Question – Shamanism is a word that many do not understand, what exactly does it mean? (You can talk of its origins in this part as well).
Lou – Let’s begin by setting a mutual understanding that there are as many countless definitions to words and terms as there are individual beliefs about any given subject. Some things have universally common definitions that most humans share collectively, like how we define sleep, hunger or thirst. Others are defined in more subjectively personal ways like love, spirituality or sexuality. Sexuality can be seen as sacred and beautiful; sinful and dirty; only for procreation; or exclusively for the one you love. There are so many endless definitions about sexuality twisting and contorting it from its natural state and form that it has become a very confusing and difficult subject to clearly define or understand.
Similarly, shamanism is riddled with a myriad of definitions and misconceptions from being a flaky new-age mind-controlling cult to a path of personal spiritual enlightenment to the dark esoteric arts of animistic trance journeying, witchcraft, superstition and devil worship.
Here’s the surprising thing, all of these definitions are true if you believe them to be so. Since everything you perceive and understand in life is subjective to you through your own filters and perception of reality, then how you choose to define something becomes your truth until you decide to change your perspective and belief about it. The only person who can change it is you and it will only happen when you are ready.
To try to define shamanism is impossible. Therefore my goal is not to get you to change your mind but more to share my own perspective and experience of it with the hope of perhaps dispelling some of the general misconceptions about shamanism.
Let me begin by saying that shamanism is not a religion, spiritual path or dogmatic practice. Shamanism is something that is lived. I live it, you live it. In fact we are all living it. The original meaning of the word shaman refers to “someone who knows”. In its most rudimentary form, shamanism is about the knowing and understanding of the origins of life and the energy in everything that exists in all facets and all configurations throughout time, space and dimension. You could say shamanism is the ancient precursor to quantum physics, science, mathematics and human psychology. It is the continual hunger and thirst for knowledge, truth, understanding, self-awareness and wisdom. Since we are all seeking to “know” then we are all shamans. This is the true premise behind shamanism. The pursuit of this understanding is driven from the same basic questions our first ancestors pondered as we do. “Who am I?”; “Why am I here?”; “Where did I come from?”; “What is my purpose?”
The answers to these questions have led humanity from all cultures to formulate many beliefs, philosophies and religions, which in turn have led many to blindly believe something to be true without testing or proving it through personal life experience. This keeps you separate, ignorant and isolated from the truth you seek. You end up lazily watching life go by as if it were on a TV screen, living vicariously through the experiences, beliefs and concepts of others. You must dare to actively stalk out your own answers by repeatedly challenging what you know and believe in, especially about what you know about yourself and what you are truly capable of. The more you question your reality and what you understand about it, the more you are actively engaging with shamanism. Initially this requires effort, training and practice, especially learning to stay present and observe yourself in how you relate, react and respond to situations in each moment. This requires adopting the warrior’s attitude in order to battle the inner demons of distractions, excuses and fears. Although the work is yours to do there will be times that assistance and guidance from a teacher or guide is needed to develop effective strategies and techniques to better deal with the challenges. They will also offer other perspectives, clarity and wisdom to help you discover your authentic self as you travel along your sacred journey.
Question – What in your experience would someone glean from being a part of shamanic rituals/traditions?
Lou – The guidance and support of a teacher or guide will provide you with tools, knowledge, skills and techniques to equip and empower you to break through all obstacles and challenges that prevent you from finding the answers to those four fundamental questions. The so called shamanic rituals, traditions, teachings and ceremonies are time tested and proven tools designed to work on many levels including psychologically, emotionally and physically. They help you eliminate unhealthy patterns and behaviours so you can make the necessary changes that return you to wholeness as a sacred human.
A true shamanic teacher or guide knows that you cannot find your answers from a book, watching a movie or following any dogmatic faith. They can only be answered through personal life experience and awareness. The teacher has travelled along a similar road, having overcome their own challenges. They use the wisdom gained to guide you along your journey. Their most important quality is their understanding that they cannot heal you or fix you in any way shape or form. You must do your own work and fight through your own battles making your own changes. Whenever you block or restrict yourself from dealing with a challenge you are facing, it builds up and over prolonged periods of time creates discomfort and dis-ease in the body. This will eventually become toxic leading to ignorance, pain, sickness, illness and disease. The energy used in productive or positive patterns is healthy and promotes pleasure, growth, healing and knowledge. The process and transition in moving from the former to the latter is what is known as personal healing, which can be seen as the act of letting go of any unproductive behaviours and beliefs in order to gain more health, wholeness and well-being. This doesn’t mean you will win every battle or you will always be willing to stand up to every challenge. There will be many failures, mishaps and frustrations along the way. Beating yourself up and believing you are dysfunctional will only breed self-pity leading to stagnation, despair and depression.
Shamanism holds the understanding that in every given moment every human being is doing the best they can with what they have. You are no different and your teacher or guide will reflect this to you as well. Who you are as you read this, is the product of everything you have done, felt and experienced in your life. Who you will become after you have read this is yet unknown because you haven’t experienced it yet. Who you desire to become can only manifest by facing and healing the pain of your past and letting go of limitations. Shamanism provides the way to freeing up this precious energy and healing yourself so you can start living the kind of life you have always dreamt of.
Question – Where did your journey with Shamanism start and why?
Laurel – Before Shamanism, I had established a reputation of excellence in my field of education, I was respected for my expertise and ran a successful business. I enjoyed what I did and felt rewarded by the learning and growth of my students and the parents who sought my advice, but there was something missing – I couldn’t put my finger on it but somehow I felt unfulfilled. This dissonance began manifesting as a general sense of dis – ease in my physical body. I was often tired, I was addicted to food and in rare moments of self-honesty, I realized I had a fairly negative relationship with myself to the point of having very low self-esteem. I noticed similar things in many of the people in my life at that time, both socially and professionally and so I began to study alternative ways of accessing more health and harmony.
It took years of experience and several qualifications in holistic healing before I found what I was looking for. It came in the simplest and most complex word, Shamanism.
I have been enthralled by the magick that Shamanism has brought to my life ever since I flew to Cape Town to attend an Awareness Workshop that Lou was running years ago. I remember one of the first things he said to us that weekend “Don’t believe a word of what I say. Suspend all disbelief for a time and just listen – or don’t. Test it out for yourself – or don’t. Whether you do or you don’t doesn’t matter, the only thing that matters is to be receptive to opportunity and know that you are always at choice. You are the one who has to live with the consequences.”
It was one of the many teachings I took from that weekend and it touched me so deeply that I started to question all the things that I had taken for granted; how I created my life, how much freedom I had exercised in my decisions thus far and how I would choose to be in relationship from them onwards. I put it to the test at every opportunity and found myself making some deeply satisfying changes to my reality. The understanding that I alone am responsible for the way I choose to live my life still shapes the choices and decisions I make today.
That weekend was the first time I witnessed a Traditional Sacred Medicine Pipe Ceremony and it was in this circle of strangers that I learned to open my heart and truly listen to myself. As I held that Medicine Pipe up, stated my intent and released my prayer to Great Spirit through the smoke of the tobacco I knew that I had found what I had been looking for and that I was ready to commit myself to a way of living that spoke to my heart, mind, body, spirit and soul.
I immersed myself in the circular teachings of the Medicine Wheel, they made sense to me like nothing I had ever encountered before. I started applying this new understanding of the world and everything in it with friends, in the classroom and in sessions with clients. It made sense to them too and empowered them to make productive changes, no matter how small. The more I tried it, the more it worked.
It has been many years of learning, healing, growing, sharing and teaching. The journey has been exciting, terrifying, gratifying and challenging beyond measure. We have loved and laughed, cried and lost, we have fallen down and bruised ourselves and got right back up again. We wake up every morning in gratitude as we engage with this ancient Shamanic wisdom. We access our wholeness, we celebrate life and we open our hearts as we share unconditional love. This is the beauty of Shamanism.
Question – Sacred Journeys started when and what do you offer? Please add your web details here so that people can then go and visit your website for more information.
Laurel – I always reflect on Sacred Journeys as the birthing and parenting of a dream child from a great love story, both a part of us and yet also an entity unto itself. We shared a deep passion for the journey we call life and a deep respect for everyone’s Sacred Journey of life. The shamanic approach to life is that all things are equal and deserve respect, including the plants, animals, minerals and humans. This has been our foundation, from which we have built our relationship, our life and our dream of Sacred Journeys. Lou and I continue to stay committed to “being of service” to self, life and others and through the birth of Sacred Journeys, now in its fifth year of growth, we uphold these ideals. It is our vision that Beauty, Knowledge, Power and Freedom prosper within all human beings. It is because of this that many have found a home away from home, a sanctuary, a safe haven where deep healing can be found, where each individual is celebrated and has the freedom to step into leadership of their own lives as they pursue greater levels of excellence. This is the process of “becoming the shaman of your own life”. Our approach is holistic, it identifies you as a WHOLE person which includes your emotional fluidity, physical health, mental clarity, spiritual determination and your harmonious connection to all life. We incorporate a blend of foundational teachings, experiential learning, personal healing, sweat lodges and ceremonial components to give you an integrative approach to total well-being.
The Retreat Centre offers comfy accommodation, communal kitchen and a large teaching space where we hold regular Gatherings, Sweat Lodges and Seasonal Ceremonies. The unique Medicine Wheel Gardens lovingly wrap themselves around the Centre and invite you to step into nature’s embrace so you can gain deeper levels of understanding and wisdom of your inner truth. You may wish to pop over for the afternoon or stay a few days on a Personal Retreat; wandering the land, finding seclusion and re-connection with nature and yourself.
Shamanic Retreats are lovingly created to reconnect you with your body and mind, heart and spirit as they provide you with healing, connection to your inner intent, access to different levels of consciousness and heightened states of awareness. Shamanic Retreats are created to suit your individual needs, we structure your Retreat to provide you with the guidance and support to achieve your intended goals and help you integrate healing and growth for yourself.
Monthly Community (Women and Men) Sweat Lodges and Women’s Sweat Lodges are a unique and beautiful experience that helps to maintain and sustain health and well-being on all levels. To participate in a Sweat Lodge is an act of purification and rejuvenation, it loosens and frees up the energy that no longer serves us and brings balance to our mind, body and spirit, like shaking a tree and allowing the dead leaves to fall away.
The Art of Living Clean is an intensive 10 Day Experiential Program that will change your life. It is designed to deal with dysfunctional patterns & behaviours within the human psyche. If not dealt with, these behaviours create neural pathways or memory programs in the brain that can lead to unproductive patterns and addictions. We guide you through a progressive process, peeling away the layers in order to identify the underlying CAUSE and take the steps to overcome and change the patterns of behaviour that created the misalignment in the first place.
The Art of Shamanic Healing opens the way to ancient knowledge and techniques handed down over many countless centuries. Together we explore the multi-faceted luminosity of a Human Being in all its beauty and complexity. You will be introduced to the teachings of the Healing Paradigm, learn about the different types of Shamanic tools that can be used to bring the body back into balance with firsthand experience using healing crystals, healing fans and gourds, drumming and singing.
The Couples Retreat explores The Art of Relationships with all its rewards & challenges. Successful relationships don’t just magically happen, they involve ongoing effort, a mutual respect, open-hearted communication and a willingness to heal whatever isn’t working. Engage in the life changing process as we explore the complex dynamics of relationships, learn to find greater health and fulfillment and enrich the bond of love.
If something in this article has touched your heart in any way, we encourage you to contact us and come and experience the magick of Shamanism for yourself. You are the creator of your own Sacred Journey, make the most of it.
Lou & Laurel