Spirit Walking: Finding Our Way To Power

The choice to explore a spirit walker’s life requires that you not only learn spiritual methods, but also how to be a true person of power. The path of a shaman—or indeed any rich spiritual path–is not one of ego or grandiosity; instead, it is the humble walk into a deeper relationship with All That Is and yourself.

A shaman is guided by her or his heart and celebrates the interconnections that unite and nourish all beings. To be able to become this kind of person, you must go through an evolution. That means learning how to approach the world from a place of love and gratitude that diminishes fear and anger. To accomplish that usually means that as you travel along the path, you will have to move through any unbeneficial patterns and misperceptions that are a part and parcel of being born into this world. Think of this like an explorer clearing the foliage from the path in a jungle.

You see our minds are the product of our previous experiences. We are only able to fully perceive those experiences for which we have developed a niche in our psyche.  As soon as we are born, we begin to build a catalog of sensory input. We take that input and synthesize a picture about what the world is like. As we continue to develop we add more and more input, the sorting and storage of which is determined and shaded by previous experience, family enculturation and society’s definitions. This shapes our ideas of reality.  For most people, this reality becomes fixed and doesn’t allow for experiences that don’t fit within it to be processed. We become trapped in a tangle of limited beliefs and misperceptions.

My spirit teacher, Grandma used post office imagery to explain this phenomenon. She told me to think of the mind as if it was a person sorting mail into an array of letterboxes. When new input in the form of experience happens, the mind scans it. It is comparing this new experience to all previous experiences–in essence, looking for what box it belongs in. Once the mind determines the proper “letter box” the input is filed away.

The flaw in this system arises when there isn’t a suitable box for the new input or experience.  The mind reacts by either tearing the experience into smaller pieces to file or tossing it aside to the “dead letter” box.  This is similar to the mechanism that allows us to “blank out” during a traumatic event. In that circumstance, fear causes the mind to shut down the filing process. However even in non-threatening situation, the mind can be unable to sort input correctly. In fact, this kind of lapse is also far more common than one might imagine. For instance, consider the phenomenon of “inattentional blindness.”

Inattentional blindness is an inability to perceive something that is within one’s direct perceptual field because one is attending to something else. The term was coined by psychologists Arien Mack and Irvin Rock, who identified the phenomenon while studying the relationship of attention to perception. They were able to show that, under a number of different conditions, if subjects were not attending to a visual stimulus but were attending to something else in the visual field, a significant percentage of the subjects were “blind” to something that was right before their eyes.

The most famous example is test subjects watching a video in which they were told to concentrate on a moving group of people wearing either black or white shirts who were passing several basketballs back and forth. The test subjects were told to count the number of passes that they saw.  During the video, a person in a gorilla suit enters the frame from the right crosses thru the people passing balls and exits on the left. Astonishingly enough, very few of the subjects ever noticed the gorilla.  Since their minds were focused on one specific visual task, three quarters of the test subjects never saw the intrusive element even though it was “right in front of their eyes!” It is also how slight-of-hand artists fool their unwitting subjects. We literally lose sight of the forest while looking at the trees.

Even though your mind’s attention on its own definition of reality initially prevents you from assimilating something that challenges your current perception of reality, repetition of the new stimulus assists the mind to create a new neural pathway.

To be able to transverse the fabric of time/space where the familiar landmarks of realty break down or fail to exist at all, the spirit walker must be willing to continually re-experience new sensations until they are able to process the meanings they may contain. This involves intentionally broadening her or his perceptual context through expanding aweness. This is accomplished by making journeys with the intention of stretching the mind’s capacity–setting it free from the limitations of ordinary reality and exploring new experiences.

Just as people who have extensively traveled the globe are far more able to adapt to an unusual situation such as being presented with unfamiliar food, so too the traveler to non-ordinary reality who has had extensive experiences that defy ordinary ideas of time/space can more easily adapt to a new situation. While traversing the realms beyond ordinary perception, the spirit walker creates a richer context for experience.

Since a mind that has been nurtured in this way is able to respond without either fear or “blindness” to unusual events, it becomes much easier for the spirit walker to adapt to new and rapidly shifting situations, while more easily capturing their deeper meanings. In addition to the changes the content of a journey may produce, the mind’s inherent capabilities are also enhanced by the journey state, itself. Thanks to the intensive right-hemisphere activity this expanded state produces, the brain becomes more conducive to innovative thinking and the generation of new ideas, becomes better at trouble-shooting and problem-solving, has better memory retention, is able to synthesize information more easily, becomes more aware at deeper levels and finds it easier to implement change.

Of course, reality stretching can sometimes be risky business for the psyche and so the spirit walker in training doesn’t go alone. While she or he may have a physical teacher or mentor, the initiate also learns to also rely upon trusted spiritual protectors for guidance and assistance. The spiritual helpers assist the journeyer to move thru complex and disorienting states of reality and guide her back to ordinary reality. Once returned, the spirit walker takes the time to process and assimilate the experience. She or he notices how and in what manner her perceptions have shifted–what gifts have been gained.

When a perception seems stuck, or the spirit walker becomes mired in old patterns it is important to get assistance. In a tribal society, the shaman mentor or healer would be called upon to help unwind the mental stumbling block and assist in healing old wounds or traumas that precipitated the impediment. Indeed, the extraction of unbeneficial spiritual energies, the restoration of the person’s own spiritual essence and the healing of old limitations is often an essential aspect in moving forward on a path of power. The spirit walker is only able to grow as far as her or his old limitations allow. As these are healed, the load is lightened and growth begins to accelerate again. This in turn cerates a life that is more open and joyful.

In moving through these stuck places and becoming aware of changes happening both within and around the self, the spirit walker begins to get a deeper sense of what remains constant. For many who travel the shamanic path, the true constant is the energy of love and connection one feels in the heart. In some ways, the heart becomes a magnificent room in which they can safely dwell. This safe place becomes a kind of springboard into even greater experiences.  The still point of the spirit walker’s heart-center becomes a certainty that the mind can hold onto–a quiet central hub around which everything turns.  This enables the explorer to engage in even more fearless excursions into the spiritual aspects of reality, which in turn produces an ever-growing capacity for adaptability and flexibility. A kind of spiritual and mental nimbleness is attained though this process.

Instead of journeying between the realms having the effect of taking the spirit walker away from the “real world,” the opposite is true. A disciplined shamanic practitioner who consistently practices journeying and continually processes the changes those experiences produce, is able to be much more grounded and aware in the present moment. She or he is able to interact with all the richness life provides and is able to hold or quickly regain equilibrium in the face of turmoil. The broader perspective of experience gained while traversing the realms helps the shamanic practitioner to be less judgmental, more joyful and optimistic. Having the heart stand at the center of all experience also influences one’s interactions to become more compassionate, loving and clear.

In his book Power vs. Force, Dr. David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D. writes,  “We all float on the collective level of consciousness of (hu)man kind, so that any increment we add comes back to us.”  While that idea has become widely known, he also suggests that one person who chooses to live with optimism and non-judgment of others offsets the energy of 90,000 individuals vibrating at lower energetic frequencies that include despair, rage, blame, cynicism and antagonism. In other words, the one who does the work of stretching and growing through broadening experiences and nurturing her or his evolving perceptions can naturally becomes a person of power able to influence the world in a positive manner.

The simple knowledge that we have this kind of a power available to us gives me a tremendous optimism about our next steps as a species. By choosing the path that expands our inherent capabilities and clears away the unbeneficial burdens of the past, you and I have the capacity to transform the world for the better! In walking in the footsteps of our shamanic ancestors and in so doing evolving our minds and hearts, we can become the ones who blaze the trail into a new and brighter future.

© 2015 Evelyn Rysdyk
Author photo by Kevin BrusieNationally recognized shaman teacher/healer, speaker, and author of Spirit Walking a Course in Shamanic Power, A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools, Modern Shamanic Living: New Explorations of an Ancient Path, and contributor to Spirited Medicine: Shamanism in Contemporary Healthcare; Evelyn Rysdyk delights in supporting people to remember their sacred place in All That Is. Whether through face-to-face contact with individual shamanic healing patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives. In joint practice with Allie Knowlton as Spirit Passages, their web site is http://www.spiritpassages.com.
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