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The Shaman's Path -- A Journey into Timeless Worlds
by Howard G. Charing
copyright 2007

Shamanism is not a system of belief or faith, it is a system of knowledge, and is directly experienced first hand by the senses. Shamanism has always been a way for living as humans on our planet Earth, both in balance within ourselves and the world of which we are part.

An underlying facet of shamanism is access to the Spirit Worlds, the place of causality, the energetic matrix or source of the physical world. These worlds which have been most eloquently described by Black Elk , the Lakota Medicine man and great visionary "the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. This is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that world".

The separation in Western society from the natural world with it's accompanying myth of man having "dominion over all living things", has led to spiritual disconnection from the universal energy field. At some level we are aware of this, and we are experiencing a heart-led desire to reconnect to the universal field of energy. Many people are being drawn to Shamanism as one of the ways to achieve this.

Shamanism contains time tested healing practices, ceremony and teachings to support people in this re-balancing of ourselves, these are fundamentally healing, not only for the physical body , but also for our inner sense of being and our soul. However the challenge is to build a bridge between the ancient wisdom and practices in such a way as to be useful , effective and meaningful to the modern Western individual.

The reality that Shamans work in is not a consensus reality, such as in physical reality. The Shaman sees i.e. experiences with all the senses. The Shaman is the traditional mediator between the ordinary world and an alternate reality.

Shamanism offers a way for people to wake up to their potential, and begin to explore their spiritual relationship to the universe, to other forms of life, and to each other. The experiences which come from shamanism help a person to evolve a deeper bond and respect for all of creation, and from this perspective one is more likely to lead a life that enhances life, with an emphasis on harmony and balance, and which encourages understanding and optimism. The Shamanic path is a path to experience this expanded view of universe.

The origins of shamanism pre-date recorded civilisation, and the earliest findings date back forty thousand years. The word Shaman originates from the Tungus people of Siberia, it means ‘One who sees' , and I would like to add to this as someone ‘who sees with the heart'. This brings us to one of the most important characteristics of shamans, that they are masters of energy and of the life-force which moves through the human body and all of creation.

They know that there is an energy normally invisible which connects all that exists, and they live with the knowledge of this energy and how to use it. This concept of the inter-relationship and understanding that man is a part of nature, not separate to it, a part of the connecting energy has been expressed in many ways and over many cultures, unfortunately not in ours. As Chief Seattle said in 1855 in his address to the American Congress;

"What befalls the Earth befalls all the sons of the Earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web he does to himself."

Today shamanism survives on all inhabited continents in less ‘developed' regions in spite of the constant pressure of Western materialism, and the treatment of the Earth and nature as something to be dominated and exploited.

Shamanism is a practice shared by peoples the world over with an underlying cosmology that cuts across cultural differences and customs. There is a common core, and when allowance is made for climatic, cultural , and geographical considerations there is a common experience. To illustrate this, a shaman from the frozen tundra's of Siberia may not be familiar with the symbols of a shaman from the rainforests of South America, but he or she would certainly recognise the methods and techniques that are being used.

Contemporary shamanism is a path , a way, that we ourselves can be aware that we are a part , a strand in the web of life, and not outside of it. This path can lead us to experience in a practical way the nature of reality, and exceed our perception of the limits of reality.

Shamanism is currently enjoying a revival in the West, one of the factors in this is the re-discovery of health techniques that actively recognise and use the mind and spirit of the individual to help healing and maintain wellness. Many of these methods and the knowledge underlying these are known in ancient shamanic practices which have migrated in to Western society. Increasing numbers of people are seeking and finding solutions to their health problems, whether defined as physical, mental , or emotional. Many shamanic principles are widely used in holistic healing centres and practices.

Another factor in the ‘revival' of shamanism, is that we ourselves as individuals can experience the one-ness of all things. Shamanism provides tools and techniques to help you become your own spiritual authority. By journeying to the other realities , extending the perception of perceived reality, individuals can start to see, feel , or sense the one-ness of all things. These new insights and understandings come from within you, and from the teachers and counsellors in these other realities. This is an experiential process, and this means that you know for yourself that these experiences are valid. This to me is the meaning of a spiritual democracy.

This expanded vision of life, can touch our heart, adding power to our walk in life, and we can move into a harmony and balance with nature, the Earth, and all living things. This not only changes our life perspective, but can also have a beneficial influence on all others, the community around us, which these days (whether we like it or not) is a global one.

The shamanic path is a way to transformation, a new awareness of the Great Mystery. Much of our universe which is hidden can be explored, a universe which is known mainly through myth and dream.