Read an Excerpt
A Course in Shamanic Power
By Evelyn Rysdyk
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2013 Evelyn Rysdyk
All rights reserved.
Unraveling the Mysteries
Shamanism has roots that extend very deeply into our collective human past. Originating in the time when people all over the globe lived as hunters and gatherers, shamanism is an ancient spiritual tradition that presupposes that the world around us is alive: the plants, trees, animals, birds, and people are filled with spirit that enlivens and animates them. Furthermore, the health and strength of any individual being is a direct reflection of the vitality of this animating force. During the subsequent spread of our species to every corner of the Earth, we carried this understanding of the world with us and incorporated it into our different tribal traditions. Observers of widely diverse shamanic cultures—from Africa to the Americas to Asia—see amazingly similar practices that clearly reflect our common spiritual origins.
Much of the malaise people experience in our contemporary world seems to originate from the perceived disconnection of our bodies, minds, and spirits. The greatest gifts the shamanic path can offer you are ways to access your innate wisdom while recalling your profound spiritual connection to All That Is. As my Spirit Teacher says, it is about you remembering your "inherent preciousness." Through relationships with helpful and healing spirits and the spirits of nature, you can recognize that you are "no more or less important than any other being in Creation and as a Divine being, you are both loved and Love itself."
As you remember your relationship with All That Is, your perceptions will shift about who you are, why you are here, and how you can participate in the larger world. We create our understanding of what is real based upon our perceptions of the world. As you shift and change, your reality itself will be altered leading to real concrete changes in your life.
Most of what we know about the world is learned information. The very first education we receive is from the family in which we are raised and later from the larger culture in which our family exists. In other words, each of us was taught our conscious and subconscious definitions of reality. This process affects how we understand the world and ourselves. As we learn new definitions, we are capable of replacing our previously learned views with a more harmonious way of knowing.
As you connect more deeply with yourself, with the world of the spirits, and with nature, you will gain indisputable personal evidence to act as an antidote to the compartmentalized and isolating view of the world that has become prevalent during the past few centuries. As this happens, the limiting beliefs you were taught in your early life will begin to fade away. You will step back into a way of knowing held by your most ancient ancestors—that you are an integral part of the Circle of Life that holds us all.
The Shaman's Paradigm
While the shamanic view may be considered "primitive" today, modern science is discovering principles that support the ways our ancestors understood the world surrounding them. In the shamanic worldview, it isn't just the animals, birds, and plants that are alive; everything is spirit-filled. This concept is called animist. The word animism, first coined by English anthropologist Sir Edward Tylor in Primitive Cultures (1871), comes from the Latin anima, or soul.
Whether it is the plants, animals, birds, or even landscape features such as rivers and mountains or forces such as the wind and the rain—animists believe that each part of our environment has a vital essence or spirit and a consciousness. A shaman also understands that spirit is the framework on which physical existence is sustained. Spirit is at the foundation of everything, and it is the connective tissue of all aspects of our physical existence.
In quantum physics, the world is seen as originating in the vibrations created by infinitesimal superstrings. Each of these imperceptible features has the capacity to produce a particle of matter. In the paradigm of New Physics, this invisible and impalpable "something" connects all physical reality. Everything we think of as living, as well as those aspects of our world that we perceive as inanimate, are interlinked on the quantum level.
Even our own bodies' physicality reveals points of connection that our ancestors believed were an intrinsic feature of life. Today, we know that the elemental raw materials that compose our bodies, such as iron, calcium, oxygen, sodium, and all the rest, are the same materials that make up the mountains, seas, atmosphere, and soils of our planet.
Within every one of our cells, we carry the elemental building blocks of life—DNA—a remarkable double helix-shaped chain of chemical information that shapes our physical form. And housed within the twisting steps of this amazing molecule is the story of our evolution as human beings. What is truly astounding is that we share 90 percent of our genetic material with other species. Everything from the bear to the oak tree to the tiniest bacteria has the same four amino acids making up their bodies. Recent discoveries have documented the fact that inside of the 60,000 to 80,000 genes that constitute our human genome lies the information to create all other life-forms on the planet. When molecular biologists examine the complex strands of our DNA, they also find housed within it more than a blueprint for a human being, but rather an extraordinary library of codes for all life on Earth. We carry the entire interlinked biosphere in every cell. We are part of all of Creation and all of Creation is held within us.
In addition to being an extraordinary storehouse of information, the structure of our DNA is also a source of measurable energy. Studies in the 1980s determined that DNA emits photons in the visible light range (900-200 nanometer), which although weak, exhibit a laser-like coherency. Photons are particles of light matter having no mass; they may be proven by physics, but not weighed in the traditional manner. They are normally imperceptible to our senses, yet they are constantly radiating from the DNA in every cell. A remarkable property of a photon is that, since it has no measurable mass, it is able to travel over great distances. That means the energy of our bodies, expressed as the photons emitted from our DNA, is intermingled with that of all other beings with whom our energy comes into contact. And since all DNA radiates these particles of light, it exists everywhere as a subtle energy—infusing, as it were, all of Creation.
This means that your DNA-emitted photons—the invisible part of you—cannot help but constantly interact with the invisible part of all other beings. This interaction creates yet another exciting situation. When one energy wave contacts another energy wave, it enters into a positive feedback loop. In this dynamic interaction, each element in the loop affects and is affected by the other. What this means is that, through interactions with different beings, the invisible, radiant part of you has the capacity to change and evolve. And if this information weren't staggering enough, since photons continue to travel endlessly onward, they have the ability to keep growing, interacting, and evolving, even after the body that generated them expires!
It seems that the long road of science is bringing us back to a more ancient understanding of the world. If we examine all this scientific information using a shamanic lens, we would call this subtle energy or vibration, Spirit. Perhaps, 60,000 years ago, a shaman would have understood the idea of Creation in this way: "First there is Spirit. This imperceptible force is what both shapes and infuses the body, and it is that same Spirit that radiates from us, continuing after our bodies are no longer alive."
So this view of human beings as timeless, radiant beings, interconnected to all other forms of life has parallels with cutting-edge quantum physics and pioneering genetic research; yet the people who first developed these concepts about reality lived as early as the Paleolithic era. How is it possible that these same ideas initially arose in the far-distant past? How was it possible to understand that which could not be seen, heard, or touched? It is clear that some other way of looking, listening, and feeling must have been available to them so that they could reach beyond the limitation of their senses.
For the shaman, this visionary way of perceiving the world may be an inherent outcome of the rituals necessary for attaining their powers. Shamans are initiated in ways as various as there are tribes of people on the planet, but there are parallels between many of these practices. Their common threads involve a loss or stripping away of the initiate's ordinary way of perceiving reality, as well as a detachment from the personality or ego self. This death and rebirth initiatory experience seems to be a critical aspect of shifting one's understanding of the world from focusing on matter to centering around spirit. Common threads of these ecstatic experiences include a dismemberment or dissolution of the physical body, which is followed by a gradual renewal of the flesh—sometimes appearing different or having different components than the original viscera. During this experience of being dissolved or destroyed, the shamanic initiates would experience some new view of reality and their place within it. This view may show that their existence is inexorably tied to all other beings, or they may see their bodies as constructed in such a manner that they contain all living things. They may describe being able to perceive light emanating from living beings or experience seeing luminous threads holding the world together. These anomalous experiences of reality (anomalous in that they appear to defy the reason of Newtonian physics) are consistent with those described by people who undergo a brief period of clinical death due to severe accident, illness, or surgery. It would appear that this loss of the ordinary self allows the quantum view of reality to be revealed.
This loss or moving aside of the obscuring self may be accomplished in several ways. Rituals may include a form of suffering whereby a supplicant is asked to abstain from food and drink for a prescribed, lengthy period of time, or submit to extreme conditions (heat, cold, wounding) to perceive the death of self in a deep, visionary experience.
When asked to define their experiences, shamans variously describe the spiritual realm as being light-filled or having sounds as its essential framework to relate the perception of a vibrational world. This is true of the shamans from the Amazon basin to the far reaches of Siberia, as well as for those contemporary individuals who have chosen to expand their perceptions beyond the ordinary.
Thankfully, it is not necessary for you to suffer to be a spirit walker! With a strong desire and intention, it is possible to use dancing, singing, rattling, or drumming for extended periods of time to shift out of your ordinary way of seeing the world. Indeed, repetitive auditory stimuli have the ability to create vivid visionary states that match those experienced while under the influence of sacred hallucinogens. The powerful methods outlined in these pages are profoundly effective, and the information in this book will support you to make the necessary shifts in a safe way.
Perhaps It's Not Too Late
I was born into a sacred world,
Knew without the effort of instruction
That the old oak was a grandfather
And the night wind had a voice.
I knew dancing songs to celebrate the seasons
And that, if I stumbled, life would catch me.
It took much to wean me from my early ways,
Left me with blunted instincts clinging
To just pretend stories like an orphaned child.
But I have turned to return at last
Hoping against the lonely logic of long years
That life is there to catch me.
Trudy SloanCHAPTER 2
Beginning the Path
Your choice to become a spirit walker requires that you not only learn shamanic methods, but also how to be a true person of power. This path is not one of ego or grandiosity; instead, it is the humble walk into a deeper relationship with All That Is. A shaman is guided by her or his heart and celebrates the interconnections that unite and nourish all beings.
To be able to become this kind of person, you must go through an evolution. That means learning how to approach the world from a place of love and gratitude that diminishes fear and anger. This is not the tendency of the culture that surrounds you. Every day you are bathed in the energies of society's fear and anger and the painful expressions of these lower vibrations. From a widespread epidemic of anxiety and depression to outright violence and senseless mayhem, you bear witness to unconscious, poorly modulated emotional energy. In following the path of the shaman, you learn the discipline to be and behave in a more powerful way.
To start this new way of being, it is important to put yourself in an open and relaxed state of mind. The following meditation is an excellent way to center and focus yourself. It is useful not only for beginning this new venture, but also as a way to be more fully grounded and present. You may want to begin each day with it.
Read the exercise through once or twice before you begin listening to the "Embodied Light" mp3 audio file that is available for you at www.myspiritwalk.com.
Exercise: Embodied Light Meditation
1. Begin by finding a quiet space where you will not be disturbed. Sit down in a comfortable chair that allows your back to be straight while your feet are on the floor.
2. With your hands folded gently in your lap, close your eyes and take a few moments to breathe. Allow your breaths to be both quiet and full—somewhat like the breaths of a deep sleep state.
3. As you begin to relax, notice that your breath originates in the center of your chest. Imagine a light there that grows brighter with every breath you take.
4. As this light grows brighter, see it also expanding to fill your entire body—growing ever brighter.
5. Your radiant body is a gift of the stars.
6. Exploding novas seeded the cosmos with all the elements to make you and the body of our beautiful planet. All the iron, calcium, oxygen, and other elements are gifts from the stars. This gift is what you inhabit while you are embodied. You are a divine radiance wrapped in star-stuff!
7. Allow your light to expand so that your physical body is enfolded in light. Your spirit—your light—completely surrounds your body. This is your true state of being.
8. Your entire being is full, rich, radiant, beautiful, and divine.
9. While continuing to breathe, notice how your radiant body is connected to the radiant body of the Earth.
10. Your body moves within the atmosphere of our planet. You live by swimming through her air with your feet touching her body. Your body is held by your light and is always cradled by the Earth.
11. Allow yourself to reach out even further and feel how the Sun's radiance embraces the Earth as she embraces you in her loving warmth. Allow all your senses to be fully enlivened by this nurturance.
12. You are an embodied light, a divine and magnificent aspect of the All That Is, made manifest by your physicality and always connected to the Earth and All That Is.
13. Breathe in the depth of this radiant, loving connection and allow it to bring you to a peaceful and fully enlivened state of being.
14. When you feel full of this experience—clasp your folded hands tightly together. As you are doing this, recall the sensations of being fully enlivened and cradled by the Earth—completely peaceful.
15. Whenever you wish, you will be able to attain this fully embodied state by repeating this symbolic gesture with your hands.
16. Now, gently release your hands and allow yourself to slowly return your attention to the room in which you are sitting. Take a full, deep, sighing breath and gently open your eyes.
Excerpted from Spirit Walking by Evelyn Rysdyk. Copyright © 2013 Evelyn Rysdyk. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
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