In a tribal society, the shaman’s role is to act as a facilitator between the human realm and that of the other spirits that inhabit the environment. Through interaction with these spirits, shamans understand that the intrinsic interdependencies among them all sustain life. In addition, shamans know that we are so interconnected that we are in a constant dance of mutual impact upon one another. Since shamanism is a historical and global phenomenon, this worldview is a part of our collective human history.
The many spirit beings are also potential sources of power for the shaman. This is essential, as a shaman’s ability to heal is based upon the power-filled relationships forged with the spirits. Since their shamanic abilities are dependent upon these affiliations, shamans understand the fundamental necessity for keeping these alliances healthy and strong. An attitude of harmonious give-and-take becomes the guiding principle in exchanges within those associations. The Quechua-speaking pacos or shaman-healers of the high Andes refer to this idea of mutual, respectful interaction — which must be lovingly attended to–as ayni, which is translated as “sacred reciprocity.” By referring to this mutually beneficial interchange as sacred, they underline a kind of holiness to being in right relationship. In other words, when we interact in this manner, we are somehow more in alignment with the fundamental framework of existence.
When people choose to step back into this more ancient way of being in the world, the relationships they forge with the natural world can provide comfort, a sense of peace, a feeling of oneness, and strength that can be attained no other way. In effect, they develop a sense of “being home” wherever they are on the planet. This reconnection with the spirits of the Earth also provides them with supportive energy. It is the kind of energy that can help any of us to move through life with more joy, clarity and purpose.
Just like members of a hunter-gatherer society, we are surrounded with other beings with which we need to communicate in order to create a mutually beneficial situation. The spirits, too, need to be in relationship with people. Compassionate, healing spirits are committed to providing their guidance and support toward creating a healthy and balanced world. However, in spite of their great wisdom and “big picture” perspective, they are unable to physically impact this Earthly reality because they are not themselves physical beings. When we enter into partnerships with these compassionate spirits, we contribute our own physicality and as their intermediaries, become true co-creators. It is this blending of powers—the nonphysical power of the spirits and physical powers of the shamans’ heartfelt interactions with them—that has the greatest potential for manifesting true miracles.
So how do we reenter the way of being that allows us to work with the spirits who surround us? The answer is learning how to be in reverent participatory relationship with all beings. The word reverent implies feeling and expressing a profound respect or veneration as well as a willingness to show consideration or appreciation. Participatory means that we take an active part in the relationship.
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 relationship. Dr. Reilly suggests that “traditional and indigenous healing systems including shamanism have spent a long time learning about these thingstranslating it to our world is the challenge.” In regard to our own bodies’ capacity to heal, Dr. Reilly notes, “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.” Dr. Reilly teaches that being considerate and respectful—and really listening to the patient—can in fact become a primary healing modality. In his presentations, he offers case histories with videos of patient encounters, which consistently prove the efficacy of his method. Simply by listening deeply and respectfully to a patient and asking compassionate questions about what he has heard, he has been able to resolve many of the hospital’s most challenging patient cases.
I believe we are all hardwired for this level of interaction. If it were not so, it would not have such a powerful effect upon our bodies, minds and spirits.
Maintaining a reverent attitude in all interactions is, in and of itself, a challenge when we consider the society in which we currently live. With the exclusion of those who follow a more holistic worldview, we as a society do not generally respect one another’s opinions and perspectives. Nor do we see our fundamental interdependencies with nature and with each other upon which we depend for our survival. Furthermore, our societal perspectives on relationship are skewed by unhealthy ways of relating such as power abuse or codependency. As a result, a supportive framework needs to be put in place to both facilitate and encourage interactions that are focused toward reverence and participation. It is clear to me that if we want to reshape our current human culture into one that’s more ecologically sound we can start by making reverent participatory relationship our guiding principle.
© 2013 Evelyn C. Rysdyk
Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Spirit Walking a Course in Shamanic Power, Modern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, and contributor to Spirited Medicine: Shamanism in Contemporary Healthcare; Evelyn C. Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is. Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives. Her web site is http://www.evelynrysdyk.com.