Book Review – Awakening to the Spirit World – The Shamanic Path of Direct Revelation

51vqnimsm2bl-_sl160_1Not long before our move, we were asked by the wonderful folks at Sounds True to review Sandra Ingerman and Hank Wesselman’s new book, AWAKENING TO THE SPIRIT WORLD:The Shamanic Path of Direct Revelation. Ingerman and Wesselman have are joined by Tom Cowan, Carol Proudfoot-Edgar, Jose Luis Stevens, and Alberto Villoldo in this book. I’m always interested in hearing what other practitioners have to say about shamanic practice.
The book arrived just in time to find its way into a packing box headed for Oregon. Once the book found its way out of the packing paper, I began reading.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I have read several books recently purporting to be introductory books on shamanism that left me wondering who their audience was. They were dry, clinical and confusing. Awakening to the Spirit World is an enjoyable and easy read. It’s a great book for those new to the shamanic path, but it is not a “how to book”.

Reading the first three chapters, “What Is Shamanism?”, “The Shamanic Journey” and “Reconnecting with Nature”, I had to pinch myself because the information sounded like Gary and I talking about shamanism. Chapter 1 starts out saying “Shamanism is the most ancient spiritual practice known to humankind. As a method, it is a form of meditation combined with a focused intention. As a spiritual practice, shamanism can become a way of life that may utterly transform the one who practices it.” Gary and I have always explained shamanism as “not just a series of practices, but a way of life, living in connection with Spirit”.

One of my favorite parts of the book was the section on the shaman’s toolbox – gratitude, seeing and blessing. Here is the excerpt from AWAKENING TO THE SPIRIT WORLD: The Shamanic Path of Direct Revelation by Sandra Ingerman and Hank Wesselman Published by Sounds True (Reprinted with Permission)

“Three Tools of the Shaman”
by Sandra Ingerman and Hank Wesselman

~ Gratitude ~

The first shamanic tool in your toolbox is gratitude, an attitude and an orientation designed to open the heart. Gratitude is a high-level amplitude that is designed to open portals, windows, and doorways into the spirit world.

Shamanically speaking, in everyday reality (what a shaman considers a consensus dream), Spirit is not apparent to the naked eye. In fact this ordinary world of stone, flesh, and fiber is often quite depressing because it involves frustration, pain, and frightening circumstances and events. The pleasures are more often than not offset by the everyday survival and the constant mind chatter that is enough to drive even the most stable person crazy.

Yet a shaman knows that just behind the movie set that makes up the world, Spirit lies camouflaged, bursting with light and freedom, waiting to be recognized and resourced. Spirit has cleverly arranged portals in strategic places that if opened, lead directly past the everyday outer world into the power of the inner reality where all answers lie and where all problems are revealed to be the illusions that they are.

These portals are literally everywhere, but there are primary ones that are so close to us that they are practically impossible to miss. The one most accessible is the heart, which lies smack in the middle of your chest just below your chin, and it is so accessible that you can easily reach your heart with your hands. When you speak it vibrates, and when you breathe it is massaged all around. It is hard to comprehend how you would miss it, yet we do ignore it every day unless we should have the misfortune of a heart attack.

Shamans “see” through their hearts. Shamanic tribes like the Maori of New Zealand believe that the physical world we experience is actually a projection coming from each individual heart. The Mayans and the Q’ero tribe in the Peruvian Andes have their own versions of this basic understanding. Their shamans know that self-importance, created by the ego, is dedicated to keeping the powerful heart portal closed off enough to prevent Spirit from shining through.

The ego accomplishes this by shutting down the heart to the point where the portal remains closed to the spirit world. The portals pop open only when a certain amplitude is reached, so keeping it below a certain level prevents opening. What keeps amplitude low are all the familiar maladies: fear, hostility, self-importance, depression, self-doubt, cynicism, and frustration. Because of these, most people’s hearts are shut down most of the time, which feels bad in the chest and cuts off the main avenue of escape from pain and suffering — an open heart.

Gratitude counters these ploys by the parasitical false personality and raises the amplitude high enough to begin the heart-opening process.

~ Seeing ~

The second great shamanic tool in your toolbox is seeing. For a shaman, “to see” is to cut through the veils of ignorance, the false appearance of the world, in order to see clearly into the true nature of Spirit as it manifests through all of reality. In other traditions, it is known as forgiveness or compassion. Seeing is the post powerful method of releasing blame, guilt, and shame.

Seeing ends the war within us just as it resolves conflicts with externals and paves the way for our cooperation and extension. The false personality tries to convince you that forgiving or having compassion is a weakness, that you are setting yourself up to be taken advantage of again. It also tries to get you to believe that you and the others have no value and therefore deserve ill treatment or self-loathing. Seeing makes these terrible perceptions impossible. Seeing the truth provides relief from the terrible stress or guilt, and this results in shifting our energy in a way that allows us to open the heart and other portals to the world of spirit.

When shamans speak of “seeing,” they are actually talking about clearing away the projections and distorted thoughts of the conscious mind onto the world at large and all its forms.

Shamans and visionaries know that these projections are blinding and the source of endless misunderstandings and assumptions based on fear of the unknown.

Seeing means that we are perceiving the truth, and therefore there is no room for hostility, blame, fear, or set decrees. How does this take place? When we really see in the shamanic or visionary way, we know that we are Spirit and that we have simply become confused and are lost in appearances for awhile. The false personality is only a delusional construct created by the egoic self; in dealing with the world, it tends to create lies in which we and others take refuge.

Shamans say that when people learn to see they are able to access almost limitless power because they realize they are intimately connected to the vast web of life. For the shaman, seeing into the true nature of reality and the self is a great power; it is a required skill for self-realization and ultimately enlightenment.

~ Blessing ~

Now we come to the third great power tool in that shamanic toolbox that everyone has from birth — the ability to bless.

In general, people do not know their function as human beings, and it never occurs to them that their job is actually to bless the world. Many people have been taught to bless their food; they consider a blessing to be a few words mumbled over a meal that lacks heart and meaning. This is hardly what shamans mean by blessing.

Blessing is the act of recognizing that Spirit is coming through what we are witnessing or experiencing. It is recognizing and acknowledging the grand flow of Beingness that is present as what we eat or what we see as the landscape, through our bodies, through each moment of now and gives it indescribable vitality and life force. Yet the physical plane appears to most as a camouflage universe where Spirit does not appear to exist.

Shamanically speaking, many of us respond to the physical world by assuming a deep hypnosis, a deep sleep where we no longer recognize that Spirit is present. Not only do we go to sleep, but large parts of the world may temporarily go to sleep as well. So it is our job to wake up and to awaken all that is around us. This act of waking up could be called “blessing the world.”

Many of us have been taught to believe that only people who have gone to seminary or special training programs to become ministers, rabbis, priests, imams, or shamans have the right to bless. We invite the ordained individuals to come before us and bless ceremonies, fields, businesses, projects, meetings, and banquets, and we bow our heads while they talk to Spirit for us.

This is not a bad practice, but it is extraordinarily limiting. Many of those we invite to do the blessing for us are the most asleep of all, revealing that no one can do the work of blessing for us. Each human comes with that capacity, with that ability, and with the responsibility to bless.

So what happens when we bless, and how do we go about blessing in an effective way?

To bless means that you become conscious that you are alive and that Spirit is flowing through you. This realization allows you to see that Spirit is flowing all around and that what is coming through you is coming through everything and that it is all the same. When you see or feel this you merely say something like, “I am Spirit. Let us awake. Let us awake Spirit in everything I see.”

While saying this you can look around and bless with your hands and arms outstretched, waking everything up to the incredible power of Spirit that flows through everything with great passion and peace. In response, everything receives a boost, everything celebrates, everything is grateful, and everything forgives its slumber. There are few practices as powerful as this awakening. If you want to add a little something else to your blessing, you may bestow upon everything that you are experiencing or witnessing the gift of well-being from the bottom of your heart.

You might say, “I give you great happiness and love. May all who come here or pass this way be blessed with joy, abundance, and wellness.” What you give is what you get, so make sure you give the best you can imagine.

Blessing is incomprehensibly powerful and is perhaps the greatest tool of all because it is the pathway back to Spirit. Yet it is hard to bless if you have no gratitude and you have not seen the need to forgive. These three tools work together as a powerhouse trio. They are all important characteristics of the physical universe: Truth, Love, and Energy — or Yachay, Munay, and Llankay, the three Andean shamanic principles of living. Each tool works with all three components. Gratitude recognizes truth, transmits love, and enhances energy. Seeing tells the truth, radiates love, and release phenomenal energy.

Always remember that you have shamanic tools resting in your toolbox. They require deliberate use to become effective. These three tools, when used regularly, are all that is needed to become liberated and self-realized and to gain mastery over life. Why wait?

~ Exercise: For Blessing ~

First thing in the morning, go outside and practice blessing the sky, the Earth, the trees, or whatever elements are most visible. Then go on to bless your family, your colleagues, your students, your teachers, and all of their communities as well. Bless all their relations and on and on until everything and everyone has been included. Bless Spirit and don’t forget to bless yourself. Now experience how you feel. Do you feel more expansive, more powerful, more happy, more on the right path? This is the true shamanic way — and the way of the visionary.

The information in the book was clear and gives the reader a deeper understanding of the shamanic way of life with exercises that invite the reader to join in and experience shamanism. As an added bonus there is a shamanic drumming CD included.

Even after almost twenty years of walking the shamanic path, I found myself drawn into the chapters on dreams, creative art and working with sound and light. I was also drawn deep into the chapters on death and dying. Reading one night, I even had a soul piece return that was holding me back from fully embracing my role as a “death walker”. Although I have done a good piece of psycho pomp work, I knew there was a block holding me back and my reading that evening awoke the soul piece that needed returning. What an unexpected outcome!

I would definitely recommend this book for you if you are interested in shamanism and how to apply in your daily life. It’s a great introductory book, and as you can see, it can be of benefit to a more experienced practitioner.

Until next time – Happy Reading

Mitakuye Oyasin ( A Lakota prayer as a reminder that we are all related),