Posts Tagged ‘reverent participatory relationship’

Creating meaning in conscious connection

July 24, 2016


It is a scientific truth that we are inexorably connected to the entirety of life on Earth. For instance, every human alive today is a descendant of one particular woman who lived in Africa about 200,000 years ago. She wasn’t the only woman living at that time, but only her line continued. We know this because the mitochondrial DNA in our cells has its origin with her.
On a broader scale, we are related to every creature with a backbone. We are related to creatures as diverse as snakes, fish, elephants and polar bears. If we stretch further back in time, we share a common ancestor with sea urchins and starfish. Inside of our bodies, our own cells are outnumbered by a myriad of other beings. Bacteria, viruses, yeasts and naturally occurring microscopic parasites are a part of our internal ecosystem. And the mitochondrial DNA we inherited from our many times great-grandmother is housed in an organelle that was originally a bacteria living 3.5 billion years ago in the primordial sea.
Despite all this remarkable connectivity, our senses continually spin the illusion that we are separate and alone in the universe. Living with that misperception, we have done great harm to each other, other species and to the planet as a whole.
It is only when we expand our awareness that we can perceive how well we are held in the embrace of life. In shamanic journeys, visions and entheogenic voyages we can see hear and feel the threads that weave everything together. These experiences change our perceptions of our place in the Cosmos. Yet, even this extraordinary shift of perception only provides us with knowledge. Creating meaning comes from transforming knowledge into wisdom.
For me, meaning evolves from taking my understanding of connectedness and choosing to allow it influence how I move through my daily existence. When I choose to make my connections more conscious and more thoughtful, I have visceral experiences of the way all beings are connected and I recognize that how I am in the world affects the whole. This provides me with a rich overlay for my everyday interactions with people, animals, the birds at my feeder and the trees that shade my walk. With this richness comes the awareness that our connections are actually relationships that can be fostered through being evermore aware and respectful.
When we choose to be in reverent participatory relationship, we not only benefit the beings around us but also contribute to our own wellbeing. Human beings are wired for connection. We are social primates who are nurtured and sustained through relationship. Interconnection is as important to our mental and emotional health as water and food are to our body. When we treat our relationships with others as nourishment, we can more easily recognize the preciousness of them. We cannot survive without the air the trees create or the waters that flow from rain. In the same fashion, we cannot live well without the laughter of a friend or the touch of a loved one. All of the threads that hold us are necessary and worthy of our gratitude.
And it is in being grateful that we fill with a sense of meaning beyond words.

©2016 Evelyn C. Rysdyk

(This post was originally written for Excellence Reporter)

5 books Evie SIllhoutteEvelyn C. Rysdyk is the author of several noted books on shamanism including, The Norse Shaman, Spirit Walking: A Course In Shamanic Power and A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools. Along with her writings, Evelyn is an impassioned shamanic teacher. She was featured on The Shift Network’s, 2016 Global Shamanism Summit, and is a presenter for the innovative, international program, A Year Of Ceremony.

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 website is


Green guerrilla actions you can make now!

March 18, 2015


There are times when the state of the world—especially the condition of your local water, soil and air– can make you feel helpless. Truth is, the little changes we make together can add up to an enormous shift in our collective wellbeing and doing them can be a part of our spiritual practice! I consider the actions I take everyday to take care of the natural world to be part of keeping good faith with those spirits who support my life, with the spirits of my ancestors and also on behalf of my descendants.

What follows here is a list of a few things you can do to make a difference. You may already be doing some of them. If so, look for other ways you can take a stand for sustaining your family while giving back. (I’ve included resource links whenever possible to make your changes that much easier!)

Shedding light on savings:

If every household in the United States swapped out even ONE of their incandescent lights with a compact fluorescent bulb, or better yet an LED bulb, the pollution reduction would be equivalent to removing one million cars from the road. LED bulbs last up to 25 times longer than their incandescent bulb forbearers. Just make sure to recycle CFL and LED bulbs at your local recycling facility or hardware store.

TIP: LEDs have come down in price! This site offers comparison shopping and tips including wattage equivalents and how to buy the right color temperature bulb for different purposes in your home:

TIP: If you prefer CFL bulbs and want better illumination, use OttLite true-color bulbs. These are the same bulbs used by artists and crafters for decades in situations where good lighting really matters. OttLite’s new CFLs are brighter and more like real sunlight. They’re a bit more expensive but the true-color lighting is worth it!

Tuck in your electronics:

Many electronic devices suck power even when asleep. At night, power down to save your self some money on the electric bill and do something good for the environment in one fell swoop!

TIP: Turn on the computer on the way to making your morning coffee or tea. By the time your morning cuppa is ready, you’ll be all set to read your daily e-newspaper!

Hang ‘em high:

Did you know your drier contributes to the demise of your clothes? Not only does your clothes dryer use a significant amount of energy, it can actually shorten the life of your clothes because of wear and tear on the fabric. Hang your duds on a clothesline outside or drying rack indoors to save a bundle on clothes.

TIP: During the heating season, the extra humidity in the air from drying clothes can benefit you and your wooden furniture!

Colder is better:

…at least in terms of your laundry! If all the households in the United States switched to using warm or cold water cycles for clothes washing, we could save energy comparable to 100,000 barrels of oil every day!

TIP: Use a peroxide-based bleach to safely sanitize clothes as well as keeping them whiter and brighter. Peroxide is much safer than chorine for your septic system BUT even safer bleach can actually kill off the bacteria that are responsible for breaking down the waste in your cesspool if you use a lot! That means you’ll be paying to have it pumped out more often.


According to the World Wildlife Fund, Americans went through about 50,000,000,000 (that’s fifty billion) plastic water bottles just during last year! Fill up a reusable water bottle at home and bring it with you. If you don’t like the taste of your tap water, buy a quality water filter but remember, your household tap water actually has to meet higher quality and safety standards than bottled water!

TIP: We use stainless steel water bottles by Kleen Kanteen for everyday. They’re made from #304 food-grade stainless steel, are pretty indestructible (one survived freezing with water in it!) and don’t leave an aftertaste in the water.

If you prefer using glass check out these amazing and beautiful miron violet glass bottles: Miron Violet glass blocks visible light with the exception of the violet part of the spectrum. At the same time it allows in radiation in the spectral range of UV-A, and infrared light. The unique combination offers optimal protection against the aging processes that are released by visible light, thus lengthening durability and potency of products. This kind of bottle is especially good if you’re somebody that adds medicinal tinctures to your drinking water!

Shorten your shower:

According to Stanford University, 
every two minutes you save on your shower can conserve more than ten gallons of water. This is critical as fresh water is a scarce resource. (If you don’t think so, ask folks in California who have only one year of drinking water left in reservoirs or residents of towns in Texas and New Mexico where their drinking water sources have completely dried up!) If everyone in our country saved just one gallon from their daily shower, over the course of the year it would equal twice the amount of freshwater withdrawn from the Great Lakes every day.

TIP: A five-minute shower uses 10-25 gallons of water. (Energy efficient showerheads use the lesser amount.) Shut the water off while you lather up. Even a 20-second pause can save nearly two gallons of water!

Local is better:

There is often a considerable amount of pollution created when transporting your food from the farm to your table. To offset the carbon load this creates, whenever possible, buy from local farmers, fishermen and ethical foragers of wild foods. This supports your local economy and reduces the amount of greenhouse gas created when products are flown or trucked in. Here in Maine, we can access locally raised vegetable produce, meats, eggs, dairy products (from cows, goats and sheep), poultry, locally sourced fish and game, foraged vegetables, mushrooms and other treats too numerous to mention. Tap into the local food scene in your area to

TIP: Local Harvest can help you to tap into local resources for food: as can Local Dirt: You can also contact

For an even better positive impact, remember to buy mostly organic! Organic farms don’t use chemical pesticides, herbicides or fungicides, which are often made from petroleum products. They also refrain from sterile GMO seeds. Organically raised animals are more humanely treated and their meat, milk or eggs are not laden with unbeneficial antibiotics or hormones. Your body and your planet will thank you!

Bag it!

Never mind the “paper or plastic” conundrum as neither are good choices. Keep reusable shopping bags in your car for your trips to the market. Washable bags are best as they can be sanitized easily. Bags are a great second-hand store purchase! We keep our market bags folded up inside one bag. The handles of that outer bag are clipped together with a super-size karabiner. This assures that all the folded bags stay neatly inside. When we get into the market, we just clip the karabiner containing all of our bags to the shopping cart handle. That way they’re handy but not taking up room in the cart.

TIP: Bags are a valuable second-hand store purchase! If you’re handy and want a personal touch, you might want to make your own beautiful bags: Here is a link to purchase the oversized karabiner clip:

Recycle–everything you can!

Most everyone is getting on the recycling bandwagon, but do you know you may have some things that are easily recycled and can bring you a few dollars, to boot? Your electronics (mp3 players, computers, cell phones, etc.) can make you money or be used to benefit a worthy cause.

TIP: My old, iPhone 3 earned me a $120 Amazon gift certificate, which made this book-aholic very happy. I used Gizelle who also will pay cash for old iPads and Mac computers. It pays to do an online search as there are other reputable firms who will buy back your old phone and even a broken one can net you a few bucks. Some charities also take old electronics. Here is a list from Mashable:

Save a back!

Get off catalog and other junk mailing lists to help relieve your postal carrier’s daily burden, reduce your household waste and contribute to saving a whole lot of trees. In addition, you’ll be contributing to reducing the amount of energy savings used to print these unwanted things.

TIP: Here is a site with tips to reducing your unwanted junk mail:

Let your fingers to the walking–on your keyboard!

Stop your phone directory delivery. Now. It is estimated that up to 10% of all waste at municipal dump sites is comprised of old telephone books! Not only are they cumbersome to use and impossible for middle-aged eyes to read, in most cases they are far less accurate than online sources.

TIP: Recycle your old phonebooks or shred them for garden mulch. Use online telephone directories to search for numbers such as

Become a part-time vegetarian:

Just one less meat-based meal a week helps the planet and your diet. (For example: It requires approximately 2,500 gallons of fresh water to produce one pound of beef.) Adding veggies to the diet also boosts the amount of phytonutrients you ingest which are beneficial for good health.

TIP: Here are a few vegetarian burger recipes you can experiment with:

Lose the lawn:

The typical American suburban lawn is a toxic monoculture that is detrimental to the environment. Indeed, A new study from the University of California at Irvine has determined that maintaining grass lawns produce four times the amount of carbon naturally collected and store by the lawn itself.  Lawn mowing, leaf blowing, irrigation, lawn fertilizer manufacturing, and the nitrous oxide released from soil after fertilization all contribute to an overall degradation of the environment. Not only that, the monoculture of grass is detrimental to healthy biodiversity.

TIP: Let weeds grow in the lawn. We have edible plantain, dandelion, clover, chives and other yummy “weeds” that look very nice when cut! The benefit of these plants is we can harvest them for salads or other treats. Our local beneficial insects, birds and animals are nourished by the natural browse, too. Another option is to invest in easy-care native plants or carve out a part of the yard for an organic vegetable or herb garden! 

Go native!

Help to sustain the birds, animals and beneficial insects around your neighborhood by sowing organic, native seeds. We sowed over 100 native milkweed seeds last Autumn to benefit the endangered Monarch Butterfly by using seed bombs/balls. These are small balls of clay, compost and vermiculite with two or three native seeds inside. In some cities, the same “technology” is being used to turn abandoned urban lots into organic, edible plant gardens. They are a blast to make and fun to toss. Work with your neighbors and property owners to “adopt” a growing site and then do a community seed bombing of that area! By seed bombing empty fields, along roadsides, the islands in parking lots and your own backyard you will help to create healthy, native wildflower meadows for you and other critters to enjoy.

TIP: Here is a site with great seed ball info: They offer kits and supplies to arm your family, school class, scout troop or neighborhood with plenty of seed ball ammo!

Don’t want to get your hands dirty? This site offers 100% NON GMO seed ball packs that have been premade for your region of the USA: gclid=CjwKEAjwxKSoBRCZ5oyy87DimEcSJADiWsvgDuVlt4mk3dK-9nZlBpo7MSdG_k5jzz_22wsea3sHURoC66jw_wcB

Give away and trade!

Before you toss something that is still useable, think if someone else might need it. You can donate to Goodwill or other charities to get a tax deduction. Another option is to post it on the web as a trade or give-away.

TIP: This web-based community organization is a terrific resource for getting goods into the hands of people who can use them! 


If you have other great environmental ideas, use the comment section to share them with our readers. Together we can keep working to save this marvelous world for future generations of her inhabitants. And bless you for ALL that you already do!

Blessings to you, Evelyn

© 2015 Evelyn C. Rysdyk 

Nationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Spirit Walking a Course in Shamanic Power,A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools, 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

Engaging the soul’s power through shamanic storytelling

August 10, 2013


From a shamanic perspective, stories have incredible power. They can paint the picture of an era, give you courage, keep history alive, help to prepare you for a life event, teach you about a skill, and so much more. You can learn how to take your intentional use of language to heal, soothe, and enfold a child or support a person to leave the world as they are dying.

I am a fortunate woman, as my entire childhood was filled with stories. I was the firstborn and entered the world at a time when many of my elders were still living. Not only did I have two sets of grandparents, but their siblings were also a part of my life. I was blessed to spend many hours with my great grandmother, who had several living siblings, as well. More importantly, all of these elders were storytellers.

From the people on my mother’s side of the family, I heard stories of Norway and tales of making a new life in America. My grandmother grew up on a farm while my grandfather took to the sea as a young man. I learned many diverse stories, from tales of the little people on the farm to how pitch was gathered in the hold of a ship in South America to be brought back to Norway for shipbuilding. My grandfather, who learned carpentry aboard such a codfish boat, also shared hair-raising stories of building the wooden footings for what became New York’s Throgg’s Neck Bridge.

On my paternal side, I heard wonderfully colorful stories of Old New York and family tales from generations long gone. I heard of ministers, strong women, racehorse owners, fisher-folk and much more. From the old ones’ stories, I learned much about the challenges and triumphs of their lives as well as those of our ancestors. No matter how difficult my family elders’ existence may have been, their stories were deliciously vibrant and were generally well seasoned with humor and laughter.

For orally based tribal cultures, storytelling was a way to preserve the accumulated wisdom of history and transmit all that to succeeding generations. Stories included the tales which explained the cosmos, mythic stories of their ancestors, how their people came to be, how to hunt with respect, proper behavior, and much more. Imagine an encyclopedia of knowledge shared one story at a time! Children in an oral culture would absorb the collective wisdom through the elders’ tales in a way that wasn’t very different to my own childhood.

When the written word became paramount, oral traditions began to die out. This is unfortunate, as it contributes to the unraveling of traditional cultures. As ethnic and tribal groups lose their stories, they lose the glue that holds them together, and what was once an intact culture starts to die. Among more isolated tribal cultures, this dismantling of culture was delayed until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but it was no less chilling. This certainly occurred in Europe. When the Brothers Grimm began to write down the old stories, the tales had already begun to decompose from the lack of being told. When people no longer have cultural supports, they lose an important rudder for finding their way through the world. Then, as cultures die, people themselves can become lost, falling into spiritual illness, depression, anxiety, drug addiction, and alcoholism.

Stories can also be a tool for healing a person, a physical place or one’s own spirit. By changing the stories that we tell ourselves, we can help to transform the pains of our pasts and pave the path for new ways of thinking about who we are. In so doing, we also change the way we behave towards ourselves and also toward others. Working with story can support us to deeply believe in our own power.

A great way to begin to work with stories in a shamanic way is to tell a story about who you are. Either speak the story into a recording device or write it down. Include where you were born, how and where you were raised and how you’ve come to be who you are as an adult. Make sure to include the highs and the lows.

After you’ve done that, it is time to start the story again.  This time, begin with the phrase, “Once upon a time, there was a precious child…”  How would you tell that same story now? Tell it as though you were about to entrance a small child with a story! Don’t alter any of the events that created who you are, simply change the way that you speak about them. Take the ordinary facts of the events of your life, change the tone or perspective and tell them in such a way that they are transformed into a heroine or hero’s journey! This is not to simply romanticize the facts of your story or lie, but to see all the parts of your life’s journey in the larger context of your becoming.  Continue to ask yourself how past events contributed to who you are now.

Completing your new story will take some practice and diligence to achieve. To change your old, tired story you will need to reframe those parts where you are most stuck in old wounds, blame, shame, self-pity, anger or helplessness! Working through this will take some time and must be done in an atmosphere of loving attentiveness. Remind yourself along the way that the prize will be to finally close the chapter on the unhealed aspects of your life that are sapping your strength and power. If some parts of your old story stubbornly refuse to be shifted, get some support to help with the healing. Remember, you weren’t wounded in a vacuum. People participated in your hurts and pains. For that reason, it is important to seek the companionship and guidance of healing people to support your metamorphosis!

While you are engaged in this work, also take the time to reread the fables and fairy tales of your childhood. Observe how many of them were fraught with danger, sadness, loss and peril. The child was orphaned, she was poor, she was hurt and then notice how the change unfolded. Often times, a story’s hero or heroine doesn’t understand what is happening until the story is over! Look at how simple events changed the course of their journeys. Also make note of how the heroes or heroines were changed by their life experiences in the story. In most cases, the stories remind us that heroines and heroes are made by the experiences that they live through. If a “fairy godmother” element is involved in the tale you’re reading, look at how you could rewrite that aspect of the story to have the central character become the one who makes the transformation possible!  Use your creative mind and heart to turn the problem over until a solution reveals itself!

Remember that as you retell your story in a new way, you are actually reprograming your subconscious. This is the part of us that is always listening. By paying attention to how we process and interpret our sensory experiences, our subconscious gets programmed with the beliefs that we hold about ourselves and our world. Why this is important is because this aspect of our mind is what is working with our feelings to create our reality. As we change the information this aspect of ourselves receives, we are teaching it new ways to program our present reality as well as our future selves.

If you are feeling that you aren’t creative enough or don’t have the energy to do this, take some shamanic journeys or do some meditations to get inspired.  I think about inspiration as the action of being inspirited. Extreme and altered states can provide a kind of spaciousness to our consciousness that allows us to “dream bigger.” Indeed, when teaching my students about the shamanic state of consciousness, I do not talk about altering ordinary consciousness, rather I suggest that the shamanic state of consciousness is an expanded state of awareness or perception which produces an altered experience of reality.

While we journey, physical and emotional changes occur in our bodies. Spirit can support us to feel more imaginative, enlivened and enriched. From that feeling of fullness, we have the energy and creativity to move any project forward. Learning stories and how to share them is also a part of a shaman’s journey. While there are very few spiritual storytellers who are living, there are legions of them in the spirit world. Storytellers of every tradition and time period are available to those who can walk between the worlds.

Journey to your teacher or power animal to have them take you to a storytelling teacher. Ask that teacher questions such as, “How do I let go of the parts of my old story that hold me back?”  Another good one to ask is,  “What are the stories the spirits share about me?” Finally a great journey to do is to ask the storytelling teacher, “What is the story I need to be telling about my life now?”

Each of these journeys can help you to reframe the experiences of your past and will change the texture and color of your personal story. By working with the spirit of a master storytelling teacher you can learn how to refine and refresh the storyline to steer the “plot’ of your life in a new direction. As you continue refining your personal story you will begin to more deeply believe in and feel your own intrinsic power.

All of the best storytellers spend a lot of time refining, polishing and crafting their stories until they are mesmerizing to the listener. That is precisely the effect you are reaching toward. Keep refining and telling your story until your true story unfolds. Make your story so beautiful that you subconscious completely releases all of its old limitations! In so doing, you’ll be contributing to having a far more wondrous, amazing and powerful present. And your wondrous present is what contributes to your happily ever after.

© 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.  In joint practice with Allie Knowlton as Spirit Passages, her web site is

Sacred Reciprocity: Nourishing What Feeds Us

May 25, 2013

Giving back to Nature

A shaman knows that everything is alive and has a spirit. It is easy to understand that animals, birds, plants and trees are living, but to the shaman so are the rivers, mountains, oceans, stones, hills and everything else in our environment. In a shaman’s eyes, nothing can be separate from the living fabric of the spirit world.

The village, the hunter’s bow and sacred objects have spirits, too. Human-made things can become inspirited as they are created. Through use and care, they become stronger. Indeed, through our interactions with any object we inspirit them. Our cars, our tools, our house and many other things, too become alive. We intuitively understand this since we often encourage our car to start on a cold morning or when it is having trouble running. We behave as we do because in our heart, we have come to recognize it as a living being. Sighing with gratitude when we enter our home in the evening is similar to a child surrendering to the embrace of a loving grandparent. We feel enfolded and safe. Through our love and caring, we have transformed things into beings.

Groups and organizations have a spirits, too. There is a spirit in every family group, tribe, church and school. These organizations nourish their members and are in turn energized and renewed by their participants. When we feel buoyed by “team spirit,” we are literally getting support from the spiritual entity of that group. When we feel energized by a visit to the local nature center we are receiving nurturance from the organization that sustains it. When we feel that we have grown and changed in a class, we have drawn energy from the organization that ran the program. When we have spend a few quiet hours in a library or local bookstore we have been fed.

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.

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 shaman-healers of the high Andes refer to this idea of mutual, respectful interaction—which must be always monitored and 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 we choose to step back into this more ancient way of being in the world, the relationships we 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, we develop a sense of “being home” wherever we are on the planet. This reconnection with the spirits of the Earth also provides us 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.

In other words, when we operate with love and caring in our lives, we refresh the spirits around us. In turn, these spirits are able to return the favor with their vibrancy. We step into a cycle of nourishment that is reciprocal and sacred.

You don’t have to be a shaman to draw strength from alliances with other spirits. Our friends and loved ones nourish us. Our pet’s presence can encourage us when we are feeling down. The rushing river calms our soul. These spirits provide us with nourishment as palpable as food and water. If any of them were to suddenly go way, we would grieve and feel a pain in our heart. Our own spirits would sustain a loss through their absence.

Shamans understand that any spirit may be wounded, weakened or diminished. When this occurs, that which is enlivened by that spirit begins to weaken. It is obvious that if we do not feed our child, dog or plant, they will eventually die. The same is true for the spirits of places in nature. If we do not lovingly attend to keeping a river or the ocean healthy, it can no long sustain life. This holds true for every being in our world. If we take more spiritual, emotional or physical nourishment from something than we replenish, the spirit of the organism cannot be sustained. We cannot withdraw support and nurturance without continually giving something back. We must maintain and nourish what feeds us. Since the cycles of life are like a wheel, when that which nourishes us is lost, we begin to diminish, too. We cannot thrive in an energetic or spiritual vacuum. When the beings we depend upon for nourishment die, we die a little, too. It is an inescapable truth.

A shaman intrinsically understands that like members of a hunter-gatherer society, we are surrounded with other beings with whom we need to maintain harmonious balance in order to create a mutually beneficial situation. In ordinary terms, that suggests that we need to attend to the spirits of beings around us. This is especially true for those spirits from whom we draw strength, power, emotional support or joy. We need to recognize that the fundamental interdependencies with nature, with other spirits and with each other are critical for our emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing and ultimately our survival.

Organizations and groups have spirits and so are like living organisms. As such, they can also be diminished when we take nourishment without returning the favor. Just as with other spirits, when they begin to die, we are diminished, too. It is important to begin thinking about your school, your local library, the workplace you really enjoy, your favorite bookstore, your treasured sacred space or places you express your spirituality are actually spirits themselves that need your care and nourishment. So how do we reenter the way of being that allows us to work with these spirits who surround us? The answer is learning how to be in reverent participatory relationship with them. 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.

It is easy to take things and organizations for granted. They’re simply there and we take what we need. However, as we become more conscious, we begin to recognize that this kind of behavior is both childlike and selfish. Like the shaman, we start to look for ways to put energy back into the wheel so that the spirits are sustained. In turn, the group or organization will continue to have the energy to sustain us. It is about doing our part in creating a healthy and balanced world. In this way our actions become extensions of our spiritual intentions.

When we open our eyes to the idea that everything that we enjoy in life requires our energy to survive, we can more easily find ways to do it. In real terms, that means buying goods from a local businesses, giving time and or money to the organizations that care for your favorite parkland, volunteering at your church, helping to spruce up your favorite beach, supporting the work of your favorite spiritual or educational venues by attending their programs and continuing to look for ways to support anything that supports your quality of life.

As we step into more conscious, mutually beneficial and reverent interactions with the beings, places and organizations in our life our spirits receive more energy. This is a way to begin transforming the dominant culture’s paradigm of irresponsible exploitation. With the exclusion of those who follow a more holistic worldview, we as a society do not generally do a good job of nurturing the beings around us. Nor do we see our fundamental interdependencies with nature and with each other upon which we depend for our survival.

For those of us that are warriors for a better future and how want to enjoy the benefits of being continually nurtured ourselves, we have the power to feed and love those beings that sustain our world. When we undertake, facilitate and encourage interactions that are focused toward reverence and participation we are actually transforming our reality. In this way, we turn away from the nihilistic, exploitative nature of our larger culture and instead focusing our energies on what we more of in our world. 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—with nature, her creatures, our favorite place and organizations, each other, and with our Earth.

© 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

A Consciousness of True, Reverent Relationship

June 2, 2011

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

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:

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: or call: 207- 846-6829