SHAMANISM IN TIMES OF CRISIS
by Zara Waldebäck, Jonathan Horwitz & Annette Høst
© April 2020
A few weeks into these deep changing times. Where are you now? Where do you find yourself? What is this time bringing you?
One of the original meanings of the Greek word “krisis” is a "turning point in a disease, that change which indicates recovery or death". In the 15th century it came to mean a "vitally important or decisive state of things, point at which change must come, for better or worse”. Crisis is the time when there is no choice but change. It is a moment of deep healing possibility.
How do we respond to this turning point? In our own lives - and for Life on Earth?
One of the things we have learned is that in shamanic practice, as in Life, it is more empowering, enlivening and sustaining to work with and for rather than fight against. When we work “for” we flow with power and the power has space to grow. When we fight “against”, power is blocked and locked in battle; it becomes engaged with destruction rather than with creation.
Whatever words are used in the media and by politicians, please know that what we are experiencing is not a war. This is a crisis and an opportunity for healing. Work for the healing, not against the virus. Listen deeply to the situation and learn what it is that you need to learn. We do not need to fight. We need to love.
If we look at this world health situation as we would any disease or imbalance, from the shamanic perspective we distinguish between “cure” and “healing”. A cure is a removal of surface symptoms that can allow the patient to go back to life as it was. With healing, a cure will hopefully happen, but this is not the only concern. Instead we ask to find the root cause and understand the changes that need to be made so balance will be restored and the patient will not get ill again. In this way of understanding, each dis-ease can be a teacher that shows us a new way of being. In shamanic healing, we cannot go back to what was, because that contributed to making us unwell. All healing requires change.
In this time, do not look to only remove symptoms. Don’t just ask for the virus, or the fear, to go away and hope life will return to what has been. We greatly wish compassion, kindness, healing and help to all those who are infected, affected and ill. And while we face heartache, suffering, and uncertainty, we can also remember that this is a major opportunity to step into change. In the midst of a crisis we need to ask for help to move forward, not back. We need to ask how can we work with the deeper healing processes that will bring us through this time into a larger purpose?
Many of us have been experiencing degrees of anxiety, grief and maybe even panic. Fear arrives as an alarm bell. Its duty is to wake us up, insisting: something needs to be done! But we are not meant to stay in fear, that is when it becomes debilitating. Let fear wake you up, then ask for help - hear it, face it, and then step through it. Don’t run away from what is difficult or challenging, don’t hide or protect yourself too much. Instead ask for the Power you need. As Jonathan’s Spirit Teacher once said: “Life is Change, Shamanism is Change with Power". Ask for help. Connect to Power and trust the Spirits. Call on the Power of Love to hold you when you feel too exhausted to keep going. Love is more powerful than we can ever imagine, and it is here, for us, every day as a naturally flowing, never-ending universal force.
Work together with the mighty ancient beings we call the Elements. They are inside you as well as outside you; they are the building blocks of Life. Ask the Water and the Air for help. And ask how you can help the Water and the Air at this time. We all need cleansing. Ask the Fire for help, the Fire in your heart and the Fire at the heart of the Earth. Ask the soil for help, the deep dark rich soil that supports us and needs to come back into full health, to be revived.
Remember, restore and reconnect. If you are able to go outdoors, do a Medicine Walk in Nature. Give your time and attention to the world around you, to the elemental Nature beings and to this special time. For many of us this is new territory - to be alone, isolated or in quarantine, maybe separated from friends and family. It might feel like a frightening experience of loneliness. But if you can go out in Nature, a new possibility might open up: When I walk with the world-view that everything is alive, I remember that I am not alone, because I am always in the company of my extended family of trees, wind, birds, and rocks. Normally, we walk in nature with a human friend, talking. But when my attention is no longer focused on a human companion, I can open to a deep, conscious dialogue with what is around me, and come into closer contact with my more-than-human relatives.
For some of us these times might seem like limbo, as if we are on “pause”. But Life is here, right now. Don’t wait for life to “start again” or “get back to normal”. Be with what is right now, whatever that may be. Meet it as a threshold, as the liminal phase in a rite of passage. Stillness and silence are a deep part of any spiritual practice. They are not “nothing,” they are something - and they are important. Rest now if you are able to rest. If you are still working, maybe even more than usual, you can tune into how society as a whole is being forced to slow and stop. Try to respect this as a very special time. Whether your days are calm or busy, now is a time to connect with stillness as a power. As Humans retreat inside, the Earth is finding space to breathe again.
If you are indoors, sink into your beautiful body and remember it is also Nature. Sink into your heart and into your breath, thanking them for keeping you alive. Breathing is one of our most important ceremonies. Breathe with Life, into the moment. Light a candle, sing a song, drum, rattle, do a ceremony, sit in silence or re-read old journeys to help you to gather the wisdom, strength and clarity you need now. Allow this special time to teach you – about rest, about fear and love, about community and connection, about cleansing and rejuvenation, about Life. Don’t go back to sleep. Be here now. Listen. Listen deeply to all that is around you and in you, listen to the Birds and the Wind and the Song and the Waters. Listen to the Earth and listen to the Spirits. It is all here now. Remember: You are Alive!
Here are some possible missions that can help you during these times:
Please remember that wherever we are, we can sit in Circle. If you have been with us on a workshop, you know we say that once a Circle is created, it is always there. If you need to - sit down at home, quietly with a candle or rattle, or simply your breath, and think back to that time of being together in Circle. Feel yourself there and feel the connection. Feel how the Circle holds us all. You can also do a Medicine Walk or Drum Journey with the mission: “to ask for help to feel the Power of the Circle with me wherever I am”.
There is much we can do when we work together, when we connect and feel the power of community, when we remember to look beyond. Ask for help. Ask for guidance. Ask for inspiration and clear vision.
We wish you powerful healing times and new life blessings. As Spring bursts forth here on the Northern Hemisphere, may we listen deeply and turn towards the natural flow and restoration of Life on Earth