Mongolia has a rich shamanic history. Under Russian influence throughout the 20th century, shamanism became illegal and was forced underground. Despite the external pressure to eradicate the practice, shamans continued their craft until Mongolia gained its independence in 1990. Since then, there has been a revival of shamanic activity throughout the country. People are finding that these ancient rituals and practices, still intact from the ancestral past, are effective tools for navigating the multidimensional landscape of their contemporary world. They navigate politics, economic disparity and hardship. They investigate and uncover forgotten histories, reawakening their ancestral connections. This allows them to find meaning -- to literally re-member themselves, their people, the spirits of the land. This speaks to a key component of shamanic practice: the ability to create a world filled with meaning, depth and connection. This helps to fill gaps that remain in a scattered cultural, spiritual and social arena, one that actively sought the dissolution of shamanism and by extension, a way of life.
For Mongolian anthropologist Manduhai Buyandelger, this was not only a story close to home but a story to tell. In her account Tragic Spirits, she traces the evolution and implications of this newfound growth and interest in Mongolian shamanism.
I've always, always had a vision of integrative, comprehensive healthcare that includes not only lots of options, but options that address all dimensions of experience. Bringing shamans and other kinds of folk healers into the hospital setting is, at least to me, a no-brainer. There is room for all perspectives. Seemingly contradictory philosophies about health and healing can coincide. If it's truly about health and healing, then the opposition between modalities and perspectives shouldn't really matter; it's not about being right and castigating everything else. Health and healing should be about effective, safe and comprehensive care.
And in a Merced, CA hospital, this is exactly their way of approaching healthcare. The hospital has acknowledged the importance of cultural medicine and practices, and they now have a hospital-wide program that incorporates shamanic healing rituals alongside Western medicine. Largely initiated by the Hmong population in the region, patients, practitioners and hospital staff are all in accordance with the positive beneftis the program delivers. In the Ecuadorean mountain town of Riobamba, a similar program has been implemented, with similar successes. This kind of cultural incorporation, as well as working to bridge the philosophical gap between Western physical medicine and shamanic spiritual medicine, is an approach that could well enhance the overall efficacy of medical care everywhere. Read both articles here:
Have you ever wondered why in modern Christmas tradition we do the things we do? What is the origin of the Christmas tree, with the star on top, decorations about, and all the brightly wrapped presents beneath? Or the idea behind Santa Claus who jets around the globe in a magic sleigh with flying reindeer – defying both time and space – to deliver the world’s children a bounty of Christmas gifts? And since when did Santa and the birth of Jesus have anything to do with each other? Where do these stories come from – and better yet: what are we actually celebrating on Christmas morning?
There are answers to these questions. And the history is not so farfetched or even that hidden. You just have to know where to look. And the first place we look is the North Pole; seriously – in ancient Siberia, near the top of the world. The story of Santa and his likely origins begins where he supposedly lives: the frigid North.
In this wintry-wonderland, if you go searching for Santa, you may not find him or his Elvin factory – but you will find groups of indigenous people native to what we know as Siberia. Among these cultures are the northern Tungusic people, known as the Evenki. The Evenki were predominantly hunter-gatherers as well as reindeer herders. Their survival depended largely upon the health and vitality of their domesticated reindeer. The reindeer provided the Evenki and other northern tribes with everything from clothing, housing material, wares and tools from the bones and antlers, transportation (yes, they ride reindeer!), milk, as well as cultural and religious inspiration.
The Evenki were also a shamanic culture. The word “shaman” actually has its roots in the Tungus word saman which means “one who knows or knows the spirits.” Many of the classic shamanic characteristics that would later be reflected in cultures all over the world were originally documented by Russian and European explorers while observing the Tungus and related people’s religious life. This includes the three-world system, the shamanic journey or soul flight, the use of altered states of consciousness, animistic belief in spirit, and so forth.
A significant aspect of the shamanism practiced in this part of the world during that time was linked to Amanita muscaria, also known as the Fly Agaric mushroom. This mushroom is more widely accepted in the modern world as the Alice in Wonderland mushroom. It was held very sacred by these ancient people, and was used by the shaman and others for ceremonial and spiritual purposes. Amanitas – as you can tell by the pictures – range from brightly red and white to golden orange and yellow. They only grow beneath certain types of evergreen trees. They form a symbiotic relationship with the roots of the tree, the exchange of which allows them to grow. One of the reported ancient beliefs was that the mushroom was actually the fruit of the tree. Due to the lack of seed, it is also commonly held that Fly Agaric was divine – a kind of virginally birthed sacred plant.
Although intensely psychoactive, Amanitas are also toxic. One way to reduce the toxicity and increase the psychoactive potency was to simply dry them. When out collecting the mushrooms, people would pick a bunch of them under the evergreen trees and lay them out along the branches while continuing to pick the mushrooms beneath other trees. The result was something that looked very reminiscent of a modern Christmas tree: evergreen trees whose branches are dotted with bright red, roundish “decorations” – in this case the sacred mushrooms. At the end of the session, the shaman or harvester would go around to each of their mushroom stashes and put them all in one large sack… a large sack?!! Remind you of anything?! Not only this, as the story of the tradition goes, the shaman would then, carrying this large sack, visit the homes of his or her people and deliver the mushrooms to them. They would then continue the drying process by hanging them in a sock, near the fire!
Another way to reduce the toxicity of the sacred mushrooms is through human filtration. Once passed through the body, the toxic elements are apparently filtered by the liver and the resultant urine that comes out contains the still intact psychoactive elements. So they drank the filtered urine. But that’s only half the story. Somewhere in the mythic origins of this practice is the reindeer. Because the reindeer also love these mushrooms. They dig through the snow to eat them, and they also drink their own urine afterwards. So perhaps, long ago, one of the first shamans witnessed the reindeer’s love affair with this peculiar mushroom – as well as its propensity for eating its own freshly yellowed-snow – and saw how peculiarly it behaved as the romance heated up. The curiosity (indeed a hallmark characteristic of a shaman) couldn’t be contained, and the shaman did what he had to do: he first ate some of the yellow snow himself… and without a doubt realized the profound wisdom and magic not only in the mushroom, but in the reindeer. And so this romance, too, began…
However it may have happened in antiquity, the connection between the reindeer, the mushroom and the shamanism is apparent. A very common vision that one has while under the influence of Fly Agaric is precisely that: flying. Massive distortions of time and space occur, affecting scale in dramatic ways. Not only do you observe yourself flying, but also other things… like reindeer. It is not that difficult to connect the dots here. Shamanic people are deeply invested in their environment. They learn the magical and mystical properties of the natural world, and often assign a great deal of importance and sacredness to the bearers of that magic. For some of these ancient Siberian people, this power was charioted by the reindeer and the sacred mushroom. That the reindeer should have the ability to fly is evident not only in the vision, or their clearly altered state once intoxicated, but also in the wisdom they offered to the shamans by eating the mushroom in the first place, and for guiding them to do so just the same.
It wasn’t only the reindeer who could fly, but the shamans also took flight. As mentioned, the shamanic journey or soul flight is a keystone in shamanic practice and especially so in ancient Siberian culture. In order to interact with the spirits, the shaman had to be able to leave this world and enter theirs. This was accomplished by projecting his or her spirit from the physical and into the immaterial. They either needed the power to do this on their own, or use a spirit helper to take them. It is very common for shamans to develop relationships with birds, naturally, as they have the power to fly. But here, in the North Pole, what better animal to use than the magical, flying reindeer?
Sometimes, the greatest tragedies bring the greatest benefit. Our greatest strengths paradoxically sourced from the same root as our greatest weaknesses. The death of something old and worn, like a garment from a dying life, is necessary to usher in something new as it is reborn into another form that takes the shape of who we are now. Meta-physical composting. This is true for individual selves, as it is for communities, families, interpersonal relationships, nations and the entire world. Such is the path of transformation -- the evolution of the self, identity, spirit, and meaning.
This is also the way of the shaman. It is a way of transformation, from one state of being to another; from one way of engaging and knowing the world to the expression of something entirely new. This path brings healing, clarity, knowledge, capacity, growth and transformation -- but it can be a road wrought with difficult passages. It is essential to remember the basics, the foundation of our spiritual and personal paths.
And as we do, and apply what we know from the ground up, with each new realization that comes, and with each new intention that's planted in the soil of personal transformation, we grow. We change. We evolve. This is shamanic evolution. It is the action paired with shamanic intent that leads to manifestation. With each ceremony, each medicine experience, and every movement along the path, there is movement and change in the spirit -- in your spirit, and the spirits all around you. If engaged, it is inevitable: there will be change, there will be newness, and there will be growth and development.
But you have to do it. This is a path of action. It is the engagement of the intention that creates the movement, not the desire for the change to happen. The desire for change can be formed into a pattern that actually works against the ultimate resolution of your intention. Part of the challenge that is faced when trying to transform ourselves and our lives is that wanting to change these things is an integral aspect of the same cycle that actually works against fostering the desired changes. It's tricky, a Catch-22. It would seem like wanting to change something is a necessary first step in order to initiate that change. But when that desire is coupled to the continuation of a cycle that does not include taking the necessary actions, it gets worn into a pattern of not doing, and thus no manifestation and no change. You find yourself right back where you started: having the same kinds of challenges or problems, constructing the rationale about the problems in your mind, wanting to change those problems, telling yourself you are going to do it, and then not doing what it takes to make it happen but continuing to have the thoughts and desires about it.
This is because the action of change is independent of the desire. The desire is only satisfactory in the dimensions of the mind. And because the desires and thoughts are experienced entirely in the mind, they satisfy the mind just enough in order to keep the cycle going. They are essential to the cycle that perpetuates not transformation, but continuation of sameness and stagnation. Thinking about doing something or wanting to do something isn't a requirement to actually get up and do it. Consider it. Do you need to think about walking in order to walk? Do you have to think about eating in order to eat? How many times have you done something that you didn't really want to? For instance, physical exercise: How often do we think in our minds that we really don’t want to exercise, and then do it anyway? Or how many times do we create the plan to change something about ourselves or our lives and then never do it -- like for New Year's resolutions?
The action is independent of the desire. The desire can't ever manifest into something. It will always and only be a desire. So it's really simple. Shamanism, or any kind of transformative experience or path, is dependent on your actions and what you are doing. And so despite the mayhem and chaos found in the mind, and regardless of all the fear that keeps you from moving, here it is: the doing is the doing is the doing IS the change.
Trance can be defined as a specific state of consciousness. (Read more about defining shamanism and states of consciousness here.) So this means that you are always in a specific state of consciousness, which means that you are already in a trance state. Thus, whether or not you have the ability to be in trance is not in question. Difference trance states are the norm in terms of human experience, and everybody experiences multiple trance states throughout a single day. What is challenging about trance in the context of shamanic practice is learning how to intentionally move from one trance state to another for specific purposes. Often, this specific purpose is to practice some kind of ceremony or ritual.
Guiding oneself from one state of consciousness to another can take time to learn. Shamanic traditions throughout the world often include various techniques for establishing deeper trance states. Some of these practices include inducing sacred substances, fasting, solitude, isolation for long periods of time, sensory deprivation, ecstatic dancing, and so on. As a modern person practicing shamanism, a challenge that we face is finding ways to incorporate trance into urban lifestyle, often with less time and less-than-optimum spaces for deep trance practice. For instance, long periods of isolation and sensory deprivation are not practices that are supported by modern lifestyles.
Even so, there are absolutely ways that shamanism can be practiced and integrated into daily living. Here some suggestions that can help enhance the ability to deepen your trance experience. These are based on experimentation, keeping both traditional trance practice and modern lifestyle in mind.
Consider the many varieties of dance and movement that are involved in shamanic and other ceremonial practice. Getting your body involved by dancing and moving rhythmically is a time-tested trance inducer. Any kind of repetitive movement ranging from tapping the floor, rocking back and forth, bobbing your head, or even something like pacing or walking around in circles can help deepen trance. Consider changing the tempo, beat, intensity, and duration of your movement to discover what works best for your state of mind and body. Try something slow and monotonous, or wild and exhilarating. Be creative and free.
Establishing regularity and structure in your ceremonial practice is grounding and can be especially productive if you naturally resist or have trouble with regular schedules. Creating rituals that support you can include having a set time and place to perform ceremony and induce trance. This is not meant to be onerous, but to help you build a structure that supports your growth. Regularity when inducing any kind of trance state - i.e. trances linked to exercise or meditation - is incredibly powerful and encourages enhanced ability and strength over time. This is exercise for your mind and spirit.
Change it Up
On the other end of this spectrum, too much monotony can breed a lack of focus and harbors the potential for discouraging practice. The impulse here is to do something different - or do everything different. Change the set and setting. Find new music to listen to. Incorporate different rituals. The creativity is up to you. But if you find that your ceremonial practice is becoming mechanical and you aren't satisfied with the results, then it may be time to revisit the drawing board and create a new space and protocol. Some of the other suggestions in this post are good starting points for finding new ways to practice.
This one is a lifeline for me. And it can be as simple as going out on a balcony, sitting in your backyard, walking through a nearby park, or as extreme as taking a backpack into the forest overnight with the intent to do nothing but practice ceremony for 12 hours straight. The nature spirits have a way of taking your mind off whatever it is focused on and guiding you to focus on something else - if only the nature spirits themselves. Shamanic traditions around the world are rooted in nature-based practices. This is an unlimited resource for creating ceremony - and the first step is to get outside and start exploring.
Connect to Your Voice
Your voice is an incredibly powerful spirit. Many spiritual practices incorporate medicine songs, different kinds of chanting and vocalizations as a way of enhancing, guiding, and changing experience. Being vocal during your ceremony has a way of propelling you from one state of consciousness to another. And it doesn't necessarily matter what you vocalize - from simple sounds to elaborate invocations - but the intent driving your vocalizations will affect the space differently. You can try simple repetition, include alterations in rhythm and volume, or rise into an ecstatic crescendo, all geared towards shifting you into a new state of trance.
Try playing an instrument as part of your ceremony. Drumming and rattling work great as recorded tracks, but they can be even more effective when played live. Like vocalizing or singing, playing music has an uncanny ability to alter your consciousness. If you don't have a drum or rattle, any instrument will do, as will tapping a beat on a bucket, the floor, a pot or pan, or whatever you got. This can also help train your focus as well as keep you moving.
This is a new discovery for me. I noticed that while lying in bed and drifting off to sleep, my visionary space opens dramatically. Guides manifest, shamanic vision becomes crystal clear, and thoughts are less inhibitive and distracting. Perfect for trance. Now I will purposefully perform ceremony at night when under normal circumstances I would have just gone to bed. It takes practice to keep from dozing off - and it's no problem if you do - but it is worth all the effort to remain lucid. This half-asleep, half-awake state can produce radical shifts in perspective, perception, and shamanic ability...
Under the Moon
It's amazing how much one simple change in the definition of space - the darkness of night rather than the light of day - can shift your consciousness. Some shamanic traditions will only perform certain rituals and ceremonies at night and hold the belief that spirits are more accessible once the sun goes down. While spirits are always present and accessible,performing ceremony at night (especially outside in unfamiliar places) can have a profound impact on your state of consciousness. Experiencing the night is a trance state of its own - harness it!
This is another mainstay in trance practice. Working with breath alone is sometimes all you need to establish deep trance states. Meditation is a kind of trance that focuses on and utilizes breath. So is exercise. As well as sleep. In all of these states of consciousness, there is a correlated pattern of breathing. By purposefully focusing on and changing breathing patterns, the state of consciousness attached to your breath can shift. And the creativity found in different ways to alter your breathing is unbounded and gives you the freedom to explore your breath as a vehicle to changing your experience.
Implementing and establishing a solid trance practice can also help move you beyond doubts. It is common for doubt to creep into the space when attempting to shift your consciousness. All kinds of creeping thoughts emerge. This is a key point in the practice. In becoming proficient at deepening trance, you will continue to move into spaces free of doubt, while simultaneously propelling your consciousness to new states that strengthen and nourish the growth of your shamanism - and this, the growth in your life and in yourself.
Photo "Medicine Woman" from Our Infinitely Evolving Universe blog
Traditionally, shamanic practices are rooted in small communities and tribal societies that lived a primarily pre-modern life. While all shamanic cultures are most likely not expressions of the idyllic state of oneness with nature that is commonly portrayed, it is at least safe to say that shamanic cultures were certainly much more in tune with and nature-based than typical modern society. Shamanistic elements also can be traced back to virtually every religious and spiritual tradition, including the more widely-practiced monotheistic traditions of today. This is not to say that every religion or spiritual tradition is shamanic, but that there are common elements and practices inherent to these traditions that have roots in these older ways of relating to and understanding the world.
As small, earth-oriented societies began to condense, diversify, and eventually move towards more stationary, technologically-focused and complex systems, shamanism went through a similar transformation. The traditional role of the community's shaman was multifaceted: healer, sage, priest, ceremonialist; and sometimes political chief and war leader. These roles were not always held in concert by a single person or practitioner, but often the scope of the shaman's duties was to fulfill several of these various functions. The movement away from small communities to larger societies began to unravel these once unified roles into separate, specialized positions. Today we see these same needs being satisfied through a number of more refined roles: doctors, therapists, religious or spiritual leaders, and so on.
Shamanism has never truly been replaced or lost, however. It is a nicely packaged misapprehension that shamanistic practices and traditions are relics of the past. As already mentioned, there are traces of shamanism in the most widely recognized religions of today. In many places around the world there are active, historically rooted traditions that continue to serve communities and individuals. Moreover, and especially over the last several decades, shamanism has also seen a rise in popularity among traditionally non-shamanic, Western people. There are many avenues and expressions of shamanism still operating beyond the thin veneer of materialism upheld by modern Western culture. Some of them do exist in the far reaches of the world, and some are right smack in the backyard of this urban madness.
It would be more accurate to say that Western culture has gone through a process of losing its shamanic roots. The evidence that people are scrambling to get them back is apparent. There is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction and spiritual longing that seems to come hand-in-hand with the growth of modern society. Essentially, this is a crisis of meaning that points towards a deepening loss of identity, authenticity, and genuine spiritual connection. This meaninglessness could be acknowledged as both symptom and sickness -- a self-perpetuating, illusive and illusory spiritual emergency that leads its sufferers towards any number of possible outlets that promise answers and resolutions to the crisis.
One of these outlets is, or has become, shamanism. People come to shamanic practices looking for something that's missing. They are looking to solve the riddle of their life, to have the emptiness inside finally filled with something that makes sense, with something that makes them feel like they are alive again. They want purpose. Meaning. Or they come just as people have for millennia: to heal any and all illnesses sourced in any and all dimensions -- physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual.
People often look to shamanism as a way to help them live more fulfilled lives. But these needs and perceived deficiencies are not uniquely answered or sought after through shamanic means. Indeed, these questions are at the root of spiritual seeking itself. A devout Christian or Buddhist would undoubtedly find answers in their respective traditions. But for people who have no religious pedigree; or for those whose spiritual inheritance has proved to be arid, what choices do they have?
I know this path because I walked it. I still do. And the more people I see treading the shamanic current, the more I see how pervasive this longing for authenticity really is. How deeply people suffer for lack of meaning and purpose in life. How the fantasies of modernity have betrayed people. Sure, there are those that fit snugly into their seat, with seatback pockets nicely tucked, seatbelts on and tray tables secured. But there are many who just can’t sit still. They stir. They writhe. They want to know. Is this real? Is there something more? Does magic exist? Where is Spirit?
Invocation is the process of calling on a spirit or spirits. It establishes connection and opens communication to the spirit you are calling, and there is meaning and/or intention inherent in the invocation. In other words, it does something - it activates a spirit and makes something happen.
Invocation resembles the use of language itself. When using language, there are often many ways to get a message across and deliver an intended meaning, and some of those ways are more effective in certain situations and with certain people, and other ways work best in other circumstances. It is also a matter of personal style and choice that determines how and what is said, to whom, etc.
Regardless of the particular language that is used, the end result is communication. Language choice is contingent upon the words chosen only as long as the words convey the meaning intended.
You are driving to an unfamiliar part of town with a friend, who knows the directions and is guiding you to your destination. Suddenly she says, "Okay, go left!"
You are startled and not sure what to do. You see a street 100 feet ahead, a driveway 20 feet ahead, and a small dirt road leading into a field between the two. Based on her intonation and excitement, you assume she meant the closest option. You start to slow down and head for the driveway, but she directs you to turn on the next street instead.
The confusion is based in a lack of specificity. Here are some other ways she could have communicated the same meaning:
"Turn left at the next street up ahead."
"Take the left after we pass by this field."
"In about 100 feet, turn left."
"Take your next left on Maple St."
"After passing by a red barn in a field on your left, you will see a row of large Maple trees; turn left at the end of the row."
"Once you pass the dirt road on the left, make your next left."
In all of these examples, what she says is important insofar as the meaning of what she says enables you to understand her. Simply, communication and guidance.
Your friend giving you directions is like the shaman, and you are the spirit that she is guiding. She knows where she wants to go and how to get there, but she needs your help. Her directions are invocations. The words and phrases found within each invocation are spirits - guiding spirits that provide specific tasks to accomplish. The spirits in each invocation are different - some use Maple trees, street names, distance or scale, landmarks and symbols - but they all suffice to get the job the done.
This is what invocations are, and what they do. They keep things moving. They bring one story to its completion and help facilitate the next. They help you move out of a space filled with doubt and into one of clarity. They help you get what you need because you know how to ask for it.
Invocation resembles language because language is invocation. The way you use invocation in shamanism and with spirit guides is a process of learning and communicating in a new language. When you communicate with guides, clarity and specificity in meaning will ensure that your guides understand you and perform as the invocation intends.
Invocations guide the spirits, so that the spirits can guide you...
Shamanic healing is a multi-dimensional experience. It engages practitioner and participant on every level: emotional, psychological, personal, spiritual, physical, ideological, etc. The essence of healing itself is derived from an understanding of wholeness, and so the implication is that to be healed is to be made whole again. In order to be made whole, one must go on the journey of retrieving or reclaiming something that is missing, something vital that causes an imbalance, affliction or suffering.
For instance, a very common shamanic healing practice is soul retrieval. A traditional view of soul retrieval goes something like this: a person suffers from an intense, traumatic experience that results in soul loss, where a piece or part of their soul is somehow trapped by the experience; this missing piece needs to be restored to the person, and in doing so they are brought back to health and made whole again.
From this view of healing, the foundational assumption is that suffering and affliction takes something away from us, something that is vital and belongs to us. A state of wholeness is a state of health, where every aspect of our being -- mind, body, spirit -- is fully intact. When we need healing, or when we need something to be fixed, we are saying that we need our wholeness restored so we can claim once again what is ours.
This holds as sound and legitimate. But let's look at this a different way. Let’s say that a person in need of healing is already whole. Let's say that their experience of suffering is not the result of missing pieces, lost spirits, or trapped energy, nor is there something to be fixed or something wrong. Instead, let's say that the need for healing and the experience of suffering is the result of a specific arrangement or pattern of spirits and energy, and how someone relates to that pattern. This pattern of spirits, or energetic signature, is very specific to each person and to each experience. No two patterns will ever be exactly the same, just as no two people are the same. But the answers to the questions and the path that leads to healing is always inherent in the pattern itself and in how that pattern is related to. Knowing what this pattern is makes the process of changing the experience of the pattern a whole lot easier -- and very effective.
This perspective shift is very simple. It simply says that you are already and always whole, and that you have within you the entirety of your universe. And so by nature of this entirety, you have everything you need to heal. When someone comes to me for a shamanic healing session, I see their wholeness. I see a spiritual being, an expression of energy that it is absolute, and absolutely perfect in their expression. Even if that expression manifests as suffering. Every piece of the puzzle is still intact.
What changes is not an addition to or retrieval of something that's gone missing, but rather the unique way the pieces and aspects of ourselves are arranged. The shamanic healing process is one that simultaneously provides an experience that shifts the patterns of energy -- the spirits -- while offering the person who is being healed an opportunity to change their perspective regarding their experience of suffering. This perspective shift is a change in relationship to the very nature of the thing that causes the suffering in the first place. Once this happens, the process can be very fluid, with seamless effort, and ultimately it works.
So instead of looking at healing as a journey to becoming whole again, we can understand shamanic healing as a process of aligning with one's wholeness through a shift in the way you relate to and perceive whatever is causing you suffering. The change in relationship and perception is the invitation to healing. It opens the door within yourself and invites you to walk through it. Once you make the commitment and move through the doorway, you've already agreed that healing will take place. Indeed, it's already begun. The shamanic journey that ensues is a co-participatory event that you experience as the psychological, emotional, physical and spiritual structures within you align to correspond with the new way you are relating to the experience and yourself as a whole.
When you forgive, you forgive for yourself.
It is an act that frees you from the burden you carry by holding onto what someone else has done. You liberate the weight, the energy, the negativity, the blame, everything. When you don't forgive because you think the other person doesn't deserve it, it ultimately becomes something that you have to endure and experience within yourself.
Forgiveness is an act of empowerment, where you empower yourself to be free of the very thing you need to forgive in the first place.
Image "Holy Spirit and Worship"
This is a tricky question, to be certain. And while there are many facets and nuances that will not be addressed here, the following article provides a basic framework for understanding what exactly shamanism is.
It is important to mention that there are many, many definitions and understandings of shamanism in the world. Many traditions are active today with longstanding roots that claim to reach back thousands of years, perhaps even longer. There are also hybrids of traditions, new traditions, modern shamanic practices, disciplines that incorporate shamanic elements, and all kinds of spiritual practitioners that are sometimes labeled with the term shamanism. And within all of this complexity, there are also many, many different kinds of beliefs and philosophies about what constitutes true or authentic shamanism. So at the same time there is a multiplicity of shamanic practices, there is also a multiplicity of beliefs that surround those practices.
Because shamanism is based in experience and results, a clear definition of shamanism will hold true in and through experience, regardless of beliefs. This leaves room for multiple ways of understanding shamanism without any particular way being held as right or wrong. Shamanism is understood and experienced differently by different people and under different circumstances. The common element is not the content of what is understood, but the experience of the shamanism itself -- this is what makes it "real" or "authentic".
From one perspective, then, it can be considered irrelevant to attempt a single definition of something that resists it. Fair enough. But there is value in bringing integrity and coherence to an understanding of shamanism, if only to operate from within and by this clarity in definition.
So let's start with a common, classical definition: Shamanism is a system or practice led by a practitioner, the shaman, who willfully changes their state of consciousness from a normal state to an altered state in order to enact something, to perform a specific duty on the behalf of another person, community, group, etc. Often, this altered state of consciousness is framed as a movement from this world to the spirit world. It is in the spirit world where the shaman does his/her work, and it is here that the resolution or remedy to the situation is received and brought back to the normal world.
There are 3 main points implicit in this definition:
Matt Toussaint has immersed himself in shamanic practice and exploration for the past 10 years. He currently resides in Peru where he serves as an apprentice shaman and facilitator at a plant medicine retreat center. Read more.