I’m so grateful to be living in a time when our most ancient ways of understanding the world are being joined with the most advanced way of perceiving reality. The combination of these is creating a new paradigm for stewarding the Earth and also providing a new template for being a whole human being. This new paradigm has deep parallels to the way of being exceptional tribal shamans also exhibit. Each of the ones with whom I have been fortunate to study constantly expressed their spirituality not only while teaching, healing or leading ceremony but also during the everyday, mundane aspects of their lives.
When I studied with the late, Grandfather Mikhail “Misha” Duvan, he was a ninety four year old man visiting a place a world away from his home in Southeastern Siberia. While his teachings were profound, it is the personal time I spent with him that showed me how congruent his practice was with his life. In the traditions of the Ulchi, the shaman is always gracious with the spirits–attending to their needs and treating them as revered elders. Much in the manner of Native American peoples, the many spirits Grandfather worked with were addressed with titles such as “ Old One,” “Grandmother,”“Uncle,” “Elder Sister” and so forth. The spirits of Nature and the Ulchi ancestral human spirits were all fed good food and offered songs and vodka to nourish them. This was done in the same fashion and with the same energy that one might care for one’s treasured , living family members.
Indeed, a sense of humble and gracious reverence was expressed in all aspects of Grandfather Misha’s life-practice. He bowed when encountering a person and was equally respectful during his interactions with the spirits of place. As he walked along with his staff, he would converse with the plants and stones. Since his home was far from where he was teaching, he would ask the spirits of place to forgive him for not fully understanding their customs. He requested that they be especially gentle with those of us who were his students as we were “still learning.” He fed them food and vodka and, in turn, asked them to share some of their power with him while he was in ceremony.
Through his action, Grandfather Misha was expressing what I call, Reverent Participatory Relationship and this is the way the really powerful shamans I have met always live their lives. Like he, they approach the world feeling a profound respect–expressing consideration and appreciation for all beings. They participate not simply with thoughts, but with coherent actions. Their actions arise from a deep sense of obligation that is in no way burdensome, but rather a form of reciprocity in motion. Shamans understand very deeply that everything in the world is inspirited and that no one can exist without the complex interactions of the others with whom we share the planet. As such, the shaman feels a deep sense of responsibility to give back with gratitude for all that is given. In other words, caring for those with whom he or she is already in relationship.
This way of being has tremendous power to transform and heal. Consulting physician for the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital and renowned medical conference speaker, David Reilly, MD, has proven that an effective therapeutic encounter–that is, one where a healing response has been engendered–is based in such an understanding of relationship. In his April 2005 presentation for the Academic Departments of the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital, Creating Therapeutic Encounter, Dr. Reilly suggests that “traditional and indigenous healing systems including shamanism have spent a long time learning about these things – translating it to our world is the challenge.” In regards to our own bodies’ capacity to heal, Dr. Reilly noted, “We know a human recovery reaction is a built in potential, we have seen that it can be modified for good and bad by human interaction.” I believe that the very same may be said for how our human interactions impact the non-human beings around us, too.
When Reverent Participatory Relationship becomes ingrained enough to be a person’s framework for living, remarkable coherence is exhibited across all aspects of life. The typical separation most people feel between the spiritual and mundane worlds simply does not exist. Indeed, everything is felt to be and treated as sacred and beloved.
Another one of my teachers, the late Ai-Churek, said in a 2007 interview that, “Shamanism is like a gift, and for me…it is for life.” She was someone who worked tirelessly on behalf of her people and the natural world believing that, “…the main thing in shamanism is the Earth, Nature, and my connection….” Her focus when doing rituals was to “help to people who are not indifferent to the fate of trees, the fate of living nature.” The same fierce respect was bestowed upon the people who worked in her shamanic clinic in Kyzyl, Tuva. She lobbied the government to make sure her shamans received appropriate respect and challenged anything she felt was unfair. Thanks to her hard efforts, both men and women healers at her clinic receive government maternity leave. This was a feat she shared delightedly with us! For her, this work was as holy an action as performing an ancestral fire ritual as they stemmed from the same root of sacred interaction and deep caring.
Nepalese shaman, Bhola Banstola, who will be with us again at the end of June, is another great example of someone who practices Reverent Participatory Relationship. He is a twenty seventh generation shaman and the thirtieth generation in his family history to be a practicing shamanic healer. As we are friends, Bhola lives with my partner and I during his visits to Maine. From so close a relationship, we are able to see him in all of life’s of situations. Whether ironing his costume, preparing a meal, doing e-mail or negotiating with airline personnel when a flight was canceled, Bhola consistently maintains his focus to remain kind, grateful and in spiritual harmony no matter what is happening. In other words, he lives his practice.
It is too easy in our culture to allow anything of importance–even our spiritual practice–to become an intellectual or theoretical exercise. In reality, while many people can have high ideals, it is in the living of one’s life that the “rubber meets the road.” That is, it is through expressing one’s spirituality in every day life that true real power is achieved. To be sure, this is a disciplined way of life. It means truly “walking the talk”–that is, following through on spiritual beliefs by taking concrete actions. It means living in gratitude, being completely faithful to our word and keeping our words and deeds in complete alignment. It means eliminating the erroneous ideas of separation from the mind and stepping up to care for the beings around us that give and sustain life. It means treating all of beings as you might a treasured friend or loved one.
It is my profound belief that this is how we all must learn to live our lives. In so doing, we support a renewal of the Earth and ourselves. As an added benefit, we also develop the level of spiritual potency that a truly powerful tribal shaman exhibits. In our spiritual practices, learning the nuts and bolts of metaphysical techniques and methods of transformation are just the very beginning. It is only through deliberate practice of loving the world and being in Reverent Participatory Relationship with all, that our lives transform. Through this way of living our practice, we develop ourselves into beings who are able to provide healing and balance through our daily interactions.
Thankfully, this way of being is slowly gaining more credibility even though it challenges the typical ideas our culture has about power. This is marvelous as unfortunately, too many people in our culture still feel powerless whether they express these uncomfortable feelings or not. From a place of emptiness, they seek to fill themselves with ever “more” in hopes of one day feeling complete, worthy or happy. This addictive behavior keeps them in a constant cycle of temporary highs which are followed by feelings of an almost desperate hollowness. It creates a lifetime of desperately seeking and never really finding peace.
In stark contrast, those that are willing to step into deep relationship with the spirits of nature, other beings and themselves are able to feel that they are a part of the divine. In essence, through behaving as our ancient shamanic ancestors did, we are more able to perceive the nature of reality that quantum physics proposes–that is, that we are always intimately and irrevocably interwoven with everything and everyone.
At no other time in history, have we been offered so many opportunities to truly comprehend and act from this understanding of the world. In diverse corners of our culture from business, to science, to healthcare and education we are seeing a convergence of knowledge that is extraordinary. All paths seem to be coming together to show us the nature of the cosmos is one of connection. Furthermore, these connections are best nurtured and healed through heartfelt interaction.
For instance, a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) by Helen Riess, MD titled, “Empathy in Medicine—A Neurobiological Perspective,”stated that “… new generations of physicians must understand the emotional, physiological, and practical consequences of … empathy.” The author goes on at length to describe the actual, positive neurobiological, psychological and physical changes that occur when we choose to be in an empathetic relationship. In other words, when we realize that we are actually part of one organism–sharing the same experience, we are able to transform every moment into opportunities for healing, renewal and an even deeper connection.
This premise has become the foundation for my and my partners life. It is at the heart of our healing practice as it is our belief that our being in Reverent Participatory Relationship with our clients supports them to become healthier individuals. We follow this ideal in our teaching practice as we believe that it is the only road to becoming a truly powerful shaman. We believe this so strongly that our shamanic graduate level training as it is especially focused on immersing advanced students even more deeply into relationship with All That Is through the deliberate, heartfelt practice of Reverent Participatory Relationship, expressing one’s own inherent sanctity and being consistently grateful.
It is also why we continue to host Bhola Banstola’s work in Maine. He is not only a wonderful teacher, he models a spiritually integrated way of life which infuses all of his interactions. In his presence, his students are reminded again that as each of us takes steps to embrace the world with reverence, allowing our hearts to be open, grateful and loving–we are reshaping our human existence into something truly and wondrously powerful.
© 2011 Evelyn C. Rysdyk http://www.spiritpassages.com
Spirit Passages’ Fifth Graduate Program in Advanced Shamanism and Dreamscaping the New Earth begins September 29- October 2, 2011 and applications are being accepted now. The program is open to those that have graduated a thorough shamanic training such as the Spirit Passages Apprenticeship, FSS 3-year Program, Sandra Ingerman’s Teacher Training or comparable training. More information may be found at: http://www.spiritpassages.com/initiatorytrainingprograms.html
Nepalese shaman, Bhola Banstola will be teaching in Falmouth, Maine on June 25 & 26. There are also opportunities to have a private healing session with Bhola still available. Contact Spirit Passages: email@example.com or call: 207- 846-6829