In this day and age we are inundated with infinite philosophies, practices and beliefs on spiritual healing. It can be difficult to sift through the shiny surfaces to find the integrity of the bones behind the ideas, and in that assessment, recognize what is or is not a fit for us.
This can be particularly tricky when we are checking out spiritual traditions – for on one hand, we are hungry for a sense of spirit and connection, which makes us vulnerable and eager to find the “right” one. On the other hand, we have been collectively wounded from the control and oppression of organized religion and might feel fed up with the whole shabuttle.
My answer (to the confusion in the particular field ofShamanism) is to offer clarity wherever possible as to how it may be of benefit to those who are attracted to its teachings. In this way you can make a clear choice as to whether or not this is a path that feels right for you.
Let’s start off with 13 basic principles:
1) Authority, Autonomy and Authenticity - The three “A’s” of a healthyshamanicpractice.
Shamanismis a self-revelatory experience, which means you surmise for yourself what the messages you receive from Spirit mean and use these revelations to bring meaning, healing and value into your life. As your relationship to Spirit grows (by Spirit I mean your helping spirits, higher self, ancestors or Source) this connection feeds the authentic expression of your soul and supports you in claiming your purpose. One of the most commonly used tools to facilitate this is theShamanicJourney – a led meditation, using the drum or other sound tools, which creates a trance like state and guides you into a space of communion with Spirit.
2) Four-Directions, Sun Cycle Teachings –Shamanismis all about relationship, so we begin with our understanding of the four directions and how we are impacted by the cycles of the year. Each direction relates to the life/death/rebirth teachings that help us to deepen our humanity by understanding the cycles of our own journey (be that through the day, a year or a lifetime). As we attune to the right timing for new growth in our lives, we become conscious of what that growth needs (to form in a healthy way through its life cycle) and in time to harvest what we have planted. Sometimes we plant too much and must reckon with the truth that we cannot manage it all – a lesson I have learned many times myself.
With practice we become gracious in celebrating what we have created. In the fall we learn to let go, surrendering to the necessary deaths that are a part of the cycle; this honors and makes room for grief in our lives. In the winter we lose ourselves in the dark – in the void of the great mother – right before we awaken to the new dream and we begin all over again.
3) Lunar Cycle – The moon bares the tidings of the Sacred Feminine, often referred to as Grandmother or Mother, Maiden and Crone. The new moon holds the maiden energy of possibility, the full moon is our mother (rich with nourishment for our spirit) and the waning moon becomes the crone, our elder. Our blood follows the cycles of the moon, often bleeding at the full and ovulating at the new.
4) Earth, Water, Air and Fire – These guys are called the first ancestors for they were here long before humans and it is known that they are the building blocks for all of creation. Earth gives us the foundation that we need to build a healthy life and relates to our physical body. It is all about structure and presence asking us to slow down and allow for the time needed to create strong supports.
Water brings forth nourishment and cleansing for a healthy emotional body – thus our relationship to this element is connected to any repressed grief or trauma and may be supportive in helping us heal. Air is our mental body, be that the energy in our mind or how we articulate it with our voice. It teaches us to lighten up and go where the wind blows us. Finally fire is our spiritual body, bearing the medicine of transformation as it carries our prayers to spirit. It helps us to embody our power, form a healthy relationship with anger and engage our capacity to live with purpose/passion.
5) Co-Creation, How Does God Fit In? Known by many names (Creator, Source, Great Spirit, Great mystery) and believed to be the nameless one, God is experienced as the creative divine force within everything. This means this vital force is within, and the more you make room for it - by listening and honoring its intelligence - the more you will manifest love and joy in the day to day.
6) Mother Earth - Often called Pachamama, Gia or Great Mother, it is she who provides fodder for our body, mind and spirit, guiding us to place our roots into the spaces and places that offer sustenance. She reminds us that turning inwards into the dark is an essential part of life –not to be feared. She teaches us that it is safe to be in our bodies and love ourselves for all our cracks and crannies, exactly as we are.
7) Sacred Reciprocity – There is a natural flow of giving and receiving encoded into all life on this planet. Think of your breath - you breathe in the oxygen created by the trees and exhale carbon dioxide, which the trees in turn need to breath. Inshamanismit is essential to be conscious of all the ways you are fed and supported by the world around you and to use that awareness to give back or give thanks.
8) Micro/Macro - Our external experience is a reflection of our internal experience. Within our being lays a universe as marveling and awesome as the night sky – we are truly capable of miracles. Yet so often this is not what we are experiencing around us!Shamanismasks us to be accountable to ourselves, by taking full responsibility for our life’s experience, knowing that our power to create change starts within.
9) Helping Spirits/Ancestors - Helping spirits are power animals, mythical archetypes, demi gods/goddesses, angels and ancestors (to name a few). Each one of us has a council of these helping spirits and ancestors available to guide our choices and mentor our decisions. Cultivating a tangible relationship with them is done in a variety of ways such as:shamanicjourneys, time outside on the land, meditation and paying attention to the signs or omens that show up in your day to day life.
10) Ceremony/Ritual - Ceremony has a variation of purposes and intent, with one thing common in each - to connect with Source and the highest aspect of you. This generally includes prayer, smudging, creation of sacred space and a process that helps you to move out of your head into your heart.
11) Sustainability - This path fosters a healthy relationship with land and community by generating the principle that everything you need is already here. This encourages you to look within yourself to find answers, be that for personal issues, community or environmental. If we believe everything we need is present we find the courage to look at solutions from a different point of view – we also get the job done.
12) We Are All Related - All of us are one organism. Yes we have our unique multifaceted spirit AND simultaneously we are all one. This is a paradox that sages have puzzled over for millennia. This principle reminds us that everything we do impacts the other, be this living creatures, land or water. All is imbued with spirit of equal importance and value; humans are by no means on top. Therefore the actions we take in our lives need to align with the integrity of this principle. A great example would be to be mindful of where you buy your food, or to exam what the “cost” is of the fuel we use.
13) Medicine Making – We cannot change the struggles that have shown up in our life. We can however transform our suffering into unique gifts, talents and purpose – this is the act of medicine making.