The world of a shaman
Rashmi Rawat demystifies the practice of shamanism, revealing it, at its very core, as a connection with the whole of Creation
Nature speaks to us. Everything around us—be it air, water, rocks, animals, or birds—teaches us many great lessons of life. We have forgotten to appreciate what Nature has to offer us and have sadly perceived Her as something to consume rather than serve and nurture.
Nature has the power to heal us. Connecting with Mother Nature brings us closer to our own spirit and also to the guardian spirits present around us. This is possible through the practice of shamanism. Apart from being a healing modality, shamanism is an Earth-based way of life that works on the fundamental principle of being in synchronicity with The Great Spirit, Nature, and humanity.
What is shamanism?
Shamanism is an ancient healing tradition that focuses on our connection with Nature and promotes the well-being of all Creation. The word ‘shamanism’ is derived from the Manchu-Tungus or Evenki (a language of North Asia) word ‘saman,’ which means ‘one who knows.’ Found and practised almost all over the world, the rituals of shamanism may differ, depending on the culture in which they are embodied. Shamans are known by different names in different places. However, the basic philosophy and principles of shamanism remain the same.
All ancient spiritual practices are rooted in Nature. One could view shamanism as the universal spiritual wisdom inherent in all indigenous tribes. Shamanism is the approach by which we, as human beings, can strengthen our connection with Nature.
Who is a shaman?
A shaman is one who, in altered states of mind, can journey to the three Non-Ordinary Worlds of Consciousness to obtain information, divination, and healing. These worlds are the Non-Ordinary Lower world, Upper world, and Middle world.
The Non-Ordinary Lower World: It has some natural topography and involves communication with animal spirits. The animals might be mythological, legendary, or, at times, not biologically familiar, as in the way we see them on Earth. This world connects us to our power animals. It is very nurturing and not dark or evil.
The Non-Ordinary Middle World: It is like our everyday world but more than that. It is here that the shaman starts their journey to the Non-Ordinary Upper or Lower World. This world has many different energetic forms that can help or harm. Here, spirits of Nature, elementals, ancestors, the deceased, wandering spirits, vampires, and other entities abound.
The Non-Ordinary Upper World: Here, experiences are quite ethereal and are very different from the lower world. The beings that we encounter here are spirit guides or teachers and may appear in many forms, including animal spirits. By connecting to them, a shaman brings a person back to their mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual wholeness. Here too, you will see Nature in many shapes and forms.
Dr H.c Sophia Roy Choudhury, MD (Alternative Medicine), and a certified Master Shamanic Practitioner says, “In ancient times, shamans were greatly respected men and women and were important members of the tribe or community. They were the wise medicine men or women who would protect the tribe. They would connect with the Great Spirit to seek information regarding food, fodder, and other divinations for the community.”
Elaborating, she said, “Shamans also went through troubled times in history. Different religions and cultures, not knowing and understanding shamanism, feared it. It is only towards the early 20th century that the world started looking for alternative ways of life and healing. Many shamans had educated themselves and their children. Now they have emerged as New Age teachers and Custodians of the Earth and Shamanism. They have generously shared their wisdom with others who are not from indigenous cultures, as they want Shamanic Tradition to be learned and carried forward.”
“Today, shamanism is being revived all over the world by anthropologists, psychologists, and others. Some of the pioneers are Sandra Ingerman, Hank Wesselmann, Michael Harner, and Alberto Villoldo amongst others.”
Christina Pratt, in The Encyclopedia of Shamanism, describes a shaman as a practitioner who has gained mastery over:
• The ability to enter altered states at will as well as controlling themselves while moving in and out of those states.
• Mediating between the needs of the spirit world and those of the physical world in a way that can be understood and used by the community.
• Serving the needs of the community that cannot be met by practitioners of other disciplines, such as physicians, psychiatrists, priests, and leaders.
It is believed that shamans are wounded healers who have understood their own pain and suffering. They have learned to transmute their pain into energy that is beneficial for themselves, other people, the community, Nature, and the Earth.
Why would someone seek shamanism?
The world today is more technologically advanced than it was ever before. Even though we are just a click or a call away from anything we require, we still experience a sense of incompleteness. In this whirling world of materialism, we have just stopped connecting to our inner and Higher Self.
Shamanism is an Earth-based way of living, where the practitioner can channel natural energies for fulfilment in every facet of life. These days, the New Age seeker tends to gravitate more towards the mystical aspects of life over concrete ones. They are willing to invest the effort needed to fully integrate ancient wisdom and healing into their lives and aspire to live a natural, connected, purposeful, Earth-based, and peaceful life.
Considering that, what could be better than shamanism? A way of life that creates harmony and balance in Nature as well as within the individual. Shamanism is a practice that touches people at a deep soul level and helps them transform within. In many cases, a person’s curiosity also leads them to the world of shamanism. So, it all depends on the individual’s purpose for seeking shamanism.
Emphasising on the teachings of shamanism, practitioners Paul and Neelam said, “Shamanism believes that everything is energy; everything is alive and has a soul. So it teaches you not only to connect with the Divine Beings but also to connect with the soul of anything and everything: your finances, health, business, relationships, travel, and home. The primary premise is that everything is ALIVE and everything has a SOUL. It teaches you how to align yourself with all of Creation for better harmony and results.”
“The path of shamanism is all about deepening relationships, and nourishing and protecting life. When we learn the language of Nature, we learn how to survive. We learn how to engage deeply in life and also how to become more conscious beings. We learn to live in harmony, beautiful coexistence, collaboration, and ultimately, BALANCE.” they added.
How does a shaman heal?
Shamanism, being a worldwide practice, may vary in a few ritualistic practices but there are a few components that are almost common everywhere.
The session starts by creating Sacred Space that is holy, pure, and safe. The space provides one with a motherly and non-judgmental flow of cosmic energy, which encourages one to go deeper and be really open with the healer. While assessing the various energy centres usually found along the Eight Shamanic Chakras (the eighth chakra, located a few inches above our heads, is where we experience a deep union with all of Creation and the Creator), a shaman is able to detect a stagnant or intrusive energy, which is released and replaced with healing & empowering energy.
The shaman uses a rattle or drum to enter into an altered state of consciousness for journeying into one or more Non-Ordinary Worlds. They journey on behalf of the client. During the journey, they connect with their spirit helpers or guides in search of wisdom, healing, or divination for the client. Meanwhile, the client may experience warmth, tingling, emotional release, or deep relaxation.
Once the shaman has returned from the journey, the information, lost soul part, or healing which has been obtained is integrated into the client’s soul. When the client is comfortable, the shaman gently opens up a conversation with the client to explain what has transpired. Sacred space is now closed with a prayer of thanks.
Role of a power animal
Power animals are an integral part of shamanic practice. According to shamanic wisdom, every person is connected to the spirit of one or more animals at birth. These are power animals; they add their power and protect the human from any ailment, similar to guardian angels.
Power animals connect to us in symbols. The symbols are rich in information and convey a great deal of knowledge and wisdom. Any creature, be it a reptile, bird, aquatic animal, or insect could be an individual’s power animal.
Domesticated animals are generally not considered power animals because they are already in service to human beings. Each power animal has a different trait. For example, a tiger, which is a symbol of power, teaches strength and willpower in the face of adversity and also how to act in a timely manner. As one moves through life, one can acquire new power animals or lose old ones, depending on the guidance currently required. It is also quite common for an individual to have more than one power animal. If you would like to find who your power animal is, then you can ask the power animal to reveal itself to you. It may appear in dreams and may communicate and draw your attention to things around you, and a repetition of such patterns may be a way for it to communicate with you. One has to be consciously aware of the signals that a power animal sends.
You may also consult a shamanic practitioner to find out who your power animal is.
Can shamanism heal physical illness?
Apart from other sufferings in life, illness is another major suffering that the human race is subject to. Shamanism believes in addressing the root cause of the disease, which is beyond unfriendly microorganisms and brain chemistry.
Paul and Neelam, in one of their articles, Illness from a shamanic perspective, say that there are three classic causes of illness:
Power loss: It occurs when a person loses his power animal or guardian spirit that has been protecting him. Typical symptoms of power loss are chronic depression, ongoing suicidal tendencies, long term illness, and persistent misfortune. In such cases, a shaman performs a variety of ceremonies to retrieve a former power animal or guardian spirit to restore power and protection.
Spiritual intrusion or spirit possession: Often, when a person is missing a guardian spirit or if the vital essence of a person is lost, there is an opening in the energy body. The Universe cannot stand a void, and something comes in to fill the space. The sign of a spiritual intrusion appears either on or within an individual as localised pain or some form of cancer. Since shamans do not distinguish between emotional and physical illness, they believe a spiritual intrusion may also manifest in the form of chronic anger or depression. In this case, a shaman works with his or her helping spirits to diagnose the nature and the location of the spiritual intrusion and then performs an extraction that removes the intrusion.
Soul loss: It is believed that whenever we suffer any emotional pain or trauma, a piece of our soul flees the body in order to survive the experience. The types of trauma that can cause soul loss in our culture are all kinds of abuse—sexual, physical, or emotional. Accidents, war experience, and even natural calamities can lead to soul loss. If one feels “I have never been the same since xxx (a negative experience),” then soul loss has most likely occurred. So, in such cases, a shaman journeys and tracks down the soul part and returns it to the body of the client.
Shamans look at the spiritual aspect rather than the physical aspect of illness. An illness might manifest on an emotional or physical level. The shaman journeys to seek for the root cause of the spiritual imbalance or disharmony and then heals the illness.
The whole Universe is talking to us; all we need to do is to tune in.
So, are you willing to live a balanced and upright life that ties up with Nature and the Earth, a life where you are ready to move forward beyond old thought patterns, limiting belief systems, and unhealthy habits that no longer serve humanity?
If so, then shamanism is the end of your quest!
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