(I am bringing this post back to the top from the archives as it shows who I am and the reality in which I live).
Awhile back a woman wanted to come to my Medicine Wheel Circles. She said she wanted to support me, but did not want to pay. I wondered how she thought she would be supporting me by not paying. It made no sense to me. She was a counselor. So I asked her, “How would you feel if I came to see you for counselling but did not want to pay?” She answered, “But I have a PH.D.
I was stunned. In that moment, I realized how far I was from Western ways of thinking, how far apart our worlds were. In her mind, she had earned her right to charge for her work, but I did not deserve payment because I do not have a University degree in Shamanism. although she knew I had been doing this work for 30 years, with the blessings and guidance from Spirit, the Ancestors and my Teachers, I might add.
What she doesn’t know is that we don't do 'Certificates" in Shamanism it takes seven years plus years of ongoing real life initiations to become a Keeper of the Wheel and I have been a student initiate for 30 years. I have had initiates that I have trained as well. This woman expected me to respect her work and credentials and I do, but does she respect the work I do, does she see it as legitimate and authentic? I come from a Traditional Shamanic background where we do not follow Western rules. It is time that Westerners listened to Indigenous People and step into our reality for a change.
I have been in her world, but she has not been in mine.
Western logic says that if you are certified by some well-known authority, you are credible, capable and worthy of being paid for your work. But even a University degree does not guarantee you are good at your job. I know doctors, lawyers, therapists, counselors... who I would not pay to go and see, because they are not nice people, not caring or considerate of those they are supposed to care for. I have walked out of doctors offices because they were not experts in their line of work. I have fired lawyers because they did not give a dam about me or my problems, they just wanted my money.
I have no doubt that the woman I mentioned above is very good at what she does, as many educated people are, but having credentials is not always a guarantee that you are good at what you do or that you are a kind, generous or decent human being.
What is the measure of someone’s worth, the letters after their name or the wisdom of experience they embody?
These days many are calling themselves authorities and giving out credentials and certificates. There are still the standard University degrees that are considered legitimate. But who do we trust? In whom, what and where do we put our faith?
A woman once told me that she does Shamanic Journeying, but does it in a way that does not dishonour Traditional ways. “How does that work?” I wondered. “How did she decide where the line was between what is Traditional Shamanism and what is not?” She told me she is not certified as a Shamanic Practitioner. I had to laugh. I told her that we don’t do certifications, we do Initiations.
Would you give Holy Communion to people if you are not a Catholic Priest? Would you administer Hebrew last rites on a dying Jew if you are not a trained Rabbi? Would you teach the Koran to someone if its not your religion? Where does the appropriation end?
Contrary to popular belief, you cannot become a Shaman in a weekend or even a year long workshop! Or any workshop or course for that matter. It is a calling! It is not something that just happens because you want it. You must be chosen by Indigenous Teachers, Shamans, Spirit or the Ancestors. It is too easy for people to say they were chosen by Spirit. There is a disregard for actual live Spiritual Teachers these days.
I was always Shamanic. I was never interested in having a long list of letters after my name. Although I have a University degree, post-graduate training and have done studies in other fields, I always did them for my own growth and healing, not for status or proof of my intelligence or even to obtain a career.
I studied Fine Arts in University to bring out my creativity, which brought movement to my Wheel and opened up a healing journey that led me to my Path.
I trained as a Natural Health Practitioner, a three year full-time program, in order to learn how to take care of my own health and body after a near-fatal illness. I majored in Spiritual Psychotherapy in order to learn to fine-tune my senses and develop my latent extra-sensory perceptions.
A three-year post graduate program in Art Therapy helped me look at my shadow and childhood traumas. It made me ready for Shamanism. I had done a lot of inner work when I came back on Path, after taking a detour to do all these other things, which I now know were necessary for me to get strong, grounded, balanced and humble enough to walk a Sacred Path. But I was never meant to be part the Western world, although I did get a lot of learning and healing from it. And for that I am grateful.
Still when I came on Path, things got REAL really fast! Things that I never imagined possible manifested immediately. I learned that there is no separation between the waking and the dreaming and all that work I did for all those years had just touched the very tip of the iceberg, that is my Soul is complex and progound beyond imagining.
Over the last twenty-five years, I learned how to be collective, how to take responsibility for my actions; how to accept and not judge shadow, how to be more balanced and disciplined; how to overcome social and religious programs and indoctrinations; how to admit when I am in resistance, denial, fear, illusion; how to overcome my own perceived limitations, how to integrate my Inner Community, how to find my Medicine / Power, to honour my stories... and much, much more….
I learned about the three parts of the Soul - Ego, Totemic and Ancestral. I healed lifetimes of issues and Ancestral stories, on a personal and collective level. I connected with Spirit Guides and learned, am still learning... how to navigate the Waking Dream and twenty-four levels of Dreaming, how to value dreams, and how to walk in harmony and balance with Natural and Cosmological Laws.
I have lots of stories of things that I lived that are magical beyond anything I ever imagined possible. And I am still learning as I spiral deeper and deeper into the Teachings, my own Wheel and the Collective Wheel of our community.
In Shamanism there are also tests. We don’t get letters after our names, but we get recognition from Spirit, the Dreaming and our Teachers.
We are acknowledged for our growth, power, wisdom and the life lessons that we learn. The tests come from the Dreaming / Spirit and the Ancestors, they are not imposed on us by our Teachers. The tests are not made up by Humans. We do not sit in rooms and answer questions, do mulitiple choice or write essays. Our tests are called Initiations and they occur in our everyday lives.
There are big and small initiations along the way, but they are always relevant to our story, our journey and what we need to learn in order to grow and heal on a Soul level. Some of them are so intense that we fall hard and fast. But we pick ourselves up, get the lessons and move on. Some people will get stuck in their ego and resistance and will leave indignantly, blaming us for their problems, not realizing that the initiation is an opportunity to change something. Shamanism magnifies things so they are in our face and we can’t deny them. Not everyone is ready for this.
But it is not all about hardships, challenges and initiations. Our strengths, power and gifts are also highlighted. The rewards are countless. We also laugh and tease a lot. I am stronger, wiser, clearer and more confident than I ever was in the past. I know more about my path and purpose that I never knew existed. I have explored my Inner Universe and my Inner Community at a depth I never imagined was possible.
People come to Shamanism for many reasons: for curiosity, for healing, for guidance or maybe because it is a fad these days, or because they are bored or lonely, or because they tried everything else and nothing worked, or maybe they like the phenomena of it (drumming, dreaming, Shamanic journeying, spirit guides, totems etc).
And some come to Shamanism because they are CALLED.
Those who are called know it, they feel the Wheel, they 'get' the Teachings, they are excited about learning, they are respectful, they value the teachings and are willing to give an exchange for what they get out of it. They are grateful. They know they found something unique and powerful. They will pass the initiations because they know it is for them to ascend to a higher level.
We are generous and giving people in our world. We do not deny those who are curious or are in need of healing, but it is good to be honest about why you are interesting in Shamanism, to come with an open heart and mind, not with expectations, demands, Western attitudes, expecting something for nothing, taking and not giving back. If you come empty with openness and integrity and a desire to learn, I guarantee that you will get back much, much more than what you put into it.
And you will be initiated.
As an Initiator, I often test people up front. Initiations after all are about ASCENSION. You can fall into woundedness, arrogance, denial, illusion, resistance, defensiveness, indignation etc… or you can rise to a higher level of consciousness and find new attitudes and behaviours. That is your choice. As Initiator, I have learned to choose carefully who I initiate because there is a contract involved. If the other person is willing to do the whole Wheel, I must do it with them. And I also get tested in return.
So you see, I have lived in your world, but you may have not lived in mine.
Yes, I can respect your credentials and expertise, your skills and your worth.
Can you respect mine?
** The Image at the top of the page shows how much Westerners do not understand Indigenous or First Nation Ways:
1st of all we would never desecrate a Holy Mountain like that by blasting into it.
2nd, we would not carve human images in stone, it is egotistical.
3rd, they did not ASK the First Nations Elders if that is what they wanted. If they had, the answer would have been a firm "NO"