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First Challenge: Oneself

Our First Shamanic Practitioner Challenge:

As we head down our shamanic path, whether as a new practitioner or as one who has long experienced the realms of nonordinary reality, we are apt to encounter many things that would absolutely not be our first choice of encounters. Oh sure, we chose to practice shamanism, but once that decision was made, then the spirit world opens up all sorts of lessons...

I guess it would be like going to a therapist, where suddenly, he or she looks up and asks you a question, and you stop dead in your tracks, thinking, “Hey, I wanted to work on my stuff, but I didn’t think we were going to go into that stuff!” 

Working in shamanism demands balance and poise in a nonordinary reality that is anything but solid. This also means standing fully in our power, in other words, bringing our full, true self forward. Only in this way can we serve in the manner of a shaman. Sometimes referred to as the one who ‘sees in the dark’, the shaman is one who is willing to go where most people refuse, or can’t. He or she gets there by learning skills and perhaps a vocatio that is anything but comfortable. To the contrary, shamanism is everything ‘outside the box’ of our consensual reality: the reality recognized my most of our neighbors, friends or family in the contemporary world.

And getting there - following this path - demands releasing that which no longer serves us and opening up to our whole potential. This is no small matter: this means opening up to our courage, strength, flexibility, adaptability… the list goes on and on as to what needs to be nurtured and required of a skilled practitioner.

Here is an account of a practitioner, she could be any practitioner, who is heading down her shamanic path. She has kindly shared her innermost feelings and personal story with us, and has let us share this. As a little bit of a backstory, she has learned and has since been engaging in a cleansing ritual for a number of days, which is all a part of the preparation for letting go, and opening to what can come.

She writes,

“My cleansing experience for the past week has been very good. It has given me strength, with the assistance of my spirit guides and animal guides, to take the power to end a relationship that was not healthy for me. I know that I feel sad inside, but I feel good to release an old friend who detoured the friendship route and decided to get intimate with me... I found out a lot of truth taking this journey for a while but the cleansing route over the past two weeks and calling in my spirit guides has assisted me in taking my own power to withdraw my friendship currently. I will not get into this story but I have succeeded. I have made an agreement with the Universe that I will not accept this man back in my life unless he has changed and released all the darkness that is in him and around him.  I also saw myself and the weaknesses that I have with love and trust. Need to work on this immensely.”

What a significant amount of work coming out so readily! My immediate recommendation is for her to absolutely keep up with her cleansing. She will continue to find that such cleansing will help her release more and more as she then has room to connect more and more, not only with herself – her true self – but with the world around her. This is wonderful, a great, beginning.

Continuing down her path over the months and years ahead, she will more than likely relocate pieces of herself that may have been lost along the way, as she will also find her power returning. It is sort of like gathering one’s backpack together before heading down the rest of a mountain trail, only the backpack contains a regathering of the rest of who we are. This reconnection with one's own wholeness is the first challenge when approaching shamanic practice.

This 'regathering' will happen naturally, because so much of what ends up happening to practitioners, whether they are a long-practiced or brand new to it, is personal growth. There is really no avoiding it… not that we truly would want to, but growth can be challenging. Our spirit helpers have the nerve wracking audacity to put our ‘stuff’ right in front of us, in plain sight.

Sometimes, I know they find pleasure in this. I am pleased because this is happening so soon in this woman's work. For such unfolding to appear so quickly says an enormous amount about her readiness for practitioner training. Such immediate information would not show up so readily if she were less so.

However, her path ahead isn't necessarily going to be smooth. She, just as the rest of us, might find subtle (or not-so-subtle!) prompts from inside herself to do something – perhaps anything – to avoid such growth challenges, since swerving away from pain is only human. In this respect, shamanic practice is sort of like learning to meditate: at the first stages of sitting on a meditation pillow, there are all kinds of thoughts and feelings about doing something other than meditating, again, perhaps anything, such as going for a hamburger or itching that spot on our back. The meditation path through all of this distraction is to simply return to the meditation, and just sit… again, and again, catching our thoughts of hamburgers and itches, observing them, and then letting them go as we return to our meditation.

Each of us can expect to feel vulnerable when we start listening to the voice of our true self... And, just as this practitioner, we all must face two immediate challenges when we travel down the shamanic path. First, we must deal with, and begin to transition back into, the return of our power and true selfhood, as we simultaneously must release that which has been lessening our power and distancing ourselves from our true essence.

But that is just part of it, for we must regain, or maybe even discover for the first time in our life, the balance and poise of a shaman, for it is then and only then, that we can skillfully navigate the wild oceans of nonordinary reality.