Has anyone else already been writing 2016 when they write the date? I have now done it several times. Others have mentioned making this same error. I don’t know what it means, but it feels like we are rushing into the future at high speed. Everything is heating up, literally and figuratively.
These days we are relentlessly confronted with an overwhelming barrage of frightening crises both around the globe and at home. We often experience events as they are unfolding, and our protective capacity to distance ourselves is diminished. There is a great deal of fear, and people are feeling very vulnerable.
In these intense and unprecedented times, a valuable resource available to us is Shamanism, an ancient system of knowing and healing, the wisdom tradition of indigenous peoples. Wikipedia defines Shamanism as “a practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to perceive and interact with a spirit world and channel these transcendental energies into this world.”
Michael Harner, an anthropologist who founded the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, travelled around the world, much like Weston A Price, observing indigenous cultures’ Shamanic practices. Through this study, he distilled common principles and practices of Shamanism, shared by diverse cultures all over the world, from Siberia to Peru to Africa. He calls this body of knowledge Core Shamanism, a system designed for Westerners to apply shamanism and shamanic healing to their daily lives.
I recently had the privilege of hearing Michael Harner speak, and the opportunity to ask him if he believed that Shamanism has a role to play in responding to the crisis on the planet. He responded that people in the modern world do not believe that the Spirits are real. But that they are, and that if we ask them to assist us, that they are ready to help. He maintained that we should regularly consult the compassionate helping Spirits for guidance and use them as a resource.
It is indeed difficult to imagine that we are going to be able to avert planetary catastrophe on our own. The magnitude and scope of our problems are so vast and complex and the political will for international cooperation so feeble. That is why I titled this post, The Need for Shamanic Creativity in 2016. We need to collaborate creatively with the Spirits, to access wisdom from non-ordinary reality in order to solve our middle world problems.
The cosmology of core Shamanism describes three worlds, the middle world, which is our ordinary everyday reality, and the non-ordinary realities of the upper and lower worlds, all of which are populated with Spirits. Through Shamanic journeying, it is possible to access the upper and lower worlds, and to meet with compassionate helping Spirits, who can provide knowledge and spiritual direction.
Shamanic journeying is facilitated through closing the eyes and listening to rhythmic repetitive drumming (sonic driving) which entrains the brain and induces an altered state of consciousness without the use of hallucinogens. A person is taught to make contact with their own Spirits and to learn from them. This process can enable a person to discover hidden spiritual resources, facilitate healing, provide answers and access to needed information.
Last summer I attended a Shamanic Counseling workshop in Boston sponsored by the Foundation for Shamanic Studies. The designation Shamanic Counseling is to my mind a misnomer, as it has nothing to do with counseling, but rather involves a methodology of teaching others to journey. Journeying allows an individual to travel “outside of time” and utilize ancient shamanic problem-solving tools. This fall I have been offering shamanic journeying in my practice to those who are interested, and everyone who has participated has had a profound and moving experience. Several patients received creative instructions about how to deal with stubborn habits of behavior and mind, which subsequently spurred them to make long overdue changes. Another person accessed surprising ideas and information for the historical book she is researching and writing. I have received innovative ideas and direction for my own creative projects through journeying. It’s a powerful and effective tool.
These are no ordinary times. There is an urgent need to think outside the box and to avail ourselves of multidimensional approaches to all of our dilemmas, personal and collective. The cardinal is a shamanic symbol of vitality achieved through the recognition of personal power. There is no time now to wait for someone else to do something. Each of us must become empowered to contribute to planetary healing in our own unique way. But we do not have to do it alone. The compassionate helping Spirits are close at hand, ready to be of assistance if we just ask for their guidance.