Have you ever wondered if shamanism could help you? I think a lot of people have, because books like The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz fly off of the shelves. Carlos Castenada‘s books still inspire us to suspend disbelief and think that maybe we could enter a magical world, if only we could meet a teacher like his Don Juan.
I had the good fortune to take a workshop with one of Don Miguel Ruiz’s students when I still struggled to emerge from my ‘dark night of the soul.’ During this workshop, I had a particularly amazing experience. We did an exercise where we lay on the ground around an old tree, and visualized ourselves going down and down and down into the earth. I did this, sliding down the roots of the tree in my mind, and I came upon a stream and turned into a seal. I swam down the stream and then I “saw” a huge cavern, with a lake at the bottom. I turned back into me, caught a ride on an eagle to the opposite side, and journeyed onward until I came to a door. As I stepped through that door, I disappeared and turned into pure space and oneness and I re-collected myself on the other side as a changed person. When our leader asked us to return from our visionary travel, I retraced my steps across the lake and up the tree roots.
Now I know that this all happened in my mind. My body stayed under the tree the whole time. However, it had a deep and lasting effect on me. It healed me, not completely by any means, but substantially. For a long time after, I could lie down and retrace my steps down into the earth and past that cavern, and learn something about myself. And then one day, it was as if the universe closed the door and I couldn’t go there any more. It was time for me to learn something new.
You might think that I would drop everything and follow this teacher, or Don Miguel, but I can never get that excited about any guru sort, shaman or not. I have, of course, tried workshops and private sessions over the years, of various sorts, with various shamans. Some of them transformed me. Some seemed awesome at the time, yet didn’t really have a long term effect. None cured my asthma, but who knows? Maybe someday. I will never stop searching.
If you are curious, realize that there are many different shamanic/healing traditions and I am using the term shaman very loosely. Even people who live close to each other developed their own healing paths, which can be quite distinct from each other. Some groups blended herbal and other healing practices with shamanism, which has more to do with the soul (ancient psychotherapy) than the body, and some kept them separate. Some use hallucinogens to gain visions and speak to teachers, some do not. All have wisdom to offer us.