Shamanism and the Modern World


This time on our planet is quite challenging for many of us. It is said that we are being bombarded by galactic impulses that are accelerating a transformation of human consciousness. The more we evolve, the more sensitive we are becoming, and the more we open to the stresses of this modern world. Technology seems at times to overwhelm us. Emilie Conrad, the founder of the movement work Continuum, says that our brains have been colonized by the industrial revolution. Today’s electronics are causing a neo-cortical speeding up that is devastating to life on earth. While the speed of electronic communication reaches the uppermost reaches of beta brain waves, a hyper-mental buzz of 40 hertz, the connective tissues within our bodies are proceeding at an extremely slow speed of 4 hertz. We desperately need the deep grounding and the deep peace found in the connective tissue, and we must find ways of disengaging from the stresses of technology in order to access the more profound oceanic consciousness of the fluid systems of the body. We need to learn how to slow down in order to experience the healing peace of Nature.

Throughout our planet’s spiritual history, there has been much taught about being in the present moment. In the early 70’s, Ram Dass published the classic, Be Here Now, and several years ago Eckhart Tolle came out with his masterpiece, The Power of Now. Ancient teachings such as Dzogchen in Tibetan Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta in the Hindu tradition bring us to the concept of non-duality, to a Oneness or I Am-ness in awareness. At this deepest of places in consciousness, all experience exists in the present moment. Time ceases, as do the stresses caused by time or the seeming lack of it.

Shamanism works with this Oneness. In native American shamanism, this overall awareness is referred to as Great Spirit. All of Creation is within the realm of Great Spirit, encompassing both Father Sky and Mother Earth. We are seen as children of this Heavenly Father and Earthly Mother, and in fact each cell, each molecule is a result of the marriage of spirit and matter, of consciousness and form. Shamanism takes us back to the experience of Life, of Nature, and into a harmony with all things, all permeated by Spirit. We realize through the exploration of shamanism that our well-being has to do with spiritual harmony with all other life forms, rather than the model practiced by many individuals and most world governments of domination over other life forms.

The shamanic practitioner learns to slow down enough to receive impulses from Nature. These impulses may be in the form of a bird that appears to us on a nearby branch, a breeze that caresses our face. Nothing is seen as an accident, but rather is paid attention to as a visitation. This could be in the form of healing energy, a specific communication, or simply communion with the soul of Nature and therefore a transmission from the unseen.

One way that shamanism teaches us how to relate to Nature is to help us develop an individual relationship to the elements. We come to see that we are made up of the elements, not through a cerebral understanding, but through direct experience and communication with the elements of air, fire, water, and earth. Shamans not only become one with Nature, they also call on these primordial elements to aid in the healing of others. Thus shamans have contact not only with the unseen Great Spirit, but also with that Spirit as is manifests within each life form and each element.

To approach his work, the shaman will first enter a sacred space through which he accesses an altered state, also known as a shamanic state of consciousness. The shaman first makes sure that this sacred space is protected through invoking the presence and light of Great Spirit, the spirits and qualities of the Four Directions, and also any deities and spirit guides. With this protection in place, we are shielded from any outer influences that would attack us or drag us down . In this circle of safety and peace, we access the state of non-duality and timelessness, the space where all events and all time-lines converge. From here we access the power of our true selves, assisted by shamanic helpers whether they be spirit guides, plant spirits, power animals, or the elements themselves.

Shamanism, emanating from the timeless Now, shifts our relationship with physical time. The shaman sees time as a river and dives below the surface to access a tide that flows back into origins and forward into potential. The shaman learns to journey along these tides of time to reexperience and heal the past and to receive visions that can influence the future. Shamanic journeying brings us outside of linear time into the experience of simultaneous time, where all events are coexistent.

When someone is wounded from an early trauma, very often a part of himself is frozen at that point in time. This is when a shaman will journey into the spirit world, and, using the technique of soul retrieval, he will revisit the traumatic event in order to free a portion of the person’s soul that is trapped. This aspect of the individual is then brought into the present moment and reintegrated into the personality system. Similarly, the shaman will journey forward in time to seek vision for our lives, solutions to problems, and to access our higher evolutionary states.

Shamanism leads us from an identification of the logical and rational into an exploration of the intuitive, the sensory, and the magical. In a sense then, this is shifting focus from the left brain to the right brain. In shamanic healing, we root out anxieties by going deeply within the body. Through observation, we release stress, tensions, pains, and traumatic memories. Rather than change things, we allow our awareness to descend to what is really happening within us. As we surrender obstructions, we experience the ground of our true Being underneath. This Presence emanates out to help us remove any blocks to fluidity. Being present with agitation is the first step toward peacefulness.

The shamanic body is a temple, an instrument capable of entering into a resonance with the world, once we have tuned ourselves to vibrate to reality as it is. A shaman must first touch into his or her own inner Universe, through the body, then stand as a midpoint, a conduit, between Heaven and Earth. The shaman seeks to rid himself of ego and the accompanying judgments and projections, so that he can perceive purely and channel directly from the realms of Spirit, tuning into the unfolding of Creation and our place within it. This is true Power. This is true Peace. When you go through life at Peace and in touch with your Power, you are not afraid to be open to the people you encounter and are able to give them support and unconditional love. Your very presence acknowledges them and gives them more than you can ever know. Thus you do your part in the healing of the Earth and all of her inhabitants.

Although these times are challenging, they are ripe for our personal and planetary transformation. Many of us feel this acceleration of consciousness. As we accept our own process and surrender to it, we are assisting others in their transformation and supporting the Earth in hers.

Copyright ©2007 by Malcolm Groome
Written for publication in German periodicals prior to teaching tour in summer of 2007

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