ShamanismHow is it relevant today?
Throughout time, Shamans have sought to heal and make whole the members of their communities. These healers, powerful women and men, have navigated realms of ordinary and non-ordinary reality and were able to bring back teachings that emanated from the mystical realms of non-physical energies or beings. For their people, they sought wisdom, advice and the means to heal mind, body and spirit.
The ancient practices involved in these healing modalities spanned continents, global traditions and ethnic perspectives while covering periods both historic and pre-historic. These traditions have been and continue to be globally substantiated through art, archeological finds, and the many ancient symbols and glyphs carved into the walls of canyons and caves.
Here we find the communication of visionaries who worked with the spirits of animals, elements and even, some have speculated, star beings, those who travel through the dimensions to help us, guide us and point the way to our full human potential.
Shamanic perspective, based on an animistic paradigm, often begins with the understanding that everyone and everything has a deeper or more elevated consciousness that exists as part of a greater whole. This consciousness affects all events, including synchronistic understanding, illness and disease.
A Shaman, with ritual drumming, chanting or singing has the ability to communicate with this ethereal world by entering a somewhat egoless state of semi-trance, similar to lucid dreaming and referred to as a soul or shamanic journey. In this way, Shamans are able to communicate with spirit helpers or guides to heal themselves or others, divine information to assist with the present, past or future while connecting with the wisdom of their higher self.
In the mid part of the 20th Century, owing in part to the writings of such people as Carlos Castaneda (The Teachings of Don Juan), Michael Harner (The Way of the Shaman) and Mircea Eliade (Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy) the understanding of shamanism began to shift and change. While noting the underlying cultural perspectives that were particular to each shamanic group and region, Michael Harner, among others, emphasized and wrote about the global similarities that ultimately define Shamanism and established vehicles for teaching about what he termed Core Shamanism.
It became apparent that there were perspectives of the shamanic cosmology that were globally intertwined and references to healing and power that were similar if not identical. Many cultures view our ordinary perspective of reality as the middle world, a place that holds both ordinary and non ordinary reality, a place were spirits can and do communicate, but notably not always working for the best and highest good of all. Similarly, there exists for many cultures and religions a knowledge of these upper and lower worlds, places where there is only non ordinary reality and where one meets reliably benevolent and compassionate beings, who can be trusted to consistently work for our best and highest good.
From his anthropological study of people, realms and cultures, Michael Harner and many others have been successful in bringing a renewed interest in shamanic practice to much of the western world. With his widely read book, The Way of the Shaman, and through the creation and establishment of The Foundation for Shamanic Studies, a school dedicated to teaching the principles and practices of Core Shamanism, the western world has been permitted direct access to the mysteries of the spirit world and able to connect to a path that was previously reserved for only a select few, namely the Shaman, one who had been born to the path through lineage or initiation.
From these early starting points, has grown and continues to evolve a profound and renewed interest in Shamanism and a swell of subsequent investigators, researchers, writers, teachers and students who have worked at the evolution of theories and perspectives, helping to inform our human depth of consciousness and spiritual health.
With the evolution of Core Shamanism, it is now, not only the shaman who enters into the semi-trance state, but also all who seek this wisdom are able to acquire the tools and skills to grow into their own personal power, through practice and self-reflection. Through this active meditative state, called journeying, all who practice find a connection to the higher levels of consciousness and perspectives, those that have access to a wider spectrum or collective of thought and wisdom.
Although there are many different ways to connect with a shamanic journey, most participants are aided by drumming, the sonic drive, and experience a deep sense of relaxation, accompanied by a broader perspective on their life’s situation or that of others. When we lay back, close our eyes and listen to a steady drum beat, we are able to relax into slower levels of alpha and theta consciousness, while being able to see outside the ego mind’s “I” perspective, one held in separation and individuality. We connect to a compassionate realm that allows for the healing of those things that might hold our life in a place of stagnation, frustration and dis-ease, a realm where we are often unable to keep away sickness or disease, both physically, emotionally and spiritually based.
The ego mind is one of limited perspective, a place where we remain preoccupied with our stories or interpretations of reality. Here we are consumed by the needs of ourselves as individuals, separate from the collective or the consciousness of Oneness and with those things that we project onto others. Stepping back from this limiting perspective is achieved through the Journey state and much to what is often a sense of relief, slowly replaced by a state of deeper understanding as well as compassion both for the self and others.
My own shamanic education and training came largely through the Foundation’s Core Programs, as well as the works of several other renowned authors and teachers. The development of my practice as a Shamanic Healer and Counselor grew from an earlier Western training in the fields of psychology and education, a deep fascination with the works of Carl G. Jung and over a decade of working regularly with clients, with an aim to find healing for different levels of psychological, spiritual and physical discomfort. From this starting point, my work has evolved and continues to evolve. It is my hope that working together we can help to move you forward into the higher levels of consciousness and a deeper sense of wholeness.