next Wednesday evening. That would be even better. However, I've usually got a pretty good immune system, and I'll be hitting the v8 and sleep and hand-washing a lot this weekend as I keep an eye on my brother just in the same.

Okay! That's it! I'm done typing! I've got crazy messed-up-sleep rambling 3am diarrhea of the fingers! Clearly, I have made up for my previous lack of typings, and can spend the rest of the weekend, such as it exists, working on homework and studying and slacking off in less obvious ways. Apologies for giving you all a giant Wall of Text to read, rather than something more manageable and single-topic.
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zuki_san

October 2010

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