Sunday, February 6, 2011

American Shaman

I just finished reading "American Shaman," which describes the work and life story of Bradford Keeney. This is one of those books that make you pause in the reading of it because there's so much to SOAK UP and ABSORB! In fact, I dog-eared so many pages in my library copy that the smartest idea seems to be to share some of the words with you

"The most common practices currently in use by indigenous healers around the world are:

1. We should be devoting our efforts to honoring the greater mystery in life, rather than to promote understanding
2. Instead of helping people who are upset to calm down, we should encourage them to become more aroused
3. Talk doesn't always help, but dancing, singing, touching, and transcendent prayer are where the action often takes place
4. The role of the helper and healer should include many facets -- as guide, coach, minister, counselor, physician, musician, and trickster
5. Homework, when employed, should involve ordeals, trials, tribulations, and "shamanic tasks," none of which have to make sense to the person
6. People in trouble take themselves far too seriously, and any intervention should take place on a level of play
7. All helping should be a sacred enterprise, in which the spiritual world is integrated into the body, the mind, the soul, and Nature
8. Ultimately, helping and healing are about love; they are about being a part of community (p. xi)

"The history of shamanism is about the dismemberment of self. You must go through your own death. That is one hell of an ordeal, I gotta tell you. I can't imagine anyone deliberately choosing this kind of journey" (p. 48).

"Make me a vessel. Allow me to be useful to this person" (p. 77).

Ways to activate and nourish the sense of mystery:

1.  Introduce more rhythm into your life.
2. Learn to gently (and sometimes wildly) rock your body.
3. Dance, think, and pray in the dark.
4. Bring on the music.
5. Faithfully write down a request for guidance, and carry this invitation with you throughout the day.
6. Bring more absurdity into your daily rituals.
7. Be irreverent with the "why" questions in your life.
8. Remind yourself, constantly, that you will never understand the big things in life (p. 154).

"What Keeney, or any self-respecting shaman, tried to do is get people to abandon their usual ways of doing things so as to create a greater sense of mystery and awe for everyday activities (even for watching a late-night talk show). It is the shaman's (or the therapist's, the teacher's, or the parent's) job to juggle and toss things around in such a way that sacred moments become possible. We don't do this through the usual channels of organizing things for people but through disorganizing them. We must create the possibility of surprise. It can be through a dream, a sudden discovery, or an impulse. The overriding goal is to bring mystery and magic to people's lives" (p. 156).

"As a shaman, I say to people that it is important to enact respect for the deepest parts of our minds and hearts. We need to show and tell the source of our dreams that we take it seriously. We give it the same attention we would anything in the physical world. It's like saying, 'You, my deepest unconscious mind, have spoken and now I am showing you that I listened. Now I will act on your behalf" (pp. 198-99).


Pat Tillett said...

That sounds very interesting. I'm sure there is something to it all, because what most folks are doing now isn't working at all!
Thanks! I'll check it out.

A Walk in the World said...

hi, pat! this book was probably the most thought-provoking thing i've read. and i agree with you -- western ways aren't the complete cure for everything. people want something more holistic, methinks, and i am hopeful that society will widen what it considers acceptable.