A path is only a path and there is no affront, to oneself or to others in leaving it if that is what your heart tells you to do. Look at each path closely. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself one question. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good, if it does not it is of no use.
~ Carlos Castenada ~
A Spirit Walk is when you heed the calling of your spirit, journeying where your spirit leads you, so that you may experience that which you to need experience in order to fully realize your reason for being here at this time and at this place.
A Spirit Walk is living not from ego, but from complete being. It requires that you be totally present and totally accepting, so that old habits and ideas do not continue to foster the illusions that have lead you away from your true path.
A Spirit Walk is as much a literal as well as a figurative right of passage. It is a pilgrimage from one state of being to another. While it may involve a journey from what you have come to know as home, it is also a journey to return home, to the spiritual home that you wandered from in the course of living.
A Spirit Walk is not a linear journey. You will encounter many detours and travel down many roads, often taking new paths and sometimes returning to old ones. In the end, you will find that you have come full circle, returning to where you began.
If you can turn away from the illusions of the world and reawaken to the awareness of the truth that has always been within you, then your Spirit Walk will have returned you to the harmony of body, mind and spirit that the course of living has enticed you from and returned you home to your true Way.
A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.
~ Lao Tzu ~
Shamanism is not a religion; it is a way of being. It is the direct experience of spiritual knowledge that comes from journeys within and through the "shamanic state of consciousness" or “shamanic ecstasy”, which are transcendental states of consciousness, entered into in order to reach other, more mystical realities.
To Native Americans, it is often referred to as the path of the sacred clown, in some cultures it is called the path of the feather and it is considered to be the sacred calling of certain select initiates who, by entering into states of altered consciousness. interact with the spirit world in order to ensure the spiritual functioning of the tribe. But, the true meaning of shamanism is not so simply defined.
The word "shaman" originated in Siberia and it describes a specialized type of holy person who practices not only with prayer, ritual and offerings, but through direct contact with the spirits themselves. The label of "shaman" eventually became incorrectly applied to any medicine man or medicine woman of the primitive tribal cultures, while the term "shamanism" describes a belief systems which sees the universe as alive and interconnected and the shaman as the intermediary bridging the connections.
"He (the Shaman) is a self-reliant explorer of the endless mansions of a magnificent hidden universe."
The difference between the terms shamanism and shaman is the same as the difference between "yoga" and "yogi". One is a discipline and the other is the holy man arising out of that discipline. Anyone can learn the discipline, but not everyone can rise to the level of the holy man.
Of importance to note is that shamanic people believe that while any person may practice a shamanic lifestyle, true shamans are only those special initiates chosen by the spirits to act as their emissary between the physical realm and the mystical realm. In a sense, it is like saying that anyone can be a practicing Christian, but being Christ is something only a specially chosen individual is born to. So, when you encounter someone who tells you that they can make you a shaman you need to be very skeptical, for they are really claiming to be able to turn you into Christ in exchange for money.
Although the shamanic journey is often a personal and individual experience, shamanism itself is tribal in its nature and needs to be experienced within the cultural framework of the individual tribal lands. The shaman must be attuned to and be in harmony with the unique energy of their local tribal land, as it is revealed in local myths and legends, in order to truly commune with the Spirit of the Home Land. Though the essence of the shamanic practice does not change and its core elements remain universal from culture to culture, shamanic rituals and practices must be acclimated to different times and different places, as well as to different cultures.
"Men are free when they are in a living homeland, not when they are straying and breaking away. Men are free when they are obeying some deep, inward voice of religious belief. Obeying from within. men are free when they belong to a living, organic, be.” (D.H. Lawrence)
In early tribal societies the primary role of the shaman was to be "The Vision Seeker" for the community. It was the role of the shaman to travel beyond the realm of the material, into the realm of the immaterial, in order to commune with the spirits that guided and protected the tribe. The shaman had to live astride these two worlds; the world of perceived reality and the world of intuitive reality and only by living this dual existence was the shaman able to interact with the mystical realms in which lies the true Nature of the Universe. With the shaman's main purpose being to maintain the harmony between the tribe’s physical and spiritual needs, the shaman might, as an example, go forth on a vision quest before a hunt to meet with the spirit of the animal to be hunted, in order to create a empathy between the spirit of the hunter and the spirit of the hunted in order to secure the tribes basic needs.
“Because the shaman has to live in this almost schizophrenic way, never fully in one "reality" or the other, the shaman is often considered to be "divinely mad". The belief, by shamanic people that the so called "insane" are divinely attuned individuals has been historically noted in numerous instances. This idea may also be historically reflected in the fact that many shamans of note who have had to confront non-shamanic cultures, often have had one or more instances of imprisonment or institutionalization, as a result of their personal perception of reality being in conflict with the so called "norms" of those alien society's tenets.
"Just maybe, going crazy could be the evolutionary process trying to hurry up mind expansion. My mind didn't snap, it was trying to stretch itself into a new shape."
Shamanic artist and writer Alan Moore has suggested that because of their ability to manipulate words and to change people’s consciousness an artist or writer is the probably closest thing in the contemporary world that you are likely to see to a shaman.
Yet, in our everyday lives the most prevalent, (and subtle), example of the shaman at work comes in the guise of the mass marketing advertiser, (or propagandist), though their "magic" represents the dark side of shamanism. Where the true shaman will paint pictures, sing songs and tell stories meant to awaken and liberate the people to a new awareness, these advertising shaman will use these same methods in order put them to sleep and enslave them in a prison of a false reality.
“If you're going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you're going to be locked up.”
Shamanic Ecstasy is the real "Old Time Religion", of which modern churches are but pallid evocations. Shamanic visionary ecstasy, the mysterium tremendum, the unio mystica, the eternally delightful experience of the universe as energy, is a sine qua non of religion, it is what religion is for! There is no need for faith, it is the ecstatic experience itself that gives one faith in the intrinsic unity and integrity of the universe, in ourselves as integral parts of the whole; that reveals to us the sublime majesty of our universe, and the fluctuant, scintillant, alchemical miracle that is quotidian consciousness. Any religion that requires faith and gives none, that defends against religious experiences, that promulgates the bizarre superstition that humankind is in some way separate, divorced from the rest of creation, that heals not the gaping wound between body and soul, but would tear them asunder; is no religion at all!
An ecstasy is a thing that will not go into words; it feels like music and one cannot tell about music so that another person can get the feeling of it.
The enemy of awareness is the illusion of separateness that we create out of our own self-centered perceptions. Our perceptions are shaped and colored by the degree of awareness with which we analyze experiences and it is out of this that our illusions arise. The source of this deception lies in the illusion of the ego that we are separate from the Oneness of Creation. True awareness is nurtured when we accept that we are part of the Whole and release ourselves from the illusion of separateness.
From one's individual perspective, life seems to be regulated by subservience to societal rules of behavior for personal achievement. To accomplish this personal achievement the individual establishes an unnatural internal rhythm in adherence to these behavioral patterns of self-interest and self-centeredness, yet these very ideas of self-interest and self-centeredness are what lead to the sense of isolation and separateness that are synonymous with illusion.
To dance then, is to pray, to meditate, to enter into communion with the larger dance, which is the universe.
~ Jean Houston ~
“The Role of the Shaman”