How the shamanic journey modified my meditation apply
Lots of my earliest childhood recollections are set in nature. Sitting in rapt silence on the banks of a stream, marveling on the tenacity of the crocuses that bloom in late winter, and singing, drumming and dancing, surrounded by woods and fields. In my relationship with the earth I discovered knowledge, spells and magic. Verily, nature was my first Dharma instructor. Whereas I did not have the language for it then, my fingers can now hint the shamanic undercurrent current in these earliest experiences of the sacred.
It’s this undercurrent that has grow to be a transformative a part of my Dharma apply and life. And it appears I am not alone on this. Whether or not by way of books like Zenju Earthlyn Manuels The Shamanic Bones of Zen, the growing reputation of wilderness meditation retreats and even the expansion of psychedelic assisted therapies, we are actually waking as much as most of the shamanic foundations of meditation, dharma and therapeutic.
It was solely after a few years of Buddhist apply that I discovered myself reconnecting with the highly effective experiences of my childhood and coaching as a shamanic counselor. I now use shamanic journey work and different practices for religious inquiry, private progress and therapeutic. Whereas this sort of apply has at occasions contrasted with my background in Theravada Buddhism, it has additionally introduced me again to the magic and marvel of a few of my most significant meditation retreats and given me new instruments to strengthen my very own apply and assist others in theirs .
At their core, Buddhism and shamanism share some important traits: they try to discover consciousness and convey about some type of liberation, steadiness, or therapeutic. The phrase shaman even has etymological connections to the religious seekers of the Buddha’s time. Derived from the time period saman, which means “educated” within the Tungusic language household of japanese Siberia, this root phrase is strikingly much like Pali samana and Sanskrit sramanaa contemplative, wandering ascetic or monk, very similar to the Buddha himself. The idea of shamanism just isn’t particular to at least one tradition or lineage, however slightly refers to earth-based religious practices discovered within the historical past of just about each indigenous tradition, from Tibet to Eire to Senegal and past. Wherever folks have related to the earth in a sacred approach, a type of shamanic apply appears to have arisen.
Probably the most frequent practices present in quite a few cultures is the shamanic journey, a meditative type sometimes accessed by way of a means of visualization accompanied by repetitive, rhythmic drumming, with the drumbeat serving as an auditory driver that places the practitioner in a trance-like state. The practitioner enters this altered state of consciousness and connects with a information, a supply of interior knowledge that may take the type of a lightweight, a deity like Kuan Yin, an animal, a facet of the earth itself, or one thing else fully for therapeutic and religious inquiry . By this connection, an individual can have visionary experiences and acquire insights that our on a regular basis, considering thoughts can not entry. As a matter of truth, present findings from the College of Michigan’s Heart for Consciousness Science point out that shamanic journey work can result in experiences of oneness, ego dissolution, and perception which might be related or higher than a variety of psychedelics.
On this apply, knowledge and therapeutic are revealed by way of imagery, messages from a information, and the intuitive sense of the particular person embarking on the journey. I’ve labored with purchasers who’re experiencing breakdown or harm of their sangha to deliver a way of completion by way of the journey the place, realistically, none was attainable in regular life. Within the modified state of the journey, they obtained knowledge and assist from their guides, spoke their minds to a instructor with whom they have been now not involved, and regained their very own energy and a newfound sense of peace. In different conditions, deeper truths have been identified to these I work with: A younger girl scuffling with trauma was supplied by her information the safety and reflection she by no means obtained as a toddler, and she or he was capable of have one glimpse of their inherent worthiness. A person confronting a deeply painful interior critic was capable of see the important voice as self-empty and able to be let go.
I’ve seen how this sort of journey assisted purchasers to know the interior workings of their very own struggling, construct a deeper sense of belief in themselves and their apply, and convey peace to locations the place confusion, need, or aversion beforehand raged . It is an extremely highly effective contemplative and therapeutic type, and for that purpose I am joyful to share it with veteran meditators.
However lengthy earlier than I received into the shamanic journey, I fell in love with the Dharma. In my early days of Dharma apply, I voraciously attended as many silent retreats as I might. I discovered within the stillness a deep pleasure and a way of reconnection with the states of awe and thriller I skilled as a small baby. My first retreat introduced up long-forgotten recollections: taking sweets and different choices to a close-by stream and leaving them to the unseen beings I imagined residing there, closing my eyes and alone as a 6-year-old in sat in my bed room watching ideas bubble up from the underside of a deep lake. The retreat apply introduced me again to those formative experiences of the sacred.
How can we, as modern-day practitioners of an historical mystical custom, make house for its inherent magic within the twenty first century?
Over time I’ve listened as older lecturers shared their experiences in India with iconic figures similar to Dipa Ma, who was identified to have an correct previous life reminiscence, amongst many different wondrous skills. Dipa Ma grew to become a beacon for me not solely as a mystic but in addition as a practitioner and housekeeper. However whereas my lecturers’ voices have been stuffed with awe, their tales typically left me feeling as if this chance of a strong, mystical expertise had been relegated to a different time. The place was the house for encounters with the sacred in our hectic, technology-driven lives?
Because the communities round me rode the waves of secular mindfulness, that query lingered. Starting round 2010, as smartphone meditation apps took off and plenty of Western Buddhist convert church buildings turned to the scientific research of mindfulness, I started to come across a dharma more and more touched by the influences of capitalism; productiveness tradition; the eradication of earth-based, Asian and indigenous practices; and a patriarchal mistrust of the numinous. This contemporary dharma was written in an accessible, secular language that even religious skeptics might belief, and analysis had persistently proven that these historical practices have been efficient and evidence-based. However I questioned how a lot of the magical, intuitive facet of apply can we sacrifice in change for scientific gravity?
Throughout this time I additionally met a number of lecturers who might embrace and information this place of mysticism. A instructor smiled in a tone that was half religious, half mischievous and exclaimed, The Buddha was a shaman! throughout her Dharma discuss at a two-month retreat. Even with out shamanic coaching, there was some fact in these phrases to me, and I held on to them.
As I started to embark on the shamanic journey, the phrases of this instructor resonated much more and it felt clear that the magical facet of my apply had discovered a welcoming house. I shortly noticed that journey work and meditation complemented one another splendidly. The journey allowed me to extra simply entry most of the transcendent experiences and insights that got here to me during times of intense silent retreat, and collectively shamanic and Buddhist practices offered new avenues to discover my understanding of the Dharma.
This modified my relationship to apply. Slightly than simply noting how so many lecturers would encourage in meditation throughout extra visceral or visionary experiences, I discovered that I might name on my touring apply for pillow assist, take heed to my very own intuitive figuring out, and be open to the expertise itself as a instructor in a deeper approach. With this strategy, the apply grew to become extra vibrant, artistic and extra related to the pure world. The trail started to have a higher sense of wholeness as a result of no elements of myself or my expertise have been not noted.
At present, once I information others in shamanic journey work, we regularly discover these areas of exclusion. What has been not noted of our apply that longs to be built-in and included? What messages has our tradition given us about spirituality and the way does this have an effect on our expertise of the sacred? Can we belief intuitive notion or are we gripped by doubt and skepticism? All of that is a part of our apply and a part of the trail.
Like most shamanic practitioners, the Buddha would spend time in nature in a deep meditative state, connecting with seen and invisible features of actuality and bringing again knowledge that would alleviate struggling. Occasions have modified although, and we is probably not wandering ascetics or Samanas extra, that is still our process. How can we, as modern-day practitioners of an historical mystical custom, make house for its inherent magic within the twenty first century?
Possibly it begins with opening our minds and imaginations to new prospects. So many Buddhist tales are shared by way of the extra animistic or shamanic lens of the Buddha interval, however at present they’re seen solely as metaphors. The devas seem on the beginning of the Buddha, bringing a gaggle of monks metta Observe to a haunted forest, or the earth itself rises on the eve of the Buddha’s awakening. Within the shamanic context, these encounters could also be seen as visionary messages springing from a rare discipline of knowledge and compassion, however in our trendy tradition they simply shrink into fiction.
After all, these tales are extremely helpful as easy allegories, however I’m wondering if our story of mystical expertise has grow to be fable as a result of our trendy creativeness cannot comprise the opportunity of one thing extra magical, extra savage? Is it attainable for us to reclaim mysticism because the important foundation of our path? What would the historic Buddha advise somebody sitting on the foot of the Bodhi tree in a profoundly altered state of consciousness? I think about he would smile softly and say: Ehipassikocome and see for your self.