A Brief Intro to Shamanism
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Guest Post by Mikaya Heart
I have been doing shamanic work for some years, and of course people often ask me to define it. Sometimes I tell them that I use the word shamanic because it’s suitably vague and it differentiates me from people who use the word spiritual! But over the years, I have come up with a few definitions.
Originally, shamans were the healers of indigenous cultures all over the world. They were simply people who had access to greater levels of wisdom than the ordinary person. Many of them accessed their wisdom through shamanic journeys, which involved going into an altered state. You might think of it like a sleeping-time dream, although it can also be likened to a daytime dream, a hypnotic state, or a guided visualization that takes you into another reality. Anyone can go into this kind of state, though it is easier for some than others, and people have extremely different experiences when they do so.
The benefit of doing something like that is that it gives you a much broader perspective on the nature of reality. In truth, what we perceive with our physical senses is only a minute proportion of what is going on around us. Through our electronic revolution, we are beginning to tap into some of the unseen energy around us, using it to transfer images, messages, and sound. As yet, we are only aware of a very small portion of all that unseen stuff. Everything is energy; it’s all around us, it is what we are, and it fills the spaces between us. I call it the vastness of being. It’s not solid. But it’s very real, it can be felt, and it affects us much more than we realize, in many different ways, bringing up all kinds of emotions, thoughts, and sensations.
Shamanic work is about deliberately tapping into this vast resource, learning how to work and play with energy before it solidifies into concrete form. This is the basis of the art of manifestation, which is about choosing what we get and getting what we choose. It’s much easier to shape energy into the form we want before it solidifies. We can learn how to relate to the unseen energy around us, how to sense the presence of different kinds of energy, and how to summon the kind of energy we want. Most of us can already sense energy—we might be aware when someone is angry or disturbed, we might get a strong feeling when something isn’t right. Growing up in a society that gives such huge kudos to the rational brain makes it difficult for us to credit these kinds of things, but when we do so, whole new worlds open up.
I learned much of what I know from spending a great deal of time alone in Nature, which led me to recognize the intelligent alive-ness that is all around us—animals, trees, plants, rocks, places, creeks and less visible forms. These became my friends, and they have been wonderful allies for me. Over the years, I naturally developed an awareness of energetic presences that don’t have a physical form. These energies, whether seen or unseen, are just like humans—some of them are interesting and helpful, others are boring, stupid, and self-absorbed, and there is everything in between.
If you don’t want to spend years on your own in Nature, a shamanic journey is the best way of learning how to relate to this vastness. Some people come away from a journey with a strong sense of the energy that we are, the energy that makes up our bodies and constantly flows through us. This soon leads to the ability to “feel” the presence of other energies. Other people get pictures and words that enable them to visualize the realities that exist beyond this physical one we know so well. Shamanism can be seen as a way of connecting into everything that exists outside of “normal” reality, which is sometimes referred to as consensus reality. The study of quantum physics supports the idea that there are many different ways of perceiving what is around us, and the only reason we see a chair as a chair, the sky as blue, and so on, is because human beings have consensually agreed to see things that way. Things start to get interesting when we decide not to abide by those agreements all the time—and shamanic work can help us to make a conscious decision about opening up our perceptions rather than falling into a limited way of seeing things by default.
Shamanic work/play is more proactive than most spiritual practices such as meditation. Those kinds of practices may bring you a sense of peace or bliss and help you to manage your life much more easily. Shamanic work can enhance and expand your ideas of what is possible in this life. One of two things happen as you begin to get glimpses of the vastness of being: either you go running away in fear because all this is far too much for the ego to handle, and you then deride it as nonsense; or the ego falls away and you relax into trust, understanding that from this huge array of choices you choose what is of benefit, and you can access unlimited sources of assistance. Ultimately this enables you to operate from a place of trust instead of fear—an aim that most people consider highly desirable.
Mikaya Heart is an award-winning author and a coach in the art of being fully alive. Her next book, due out soon, is Life, Lies, and Sex: A User’s Guide to Being in a Body. See mikayaheart.org for more info.
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