Shamanism and Native Spirituality


At some distant point in mythological time, the living being which we call the planet Earth joined together with the Great Spirit of All That Is to co-create humankind. As the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, so is every child more than a joining of two parents. Distinct from the rest of creation, humankind achieved self-awareness and by so doing gained the right of free will.

Because we are children of form and spirit, we have access to both the Earthly and the Divine within ourselves. Further, every individual is a collection of many parts: emotional, mental, spiritual, physical. Each part affects the rest in invisible fashion. But there is a way to achieve balance by seeking the center point of stillness where all parts will merge. If we learn to move from that center, responding not to the various insistent voices of body, heart, spirit or mind but acting from an awareness of the greatest good, then all four are served. They may not receive all their wants, but their real and essential needs will always be met.

By seeking to balance the plurality of our existence, we have the ability to balance the entire planet. This is the challenge that faces us. But there is no way to point at humanity and say, all right, take responsibility for your actions, make these realizations, because humanity is a collection of billions of individual beings who have lived, live, and may yet live. Our movements as a whole are difficult to perceive. But the awareness of a few can profoundly affect the rest of humanity through the invisible but powerful winds of change. Humanity can evolve through movements in individual lives.

The Earth as Gaia, a living being imbued with the spirit of All That Is, is faced with the same challenge that we face as individuals seeking to balance our plurality. If we choose of our own free will to accept our destiny, releasing the weakness, inadequacy and resistance that binds us to our old vision and world view, then yield to our greatest potential, we can be the wielder of will for the Earth as well, making the decision that will end this cycle and allow a new one to begin.

The gift of free will gives us the right to choose any direction and any path. Somehow the gift seems most powerful if it is used to do other than what is expected. Destruction appears to us so much more powerful than creation, taking so much more powerful than giving, controlling so much more powerful than yielding. But this is a distorted view. The other side of the gift of free will gives us the right to choose to be what we are intended to be. While non-human beings accept their roles without choice, we are given the freedom to choose to take our part. From here we make our own paths, then choose to walk upon them, taking responsibility for every choice that we make.

No one is going to tell us what we have to do. No force outside us is going to provide an easy solution to our global crisis. No ultimate authority is going to deliver an absolute truth in which we will all finally be able to believe. No relationship, no religion, no acquisition, no achievement, nothing that we find outside us is going to make us whole.

As we journey within ourselves, searching for the center point of stillness, we may discover it is a place we can only approach empty-handed and alone. But turning our backs on the world we may find, to our endless joy, the whole world waiting there for us to arrive and our empty hands holding everything we need.

From: A Voice From The Earth

The path to Vision is simple, if you can take a few hours or a few days to spend in an isolated spot upon the land. Fasting and sitting are useful and common ways to help open yourself to spiritual reality. It is important to find a place to be alone, where you won’t be disturbed.

It may be a good idea to have a non-judgmental friend nearby who can be trusted for whatever support you feel ou need, from checking on you at regular intervals, to listening to your stories and helping you to interpret what you have experienced.

There are no rules for a Vision Quest you create for yourself. Whether you spend your time inside a tent, in the open woods, on a beach or mountain top, it is only necessary to let your intuition draw you to a place where it seems that you are meant to be. It is crucial, however, to have direct, physical contact with the elements and to allow yourself to be affected by the natural world. Experiences on the land are often powerful because you are vulnerable there, willing to look at what you see, instead of just seeing what you expect to see.

The Earth is a mirror reflecting your real self. Cities, which were created by humanity, will more readily reflect the faces that you also created. The Earth cannot discern borders between nations, races, species and life-forms, between animate and inanimate, between form and spirit.

It is when you forget these distinctions that you begin to open yourself to Vision. Releasing your judgments of yourself, your purpose and your identity, you reach past familiar explanations of reality towards a higher comprehension.

From: A Voice From The Earth

In many ways the Earth is like True-Hearted Woman and humanity the husband who neglects her. Still she provides for us, she feeds us, clothes us and keeps us warm, though we neither recognize nor appreciate her gifts. Our eyes are turned to the objects of our desire which we will attain no matter what the cost. In most cases this price is also paid by the Earth.

But even abandoned, even hurt in some ways beyond renewal, the Earth leaves us a child, the possibility of change and hope for the future – if we can choose to live in a different way.

When we begin to view the Earth and its animals, plants and ecosystems as sacred, we will protect and defend the land because our spirituality depends on it. By our own choice and our willingness to listen to the land, we can become native again, even in our cities whose concrete can cover but not destroy the Earth that lies beneath.

But when we cease to uphold the separation between ourselves and the land, refinding our reverence and respect for it, allowing it to become as intrinsic to our spirituality as our compassion for other human beings, we may find ourselves short of the tools necessary for what that means.

For many non-Western cultures a Vision Quest is one method of direct communication with the Earth. Specific details of the experience vary widely but the basic purpose seems to be universal.

The Vision Quest is a ritual which we have all experienced without even being aware of it, right within the context of our own lives, even in our cities. A passing conversation with a stranger, a sentence in a book, an idle musing on a bus, any of these can provide moments of vision if we have the openness to allow ourselves to understand what is really happening around us.

For Example:

The city-dwelling unconscious Vision Quester who is unhappy with his job, the state of the world and his relationships, but who can’t put his finger on why he isn’t happy or “what it’s all for,” takes off from work for an afternoon and goes for a walk in a park, alone.

He is startled when he comes upon a huge spider’s web which crosses his path. It has been raining intermittently but suddenly a ray of sunlight pierces through the trees. The tiny drops of water, which hang like diamonds from the web, turn into flames. Now within the complexity and confusion he can see order, a delicate beauty, a shadowy sense of purpose.

He goes home, more sure of his ability to move through his conflict, to make decisions of positive change and to allow greater intimacy in his relationships. Without even being aware of it, he has successfully completed an ancient ritual and received the healing inherent within it.

We have access to everything the world has known, if we can learn to listen to the stones and the stories they have to tell, if we hear the winds speak who have been everywhere and heard everything since the beginning of time. The world will always provide vision, if we allow ourselves to be alone, then open our eyes and look as if for the first time, at what has been around us all along.

From: A Voice From The Earth

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