Shamanism is a broad term for the cosmology, rituals and healing practices that are common to traditional indigenous communities all over the earth. In these modern, disruptive times, many people are looking for meaning to these beliefs and practices which have grown out of man's experiences on earth and relationship to nature. These are rooted powerfully in our psyches. The popularity of modern healing modalities, from acupuncture to Reiki to depth psychology, attest to the power of this urge that draws us to understand life in the face of our fractured society. The resurgence of interest in shamanism is powered as well by the recognition of the limits to expensive, government supported health care systems.
In ancient China, the first
doctors were the Wu/Shamans who were usually the women, often
midwives. In these chaotic separative times, people
have begun to look for meaning in their roots. As the population of the earth reaches
beyond the ability for the planet to support us and we recognize our
inability to find another place to live, we realize that we must pay attention and manage
our resources sensibly. Many find themselves looking to the past for answers for the future. The fields of archeology and anthropology have assisted us in finding out what our common past has to offer.
Shamanism is both subjective and objective in its observations of life and nature. It speaks the language of the person: forces of nature are personified, as in the Greek myths; the energy and movement of the seasons and the qualities elements are observed in their relationship to man's health and well being and addressed as if entities. Our relationship to our ancestors: the dreams and misdeeds of our grandparents affect us in terms of their influence upon our development which is sometimes discussed in terms of 'ancestral qi' or 'ancestral karma.'
The wide dissemination of theories of modern physics sparks our imagination as we see the world as more transparent and malleable than Americans half a century ago. The speedy evolution of society through modern technology allows us to see our dreams become reality in record time. Thus many realize that we must ground ourselves in a solid reality to prevent the undisciplined and insane proliferation of technology based upon nothing more than greed and whim, or the urgency of immediate gratification and solving problems by 'fighting fires' rather than analyzing long range causation and envisioning a long-term life-affirming wholistic future for our children.
So one might ask, "how is it possible that shamanism could achieve all this?' How it can do this is by reconnecting us to the essence of who we are, individually and as a community. The Taoists refer to this individually as our 'curriculum.' Each of is born with lessons to learn and unique talents to enable us. The more we are true to ourselves, the more qi, or life force, is available to us to accomplish this. The better we function, the happier we are, the less we are looking outside of ourselves for satisfaction, the more we are able to envision a bright future and have a positive impact on our environment.
Some universal shamanic practices include soul retrieval, a process of reintegration with 'lost' parts of ourselves, as well as practices for clearing obscurations and removing heaviness.