Saturday, June 20, 2020

The Summer Solstice and Social Change

The 2020 summer solstice is Saturday, June 20 at 21:44 UTC. In the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice is the first day of summer and the longest day of the year. The summer solstice is a turning point when the days start to grow shorter. This occurs June 20, 21, or 22, varying from year to year, dependent upon the elliptical path of the Earth around our sun. Technically the summer solstice marks the instant at which the Earth's axis stops tilting toward the sun and starts going back the other way. Solstice means "standing-still-sun." At summer solstice, the sun journeys farthest north in its orbital path and for the next three days it rises and sets at virtually the same place on the horizon, appearing to stand still, and then it slowly returns south.

At the summer solstice, we begin a new cycle on the Medicine Wheel of Life, entering the South -- the home of summer, midday, youth, joy, trust, and growth. From the South rises the vital energy of renewal, regeneration, and growth. From the South we learn to plant seeds of good cause. We learn that our thoughts and actions create our reality. Whether we realize it or not, we are creating our reality all the time. Our reality is the perfect, exact mirror of our thoughts and what we consistently focus upon. Every thought, idea, or image in the mind has form and substance. Everything that we perceive began with a thought. The structure of our universe is thought, mind and consciousness. Consciousness determines the form of our experience. Consciousness is the "theater of perceptual awareness." It is the collective consciousness of humanity that shapes our physical and social reality.

Shapeshifting our Social World

Shapeshifting is about changing from one energetic state to another. Shapeshifting occurs on two different levels. The first level is personal, such as when an individual shifts their energy to match that of an animal or helping spirit. The purpose of personal shapeshifting is to take on the perspective of a helping spirit in order to see the world through their eyes and to build a mutually supportive relationship. The reason for building a relationship with a spirit helper is to acquire knowledge, wisdom, and a broader, deeper understanding of the world.

Social shapeshifting is when people collectively transform their organizations and communities. The purpose of social shapeshifting is to develop new thought and behavior patterns in order to change the social world. We can only change our social reality by changing the way we think -- by changing our beliefs, expectations and assumptions which keep us stuck in a narrow perspective. Since all energy follows thought, shapeshifting is one of the most effective means of transforming societies. We create ourselves by how we invest this energy. What we focus our attention on is what our world becomes. By utilizing the principles of shapeshifting, we can transform our existing world into an equitable, peaceful world where all our relations can thrive.

To bring about social change, we cannot fight who we are. We cannot beat the existing system; we have to build a better one instead. As American architect, systems theorist, and author R. Buckminster Fuller put it, "You never change things by fighting against the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the old model obsolete." We cannot change our political system by fighting it. We cannot change an oppressive government by voting for more progressive politicians. We cannot bring about the kind of social change we want by trying to tear down the parts of the old system that we do not like. We can only change the social structure by building a new model that is so desirable and so successful that people will clamor for it. From a shamanic perspective, we need to shapeshift a new world into being.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Awakening the Shamanic Drum

When you make or acquire a new drum for shamanic work, it needs to be ritually awakened so that it can be used more effectively. The ritual that I present here is a form of embodiment trance and should not be undertaken without helping spirits for protection from malevolent spirits that may cause you harm. As Mongolian shaman Sarangerel Odigon points out, "Opening yourself up in order to allow your shamanic spirits to work through you is not dangerous if you do so with the specific intention of embodying them and no other spirits besides them. Your helper spirits will bar the way to any foreign spirits that may try to enter your body."

Embodiment trance is a core shamanic practice. It is essential for the safe practice of many methods of shamanic healing. By embodying a helping spirit, the practitioner is protected from the ill effects of removing spiritual intrusions from a patient during extraction healings. Through embodiment trance, the spirits are able to make their thoughts known or empower the practitioner to do the work at hand.

To prepare for this ritual, it is useful to smudge the drum and dedicate it to your work. Create sacred space and ask each of the six powers or directions to bless your drum. Thank the animal spirit for giving its hide for your drumhead. Thank the trees for your drum's wooden rim and ask that the drum's hoop be connected to the World Tree, which enables all trees to sing your prayers while drumming. If your drum has synthetic parts, thank the organisms that provided the essence for the chemicals that the substance is made of.

Once you have invoked the spirits you normally work with, be sure to call upon the spirit of the drum and ask it to come to you and become your spirit helper. Convey your intention and willingness to allow it to enter your body and merge with your being. Visualize yourself as a clean hollow bone or tube, ready to be filled with hope, possibilities and power.

Now begin to gently play a heartbeat rhythm on your drum. Focus your attention on the sound of the drum, thereby stilling the chatter in your mind. Allow the drum to empty you. Become one with the drum. Remember that drumming opens portals to the spirit world, draws spirit in, and opens you up to receive it.

Imagine the energy of your drum's spirit entering your hollow bone and filling you with power and possibility. You may feel it, see it, sense it or simply imagine it. Allow the spirit of the drum to merge with you so that your playing comes under its control. When embodying spirits, they will essentially dictate the rhythm, tempo, volume and timbre until you reach something that is appropriate for them. Just relax, release all expectation and follow the urges the spirits give you. The amount of time spent drumming before the spirits actually enter the body varies from practitioner to practitioner and even from session to session.

Once the spirits come in, they will empower you to continue drumming, sometimes for hours. As Tuvan shaman Sailyk-ool Kanchyyp-ool describes it, "I am not myself. But, I am being maneuvered by the spirits. They tell me. 'Beat hard, beat fast, beat a long beat.' And they also tell me when to stop." While the spirits are in your body, they will protect you from any harm. Even if you do something dangerous, such as walking through fire, they will not allow any harm to come to you.

As the drum journey evolves, you will become more ecstatic and spirit will perhaps create new rhythms or inspire you to sing. You are now shifting into a higher state of consciousness and developing a new shamanic skill. At the higher levels, a healer becomes adept at detaching all sense of self, fully present in the moment, as a hollow bone or living conduit for healing energy to move through. At some point in your journey, you will sense that all of your helping spirits and power animals are traveling with you. They are at your side, helping you become a living conduit for the spirit of the drum.

When it feels appropriate, gradually slow the tempo of your drumming to a regular heartbeat rhythm to draw your consciousness back into your body. Do not rush the transformation. Visualize yourself fully grounded in your body, and then slowly open your eyes.

Merging with the spirit of your drum is an important breakthrough in becoming a shamanic practitioner. This is a truly sacred time to hold with reverence, for the spirits have brought the blessing of greater power to you for the benefit of the community. Your shamanic initiation has truly begun!