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.
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.