Shaman 101 - A For our purposes, you need a basic understanding of shamanism. This +quot;d

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Shaman 101 - A For our purposes, you need a basic understanding of shamanism. This "definition" comes from my own ecclectic background and is not intended to reflect any group's traditional philosophy. In a nutshell, a shaman is one who, with the aid of her allies in nature, accesses inner worlds in search of knowledge to solve problems, heal, and gain new experiences. Shamans are one with nature, understanding that all things are part of one web of energy. Plants, rocks, water - all parts of nature - have their own spirits, which may look nothing at all like the physical object. Respect for all life, and an openness to information and experience are all that is required for a shaman to be effective. Shamanism has a built-in teaching system. On your first few journeys, you will meet spirits and power animals. Finding your own power animal (if you haven't already) gives you a guardian that will help and protect you, as well as teach you, and introduce you to others who will teach you. The following exercises are designed to help you meet and interact with power animals and spirit allies. They require no investment in materials - a comfortable, quiet, dimly lit place to lay down is all you need to start with. Tapes of drumming are helpful to some, but any relaxing music (or none at all) can be used to journey at first. Your First Journey: Get comfortable on your back on a supportive surface, in a dimly lit room, and do some basic relaxation exercises. Pay special attention to your breathing; breathe from your diaphragm in slow, rhythmic motions. When you are relaxed, visualize a cave, a well, an opening in the earth of some kind that you have seen (in person or through pictures). Approach this cave, and enter. Try to involve all of your senses - See the rock, the vegetation, animal tracks on the ground; pools of water may exist, or stalagtites and stalagmites glisten in the dimmer light. Hear the sounds outside/inside (bats, dripping water, wind in the grass or trees outside, gravel or sand crunching on the ground as you walk), feel the humidity/temperature and the solidity of the ground under foot. Smell the earthy-ness of the inside - dry rock, or damp earth? Does the scent bring a taste to your mouth? Look at the inside of the opening. Is it one large "room", or do passages branch off? Are there rocks or sand, or clay? Notice the surroundings in as much detail as you can. Now look around for some being. It might be a ball of light a bird, a reptile - almost anything. Be respectful, and tell this being why you are here. Be prepared to journey - by flight or running or walking, if necessary. Frequently you may just find yourself "there" where you need to be. Other times the process to get there can be lengthy. In any case, keep up with your guide, and be open to whatever happens. You may meet many animals on your journey. These are not specific animals, but racial archtypes of the animals. You will meet, therefore, Eagle, not a specific eagle (or even a specific species of eagle, although there are differences among them). Animals with bared fangs or who adopt hostile postures should be avoided, but an animal who speaks to you in a friendly way and who wants to help you should be welcomed as a friend. Even when confronted with hostile animals or "icky" things (slime, fog, masses of snakes), be calm and respectful of them. Often these manifestations are some kind of problem within you or your environment that need to be dealt with. You should NOT try to deal with any such thing until you have a guardian to help however. Remember that your human strength is slight, and you don't yet know how to use your full strength in this world. Let your power animal handle the problems for you. That is what they are there for. In finding a power animal, don't be fooled by an animal's seemingly powerless or fragile appearance - all animals are powerful in their own way. Therefore, welcome a turtle as well as a panther, or a deer as much as a flacon. Power animals don't always stay with you forever, and when you have learned what your first one needs to teach you, a different animal will come along to replace that one as you grow. (Although some cultures believe you can have only one power animal guardian at a time, actually, you can have many. I frequently find mine come in pairs of opposites: falcon and eagle, for example, or fox and wolf. These are transient teachers, however. You will find over time that only ONE animal sticks close and is your guardian). When you have spoken to an animal spirit and it has agreed to be your guardian and ally, you need to find out some things. Ask the animal what you need to do to make it happy. What does it want to teach you? How can it help you in your life in the physical world? This is YOUR time to get acquainted and build a foundation that could last the rest of your life. Don't be alarmed if the animal says you'll discuss it later, that's okay. The point is, don't just assume that once you have the animal it's always going to be there. This is a relationship, and will require a little work on your part. Fortunately, the animal is a willing guide and helper and will do a great deal of the work for you that is beyond your power to handle. When the conversation is finished, THANK YOUR POWER ANIMAL AND ANY OTHER GUIDES/BEINGS you met, and retrace your steps to the cave/hole entrance. Your guide may accompany you, or may not. In any case, leave the cave the way you came in, and walk away from it back toward waking consciousness. I suggest you write down your journey, start to finish, as soon as you are fully grounded. If for some reason you have returned to the cave entrance by a different path and cannot remember all of your journey, just write down what you do remember. And don't worry if your first journey wasn't a total success - they get easier as you go along. Although this journeying technique can be done anytime, you may notice that some times during a monthly cycle, you have problems. For some people, the new moon is a good time to work; for others, it's the pits! Try to gradually recognize your own cycle so that you can attempt truly "heavy" journeys on your good days. One of the most logical questions you can ask about this process is "what's in it for the animal?" After all, you've taken on an animal that will guide you, teach you, defend you, and do work in the other world that you can't handle for yourself. What do they get out of it? As my own animal explains it, his world is very different from my own. To be born in physical form in my world enables him to partake only of a very narrow portion of what is really here, because wild animals have very little contact with the human world. Through his work with me, he learns about the human side of the world, the emotional, thinking and spiritual phases that he has not experienced for himself. The reverse is also true - if you want to know what it's like to be an eagle, the best way is to see through Eagle's eyes for a short time. They are nearly always willing to do this. Physical sensation is a particular delight to these allies, since they exist in a non-physical world. The tradition of "dancing your animal" comes from this. It's a simple, if sometimes initially embarassing, procedure: put on a drumming tape or some music, and begin to mimic the walk, movement, sound of your animal. This is awkward at first, and also funny in a way. For example, prancing around like a stag is harder for two-leggeds than for four!. But persist - and be CONSCIOUS of the merging of the animal's energy with yours. Soon you will find that your body does bend, sway and move as your animal does. If you can do this outside, it's even better. A human with a head cold can be surprised to be catching the scent of one dandilion in a large lawn, or the scent of small burrowing animals under the leaf-litter. This is the power of your animal, making itself at home with you. It's the beginning of the old "shape-changing" craft, and a humbling and astonishing experience. Dancing your animal frequently gives them pleasure and heightens the bond between you. I have even been told that the animals will occasionally "dance their human." (You will find that these animals are not just le intelligence and often engaging senses of humor!). A basic map of the spirit worlds: The Underworld - symbolized by the roots of the World Tree or Tree of Life, this is the place you will journey to find and channel lost information, commune with your ancestors, and find information on survival skills relating to the physical body (healing, etc.). THIS IS NOT A SAFE PLACE TO GO WITHOUT YOUR POWER ANIMAL. Just as you wouldn't climb the Alps alone, I suggest you journey into this land only with a guide or (preferably) with your power animal to guard you. The Middle World - symbolized by the trunk of the Tree, this is roughly correspondant to your everyday physical reality, on the other side. This is where you look for things that are lost, people you want to find or communicate with (who are still alive), find a job, find a lover, etc. Anything pertaining to normal reality on this plane is dealt with in the Middle World. The four sides of the trunk of this World Tree are equivalent to the four directions (a cross section of the trunk would make a medicine wheel...). The Upper World - symbolized by the branches of the Tree, is the realm of fantasy and creativity. It is also where you go to find out what the future holds. And to plant the "spirit seeds" of those things you want to make happen in the future. There is no "better" world - each realm has it's reasons and purposes for existing. Because the key to shamanic work is BALANCE, it would be silly (not to mention bad for your work!) to visit one realm to the exclusion of the others. Again, take your power animal or a guide with you. This is their natural world, and they recognize the inhabitants and their intent much more readily than you will for some time to come. Feel free to journey anytime you need to meet with your power animal, or any time you need the answer to an important or serious question. Reasons of love, employment, social and familial problems are NOT trivial if they are important to you. And journeying for the simple reason of finding out information is sufficient, if you are truly interested in the results. You will use the help of your power animal and other guides extensively in the chakra exercises that follow. They want to be an involved and important part of your life (nothing drives off a power animal faster than neglect - leaving you dis-spirited, and power-less!) You should also learn to see/talk with them in your waking state. The ability to tap both worlds at once, to pull knowledge from the shaman's world while you are sitting open-eyed and alert in a board meeting or on a plane, is of tremendous value. (Just DON'T try it while you're driving!). Balance and Blessings, Satinka Istari 12/89


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