In Service to Something Greater

The power a shaman engages in the invisible world is vastly different from the power that people seek in the visible mundane world to improve their lives. She is interested in entering a non-ordinary reality in the invisible realm to discover and engage with energies that affect and influence everyday life. She pursues an energy that is life-sustaining and prevents aging and disease so that she can bring healing and well-being to her community. In the East, this energy is known as prana, chi, or even the Tao. The Andean shamans know it as TI, and it forms a part of the names of sacred places such as Lake Titicaca, the sea on top of the world, and the Inti, the sun god.

Chi is not the power to dominate or rule over others or nature, although nature indeed responds to the chi. It’s not the power of money or material things, though those are available through it. It’s not the power to defeat illness and old age, although health and longevity flow from it. It’s the power to create and collaborate, to give birth to the new. The chi is to be used for the benefit of others, for all beings and the Earth. Otherwise, it will spoil and destroy you in the process. It must be shared so that all may thrive.

While a shaman can work on behalf of one individual, the most powerful shamans focus first on what they can do for Mother Earth. Only after they have considered Pachamama’s needs do they focus on what they can do for their village and for all people. After that, they focus on what they can do for one person. This is the inverse of how most of us come to spiritual practice. Too often, we’re so worried about fixing our individual situations or helping one person that we become oblivious to the bigger picture. When working on ourselves, we forget we’re part of a cosmos far greater than ourselves that affects all of us and that we, in turn, can affect.

When a shaman operates with integrity and is driven by vision informed and fueled by the chi, rather than personal desire or a sense of scarcity and fear, knowledge and power recognize her and begin to stalk her relentlessly. The call to be a shaman, to participate in the work of something greater than yourself, can feel intense.

The shaman can learn from the wind, the trees, the rivers, the rain, and the lightning bolt, but this will not happen if we believe that we are here to dominate or tame nature for our own purposes. We are obligated both to protect the Earth and to recognize that we are always intertwined with her. Nature will only reveal her secrets when we are willing to become her keepers. Then the shaman can meet power directly, embrace it, and claim it while developing an active dialogue with the cosmos. This is called ayni, or reciprocity, and it is a core principle in shamanism: give and you will receive.

Are you ready to be in service to something greater?