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As I speak at live events or teach classes at our Four Winds Society, I am invariably asked the foundational question: “What IS a shaman?”
For thousands of years,” shamanism” has been wrapped in a cloak of mystery and magic. Its practice entails an immense body of knowledge and spiritual practice passed down through the ages, on every continent around the world, grandfather to grandson … grandmother to granddaughter.
The actual term, “shaman” refers to medicine men or women who are the healers, teachers and sages. It is an ancient spiritual and healing practice found throughout the Americas and all traditional cultures in the world – India, Tibet, Russian, Central Europe and practiced most actively today in the Americas.
It’s interesting, isn’t it, that even 5,000 years ago, shamans walked this earth with no means of communication or connection with other medicine men or women on other continents, yet still they all practice very similar spiritual and healing traditions?
“Shamanism is not a course but a life journey.
It is a schooling which focuses on experience, not knowledge.”
What normally happens when modern science asks, “What is a Shaman?”
While modern science might be tempted to reject shamanism as archaic, primitive or unscientific, it is, in fact, a spiritual discipline that relies on the never-changing foundations of Nature and Energy. As a medicine man, the shaman operates between the worlds of matter and energy and, while these entities might not always be visible, they are indisputably the building blocks of all creation.
Our traditions of the West – its medicines and sciences – is patriarchal. The traditions of the medicine men and women are feminine. Today, we have the opportunity to bring together the masculine and the feminine in a way that allows us to utilize the extraordinary resources of medicine with the extraordinary resources of Spirit to create and sustain true health and wellness.
Shamanic healing practices help us reconnect to the earth and to our own inner nature because they are founded on disinhibiting the immune system, and exhilarating the body’s ability to heal itself so that we can return to our natural state of wellness and being. In so doing, we discover that we are not walking the world alone, but are fully supported by an inexhaustible resource – spiritually, energetically, emotionally.
Shamanism is based on the teachings of the earth, of direct communication with nature. The shaman puts the soul back into the world and helps creates a world that talks back to us, one in which we hear the trees, rivers, mountains and clouds speak to us. This medicine man is a link to the ancient, ancestral knowledge, bringing balance back to the Earth and back to where our own, individual souls reside.
Shamanism is founded on the stewardship of the Earth, of the feminine, and of service to all living beings. It is not a religion, as there is no Buddha or Christ whose footsteps you are encouraged to follow. Instead, shamanism teaches you to follow your own footsteps, to learn directly from Source, to honor the Christ and the Buddha as well as other spiritual mentors who cross your path for your edification.
Shamans teach us to develop our minds, our own wills, and our own power and bring them into the world – in short, they teach us how to be medicine men and women in our own right.