We recently had the opportunity to connect with a group of shamans from Mongolia who offered to hold ceremonies to help heal the effects of the COVID 19 virus here in the US. They partnered with the spirits of their home place and their ancestors. They asked permission to engage in the healing work and received advice about how they could be of assistance. They were in close communication with the spirits of the mountains and environment in which they live and work. Through this engagement with their local spirits, they also connected to us, on the other side of the world, in meaningful and powerful ways. By working locally they strengthened the global community, generously and profoundly.
In this time of global crisis, two truths have been brilliantly illuminated: coming home is powerful, and everything is connected. As practitioners of shamanism, we know these truths to be essential features of Indigenous cultures around the world. As we have had to reorient our lives around home spaces, we also have the opportunity to reorient our spiritual practices, personally, in groups, and through tending to others. In these different combinations, we work to keep the balance. In close quarters, as in vast ecosystems, this balancing takes consistent effort. Our relationships with nature, spirit, and ourselves are rooted in this home space, the hyper-local environments of our immediate inner and outer worlds. In this time of coming home, nourishing these relationships is a powerful prescription and a soothing balm.
Connecting with spirit and nature, as shamans do, often conjures images of remote places, such as traveling to the Amazon or going on a vision quest in the high desert. The ceremonies in Mongolia were extraordinary. Yet while there is great value in the spiritual experiences unique to specific places, we can be trapped into chasing something elsewhere. Put aside the idea that power resides only in certain places or with certain people. Shamanic practice is about the here and now. Your here and now.
If you’re like me, that here and now is usually less dramatically wild and more subtly beautiful. Especially in this time when we need to restrict our movement and physical contact, one of the ways we can serve ourselves, and our clients and students, is by reestablishing and strengthening our relationship with “home.” As we understand that all nature is our family, anywhere that we are on the planet is our home. Ordinary reality is extraordinary! Ordinary life, both in the visible and invisible realms, is where we need to reconnect. There is exquisite power and wisdom in the “home” of our bodies and the everyday spaces we inhabit.
Power of Interconnection
We are physically and spiritually connected to the land we live on. This time of staying put has deepened my relationship with the spirits of my home place, and to the people, animals, and plants I share that space with. To find your true power and connection to spirit, put down roots wherever you are—in the city, on a farm, or in your suburban backyard. Send out energetic tendrils to sense and deepen your relationships to the spirits of your place, and to the elements around and within you. By nurturing those relationships through observation and conscious interaction, we develop the reciprocity we need to create health and equilibrium now and in the future. If we are helping to support others during this challenging time, it is even more important that we keep coming back to our literal and metaphorical centers, being mindful of our own states, being on the earth and in the elements, remembering the presence of spirit in all its forms.
We know that everything is part of an interconnected web of existence. Our potential for affecting each other through that web is dramatically illustrated in maps of the spread of COVID-19. The more we understand the interconnectedness of all things, the more we realize our sources of spiritual power are available from anywhere, and at any time. Like a hologram, one part contains the whole.
4 Ways to Work with the Elements from Anywhere
In our journeys, we shift perception to connect with compassionate helping spirits. Shamanism provides us with effective, time-tested practices for personal and collective transformation. More important than any particular method or spiritual philosophy, however, is to understand that we ARE nature, what happens outside happens inside, and vice versa. The power of the natural world, like the power of divinity, resides inside and outside. During these times of social distancing, and an intensely complicated combination of circumstances, it’s good to come home to some fundamental sources of power. The suggestions below are based on embodied shamanic practice, and will also help reduce physical and emotional stress [i]. If you can’t do these things physically, imagine that you are and use all your senses. This can generate similar effects in your body. [ii]
Water: When you wash your hands (which is hopefully often!), thank water. Envision anything that’s not yours (physical and energetic) changing into something beautiful, like shimmering light, and rinsing away.
Air: Step outside. Breathe in deeply. Experience air moving gently in and out of your body. Relax your body with each breath. The word inspiration has origins in the Latin inspirare, “to breathe or blow into.” [iii] Listen for any inspiration. Thank the element air.
Fire: Feel the sun’s radiance on your face and body. Are there ways you would benefit from stoking up or tamping down your fieriness right now? Listen and give thanks.
Earth: The earth is ancient. Over time we share it with our ancestors and our descendants, but it can be easy to focus only on our own lives and perspectives. Sit or lie down outside. Feel the earth under you, strong and supportive. Breathe deeply. Relax into the safe embrace of the earth. Ask the spirit of the earth to help you see the larger perspective. Is there anything you should know about being in good relationship with the spirit of your home place on earth? Offer gratitude for the place you live.
The wisdom of shamanism holds keys to our joy, to being in nourishing relationships, and ultimately to our survival. Wishing you a peaceful heart and a healthy body.
[i] Ewert, A., & Chang, Y. (2018). Levels of Nature and Stress Response. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 8(5), 49. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs8050049 [ii] Ranganathan V.K., Siemionow V., Liu J.Z., Sahgal, V., Yue GH. (2004). From mental power to muscle power—gaining strength by using the mind. Neuropsychologia
Volume 42, Issue 7, 2004, Pages 944-956
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2003.11.018 [iii] https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/the-origins-of-inspire