While traveling with our friend Bhola Banstola1 in Nepal, we discovered the delightful nature of the Nepalese people. Everywhere you go and everyone you meet greets you warmly with the greeting, Namaste. When spoken to another person, this word is commonly accompanied by a slight bow made with hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointed upwards, in front of the chest. This form of greeting originated with the Sanskrit language on the Indian subcontinent and is now spoken throughout the Himalayan region. It is used when individuals meet and upon their parting.
Several of the tribal shamans with whom I’ve studied began their journey toward becoming a healer while they were still very young children. For instance, the Quechua-speaking Peruvian shaman Puma Quispe Singona, began his training when he was just a child. As a six-year-old boy, he was playing in the river and was struck by lightning.
For as many as one hundred thousand years, shamans have moved beyond the edges of ordinary reality. Defying any perceived limits or ideas of what is “real”, they have expanded their minds and spirits into transcendent realms. Their shamanic journeys showed us that we are more than our physical existence and that the invisible world can help us to thrive in this plane of existence. Their journeys helped to open up new pathways of human thought and ability. Furthermore, it is likely that their altered consciousness experiences and relationships with transcendent spirits has contributed to our evolution.
In my healing practice, my partner and I are often supporting our clients to release their old, outmoded coping mechanisms that interfere with feeling whole. More than ever before, the ineffective nature of our old patterns has become readily obvious. Perhaps it is because our souls are no longer willing for us to be limited and so more clearly illuminate what is holding us back.
One of the ways that you can ground your spiritual practice into your everyday life is to dedicate a special place in your own yard as a sacred space. One wonderful way to do this is to create a shaman tree that will become your place for offerings, for your gratitude prayers and for honoring the spirits in all the realms.
No matter how much attention we bring to our spiritual practice, there can still be those times that have us feeling as though we are being squeezed by situations that are unworkable or unmovable. For instance, you could be experiencing a physical illness or disability. You might be feeling financially restricted. You may be experiencing a difficult relationship issue, or you could feel trapped in your job. Everyone has these kinds of difficult times and it is important to use your spiritual resources to buoy yourself—especially in times of trouble. Indeed, a spiritual practice doesn’t exempt any of us from the ups and downs of being human; instead it provides us with an emotional, psychological and physiological lifeboat to carry us over life’s rough seas.
There are simple steps that you can begin practicing right now that can help you if you are in a tough spot. And even if your life feels perfect now, practicing these steps will give you more resilience as your life’s circumstances bounce up and down. Indeed, creating spiritual and emotional spaciousness can help you ride over the bumps in life’s road with the suspension of a luxury vehicle instead of feeling like you’re a decrepit jalopy with bad shocks!
In my healing and teaching practice, I am fortunate to meet many marvelous people who are choosing to change their lives. Each of them has a different and very personal story that may speak of illness, tragic or abusive beginnings, deep emotional wounding or lack of feeling strong or even worthy of love. Indeed, we have heard stories of truly heinous things human beings have done to one another. The most heart-wrenching stories are the terrors of childhood abuse people have experienced. We have born witness to those who were beaten, burned, humiliated, abandoned, tortured by cults and abused sexually beginning as early as six months of age. And yet, in the face of having such terrifying traumas, these people have the courage to do the work of becoming whole, happy adults. My partner Allie and I have even had the privilege of working with people at the end of their lives who choose to use their last days on Earth to heal their past so that they can move into the next world emotionally and spiritually intact.