Seeing in the Dark

Claim your own Shamanic Power Now and in the Coming Age

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Chapter One: The Shamanic Path

Bare Awareness:
The place where our mind falls silent with inner knowing.
~ Colleen Deatsman

Shamans are students and practitioners of awareness. They study the natural world, observing the ebb and flow of energies as these energies pass from one form to another, from one being to the next. Shamans study the ritual of life, looking beyond and beneath the surface in order to see the driving mechanisms of the universe. The universe is layered, and the shaman uses his finely honed awareness to peel back these layers and see what lies underneath each one. On the surface, a shaman sees the sun rise, reach its peak, and set in the evening. In the typical ritual we know as a day, it has its beginning, middle, and end, but the shaman knows through observation of the next layer, that this day ritual is a cycle. It happens again and again and again. More than that, this day cycle is part of the larger, more complex annual cycle; another layer. That year cycle is also merely a part of the grand cycle of our sun as it moves through the cosmos, orbiting the galactic center over the course of 226 million years; yet another layer.

A study of these cycles provides useful information, but it is through shamanic discipline that we can develop an awareness of the underlying nature of the universe that observing these cycles and layers provides. The shaman observes the consistency and utter simplicity of these cycles and begins to appreciate a natural pattern. The day is a circular cycle, the year as well, the horizon is a circle, the world itself a circle, and through observation, it appears to the shaman that life itself is a circle. The shaman sees mankind as but a traveler on this disc of world as we move through the circle of our existence. Observing even more deeply, the shaman sees that we travelers are changing the nature of our world. We do not drive the wheel of time, or the circle of life, but we do affect the very nature of our reality. The shaman seeks to understand the dynamic and the mechanism of that change. This is a very deep layer, indeed.

There are many tools in the shamanic toolbox to accomplish this. In this book we will investigate quite a few of these tools, but it is useful to keep in mind that shamanism is a discipline that requires awareness and the application of that awareness with responsibility. It provides tools to change not only the way we perceive reality, but to change reality as well. The world stands at a precipice. It has been brought here by the choices we as a species have made. In truth, we have collectively agreed to be in exactly the position we are in. That’s a humbling thought. We have arrived at this juncture, this intersection of space and time and circumstance, largely by addressing what it is we are not and what we think we need to have, rather than what we are and what it is we can be. The truth is, we are a magnificent species, the flower of the universe, but we don’t act like it. We act like clever animals, striving to make sure we are fed, safe, and comfortable. In this regard, we aren’t that much more evolved than a groundhog. As long as we are in our own little holes, safe and sound, we don’t need to pay attention to the rest of the world. No wonder the world is in trouble.

Shamanism cultivates a broader view than the involuted perspective of self-gratification. It demonstrates, through experience, that we are part of something much grander, that we have a responsibility to express that which we have the potential to become. In so doing, we shape reality and can therefore chart a different course for the planet, our species, and ourselves. Shamanism operates in the NOW. It requires that we engage in the moment. As a discipline it provides the framework within which we can observe the universe as it is, dream a new one, and connect the dots to get us there. This requires an awareness of what is, and a commitment to be here and apply what you know RIGHT NOW.

To a certain extent, what is can be defined and catalogued by empirical science or deduced through any of a myriad of natural philosophies. So what makes shamans unique in their ability to observe or function within extreme, unusual, or even confounding mundane circumstances that the coming age may present us? Why does shamanism have an advantage over other disciplines when it comes to survival, adaptation, or the shifting of reality?

The answer is that shamans learn to observe with all levels of being. This is accomplished initially through exploring the limits, potential, and function of each element of self, those being body, mind, emotions, and soul/spirit. Once we figure out the specific function of each of these elements of self, then we can employ that knowledge by applying what each can do, thereby making a substantive difference in the world by improving on health and awareness, or by employing those specific methods that change the nature of the reality for individuals or the world.

It is through exploring and utilizing other senses, other methods of observation than merely the five senses, that the shaman is unique in the ability to discern the forces that drive not only the universe, but the individual sentient beings that live within it. Shamans begin by understanding the layers of self. The circular nature of life demands that the shaman accept the soul as eternal, even while the body is ephemeral. Just as energy cannot be created or destroyed, neither can the soul. But if the body is temporary, and the soul eternal, then the soul must have a reason, an agenda, for occupying a human body. Shamans discern this agenda, and use their bodies as instruments of communication between the soul/spirit realm and the world. In order to be a clear channel for this communication, shamans must do the challenging work of clearing away attachments, disadvantageous or self-sabotaging behaviors, unhealthy mindsets and energetic blockages and intrusions in order to integrate the self. This integration of body, mind, emotion, and soul allows the shaman to be a “hollow bone”, facilitating spirit to express clearly and cleanly through them.

The shamanic path utilizes everything available in the realm of body, mind, and soul in order to establish an extraordinary awareness of the universe. As such, it is a path of unflinching honesty, requiring us not only to see what we observe, but to see it as it is, not how we want it to be, or as we think it should be. But it is far more than merely the observations gathered by mind alone.

The shamanic path is the path of the Heart and the Soul. It is a path of beauty, wholeness, sacred living, oneness and connectedness with all things and non-things, awareness, mindfulness, respect, honor, and gratitude. It’s a path of extraordinary moments when Nature and Spirit speak more clearly than the racket of our mental chatter and we stop everything for that moment and take notice, listening and feeling the message. It is a path where the central focus of life is creating balance, harmony, impeccability, and wholeness. It is a path that requires integrity and honesty - with one’s self and others. The shamanic path is a loving, healing path that invites all, while being a truth-revealing path, turning away initiates not yet ready to face the awesome truth of reality. For those who will continually accept the challenge, typically a daily choice, we invite you into the sacred circle of personal shamanic practitioners; a circle where healing, growth, change and transformation are constants and miracles happen.

She stared into the open sky knowing that she could fly, but how? “How can I fly with this human body?” she thought. “By becoming me,” said Great Grandfather who shape-shifted into Loon and they took off into the blue. They flew for miles over towering pines and rolling mountains, swooping through the valleys and skimming the glistening lakes. Diving deep into the clear water she became the silvery fish they sought for nourishment, and then headed upstream driven by instinct. At just the right place, the very place that all of her ancestors had created and ended life, her experience as the salmon ended and she slowly dissolved into the bottom of the river. In what seemed like minutes, but in ordinary reality would have taken millions of years, the essence that was once her, then loon, then fish became sediment, soil, mineral, seed, seedling, majestic pine, petrified wood, stone, mountain, jagged stone, rounded river stone, small pebble consumed by Loon, mineral in Loon’s bones, Loon, Great Grandfather, and her once more.

“Energy, is energy, is energy”, Great Grandfather instructs with a chuckle and a sweeping gnarled old hand. “The same energy that is you is me, the loon, the tree, the lake, the sky. The form that things take is determined by the density, compilation and characteristics that the energy takes on at any given time. As you see, energy can be changed - we can change. We can change form to learn new things and have different experiences. We can change energy to heal imbalances. Misfortune, disease and unhappiness are energies that can be changed into abundance, health and joy. If you want to change something, intend for it to change. Use your mind and will power to concentrate your energy, the energy of creation and the energy of that thing. Focus the energy into the change. See it, feel it, experience it, and believe in the change. It’s far easier than you think. Look, you just did it without thinking! Spirit will help if you ask. Trust and believe. It’s as simple as converting an electric current into light, a kernel of corn into an ear of corn.

Like this journey, the path of shamanism will shape you in much the same way that energy shapes things in nature. The natural forces of destruction and creation will help you eliminate the things in your self and your life that no longer serve your highest good and cultivate those that do. This transformative process will be unique to each person. For some, it will bring about a softening of the hard edges of the self and the ego, causing the mind and soul to become smooth like a river stone. For some, the process will facilitate becoming more assertive to stand solid and strong like a mountain. For some, the path will help them become firmly grounded and rooted in Mother Earth while bending and swaying with the winds of life like the great trees. For some, the process will help them flow through life like the great rivers or liberate resistance and attachment to plummet into the abyss like the majestic waterfall. For all, the process is always experiential and pragmatic. This path requires more than studying, thinking, or knowing. The power of this path is doing, practicing, living, and being.

As we stated in the introduction, shamanism is the oldest living path of spirituality and healing known to man. Shamanism is a way of life and a practice that is rich in tradition, eclecticism, and mysticism, and as such is a living power path. It is currently practiced in many countries where it co-exists, blends with, and complements all the major and minor world religions, including Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism. It is practical, not dogmatic, largely non-dualistic, and has no specific set of rules to follow. Shamanism is interactive, creative and constantly dynamic based on what works in each unique set of circumstances.

The term Shaman (pronounced SHAH-maan) has been adapted from the Tungus people of Siberia meaning, “one who sees in the dark”.2 This name denotes the ability of the shaman to journey out of ordinary space and time into non-ordinary reality where they connect with Helping Spirits to receive guidance, gain insight or power, or to diagnose and treat illness. The term “seer” is often used when referencing shamans because of this ability to journey into non-ordinary reality and experience extraordinary information first-hand. The shaman is the “bridge” between the ordinary reality in which we live and the non-ordinary reality that exists just outside of our everyday perceptions.

The role of the shaman is diverse. Shamans are the counselors, advisors, mediators, and psychologists of their communities. They are the teachers of spiritual ways and the wise sages that understand the universal laws of energy and nature and know how to harness these for the benefit of the people. They are the doctors, nurses, mid-wives, bone-setters, herbalists, massage therapists, and the energy practitioners of their communities. In shamanism, physical, mental and emotional illnesses are recognized as being caused by spiritual and energetic imbalances that can be affected by spiritual intervention. In the capacity of healer, or medicine person, the shaman journeys on behalf of their patient/client to the Spirit world to meet with their Helping Spirits. While there, they use Spirit guidance and an array of techniques to diagnose illness etiology and restore wholeness and power to the person. The shaman usually expresses wisdom offered from the Spirit world to assist the client on their path of healing and living in balance.

There are two central beliefs that are found in all shamanic cultures; animism and the interconnected web of energy and power between all things, called The Great Web of Life. Animism is the understanding that all things are living, are manifestations of the Web, are connected to the Web, and are a soul; trees, mountains, wind, elements, animals, this book, the chair you are sitting in, and you and me. We are all created from, and filled with, life force energy.

The Web of Life is the life force energy that is the prime mover, or the essence of life. Life force energy is a free-flowing, high-vibrational energy that is the foundation of everything. It is omnipresent and is the essence of all things, a subtle undercurrent of all that is. Everything that is, is alive with life force energy and this same life force energy is a connecting force that links everything to all other things. The Web of Life radiates and pulses with this all-pervading energy. When we observe light, we see that it is made up of a broad spectrum of frequencies, some of which we can see, some of which are invisible to us. The emanations and manifestations of the Web of Life are similar in that some are very dense, having a solid, physical form, while others do not. The Web is known to be alive, spirited, animated, and full of living beings that are visible and invisible to ordinary perception. Shamans are trained to see and sense the Web and its inhabitants using bare awareness. In the ordinary world, manifestations of the Web are visible as beings and objects. Non-ordinary world manifestations of the Web are generally not perceived visibly by most people. There is another world around us that in actuality isn’t a separate world, yet remains invisible. This Otherworld is filled with manifestations of the Web that are made of more subtle, less dense energy, commonly referred to as Spirits. Shamans work with these manifestations of the Web in powerful practice for healing, guidance, and enlightenment.

We all have Guardian Spirits, known shamanically as Helping Spirits, Spirit Teachers, Spirit Allies, and/or Power Animals. Many people familiar with working with Spirits may also refer to these as Spirit Guides or Totems. For ease of reading, we will refer to these power sources with the all-encompassing term of Helping Spirits. Helping Spirits are Spirit energies that appear to us and to the shaman in diverse ways. They may appear in forms that are angelic, human, alien, energy-being, animal, bird, reptile, insect, plant, or crystalline. Ancestors, past shamans and healers, Gods and Goddesses, ascended masters, prophets, sages, hierophants, alchemists, and teachers of varying cultures, paths, and mythologies often present themselves as Helping Spirits. Shamanic cultures believe everyone is born with at least one Helping Spirit that protects them and shares its power with them. Neo-shamanism pioneer, Michael Harner has documented that connections to Helping Spirits increase one’s physical energy and ability to resist disease, as well as increasing mental alertness and self-confidence.

The physical world is the densest energetic level on the Web of Life’s energy spectrum. The subtler etheric energies coalesce and densify to form the physical world. To one degree or another, every physical person, place, or thing retains a characteristic energy signature, or a soul, from the higher realms. Shamans refer to the surrounding radiance the soul creates in and around the physical body as the energy body. In human beings, this energy body permeates and surrounds the physical one and is seen by those who perceive it as a luminous egg that infuses and cocoons the body. Further observations reveal that the energy body appears to be “bolted” to the physical one via a series of energy vortices present along the spine. These vortices or bolts are traditionally known as “chakras” and have been shown to monitor and maintain different vibrational energy layers within the human energy body/field. Shamans know that the soul and luminous energy body are just as critical to health and well-being as a person’s physical body. If a person’s soul is not whole or their luminous energy body is dulled, weakened, or punctured by such things as energy draining or blockages, the person will experience power loss, imbalance and disharmony that eventually causes illness and disease.

Shamans know that to be capable of entering the Spirit worlds and to effectively help others heal their own soul and luminous energy body, they must be as balanced, brilliant, clear, and whole as possible. Shamans working in service of the community must constantly look within themselves to clear away thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and energetic debris that can clog and diminish their luminous energy body. This is done through vigilant bare awareness. This awareness, both internal and external, is perhaps the most important attribute to practicing shamanism. Shamanic mentors and Helping Spirits work in partnership with the shaman to help them with this process.

Shamans and people of shamanic cultures are acutely aware of themselves, each other, their surroundings, the Spirits, and the Great Web of Life. Their survival has depended on this skill, and so will ours in the coming age. The world we live in is a manifestation of the Web and is in itself an intelligent being that communicates with us in every moment. Observing and listening to these subtle messages provides key information and insights into one’s self and world.

While there are a variety of techniques and methods for healing and expanded awareness that shamans use in their practice, there is an overwhelming guiding approach combined with an essential attitude that carries them through the darkest of times and the most devastating lessons. Shamans honor their own Spirit as they honor the Spirits of all other beings with impeccability and gratitude.

Impeccability and Gratitude

The path of shamanism is a sacred path that is best practiced with humility and an open heart and mind. As the title promises, you will learn to rely on certain powerful shamanic techniques for energy, health and wisdom in this book, but the path of shamanism is not merely a path of helpful techniques. It is a sacred dance to be undertaken with the greatest joy and the most focused intent.

There are many different ways to approach life and how we choose to interact with those around us. We’ve all seen the t-shirts or bumper stickers touting such worldviews as “Looking out for Number One!”, or “Think Globally, Act Locally”. But no matter how lofty or base the approach is, it can be lived impeccably, if that’s the expression of that person’s soul in the world.

Impeccability has nothing to do with right and wrong. It does not involve the Buddhist tenets of Right Living or the Christian Golden Rule. What shamanic impeccability demands is the unflinching and focused expression of the soul’s agenda. In the course of our training, we have met the sweetest, most loving teacher in the world. We have also met the least cordial, most demanding, overbearing tyrant you could ever want to meet. Both of these people acted impeccably. They expressed the soul according to their energetic nature in order to unerringly produce a substantive and enhancing increase in awareness in their students. They did so with the utmost economy of effort by addressing reality as it is, and by being brutally honest with us as students. That is not to say either of them was brutal, by any means, but that they exercised honesty like a laser beam, cutting away the illusion and the fatty self-indulgence from the minds of their charges.

Impeccability demands that we remain true to the expression of the soul. As luck would have it, there are certain guidelines the soul appears to operate within. The soul does not purposely wound or hurt another’s soul self. The soul, properly expressed, is not cluttered or colored in any way by individual bias, opinion, or judgment. The soul, always awake, expresses the message, or series of messages, that will awaken the individual still held in thrall by the dream of illusion. The soul’s message, and therefore the nature of impeccability, is the communication of the real.

The great sages who teach the importance of impeccability aren’t telling us that we have to be the model citizens of our communities. They are teaching us to be impeccable and internally consistent within ourselves. When we do something that is not true to our natural self, we lose energy, personal power, and vitality. This sits in direct opposition to the shamanic goal of living in balance, harmony, and economy with one’s self and the Web. Impeccability is not perfection; it is consistently applied soulfulness that is born from a centered balance. To be impeccable one needs to know and honor his or her soul. This requires being awake and aware, genuine and real with one’s self and others. This is accomplished by seeking to know and integrate one’s inner nature, connecting and staying connected with one’s self and Helping Spirits, and employing one’s soul guidance and life path. When one is impeccable with one’s self it is easier to interact impeccably with others and the Web.

One of the reasons the shaman is compelled to express the soul in this way is because of gratitude. As painful and glorious as it can be, stripping away illusion and leaving one awake and aware for the first time in one’s life, able to perceive the soul’s purpose and express it in the world, leaves a person profoundly grateful and eager to pass along that gift of awareness. Once the clutter of petty concerns is removed, one can see the beauty of life, its sacredness and rarity. We are privileged to be wrapped in skin at this time, during this age of great transition and awakening. We have been gifted with the opportunity to explore our self, to delve deeper into the mysteries of life and the universe, and by doing so to make a substantive difference in the world and our community.

Grace, impeccability and gratitude are woven by intent into a beautiful braid which frames the face of a balanced and harmonious life. To live impeccably is to be whole, to honor one’s soul and the Web. In the awareness that all things exist and have great value, gratitude is experienced. Gratitude is not an obligation, but rather an outpouring of feeling from the heart and soul. Life is sacred and honored by the shaman. To wake up each day thankful for another day of life on this beautiful planet is just one example of gratitude. We live in a time when we are surrounded by a throw-away, industrial, material, society that has lost gratitude and respect for the world and its joys and blessings. Even life itself has been devalued through war, crime, and even the insurance company concept of “acceptable risk” and “collateral damage”. Shamans never, ever forget the value of life, of soul, of nature, and they express gratitude for these things with heartfelt prayer, offerings, and daily acknowledgement. To walk the shamanic path, we must open our hearts and give thanks often. You can start right now.

Take a few moments to sit quietly and think about all of the blessings in your life. What are you thankful for - your family, pets, safe home, friends, employment, vacation, health, mental acuity, leisure time pleasures and pursuits, worldly comforts, good food and drink, music, art, sports, community, education, accomplishments, challenges, personal growth? What about the beauty of nature and the Earth? How about your life? How about your Self?

Say a prayer of thanksgiving now in your own way. Give thanks to the Web of Life, or whatever source of life you choose, for making it all possible.