Postcards from the Shadows

Excerpts from conversations on shamanism with Niteshad

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Is there a way to determine what type of tool is right for me?

Let me step in and cause trouble.  Everybody uses tools and metaphors.  Whether it's tarot, astrology, nephrology, or totem animals, they all act as structures that serve to trap attention.

They allow us to reach outside ourselves.  The only danger involved is if we allow ourselves to be trapped along with our attention with those tools.  This is why I have taken such a strong stand against that type of thinking, because it's just that - thinking.  And thinking isn't going to really get you very far.  Yet people will do that and trap themselves, leaving their true potential on the table.

People are all unique.  There really isn't a one size fits all sort of spiritual approach out there.  And here's another shocker, because we are all unique, our energy will have certain affinities for other types of energies.  That could be 'cat' or 'bear' energy, or just about anything else.  You might have an incredible energetic sense of oneness with stewed prunes; who am I or anyone else to judge?  Is that a bad thing?  I don't think so.  It's just one more aspect of your ability as a human being to shift your energy.  The problem comes when we get stuck there.

If we build those tools into a quasi-religion, then I think we're missing the point.  I like to stay away from anything that is going to serve to trap me within any given worldview, whether it's animal totems or reading tealeaves.  That isn't really a condemnation of those things.  They work; they're tools that serve a useful purpose, just not my purpose.  There are a lot of paths out there and they all lead nowhere, including mine.  That isn't the point.  The point is: does the path you chose have heart?  Can you enjoy walking it?  Will it reveal wonder and awe to you, or will it be mechanical and dead?  Will it feed your energy along the way, or will it only take from you?  Those are questions only you can answer for yourself.

If you're going to run with the wolves, then you'll need a wolf skin.  I have no objections to that at all.  In fact, I would encourage you to try it out.  But when you're done with wolf/hawk/falcon, try hedgehog and ground mole.  The animal totem thing comes from the Native American traditions, at least here in this country.  Other traditions have something very similar, if not the same.  But if you really want the juice of what this whole animal thing is all about, go back a thousand years or so.  You need to speak with the Celts; they knew their stuff, and they didn't call them animal totems.  They called it shape shifting.  They may be a bit cranky, more than eccentric and smell bad, but they can tell you what it really means to "learn the animals.  When you're done talking with them, understand it, then you'll know.

Talk to hawk, talk to falcon, and then keep going.  It's just a side door to the same thing.  Of course, there is something there.  If there weren't, it would mean nothing.

There is only one nature - the division into science and engineering is a human imposition, not a natural one.  Indeed, the division is a human failure; it reflects our limited capacity to comprehend the whole.

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