An individual can only become a shaman, if the spirits choose to work with them. It is certainly possible that an individual can ask to become a shaman, and that the spirits can decide to work with you. However, no one can force the spirits to work with them. Becoming a shaman is not the same as deciding you want an internet business, and buying a website. You can decide to become a shaman, take all the classes, and still not be one. The spirits are the ones that do the healing, and they have some very specific requirements and demands if they choose to work with you in that way.
Almost everyone has spirits who are willing to help provide prospective, guidance, and some healing energy. If you are drawn to a shamanic path because you would like to have that connection in your life, I would encourage you to follow that urge and use shamanic tools to support your individual spiritual growth.
However, wanting to be a shaman is not he same thing as using shamanic tools in your spiritual practice. The requirements on a Shamanic Practitioner are different. The path has demands and difficulties that are not necessarily there for someone who isn’t using shamanic practice to serve their community.
The path of the shaman healer is not easy.
Illness, or difficulties are part of the requirement of being a shamanic healer. Going and looking at the “scary dark” places inside of yourself, is also required. This is not negotiable. This cannot be avoided. The amount of difficulties a shaman will suffer are often in proportion to the community they are called to serve.
If a shaman is called to serve those people who are the most lost, those who are suffering the greatest – that shaman will have to learn some very hard lesson in preparation for their calling. The shaman must learn about suffering through direct experience in order to properly serve that community. A lack of true understanding about the suffering of others can sometimes constrain a healer’s compassion and create additional wounding in their client.
At the same time, a shamanic healer must respect those who are being healed. Any tendency to pity another can make problems in the healing process. The healing process should empower those being healed. Those “shamans” who come to the healing with pity, or any form of superiority to the one being healed, will experience lessons that identify and attempt to correct those inner tendencies. The bigger your sense of superiority, the more forceful your life lessons will become in order to break down that tendency.
Anyone who wishes to follow the shamanic path in order to becoming a healer, must be clear on this one point:
You will be broken open.
If you have had a shell of protection around you, to avoid feeling difficult emotions, to avoid looking at personality traits such as arrogance or shyness, to avoid making hard changes in your life, or if you just prefer to ignore certain things because they are uncomfortable: The shell that you use to protect yourself from these things WILL BE BROKEN OPEN. The breaking open process is not an easy one, and is always harder when the shamanic practitioner is avoiding it.
If you manage to avoid the breaking open process in some way, only one of two things can happen to a shamanic practitioner:
I would also add that while you are avoiding your life lessons, you may end up causing damage to those you believe you are attempting to heal. A shamanic practitioner is a servant of the healing process. Avoiding your initiations, means that you are trying to be in control.
Some shamans’ paths could be called easier than others. Different life lessons are required depending on what group a shaman has been called to serve. A shaman who is here in service to the forests, could find that they have less extreme life lessons than those who have been called to serve victims of extreme abuse. However, that only means that one shaman may not have to experience the same depth of suffering that another one does, in order to be in service to their calling. All shamans will be broken open by experiencing some form of suffering.
When people die in a natural disaster, you feel pain for them. When people are killed in acts of terrorism, you feel for them. When a forest is cut down to erect another new industrial building, it is like a part of you has died. The shaman has been broken open and can never be closed and protected from feeling these things. (Although a healer does take care not to take on too much, in order to avoid sinking under a weight of despair and therefore lose their ability to help others.)
So even when the shaman’s path is an “easy” one, it is never all that easy. It is hard to put into worlds how beautiful and deep the connection with the spirit world can be. But the joy of that connection doesn’t protect you from the hard work that must be done to prepare you to help your clients and your community. For the true shaman, the path of personal growth and self-healing is never done.
In many indigenous cultures, and locations where shamanic practice has not been lost, they cannot understand why anyone would ever ask to be a shaman. In these cultures, most tend to avoid the profession as actively as possible, because they know how difficult it is to follow such a path.
What they may not understand, is how painful it can be to live in a society that is so fully disconnected from the world around them. For some, the path that came before shamanism, the experience of being so completely disconnected from the natural and spirit world, was, in many ways, more painful then the one that comes after the connection with the spirit world has been found.
Outsiders may mistake the joy and excitement of finding a connection with the spirit world, with a lack of understanding that the shaman’s path is a difficult one.
These outsiders would be correct that there are quite a few people who go down a shamanic path in a shallow way. Excited more by the idea of a romantic shaman, and lacking any depth or relationship to a true shamanic path, these people are more like spiritual tourists, or materialists, who are excited by the collecting of things. In a materialistic society, you cannot avoid having people in any spiritual practice, who are approaching things in a materialistic way.
That does not mean, however, that everyone who is following a shamanic path is materialistic and shallow. The shamanic path is a direct relationship with the spirit world, capable of a depth of relationship that is profound and cannot be described with words. These people may sit quietly along side others who do not have this depth. The presence of hundreds of shallow people does not interfere with any other individual’s depth of practice. The depth comes from within.
Those individuals who are genuinely excited about the shamanic path, and authentically drawn to follow it… they do understand that the path is not easy. (Although, from time to time, we all get surprised about how hard it truly is.)
Perhaps when you come from a society where there is a strong spiritual presence, and where someone else is responsible for bringing the spirits into that presence, the feeling of connection, and the imbued power of the spirits can be taken for granted. It may be difficult to understand just how painful it can be to live with an absence of feeling connected to anyone but yourself. For many who authentically desire to follow a shamanic path, it is because their life was transformed from a painful one of disconnection, to one that has pain but with a new joy of intimacy with the web of life.
It is my belief that the spirit world understands how disconnected people are in the western world. There is a willingness to provide that connection, without the same level of requirements that may have existed in other societies and in other times and places, when talking with the spirit world. In other words, you can use shamanic practice only for your personal use, without necessarily starting down the more demanding path of the healer. Individually, that path is capable of providing you a depth of relationship and understanding that can fulfill some essential needs.
That is why I encourage all individuals who feel drawn to experience connection through tools such as the shamanic journey, to do so. In a society that is so disconnected, its very important to have an opportunity to experience that connection, to truly know that you are not alone. However, you don’t have to become a shaman in order to experience that connection. You must take care not to ask for more than what it is you truly want. If you are mainly longing for connection, try to avoid asking for roles and responsibilities that you are not truly willing to accept.
While there is always a risk that you may be called down the more demanding parts of the shamanic path, whether you want to do that or not, you really shouldn’t request the spirit world to become a shaman on a whim. You should take the time to ask yourself, what do I truly want?
You may have experienced a healing that is so wonderful, that you have a desire to see others receive that healing. But does that mean you are really interested in taking on the responsibility of providing that healing to others? Or perhaps are you really just meant to find a healer you trust, and help connect others with the opportunity to get that same healing by recommending that healer?
You have a desire to practice in community. But does that mean that you want to lead community ceremonies and become responsible for the power that is invoked in ceremony and the potential pitfalls if that power is out of balance? Including illness, financial problems, or other consequences when a ceremony is performed with imbalance? Or do you wish to join friends once a month, so that you can drum for each other, and share your what you learn on your journeys with trusted friends?
You hate your job, and are seeking a way of earning money that has some soul in it. But do you realize that becoming a shamanic healer with the purpose of making money is likely to invite some very difficult life lessons? Where, alternatively, if you simply asked the spirit world for help in finding a soul-filled job, a job you did not consider may present itself to you?
If you are following a shamanic path for your spiritual practice, take care with what you ask for. Ask for connection, and you will receive connection. Ask for roles which carry responsibility, and you will receive an initiation, or many initiations that may be hard and painful. For those who truly wish to be on the path of the healer, we accept these (even if we don’t always enjoy them) because we truly are committed to a path which includes the responsibility of helping others.
Otherwise, just accept the love and support of the spirit world, and know that it is not necessary to do more. Its OK if your shamanic path is only a personal one. You do not need to do more in order to be worthy of that love. Many people have a genuine desire to contribute to making the world a better place. However, doing that may be more simple than you think it is. On a personal level, our own wholeness and integrity has a profound impact on the world around us, even as we perform our simply daily tasks. Each heart that is healed from the disconnection of separation, is a healing for the whole world.
“And Dorothea..she had no dreams of being praised above other women.
Feeling that there was always something better which she might have done if she had only been better and known better, her full nature spent itself in deeds which left no great name on the earth, but the effect of her being on those around her was incalculable.
For the growing good of the world is partly dependent on un-historic acts and on all those Dorothea’s who live faithfully their hidden lives and rest in un-visited tombs.”
George Eliot, Middlemarch (Movie 1994)