First of all let me say that I am no expert on the term, Shamanism. In fact I am no expert on anything in this universe. I claim on to be a "pretty good" student of life.Perhaps because of my own life experiences, I am somewhat of a traveler / a wanderer, I thrive to understand many cultures and many healing practices. My traveling began before age one.My parents and I sat down some years ago to count the number of moves we had made and the numbers of cities, states, and countries that I had lived in before completing high school.Our combined memories were somewhat better than mine alone.To sum it up, I had moved 48 times, lived in 21 states and 3 countries before I graduated from high school.Then I married a man in the military and we moved for the next 18 years, living 10 years in Germany while traveling and studying European cultures.While making Oklahoma our home for the past 30 years, I have continued my national and international travels and studies.So when I write, I write to share my experiences and what I have learned along the way.I hope that my words are welcomed as I try to find my way along my own life path.I believe that we all share some similar traits: a desire to be heard, to be accepted, and to be understood.I continually thrive to learn and grow. I have studied and practiced Shamanism for the past 15 years from Michael Harner's Foundation for Shamanic Studies.I declared myself to be a student of shamanic practices and a practitioner until I began my studies with The Four Winds Institute with Dr. Alberto Villaldo. I now describe myself as a practitioner of energy medicine and luminous healing techniques.
I have been asked to state that Shamanism is not the same as Native American spirituality and medicine man / woman is not a term used by most Native American tribes, however I have heard that some Alaskan tribes use the terms as do some tribes in Mexico. If you would like to read more about shamanisn go to www.shamanism.org or if you are interested in a very good discussion (in my opinion) about the topic "We do not have Shamans in North American Indiginous Cultures" you may go to http://www.angelfire.com/electronic/awakening101/not_shamans.html
What is Shamanism?
Over tens of thousands of years, our ancient ancestors all over the world (as reported by the studies of anthropologists) discovered how to maximize human abilities of mind and spirit for healing and problem-solving. The remarkable system of methods they developed is today known as "shamanism," a term that comes from a Siberian tribal word (in Russia) for its practitioners: "shaman" (pronounced SHAH-mahn). Shamans are healers, teachers, scholars and spiritual guides who are distinguished by the use of journeys to hidden worlds otherwise mainly known through myth, dream, and near-death experiences.
Shamanism is the practice of using altered states of consciousness to obtain information available to all of us and then to use this information in the healing of the mind, body, and spirit. Sometimes there is drumming or chanting used, but that is not necessary. It might be compared to self hypnosis. That is an over simplified description of the process.
Shamanic practices vary around the world and dates back 30,000 years as evidenced by the paintings on the walls of caves. Anthropologists say that it originated in northern Asia. Shamanic practices are often regarded as spiritual practices. There is evidence of it's practices 20,000 years ago in Europe and Africa. Concrete evidence exists that shamanism existed 10,000 years ago. Traditionally Shamans were chosen by the tribe or they inherited the duties but as the practices have declined because of Christianity, a modern version of training can now be chosen.
A Spiritual Journey
One morning in Texas I was invited to participate in an early morning activity that was called "drumming up the sun". Several of us met before sunrise to drum while the sun rose above the horizon. The others in my group wanted to stand in a field together. My inner voice guided me to walk to the top of the hill some distance away. Once at the top and standing alone, I waited for Grandfather Sun. When I noticed Grandfather Sun letting his light be known, I began to drum. As the sun rose above the horizon, I looked to my commades at the bottom of the hill still waiting. I had been drumming and singing for awhile when I noticed a female redtailed hawk take flight toward me. She began to screech and circle me in a clock wise direction. She circled once, then twice around she circled, and then one final time, screaming the entire time. When she finished her final circle, Grandfather Sun was fully visible above the horizon. I stopped drumming and thanked Spirit for the wonderful opportunity and for guiding me to this spot. Then I looked down to my fellow drummers who had still not even begun to drum. I thought, "How special am I that Grandfather Sun has visited me almost a full 20 minutes before he said good morning to the others. And that I had been circled by the screaming hawk three times!" I slowly began to walk down the hill very proud.
About half way down, I heard my name, "Linda", called from my side. I turned and saw nothing except a tree. I heard again "Linda, yes that's right. I am speaking to you." It was the tree. So I was polite and answered "yes, Mr. tree!" He said, "Do you see those trees standing over there?" I replied "Yes". "They are different from me, aren't they?" "Yes", I responded. "That's right. They are different. They are not more or less special than I am, simply different." I knew what he was referring to. I was no more special and no less special than my fellow drummers at the bottom of the hill. I had raised myself better than they because I had been at the top of the hill and the sun had risen for me earlier than for them. I replied, "I understand. Thank you, Mr. Tree." "You're welcome!"
As I had been walking closer to the tree during our conversation, I now turned to continue down the hill, when I heard "Linda" once again. It was the tree again. I turned and was looking at the tree from the south side and had an entirely different vision. I could see that a branch had broken from the top and it was hanging straddled over another limb. "We all come from the same place, but some on their journey are closer to spirit than others." I took that as an acknowledgement, a good sign. I thanked the tree again and with a smile, went down the hill. I would allow the others to have what ever experience they would have, that was their journey, and I was very grateful for my own experience and thankful for my spiritual growth.