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Learning about Oneself

Learning about Oneself:
The Practitioner's Surprising Discovery



I recall an exchange I had with a practitioner who to his utter surprise, stumbled on one of the initial discoveries of shamanic practitioners, that being that their initial shamanic experiences are inevitably ones that illuminate themselves, that is, that they are composed utterly of self-discovery. Not that this is always fun, but it seems that those relatively new to learning shamanism and shamanic practice, have nearly universally expressed, as they begin heading into the practitioner world, that the first order of business is about themselves!

Shamanism is not for the weak of heart, faint of spirit, or otherwise psychologically vulnerable. The shamanic world puts directly in one’s face their issues, vulnerabilities, and anything else that can serve as a catalyst to their growth and development. People often create a mistaken image of the ‘wild and crazy’ shaman who obviously must be psychologically impaired... far from it. Shamans have needed to be some of the most psychologically resilient people on the planet.

This is not to say that shamanic practice is psychotherapeutic in the broader contemporary use of the term. I mean, you don’t have a spirit helper sitting in a chair close by, listening to you recount something or another, and then saying “Hmm, interesting, how did that make you feel?” Well, that is usually one doesn’t get this kind of spirit interaction. More often, they cut right to the point. No being Mr. Nice Guy.

However, working with spirit help is, even though practitioners have been legally reluctant for fear of being cited for ‘practicing without a license’ to call it like it is, which is: that it can be extraordinarily therapeutic. Practitioners consistently report through shamanic practice how much they are learning, discovering, exploring and realizing about themselves and their world.

I never recommend shamanic practice to someone who truly needs contemporary psychotherapy. Shamans need to be extraordinarily emotionally and mentally strong individuals. They have to be: they see too much, and must experience so much more. Shamanic discovery is just too opening, too confronting and too much for someone with a delicate or vulnerable psyche to handle.

However, there is no way around the fact that the grounding, orienting, insightful and self-realizing dimensions of shamanic practice are astounding. However, self-reflection... a phenomenon that shows up so quickly in a practitioner’s experience, actually makes all the sense in the world. This is because a capable practitioner must first face and clear up that which stands in their way.

Practitioner: "I have experienced an array of thoughts and feelings since I started calling on the spirits for their help in guiding me on my journey of becoming a shamanic practitioner. What I initially expected to feel was excitement and anticipation for starting on this new path in my life."

“While I do feel all these emotions of joy, it has not been my primary thought or feeling. Instead, what I find interesting is that I have become very reflective on myself.I have been looking inward, seeing improvements that I need to make on a personal level.  It has been a very humbling experience for me.”

“As for my spirit helpers, I feel a sense of pride coming from them (probably because it took me long enough to listen and actively start working on becoming a shamanic practitioner! ) But, I also feel a sense of sternness and seriousness from them. I know they are closely watching me and I know this will be a challenging adventure."

 
This is so true! It is what seems to impact so many new practitioners quite strongly, is that their shamanic study has turned into a surprising turn to self-reappraisal. Actually, this is a good thing, and precisely what one should be expected to run into early in their shamanic studies.

However, not everyone responds the same to this. Different people react to this initial turn towards self-reflection differently. Some take sudden solo trips into the wilderness; others to meandering more slowly on their way home from work. People start looking at such commonplace things as birds and start considering what the birds are saying to them, or start thinking about such things as what is important to them in life and how all that they are learning fits together.

As one steps into shamanic practice, there is really a sense of being asked to ‘step up to the plate’, and the distance (if there is one) between the who we are being in the world, and the who we are inside as our true self, that is, capable of being, becomes strikingly, sometimes awkwardly, apparent. Our true self that we are capable of being, is brought into much more detailed and sharper contrast against how we have been in the world. Surprising, perhaps yes, and often makes us catch our breath. But this is a good thing, as it points us into little shifts towards wholeness and empowerment, little shifts that will gradually build into big ones.

And yes, big shifts are possible: but don’t even hope for them. Big shifts can rock your entire world. It is best to take it slow.
 
Moreover, practitioners can sense they are being observed and checked out by the spirit world. Forget that. Overlook it. Do all of this work strictly for yourself. You are not here to impress anyone, least of all, the spirit world. Yes, the spirits want us to be powerful and whole, but as someone who will eventually be teaming with them, they want us powerfully on our own feet and stepping into our true self from our own reflection and decision.

If you choose this path, just be prepared. Shamanic practice is nothing like learning something in some university class somewhere: you will be confronting your own self. But no matter, if you are up for it, just step up to the plate

It’s simply about becoming in life who, in your heart of hearts, you really are. That’s all!