This is a conversation that took place in a shamanic teachers’ group online. It started as a dialogue about the possibility of blending shamanism with other spiritual practices. It could have gone in a hundred different directions, but this is where it went:
Tracey: What I am wondering … how have people felt about their shamanic path? I am very called to this particular path – especially the newest avenue as it melds beautifully and supports a life path – but shamanism isn’t my foundational spiritual path. I am slightly conflicted about the purity of this path … do I have to keep it to itself or can I blend my other spiritual paths with it? Given the core fundamentals of shamanism, I feel that shamanism is specific. What do you think happens if we start to incorporate other paths with something as specific as this?
Me: The shamanic traditions of Latin America (Heart and Feather Serpent Islands) have been blended for millennia. When Catholicism was imposed on the people, they incorporated it into their shamanic practices, to save their lives, and out of that grew a genuine sort of folk Catholicism. Many still invoke Jesus and saints as part of their practice and many go to church. I sing in a Congregational church choir and feel connected to Yeshua (Jesus) very intimately and directly, though I would not pass as a mainline Christian. I am Buddhist, more than Christian, and my shamanic lineages are mostly in Peru and Mexico. I didn’t cherry-pick from Buddhism or Shamanism. I immersed myself wholeheartedly and apprenticed with genuine masters. As I grew in my own path, a special lineage emerged through me that is fed by all that I have studied. However, when I teach shamanism, I stay close to the lineage teachings; same with Tibetan Buddhism. I have found, personally, that they are very complementary; that they provide antidotes to extremes that can be found in each tradition. Buddhist teachings on selflessness temper the eternalism that one can find in shamanism. The animistic view of the world in shamanism tempers the disconnect from Earth sometimes found in Tibetan Buddhism, etc. It’s good to be inquisitive. Doubt is good; so is devotion. Paradoxes are the closest to Truth. Walking the middle road is good.
Tasara: What do you mean by eternalism?
Me: The two extremes regarding phenomena are eternalism and nihilism. We say there is no permanent self to anything, so one could think, “well, that’s nihilism.” Yet a self appears. When we mistake it for having a separate, solid, permanent, singular existence apart from interdependence; apart from infinite causes and conditions, that’s eternalism.
In shamanism, we can learn to transmute energies and experience that lack of eternalism directly, but often, I think people can fall into a mindset of being a soul that really has permanent attributes, or of thinking that we have to get rid of certain things and attract other things instead of working with them as fluid.
David: Extraction and soul retrieval is so often the experience in shamanic healing. This can contribute to the rigidity of thinking you’re mentioning perhaps. I came across a book titled ‘Feeding Your Demons’, an ancient Tibetan healing technique, a shamanic technique. Very different approach. Working with trauma as fluid rather than something we need to extract and expel, befriending and transforming the energy from something destructive to something nurturing and affirming. Helped me to broaden my thinking.
Me: Yes! Chöd practice. It’s very powerful.