I will not pretend to be an expert on Shamanism, but I am no stranger to it either. In my experience, the thing that I have found most satisfying about Shamanism is that it doesn’t seek answers, it seeks a connection to such an innate wisdom one realizes they already have the answers or are guided to better questions. A Shamanic journey can be undertaken for a number of reasons, my experience has been with journeying as a sort of explorer bent on learning. Many people have different intentions, such as healing or communication with a specific spirit or energy. What I ponder is, how are journeys that are brought on with psychotropic drugs different from journeys brought on in a more natural way such as with a drum or rattle? I hear the voices of certain people I know in my head saying, “Well, with the drugs the visuals are way better.” But that isn’t really where I’m going with this, more to the point, I was recently involved in a discussion regarding the validity of drug induced experiences. There are people on both sides of the fence with this one and both make some sense.
I was ruminating on this:
"If I'm shot by an arrow, I don't need to know where the arrow was made or what kind of bow it came from or even who it was who shot me. I just need to get it out of my chest."
- Angela Montenegro; from the TV show Bones
That analogy seemed to demonstrate to me how I can get too caught up in details and in asking why. I know that asking why is human nature but here I am asking why I ask why, see my point? Asking questions however, is what made humans come up with religion, philosophy and science to attempt to explain the universe. We wanted answers to the big “why’s.”
I’ve been thinking about morality and the tendency toward believing in a black vs. white dichotomy or the idea that there is only good or evil with no acceptable in-betweens or exceptions. Most people acknowledge that variables and degrees exist that make absolute extremes impossible yet most people lean more toward absolutes than even they would like to admit. A lot of Religious and Spiritual paths are sprouting up everywhere as people awaken to new religio-spiritual concepts. I know that even as I type the words saying something like, “As people awaken,” makes me sound like a pod-person or something, but the simple truth is that the people of this planet are going through an awakening and have been slowly experiencing said awakening over the course of many years and many generations with varying degrees of intensity.
I was watching a movie the other day and two of the characters were discussing a moral dilemma. One of them said, “Now, we both know my moral compass doesn’t always point due North, but…” and this statement got me thinking. North had me thinking of the Earth element and I figured, “That makes sense. Having a moral compass that points North is an admirable thing as the North is associated with deep thought and introspection, such thought before action is noble and one is less likely to make “bad” choices.” North is also associated with calmness and with wisdom, even experience; what a nice direction for ones moral compass to point toward. North is “good” North is up and up is also good, that is after all, where heaven is right? Where “god” lives? People who are good are nice, UP-standing citizens, up, north, good, right? I suppose, good, but also limiting.
Carl Sagan wrote a book called Contact. The book was made into a movie starring Jodie Foster who did a spectacular job playing a scientist who discovers what she believes to be a signal from outer space indicating proof of intelligent life in the universe. Of course this causes controversy within the religious community as well as the scientific community. Scientists want it explained; the religious community wants it to be God. The signal ultimately ends up being schematics for building a machine that is designed to take a single occupant into space, or wherever, no one is really sure. The world at large decides to build this machine and send someone out in it. Unfortunately a religious zealot commits a suicide bombing to destroy not only the machine but also many of the people involved with its building and take off. Of course there is more than one machine and the best candidate to take the trip is Jodie Foster’s character, Ellie.
"Don't wonder about those who are good without god. Fear those who need god to be good."
Asking the question of who gets to go to heaven alludes to the idea that Heaven is some sort of reward for being "good." That were it not for the promise of ending up in Heaven, people wouldn't be good because they'd have no reason to be. The question is arbitrary at best and there truly is no right or wrong answer. When I was young I wondered as I sat in church what would have happened to me had I been born in a place where Christianity wasn't the mainstream religion. What would have happened to me had I been raised Buddhist? I may have spent much of my time in meditation and might have been brought up to see the sacred in all things, feel the sacred in every action, from taking a walk to making tea. I could have spent every moment living spiritually, open to the sacred in all living things, every day, not just on Sunday. However, as I sat in the cold, hard church pew I also wondered at the fact that even if I had lived that spiritual life in the mountains of Tibet, would I burn in the fiery pits of hell for all eternity just because of geography? I asked myself these kinds of questions a lot growing up.
I was perusing the internet one fine day and came across a website that featured freelance writers. I was going through titles of “Recently Added” articles and although there was no set topic or subject matter to write about I did see a common thread. Here are a few of the titles I saw. "Should Christians get tattoos?", "Should Christians be ashamed to celebrate Christmas publicly?", "Are Christians obliged to tithe?" Are Christians this, should Christians that, question upon question and I had to do a double take to make sure I wasn’t in a Christian specific search. Upon verifying that I was just on a regular website for writers my immediate thought was; are Christians more confused than other people? Surely it isn't a bad thing to be inquisitive, although when it pertains to your religious practices it could be interpreted as a weakness in your faith.
What exactly is the Sixth Sense? Is it intuition, an innate ability we all have should we choose to tap into it? Some would argue that it’s nothing more than common sense. A person isn’t psychic if they predict that they might get more phone calls than usual on their birthday but if they hear the phone ring and know who it is before they even answer, does that make them psychic? For the doubters, how many times would a person have to correctly predict who is calling before it would no longer be considered simple coincidence? The biggest question that comes up in a vast majority of conversations regarding a psychic or sixth sense is, what scientific validation is there to indicate that people have or are capable of tapping into a sixth sense?
These days there are literally thousands of religions to choose from and somehow most people are of the mindset that you have to pick just one. I have seen it many times, a person who begins with much enthusiasm to study Buddhism (for example). They get the Bhagavad Gita and study the Chakras. They meditate and buy all the appropriate books and props. The singing bowl, the yoga mat and bag, with shoulder strap, made from 100% recycled materials. They go to seminars and events, some even go all the way to India to chill at an Ashram and maybe hook up with a Guru. These people jump through every hoop in front of them seeking the divine from a Guru who ultimately tells them that the divine is within. So they hang it all up and decide to go Native. Now they buy all the Native American spirituality books they can find. They attend pow wows and spend hours sweating in sweat lodges; they might drop some peyote or ayahuasca to seek guidance and travel to sacred places toting their shiny new drums and rattles. They might join groups that promise enlightenment through involvement in their “church.” Ultimately, again, they are told that the divine is within them already and also within all living things. So they move on to the next thing and the next and the next only to keep hearing the same thing, “You didn’t need the feather to fly, you had it in you the whole time, Dumbo.”
Today when I was meditating the neighborhood was quiet. The bees buzzed softly like they had just been smoked out with the finest pine needles this side of the Mason Dixon. With the soft buzzing in the background, I let my mind wander, and wander it did. My daughter would be testing out of her Green Belt in Tang Soo Do and moving up to Advanced Green. To do so she would have to perform a few Kata’s. I heard her practicing in the living room and I thought about the process, about what Kata is and why it is practiced. Even a Black Belt will often practice the more elementary Katas to stay tuned in to their body and to the movements and the proper ways to do them.