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What is Shamanism?

january 2014 shaman circleShamanism is a love story – this is about falling in love with yourself, life, and the raw, wild beauty of creation. Shamanism is native to all of us, and is one of the oldest traditions in our human heritage – we two leggeds have had some form of shamanic practice in each of our ancestral cultures on planet earth since time began. In early times, when our ancestors were unsure of what medicine plants to use, where to hunt for game, how to help a sick or injured clanmate heal, or how to work in harmony with the life-giving spirits of nature, a shaman would enter an altered state of consciousness, and journey in non-ordinary reality for information, and healing.

Shamans served their community by working closely with helping spirits, and keeping their tribes or clans safe, healthy, happy and connected to the natural world. Today, shamanism is experiencing a renaissance, and is deepening to become a beautiful, joyful part of our spiritual practice in a contemporary way. I encourage you to come to a Shaman Circle, and experience shamanic ceremony for yourself, or change your life FOREVER with the Shaman’s Way 16 month, full-immersion training. Welcome, compassionate helping spirits!


What Does Shamanism Treat?

Shamanism and reiki treat similar challenges – and use different approaches. As a path of love, shamanism can support us through intense periods of transition, cancer, spiritual awakening, and in times of burnout, stress, and challenge. Shamanism can be intense, powerful, and very beautiful. I encourage everyone to learn how to journey in a shamanic way, so that we can all speak directly to our compassionate helping spirits and receive information, wise counsel, and healing. That said, there are times we need a helping hand from someone with different skills and perspective. The vibration of asking for help, and then receiving is a powerful healing in and of itself.

Shamanism can support specific issues such as:

  • major life transition
  • manifesting a new job, partner, pattern, or home
  • recovering energy, joy, and vitality for living
  • releasing depression, anxiety and stress
  • healing trauma, grief, and sadness
  • clearing energies that aren’t yours
  • recovery from illness or surgery
  • navigating immune disorders (HIV/AIDS)
  • working through chronic conditions like fibromyalgia and adrenal fatigue
  • healing addiction, insomnia
  • welcoming fertility, new children, new projects, and new communities
  • releasing emotional charge around old triggers and patterns
  • overall happiness, and recovering joy
  • spiritual awakening, life purpose…dreaming down heaven on earth

How Does Shamanism Work?

A shamanic practitioner enters a waking, trancelike state of consciousness, and visits what we call non-ordinary reality, where they navigate the Lower, Middle, and Upper worlds. This state of non-ordinary consciousness can be achieved in several ways, and at Vibrant Reiki, we enter or move into trance through listening to shamanic drumming, rattling, and song. The shamanic practitioner isn’t ‘doing’ the healing or divining – instead, we work with compassionate helping spirits, beings of unconditional love who offer us help, hope, and healing.

Through working with our compassionate helping spirits, or allies, we can experience physical healing, emotional release, shifts in patterns and behaviors, healing trauma, receiving information about situations in our lives, and bringing home our own energies like lost soul parts or power. All of this helps us live full, vibrant lives in service to the beauty and harmony of creation. Everyone can learn to journey – as our planetary consciousness evolves, tools from our ancestors and tribal wisdoms are becoming more and more accessible in contemporary settings. Blessings and thanks to everyone who has come before us and paved the way for us to do this beautiful work.


How Do I Journey At A Vibrant Reiki Circle or Class?

After we call in sacred space and the loving protective energies of the directions, we’ll introduce ourselves, review the ‘how-to’ of journeying for the gathering, set our intentions, and get ourselves settled into our blankets, with whatever sacred objects we travel with. With your eyes closed, listening to the beat of a live drum and powerfully holding your intention, you’ll begin to make a journey to the Lower, Middle, or Upper Worlds, meet with one of your spirit guides, power animals, or allies, and return with information or healing pertaining to your question or intention. We split into pods of 3-4 people, and share what we experienced – often, we bring back a medicine, message, or image that helps someone in circle. We usually close with one large circle, where everyone shares one powerful statement about what they received. We laugh a lot, support each other, and are part of a living, organic community here in the bay. Many blessings!


What Are The Lower, Middle, and Upper Worlds?

There is a universal cosmology of non-ordinary reality, which has been mapped independently by our ancestors from all over planet earth. The lower and upper worlds have nothing to do with religious ideas like heaven or hell, but instead represent different thematic landscapes. One can imagine the three shamanic worlds as part of the World Tree, with its branches rooted deeply in the earthy, lower worlds where we might traditionally interact with power animals, nature spirits and devas, and elementals. The trunk of the World Tree traverses the middle worlds, which are a spiritual overlay of what we perceive as ‘reality,’ and the upper branches of the tree reach into the sky and star nations, where we might meet ascended healing masters, teachers in human form, pantheons of gods and goddesses, and angelic realms. Through practice, we can skillfully navigate each of these worlds with the help of our spirit allies, or guides.


What Is A Power Animal or Ally?

A power animal or ally is a compassionate helping spirit who has come to you at this point in your life to offer assistance, healing, and wisdom. A good first journey is to meet your power animal. Like any other relationship, a connection with your power animals or allies will deepen and strengthen over time. A power animal can be anything – an otter, a dragon, a mouse, or a brontosaurus. Although you may want to find a ‘charismatic’ power animal like a lion or a hawk, never be disappointed with the animal who chooses to ally with you. There is medicine in all animals; they all have powerful teachings for us. The medicine of mouse is equal to the medicine of wolf, and all power animals are majestic and loving.


How Can I Honor My Power Animal?

Once you’ve established a rapport with your power animal or ally, you can journey to merge with your power animal, and feel the power of eagle flying through the air, of jaguar hunting, or of dolphin gliding through the waves. A good way to honor a new connection with a power animal is to learn all about it that you can, meditate on its meaning to you, and keep a representation of it in your space, like a photo, totem, or stuffed animal. Power animals love to be danced, where you bring its spirit into your body, and allow it to feel the magic of being flesh with you. Power animals can stay with us for our whole lives, or come to us for a specific part of our earthwalk. It’s a kindness to bring a gift with you when you next meet your power animal again, as a way to honor them, and offer thanks.


What Does Journeying Look Or Feel Like?

Some people imagine that journeying has to look like watching a tv screen on the back of their eyelids. Not so! Often, we journey in unique ways to our own personality selves. You might experience a sense of a meaningful voyage, like remembering a dream from last week, or feel a journey in your body, sensing your footsteps down a path or smelling a flower, or experience a journey like a daydream. We can feel powerfully strong emotions, receive healing, and enjoy a profound sense of well-being while journeying. There is no right or wrong way to journey with good intentions in our hearts… the key is to be open and curious about whatever experience you have.


Can Everyone Journey?

Yes! Sometimes it takes a try or two or three, but don’t be discouraged. Everyone on earth can learn to journey – this is part of our heritage, whether your ancestors come from the sunny equator or the icy vastness of the north. If you’re experiencing trouble journeying, you might journey for someone else’s question. It often increases our compassion to journey for someone else, and can add a ‘boost’ to our energies as we seek to connect with compassionate beings. Be patient, curious, and playful… journeying is fun!