What is Shamanism?
In the Intro workshops I have been teaching over the last couple of years, I share with new students how shamanism is over 100,000 years old and has been practiced by every culture throughout the world. From the Sami in Scandinavia to the Celts in Europe, to the bands of tribes in Siberia and Mongolia to the Sufis of the Middle East, to the peoples of Africa and the indigenous Australians, shamanism has woven a close relationship with humans and the spirits that we share this world with.
In shamanism, there is no human construct of hierarchy ~ no spirit is more or less powerful or more or less important than others. They are all considered equal, and humans are included in this equation. The worth of a tree is no less important than a human's worth. The practice of shamanism involves not just shamanic journeying and connecting with our Helping Spirits in Non-Ordinary Reality, it also involves compassionately acknowledging the spirits of Ordinary Reality. The spirits of the sky, the oceans, the rivers, the parcels of land, the mountains, are alive and willing to communicate with us. The cloud spirits, the spirit of the snow storm, the spirit of a thunderstorm, as well as the birds, the trees and animals want to bridge communication with us. They all have something to impart to us.
In shamanism, this is done with humility and with equanimity. The spirits of Ordinary Reality all have something to share and something to teach us. This is the essence of the shamanic practice. Meeting all beings in this world as new friends and dedicating regular practice in feeding those friendships is at the core practice of shamanism. It is essential to forming a relationship with ourselves and with everything around us. It recreates our connection to everything and blurs the lines of separation. I have been witness to it bringing happiness and joy to many, including myself.
As modern humans, we have unfortunately forgotten this connection, but now, we can start to remember these ancient, sacred practices. Honoring the spirits around us on a regular basis creates a bridge between our disconnected, technological world and the flow of the natural world in which we live in. We are not just a part of nature, we ARE nature. When we disconnect from it, we essentially disconnect from ourselves. This creates unhappiness for humans and for the spirits. The spirits of nature would like our acknowledgement and friendship. In our culture that has supported separation from them, they are in dire need of that connection and understanding. Are you willing to listen?
Another large part of shamanism is forming a deep, sweet relationship with our Helping Spirits, who reside in Non-Ordinary Reality, whom we get to know as dear friends. Over time, working regularly with one's Helping Spirits can assist you in finding your "inner gps," your inner wisdom and personal empowerment. This practice supports us to perceive this world in more spacious, expanded ways than we would not be able to do otherwise. There is a strength that occurs with these bonds with our Helping Spirits that can align one with one's truth, one's inner power and the understanding of how we can all interconnect with kindness and love with all beings who share this world with us.
Shamans through the ages have brought through the power and wisdom of their Helping Spirits in order to divine information or healing for others, or both. It is this close, potent bond with the shaman's Helping Spirits that informs the potency of healings. It is said that it is not the shaman doing the work, but one's Helping Spirits instead that are to be honored for the work. This keeps the human tendency of self-importance at bay and keeps the shaman in a state of gratitude and humility.
What I find in many of my Intro workshops is that students are initially pulled into a workshop by the "buzz word" of Modern Shamanism, however soon discover that the practice of shamanism is much more in-depth than simply "light and love." Shamanism does not support denying this reality but helps us change our personal lens, as we begin to see with what is called a "strong eye" which is through the eyes of our Helping Spirits. In fact, the essence of a regular shamanic practice is acknowledging how we personally and collectively need to heal and how we have the capacity to transform ourselves and others with this practice. It supports how we can help in the healing of many spirits who reside with us in Ordinary Reality by seeing it through the Eyes of Spirit.
In some ways, you might say that shamanism is much like yoga. We start with small steps. We acknowledge our "edge" and work from that place. In my decade of experience, I am always finding my edge. My Helping Spirits show me where I need to focus my attention for healing and also where my power resides given different situations. They show me how I can honor them as friends and allies. They show me how I can better work with the spirts of nature and form a stronger connection to them. They show me how I can better teach and present my workshops, and how I can translate their messages for the benefit of my students and clients. They show me how I can best step aside to let them do the work through me. My Helping Spirits also show me what is standing in my way in terms of doing this, what I need to heal in regards to various life events and how I can best navigate through challenges and joys. This is always done with love and guidance. However, at times, I can say it is not always gentle!
This practice is never about bypassing challenges, but acknowledging and transmuting them instead. It is not about any "race" to be the one who is more "ascended" but about doing the work. In shamanism, we are all teachers for each other. Whether we label these experiences as "good" or "bad," as perceived in our human minds, they are nevertheless always teaching a lesson.
Any time we bond with sentient beings in the frequency of love, kindness and understanding, a ripple-effect of healing occurs. Shamanism is about how we can ground the teachings of our Helping Spirits into this world ~ this blessed, beautiful Ordinary Reality.
With great Love,