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Evolving Shamanism

Evolving ShamanismbyColleen Deatsman and Paul Bowersox

In recent days, people in the West are expressing an increased interest in Shamanism, or more accurately an evolving version called Neo-Shamanism. Those who spend the time necessary to properly investigate it are finding it to be an awakening, rewarding and profound practice. Alienated from 1950’s Christianity, turned on by the social changes of the Sixties, and disturbed by the end-times fanaticism of 1970’s Evangelicals, millions turned to the New Age in the 1980’s and 90’s in order to find peace and substance. Though there were some gems found here and there, what many people found was a feel good, what’s next movement based on the idea that if you deny the darker aspects of human behavior, be they in oneself or in the world, said dark aspects will go away. This forced sincere people in need of healing to move from one thing to the next in a frustrated pursuit of relief from suffering. In our ignorance, we very nearly produced a generation of spiritual nomads, endlessly searching for a philosophical home.
Now, spiritually hungry seekers who were left unfulfilled are flocking to Neo-Shamanism where they believe they will find a place to belong, the healing they need, and an enhanced awareness based in a love for Mother Nature and a connection with Spirit. They will, indeed, find what they are looking for there. Neo-Shamanism fills all these requirements in full to the earnest seeker, but that is only the tip of the iceberg of what this modern Shamanic way of living has to offer. The new Shamanism can change your world from the inside out.
What many philosophies have failed to provide in recent years is a demonstrative difference. Much of what the New Age, quasi-esotericism and feel-good affirmations have managed to deliver is a sense of community and mediocre ritual, not practical pathways or real, everyday life applications to enhanced awareness and vibrant health which can be objectively observed and verified. This is where Shamanism stands head and shoulders above the non-traditional pack.
Shamanism has always been a discipline that delineates, very specifically, how to find what you seek. It is rooted in pragmatism. Everything you do is checked in the external reality, the observable world, to see if your work is bearing fruit. By observing the nature of the difference, or the specific places where no difference is made, Neo-Shamans apply their discipline to see where within themselves they are caught, and fix it. Simple as that. Remember, Shamans of old had to be right. They had to know what they were talking about or the tribe starved or froze in the winter. Shamans had to pay attention to the world around them and get themselves clear of anything that could get in their way, and the way of the tribe as they moved forward through the year and the generations. They knew that the agreements and harmony, or lack of same, within the tribe would play out graphically in the world around them. A unified tribe, with everybody collaborating and contributing, equaled a good harvest, an excellent hunt, and babies that lived. Disharmony and lack of agreement in the tribe resulted in decimation, starvation and disease. The Shamans found ways to secure harmony, to work agreement and to garner the energies that would secure safety for the people.
While there are all manner of means to do this, all of them begin with a simple approach. The Neo-Shamanic way of living begins with the work necessary to get out of your own way. The Shamanic Journey provides a means to shift consciousness out of everyday mind and allows for the exploration of the totality of the human psyche and soul, with all of its expressions, beliefs, emotions, feelings, behaviors, habits, likes, dislikes, expectations, resentments, resistances, loves and joys. We then decide what to keep, what to modify and what to eliminate. Some shamanic traditions call this work of clearing out - “erasing personal history”. Now we are looking at it with the benefit of 100 years of consciousness research behind us and see this work as a way of unifying the self. It is a way to be one, unifying body, mind, and spirit in such a way that we do not experience internal conflict in thought or action. As any good Shaman knows, if you do not experience internal conflict, you will not experience it externally either.
This said, seekers need to realize that Shamanism, old or new, is not a magic bullet. It is not a discipline wherein you can perform a single ritual or Journey and find the world changed. On the contrary, Shamanism requires you to change yourself incrementally, always for the better, always clearing the away the dross, in order to find the world changed around you and within you.
Neo-Shamanism is a way of living which provides what is needed, be that energy, Soul and Spirit connection, insight into the self, perspective into the understanding of others, or a more profound view into your life’s purpose. Much of the work can and must be done individually. It takes a dedication to awareness and a passion for what is real to plumb the mysteries of the Neo-Shamanic life. It also requires a willingness to be honest with oneself, an unvarying courage that will allow you to pull your own monsters from under the bed and banish them forever. Fortunately, this evolving modern Shamanism provides the know-how to do that. Thanks to the growing interest and the need for practicality and effective application, Neo-Shamanism is also beginning to provide a community populated by excellent teachers who can hold up, through demonstration and interaction, the mirrors we need to look into and see where we are caught when we get stuck.
Neo-Shamanism is a movement of practicality, a practice of lasting change, rooted in the solidity of the Earth and witnessed in the objective reality as a force for a positive shift. Because the work involves deep and lasting personal change, it is rarely pretty, easy, or warm and fuzzy. It’s real, it saves lives, and it is coming of age just in time.

About the author:
Colleen Deatsman is the co-Author of Seeing in the Dark: Claim Your Own Shamanic Power Now and in the Coming Age (Red Wheel Weiser 2009), Author of Energy for Life: Connect with the Source (Llewellyn 2006), Inner Power: Six Techniques for Increased Energy and Self-Healing (Llewellyn 2005), & numerous articles. She is a Masters Degreed Licensed Professional Counselor, Shamanic & Energy Healer & Teacher. Paul Bowersox, co-Author of Seeing in the Dark, is a shamanic practitioner & teacher, Reiki practitioner, writing coach & editor, & holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biomedical Engineering.


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