Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sacred Convergence

Much has been written about the juncture where psychology and shamanism converge. Both are instances of the same primordial image or instinctual pattern known the world over. Both shamanism and psychology acknowledge the importance of the sacred in healing processes. Both recognize how the sacred is manifest in wild nature and areas where modern humans have fallen out of consistent connection with wholeness. Both observe how loss of contact with the sacred results in loss of soul, and understand that recovery requires initiation and successful integration of direct experience.

Shamanism defines health as being in balance with the sacred, and lack of health as violation of the will of the sacred. Psychology characterizes the sacred as an experience of something that evokes rapture, awe, exaltation or ecstasy; something that is even dreadful in its intensity and power. As opposed to the profane or ordinary, the sacred is often perceived in modern culture as something alien or other; while indigenous and earth-based cultures make no distinction between the sacred and the profane. In urban life, at least, the sacred is not something we experience in our busy everyday routines; unless we somehow slow ourselves to witness a sunset or feel into a sudden sense of longing or love.

Only then, in the spaciousness of attention, are we aware we have generally tuned out the sense of something powerful and unknown. Something sacred often invokes a feeling of mystery beyond the power of words to describe. The term numinous is a connotation for the sacred, describing it as something which provides an experience or alteration of consciousness independent of human will; arousing, affecting, bedazzling or blinding one to other realities. Both sacred and numinous are words connected to the idea of soul; the creative, sacred life force that imbues all things with energy and meaning.

The soul is not just an element, region or dimension; but rather a perspective of deepening, noticing, penetrating and insight. The soul can extended beyond humanity to the world at large, to forms and objects around us, whether natural or man-made. Each thing has a spark of soul at its core. Psychology is deeply tied to soul; so much that we can refer to psychologists as doctors of the soul. Similarly, the province of the shaman [as technician of the sacred] is disorders of the soul. We can call shamans masters of ecstasy, they are great specialists in the human soul; they see it, know its form and its destiny.

Modern culture has repressed the contents of the unconscious and summarily forgotten it entirely; disregarding the magic and mystery there. Conversely, shamans rely on the power that issues from the sacred to conduct their healing activities. Yet, the enormity of the split between urban lifestyles and the vast depth of the psyche looms over modern humans. Modern humans do not understand yet that, the discovery of the unconscious means an enormous spiritual task; which must be accomplished if they wish to preserve their civilization. The only way to address the deep loss of connection to soul, they experience as a species, is to reestablish their connection to the sacred.

In the physical or material world, the sacred manifests through wild nature as an infinite source of life and creativity; waxing and waning in eternal cycles of death and rebirth. Shamans read nature, regarding and interpreting the elements and events that communicate through soul at all times and places. Modern humans’ increasing analytic thinking and desire for progress through the manipulation of the natural world is devastating to their well-being. Their lives are dominated by reason, who is their greatest and most tragic illusion. By the aid of reason, they assure themselves, they have conquered nature.

As humans, of all cultures, our connection to nature is ancient and undeniable. At the most profound levels of the unconscious, everything becomes less and less differentiated until our ego no longer exists as a separate entity. The deeper layers of the psyche lose their individual uniqueness as they retreat farther and farther into the darkness. Here they become increasingly collective until they are universalized, merging with the body’s instinctual and biological functions; and eventually with nature itself. Hence, at bottom the psyche is simply world.

Since psyche and matter are contained in one and the same world, and moreover are in continuous contact with one another and ultimately rest on unnameable transcendental factors, psyche and matter are two different aspects of one and the same thing. Whatever the external landscape, the internal psychic landscape mirrors it; inhabits it, gives birth to it but also dies into it. The degree to which we are able to perceive the sacredness of what is manifesting around us in nature is the degree to which we are able to believe in the divine aspect of what we commonly know as our own human nature.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Medicine Future

It is a sad truth that despite the medicine’s great potential to steer humanity and the benefits it has granted many people in the past (not to mention its straight-up and barely-believable magic), this art and science is fading fast in its traditional context. Simultaneously we see that it is passing to the West, in a new form of syncretic medicine use that is developing among interested people the world over.

It seems as though as one door starts to close, another opens, and one could reckon that the medicine is moving to where it needs to go, striving to offer people the ultimately satisfying challenge of awakening and becoming a conscious human being.

Despite all this, while the traditional modes of transmission crumble, hope for the future of the medicine tradition comes, ironically, from outside the rainforest; from elements within the very cultures that seem bent on destroying it all. Globally, as more and more people seek reconnection with original nature and their true identity, they are participating in medicine healing ceremonies and/or seeking health through the use of various botanicals from the Amazon rainforest.

The ability of indigenous science and traditional Amazonian medicines to assist people in attaining insight, balance and wellness has been proven on countless occasions. Due to the effectiveness of this medicine, it is inevitable that we will see it gain in popularity, and this will - in ways beyond imagining, as medicine assists people in their personal journeys - help salvage both the medicine traditions and the rainforest environment itself.

In a world governed by corporations and driven by profit margins, even the knowledge of top scientists is not respected, let alone that of feathered masters. Nevertheless there will come a time when indigenous science and modern scientific methods will merge their strengths to help steer humanity back on course. The spirits, deities and immortals revealed through the drinking of medicine want this more than anything else.

Meanwhile this knowledge will continue to help people and communities as it expands beyond the jungle, and I want to believe that nothing can stop it. It is evolution at work, the constructive cycle of the universal energetic flow manifesting itself, gaining momentum and daily getting stronger. More and more sincere Westerners are studying with maestros or joining a type of church that honors this medicine, and more and more books are being written on it.

So despite the loss of much of the original body of knowledge, peripheral forms are being passed along. From these seeds, there can exist a future when the vines again flower, and these arts and ways are respected and able to flourish anew in the rainforest and the world over.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Sun Canoe

The Sun Canoe cruises far from planet Earth; on its deck ride celestial immortals of a peculiar and unique nature. This cosmic boat is said never to come between the Earth and the sun; it always stays far from the Earth on the opposite side of the sun. In the old days this boat could be seen in visions when the people underwent deep-level ceremonies, after months of Dieta in the wilderness. The apprentice was brought to the Sun Canoe by the master shaman in order to be cleansed thoroughly of all traces of contamination that, could potentially lead to the abuse of power.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Icaro Rainbows

In the presence of plant medicine, icaros - the devotional songs of the Amazon - are very powerful vibrations; great rainbow arcs of energy, which are inserted deep into one’s being. The goal is to open one’s eyes to the magic of this world; to know gratefulness and find kinship.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Anyone Who Dreams Partakes In Shamanism

Dreamers tend to interpret their dreams in accord with their own pre-existing beliefs or personal mythology. When meaning is attributed to dreams, an interpretation is made through the lens of one’s religious beliefs, secular desires and world views. A dream about falling from the sky can be interpreted as succumbing to sexual desire, failing in a business venture; or, more obviously, as a warning not to book an airplane ticket.

There is evidence that dreams may make a greater impact on behavior than waking thoughts because of their dramatic nature and their openness to a motivated interpretation. Over the years, we may notice how our own dreams often reflect doctrinal compliance, an eagerness to dream in imagery that conforms to our personal myths.

The dream world is an essential element of traditional life, because dreams allow First Nation Peoples to maintain contact with their ancestors. When Amazonian elders dream about the immortals, they share the dream with the entire village; which begins preparing a reenactment of the dream with the elders playing the roles of the ancestors. These dream ceremonies help to align the present with the past, providing cultural continuity. On other occasions, tribal members will sing and dance each other’s dreams thus developing a sense of trust among tribal members.

Upper-Amazonian tribes believe that they can travel to the heavens in their dreams, as well as to the underground world; with cosmos enclosed in the abdomen of a giant anaconda. The tribes in the southeast part of Brazil also have a venerable dream tradition. The tribal legends hold that in primordial times native people divided themselves into three groups, the People of the Sun, the People of the Moon and the People of Dreams.

Some communities hold dream circles, or morning dream-sharing sessions. Often, a dream is shared that begins to give direction to the daily life of the village and it is not necessarily the dream of a Pajé or shaman. Indeed, even a child can have a dream that indicates a new direction for a community.

Dreams are important because they are moments when humans are stripped of rational thought. Dreamers are in a spiritual state where the integral being can emerge, connecting them with a deeper reality. For example, some people can direct their dreams to someone who is several hundred miles distant; others can foretell both positive and negative events that will affect their community.

Dreams from the unconscious reflect memories of life experiences, especially those making the most profound impressions. Elements from past experiences can become symbols. Sometimes only the emotions associated with the event are recalled: happiness, embarrassment, wishes, aspiration, deception, pain. During this type of dream, pieces of memories may occur in random order, without logic. The dream entwines them all, turning them into a story.

Precognitive dreams have been reported for millennia. Just as telepathy and clairvoyance supposedly demonstrate the permeable nature of space, precognition is said to demonstrate the arbitrary nature of time. In some dreams, the dreamer claims to step through a door into the future. It is not uncommon for people to report precognitive dreams that issue warnings, describing a place they should not travel or a person they should avoid. Other dreams are said to predict positive events.

It is apparent that the Amazonian dream legacy is a complete model of dreaming and dreamworking, even when described in Western terms. However, unlike Westerners, the Amazonian tribes integrate their dreams into every major facet of their waking life. For them, there is no rigid division between dream life and waking life. The Pajé, or shaman, is the focal dreamworker; but it is acknowledged that everyone who dreams has a bit of shaman within them.

The shaman represents the attentiveness, and the introspection, needed to reconcile alienated men and women with what they have lost through family and social prohibitions. The inner shaman, that we all have, shows us that by relating receptively to our wounds, they will begin to heal. There is a sense of relief to our psychological defenses that accompanies the penetration of the wound. This is especially evident when we try to disown our shadow, or our wounded self. Our dreams will often prod us into embarking on a more rewarding relationship that we need to have with ourselves.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Messengers of Truth

The history of Western culture in the last two thousand years could be seen as the 'Empire of the Mind' conquering the exterior world and extinguishing the interior one, with the result that we have atrophied our spiritual connection. – Rak Razam

The world is deeply out of balance in these pre-apocalyptic times, and a serious correction, long overdue, is underway. The benevolent forces of the earth are reaching out into our culture and touching the consciousness of many people, invoking within them the necessity and the courage to transform and evolve beyond the self-destructive narratives that govern human life today. 

The problems we face run deep, yet the consciousness of human kind seems firmly centered at base level. For many there seems to be little promise that a significant enough transformation can occur in time to avoid ecocide, which is suicide, because along with the industrial revolution we’ve reconfigured our knowledge base to exclude sustainable co-existence with the natural world.

So, then, what is available to us, as creatures of this earth, to remedy these crises? What catalysts, if any, are strong enough to cause the needed infectious tidal wave of personal and communal transformation? One strong enough to cause people to re-think their patterned lives and to restructure them? What in our world can help us to break through the fear of letting go of what we have now, in order to risk discovering what else may be possible?

Enter ancient wisdom. Ayahuasca and Iboga... kindred medicine spirits that are pushing themselves into the collective consciousness of the modern world. Their ancient secrets have been guarded for thousands of years by the indigenous tribes that have since time immemorial structured their cultures and cosmologies around the wisdom gleaned from communing with these plant teachers. Yet for some important reason there is widespread and growing interest in these sacraments as a means to alleviate the cultural malaises that so many in the ‘advanced’ world suffer from.

Used in shamanic and bona fide religious practices, Ayahuasca, native to South America, is a hallucinogenic brew concocted of the ‘vine of the souls,’ banisteriopsis caapi, and other DMT containing plants such as chacruna, or psychotria viridis. Iboga, native to the rainforest of Gabon, Africa, is an entheogenic root bark of the tree, tabernanthe iboga and an ancient sacrament of the Bwiti, a spiritual discipline whose African members number in the millions.

Both of these plant medicines are taken ceremonially as medicinal rites to facilitate physical and psychological healing, to teach virtuous living, to develop spirituality, to strengthen family and communal ties, and to deepen one’s connection to the natural world. They are the center pieces of shamanic traditions that have for ages been full-spectrum healing arts that address the total human needs of individuals and communities alike, while addressing imbalances between humans and nature. They bring a human-being into direct contact with the unseen spirit realms of the earth and the cosmos, allowing one to de-intellectualize the mystical nature of life and consciousness.

Unsurprisingly, both of these shamanic medicines are swiftly working their way into the consciousness of the modern, ‘civilized’ world. Transformation is the key to navigating these insane times, and these medicines strike at the root of global transformation, the individual. It takes tremendous courage to ‘step into the fire’ with these medicines, but for those who do, it feels distinctly like a calling or destiny, and very little like a desire or ambition.

Initiates are called to muster absolute courage and humility, and are returned renewed and cleansed with heightened energy and abundant inspiration. Often gaining clear signals about choosing and navigating life’s paths, initiates receive visionary insight into the value of life and the connection to the natural world. The message is similar for many: Wake up, let go of the past, balance the ego, refine yourself, refine your personal energy; and move your life in the direction of service, with gratitude for each breath that you take.

Fear is understood and overcome, and the infinite nature of human consciousness is revealed. Emotional healing happens instantly, and self-judgements and criticisms are re-apportioned into task lists for personal development. Impulsivity and addiction are understood as destructive forces that require domestication, and the impetus to do so is received abundantly. One reassess their connection to nature and sees, senses and directly feels the sentience in all things, thereby tempering their sense of seniority in the cosmic web of life. A new life path unfolds, deep, enduring questions are answered, and forgiveness is granted. A life purpose lost is re-discovered and the seeker becomes new, refreshed, and reborn into a new perspective that lasts a lifetime.

These plant teachers are one of nature’s greatest tools for communicating with human beings. Iboga is the tree of knowledge. Ayahuasca is the vine of souls. Together they comprise an entirely complete, organic language and are reaching out into the world seeking warriors of truth to translate and seed the message of the Earth, who is unmistakably our Mother. They are calling us, speaking directly to us in spiritual form, asking for our involvement in this life or death struggle to return to equity, respect and balance to our relationship with the natural world.

They are messengers of truth from the earth...are you listening?