Practice in the 21st Century
Shamanic practice is as old as humanity; the oldest and most enduring spiritual practice on earth. For all but the last few centuries of our ten million years of evolution, we have understood our connection to the the intricate web of life that surrounds us.
But we no longer live in the way of our hunter-gatherer forebears – or those shamanic cultures still existing – whose lives were/are an integral part of the world around them. We can’t return to that, and there is no point in pretending that we can – to do so would be the very opposite of authentic practice.
We live in the twenty-first century, in the Anthropocene age, a time when our presence here has pushed us to the brink of, if not actually into, ecosystem collapse. A unique combination of anthropogenic climate change and runaway pollution has tipped the balance of the world around us. It’s easy to fall into despair, to hide from ourselves and our gods, to escape into the many, many addictions our world offers us: drink, drugs, music, games, the endless collection of stuff and ultimately the addiction to power that has brought us here. All of these disconnect us from ourselves and from the world beyond the windows.
What can we do then, as authentic individuals, endeavouring to make the connection that is our birthright, while doing so in a way that honours the time and the place of this lifetime? It is for each of us to ask that question and to find an answer that works; knowing that we are in a process of endless change and that the only certainty is that today’s truth will be different from yesterday’s and tomorrow’s.
Nevertheless, what shamanic practice offers as a baseline is the ability to find our place in the world and on the earth. With discipline, practice and commitment, we can learn to walk with clear intent and full awareness and to offer ourselves as the connection between those spirits that guide us – the gods, the guides, ultimately, the heart-mind of the Universe – and the earth. We do this without projection and without the arrogance to assume that we know what is needed. We do it moment by moment, breathing in the textures of the world, breathing out the textures of the infinity of the All That Is.
We can do it sitting, walking, running. We can do it as we eat, as we take a shower, as we wait for a train. We can do it waking and sleeping. In the end, this is what it all comes down to – that we are fully present, in our authentic self, listening, observing, watching, being present on the earth. We become the eyes and limbs of the heart mind of the Universe at this moment, in this place and at this moment, in this place, the boundaries of the world dissolve and we become an integral part of the matrix of life.
This is the end point of all spiritual practice, whatever the creed. What shamanic practice offers is a living practice without dogma, based on our own moment-by-moment experience. Our teachers are not long-dead figures from history, but the rain and the wind, the hawthorn and the red kite, the earth beneath our feet, the patterns of a cloud, shredded on the shoulders of the mountain. We listen. We learn. We integrate.
This is the ultimate expression of humanity and if we have any reason to be here, now, this is it. It takes commitment, discipline – and a connection to some sense of spirit, but in doing this as a daily/nightly practice, we are living as fully as any human can. What else is life for but this?
“If we always think what we’ve always thought, we’ll always feel what we’ve always felt. The ability radically to change our own inner realities and to live those realities fully is the mark of modern shamanic practice”.