Shamanism is about a living relationship with this planet upon which we live and its relationship to the cosmos in which it lives. But how can we have a ‘living’ relationship with anything unless we have explored its mysteries or at least have a basic understanding of its parameters? This is where we begin: asking the questions about what this ‘Earth’ is composed of and how do we engage it.
So “what constitutes the ‘Earth’?” Scientist James Lovelock was one of the first to write about the earth as more than a collection of rocks held together by gravity and swirling around the sun in the Milky Way Galaxy. In the early 1970s Lovelock proposed the Gaia Hypothesis, which has now become the Gaia Theory. It states that the biosphere of earth is an active, adaptive control system able to maintain the earth in homeostasis. That is, the Earth is a self-regulating system.
Ok, let’s define the biosphere. Moving outwards from the center, the Earth is almost entirely made of hot or molten rock and metal. Then beginning about 100 miles below the surface where the crustal rocks meet the magma of the Earth’s hot interior, and proceeding 100 miles outward through ocean and air to the even hotter thermosphere at the edge of space, that is the area that is collectively called the biosphere. This is the self-regulating aspect of Earth which has been given the name Gaia.
We also have to think of Gaia as the whole system of animate and inanimate parts. Enabled by sunlight, the growing, living things within the biosphere empower this system, Gaia, but this ‘wild chaotic power’ is constrained by this goal-seeking entity that regulates itself on life’s behalf. Understanding these constraints is essential if we are to remain part of this system and not be phased out by it as unsupportable: the catastrophic results of global warming perhaps.
So here we have Earth – the planet upon which we have chosen to live, and Gaia, the self-regulating system that provides the optimum environment for the life forms and chemical constituents of its system.
Nature refers to the parts of the system that Gaia regulates. Included here are the plants and animals; the natural environment of mountains, rocks, forests, deserts, and waters. The weather with its clouds, wind patterns and storms are all part of nature. The shaman then interacts with nature by understanding the system, Gaia, within which nature operates. And one last important point – we are not outside this system. We too are part of Nature and subject to the self-regulation of Gaia.
It is unfortunate that we have strayed so far from understanding the interconnectedness of all things, but here we are now, trying to find out who we are and what our place of balance is in this wonderful universe. This knowledge that we are regaining, in part through science, has been held by indigenous people since the beginning of time. They have not seen themselves as separate from the great Earth system. They have seen themselves in a living relationship with the entire natural world and as such have learned how to work in partnership and right relationship with this world.
Throughout history certain members of these indigenous peoples were selected due to their inherent abilities to speak directly with these aspects and forces of nature for the purpose of bringing balance, health and abundance to their people.
Today we call these people shamans. Shamans everywhere are aware of the plight of our world and they are generously sharing their knowledge with us in hopes that we ‘separated ones’ will find our place in the system before it is too late. Some of us have chosen to not only reconnect with this ancient wisdom of our ancestors to understand it, but also to engage it and live from and within this integral world view. That possibly includes you since you are reading this material.
What do we do now? Hopefully, if you would like a firmer base, you are willing to research the information on Gaia Theory, or Systems Theory enough to fully convince yourself that you are part of the Earth and Nature, and that what you think and do have a direct consequence on how the system works or fails. This is true not just on the days that you feel ‘shamanic,” but with every breath you take and every move you make. (Sounds like a song).
If you understand this then you realize that you are in a relationship with everything around you and it is time to fully develop those relationships and not just operate from a place of default. For a Shaman, it is all about building relationships with the natural world and the forces of Nature. Within the integrity of those relationships, the shaman finds his/her power.
Just like developing a relationship with anyone, building a relationship with Nature requires that you spend considerable time with it; engage it in dialogue; understand its powers, its gifts, its requirements. How does it want to relate to you? What is it that you have to offer? How do you contribute to the whole, the collective?
Like any relationship, this is a two-way street, not just what you can get from it. And just like with humanity, you can say you are part of the whole human race but find yourself attracted to certain beings within this collective. So when you consider Nature, who is it you really want to get to know? What are you naturally attracted to? Where do you want to start?
We have the whole animal kingdom; those in the skies, the ones who live upon the land and the ones who inhabit the waters of our planet. Then there is the plant kingdom, many of whom have developed deep, abiding, informative relationships with us humans.
The elements: earth, air, fire and water all are sources of great working relationships and sources of power. The ‘unseen ones’ (by most of us anyway): the elementals, fairies (no – that’s not too far out there) and other forms of life that do not posses a form that our eyes easily perceive. They all inhabit this Earth system called Gaia with us and are available to us if we feel so inclined to seek them out and form a relationship with them.
Some people work intimately with the great waters of our planet: the seas, rivers and lakes. Others are drawn to the mountains, especially the high glaciated mountains, while still others find ways to commune with the great desert landscapes. What calls to you? What are you most comfortable with? These are questions you need to ask yourself and be honest about what relationships you are willing to engage.
As you know, in your relationships with other human beings there is work involved and responsibility involved and hopefully great rewards involved. Being in relationship with one aspect of Nature is no more advantageous than another. What is to be considered is where is the best fit for you if you truly want to be in a shamanic relationship of power.
By Katina O'Neil - www.katinaoneil.com
copyright © 2016 - all rights reserved
Below photo by Kathryn Learie of Owen Imaging, copyright © 2016