I will occasionally mention resources available to you, whether books, or people, or courses that might help open you to your true higher potential. One of those information sources that I’ve found most helpful during my earlier growth period was Alberto Villoldo, PhD—psychologist, anthropologist, modern shamanic teacher of the ancient Peruvian Medicine Wheel philosophies/techniques who presently still teaches through The Four Winds Society, which he founded.
I’d been into alternative healing techniques (USUI and KARUNA REIKI) for quite awhile by the time the “shamanic” bug bit me, and I knew then that I had to learn more about that practice because it would further my general knowledge of energy-work. So I took a two-year Shamanic apprenticeship through a different person, but read all of Villoldo’s books during that same time, and liked how he distilled the real philosophical life-lesson value from the physical “doings” of the practice that I was learning.
I still receive his newsletter emails, and in this mid-January one, he mentions a key thought often camouflaged beneath the shamanic rituals and cultural accoutrements that signify the Medicine Wheel practice: “Unencumbered by miracles, anthropomorphic gods, and the embroidery of centuries of telling, interpreting, and retelling, the medicine wheel was an itinerary for self-discovery and transformation.”
That statement accurately described the Medicine Wheel experience for me: “an itinerary for self-discovery and transformation.”
One could use the teachings of the Medicine Wheel to better understand the deeper aspects of living in this strange, enigmatic world, and then use that newly gained knowledge to transform one’s life. Shamanism was an interesting path to increased self-awareness—but it was ONE path to choose, not the only one. There are many.
For myself, I found shamanism to be far more right-brain focused than left-brain, meaning that so much of whatever you did during your training was dual-purposed; that there was the literal ritual or practice that you may be performing for the reason that you are given by your instructor, and then there was the ulterior reason for doing it that you may not presently understand or be told about because it’s meant to affect you at a level of consciousness to which you might not yet be familiar. There were different layers of consciousness triggered during many practices—particularly during trance-work or what is called “shamanic journeying.”
I wouldn’t call that type of teaching initially deceptive, but I would call it more self-revealing in time. There are some things in life that you simply have to discover for yourself to comprehend the magnitude of their value. Many of the life-lessons that I learned during my own shamanic experiences were definitely in that category of self-revelatory. While some were pleasant, some were definitely NOT.
Here in the January newsletter, Alberto describes his early teacher in the practice and the metaphoric/symbolic meanings of each primary Peruvian Medicine Wheel direction:
“I met Professor Antonio Morales, who became my first shamanic mentor, in the early 1970s. …
He was a Quechua native and a man of two worlds: a beloved professor of philosophy at the university in Cusco and a fearsome master healer of great regard in the countryside. It was don Antonio who introduced me to the medicine wheel—a map for healing, diversely represented by many generations of indigenous people.
The medicine wheel begins in the South, where we learn to walk with beauty on the Earth. The South is also where one goes to confront and shed the past, just as the serpent—the archetypal symbol of this direction—sheds its skin.
In the West, we call on the archetype of the jaguar to help us find those things that need to die within us so that we can be claimed by life. Here, one assumes the stance of the spiritual warrior who has no enemies in this life or the next.
In the North, the archetype of the hummingbird helps us learn how to connect to our passion and drink only from the sweetest sources—those that nourish the soul. It is here we learn to step outside of linear time, which binds us to cause and effect, and step into sacred time where all things are possible.
The East is the path of the eagle and condor—the flight to the Sun and the journey back to one’s home to exercise vision and skills in the context of one’s life and work. In the East we learn how to dream our world into being.
I remember thinking that here was the most elegant description of the ‘hero’s journey’ I had ever heard: a distillate of all those tales of other’s experiences—the very tales that we have fashioned into the myths and religions of our species. Unencumbered by miracles, anthropomorphic gods, and the embroidery of centuries of telling, interpreting, and retelling, the medicine wheel was an itinerary for self-discovery and transformation. There was something irresistibly primal and elemental about it, something authoritative, as if it represented one of the earliest descriptions of the phenomenon of awareness, the mechanism of consciousness.”
Just to be clear here, I’m not pushing the shamanic experience for you. I’m merely saying that it is a path toward increased awareness of who you truly are and how you fit into the world itself.
I will say this though, that IF you do choose this particular path, make sure you have a reliable, reputable teacher—not one who shoves you toward the “ayahuasca quick-trip to self-awareness” with native plant-based hallucinogens and shady support systems.
There is NO quick trip to increased self-awareness. It’s a slow and lengthy healing journey because it’s meant to be that way for maximum effect in your life.