There are certain things in life one wouldn't necessarily think off as 'shamanic' or part of a shamanic practice. That -I guess -originates in the commonly found definition of shamanism.
To pick just one and looking at how Wikipedia for example describes 'shamanism' it is said: "Shamanism is a religious practice that involves a practitioner interacting with what they believe to be a spirit world through altered states of consciousness, such as trance".
“ADVICE OF THE OCEAN (AUTHOR UNKNOWN)
Be Shore of yourself
Come out of your shell
Take time to relax and coast
Avoid pier pressure
Sea life's beauty
Don't get tide down
Shamanism was - and is - globally practiced in very similar ways but it is not a 'religion' per se. Religions have integrated some shamanic aspects in their practices; that doesn't make shamanism a religion. Dogmas and intricate scriptures are present within religions, which shamanism doesn't have. Shamanism uses stories about life in order to convey teachings. Those stories often have different layers of meaning for those present, catering for the natural, different levels of understanding of the audience, The stories very often relate to natural life, something which everyone can relate to and understand. Hence, through story telling, one excludes none and includes everyone within the fold of a story.
One such story I can think off from the West is the story of the Tortoise and the Hare, by Aesop - a Greek storyteller. It has depth of meaning and when reading this story from a mundane point of view, it doesn't make much sense, it's difficult to 'figure out'. It's a children's story as well as one for adults to ponder over if they so wish. None are excluded and in this simple story, the depth of Life is also revealed; just as much as this can be seen in the Native American Stories. The deeper Spiritual Teachings are contained within those 'simple' stories. It takes time and contemplation for the meaning of those Teachings to reveal themselves from within those stories. Stories are also easier to convey from one generation to another than complex theories detached from regular life. In the inclusion of everyone through relating a layered story, there is reverence and respect for Life.
With regards to 'interacting with what they believe to be spirit world', this is no different than the religions. The Indian tradition in my view still holds most of the multi-dimensional ancient teachings in a written form. A lot of the other cultures' old ways of life - written or not - have all but been destroyed over time or are not readily shared outside of their culture. In India, there have been concerted effort over the ages to meticulously preserve highly detailed information. It is only very recently that the depth and some of the breadth of those teachings have been made available to the West through translations from Sanskrit to English by Indian people. In those translations by people of the Indian culture, I can also see this willingness to include everyone in the richness of those teachings.
In Shamanism, as in religions as well, there is a very subtle difference between Shamanism as a shamanic 'practice' - a 'personal effort' to try to transcend 'ordinary' life - and Shamanism as a 'trans-personal' experience - where dualism has been transcended and from where the play of life is easier to see. The former is still occult/subtle/veiled, the latter is more spiritual in nature. The descriptions of transpersonal shamans as well as of the very advanced yogis/saints of the different traditions show a common, deeply spiritual thread, far outpacing occult, dualistic practices, power struggles and beliefs. The spiritual thread I see is a deep connection into Unconditional Love Consciousness.
In every religion there is love, yet love has no religion.~ Rumi
Within the dualistic shamanism, there is still the 'occult'/subtle flair to shamanism, in which the two opposing sides 'fight' for dominance; demons versus gods; bad shamans versus the good shamans; light against dark; heaven and hells, good guys versus bad guys etc. The world is full of those definitions. Even in psychology, there are terms such as lower emotions and higher emotions, dark feelings and feelings of elations; dark thoughts and enlightened thoughts etc. Invariably, one sees oneself in this dualism commonly as the 'good' one, the other as 'deficient or bad' somehow. In this dualistic belief, strong identifications with dark/light and good/bad can happen and there is less of an ability to transcend duality and seeing both as 'is'. There is often a strong belief in angels/higher 'astral' and demons/lower 'astral' and then somehow faith in God gets subtly 'forgotten' as faith drops in the background or is less subtly abhorred. Nothing wrong with any of this, it is just a phase on the path of soul growth and I am just describing some aspects witnessed over the years. There is a very subtle difference between occult and spiritual ways and some groups/schools will call themselves 'spiritual' when all their practices are esoteric/'occult'. Both are valid practices, both are part of the path of learning. The mistaken belief of 'occult' groups is the competitive belief in their own personal power as superior to that of others. There is a 'pre-mature' rejection of something more meaningful as there is a belief that the pinnacle of mundane existence and 'power-over' has been reached. A further maturation process is needed to see the next step.
In trans-personal shamanism for example, as well as in the mystical teachings of all religions, this dualism fades in the background. 'Hollow Bones' can manifest themselves clearly. From my point of view, 'Hollow Bones' surrender to and have faith in the Divine more easily. 'May I be like a Feather on Thy Breath' it was said. This is more difficult when the ego is in the way and trying to interfere. As I saw it described once before, Ego can be an acronym for - 'Edging God Out'. It manifests itself in the most subtle of ways, often unnoticed or unexamined. On the stage of life, the play of 'shadows' is very strong.
A shamanic practitioner just as meditation practitioners will attempt to go beyond the dualism of life; an overtly materialistic person will revel in the dualism of the comedy and tragedy stage of mundane life and will often refuse to inquire into anything that falls into the category 'off-stage' and is out of the spotlight of visible life.
To come back to this "interacting with what they believe to be a spirit world", in Shamanism the spiritual practice is to see the Divine's Presence in everything and everyone. This is just another way to describe God's 'omnipresence', which is the same as what the religions teach. What different in Shamanism is the deep awareness and practical experience of interconnected, enfolded Time-Space. Personally, I find the ancient Indian teachings fascinating as this Time-Space information is still present, be it difficult to understand. The Sanskrit language and cultural descriptions being different are but one difficulty, the other being the contemplation on the depths of their descriptions of 4-dimensional Time-Space.
To come back to another part of the definition of Wikipedia's definition of shamanism, Trance, I was taught Trance Dance during Patricia White Buffalo's course - walking the Shaman's Path. A black eye mask was used to block out the light from the room. Barefoot, we danced as we listened to shamanic music, allowing ourselves to start moving in 'unstructured', spontaneous and unrestrained ways to the music. It's a way to open up as well as to connect. In the movement, there is a loosening up of the body, a moving of the energy in the body. In the quietude of lying down after the trance dance, the energy starts flowing towards the tight spots where 'something' is held onto. The shamanic 'inner journey' unfolds itself within one's own experiences of this flow of awareness and healing happens. The perception of this 'non-ordinary' reality is not linked to 'ordinary' vision as the light is blocked out with the eye mask. In blocking out the 'path of the eyes' by using an eye mask, something else can happen outside 'ordinary' reality.
In the description of 'altered' states of consciousness, there seems to be the suggestion that something 'extra-ordinary' and weird and scary is happening. In the 'ordinary' reality of normal life 'altered' states of consciousness occur spontaneously through our experience of daily cycles.
What is meant with 'altered' within the descriptions of shamanism? Those descriptions of shamanism in themselves are it seems ways to 'separate' the shamans away from 'ordinary/consensual' life.
In 'ordinary' life, one wakes up and is active during the day, only to get tired in the evening and go to sleep at night. In sleep states, different depths of sleep are experienced; 'light sleep', 'dreaming' and 'deep sleep'. This is the same for everyone. As a human being one can't go without sleep for too long before it becomes detrimental to one's (mental) health. Sleep is our natural, inbuilt soothing, nurturing, protective, natural, daily, healing mechanism during which our human system gets 'reset' every day.
Sleeping at night is also an 'altered state' from our daily 'awake' reality. One could say that at night, one is in a trance whilst sleeping and unaware of the 'ordinary, awake reality' at that point. The definition of a 'trance' after all is: 'a half-conscious state characterised by an absence of response to external stimuli, typically as induced by hypnosis or entered by a medium.' Take away the hypnosis and medium - induced by others in other words - and you get the definition of sleep, pure and simple, induced by our own protection system.
Shamans are also called 'Dreamers' as they're able to sustain 'dream state' brain waves during the light/daytime hours. Through drumming and chanting, they can also elicit in others 'other-than-awake' brain waves during healing work, when that is needed for that person's healing. This is all there is to it, it is as 'natural' as it gets and bringing in the 'supernatural' aspects into descriptions is only adding to the 'rejection' of shamanism as something primitive and objectionable. Shamanism is the most ancient, natural healing path humanity has known - as are the soothing/healing daily sleep patterns. In my view, it seems only very natural that shamanism and acupuncture for example were practiced by our earlier ancestors. They were cave dwellers after all and caves are inherently dark. They were just very good at 'seeing in the dark'. The Ancient Path is rejected these days as 'primitive' in favour of man-made, 'artificial' ways of living life. Artificial life - as advanced as it is - has also regressed humanity's understanding of Life. The bias of the 'superiority' of the continuous availability of visible artificial light helped to create a 'separation' not only from the natural cycles of life but also from that inward part of Life which is 'invisible' to the naked eye. To have 'light-on-demand' any time of the day takes away any 'fear of the dark'. One no longer has to face a dark void through shedding artificial continuous light on life. The way out of this 'disconnected' way of living is by making our way back towards a more 'integrated' way of life, not only for our own sakes but for the sake of everyone.
Before describing the 10 daily shamanic practices, I wanted to give an example of my experience of a 'strong shaman'. During an individual healing session, we both just sat each on a chair in a small room in stillness - eyes closed, feet resting on a raised surface. As the healing and Soul Retrieval evolved, I could feel the impact of it and I got to know the healer's depth as she was able to meet me where it had been impossible for other healers and shamanic practitioners to go. The impact of the work was felt and the most amazing 'coincidence' was still to happen. Unbeknown to me, something else was happening to another person in another country at the time this healing was playing out. This person contacted me upon my return home and went on to describe in detail how he'd had a lucid dream in which he was assisting with my healing and what it related to. The description totally matched that which I had seen unfold during my healing session. I remember at the time feeling totally amazed at how different people are 'relating' and 'interconnecting' in spirit through Time-Space. This is but one personal experience of shamanic Time-Space and how life and time-lines/space are not what they seem to be.
After a long introduction, the following 10 shamanic practices are chosen as they emerge for me as soothing ways to explore natural healing ways as well as ways of 'being' in life:
DANCE: see if you dare spend a little time moving and dancing to favourite music, music with a great beat. Shake loose that which you normally hold onto tightly. When you stop, see what starts to flow through your mind and where it takes you. See if it feels different between doing this with open eyes or when you block out the light with a black eye-mask and curtains drawn when indoors. In ancient times, shamanic practices were often done at night, a natural time when the sunlight was not there and there was no interference of the 'ordinary' way of 'seeing'/'looking at' life.
WALK BAREFOOT OUTSIDE: obviously take care where you walk. Walking barefoot on soil/grass not only massages the base of the feet and the kidney meridian acupuncture point KI 1, it also ensures that the feet are not insulated from Earth through a rubber sole. Going further, what does it feel like to lie on the grass or even to dance blindfolded on the grass and then lie down? Winter isn't that appealing a time to try this for obvious reasons. Last summer, I spent a lot of time at home in my garden, vegetable garden and paddock barefoot. I could feel the difference in the evening when sitting down. There was a healthy glow in my feet and legs and it wasn't from the nettles!
GROW SOME PLANTS: I certainly find it very soothing and fascinating to grow my own vegetables as well as propagating plants/trees for my garden, be it from seed or from cuttings. It's humbling to see the path of a plant from a little seed to the point where it provides or just flowers in its full glory. It 'connects' you with your food and that which you 'take in' of life as well as Nature. It's not longer 'impersonal' and it becomes more of a personal connection. For those living in cities, even if it is just growing some favourite herbs on a window sill, it's also a practice of connecting. How does it feel then to also bless that food before you eat it?
HAVE YOUR OWN RITUAL TO 'HONOUR' LIFE: In Shamanic Traditions as well as Eastern traditions, a ritual is often a daily event. Certain elements for this ritual are considered within the daily life in the home and with those ingredients, a heart felt ritual pause in the day is set aside to 'honour' the gift of life. It is said that only a few things are certain in life and jokingly it's often referred to as death and the tax-man. When there is a birth, one knows that there will be death to follow. What isn't so often considered is how much of a gift life truly is. In the Indian tradition - and I'm sure it'll feature in traditions too - it is said that 'Completion' of the human journey in the attainment of full Consciousness can only be attained in human form. To think that only about 4% of the whole of our Universe is in visible form, it's a miracle in a way that we're part of this mini-4% of our visible Universe. Honouring life is a way to humbly acknowledge and treasure this 'gift' of being part of the visible 4% of life and is also an invitation to acknowledge that we 'don't know' much about the other 96%. How does 'honouring life' take shape for you?
SAY A PRAYER AND CONSCIOUSLY CONNECT TO A BIGGER REALITY THAN 'ORDINARY' REALITY: When a very limited (4%) physical reality is the only reality one believes in, the danger is that one disconnects one's self-awareness from a much greater Reality. The path of this self-imposed isolation can be very painful as it seemingly creates a perceived deep void in life which cannot be filled no matter what is done. In the conscious willingness to connect that which you already know about reality with that which you don't know about a larger Reality, there is an invitation for this larger Reality to be part of your life. By this simple 'act' of 'entangling' yourself with this much larger Reality - through heart-felt daily prayer and ritual - there is a conscious choice to reconnect yourself to the deep source of Sustaining Life, a source found within the Void. Sometimes, when things look tremendously dark and hopeless, the Source is found in the Void. The Parable of the Lost Son in the Christian tradition talks about this 'experience' of loosing one's way and feeling lost in life and as the saying goes, 'in every sinner there is a saint; in every saint there is a sinner'.
DON'T TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY: In Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements on Toltec wisdom, 'not taking things personally' is one of the four agreements (as well as the 3 that follow). When Self-enquiry practice is not part of one's life, it becomes difficult not to take things personally. Without self-reflection and Self-enquiry, there often is just 'reactivity' to perceptions of 'ordinary' reality and events. The reactivity says a lot about the person reacting and not necessarily anything about the event nor another person. The interpretation of events, the perception of another then runs through a habitual, conditioned, unquestioned, coloured filter of reality and gets contracted into a 'package deal' outcome which runs also in the habitual groove of thinking. That way, things and 'life' often end up being taken as very personal. How much self reflection and Self-enquiry do you allow in your life?
DO YOUR BEST: This is the second agreement and in doing your best, you do your duty in life. How much do you truly endeavour to 'learn' from your experiences of life? Not everyone has the same experience of life nor perception of the purpose of life and and yet everyone is encouraged in all spiritual traditions to do their best; to follow dharma or the endeavour in doing something with the gift of life for the purpose of learning. Be the best you can be and learn from the mistakes you make. Let your light shine no matter what.
DON'T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS: It's difficult to know anyone. Everyone is so vast in their Being and immensely complex in the way they handle life in general. In a way, when someone 'assumes' something about the other, coloured by one's own experiences of life, it does not do any justice to the other person. In that moment of 'assuming', a contraction takes place - a limiting the uncomfortable 'unknown' vastness of the 'other' - into a comfortable, familiar 'assumed' reality. That doesn't give any sense of the other person. 'Pigeonholing' is one such approach in life. A few questions or soundbites are used to quickly categorise someone in one particular pigeonhole and when the pigeon has landed in the expected pigeonhole, all is well. Then one suddenly 'knows' that person and can relate to that pigeon as 'nice' or 'attractive' or 'repulsive' according to one's habitual preferences. It can be very unsettling to the assuming, pigeon-holing specialists to meet someone they can't put into one category. Pigeonholing as one example is not a way of holding space for another but a way of very quickly limiting the space one is willing to give to another. It's a way to diminish the other in exactly the same way as one diminishes oneself through the assumptions made. In what ways do you contract life? When does it happen? At what point do you start feeling uncomfortable in a situation? When do you feel the need to limit yourself or the other? What are the triggers? Not taking things personally and not making assumptions dance together.
SPEAK IMPECCABLE WORDS: words have power, far more than one realises. It's not just guns and knives that harm people, words can be weaponised too. In a way, it's just a sound and yet sounds can be a soothing, pleasurable experiences or cutting, harsh and deadening through the words used. These days, one hears a lot about 'freedom of speech' and how one is entitled to just voice one's opinion about no matter what. Although that freedom of expression is wonderful, the responsibility for the choice of one's words doesn't seem to be considered. Sharing something of oneself, of one's own experiences and free speech is wonderful. When however this 'free speech' is no longer a pure expression of one's experience, it can become harmful. In the expression of one's opinion of another, used in ways to intrude into the other's life in a toxic, non-uplifting, harmful and polluting way, freedom of expression takes on the form of freedom to pollute the other's life with the toxic waste of one's way of thinking . Speaking impeccable words is an encouragement to reflect on what is being said in conversation - even if one doesn't get it right each time. Reflection about one's words and self-enquiry in how 'impeccable' one's words have been during the day is a good practice of self-enquiry into how you contribute to 'mental pollution' in the world and how much you contribute to uplifting 'harmony' and 'peace'. Awareness around one's own 'mental pollution' and how this gets 'fly-tipped' into the world can only happen through a deep self-enquiry into the impeccability of one's own words. In the uncomfortable contact with others and arguments, the deepest treasures around 'mental pollution' can be seen more clearly.
JOURNAL and DRAW: for a long time, I have been tracking lucid dreams and inspired thoughts. They are - over a long period of time - revealing the path travelled, my way through difficult terrains. How do you make sense of the path you've walked so far? Can you retrace the steps you've walked through life?