No Shame in Shamans

This article is a guest post written by Barbara Richardson.

I live in Boulder, Colorado. My niece and nephew, who live in Salt Lake City, nearly fell off their chairs at Sharon’s Café when I casually mentioned that everyone in Boulder has their own shaman. Admittedly, I was doing schtick. And it wasn’t that hard to do. Jim had kicked off the routine with his first sip of coffee, “What’s it like living in Boulder?” he asked, and the comedy just started rolling.

“There are 84 marijuana dispensaries and one 7 Eleven in Boulder. You have to get lost to find the 7 Eleven, so smoking a joint can help.”

“My friend doesn’t use sugar in his tea, he buys Tongan hummingbird butt nectar from Vitamin Cottage. Costlier than gold.”

“I went into a fresh foods bistro and the earnest, bra-less young waitress said, ‘The kale is massaged, so it’s tender.’”

When I delivered the shaman line, Jim, through tears and laughter, said, “You are living on Mars.”

Hmmm. Mars. Glad I made the landing.

I know superstition is anathema in this country. And shamanism falls in the superstition category. We believe we live beyond superstitions. But we are, to my mind, steeped in rational ignorance, stuffed full with rigid ideas and false impulses toward the world. That is—many of us could use help divining what is really going on within us and around us. We could tune in to the energies not the commodities of the planet.

Enter the shamans.

I have been rescued from sorrow and harm by three different shamans. Two in Boulder, one in Salt Lake City. In my world, insight brings relief, and shamans specialize in insight. You could call them intuitives rather than shamans, if that label sits better. Their insights come in the form of stories/images from the unseen world that explain and release your internal striving. (We gain access to the unseen world through imagination, which is as real as any fencepost or car alarm. Can you count how many books there are in the history of humankind? Every single book came from the unseen world, through the gate of the imagination.) How do I recognize the validity of shamanic insights? By two things: the internal ping that says That is so true, and the simultaneous instant release of vast suffering.

Shamans loan you the map to get out of the jungle of suffering.

I can recommend two books about shamans, one non-fiction and one fiction, one written by a friend and the second written by me.

Broken: A Love Story, by Lisa Jones, features Stanford Addison, a Northern Arapaho horse-gentler. Stan Addison tamed horses from a wheelchair—he was a quadriplegic who seemed to heal everything around him. Lisa went to the Wind River Reservation for a long weekend, to write an article about Stan’s horse skills. She came away four years later with a new life.

Broken traces two paths toward healing, Stanford’s entry into and acceptance of his shamanic gifts and Lisa’s recognition, at last, of “a love that comes before and after and above and below romantic love.” With huge doses of humor and plains-drenched prose, Broken shows how Lisa Jones, a skeptic and adrenaline-fueled journalist, opens her heart to Stanford Addison’s world, the unseen world of belonging and deep insight.

Tributary, my new historical novel, begins in the devout Mormon frontier settlement of Brigham City, Utah. My heroine, Clair Martin, has never heard about shamans or shamanic insight. All Clair knows—orphaned in to the Mormon fold—is that she does not belong. So Clair sets out to find a truer way, heading off to New Orleans in search of kin. The difficult and even dangerous search introduces Clair to a Voodoo steward who opens her mind and a Shoshone healer who opens Clair’s heart, both giving her insights into the vast connectedness of all beings.

Insight is not the same as superstition. There may be bad shamans out there, but there are bad dentists and plumbers! Land yourself on Mars. At least you can call it Mars if that makes you feel better. Crack open both of these books for a new view on shamanism.

Visit Barbara’s blog to read about everyday magic.

 Learn more about shamanism at Wikipedia.

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