Lynn Andrews: Shamanism in the 21st century is to me a way of understanding and developing one’s spiritual enlightenment. When you think that a society grows out of the language that it speaks, and you look at the English-speaking world which is so often a pragmatic and generally materialistic society, you realize that the practice of any religious or sacred art can be a very difficult task We have very few words in our language to describe evolution into spiritual consciousness and realization.
When we use a term like shamanism, in a sense it means something different to everyone using it. The word shaman comes from the Tungusic language of Siberia, to describe “a priest or priestess who uses magic for the purpose of curing the sick, divining the hidden, and controlling events .” (Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary [Tenth Ed.]) It has been adopted into the English language to describe a native healer who is usually born into a long line of medicine men or women and/or who is taught the healing arts from birth .
There are also other kinds of shaman healers . One is a person who is simply born with a mark, whatever that mark may be in the native tradition that the person is born to. Another is one who is born into a life situation where she nearly loses her life in some life-defying situation. This person lives through the experience and comes out on the other side with very special abilities. This person is a shaman who heals differently and may not be part of a medicine tradition in any given tribe. These latter shamans are wounded healers. They are extraordinary men and women who have developed the art of Seeing; they can choreograph the energies of the universe in a way that brings healing and light into people’s lives.
Every shaman is different. Every nation of native people is different . Their guardians, their ruling icons are vastly diversified, but the source of power is always the same. There is always the firstness of woman, the understanding that power comes from Mother Earth and Father Sky; there are always the elementals, the directions and the unseen mysteries and powers of the other dimensions of reality. We all as human beings are looking for the meaning of life. We all experience disease, not only of the physical body but also of the spirit.
Shamans help you to balance the physical state with the spiritual, the known with the unknown. I think it is very important in this time of stress, this time of environmental disillusionment, that we understand as a people that no one owns the truth and that each and every one of us, no matter who we are, is an expression of life that is a part of the Great Spirit that animates us . This is a time that we need to reach across racial, societal and religious barriers and join hands with our sisters and brothers to heal this planet and to heal ourselves .
Shamanism is about the end of duality. It is about oneness with all of the energies that surround you. If you do not understand the oneness of energy, you do not understand the laws of power . The first lesson of power is that we are all alone. And then there is a giant abyss between this statement and the last lesson of power, which is that we are all one . The last lesson of power is the oneness of us all, the respect and the honor given to different ideologies and thought, not war between those ideologies, but honor .
People around this earth are looking desperately for the reason for life, the understanding of God in our lives. When someone is trying to find the meaning of life through the practice of ancient ritual, perhaps using drums and sage, is that person not doing what ancient peoples wanted from the beginning? The ancient peoples wanted everyone who discovered them to understand their way of life. People who are hungering to go back to the earth, to understand the shamanic harmonies of life, the magic of life, the understanding that there are physical and spiritual dimensions that can be united in a life of wholeness, are also trying to heal the earth through the process of healing themselves.
To be a shaman is very different from being interested in shamanism. A shaman has a true gift and has been touched by spirit. That person is “one-who- knows-how” in the words of my teachers. She knows how to understand the universe, how to travel in the dimensions of reality and power that most people have neither the desire nor the focus to travel. She is neither more nor less important than those who have no desire to follow this path. She simply is what she is. The process of shamanism is a process of growth and effort and focus that brings people into balance with the world around them. It is a process of love. I am often stunned when I work with people who have become identified with the technique of their job . Our world, our society seems to reward those who become centered on the idea of more and bigger and more powerful at all costs . Lost in that rush of effort is the artifice, the enjoyment of the process. Lost in that rush is the love for what you do. Shamanism as I have experienced it is the love of life, the profound love for healing and harmony and balance between the physical world and the world of profound joyous spirit. There is no way to explain the face of Great Spirit once you have experienced that face. You can describe how you feel when you see the face; you can describe the stillness at the center of the storm, the flowing bliss that courses through your veins. But you cannot describe the beauty that is expressed except by the love of process and the grace that comes from that .
From Lynn Andrews Awakening Health, Humor, Compassion and Truth xiii
xiv Fully Alive Foreword