Awakening to the Spirit World: The Shamanic Path of Direct Revelation - Sandra Ingerman MA, Hank Wesselman Ph.D. 2010
Preface from Sandra Ingerman
Shamanism is an ancient and powerful spiritual practice that can help us thrive during challenging and changing times. In our modern-day technological world we have been led to believe that what we see, touch, hear, smell, and taste with our ordinary senses connects us only to the world that is visible around us. Conversely, shamanism teaches that there are doorways into other realms of reality where helping spirits reside who can share guidance, insight, and healing not just for ourselves but also for the world in which we live.
Shamanism reveals that we are part of Nature and one with all of life. It is understood that in the shaman’s worlds everything in existence has a spirit and is alive, and that the spiritual aspects of all of life are interconnected through what is often called the web of life. Since we are part of Nature, Nature itself becomes a helping spirit that has much to share with us about how to bring our lives back into harmony and balance.
At the experiential center of shamanism lies the potent path of direct revelation, revealing that in this spiritual discipline, there are no intermediaries standing between the helping spirits and ourselves. We all can have access to the wisdom, guidance, and healing that the helping spirits and Nature have to share with us.
There are ways to achieve connection with these helping spirits as well as with the transpersonal aspects of Nature itself. Together with four other contributors, Hank Wesselman and I will introduce you to some well-traveled trails on which you may walk, giving you immediate and authentic access to the shaman’s path of direct revelation.
There are multiple reasons why I was led to write this book and bring in other contributors to share their teachings. We have been seeing a spiritual awakening on the planet as more and more people are reading about and exploring different spiritual practices that lead to self-realization, personal development, and much-needed evolution of consciousness in humanity as a whole.
During this time of spiritual awakening, the term “shaman” has become part of popular culture. In the grocery store I see soaps and shampoos that have the word “shaman” on them. I see advertisements in newspapers and magazines that combine the title “shaman” with a host of professions. And even though I have been engaged in the practice of shamanism for thirty years, I seldom know to what these advertising references to shamanism refer. I can only imagine that you might be wondering too.
As the terms “shaman” and “shamanism” have become watered down by such marketing endeavors, there has been a reaction by some who have tried to create rules about what shamanism is and what it is not. Despite good intentions, this has often tended to add to the confusion, and in many cases it has created misunderstanding and an injustice to the practice.
There is a paradox here, for first and foremost, shamanism has always been a practice in which each practitioner gets unique directions and guidance from their helping spirits—those same transpersonal beings that are often referred to as spirit guides and angels. At the same time there exist time-tested guiding principles for the practice of shamanism, and so we have created this book together to share with you some of these principles so that you will be able to determine what shamanism is without giving you hard-line definitions and directions.
In times of great change such as we are experiencing today, many people react by turning within and becoming spiritual seekers, and often this includes searching for more personally sustaining ways of living and working, both individually and in groups.
Among these seekers, some tend to be drawn to systems that create rules and regulations that tell them what to do, thinking that this will bring them safety and reassurance. In much the same way, there are people who turn toward the practice of shamanism who want to be given rules for contacting the helping spirits and wish to be told that there is a right way and a wrong way to do the work.
There is also a pervasive tendency for people to give their power away to others. Such seekers often desire to find a teacher who will act as an intermediary between themselves and the helping spirits—a trait that is more characteristic of our organized religions in which bureaucratized priesthoods stand between us and the sacred realms. This is not typical of the path of shamanism and it is not a path of direct revelation.
In my workshops on shamanism I lead people into connection with their helping spirits, and I convey to them that once in connection, they can rely on their spirit helpers to teach them and advise them. When I offer workshops on powerful and effective healing methods, I advise my students that the best healers are inevitably those who abandon their workshop notes and rely instead on the guidance provided directly by their helping spirits.
In the discordant times in which we live today, new diseases of the mind and body have appeared, and the problems that are occurring on the planet all demand our creation of new solutions, encouraging us to tap into our own unique creative genius to help with the change. These times call for us to be willing to seek out the guidance of the helping spirits who can help us grow and progress through our life stages and life transitions with grace and power.
This also means that we must own our power and find new and unique ways of working with each other.
As I train some of my advanced practitioners to become teachers themselves so that they may carry on the shamanic tradition in our own time, I explain how I was guided by my helping spirits to teach as well as why I use certain exercises in my shamanic workshops. I then ask those in my Teacher Training Programs not to teach as I do but rather to follow the lead of their own helping spirits because it is in this way that the ancient shamanic tradition has come down to us across tens of millennia—and this is how it continues to stay filled with spirit, power, and meaning for those who practice it.
The goal of any spiritual path is to bring us into connection with our own divinity and into awareness of our own creative genius. All of us have great creative potential. To believe that only some people have the answers will not necessarily move us toward creating a harmonious life on a healthy planet.
We can all share different answers on different levels as we express our unique talents and gifts. We can all express different aspects of divinity in the same way that a diamond has different facets that shine together to create our own brilliant and dazzling light. By engaging in the shamanic path of direct revelation, our inner light is ignited, and when it is combined with the sparks of others around the world, I believe it will create the light needed to manifest a planet filled with harmony, love, light, peace, and abundance for all.
I have been writing books on shamanism since the early 1990s—books in which I have expressed my passion about bridging this ancient practice into our modern-day culture in a way that addresses the issues and needs of our times. One book led to another and then to another, and what I have found is that as the times have changed, my helping spirits have shared new forms of guidance and new ways of facilitating healing with me in order to help others as well as myself. My professional background as a psychotherapist has also encouraged my process of working with shamanism to be an organic one that has been, and is, ever-changing.
Across the years, I have come to understand that it is our responsibility to upgrade this ancient tradition into a new form that is meaningful to modern spiritual seekers and visionaries today. The challenging times in which we live are calling us to work together as a community to create positive and enduring changes that will benefit us all. In this regard, I was guided to invite some other shamanic teachers to contribute to this book, for in doing so I wanted to introduce you, the reader, to different ways of working as you too are called to the path of direct revelation.
In 2005 I became a founding board member of the Society of Shamanic Practitioners, whose purpose is to bring together a global shamanic community in which we might share what we have learned about bridging the ancient and time-tested visionary practices of the shaman into our modern-day cultures—an impulse that underscores the importance of this book.
In 2008 I asked those board members of the Society who are accomplished teachers, practitioners, and writers to come together to share some of their wisdom in this book so that together we may be of service to countless others in society at large. All six of us who have contributed to this project have a great deal of personal history and experience with the shaman’s path.
As I reorganized the book accordingly, I invited anthropologist and author Hank Wesselman to be one such contributor. As we talked about this project with growing enthusiasm, I was guided to invite him to co-author the book with me and to help create the main fabric of the narrative text. As this project progressed, he also assisted in the weaving together of the teachings of all the contributors. I really enjoyed co-writing this book with Hank, a practitioner and shamanic teacher whom I have known as a friend and colleague for almost thirty years.
Among the other contributors, Tom Cowan is a wonderful writer and teacher about the Celtic ways, and you will notice how Tom writes in a poetic fashion. Carol Proudfoot-Edgar and I have co-taught workshops together across many years and became spiritual sisters and good friends the day we met. Like Tom, Carol is an amazing poet. I have known José Stevens since the early 1980s when I first started my formal shamanic training and we were in a journey group together in the Bay Area for three years. I have deep respect for the integrity that José brings to the work and appreciate his devotion to living what he teaches. And for many years now, I have known Alberto Villoldo, whose commitment to being in service has touched so many on the shamanic path. I am delighted that all of these people have contributed to this book.
After reorganizing the chapters for the book, I asked all the contributors to share their teachings in those chapters to which they felt called. In this regard, not every contributor wrote something for every chapter.
Hank and I have a dual role in these pages. Throughout most of the book, our voices are merged, reflecting the unity as well as the flow of our shared wisdom and friendship across many years. As such, the narrative that forms the fabric of the book will be our collective voice. And yet we are also contributing members of the group of six and we teach in our own way. So in those passages where we share our own unique ways of working, we will use our individual names to present our teachings.
Here I would like to introduce you to Hank Wesselman, and then together in the Introduction we will share the format of the book and how to work with it.