One well-known author and teacher of shamanism appears to think that he has "discovered" our energy body. His "discovery" is nothing new, but it appears to be a good marketing gimmick.
Practitioners of Ayurveda (ayur = life + veda = science, or the science of life) have known about our subtle bodies for at least 5,000 years. As shamanic practitioners we can do a great service to our clients if we are able to sense the state of their energetic body and work with it. In this blog I'll write about your energetic bodies from the point of view of Ayurveda. In the next blog(s) we will explore how to sense and then how to work with the energy bodies.
According to Ayurveda we don't have one body, but rather five. The first of these bodies is the Annamaya Kosha. Anna means "food" so the Annamaya Kosha is our food body, or the body that we construct from food. In other words, it is our physical body. Every builder needs a plan and the plan for your physical body is found in the other four bodies or sheaths that overlay the Annamaya Kosha.
The next body or overlaying sheath is the Pranamaya Kosha or the energy body or sheath. Energy goes by different names in different cultures. In India (Sanskrit) it is prana. In China it is Qi (pronounced "chi”), and in Japan it is Ki, as in Reiki. This sheath controls the flow of energy through our physical body through a system of subtle channels called Nadis, similar in concept to the meridians in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Our body also has numerous energy gates called Marmas (again similar to acupressure points in TCM) through which our energy body interacts with our physical body. These Marma points control the flow of energy to different body systems and organs, such as our heart, brain, stomach and liver.
The Manomaya Kosha (manas means mind) is the storehouse for memories, emotions, likes and dislikes and all the information we receive through our senses. Manomaya Kosha is often referred to as either our emotional or our mental (Chitta) body. Scientists are starting to question whether or not consciousness resides in the brain our outside of the body and the brain is just sophisticated transceiver that receives information from and sends data to consciousness. Ayurvedic physicians understood this millennia ago. To learn more about this you might enjoy Mark Gober’s book, An End to Upside Down Thinking: Dispelling the Myth That the Brain Produces Consciousness, and the Implications for Everyday Life.
The Manomaya Kosha is enclosed within the Vijnanamaya Kosha. Vijnana is usually translated as the thinker; the higher aspect of our mind (also known as Buddhi). This body provides us with our intelligence, discrimination, wisdom and compassion. When this sheath is strong then our mind and heart are free of agitation and are balanced and clear.
The fourth energetic body is the Anandamaya Kosha, (Ananda = bliss) or bliss body, or as some call it, our causal body. This body is the truest reflection of our Atman, the Self or Soul whose nature is Sat-Chit-Ananda (pure-bliss-consciousness).
The physical body, the annamaya kosha consists of energy that vibrates very slowly and consequently appears to our physical eyes to be solid, even though at the atomic level it is mostly empty space. The other four koshas, or energetic layers or subtle bodies, create an interconnected field of energy around the physical body that is commonly known as the auric field. Each subtle body connects into the physical body via an energy point or chakra, which directs the energy into the physical body via the nadi or meridian system.
The outer bodies and the chakras in essence act as step-down transformers that decrease energy levels until they are able to condense and form the physical body. The energetic state of all of the koshas determines our level of mental, emotional and physical well-being. This also means that energy imbalances in the outer koshas will eventually be manifest in the physical body as dis-ease. Consequently when we heal the energy koshas we heal the body. This, by the way, is the basic premise of Bach Flower Remedies.
Energy is everything,
This is probably going to be a short blog but I hope that it will make you think and maybe we can start a conversation among all of us rather than just me writing and you reading. It would be nice.
As I visit shamanism web pages and read the advertisements in magazines it seems that more and more shamanism is becoming a psychological practice. It is being uses by more and more psychologists and counselors as a tool in their practice. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that (1) it is being used, and (2) that it is helping people.
However when I lived in Bolivia and Peru (6 years) and learned from Andean shamans (curanderos) their concern and the concerns of the people who came to them for help wasn't for help with psychological issues. I understand that dis-ease is, in most cases, and energetic issue. Imbalances start in the subtle energy fields that surround our bodies and gradually work inwards where they eventually manifest as physical symptoms. Consequently we can often facilitate the healing of chronic conditions by addressing energy imbalances.
My concern is that as a shamanic community we risk focusing only on psychological issues and forget the shamanism is a whole-person tool.
I'm curious, what do you think? You can click here to comment.
Some time ago I shared my daily invocation with you. You can read it here if you would like. I came across a poem that would make a great invocation should you care to use it. It also might inspire you to compose your own. Here is Victoria's morning prayer:
A Morning Prayer
by Victoria S (Leona Oigheag)
Hail to the Ancestors
of Blood and Bone,
of Heart and Spirit.
You who raised us, taught us, made us,
Remind us of your good lessons.
Hail to the Nature Spirits
of plant and animal,
of the elements of Nature,
You who share this world with us,
Remind us of our connection.
Hail to the Shining Ones
of sea and sky,
of this land and others,
You who share your blessings with us,
Remind us of our relationships.
Hail to the Ancestors,
Hail to the Nature Spirits,
Hail to the Shining Ones
Hail to the Kindreds.
May your blessings be with us always.
I was reading the great Celtic epic, Táin Bó Cuailnge, or "The Cattle Raid of Cooley" last night and came across a description of an evening lull in the battle. The two protagonists and foster brothers, Cúchulainn and Ferdiad get together . . .
Cúchlainn and Ferdiad threw their spears into the arms of their charioteers, and came up to each other and put their arms around the other and exchanged three kisses. Their horses passed that night in the same enclosure, and the charioteers shared the same fire and they made up beds of rushes for the wounded men. Druids came and put healing herbs in Cúchulainn's wounds, but they could do little but chant spells and lay magic amulets onthem to staunch the spurts of blood for the deepness of the wounds.
Note the role of the Druids? From this short passage we learn that among their many skills they were herbalists. Natural healing techniques and herbology are great skills to add you to shamanic tool kit. If you are interested in herbology then drop me a note and I'll add periodic blog posts about my favorite herbs or you can visit my natural health blog to see what I have written about there.
Peace my friends,
P.S. If you haven't read the Táin then here is a good plot summary.
In my last two blog posts I wrote about working with energy. If you read the blogs then you should remember that energy follows the mind. You can lead energy with your thoughts. I went to the park with my family this afternoon and while the teenagers played basketball I sat under a cedar tree and played tunes on one of my Native American flutes. While playing I watched cotton-ball clouds drift by overhead.
I decided to practice cloud bursting. Developing the ability to play with the clouds is one of the first step in developing weather shamanism skills. The objective of cloud bursting is to pick out a cloud in the sky and dissolve with you your intent, with your mind. I suggest that you start with a fairly small, wispy cloud. Cirrus clouds work great for this. Pick out a cloud, focus your eyes and your intent on erasing the cloud from the sky. Once you send your intent you can relax and just watch the cloud. Work you way up from cirrus clouds to more dense and larger clouds like cumulus clouds.
Once you have develop the ability to focus your intent and dissolve clouds try to do the opposite. Pick out a small cloud and use your intent to make it grow. Once you have mastered that skill you might try moving a cloud or merging two clouds into a larger cloud. When you start to practice cloud merger or cloud movement do it on a day when the clouds are stationary.
You will probably be surprised by how many things you can influence with your intent. But, for the next week or two practice cloud bursting and then growing clouds. I'll post another blog in a couple of weeks on other weather shamanism skills you might work on developing.
Peace my friends,
In my last blog post I wrote about shamanism as energy medicine. At the end of that post I told you that I would share a couple of ideas about learning to sense subtle energy. We are going to look at the following:
You will need a partner or willing victim to practice the first two of these skills because you are going to test someone else's energy.
To perform chakra testing you will need a pendulum. I prefer wooden pendulums, they are less likely to cut the spinning energy of the chakra than will a metal pendulum. Have your partner lay flat on the floor, massage table, or bed. Make sure you know where the chakras are located (see image above). Hold you pendulum several inches above the root chakra. Hold your pendulum as still as you can, wait for your partner's energy field to start to spin the chakra. A circular, clockwise spin, as seen looking down from above, indicates a balanced and correctly. A non-circular spin indicates an out of balance chakra. An immobile pendulum or one that moves horizontally across the body indicates a blocked chakra. Often all of the chakras above a blocked chakra will be blocked, weak, or out of balance. Finally, a chakra the spins counter-clockwise indicates a chakra that is emitting or sending energy out of the body, rather than pulling it in.
Applied Clinical Kinesiology
Applied clinical kinesiology, also called muscle testing, has been around for a long, long time. It was one of the first techniques that I learned as an N.D. student 20 years ago. This is a good tool to show the effect of thoughts and substances on the body. Ask your partner to stand tall and hold one are straight out to the side. Ask them to think and happy or truthful though, place your index and middle fingers on your partner's arm midway between their writs and elbow and ask them to resist as you push down. Most people should be able to hold their arm horizontal while you press down. Relax. Now ask them to hold the same position and to remember one of the saddest moments in their life. Tell them to resist as you press down. You will most likely be able to press their arm all the way down to their side with little effort.
You can use the same technique to test for allergies or the usefulness of supplements. Ask the person to hold the substance in question in their other hand over their heart center, ask them to ask the question, "Is this what my body needs right now?" while you tell them to resist and press down. If their arm is week then their energy system is telling them that the substance will reduce their energy level, ie, not so good for them.
In our shamanic energy healing course we go through a set of applied clinical kinesiology tests that use acupressure points to test different body systems, to test the wellness of each system.
This final tool is one that you can experience alone. Qi follows the breath which follows the mind. This means that you can lead Qi with you mind and with your breath. Stand relaxed but straight and tall. Feel as if a this string is pulling your head up so that your spine in vertical. Hold your hands, palms facing each other and about an inch apart, in front of you navel. As you inhale visualize energy flowing up from deep inside the earth, rushing up your legs and up to your shoulders. As you exhale visualize the energy rushing down your arms and out your palms. Think of your palms and emitting energy to each other. As you do this you might want to separate your palms a little with each inhale and bring them close together, but not touching, with each exhale. Practice this for about five minutes. It's a good meditative practice. Most people start to feel a tingling sensation on each palm. This is often followed by the feeling that there is something almost solid between the palms. When you start to feel resistance when you move your hands together on an exhalation, then let them move a bit farther apart. As you continue to feel resistance and the shape of something between your palms know that you are forming a Qi ball, a real ball of energy. When you finish bring the Qi ball towards your navel and place your palms on your lower abdomen about two inches below your navel to store the Qi in your lower Dan Tien. If you don't feel the Qi ball the first time then keep practicing. I have found that about 50 percent of people are able to feel it the first time they try to form a Qi ball, and that it takes others a few more times to feel it.
I have placed a free pdf document on Qigong for Health on the resource page if you would like to learn more about Qi andQigong (Energy Practice).
If you have been reading my blog for any length of time then you should have a pretty good feeling for what shamanism is. Today let's take a look at the interface between shamanism and energy medicine and explore the idea that shamanism is a form of energy medicine.
Energy medicine takes lots of forms and energy is used frequently in traditional Western medicine. For example, x-rays are a form of energy used as a diagnostic tool. Radiation therapy as a cancer treatment beams high energy waves into the body to kill (cook) tumors. Sound waves, another form of energy, are used as a diagnostic tool in ultrasound, and also as a minimally invasive treatment for issues like kidney stones. The sound waves literally cruch the stones into sand. However, when I think of energy medicine and shamanism I think of subtle energies.
Subtle energy in around the human body has a long tradition in Eastern medical traditions. Traditional Chinese medicine views three energy fields or storehouses within the the human body, the three Dan Tiens, eight extraordinary vessels that circulate energy around the body, and twelve major meridians through which energy flows. Acupuncture and acupressure are techniques used to remove blockages in the flow of the human subtle energy or Qi.
Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India, also views the human body as part of an energy field. The diagram below shows the multilayered aura that surrounds the human body. Energy is pulled into the physical body by the chakras, energy vortexes, and then it circulates through energy channels. The ida, pingala and shushuman are the three most important of these energy channels or nadi. Energy imbalances can be viewed (literally) by the quality of the spin of the chakras.
In ayurveda, and to many shamanic practitioners, illnesses start in the outer layers of the aura and, as an energy imbalance increases, it is manifest as disease in the body. To heal (another blog topic, healing is not the same as curing) the person the energy balance needs to be addressed and the energetic body brought back into a state of homeostasis.
Shamanism is all too often viewed just as a psychological tool, maybe because many of the popular Western shamans come from an academic background in psychology or counseling. We heal a person's psyche through soul retrieval or by removing attachments, we gain wisdom by interacting with our power animals. However, as shamans we also work with the energetic body to effect physical healing as well. In fact, in the Andes where I learned from my teachers, people came to see a shaman (healer) for physical issues more often than they did for psychological or spiritual issues.
When you are living at 12,000 feet up on the altiplano in Bolivia, a two days walk from the nearest medical center, then you relied on the local curandero (healer/shaman) to help you. I once watched my teacher, Don Juan Carlos Medrano, heal a lung infection by removing stagnant energy from a person's lungs. He pulled energy, much like I might pull a long piece of thread attached to needle through a piece of fabric. He spent about an hour pulling invisible energy threads up and out of the person's chest and shaking the energy off his hands. While I watched, the person laying on a blanket on the dirt floor of an adobe hut begin to breathe easily.
The first step in learning to practice shamanic energy healing is to learn to sense the subtle energy field. I'll give you some ideas about how to practice that next time.
Peace my friends,
How is your relationship with nature? If you grew up in the West, and especially if you grew up in one of the religions that makes use of the Torah/Old Testament, then your relationship with nature may have been tainted by Jewish/Christian mythology. According to this myth the First Man and First Woman were placed in a garden and were told that they could eat anything that they wanted except for the fruit of The Tree of Good and Bad.
I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home and went to Sunday School every Sunday morning (some day I'll tell you what happened when I rebelled). Anyway, I was a free-thinking little brat, something my father didn't manage to beat out of me, so when I was in second grade and the Sunday School teacher told us the myth of The Garden I raised my hand and asked, "What kind of God would put a good tree in a garden and say, 'See that pretty tree, don't eat its fruit.'?" It just didn't make sense to me. My question got me sent to the pastors office. Common occurrence.
You know the rest of the story. First Man and First Woman thought that the fruit looked pretty good (another one of my questions to the same teacher, the very next Sunday, was "Remember the fruit from last Sunday? Did eating the fruit really mean that they made love? He he." Same result, off to the pastor's office I went. Whatever the "fruit" was that they "ate", First Man and First Woman got kicked out of the garden and into the dark and dreary earth. The picture that was painted for me was that of getting kicked out of a luscious, cool, green garden with waterfalls, beautiful birds, and animals (even lions and tigers and bears) that would come and play with you, and out into something that looked like the Northern Arizona badlands (been there quite a few times but if you don't have a mental picture then google images of the Navajo Reservation).
For them, and for anyone else who bought into the myth, the earth became a place of suffering, subsistence farming, toil and labor. A place where you had to be careful because the snake might try and bite your foot. The earth was hot and dry and water was hard to find. The earth became a scary place and one that had to be subdued, controlled, manipulated and used. In addition, a duality formed, First Man and First Woman and all of their descendants came to view themselves not as part of creation but its managers or controllers, fighting against the forces of nature.
I hope that your view of creation is different because to shamans we are not separate and apart from creation but part of it. In fact, we are just one little node on the web of life that connects everything, every person, plant, animal, rock, cloud . . . into one living being; the All. I hope that you noticed on the web of life diagram above that humankind is not at the center, in fact nothing is at the center. There is no center.
Pachamama isn't a scary place, she is a loving mother who cares for us, and wants us to love and respect her back. It is dual relationship, not a duality, but a family relationship. When I greet Pachamama every morning I greet her as a loving son saying "Good morning mom, I hope you slept well and had pleasant dreams." When I greet Intitayta as he rises over the horizon, waking up like he does every morning, I do it like a son to his father, speaking with love, gratitude and respect. We are a family.
You, reading this are my sister or my brother. So is the crow perched outside my window looking in at me as I type, or the doves that woke me up every morning in Peru last month. So is the raccoon that knocked over my garbage can last night. Welcome to the family. Its sometimes a messy family, but one filled with love and support.
Why are you here? Not here on earth or in the city or town where you live, but here, right now, sitting in front of your computer reading this. I am convinced that Spirit talks to everyone and tries to lead them on a spiritual path. Unfortunately, few listen to the promptings of Spirit. You have been lead here because Spirit thinks that shamanism must be a viable path for you.
Why shamanism? You, like me, may have found that fundamental (book religion) religious practices are exclusive rather than inclusive, and restrictive. They promote the idea that if you don't believe exactly the same way that they do that you will not receive any rewards in this life or the next. Ouch. I live in a very Christian and religious (not so spiritual) community and in some parts of town it seems that there is a church on every street corner. All of these different denominations believe that their way is the only way, with slight doctrinal differences. This leads a dualistic, us-against-them mentality.
Shamanism is different. Shamanism is the oldest of spiritual paths. It has been with us for at least 50,000 years. I say that because two French archaeologists unearthed a 50,000 year old burial site in 1972. At this site, the Horta Site, they found the body of a Neanderthal man wearing a leopard hide, typical burial garb for shamans.
Shamanism isn't different just because it is old and it has survived for so long because of its spiritual and cultural value. It is also inclusive and practical. Shamanism isn't dogmatic. It has not doctrine or articles of faith. In fact, it is so nonrestrictive that you can believe what ever you want as long as you are true to Spirit. Unlike most religions, shamanism is experiential and a life style. Shamanism isn't something that you read about in a book (although there are great books about it), it's not something that you learn about in a Sunday school class. It is something that you do and live. As you experience shamanism you learn who you are, your place in the universe, and what you need to do to take care of yourself and this wonderful, beautiful earth that we inhabit. It provides tools for psychological and physical healing for yourself and others.
Interested? I have placed a clickable index of my shamanism blogs on the resource page. Wander around and read about it, then give it a try.
It's good to be home, sort of. I have just returned from about six weeks in Peru with my wife and three sons, and then with nine participants in a shamanism workshop. My family and I spent about two weeks with one of my teachers in his new home in Lurin, a suburb of Lima. We then went on a family retreat to the high (about 5,800 feet above sea level), Central Jungle of Peru where Oxapampa was our base camp, and then to the Andean highlands (about 12,000 feet above sea level) where the mining town of Jauja became our base camp. We used both base camps as our jumping off spots for getting out into nature. My three boys are all teenagers now so they were old enough to enjoy the trip and be good explorers.
Once I felt well grounded and centered I met nine shamanism students at the international airport in Lima for a five-day retreat and energy transmission. It is winter in South America and winter in Lima is pretty mild with temperatures in the mid 60's most days. The temperature in Cuzco is considerably cooler at wetter this time of year.
Obviously, because we didn't go to Cuzco, we didn't visit Machu Pichu this time. Rather, we spent a day exploring the pre-Inca ruins of Pachacamac near Lurin and held a ceremony on the top of the Temple of the Sun looking out towards the Pacific Ocean.
The ocean is very "bravo" (high waves) this time of year but we spent two days, one near the beginning of our workshop and one at the end, on the beach feeling the power of the ocean spirits and building our connection with the force that covers covers more than 70 percent of the surface of our planet. It's hard to imagine, but about 97 percent of the Earth's water can be found in our oceans. Another 2 percent is frozen up in glaciers and ice caps.
Here are two more pictures of Pachacamac:
What else did we do? Well we went to a local market at everyone selected and purchased their own aguayos (pronounced "awayo") to use to hold their mesa and to serve as their altar cloth. The picture to the right shows two of the aguayos that I bought for my collection. That done we spent a day collecting objects for our mesas, consecrating them, and then performing individual ceremonies with our mesas.
Other workshops topics included:
Sound like fun? Our next trip will be during the winter (Northern hemisphere), summer in South America and so we will return to Cuzco and Machu Pichu. Contact me for more information. I'm still negotiating prices with hotels in Cuzco so I don't have price information yet, but that will come.
It's good to be back, although I did notice for about a week (that's how long we have been home) that my legs felt like I was walking through goo. I think that the energy level here is much, much more dense and heavy than it was in Peru. I miss the light energy.
I'm Dr. Dave, a modern druid. I lived and worked in Bolivia and Peru for over six years, where I and was trained by Andean Shamans, and today practice Druidcraft, eclectic shamanism and Ayurveda.