Responsibility: A Bridge across the Arc of Time

Shaman: Invoking Power, Presence and Purpose at the Core of Who You Are - Ya'Acov Darling Khan 2020

Responsibility: A Bridge across the Arc of Time

’The time is always right to do what is right.’


For the Inner Shaman, responsibility isn’t a weight to be carried, but the joy of living life with a self-chosen and meaningful purpose. This part of our journey is all about how we take responsibility for the power we have gathered and learn to use it in alignment with who we are and what we wish to create. For the Inner Shaman, this means understanding and working with the direct connection between the past, present and future and creating a bridge across what we call the arc of time.

Some years ago, I was teaching a workshop that was focused on deepening our relationship with our ancestors. Towards the end of the weekend, I heard my own ancestors whispering to me as I danced: ’Ya’Acov, all this work with the past is a wonderful thing and we are delighted to be honoured and welcomed in this way. But you haven’t yet asked the most important question.’

’Oh, what’s that?’

Their answer touched me and has stayed with me ever since. ’What kind of ancestor will you be? What will you pass on?’

The choices we make today are already the inheritance of the generations that will follow. Every choice we make that is unconsciously motivated by past hurt or unexamined and inaccurate assumptions will keep the vicious circle of blame and counter-blame spinning. The world is full of conflicts that began hundreds and even thousands of years ago, conflicts in which each side is certain that the other is solely to blame. This is the height of irresponsibility and is a destructive use of power.

Responsibility means healing the pain we carry, and healing means choosing to break the chains of suffering inside us, between us and between us and the rest of the web of life on the planet. It means forgiveness. Not ’words only, sugar on shit’ forgiveness, but the full-hearted, full-bodied, clear-minded forgiveness that comes from being willing to acknowledge the truth, learn from it and move forward.

It doesn’t mean being perfect. Even the most accomplished of Persian carpet weavers follows the tradition of deliberately making one mistake in their carpets. They call it the spirit stitch and they include it in recognition that ’only Allah is perfect’. How beautiful is that? And making mistakes, as I can say from experience, is one of the ways we learn. Shamanism is rooted in learning through trial and error. There’s a thin line between fantasy and clear guidance, and we learn to discern which is which by carefully considering the outcomes of inspirations born in the altered state of ritual. In this way, we can be responsible for our choices and adjust them as we learn more.

The Inner Shaman is aware that a better future on Earth will only be possible for us if enough of us make the choice to heal the past and gain a deeper understanding of our place here. It’s a matter of developing a more embodied consciousness. By the time we complete our work together, it’s my intention that you will know your Inner Shaman’s predilection for using all the material that life provides to create as much beauty and medicine as possible from it.

All the shamans I know have the shine in their eyes that comes from travelling back and forth across the arc of time. They experience the connection between their life now and their ancestors’ lives, and they have a vision of a future in which life continues to evolve for their descendants. And because they know the fragility and the impermanence of physical life, they seize the gift of it with both hands while they can. They seek that fierce blend of self-acceptance and discipline that leads to personal power and assuming responsibility for that power.

Personal power isn’t based on what others think about us or the cards that life has dealt us. It doesn’t come through our position in the world, but from the self-knowledge that comes from self-development. With personal power, we can honour our ancestors’ experiences and our own, and not be limited by either. Personal power comes from the medicine we have made from those experiences. Choosing to use our personal power in service of the deepest truth inside us, and with the future of our descendants in mind, is the art of taking responsibility for our life.

So, with the Inner Shaman’s help, in chapters 10 and 11, we will look at developing self-responsibility; in Chapter 12, the focus is on being responsible in relationships; and in Chapter 13, on updating our vision of a joyfully responsible and fulfilling relationship with the community of life. A universal shamanic principle is the simple acknowledgement that the work we do in ritual is ’for all our relations’. That includes everything behind us and in front of us, everything around us, above us, below us, inside us and beyond us. It’s a simple and powerful way of acknowledging interconnection and it reminds us of the wider context of our existence.

When we are who we are, we transform our world. I hear life asking us all to stand up now, hold our heads high and commit to making a difference in the world. Now is the time. Benevolent Death is always at our side, reminding us that now is all we ever have. That reminder sharpens my intent to fully enjoy this gift called life in a body on Earth while I can.

Research shows that true contentment comes from giving what is ours to give. We have mostly ignored that and tried consuming our way to happiness instead. Not only has this failed, it’s also created a vast amount of mindless destruction. We need to take responsibility for this and use our power in a different way. It won’t be an easy shift. But I believe every generation has had the challenge of dreaming a better dream. And as a species, on our journey through time we have accumulated power, artistry and imagination. We all have it within us to be noble and generous, cruel and irresponsible. It’s a choice we remain free to make.

Through my work as a shaman I’ve discovered who I am and what my responsibilities to life are. I’ve made my choice. I know that your Inner Shaman can help you to do the same. If your heart is still beating, then the doors remain open. Shall we?