Jungle Business: Shamans and Medicine People
[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][fusion_text]We see so many innovations in the world around us, from cloud computing to smart watches. There’s no doubt the new gifts technology brings can make us more effective. Yet, can we dig up the very roots of humanity to revitalize our lives, as well?
A LITTLE BIRD TOLD ME…
Sorcerers, medicine men, witch doctors – we have numerous names for that tribal person who seems to channel the Otherworld. Nowadays, the common term is shaman. These men and women were highly respected by their clans, and regarded as wise, intuitive, and able to communicate with spirits, plants, and animals. They also served a vital function as healers for the physically and psychologically afflicted.
Shamanism may be ancient, and steeped in superstition, but some of its core practices have been revived and used by people from all walks of life, from psychotherapists to business consultants. Yep, that’s right! Something old and “eccentric” can actually have modern, practical applications.
The anthropologist Michael Harner describes a shaman as “a man or woman who enters an altered state of consciousness…to contact and utilize an ordinarily hidden reality in order to acquire knowledge, power, and to help other persons.” Some open-minded psychologists might interpret this to mean a symbolic connection with the subconscious that integrates new thoughts and behaviors. Either way, the following techniques could provide potent insights for your life.
The key component of all shamanism is journeying, a form of guided meditation, if you will, that mentally transports you to a space beyond ordinary reality. In traditional shamanic cosmology, the universe is often depicted as a great Tree. The trunk level is the Middle World, or our conscious world of the physical. The Lower World, or Underworld, is at the root level, and the Upper World is at the branch level. These Upper and Lower Worlds are subtler than this one, and are populated with diverse types of spirits.
The main purpose of the shamanic journey is to travel to these hidden realms and receive important information. Below is a simple exercise in initiating the journey:
- Play a relatively monotonous, rhythmic drum track or have a partner beat a drum for you. This is the most common method, however, feel free to allow your intuition to substitute the drumming for another consciousness-altering technique, such as rhythmic breathing, brain entrainment, autohypnosis, etc.
- Close your eyes, breathe slowly and deeply, and relax all of your muscles.
- Visualize yourself in a beautiful natural setting. See either an enormous tree before you, with a large hole at the base of it, or a bridge leading from where you are to a distant area. Cross the bridge or enter the burrow, with the conscious intention that you wish to receive empowerment and/or insight into a specific matter. It could also just be to meet a spiritual guide.
- Allow your imagination and intuition to lead you. Let the images, sounds, textures, and smells arise organically, without really trying to force anything. Have a little trust and wonder. Depending on your accustomed sensory modality, the journey could have especially powerful visuals or be a rich auditory experience – try to immerse yourself, but don’t fret if one or two senses are hazy.
- Enjoy the journey, receive your information, then depart the way you came. When you’re ready, open your eyes.
Shamanic practitioner Kay Gillard has an excellent podcast featuring a guided journey. You can find it here.
Gillard also has an illuminating discussion about the concept of power animals, or energetic embodiments of animal qualities. They are typically viewed as guardians, somewhat akin to the notion of the Guardian Angel in Western Judeo-Christian society. Gillard’s emphasis is on business and how a company, itself, can have a power animal, which ensouls the primary traits of the company.
This idea isn’t at all new, albeit it has been reframed. Napoleon Hill, author of the popular success book Think and Grow Rich, describes an energetic synthesis of minds called a Master Mind. It forms when two or more people collaborate in a spirit of harmony. Perhaps the “corporate power animal” is a representation of the Master Mind.
The biggest takeaway from shamanism is that you have more power and wisdom than you realize. These techniques can be seen as accessing those qualities and learning how to manifest them. Shamans were otherworldy, but they were also very pragmatic – if spiritual power or knowledge could not be applied to benefit oneself or others, it was not of much value. Use the exercises of journeying and interacting with your power animal to discover new ways to enliven yourself, grow, and solve problems that have stumped you.