I did not choose shamanism as a life practice; it chose me – the way gravity chooses one who has just stepped off a cliff. My only choice was whether to make the trip with or without a parachute.
I would like to say I journeyed to an exotic, far-off land to study and gain wisdom from an indigenous shaman, but that is not how it happened. I was simply asked by a friend one day, “Would you like me to show you?” He was dressed in blue jeans, and the most exotic thing about him was his distinctive Minnesota accent. I had traveled to the place where that fateful question was asked, but for an entirely different purpose, and I had no sense of being on a pilgrimage or in need of healing.
In truth, I had hidden so much from myself that healing was exactly what I needed. The first miracle of my shamanic life was that this man crossed my path and took me under his tutelage and loving care.
During the first three months of my shamanic learning, I was introduced to the compassionate, healing spirits known to shamans throughout the ages; I was reunited with my mother who had passed away in my early childhood; and I discovered the purpose of my life.
I have learned practices of healing and discovery that have been used by shamans over the past 40,000 years and on every continent around the world. They can be as effective in our modern, western society as they have been in shamanic cultures through the ages. They complement western medicine and psychotherapy by healing the spiritual aspect of illness and distress. They promote well-being by connecting us with the spirits of nature and the Earth; our ancestors, teachers, and helping spirits; the spirits of illness and health; the landscape of our soul; and our own eternal essence.
I have discovered there is much more to life than the day-to-day grind, and in times of pain or crisis help is available to us for the asking. When we remember our purpose in this life and live according to our soul, we are healthy and whole. When we become aware of the hidden fears that limit us, and we change our relationship with them, we are able to create the safe and loving environment within which we can thrive emotionally and physically. We are then able to find our voice and take our place in helping to create the compassionate world in which we want to live. The shamanic world is one of miracles and joy, and to recognize this healing power in our own lives is to be truly alive, awake, and whole.
The shaman travels through nonordinary reality and interacts with power animals, teachers, and helping spirits to gain wisdom and healing power. It is said that a shaman is one who knows the spirits are real. I walked one night with my helping spirit, thanking him for granting me several wishes. He looked at me and said, “Now do you believe I’m real?”
“Hell, no!” I replied, and we laughed and walked on into the night.
That’s how it is with me. Real or not, my life is better than it was before. Instead of trying to figure out what’s true, I’m spending my time interacting with compassionate spirits and finding out what happens. Shamanism is about being willing to experiment and play, with a healing intention. And it’s about being able to experience the magic when we finally let go enough to sing and dance and live according to our soul.
I am grateful to the shaman who taught me, healed me, and witnessed the revelations of my journeys. His care and affirmations enabled me both to take the jump and to teach myself how to make a parachute to survive the landing.
Sometimes it is painful to be awake. Sometimes pain and love go hand-in-hand. To feel it all is to be alive and to have the courage to go forward into the gift that is your life.
I invite you to step into your own adventure, whatever it may be, and come with me into the world of compassionate, healing spirits.
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