Before you were born you were just a little spark of light connected to the creative force of the universe. You looked down on this great earth. What a beautiful planet filled with wondrous life forms. You started to ponder the possibilities of life on earth. Reader, do you remember the preciousness of life and that all life was created to experience love, light, joy, harmony, peace, equality, and abundance for all? If you can feel this in your bones, then you know it is true. If you cannot, do not despair for I will help you to remember. We are a community of people who can gather our spiritual light and energies together to remember and to create a wondrous life for all living beings. We must remember our vision and then focus on it and hold the vision together. This is how we thrive together in changing times.”
Excerpt from How to Thrive in Changing Times by Sandra Ingerman (Weiser 2010)
Shamanism is a healing practice that began long before recorded human history. For countless generations, people have wrestled with the same problems: Who am I? Why am I here? Do I have a purpose? And closer to home: Do I deserve to be loved? Why do I keep repeating the same destructive behaviors? Why am I full of shame or guilt? Why do I feel so alone, depressed or unloved?
In indigenous societies all over the world today, shamans are still a vital part of the community. They attempt to answer these same questions, compassionately helping where they can to unravel the mysteries of life. They serve their community as healers, seers and masters of ritual. They keep the balance between seen and unseen worlds and offer healing for many kinds of illnesses.
In a modern first world society such as the United States, people are exposed to many healing alternatives including psychotherapy, Reiki, QiGong and many others. There typically is little or no connection to the land, our ancestors or spirit. We have access to massive amounts of information and have an amazing array of life choices: Would I rather live in the city or the country? Does the institution of marriage suit me? If so, would I like to be married to a man or a woman? Would I prefer to earn my living as a craftsman, an artist, a financier or maybe a TV personality?
Unfortunately, all of these choices come at a price. While indigenous peoples typically feel connected, loved and cared for because cooperation is necessary for the community to survive, modern society has created disenfranchisement and fears surrounding being alone, the lack of fulfillment and lack of identity. The huge amount of choice that is available to us also fragments our communities and creates divisions in our families. Access to addictive substances is easy, and there are many ways of drowning the pain of alienation, abandonment and loss.
The challenge for shamanic practitioners today is to bring the techniques and healing modalities that have worked since the beginning of time into the 21st century, and make them relevant to modern day ills. Modern first world shamanism (or Neo-Shamanism) is based on the principles of what has worked for indigenous peoples all over the world, but adapted to be more relevant to the healing issues common in our first world society.