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Basics of Shamanism

Updated on October 7, 2016

Journey Back to the Natural World

As someone with a fascination for Shamanism, I searched to learn more about this way of life. Shamanic Journeying helped me learn a lot about this practice and

Beginning Your Shamanic Journey Starts NOW

The old monk stands deep in meditation. His body gently sways, as if catching the breeze from the mountains all around him. He smiles and his eyes open. His journey has already begun.

Many credit Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism, with saying that every journey starts with a single step. In fact, a better translation is that even the longest journey begins right where you stand now.

Look around you and see where you are. Really look. This is your world, and you, right now, are at the center of it. Everything you need to begin your Shamanic journey is in your view.

Following the Natural Rhythm of Nature

For many, home is a sanctuary where they can close the door on all of life's problems. There is much power in a home.Your home contains your world within it. When you rise, face east, then turn clockwise to face the sun. Begin your day this way everyday. As you move throughout your home, be aware of the sun's daily journey and notice the sacred directions of north, south, east and west. By following the natural rhythm of the sun, you are moving with the flow of energy in your home.

Your home may have places where energy flows well, and other places where the energy is stagnant. By concentrating on the negative spaces, you may be able to clear the blockage. This can happen by moving furniture, redecorating or placing mirrors in the negative spaces.

Shamans Believe They Have a Deep Spiritual Connection with the Sun and the Earth

The Shaman's Web of Life

Shamans are aware of a flow of energy pervading all places. They see it as a web of life, each filament connecting every object to everything else around it. This web has many names: tapu for the Maori people of New Zealand, ashe for the Santeria people of Cuba, and renabti for the Sora people of India.

All recognize the web of life as the source of shamanic power. The Algonquin Indians of the eastern United States and Canada call this world-binding power manitou. It is the concept encapsulated in the Star Wars films as the "Force."

As we might plug items into the electrical network, shamans can magnify their limited personal power a hundred-fold by connecting to their web of life.

Shamanism - Other Worlds

Drawing Power from the Web of Life

We too, can draw power from the web of life. Wherever you are at this moment, you can connect to it - and the time to do so is now.

For the ancient Mayans or Central American people, time was circular, an endlessly repeating cycle of events. Time does not stretch out indefinitely, but like a myth that is both ancient and modern, time reaches back on itself. In a world that is constantly in flux there is a still center that never moves.

You are at this center, and according to the Shaman's, all time is now. Today is all there is and the events of the day are all that matter.

Look around you again, but this time, look beyond what your eyes can see. Look to everything outside of your field of vision. All that you need to begin is within your reach. Your journey has already begun.

Look at Your World Around You- The Only Moment is Now

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I use these guided meditations whenever I need to center myself. They aren't too long, but they are a great way to find inner peace in the midst of life's chaos

Shamanic Meditation

Meditation is a very important aspect of Shamanism.

The Shaman sits quite still, her back resting against the trunk of her favorite tree, her portable music player set to loud, repetitive drumming. Her awareness shifts inward.

Imagining herself crawling inside the tree, she follows its route deep into the ground. A tunnel opens before her and she follows it down, deeper and deeper, until at last she steps out into another world.

She knows this place well and her steps through this incredible realm are sure.

Channeling Power - The Shaman Way

Your aim is to connect not just with nature around you, but with the myriad strands from the web of life that converge there, and with all the other places in the world.

Any place a shaman goes to channel the spirits is known as a sacred site.

Everyone has a different idea of where there sacred site should be, and finding your sacred site is a journey just for you. This place is never the same for two different people.

When you are looking for your sacred site, you may find that you are naturally drawn to places away from human habitation, but even if your site is within the bustling confines of a city, an aspect of nature probably lies within the heart.

Interacting with nature will help you to draw on the power of your sacred place. The most important thing to remember is to trust your gut. Follow your heart and your sacred site will find you.

The Shaman's Relationship with the Elements

Fire, water, earth and air are the traditional Western elements. They arise from ancient Babylonian tradition 1,600 years ago.

Shamans attribute passion to fire, emotion to water, intellect to air and bodily sensation to the earth. Understanding your composition allows you to determine any elemental lack.

You may already have experienced the elements while at your sacred site, however making special pilgrimages to connect with each element will help you better understand your relationship with that particular element.

Some Shamans believe that there is a fifth element, the spirit of the heart, or the source of creativity. Each element has just as much power to heal as it does to do harm.

Manifesting the Mind

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Shaman's Quest for Vision

The final stage of training for a young shaman is a night alone in the depths of the forest.

Drawing strength from the trees, the lack of visual stimulation is meant to heighten the senses.

Sounds are more intense, smells more profound, and the sixth sense, which allows us to see the web of life, becomes dominant.

Listen to the sounds around you, touch the earth, the rocks, the trees, and anything else that lies within your domain.

Allow your sole reality to be only what lies directly in front of you - nothing else matters.

After awhile you may feel your mind shift, and you might realize that the "world" you observe holds all the secrets you seek.

Even in Heavily Urban Areas, Shamans Can Find Ways to Connect with Nature

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Shamanic Trances

In addition to the six directions of this world, there is another route that shamans travel, and that is to leave this world and journey to another.

It is an inner journey, seemingly contained entirely within the mind, but to shamans the world over, the otherworld that they reach is a very real place.

Entry to the otherworld is achieved via trance, which for many in the Western world is an unattainable feat.

Some see it as challenging, others threatening, some even say that it is alien to normal life. This is an entirely mistaken view.

Everyone dreams at night - this is a form of trance. (I guess this means we are all aliens!)

Shamanic Drumming Exercise

Many shamans find that repetitive drumming helps them enter a trance state necessary to reach the outerworld.

Here is an exercise to help you with your first drumming meditation:

  1. Start your "callback" drum beat. As you close your eyes and quiet your mind, let the world fall away. Start to state the intention of your journey.
  2. Imagine yourself entering a hole with a tunnel leading into the ground. (Later, you can imagine pushing off the top branches of a tree to the upperworld or imagine getting up and moving around to explore the middleworld, but start off slow.)
  3. Move along the tunnel. After awhile look for a light at the end. Slowly move towards the light and emerge into the otherworld.
  4. Take your time to look around. Walk a bit to get your bearings.
  5. When you hear the drumming stop and a faster rhythm begin, finish your exploration and return to the tunnel. The increased tempo will help you to move quickly back along to where you started.
  6. As you step out of the tunnel, become aware of being back in your physical body. Open your eyes.

Steps to Take When You Visit a Sacred Site

Shamans believe that visions come to them when they are present in their sacred site. This 'presence' isn't just physical, but it is also spiritual.

When visiting a sacred site, follow these steps when searching for a vision:

  1. Leave this world behind by journeying to your site on pilgrimage. This is a special journey, so make sure you prepare for it spiritually beforehand.
  2. When you arrive, speak your name and intention at whatever you perceive to be the "entrance" to the site and wait for a response before continuing.
  3. Make yourself comfortable and still your mind, either through inwardly meditating or by concentrating intensely on the miniature world at your feet.
  4. Continue stilling your mind, until you touch, however briefly, a realm outside this reality where visions arise and power flows.
  5. Finally you need to return- not only physically, but mentally as well. Give thanks for whatever you have received and then resume your ordinary existence, retaining the power and inspiration you have gained.

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    • Rock_nj profile image

      John Coviello 2 years ago from New Jersey

      Interesting Hub about the Basics of Shamanism. I became aware of Shamanism through reading the works of Carlos Castaneda. It was very intriguing. I was just never sure if it was based on reality or not. I know Shamanism something that has been practiced by people around the world for thousands of years. One thing I am curious about is whether Shamanism incorporates psychic abilities, as they seem to have a lot of similarities regarding reading life energy.

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