Thursday, February 2, 2017

Authentic Shamanism

I brought up the topic of “authentic Shamanism” at one of my classes / circles this week. I’ve noticed especially in the last three to four years that when people speak to me about Shamanism, they often make a distinction between what they are doing and what “is out there.”  These days if you are not into Ayahuasca you are not authentically into Shamanism.  So what is “Shamanism” if it changes its appearance every decade?  Is it about altered states of consciousness through hallucinogens? Is it about ceremonies and rituals; or about soul retrieval, dreaming and healing?  Since Shamanism isn’t a Religion and doesn’t have set doctrines, then how can you anyone be clear on what makes it “authentic?”

When I brought up the question this week, I received a few interesting comments.  Many of the individuals in our circles have struggled with addictions and it’s because of the Medicine Wheel teachings that their lives are full and healthy again.  The idea of defining Shamanism as a journey with hallucinogens is offensive to these people.  They feel that they’ve gained more clarity in body, mind and soul by exploring attitudes and disciplines; which connects them to nature and the stars. 

“To say that Shamanism doesn’t exist without Ayahuasca is preposterous” said JT who has been studying Shamanism for over a decade.”  According to JT there are several other ways to reach altered states of consciousness outside of taking drugs.  Fasting, dancing to the point of exhaustion, fighting an infection and being sleep deprived are also as efficient.  Both JT and I agreed during our conversation that the notion of “altered states of consciousness” does relate to Shamanism but it is a topic; which has become way too linear in the 21 century.  

How important is the subject of “altered states of consciousness” when trying to define or understand Shamanism?

I’ve often wondered it’s the lack of non-fictional stories relating to shamanic initiations or the lack of knowledge concerning the lengthily or life long education into natural and cosmological law or reality that gives permission to anyone and everyone to self-proclaim themselves as shamanic Holy People (Shamans, healers, dreamers, warriors, ceremonialists etc..).  Perhaps it’s the “power” of the religious institution behind church or mosque leaders; which protects priests, ministers, pastors, bishops, rabbi, imams etc… from having imposters take up their roles? Is it really important in the end to be able to tell the difference between the “authentic Holy People” and the pretenders?

From my perspective and based on the teachings that I’ve received “we trust Spirit” to bring each and every one of us to the teachers, healers, and guides that were meant for us.  Before any of us are born, our stories have been written and contracts have been signed with others.  These contracts are based on “learning, healing, growth and change.”  We commit to one another and we bring to each other the experiences necessary to move through a spiralling process of progress.  Whether it takes seasons, a life time or many life times to reach the goals we’ve set for ourselves – the journey we undertake impacts a whole collective.  To think that I’m the ultimate teacher, healer or dreamer for everyone is no doubt arrogant and even limiting. 

In all honesty I’ve learnt great lessons from educated experts, self-taught experts and total imposters. 

Last night during supper we were discussing the topic of “using Beagles (dogs) for experimentation and practice in veterinarian schools.” We all unanimously agreed that it was unacceptable.  Yet at the same time we all understood that students need “animals” to learn.  30 years ago you could be an initiate to a senior vet, and work at their clinic while going to school.  This way you could practice on animals; which needed the care and assistance.  Hairdressers, carpenters, teachers and many more trades and professions offered mentoring opportunities.  You couldn’t be recognized without the seal approval of an elder within the field.  These days “elders” are treated as “old timers” and pushed out of their jobs so that that the younger crowd could come in and take over.  Schools, tests and diplomas have replaced the “old school” mentoring methods. 

It seems that year after year; century after century well-intentioned individuals attempt to find the “perfect way” to teach and to legitimize skills and practices. For example when discussing “healing and massage” with practitioners I often come across a kind of social wound; which is about “a lack of recognition or legitimacy”. 

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want the permission to be who they are and be recognized and respected as such with no discrimination.

Seriously separating our working life from our personal, home life is ridiculous to me.  It should all come together as one.  The quest towards legitimacy is not only about the roles we play in the work force; but also about the roles we play in relationships and in the World.  One of the greatest issues today is that people don’t feel they have any kind of  “power” to bring forth changes in the environment; in their work and family settings or on the Planet.  It seems only people in politics or with money can be catalysts for change… 

When I started learning about Sacred Circle traditions with First Nation traditionalist 30+ years ago what I appreciated the most was how it was completely removed from the linear, Western World I came from.  I could breathe free without social programs and expectations.  I could open my heart and my eyes to what I was enthusiastic and curious about.  I could step into the circle and hear “my own story echo back to me.”  I was told at that moment that “authenticity” wasn’t so much about how the World or people perceived me; but about “how I chose to express myself in words, actions, choices and attitudes.” 
At the age of 19 years old I didn’t ask myself the question: “What is authentic Shamanism?”  It never actually crossed my mind.  I was looking for adventure and experience; and I was seeking out people and places; which resonated with me.  I was testing my gut and seeing where it would take me.  

It my experience it never took me to hallucinogens and yet, I still managed to reach heights of altered states of consciousness that a very small fraction of humanity are capable of.  I understand that it can be frustrating, disappointing and just plain annoying at times to watch people in their labyrinths / realities; but at the end of the day when I go back to silence – “I find me at the centre of my circle not them.” 

By making sure “I’m authentic” and true to myself in walk and talk I can emanate a sacred or holy vibe that can have an impact on others and the World around me.  It’s the only true medicine / power that we have… 

What is Shamanism about generally?  It’s about being intimately related to the Earth (nature) and the Stars.  If you want to find “authentic Shamanism” you need to first commit and devote your life to natural and cosmological reality.  You need to be authentic in this journey and quest.  Then, you need to trust and have faith in your own personal story.  You need to believe and respect the people who are on your path and the contracts you’ve made.

SO said something quite inspiring on Wednesday,  she said “I’ve known people who are great leaders; people who are great teachers; people who are great healers and dreamers etc…  I have good example of authenticity, now all I have to do is follow in their footsteps.” 


Monday, June 27, 2016

Dreaming Muscle

It was raining this morning when Gérard and me decided to take the dogs out for a walk.  Summer time is the only season where I enjoy being outdoors when it rains.  I think even the dogs appreciated the scene despite the fact that they were dripping wet by the time we returned home.  They played for a while in the backyard and we were able to towel them down before heading into house.  Suddenly a rainy morning became a moment of perfection where all of our senses were wide open and savoring.

I noticed recently that Gérard and I often share our dreams during our dog walk in early morning.  I think part of it is because “our dreams are still fresh in our minds” and we are still trying to figure out their meaning.  My teacher on the other hand, probably would have pointed out “how nature gives us better access to dream imprints” – explaining why we always start our conversations as we reach the park.  As traditional Dreamers, Gérard and I were taught to remember “impressions” rather than countless dream details. 

I was telling a student of mine recently how much times have changed.  Honestly I never thought the day would come where I would actually utter these words especially when it comes to Spirituality, Shamanism, and Dreaming.  In most cases people still explore dreaming from Jung and Freud’s perspectives.  When you look at dreaming and psychology or psychoanalysis it seems nothing has moved since the 20th century.  Yet, people have changed and so have their dreams.

Indigenous Dreaming explores dreaming as a connection between man and nature / man and the stars.  Details like over population, urbanism, and technology influences human nature and human behavior.  So much so that it eventually affects the way we dream about “our World and our environment.” 

Lately Gérard and I often start our dream discussions with the statement: “I had a strange dream last night.” 

More and more we notice that our dreams carry details and impressions; which are unfamiliar or “new to us.”  Last night’s dream for example was about a man who was trying to break into my home.  In the dream I recognized the man even though he was a total stranger to me.  I knew the man wanted me harm; and I took every precaution to lock every window and every door to keep him out.  I could hear him from outside shouting threats. 

He was warning me: “Your actions are futile.  I will be coming in.”

I woke up somewhat baffled and with a series of questions:

·      Why didn’t she call on neighbors or loved ones?
·      Why didn’t she call on the police?

The impression was that “I was looking into someone else’s reality”.  After sharing the dream with Gérard he informed me that before our dog walk, he had driven his mother to the courthouse; where she was a witness in a trial against a man who had broken into their apartment a year ago.  The man had violently broken down their door. 

Gérard wondered:

·      Why dream about my mother?
·      How does the dream connect to you?

The answers seemed so obvious and clear to me:

·      I dreamt of her because I was meeting with him in the morning and he was worried he would have to cancel.
·      The dream connects to me in a circular way – through my connection with him.

“That simple?” he asked trying to find another perspective. 

Honestly I was quite happy with the fact that I we managed to identify the character in my dream as his mother.  It seemed to answer all my questions.  G’s mom is not someone who readily asks for assistance.   She’s also not the kind of person who would jump to the conclusion that “someone would take advantage of their age and want them harm.”  The attitude of the dream character was so unlike me that it puzzled me.

I find I’m often able to let go of dreams after I identify the characters and identify the meaning behind the dream.  In this case this dream was informative:

·      It informed me about an event; which occurred last year and the lasting effects of it. 
·      It informed me that Gérard was helping his parents: Driving them to the courthouse.
·      And finally, it spoke of his mother and her issues with depending on others.

For hundreds of thousands of years humans have dreamt about the weather; their environment; territory; and journeying.  It’s always been a blessing for a hunter to dream about a herd of caribou for example, and to be able to identify where its hiding in a valley.  In ancient times some dreams allowed family members to visit while territories apart.  It’s only recent that dreaming has become about “subconscious issues”.  By changing our “focus” when it comes to survival we’ve also changed the purpose of our dreams.

I often tend to dream similarly to my ancestors.  People often laugh at me because I seem to be only person they know who refuses to depend on a cell phone. 

Yet, like I often explain:  “It’s this life choice; which allows me to dream of others and their reality.”

I don’t consider myself “a psychic” and yet, the information I receive on others through my dreams is always very accurate.  I tend to use my “dreaming skill” as a technology that was used for millenniums by my ancestors.  Unlike many people in my life, I can tell you 48 hours in advance whether we should leave earlier for the airport because of traffic; or cancel a supper downtown because of a snowstorm; or expect car trouble on the way to a workshop… 

If you don’t use a muscle it often looses it’s strength, and the same applies to dreaming!


P.S. I plan to write a few blogs on dreaming because next week we are launching a two year POWER HUNT.  Many of the participants will inevitably search for ways to be stronger dreamers!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Renewal: A Path of Purpose

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog entry and it isn’t for lack of life experience.  Where do I start?


Spring came late this year; but when it did finally arrive it was beautiful, incredible and sweet as it always is.  The lilacs bloomed, the bushes were filled with flowers, the cedars sprouted through the fence, and the fresh perfume of grass and moss filled our nostrils.  So we couldn’t breath without sneezing for a month:  So what? The sunshine, the warmth and the flowers; they were all worth it.  Every year Spring is different and yet, every year Spring is Spring.  


Gérard and I give circles and dreaming workshops every year and when our regulars (students / dreamers) arrive we always tell them “how much they’ve changed.”  We may recognize their faces and their mannerisms; but their life story can be recognized through their attitudes, their body postures, and their eyes even. They are always surprised when we approach them with a word or comment that summarizes the last 9 to 12 months of their lives.

“How do you know?” they often ask.

One of the greatest complaints people bring to us (Gérard and me) is that of being “meaningless or invisible” in the lives of others.

“They don’t care, I don’t count…” are phrases we often hear. 

There seems to be this collective need to be heard, to be understood, and to be important to others.  Who doesn’t want purpose?  It’s not so much about “belonging” as it is about “being safe and secure” the way we believe we were in our mother’s womb.  We want to be welcomed, wanted, celebrated, and most of all accepted; but unfortunately we’re not given the path to purpose.   We agree we are all in search of the same experiences, yet even after all this time (250,000 years or more on Earth) we still don’t teach each other and our children the way to resolution. 

I told a friend / student today:  “Perhaps it’s because we don’t want it to end.  Perhaps the soul is so entranced with the endless potential of renewal that it has created an experience that can hypothetically always exist.”

Too many people create drama these days because they are looking to play centre stage in their lives and the lives of others.  I believe we are all born for a reason. We are exploring a story that hasn’t quite given us the ending yet.  Every incarnation gets us closer to understanding what the soul is pursuing.  I have no doubt we are all “seekers.”  Why else would we persevere through so many ordeals, challenges, and hardships? 

When people ask me: “What do you do in life?” 

I’m always somewhat surprised by the answers they expected.  People identify themselves to jobs and schooling.  They are conditioned to do two things:  Attempt to impress you or over power you.   Once they have done both, they are completely comfortable to tell you “they are mess”.   They were told and then, come to believe they are “worthless;” and yet they want YOU to believe they are “better than you.” It’s the constant inconsistencies; which throws us off…   

“We are all fucked up right?”  said a client once…

I believe the “World and a good number of the people in it are fucked up”; but I’ve never believed I was… 

The premise of our work (G and me) is to recognize that we all came into this World to live a story and that LIFE gives us an opportunity to experience and to react to this story.  Nothing is random and without reason.  My particular story fits me and in that attitude I feel gratitude and I feel blessed. 

Today a friend and elder thanked me for sharing my story with others. 

She said: “I don’t know if you realize how much your personal testimony gives courage, faith and hope to others?  You are important to people.”

I have two adult children and since the age of 23 years old they both chose to journey spiritually through a shamanic path.  In other words, they have joined the “flock” (so to speak).  I’ll admit that at first I was a bit worried about how they would integrate our shamanic community.  I was pleasantly surprised when they took their place like anyone else and accepted to do their work and explore their story with open curiosity and sincerity. 

In one of our Moonlodge circles / workshop my daughter openly admitted: “I do not come from a dysfunctional family.” 

In tears she explained how despite her happy family background she still struggles with attitudes, behaviours, and relationships. 

“I’m not happy” she acknowledged, “and I have to figure my shit out like anyone else. I fear that my story and my life’s challenges won’t be taken seriously because I can’t justify them by referring to a dysfunctional home setting.”   

Through her testimony several people realized that “blaming trauma, our parents and our upbringing” may not be the answer behind “why we are so discontent, lost and knee deep in addictions.”  There comes a point where it’s about truly exploring one’s inner basic nature.  What’s our story and what is it about it that brings us here and now?

When I call my adult children these days I always ask them: “What’s new?” 

The Medicine Wheel has 12 elements: 

  • Clarity, knowledge and illumination (East)
  • Growth, trust and love (South)
  • Experience, introspection and strength (West)
  • Renewal, purification and wisdom (North)

·        Out of the 12 elements we rarely speak of “renewal”.  Actually, clarity, growth, trust, love, experience, strength and wisdom over shadows the remaining elements.  The fact remains that these elements are steps in the journey and if we jump from stone to stone we inevitably explore every piece of the puzzle; which ultimately leads to “renewal.”   

By asking my adult children “what’s new” I ask them “what changed in you and in your life since the last time we spoke.”  I open the door to their stories; but mostly I open the door to the lessons learnt and the “renewal” it brought forth.  I want to know about “who they are becoming.”

‘You’ve changed” we tell them showing them that we’ve been watching, listening and following their journey. 

It’s so important to be each other’s witness.  

I’ve always told my children: “You don’t have to work over time to be included in my World or my story.  I chose to bring you into my / our story when you were born and I make sure every day to let you play your role.” 

It’s the same words that I use with my students as they become part of our growing family / community.  Teaching people how to step into their story and understand the connection it may have to my story and the story of others is what I do in life… I’m good at sharing blessings and I believe we can all learn to become generous with the LIFE we’ve chosen to explore. 

P.S.  At the end of every blog I feel like I could write so much more about so much more….  Leave a comment and you may get me started all over again!