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Shamanism is an Action Verb, Part 2

Shamanism is an Action Verb, Part 2byDr. Steve Serr

(continued from Shamanism is an Action Verb, Part 1)

This is not time to cling to a spirit helper. Our spirit helpers come and go depending on our need at the time. They are there only when we need them. Sometimes they don’t show because we need to face something without them in order to grow or develop in some way. In the worst scenario, they do not show because we have fallen off our ethical path.

So, I immediately wrote back and said “Yes! Of course we can bring our spirit helpers with us.” We need to have them close by to help us develop their particular power in our life. Many shamanic cultures carry small items, such as in a pouch around the neck to help them stay close to the spirit of their power animal. In this case, the student has learned something which has the potential to affect their life in a huge way, which is to acknowledge their shadow self. Something like this can actually be life changing if it is taken up when it is begun and allowed to unfold.

Yes, of course, by all means bring Wolf back! Perhaps have a small item that is sacred to Wolf and wear it around your neck! If Wolf is an ongoing awareness of this person’s shadow side, and if this awareness is part of their path back to wholeness, then we would want above all and in any way possible, for Wolf to be present and working with this person.

My shamanic students begin by retrieving power animals for themselves because they are working first on their own reempowrment and are regathering their own natural wholeness. It is imperative that shamanic practitioners live into the dictum of other healing professionals: ‘Heal thyself.’ Students then become practitioners who in turn assist clients in the regathering of their own true, natural empowerment, and their whole, True Self.

It is only after retrieval that the work of healing begins. In the case of a power retrieval, the conclusion of shamanic work is not the obtaining of a spirit helper. That is just the barest start for it is the integration that spirit helper's power that is the shamanic task before us. That is, by the way, the only reason we would look for a spirit helper in animal form, in the first place.

So, with this student I would suggest they carefully consider these powers that their animal spirit helper represents, and figure out ways to develop these powers in their day-to-day life. For this student, at this time in their life, that is how to acknowledge their shadow side.

Even when a shaman is very clear that they are the vehicle - and nothing more - for the information or potential healing, their clients can be underserved. If a shaman sends a client out the door with a kind of “Take this power animal with a glass of water and call me in the morning”, any potential healing that may have been catalyzed will at that moment start to decay. By a time a week was over, the retrieval might never have been done at all.

Though it may sound strange, power retrieval (for instance) is not shamanism, but rather, a small - very small - part of it. Rather, shamanism is a living, breathing, active life directed towards wholeness. In fact, we might consider all of shamanism as active efforts to restore the natural wholeness that has been misplaced, given up, or taken from us. Shamanism is an active regathering and development of our True Self.

This struck me again when another student wrote:

“I practice journeying every day: a couple times a day normally.”

Of course, you have to admire this student’s strength of intention and effort! However, this all-too-eager approach has pitfalls, so I wrote right back and explained that so much attention to journeying can be misguided! Journeying is where we get the information, yes, but that is just the beginning. Instead, they need to stay with a practice of self-cleansing, call in the directions, get out in nature communicate with the natural world, and consider journeying perhaps only three times a week, placing more attention on and preparation for each journey, and then full intention in finding ways to take what is learned and put it to use.

The entire effort of shamanic work, whether in the development of a practitioner or in the healing and growth of a client, is to take what is learned and begun, and manifest it into actuality by making changes.

In shamanism, it is not amount of practice that is crucial, but the attentiveness put into it. Shamanism is a process of doing and becoming. For this student, as it is for any of his or her potential clients as they someday take their place among practitioners, it is not the amount of journeying that is crucial for one’s development, but rather the taking of what is learned or the healing that has been started, and then developing and integrating that into their life.

A grammar school English teacher comes to mind, and despite how ridiculous I still think was her failed instruction in diagramming sentences, I can almost hear her say, and quite rightly; “Shamanism is an ‘action verb’.”

About the author:
“My bigger sense is that we as a species are becoming aware of the dire need to protect, reconnect with, and begin working towards healing both ourselves and our sacred Earth. I think there's no other way of explaining the big picture: we are being summoned back into a caring, intimate relationship with nature. Every human being is indigenous to the Earth, and it is from here that our original spirituality appeared." Steve Serr, Ph.D., MDiv, Shamanism 101 Online Shamanic Training


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