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Who is the Real Shaman?

A version of this article first appeared in Sacred Hoop magazine.

Who is the real Shaman?

DANIEL STONE describes his personal search for an authentic teacher

All my life I have dreamed heavily, and these dreams have always felt more real to me than what most people call ‘reality’. As a child I created a private world in which these dreaming dimensions could breathe. Later I moved the energies into creative expression - writing, music, painting. I was very sceptical of all things ‘spiritual’ and accepted my
dream world more in the context of the ‘artist’.

Sixteen years ago, I started a relationship, and I found that sleeping next to my partner, my night dreams went even crazier than ever. I started seeing spirits and forms at night and even during the day.
These were the kind of experiences no
psychotherapy or psychology could answer. I couldn’t paint or write or sing enough to make sense of these
dreams. Somewhat in desperation, I had to throw away my spiritual scepticism, because the only beginnings of answers I could feel were in the worlds of what is called the ‘occult’ or the ‘esoteric’ - convenient words used to describe what the western rational mind cannot handle. I began to study all kinds of spiritual movements, and was particularly attracted to Wicca. From there my dreams started to talk clearly of the ‘shaman’.

It became something of an obsession to find out what this word means. There was a course in shamanism in North Wales with the Deer Tribe, and I thought this course would give me the answers. I learned a lot, yet there seemed to be something inauthentic in that an Englishman in Wales was translating a tradition from North America devised by someone half-Irish and half-Cherokee!

My dreamingwas moving in the right direction, but I still had this yearning to meet the ‘real shaman’. My dreaming then told me to go to Peru. When I say dreaming, I mean the intuitive messages which we receive day and night. Sometimes these messages can be somewhat obscure, but in this case, I was lying on a beach
looking at the stars, and someone from somewhere said - “Go to Peru!” Well, messages are messages, and one can take them or leave them; but when the whole body knows, then the whole body
knows - and not to follow such a message would be like denying ones own intuitive innate wisdom held in the bones of the body.

The journey to Peru began a twelve-year quest to find that ‘real shaman’. In this search I have worked with shamans in Peru, Bolivia, Australia, Guatemala, Mexico and Nepal (I count Tibetan Buddhism as a type of shamanism). I have had many beautiful and mystical experiences, countless ceremonies, teacher plants, theories, stories, myths, and magic. Did I find the real shaman?

My question was frustrated by the in-fighting which I found in the shamanic world. It was very rare for me to find a shaman who did not complain about another who was a charlatan because they did not use this type of prayer, or this medicine wheel, or this power tool, or this system from this lineage. I found many shamans in isolated jungles and mountains trying to prove to me that they were the real shamans!

Well, amongst all the squabbling, there were some real jewels. The most authentic shaman I have met was Don Francisco, who lives in the Peruvian Amazon. He runs retreats in which the ayahuasca mixture is used in combination with other curative plants. His whole manner is beautifully simple. Very little ceremony, very little ritual, a short prayer, a blow of tobacco over the plant mixture, and a song. He drinks, we drink, and then the song. All night the song leads the dreamer through the dreams of the earth, the dreams of other worlds, other dimensions. I have heard many songs used by shamans to communicate with the spirit world, but this song - more than any other - went straight to the heart. There was no need for elaborate ceremony, theory, or ritual. The song did what the Dzogchen Tibetan Buddhists call ‘Cutting Through’. His song went directly to the heart of matter.

Who can teach this? Who can teach how to open the heart? I used the word ‘authentic’ to describe this shaman because something was touched deeply inside of me. What moved me was the song, which was not his song. It was the song of the jungle, of the plants, of the trees that sang through him. This shaman was invisible - I could forget him, and listen to the voices of planet earth. My authentic real shaman did not exist. Supreme humility was his beauty.

This meeting with Don Francisco changed the scope of the enquiry. I had met someone I could truly say felt like a real shaman to me, yet my question did not feel answered. I had met the real shaman and yet I was still looking. There was still something intangible that was missing. I had to let this contradiction hang in the air for a while, without really understanding it. I realised I did not understand the question.

So, trying to understand the question, I was taken to Mexico. I was following one of those messages that you can’t argue with. The message was just as blunt - “Go to Mexico” - which was somewhat inconvenient at the time because I was in the Bolivian Amazon. However, I was far enough down the path of following the intuitive messages to know that I may not know the meaning of the message until later. I had no idea about Mexico, and it was the first of the thirty countries I have visited without a guidebook. I didn’t need one. This was home - home in the bones, a resonance I had never felt before anywhere in the world. Mexico had called me.

Continuing my ‘real shaman’ question, I set up a meeting with the Huichol shamans in the north. It was, and is, very difficult to connect with the isolated Huichols. It required a lot of ‘luck’, and work, and patience, over a period of a year to arrange it. Because of all this effort, by the time it was set up, it felt very precious. You get out what you put in. I met the young Huichol with whom I was to wait for the shaman (curandero or maracami) in Morelia, Central Mexico.

We had to wait some days, and on one of these days, I sat in a café overlooking the central plaza. I heard a voice that basically said - ‘Go to the desert by yourself’. I had a furious argument with this voice because of all the work I had put in, but the voice just repeated itself. These voices don’t use reason; they are more like energies, impulses. It is a bit like trying to argue with your own God. Well, if Woody Allen does it - why not me. Just for the record, God won and I went to the desert by myself!

If shamans had taught me anything, it is how to listen to the Earth. They have taught me how to listen to the stars, the planets. The most important lesson I have learned from them is that everything speaks, everything has a language - the trees, the plants, the rocks, the rivers, the mountains, the sea. It is just a question of learning languages. In the desert, this lesson came home to me more than ever. Lying in the Earth, I could feel how it breathes through my body, how the stars connect through the breath, and how the tree is an intermediary between dimensions. It was here that I understood why I was told to come alone. The real shaman was not a man who does not speak my language, whose customs and traditions are so far from my own. The real shaman was inside of me. I could hear him talking directly, showing me new ways to listen to new languages, how to walk calmly between the worlds, between dreams. I could feel this shaman as intimately as a lover, as real as love, as honest as nakedness. This shaman could speak straight from the heart.

Am I so special? No. The artist, the poet, the priest, the priestess, the healer, the magician, the counsellor, the lover - these are the compositions of the ‘real shaman’ inside waiting to be sung.

Some years later, I was told by my guides to meet with the Huichols again. This time there was clarity around what is possible in such a relationship and what is not. As the Huichol shaman sang, I understood that the indigenous shamans sing the song of the land in which they live. They have a continuous dialogue. It is a dialogue between the human and the other beings on this planet. It is also a dialogue with other planets and the stars. This song has been sung for centuries. The preciousness of their song is our connection with this life. When it is lost, we will lose a part of ourselves. The Huichol shaman sang, and I listened to the land that he sings.

What the Huichol shaman cannot do so well is to bridge the huge gap between cultures, between traditions and times. For this, there is a need for translators, time travellers who can move between these worlds on the earth from the desert and the jungle to the city. Even within Mexico, translators are needed to bridge the gap between the indigenous cultures and the modern city life. They are worlds that don’t understand each other’s language. The city roars, but without the wisdom of the root.

I could go back to my teacher in North Wales with, I hope, a touch more humility. He also was a translator, trying to help us remember the root of our ancestral knowledge. He helped me on the path of opening my heart to the memory. Was he a real shaman? Well, I can say now with all the incredible lightness of being - it doesn’t matter.

About the author:
Daniel Stone has been developing shamanic dreaming circles for twelve years in Europe, the U.S. and Mexico. He founded The Shamanic School of Dreaming in 1996 and the Centre of the Conscious Dream in 2000. He is author of ’The shaman, the Buddha and the conscious dream and is an international exhibiting artist

 

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love - May 7th 2010 06:46:13 PM
being a shaman to me means to be everything and nothing yesterday today and tomorrow. to be free from any rules but to respect all rules. to receive help but also realize the importance to deny help from negative spirited spirits. a person who who lives everywhere in time. someone who lives simply in a complicated life. a soul that re-remembers all gained abilities from other lives, a spirit that becomes aware of ones spirit family guidance. a spirit that knows everything but knows nothing. a spirit that walks a confident blind path. 1LOVE

love - May 7th 2010 06:47:13 PM
being a shaman to me means to be everything and nothing yesterday today and tomorrow. to be free from any rules but to respect all rules. to receive help but also realize the importance to deny help from negative spirited spirits. a person who who lives everywhere in time. someone who lives simply in a complicated life. a soul that re-remembers all gained abilities from other lives, a spirit that becomes aware of ones spirit family guidance. a spirit that knows everything but knows nothing. a spirit that walks a confident blind path. 1LOVE


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