When G and I started teaching the Medicine Wheel and Indigenous Dreaming 15+ years ago, we used to tell our students to “leave their Western thinking at the door.” We had understood through our personal experience and initiations that it was difficult to receive the most out of these old traditions if we approached them with our Western programs and expectations. Noted: Everyone filters what they learn and what they heal through their cultural, religious and social indoctrination.
Yet, leaving what “we know” at the door isn’t as easy as it may sound. Most of us don’t even realize that programs often dictate our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. If we don’t see it in action, we believe we are free thinkers. It was the practice of soul retrieval that got me to understand that it would probably be more beneficial to ask our students to walk in with all of what they are; but with the intent to become aware of their programs. Through exploring the notion of “personal Medicine Wheels” we were able to acknowledge that wounds, trauma, reactions as well as healing are interwoven with the notion of indoctrination. You can’t separate Shamanism from Western living: One evolved from the other.
25+ years ago, when I chose to walk a shamanistic path, I was fresh out of University and felt like I didn’t quite fit in the Western World. I wasn’t a scientist, an environmental engineer or even a schoolteacher like many of my friends. I didn’t feel called as a member of the youth of the ‘80’s (the future politicians and entrepreneurs etc…) to predict the future and attempt to change it. I was more interested in finding a space to explore all of me, not just what my parents and society approved of. I felt like there was more to the World than what we perceived it to be through programs, expectations and youthful immaturity. I wanted experience and growth.
I wanted to step out of boxes: Mine, and those imposed on me.
When you begin to explore ancestral stories (what people call past lives), you learn that many of us have collected lifetimes of programs and expectations. They could be our own (belief of reincarnation) or they could be burdens of sorts handed down to us by our ancestors. DNA also shows us that we are connected to the human specie and that it is hence, possible to be in tune with the stories of others past, present and future through biology.
In fact on a daily basis we trigger countless memories and find ourselves reliving emotions, thoughts, fears and anxiety that could be judged as irrelevant to the Western person that we have come to believe “we are.” Yet, in Shamanism, nothing is irrelevant. The notion of “soul retrieval” explores the concept of wholeness by bringing to consciousness every little detail; which creates our personal story, and finding a way to integrate them so that closure and resolution can be reached.
Shamanism made sense to me because it considered nature (my natural, cosmic and human environment) and the stars. Where the Church often talked about “Heaven and Earth;” Shamanism empirically considered them as daily influences in human life. Whether you are at work, at home with the kids, or on a date with your boyfriend or girlfriend there’s always natural and cosmological influences at play. It is impossible for anyone (knowledgeable or not of Shamanism) to separate Shamanism from their daily living.
In the last decade of teaching Shamanism, the Medicine Wheel and Indigenous Dreaming I’ve noticed more resistance and intolerance to these ancient traditions than ever before. I have some theories…. Returning to Shamanism in many cases implies having to face the denial and resistance from many of the characters we’ve accumulated to our story (our mates, our family members, friends etc…) through time. It means doing the work and retrieving those parts of us that have been lost. It also means facing programs and changing them. In most cases, it seems simpler to continue living life as Westerners than to incorporate Shamanism to it.
For me it was clear from the start, I wanted to step away from inconsistencies and Shamanism offered me the opportunity to do so. What was also important to me was the notion of “walking my talk”. It seemed I spent too much time suffocating under the idea of having to fit and having to please others. I felt like I was loosing my way just by following … Shamanism gave me access to the Medicine Wheel; which in turn allowed me to adopt functional, sacred and healthy attitudes and behaviours. I found that these attitudes brought clarity, consciousness and wisdom to my life.
I consider myself more “shamanistic” than “western” these days because Shamanism permeates all of what I am and do. Yet, I still have to be in Western circles and cross the path of Westerners who have no idea of my shamanistic ways. I don’t find that it demands a shift from me. I am who I am in all circles.
To those who find that they can’t bring Shamanism and their Western reality together, I would suggest that they revisit the topic…. In most cases it’s about indoctrination and how it serve you…. Or not!