Death and Dying from a Shamanic Perspective


In shamanism, the belief that there is no death is a concept grounded in the belief of the soul existing in a never-ending process of regeneration. Our soul remembers our ancient past, engages with our current environment, and knows our future lives. We live forever and our soul is immortal.

Our existence, however, is marked by numerous transitions — both between our many lives and sometimes even within the frame of what we view as the current physical life.

Emotionally and spiritually, one of our most dramatic transitions involves the leaving of this physical vessel that we currently occupy and the passing to the next realm of our eternal existence. For many people, this is understandably a traumatic moment and a transition that might be fraught with fear and anxiety, but the lessons of shamanism can provide a perspective that differs significantly from the traditional Western view of dying, which is characterized by the finality of an “ending.”

The key to unlocking the mysteries of existence lies in the understanding of the continuity of life and the eternal nature of the soul. Shamanism offers a way to know the soul as an eternal shape-shifter, endlessly regenerating into limitless forms — some human, some not.

Here, now and forever
One of the wonderful experiences of the shamanic practice is to see one’s existence in the context of a universe unified not just in its physical state, but also in time. Time is not just a linear condition of loss and gain but a summative experience that unifies all time into a singular moment of “here, now, and forever.”

The transition, which the limited vision calls death, is seen by the shaman as one more of an infinite number of transitions in the soul’s experience. The lesson to be learned is “how to see and understand the transition we call death and to experience its mystery as a revelatory moment in our eternal existence.” In this way, we focus on the positive energies of the wonderment and beauty of existence and the promises of life.

I encourage my students to take the time to reflect and to determine what they actually believe about death and immortality. This is a very personal experience for each person. In my own family, we have discussed this as a group, not to argue about who’s right but to have an honoring of each individual’s belief system. I have actually written down our responses so if it happens that one of us transitions, all of us left behind can envision that soul taking that path to its next phase. We will be the rocket fuel for the movement from one dimension to the next.

Sharing our thoughts
We will all find ourselves at some time in the presence of an individual transitioning from this life into the next existence. This exercise of sharing our thoughts regarding a passing is important for any loved one in the transition process. Bringing the energy of a positive force regarding the eternal nature of the soul can create an appreciation of our existence and the significance of our unity with the cosmos.

Conversations regarding death are uncommon in our culture, and the discomfort around the subject leaves a void that might be filled with negative energy or fear. In the shamanic practice, there is the possibility of creating a positive energy by recalling that mortality only references the physical body, a fragile and temporary shell. The true self resides in a soul that is forever in transition.

This does not discount the significance of this moment in existence, for the celebration of a life well-lived demonstrates the significance of every individual in the oneness of existence and places us in the context of the universal truth that time is endless, that life is a condition of continuity, and that we are all connected in a single array of associations.

Every birth, every event of life, and every death is linked endlessly in the universe’s grand design — and each is but one more transition that we all share and will always be experiencing.

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