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Monday, 25 August 2008 19:12



Section V - Shamanic Wisdom
Chapter 3 - Honoring the Shaman Within


In the old days, when a people were gravely threatened, the Chiefs, Medicine people, Shamans, and Elders called Councils. They looked for solutions to their problems by aligning themselves with the ancestors, the natural world and their wisdom traditions. Recognizing that illness is often the consequence of violations of the earth, the community and the spirits, they searched for systemic responses to assure healing.

Deena Metzger, April 2008 letter,
Mandlovu/Topanga Daré
ReVisioning Medicine Council


How do we awaken the latent wisdom in each of us?

The backdrop for this chapter is a workshop facilitated by Deena Metzger, a deeply shamanistic woman who has written several books on the subject. We met at Deena's home in Topanga Canyon, California - a beautiful location with several acres adjacent to Topanga State Park. Deena encouraged us to walk and develop a sense of place - perhaps find a favorite spot to reflect, do some reading, and to write. The workshop was designed for emergence - participants shared their personal stories, their writings, and their dreams. I felt as if I was in a room full of mystics, all deeply connected to life and the systems that support life. And just below the surface of each of the participants was a deep pain - a crying for this Earth with its inherent social and ecological injustices.

I have had this kind of experience several times in the relatively recent past in conversation groups, ceremonies, and workshops at the New West Seminary where I've taken classes,OO_V-3_2009-02-22 co-designed and facilitated conversations groups on the subject of ‘Spirituality through Living Systems,' and in some spiritual activism work I've done with the Center for Sacred Leadership in Portland. Perhaps my most profound experience was two summers ago when I designed and facilitated the ‘Caring for Creation' track at the United Religion Initiative's North America Conference. We used the Appreciative Inquiry cycle as the basis for our design, and the first day we met, we shared our stories around the inquiry used as the 'Reflection' that closes this chapter. The room came alive as we were all connected at a very deep, energetic level, and I felt that we were on a group journey, discovering the mystic in ourselves by sharing the mystic that existed in each of us.

Up until recently I never considered myself a mystic or shaman, but I continually listen for the ‘shamanic voice' as I believe it was the voice of my father. Dad spent his life loving nature and people and, as you may have noticed, this workbook is dedicated to him. He taught Comparative Religion to 7th graders for many years and was in Scouting for over 30 years. He had a profound, life changing impact on many of his students and scouts. When he passed away in 1984, it seemed as if everyone he'd touched in his life came to say goodbye and share in both the grieving and celebration of life. I was stunned at the time, and continue to be wonderfully surprised when former students and scouts share an experience they had with him that touched their lives. When I shared this writing in Deena's workshop, she mentioned the possibility that perhaps my relationship with my dad was a personification of relationship with all my ancestors. I believe it is that, and more. It is an acceptance of the part I've played in a cultural norm of diminishing these wonderful qualities. Even though I always loved my father deeply, I think about, listen for, and appreciate his wisdom more now than I did when he was alive.

It was to some degree my work with Human Dynamics ‘' that awakened me to this deep gratitude, and was followed by the understanding that being or not being a mystic needn't be framed as a duality. Instead, we all have mystical experiences, and it is the degree to which we are open to them and embrace them that seems to be the root of our individual mysticism. The Human Dynamics is structured around our individual preference for processing and receiving information, and it is the ‘Physical-Emotional' dynamic that is the most open to nature and the mysteries of life. If we are primarily ‘Mental' in terms of how we bring in information or process it, or ‘Emotional' in terms of how we process, then we tend to mask mystical revelations by always being in search of logical rationale. ‘Physical-Emotional' is the dominant dynamic of indigenous cultures and a minority dynamic, about 5%, among Caucasians. Cultures throughout the ages have been harsh on minorities, and to a large degree it is cultural norms that each of us must overcome if we are to suspend our disbelief and accept the mystery as a real and integral facet of life. One of the most significant awakenings from Human Dynamics was developing my own integration - letting my preferred ‘Physical-Mental' way of being take a back seat to getting in touch with my emotional side, as well as shifting my physical processes from primarily mechanical to organic.

I had what I consider to be a transformative learning that was not experiential at all. In reading the book Presence, I was struck by one of the authors' experiences of connecting with an animal in a way that profoundly affected how he views his role in life. The fact that he had this exchange with an animal was pretty incredible, but what absolutely astounded me is that he was virtually guaranteed that if he followed a set of arduous disciplines, he would have such an experience. Certainly the indigenous peoples know how to develop energetic connections where they have a relationship with all other living systems. Every tribe member is a part of rituals and life-passage events intended to create this connection. I question to what degree such experiences are available to each of us.

For those who are seeking a deep change, perhaps it is just a matter of looking and listening for a different reality - one that is based on accepting a strange experience as real - as a revelation. For me there is comfort in knowing that there is a wisdom of the Earth, and it is all sacred space; that language as it is spoken, sung, and written is sacred; and that life is dialogic and patterned after nature.

Finding the mystic within may be as much or more a collective experience. As personal stories, writings, and dreams were shared within Deena's class, existing realities were often altered, and some new realities emerged as I listened to my colleagues. Each of us was trying to speak our deepest truths in our writings, and in doing so we were influencing each other's truths. It seemed to me that we were each committed to speaking a truth that may better be described as an authenticity - taking our lead once again from nature where every life form and system condition is completely authentic.



Think of a time when you felt most spiritually alive, when you felt a connection so deeply that you knew it would profoundly influence your life.

What was the situation?
Who if any were the others involved?
What were your feelings at the time (and now as you relive the experience)?
How has this enhanced connection influenced your ongoing daily activities?

Rev. 2009-02-22 MOM

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