What is Shamanism?
Shamanism is the oldest spiritual practice of which we have any knowledge. Our ancestors of many tribes and many nations understood that this reality is one of an infinite number of possible realities and that, wonderful as it is, we limit ourselves if we don’t learn to step beyond it.
Shamanism is evidence-based – which is to say, it has no basis in any text or creed, but instead, grows from and facilities a direct connection between the practitioner and the worlds around her/him.
As with any spiritual practice, shamanic practice teaches us two things:
How to live
That is, how to be fully present in each moment of each day, and in doing so, to live to our fullest potential. In doing so also, we learn to see beyond the boundaries of the world, but this is an effect, not a primary aim
How to die
That is, how to progress with full awareness from this life to whatever comes next. It’s important to remember that ‘whatever comes next’ is unknowable and unknown. We can presume a lot. We can project a lot. We can hope for things to be as they want them to be. But we can never know.
Shamanism teaches that:
- this reality is a very small part of all possible reality, and that the boundaries we perceive within it and around it are entirely fictitious.
- everything has spirit – in this reality and beyond it.
- with training, the practitioner can move through the gateways from this reality to the other realities, to engage and interact with the spirits in the other realities in order to ask for help – and that we can then bring that help back to our reality and make use of it.
The shamanic practitioner knows where to go, how to go, who to speak to, what to ask, how to ask, how to get back and what to do when we are back. If even one of these is missing, we’re not undertaking shamanic practice, we’re spacing out.
Intent is everything. Learning how to focus intent with integrity is the key to any spiritual path. It’s essential to genuine, authentic shamanic practice.
Nobody in the west is a shaman. We don’t grow up in spiritual culture and, frankly, we don’t go to the places that true shamans go, however much we might like to think we do.
What we can do is to use the tools of shamanic practice to enhance our lives and to heal those around us. We can learn how to live, how to die, how to heal our own lives, and those of others and how to aid the dead in their passage.
All of this is immensely worthwhile and is worth a lifetime’s practice in my view, but there’s a world of difference between modern western ‘shamanics’ and the remaining genuine indigenous peoples and the work that they do.
Shamanism is about connecting with every part of the living world, joining the flow of life so that we can be witness to its greatness.