Shamanism, as far as anthropology and archeology can tell us, is the original spiritual expression of our species. The term "shamanism" refers collectively to the kinds of spirituality often practiced by tribal peoples all over the world. To put it briefly: these spiritualities can be characterized by the understanding that everything in the world has spiritual substance, as well as material, and that this substance is conscious and connected in a vast web of life. To make it briefer still: Everything is alive. Everything is part of the One.

border=”1″ class=”alignleft”>Those practicing shamanism understand that because consciousness is all-pervasive and interconnected, it is possible for a person to spiritually access any part of the universe, be it a blade of grass, a wolf, a black hole in a galaxy far way or the plastic honey bear sitting on the breakfast table. Typically this access occurs by way of a journey where one’s consciousness travels in the spiritual dimension to a desired destination and then interacts with the spirits of that place.

Here in Minnesota and throughout the world, shamanism is enjoying resurgence. Bill Brunton, a shamanic practitioner based in Fargo, N.D., has some ideas about why such an ancient worldview has such contemporary relevance.

"Shamanism’s methods," Brunton says, "produce an authentic spiritual experience for each person that is not based on, or restricted by, the beliefs of others outside the experience. It is the ultimate form of freedom in that one’s own experiences are tailor-made for them and beyond interpretation by others. It provides an opportunity for virtually limitless personal growth through insights from ultimate sources of wisdom. And finally, shamanism is and always has been a methodology for healing, both for self and others."

Brunton knows whereof he speaks. He is an anthropologist who has explored shamanism all over the world and practiced it himself for more than 30 years. He is a member of the International Teaching Faculty of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies.

He is upfront about the impact shamanism has had on his own life and his personal relationship to his helping spirits.

"Shamanic practice," he says, "has literally revolutionized my life to the extent that it is almost unrecognizable compared to a decade ago. It has factored into every aspect of my conscious life, in both subtle and at the same time, profound ways. It’s not like joining a cult or other revolutionary organization. It’s a personal transformation. My helping spirits are like deeply trusted friends, who are always there when called. I feel blessed to have them with me, but I know everyone is also blessed in this way. Their presence and wisdom help me to be okay about the world the way it is and to invest in, and hope for, changes for the ‘better’ where such change can be affected. Thanks to the helping spirits, I do not have to make the judgment of what ‘better’ means."

Brunton maintains that almost anyone has the ability to step upon the shamanic path.

"Nearly everyone can do shamanic work in the sense that they can go on the great adventure of the shamanic journey," he says. "There are cases where it is difficult for some people to do this, but this is rare. Normally, and with discipline and patience, most are able to journey."

However, when asked if anyone can become an actual shaman, Brunton calls attention to the sacredness of the work and emphasizes that assuming the office of shaman is really not up to the individual.

"This role is not self-decreed, but rather, is the judgment of one’s community," he says. "If, through discipline, practice, and experience, and with the help of compassionate spirits, one’s healing efforts are witness to consistent miracles, one may then be accepted by one’s community as a healer, a shaman. Whether or not this happens depends on both the willingness of the practitioner and the wisdom of his or her spirit helpers."

Still, Brunton points out that even if an individual is journeying only on her or his own behalf, the personal benefits can be substantial. " With time to practice…and to explore the breadth and depth of shamanic work comes a deepening of spiritual connection. The ‘veil’ separating ourselves from the divine thins out…and with this, miracles are more evident in our life experiences."

Bill Brunton, will visit the Twin Cities on May 20-21 to teach the Foundation for Shamanic Studies’ basic workshop on “The Way of the Shaman.” This workshop is specifically designed to help people take their first steps upon this age-old path and to teach them the techniques of shamanic journeying and to give them the opportunity to begin forging relationships with their personal helping spirits including spirit teachers and power animals. The workshop is co-sponsored by Rattle and Drum Journeys and Pathways, a health crisis resource center in Minneapolis. For more information about the workshop or to register for it, contact: Rattle and Drum Journeys at (612) 721-5566 or visit its website at www.rattledrum.com.

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Timothy Cope is a Ministerial Guide for Lake Harriet Spiritual Community, and a shamanic practitioner with a healing practice in Minneapolis. Visit www.lhscweb.org Copyright © 2006 Timothy Cope. All rights reserved

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