The story of my journey from disbelieving skeptic to mesa-carrying shamanic practitioner.
Ever wonder about Shamanism? Wonder about whether there really was some “magic” that people could do—a psychic hotline to wellness?
Do you have a definition of what’s “real” for yourself and for the rest of the world? Are those definitions, those realities, the same? Or maybe you’re a skeptic. One of those “that’s ridiculous, you’re fooling yourself” kind of people. The “no one’s going to convince me that nonsense is real” stance of non-believers and “practical” folks.
I have been that person. On both sides.
I have been the person who really wanted there to be “something more” and the person who couldn’t stop the internal monologue about the impossibility of anything existing in time and space other than this particular moment. I was a see it-touch it-feel-it kind of person. I began to notice I was missing important personal connections. I had family, friends, colleagues, but a restlessness of the heart, of the soul.
I had done therapy, yoga, religion, science, and mindfulness. Many pieces of the puzzle were there, but no complete picture. And then I stumbled upon shamanism. I did a guided shamanic journey—one of a group of 35 people—and likely the most skeptical. The shaman leading the experience shook her rattle to a rhythmic beat and as my heartbeat slowed, my thoughts ramped up.
Visualization was never my strong point– the critical internal voice too often an intruder. This was no exception. I questioned every image—I bet everyone sees the same thing;I don’t even see anything, etc.—doubted, then questioned again. I wanted to believe, I think. It just didn’t seem possible. It didn’t seem realistic. It couldn’t possibly be real. How could I believe this was truly a message—a link to some kind of universal energy rather than my own random collection of thoughts?
The shaman said, “Look behind you and see what’s there. This is your spirit animal.” In the midst of "This is ridiculous and Ha, I won’t see anything", I had the sensation of being nudged in my back. I “turned” and saw a big cat (which I later googled and recognized as a mountain lion). This defied my logic. I had imagined “seeing” all sorts of things (good and bad), but this hadn’t been on my mental list.
I was barely in the parking lot before I was looking up “shamanic meaning of Mountain Lion.” There are many potential descriptions of the mountain lion (cougar/puma are also words for the same animal), and universally, the message is about strengthening connection to spirit and being willing to step up to leadership, knowing your own truth.
Mountain Lion is a symbol of the connection between body, mind, spirit, and universal energy. This took my definition of real and turned it inside out. I had connected to something that “fit” perfectly and shouldn’t/couldn’t be “real” since it was all in my head. I checked with other people there. No one else had seen a mountain lion. And when I looked up the meaning of animals other people saw, there was no connection to my own struggles or questions. I felt that inner ringing (almost shakiness) that told me this was a BIG moment.
It moved me to maybe.
Maybe there’s something to this. Maybe “real” has a different definition. Maybe I’m afraid. Fear was the biggest surprise. What could I possibly fear from “just my thoughts?”
“The core task of the shamanist is to dream her world into being. Otherwise, she has to settle for the collective nightmare that is being dreamt by others.” — Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D.
It took me several more journeys and two more years to fully engage in the study of shamanism. I couldn’t dismiss it and I couldn’t pursue it (it was just too “different”). I became a yoga teacher, increased my meditation practice, and finally identified what I’d first discovered: I was afraid—afraid of what other’s might think; afraid of what I might discover; afraid it wasn’t really “real.”
Until the night I was flipping through Facebook and saw a local introduction to shamanism seminar for the next day.
I sat up in bed with the same shaky inner trembling and made the commitment. It’s been a journey. Albert Einstein said, “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” I learned about our connection to time past, present, and future. The non-linear approach to reality (we create our own) clicked with the Jungian concept of “collective unconscious.”
Shamanism provided a framework (necessary for the “science-focused” part of my mind) that my heart and soul were able to access. The changes were enormous. The restlessness decreased. I am learning to be softer, more open, and less busy. I have opened new doors and taken risks (this was totally new ground for me!). All of those other pieces have integrated into the whole. And this is just the beginning.
There is truly no knowing how far and how deep you can go until you have started this process. The connection of mind, body, soul, and energy allows for a whole new way of healing and growth. Letting go of old patterns, habits, and beliefs makes room for phenomenal discovery and amazing, unimaginable possibilities. It’s there, it’s real and it’s yours for the asking. Ask.
This article was originally published at Over the Moon Magazine. Reprinted with permission from the author.