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A Shamanic View of Destiny versus Fate



If you have ever had a sense that you are launching onto a new and more promising path in your life after being blocked or burdened for years with multiple challenges that always seem to get in the way of thriving, you are experiencing a shift in your destiny lines. If you have awakened out of the chaos of being buffeted about by internal and external conditions seemingly out of control and are experiencing a sense of empowerment, meaning and purpose, you have activated on an energetic level a new pathway into the future.


Destiny lines are dynamic, energetic pathways of light that shoot out of a fulcrum, called a “momentum tunnel” when we are born. They represent multiple possible and more probable futures. Author and shaman, Alberto Villoldo defines destiny this way: “Having a destiny means living to your fullest human potential. You don’t need to become a famous politician or poet, but your destiny has to be endowed with meaning and purpose. You could be a street sweeper and living a destiny. You could be the president of a large corporation and be living a life bereft of meaning.”


As he explains, destiny is not fate. Fatedness implies inevitability and immovability. When captured in the unfolding of relationships, events and circumstances that seem or literally are beyond our capacity to change, we feel like we are caught in riptides. We remain powerless, numb, traumatized—living at the level of bare survival. Or we come up against an impenetrable wall within us and feel unable to dismantle it—and we may be in the larger sense. A child who is being abused by his parents cannot escape. When war comes or there is an earthquake, our lives are hijacked by a collective event. Or we have a lifelong, chronic illness or get cancer. Yet even these tragic events ultimately can lead us to meaning and purpose, individually and/or collectively.


In contrast to fate, destiny acknowledges the fact that, when the right ingredients, both inner and outer, are present, we have agency. At the very least, if we cannot change outer conditions, if we are privileged enough, we can maybe have the freedom to harness their purpose, either individually or collectively. This is one of 3 key elements to harnessing a destiny line out of unremitting misery into meaning:


  • Bringing self-awareness coupled with self-reflection on past and present events and experiences.

  • Working at the energetic and soul level, when possible, towards healing and inner freedom.

  • Taking parallel actions to change inner thoughts, beliefs, and emotional processes, along with outer circumstances as much as realistically possible.


If we remain unconscious, un-self-aware, and do not awaken to the greater energetic and spiritual nature of our existence, we will psychologically, at the very least, remain at the mercy of events and conditions seemingly. We will live in a netherworld of hopelessness and despair.


The distinction between fate and destiny is extremely important because it underscores how our desire to change ourselves and to understand why we came here as a soul incarnation is central to harnessing the highest manifestation of our innate potential—and of humanity’s. Most of us these days understand, for instance, how trauma can influence our lives long after the precipitating event or events are in the past. This is also true of transgenerational trauma transmission.


Yet, to make clear: understanding destiny lines does not mean that we can assert that someone could have prevented a violent assault or not gotten cancer if only they had somehow healed their past. When I work with clients and go deeply into the underlying causes and conditions that are creating the outer problems and mental, emotional, and physical imbalances, there can be layers upon layers of factors, including transgenerational inheritances, past live influences, and others. There is no single answer for any given individual experience. Certainly, healing can be a very important way to shift out of heavy patterns, but it is equally as important to embrace the radical understanding that we exist in an interconnected world in which there are many moving parts, many individuals, many forces at play, including at the group and soul level.


Therefore, often discerning why “bad things happen to good people” is multilayered and begs to be offered compassionate discernment, not simplistic labels, or solutions. There also are choices made on a soul level that are sometimes beyond our ability to know. And, as I say, “shit happens.” We live in an often hard and gritty world where there will always be heavy and light, hard and good processes. Indeed, that is, in many respects, why many of us choose to incarnate on this world. For its challenges and its incredible beauty—and the opportunity to love, learn, grow, heal, evolve, and serve.


I will offer a personal example of how we can get captured in eddies of like experiences from past into the present: As a child and teenager, I was resoundingly dominated and controlled by my mother. Her abuse was deep and far-reaching: she regularly tore me down and/or turned cold when I didn’t comply exactly with her often self-serving, egocentric demands. She would never admit to wrongdoing or making mistakes. No apologies. Starting when I was young, she used me as her personal slave—the cook, housekeeper, driver, and the one who helped her move furniture and boxes from one residence to another, among other roles. She sought to undermine and destroy my friendships and relationships with men. Sadly, my mother was invasive on every level—physical, mental, emotional, sexual, and energetic. She also used our shared spiritual interests in Buddhism to manipulate me—another form of abuse.  And, perhaps worse, she blamed me for her own problems. This went on well into my adulthood until she died at the age of 69 and I was 40 years old.


In the early 1990s, when I was just 34 years old after spending hours in a university library and doing research on psychological conditions, I figured out that my mother had Narcissistic Personality Disorder (this was long before the internet and the current mainstream awareness of this mental health diagnosis).  By then, I had been in therapy for about a decade trying to unravel how and why I was so haunted by difficult relationships and challenging work situations in which I always seemed to have to deal with people with similar character traits.


If I had not made the choice in my early 20s to get into therapy and took other steps to sort out my problems—including eventually discovering the power of shamanic healing—I could have continued to live a life of constant chaos, unhappiness, and unfulfillment. There was actually a pivotal day at the age of 25 when an event occurred that showed two possible futures for myself. Due to the transgenerational transmission of trauma on my mother’s side and my genetic proclivity for the undiagnosed depression and anxiety that my mother likely also suffered from, I saw how I could become just like my mother: split apart internally, abusive of others, and without work, family, or friends. Or I could choose a healing path and become a better, kinder, mentally healthy and balanced human being with a productive, creative life.


Thank God, I chose the latter. I determinedly sought out every manner of therapy and alternative modality to heal the trauma, change my inner world, and make careful, conscious decisions until I reached a point where I could reasonably say I had (mostly) recovered. I activated a more positive destiny line, and, in the end, I derived meaning and purpose out of both my victimization and my long journey to healing. And, to return to the complexity of how trauma can affect us, at the age of 63, I am still working on more subtle layers related to this original wound.


Yet, a turning point for me was instead of staying stuck in the story that every hardship in my life is due to being a victim of my mother’s mental illness, it now is a beautiful part of how and why I became a shamanic healer.  The abuse I suffered as a young person and adult was the driver for my research and teaching in the field of peace and violence studies. I also feel I ended a transgenerational and past-life cycle of victimization and perpetration. Lastly, through my transformation and the gratitude I feel for my mother, both the good and the bad, I believe I redeemed in some small way her difficult, hard life.  In other words, I turned the wound into service to others and the planet. If I had not done this, I would have been mentally ill, unhappy and possibly abuse like my mother.


Hence, a central key to the distinction between shifting our personal future from the ravages of fate to destiny is healing and meaning making. Once we begin to embrace the idea that no matter how challenging the conditions around us may be, we can use them to serve our personal growth and spiritual evolution, then we step onto a more empowered and fulfilling destiny line. Or we can do it on behalf of those who were or are not so lucky as we.


I add a caveat here: there can be a tendency to use an understanding of destiny lines as an overly positivistic and deterministic philosophy that refuses to recognize the inherent complexity of any given individual’s life. I personally abhor spirituality that promises the accumulation of personal riches if only we “think more positively” or pray harder or heal more. Or that presumes we can change difficult situations by engaging in certain therapies or healing practices. We can fall prey to the idea that if only someone with cancer would just embrace the deeper meaning and purpose of their illness, they would miraculously be cured or feel emotionally better.


We see many examples throughout history and the present day in which human beings are subject to horrible atrocities—most recently with Russia’s invasion of and war on Ukraine, Hamas’ attack on innocent Israelis leading to the loss of 1500 people and 100s taken hostage, including babies, children and elders, and Israel’s genocidal war on Palestine that followed. The people perpetrating these events are all caught up in toxic, simplistic and unconsciously trauma-driven philosophies that they use to justify violence. All the victims in these scenarios have not had a choice; indeed, the power of choice was taken away from them. They did not have the luxury or the privilege to pursue therapy or energy healing as I have.


Yet, when we look beyond the personal and embrace the greater collective journey to a better, kinder, more compassionate, and peaceful destiny line for humanity, we can see that all this loss of life, all this horror and suffering is (hopefully) rendering us more conscious and self-aware. The numbers of people worldwide who don’t want all this war and who are calling for an end to these two current genocides is exponentially larger than any movement in our known past. In fact, the murder, enslavement of and medical testing on millions of European Jews at the hands of the Nazis was one of many events in the 20th century that triggered the growth of a new consciousness. It was also the survivors who spoke up and who have kept on speaking who have kept this memory—and its lessons—alive so that the death of their loved ones and their own sufferings and privations would not go to waste.


Because of them and many others, humanity may be shifting into a higher destiny line. And, should we individually have the privilege that I have had—our personal healing and transmuting suffering into meaning and service to others—is a powerful way to live our own lives and maybe, just maybe to contribute to this powerful shift in human consciousness. We then harness our own and the planet's highest destiny line.


            Aho. May it be so!

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