Living a Shamanic Way of Life
Shamanism is a way of life. It reminds us that everything is alive with energy and that we are all connected to and inseparable from a universal web of life.
When we teach Medicine for the Earth: How to Transform Personal and Environmental Toxins we talk about living a Shamanic Way of Life. People have been asking me “What does that mean”? So I am dedicating this month’s Well of Light Newsletter to exploring twelve key elements that I believe support living a shamanic way of life. Like any practice there will be days when you are fully engaged in all of these steps and others when you only manage to spend a few moments connected to this path. In the end, it’s all about love. We must first learn to love and embrace ourselves when we don’t do it perfectly. When we love the eternal spirit that lives within ourselves, we learn to love all life, as we are all deeply and profoundly interconnected with the web of life and the Spirit that lives in all things.
Shamanism is the oldest spiritual healing practice on the planet dating back at least 50,000 years. It is a system of Direct Revelation (all the world religions were originally based on this practice). The word shaman means “one who sees in the dark”. Shamans enter what is called non-ordinary reality, to access information that is not accessible to the linear mind. While it is useful to have a teacher and outside inspiration, the important thing is to become still enough to hear our inner spirit. The basic principle behind this work is that if we want to change the outer world of form and substance, we must first transmute the inner world of toxic thoughts, beliefs and assumptions into the golden light of loving awareness. We live in a time when the solutions to today’s challenges will only be solved by a spiritual awakening on the planet. Without this awakening, future generations (if they survive), will live very challenging lives. Here are some basic practices that can lead us to living in a shamanic way.
Your true home is in the here and the now.
-Thích Nhất Hạnh
1. Cultivating Presence: Our contemporary world is one of distraction, denial and disturbance. To live a shamanic life we must learn to focus the mind. Concentration on the breath is a traditional way of transcending our constant preoccupation with the remembered stories of the past and imagined fears of the future. Presence is already here. Mostly we aren’t. We must learn mindfully to put our attention on what is happening moment to moment or we miss our life.
Our intention creates our reality.
2. Living an Intentional Life: Intention is the key to living in an intuitive and self-revelatory state of awareness. Imagining the kind of world we want to live in and not being distracted by the daily dose of bad news or the myriad disruptions that present themselves moment to moment is essential to living the life you were born to live and manifesting the quality of living that is your longing. Letting your own luminous self shine needs only that you hold the intention to bring your light forth into the world and shine. All manifested dreams start with intention. Create daily reminders of the future you want to live into.
Man does not weave this web of life. He is merely a strand of it.
Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.
3. Honoring the Web of Life: Humanity is, for the most part, suffering from a serious case of “Nature Deficit Disorder”. Every part of nature works in collaboration with every other part, except the human species. We must reawaken our relationship with the seasons, elements and cycles of the natural world to rediscover how to live in harmony with her. Shamans call forth their power from the trees, mountains, rivers, sun and moon. They know the spirits of nature are their allies. Indigenous peoples have always known that the role of the human on this planet is as a caretaker of the earth and all life.
The Navajo people have a saying: May you walk in beauty. In saying this, they mean never say anything that will create fear or harm in another. Do not
curse others with your words. Rather, bless them with words
that create beauty in their lives.
4. Walking in Beauty: Our perception creates our reality. Most of us have been trained by our culture to focus on what’s wrong rather that basking in the beauty that surrounds us. If we want to transform our suffering, struggling and despair we must attune ourselves to the miracle of just being here. It’s easy to find fault with our parents and ancestors, but can we celebrate all the things we appreciate about the vision of life on earth that they bequeathed us? Turn off the radio and TV news and open to the radiant joy of each breath. Celebrate the little things each day that bless you and make your heart sing. What you shine your light on will reflect your own divinity.
Some men see things as they are and say, ”Why?” I dream of things
that never were, and say, ”Why not?”
-George Bernard Shaw
5. Holding a Positive Vision for the Future: Psychology research has clearly shown that at the heart of most depression is not having a compelling vision for the future. It is important to hold a clear image of the life we want to live into, to literally have something to wake up for every day. Setting short and long term goals brings us more directly into contact with life. The future of life on this planet depends on our holding a picture of a positive future for our descendants and ourselves. Take the time to imagine and write down the life you envision today and watch the magic unfold.
Although you appear in earthly form your essence is pure Consciousness.
You are the fearless guardian of Divine Light.
6. Seeing all Beings in Divine Light: Our identification with our ego and story of who we think we are keeps us separate from each other. Our character and personality has very little to do with who we really are, which is the eternal light of spirit. We don’t have to condone the behavior of someone to see them in their Divine nature, surrounded by the light of love. To honor the Spirit that lives in all things it is imperative that we practice seeing others in their Divine light. When people are truly seen, they begin to transform as there is no further need to engage in the dysfunctional ways they learned to try and receive the love and attention they never got.
Webster’s dictionary, defines integrity as a state or condition of being whole, complete, unbroken, unimpaired, sound, in perfect condition.
7. Being in Integrity: Integrity has nothing to do with right and wrong, good or bad or being morally upright. It is about being true to our nature and honoring our word as our self. It means not leaving things undone and having the strength to engage in courageous conversations when they are needed. The world we live in is the one that comes out of our mouth. Speak the world you want to live into. Being in Integrity means practicing right speaking, thinking and acting based on the values that we hold.
What you appreciate appreciates.
8. Expressing Gratitude and Thanks Giving: It is so easy in our terminally busy lives to take the miracles that surround us for granted. We worry about our future; will I have enough money, time, love; we get caught up in fear, doubt and anxiety; and we rush around missing the life that is disappearing in the wake of our motion. Shamans always begin and end all ceremonies and every day with expressing gratitude for the ancestors, the elements, the directions, all the nature beings and the life they have been given. What we hold in lack increases, just as what we are grateful for grows.
When the inner garden is under cultivation and Spirit is present, harvests are regular events. The fruits? Things like courage, hope, love,
endurance, joy, and lots of peace.
9. Tending Your Inner Garden: A wonderful metaphor for our inner lives is to imagine it as a fertile garden. Whatever we plant there grows. If we sow seeds of fear, anger, separation and suffering our garden will resemble a garbage strewn abandoned inner city lot. But if we sow seeds of love, gratitude, joy, light and possibility we will reap a rich golden harvest of connection, abundance, health and prosperity.
Three things to remember in any discipline: Practice, Practice and Practice!
10. Engaging in a Daily Practice: Practice is a discipline. You don’t need to get it right all the time, you just need to do it. To live a shamanic way of life means that you practice every day. You find ways to remind yourself to engage in the rituals, ceremonies and activities of your path. One of the most important ways to keep going when you are distracted or don’t want to (the most important time to engage in practice) is to surround yourself with a community that reminds you of who you are when you forget. You are the Divine, trying to remember your true nature.
It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is
humility that makes men as angels.
11. Practicing Humility: We have an epidemic of loneliness in our culture. One in four people in the US have no one to call in case of an emergency. It is our ego that keeps us separate and is constantly measuring our sense of self worth against the hierarchy of righteous indignation. When we see the numinous beauty in others we experience it in ourselves and thereby elevate the level of love and goodness in the world. A true shaman knows that the work they do is coming through them as spirit. They are merely messengers, a hollow bone or conduit for the Divine to flow through. It’s time to get over ourselves.
The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
12. Being of Service: The happiest people on the planet are those who have learned how to serve. To give ourselves to a path of service is not particularly good or noble, it probably won’t make you a lot of money, but it will make you happy and bring greater meaning into our lives. Being of service teaches us humility and compassion – it dissolves the barriers of separation at the heart of all conflict in the world. A shaman lives in service to the whole of the community in the web of life.
If we would just focus on these 12 steps to living a shamanic way of life we could transform the state of the planet into one of beauty, love, compassion and peace. I invite you to join me in integrating these practices into our daily lives.
With love and gratitude,