Updated: Sep 19, 2022
I love being a shaman. It's the natural expression of my deepest self and of my calling in this lifetime. And I do it well enough that I make it look pretty cool, so it seems normal to me that you might want to be a shaman too.
If "I want to be a shaman" crosses your lips in my presence, I will, sooner or later, ask you the most important question of your shamanic journey: "WHY?"
Why do you want to want to be a shaman?
After many years of listening to people answer this question, I've noticed certain patterns. Answers generally fall into one of two categories:
I find that the less-right answers usually start right away, sometimes before I've even finished asking my question, and continue on for some time. As I listen to the long (it's always long) list of reasons, experiences, messages, and intuitions that have led the person to want to be a shaman, I patiently nod at the right moments. "Yes," I say, "I see. Yes, mmm-humm. Oh, wow. Okay."
Generally, the magical medley of less-right answers in these long lists of reasons has the following flavors:
Being a shaman is so cool!!!
Don't you love all the power of it? I want that power too.
All of my friends are really into it.
I want to heal the whole world!
I want to achieve spiritual mastery.
The common thread in these answers is that they're all some variation of power, glory, control, fame, self-importance, and belonging. In other words, ego.
First, let me say that it's completely natural and expected to feel driven to achieve importance in our communities. It's how we survive in the world, how we feed and clothe ourselves, and keep ourselves safe from harm. Everyone must learn a valuable skill with which they can contribute to the needs of society, and there's nothing wrong and everything right with that.
That being said, it's a common misconception that shamans are cool, powerful, magical, and attractively mysterious. The truth is that "shaman" is just one of many jobs that our society needs done. There's nothing inherently better about it than any other way that people contribute to society. If you ask me, it's computer programmers, mechanics, surgeons, landscape architects, and musicians that are magical, mysterious, and super-duper cool. (Seriously, though: How do y'all do that? It's amazing!)
If there's any other thing that a person could possibly do that would provide fulfillment for them other than being a shaman, I almost always strongly encourage them to do that thing instead, because, from the inside, actually being a shaman feels very much the opposite of being powerful.
A shaman's job is to be a hollow conduit for helpful information or energies from the cosmos to enter the earth plane to clean, clear, vitalize, and stabilize the person or space he or she is working on. We do that by physically being somewhere in the earth realm with our mind focused. That's literally the whole magic: being still, being focused, and allowing our vessel to be used. When a person is thirsty, they never thank the cup for quenching their thirst, yet they mistakenly thank shamans for "healing" them all the time. It's just not true. The shaman isn't the healer, just as the cup isn't the thirst quencher.
The path of the shaman is directly through what is generally a very, very difficult path of dissolution of identification with the ego. If a person is attracted to shamanic practice in order to fulfill his ego needs, he'll wake up in the middle of an unfinished path, wondering what happened and how everything went so wrong.
So what's the right answer?
I've noticed that right answers are usually preceded by a long pause. Sometimes very long. (For me, that pause lasted a decade, but almost no one is as slow and stubborn as I am!)
After the pause and a few deep breaths, the next thing the person says is often, "I don't know." Which is usually followed by another long pause. The calling to the path of the shaman is so deep that most people have a very difficult time putting words to it until they've had a long time to think about it, and even then it can be difficult. Most deny that they feel called to being a "shaman" at all, and will refer to it by other words:
I've been working with [insert healing modality or intuitive discipline here], and I just feel like there's more I'm supposed to be doing.
It's happening through me anyway, and I feel like people deserve better than what I'm currently capable of.
When I try to run away from this work, everything in my life starts to fall apart.
My life has fallen apart, and I can't shake the feeling that this is where I'm being led. Nothing else makes sense anymore.
The common thread among right answers is a very deep drive to be of loving service to others, not for personal aggrandizement, respect, or recognition, but because it's a natural expression of their true selves.
As one of my beloved friends recently said so wonderfully, "Personally, I believe it ultimately has to be a calling from within, an unshakeable burning desire to do this work. Without that, all the other reasons won't be enough to keep the train moving."
Folks with the right answers generally have a sense that the shamanic road will be long and difficult, and they're accepting of it. They're maybe not gracefully and quietly accepting (did I mention that I am slow and stubborn?), but they are willing to do whatever is necessary to allow the full expression of their calling, to have the discipline, to endure the tests, and to totally let go of any control they may have once thought they had over their lives.
The shamanic path is not for everyone. However, even those who start from less-right reasons can reach the desired "hollow bone" state with enough willingness to surrender and allow their life to move in the direction of Spirit. If you're wondering if shamanic training might be right for you, contact me and let's start a conversation!