Shamanism the Power of Trust

Trust – Believing in others begins with believing in yourself

Each and every person has their own relationship with the word TRUST. Do we generally trust others? Do others trust us? What does it mean to have trust in someone?

How easy it is for us to trust others is based heavily on our individual past experiences. Like many aspects of the self, our tendencies to trust and distrust are molded into our psyche from a young age. A single poignant moment in our life can dramatically alter these propensities. Whatever the case may be, we all have our own unique understanding of trust and an individual aptitude toward trust or distrust.

Many of us find ourselves questioning the trustworthiness of others. “Are they lying to me?” we may ask ourselves. “Are they not telling me everything?” These and countless other questions fill our minds, clutter our thoughts, and drain our kupuri (life-force).

So, how do we keep our own sanity in a world that sometimes seems full of dishonesty?

Obviously, simply trusting everyone and everything blindly is not a recipe for success. It is important, however, that we continually hone our ability to both trust and discern truth from fiction. The path to finding this balance starts within ourselves. If we are unable to trust our self, how can we ever fully trust somebody else?

Now another question arises: how do we trust our self? And what does that even mean?

By remembering that we are a mirror of our environment, of the natural world that surrounds us, we can start by reminding ourselves of our faith in nature. We can focus on believing the truths of nature: that the sun will rise again tomorrow, that the seasons will continue, and that the universe will consistently rebalance itself. Finding even this trust can be difficult amidst the apparent chaos of the world today, and like many things in life, that first step is sometimes the hardest.

When we reaffirm our faith in nature everything else becomes clearer. By focusing on the sunrise, for example, we support our natural circadian rhythm, which innately helps us to be more in balance, both hormonally and spiritually. When we watch a sunrise, our problems fade away, time seems to slow down, and we inherently retune our bodies to the natural rhythm of Mother Earth. A byproduct of such daily rebalancing is that we maintain and enhance our internal equilibrium. Over time, we can maintain peace and tranquility amidst external chaos. This alone empowers trust in ourselves; a trust that we can face the obstacles in our life with self-confidence.

Through a process of trusting nature, we thus learn to trust ourselves. By building that sustainable trust within our heart, we learn to trust others and, most importantly, trust in life itself.

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Huichol altar at Drum and Harvest Ceremony 2017

Drum & Harvest Ceremony • Autumn 2017

We arrived in the village just before sunset. After eating a light meal of beans and fresh handmade tortillas with salsa, we prepared ourselves for the ceremony. People from various villages had traveled to partake in the harvest ceremony. Elders, men, women, children, and newborn babies all coming together to celebrate, to give thanks, and to pray. Everyone gathered around the fire to offer prayers for a good ceremony. Then the leading elder shaman began to chant quietly, the sound slowly growing as the flames of the fire strengthened.

At one point, a heavy rainstorm had us all taking shelter in huts and under strung-up tarps for a few hours in the middle of the night, as thunder and lightning filled the sky. Once the rain passed, everyone gathered around the fire at the center of the village once again, and the ceremony continued.

At sunrise, an altar was constructed in front of the temple. Corn stalks were tied up, creating a goal post of sorts to set the trajectory of our spirits, as we journeyed to Wirikuta (the Land of the Gods) and Raunasha (The Mountain Where the Sun was Born). Between the goal posts, a god’s eye (Tsikuli) was secured like a target, helping to keep our aim centered and true with the protection of the ancient ones. Then a twisted piece of twine was tied to the god’s eye and stretched tight to an arrow in the earth about 10 meters away. Finally, small balls of cotton were placed along the twine; each one representing a place of power at which we stop during the spiritual journey to Wirikuta.

Once the altar was constructed, freshly picked husks of corn and squash were piled in front of the altar. The mothers laid out dishes with offerings of fresh fruit, blue corn tamales, and small thick tortillas. Beside each plate, arrows with small gods eyes were stuck into the earth. The number of gods eyes on each arrow representing the age of one of the young children in the circle.

 

As the sun broke free from the clouds and rose higher in the sky, the drumbeat continued to follow the call and return of the shamans’ chanting. The crisp sound of the tree gourd rattles being shaken by children unified the entire circle in focused intention around the dancing flames of the fire. The harmony of the male and female elders singing intricate verses, whispered into their ear by Kauyumari (Elder Brother Deer Spirit), is like the sound of a flowing river, with the stream of chants neither being pulled or pushed, but rather naturally circulating with a clear intention of reaching the ocean of energy within the Nierika (sacred doorway).

With small breaks for folk music and folk dancing, along with time for timeless jokes and laughter, the ceremony continued through the heat of the day. As the sun reached its zenith in the sky, food offerings were shared amongst everyone in the village. Replenished with this fresh nourishment, the chanting and drumming commenced once more as we approached the final stages of the ceremony, in which the shaman summons our spirits back from sky realm, through the Nierika, and into our hearts.

The wind began to wisp up the mountain slopes and through the village, carrying with it a cool breath from the river below. As the refreshing breeze broke through the heat of the day and as the sun starting caressing the lush plateau to the west, the ceremony drew to a close.

Our hearts content and souls empowered with the energy unified from the four directions, the circle slowly dispersed outward to shaded rocks under the carao and calabash trees. The ebb and flow of life in the Huichol village continued as dusk began to wash over the Sierra. With the night settling in, everyone found their place within the village, the fire still burning in the center of it all.

When the flames began to dwindle, someone awoke to add fresh food to the fire. Soon a few of the elders gathered around the fire, and the sound of chuckles gradually grew into laughter as they retold stories from the past and teased one another about things old and new. Eventually, the joy around the fire drew more and more people from the dream world back into the circle.

Eventually, the shaman started to chant, and the drumbeat followed once again. The other shamans chimed in, echoing the songs like sound bouncing through a valley. Then the song changed, indicating it was time to dance. The women and men created two lines, skipping around the fire with the rhythmic beat of the drum. This was the Dance of the Deer.

Honoring the birth of the sun, we danced until the sun burst forth from behind the distant mountain peaks, the golden light warming the village like the smile of a good friend.

Now it was time to bless the freshly harvested corn and squash that had been stacked in front of the altar. Together, all of us – women, children, and men – were given ears of corn and pieces of squash cooked on the fire. One by one, the leading shaman blessed each person and their individual bounty. Once blessed, we offered a small portion of our food to the fire before enjoying it ourselves.

That first bite of crisp corn and soft squash was truly delicious. We had been fasting from corn and squash since the fields were planted in early June, so everyone was especially thankful for this meal.

The shamans gathered for the one final song, to honor Mother Earth and give thanks to the spirits that had joined the ceremony. This marked the close of the ceremony and beginning of another season.

Following the ceremony, the various families gathered together as we dispersed the materials and supplies which we had brought with us on the long journey. With a deep sense of gratitude on both the giving and receiving end, each and every person exchanged positive energy, and through this process, we all became even closer, and even stronger family.

It was time for us to leave, to make the long journey from this home back to another. Before leaving the village, everyone gathered around the fire to make one final prayer to Tatewari (Grandfather Fire). Together we prayed out loud, calling out for ourselves, our loved ones, and all of creation.

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Brant Secunda blessing with macaw fan

SHAMANISM: The Healing Journey of the Heart

Shamans throughout the world, from Tibet and Mongolia to the Americas, have been involved in healing for thousands of years, dating back to Paleolithic times. An integral part of this healing tradition is its perspectives, both personal and at the same time planetary.

Shamanism, perhaps as old as consciousness itself, is an ancient healing tradition that has, throughout the ages, reflected the changing cultures of the surrounding world.

The shamanic tradition involves healing through personal transformation as well as healing our family, community, and environment. Central to this healing tradition is the belief that we must heal and honor our mother the earth, who is viewed as a living, conscious organism. This sacred female Goddess, the earth, who nourishes our very existence, must also be nourished with such prayers and ceremonies, say shamans.

I have studied and practiced shamanism for over 40 years, completing a lengthy apprenticeship with Don José Rios (Matsuwa), a 110-year-old Huichol shaman-healer. The Huichol of Mexico are said to be the last tribe of North America to have maintained their pre-Columbian traditions, little disturbed by colonialization and Christianization until very recently. I feel fortunate for having been able to study with such an amazing group of people.

As I was taught by the Huichol, healing is a way of life; a way of being that permeates our very existence. Healing is something to be practiced constantly, not just when we are ill. Moreover, the shamanic tradition of healing does not limit itself to the healing of the physical body, but rather involves the maintenance of the harmony and balance of the universe. We must consciously make contact with all life, see our life in all things so that life and health are embedded within our hearts that so need to be nourished and cared for.

Shamanism focuses on all life as being majestically and mysteriously interrelated and sacred. Plants, rocks, two- and four-legged creatures all have personal identities with whom the shaman develop a personal relationship. When the shaman prays, he prays not only for himself but also for his sacred relatives: our mother the earth, our father the sun, our grandfather and giver of light the fire, our grandmothers the eagle and the winged ones. Don José often told me never to forget that my relatives are the earth, sky, rivers, birds, animals, stones, gems, mountains, caves, springs and lakes. Upon our first meeting, Don José spoke of our mother the earth, who nourishes and speaks to our heart. The shaman learns to listen with his heart as well as his ears, and thus shamanism, as a healing art, makes a person whole and complete, a whole system integrated fully to the surrounding environment.

According to various shamanic mythologies, there was a time when paradise existed and all life was one. For example, fire communicated freely with people. Now this is lost and for this reason, the shaman acts as a bridge, drawing upon lost lines of communication with all life that surrounds him both visibly and invisibly.

Shamanism as a healing art seeks to maintain or restore balance, both for the individual and for the planet. All life is ultimately one, and the responsibility of a shaman is to bring the forces of balance, harmon, and intuition into resonance with one another. One can say if we celebrate our life as one with our environment, our environment will thus give thanks to us with the proper amount of sunlight and rainfall. Shamans themselves act as intermediaries between people and all other life forms, the gods and goddesses and all creatures who co-inhabit the earth. Shamans also have the ability to transform themselves into a spirit entity almost as if they had the key to the process of metamorphosis. Thus the role of a shaman has been vital to the community in which he lives, as he acts as a vital link to the surrounding world.

Embedded within the tradition of shamanism and healing is the technique of achieving ecstasy. Ecstasy is sought by shamans in order to experience unity with all things. The forum used for the attainment of ecstasy is ceremonial celebration, which utilizes ancient forms of ceremony and ritual. The Huichol perform ceremonies throughout the year to maintain the delicate balance of our environment, of our universe, so that one may know their heart and feel the ecstatic joy that emanates from our very being. The “Dance Of The Deer”, a most beautiful and intense sacred dance, of the Huichol, is employed so that the participants of the ceremonies may enter into a trance state of joy and ecstasy. The shaman and his assistants chant the ancient songs as the others dance about them. All enter together as one heart into a sacred doorway, known to the Huichol as “Nierika”, face of the divine, or link to other realms of consciousness and being. At ceremonies, the Huichol shaman calls upon his ally or spirit helper, Kauyumari, the magical deer spirit person, to assist him in the task of transporting the ceremonial participants thorough the nierika (doorway), into the realm of ecstatic joy and harmony. The dancers also assist the shaman as they too, like the deer, become messengers of the gods.

Through ceremony, participants allow themselves to be transformed, renewed and life force itself is transmitted in a sacred manner. The shaman and participants in the ceremony are provided a medium for reaching the realm on the gods and the heart source of life itself.

At the same, shamanism involves what is often seen as the more mundane and down-to-earth aspects of the shaman’s day- to-day life. Students of shamanism must endure many hardships and show much strength, both inner and outer. Pilgrimages to “places of power”, (caves, springs, oceans, mountain tops), form an important aspect of shamanic healing, as pilgrims are said to receive power, (including power to dream) and many blessings for having arrived at such places. Many Huichol shamans, as well as many shamans from other cultures, are farmers and, working daily with the earth, they develop a special relationship with the earth, which they believe to be their mother.

The wisdom of ceremonial celebration, pilgrimages to sacred spots and proper daily living to achieve balance among ourselves as human beings and our environment has been lost to many people of the modern world. For this reason Don José, an incredible 103-year-old master of shamanism adopted me as his grandson and trained me in the ancient art of shamanism and healing. “You are an educated person who knows and understands your world”, he told me. “Now you will know our world too and use the two so that modern people may once again know what we have tried never to forget. There is a balance between our two worlds, grandson: that’s the way it is.”

“Is your heart happy?” Don José often asks the children at his rancho in the Mexican Sierra. “Dance with all your heart. We are following the example of the gods and the way they have taught to us. This is our life.”

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Mt. Shasta Pond Sunset

Mount Shasta Journey

Looking ahead, I see a journey to Mount Shasta. A beautiful, magical place which over the years has brought much power, healing, and balance to my life. Although this will be my 16th consecutive year it is, I hope, as if I am going for the first time. I know the area and places we will be going, I know how to get there, and have seen the view for many years, but I like to always go “as if” it is my first time. This allows my heart to see things in a way I may never have seen them before. It allows my heart to be open to what the mountain wants to show me, to what the spirits of the sacred land want me to see and learn. It allows for new experiences. The mountain has sight, it can hear, it has power and heart that deeply touches my soul and transforms what needs changing.I look forward to this journey every year. I feel I begin to prepare at the end of one years’ journey for the next which is still a year away.

This year is centered on healing for my heart and kupuri. I have been preparing by praying to the mountain, visualizing the mountain, and trying to dream of the land I will be sleeping on for 9 days. With only several weeks to go before taking off, I continue to focus on what need to be done before I leave. This becomes easier as I know that soon I will see the mountain, soon I will sleep on the earth listening to the sound of the water putting me to sleep at night. Soon I will sit before the fire, my grandfather, and speak to him with my heart. Soon I will make beautiful prayers with my family, friends, and community for the things that are most important in life.

Soon.

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