“My mama always said, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.’” Thus spake Forrest Gump, mouth full, sitting on a bus stop bench, quoting his wise mother. So too is The Shift Network’s Shamanism Summit like a box of chocolates: each presenter offering a delightful, delicious morsel, sharing some wisdom or a point of view not heard before, a new teaching, an old nugget, a common thread, a powerful journey, or a captivating story.
This year marks the Shift Network’s 5th Global Shamanism Summit, hosted by the affable and ever-gracious Michael Stone, who keenly engages all twenty-two presenters and then teases out answers with thoughtful questioning, keeping them on topic and raising important challenges related to the practice of shamanism in today’s shifting world. These annual summits are free, if not ambitious, three-day presentations of some of the best shamanic minds from all over the globe.
Raising an issue related to honoring and respecting nature beings, Sandra Ingerman asked that we all become conscious of the use and selection of our sacred ritual tools and expressed concern about the treatment of plants and animals in the making of shamanic tools, such as rattles, drums, crystals, feathers, and gems. She cautioned us to know before we buy, the origin of the tools and/or their components and how items were harvested, mined or taken. For those of us who already own sacred tools, she prescribes performing a ritual blessing and honoring of each item, a practice she performs seasonally with great intention and gratitude.
Evelyn Rysdyk shared a brilliant bit of what she referred to as “spellcasting” in her presentation Sacred Days, Empowered Life. Teaching us how our days can be guided by our mindset and intention, she gifted us with the prayer to our guiding spirits, “Thank you for the miracles that I experience today.” This elevates our awareness of the many little extraordinary events that happen over the course of the day which she calls miracles. She gives the examples of seeing more wildlife, natural and meteorological effects, rainbows and even an unexpected oriole at her window.
Alberto Villoldo led listeners on a powerful journey 10,000 years forward to meet our future selves and that of our great, great, great (probably a lot more greats) grandchildren. Merging with the World Tree, he took us into the Upper World to meet our descendants who ask us to “create a world we can be born into, a receiving earth,” and that they “will offer you wisdom how you can do that.” Also, in a masterful storytelling about Death, Alberto reminds us that all wisdom comes from death and rebirth. Having himself recovered from illnesses that brought him near death, he counseled that a good shaman keeps death close on the shoulder as a reminder of the impermanence of life. And oh, he also keeps four German Shepherds close too.
My first and own good teacher, don Oscar Miro Quesada, conveyed in his wisdom transmission the need for humans to become one with nature, to give up dominating and controlling it; to rediscover ourselves as ecological and cosmic beings. The Great Work, as he describes it, is to become consciously aware and awake in order to restore divinity to our natural state. That original state is a state of perfect harmony between spirit and body. We need to dedicate ourselves to honoring all relationships–our entire life is about relationship–to the seen and unseen worlds. His advice on how to do this? “Go to the wild places. Make vision quests, pilgrimages to sacred shrines, trees, [listen to] birdsong, natural songs, the wind.” And he offered one of my favorite pieces of wisdom: “There is medicine and richness in ‘wasting time.’” Guess I will be putting up the hammock this week.
Andean medicine man, Fredy Quispe Singona, also known as Puma, has a simple message for us from Mother Earth: The most important thing we can do right now is not to live in fear because it does not serve us, nor does it serve Pachamama. In fact, fear blocks the shift the world needs to be moving into now. By practicing unconditional self-love, we are connecting to the Earth and accessing her higher consciousness. We are missing a life that is so rich, that is so abundant in love and good health, harmony, inner peace by simply living disconnected, having forgotten Pachamama / Mother Earth. Every living being on this planet is intelligent, consciousness and aware of us. This is one of the messages of Mother Earth. The good medicine Fredy recommends is to look in the mirror every day and say to ourselves “I am beautiful.” Cultivate self-love daily.
If I had to pick the overarching theme for this year’s summit, it would be that humans need to connect with nature beings and the earth, the elementals, the cosmos; get back to our roots, our wild ways, become one with nature.
To live hopeless, fearful, guilty, or any other of those feelings does not serve us or Mother Earth. In fact, they just keep us stuck in the same old place. The antidote to this “stuckness?” Unconditional Self Love. Once we are capable of that, once we feel the love within, well, you know, “As Within, So Without.” We will expand beyond ourselves to honor, respect, love and protect all of life.
Of course, there was so much more rich and challenging content in the summit. In fairness, I have to say I did not listen to all the presenters. Yet I will say that all the topics piqued my interest. A shout out of gratitude to all the participants, the host, the Shift Network and their technical support folks for another great summit. Namaste.