Several months ago, I walked into a yoga class, dripping sweat from running...
The inspiration for this article was born out of commentary on social media related to a video that had been posted on someone’s timeline. In the video, there were, what appeared to be anywhere from 7 to 10 healing practitioners sitting in a circle with a tree stump in the middle. The tree had just been cut down, and the practitioners were holding a funeral ritual for the tree that had just died. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but the commentary contained many negative and condescending opinions about what the practitioners were performing. Unfortunately, these views have become all too common in the social media setting. Sometime after I’d viewed the video, the whole presentation of video and commentary had me asking myself the question “What could be offensive about this?”
This question touched off a myriad of thoughts, that I attempted to resolve for myself. But, the obvious answer was that unlike Shamanic practitioners, most of western society does not view the world the way practitioners do. Seems all living beings may not equal, and we may not be one with all universal beings. These are core tenets of Shamanic practice. It was also a stark reminder that old western civilization thoughts and practices still prevail now maybe more than ever. This, despite the face that Shamanism enjoys popularity today more than ever.
Please, let me digress for a moment to explain why resolving this was important for me, and why my spirit helpers planted the seed, and, thus, I had to research and write. Most of my professional life has been spent working in multi-national corporations in the areas of finance and IT. Most of those positions required me to be the liasson between different functional personnel. It’s been obvious for quite some time that there were conflicting morals and values in that environment that I would never reconcile. Additionally, at points in that existence, I was one of those commenters. One obvious takeaway, as I was learning how to become a hollow bone between both ordinary and non-ordinary reality was that I would function as a hollow-bone (bridge) in ordinary reality between those who were corporate dwellers and Shamanism. Yes, it has been unfortunately or fortunately my cross to bear. Because of my time spent in that working environment, I am an expert at conforming to those corporate expectations, however, that behavior doesn’t necessarily bring one to the point of recognizing their full potential.
As I was pondering these thoughts and because of Shamanic study, it was easy to understand what those practitioners were doing and why. However, as has happened frequently, as of late, I asked “Is there a way to present this to the naysayers in a way that they would or could understand?” Almost as quickly as I asked the question, the answer from my spirit helpers was “high-level comparison of beings in ordinary reality”. So, here we are researching and pondering the issue for this article.
You might say these thoughts are coming from a “western civilized brain on Shamanism”. In my experience, most folks in these settings concentrate far too much on logical, rational and scientific answers that are prove-able on paper. They dismiss anything that cannot fit into that narrowly defined box. The following comparison focuses on 3 area’s that are covered quite extensively in the study of Shamanism. For this exercise, I wanted to play on the commenter playing field, and only use facts and examples that were logical and could not possibly be disputed, even by the non-practitioner:
1.) Ordinary Reality Existence – Without trying to become a biologist or scientist, which I’m ill suited to be, most living things on our planet are made of individual cells. From science classes in grade school, we are taught that they all seem to take in something and let out something for survival. We as humans breath in oxygen and breath out carbon dioxide. I’m pretty sure dogs & cats are pretty much the same, and the same holds true for plants, except for the fact that the components are reversed and called photosynthesis. With this information, I was convinced that beings, be it plant, animal, human, etc. are on the same plane for all practical purposes.
2.) Love – This can be a complicated issue in the context of any discussion. So I decidedly wanted to get to the bare bones. It has been almost universally accepted that even western dwellers love their dogs, cats and pets. There are many psychological explanations as to why this is, and again, I’m not qualified to weigh in on the why. Examples are all around us that in some households, pets have risen to almost the same status as our own offspring. They have their own houses, rooms, favorite dishes, etc. Obviously, there is attachment and love associated with these relationships. What I think is often overlooked is that plant lovers may feel the same about their favorite plants. I have loved plants ever since I can remember. Part of the majesty of existing in that space, is growing plants from seeds or cuttings or babies, and watching them grow and mature into whatever beautiful being they will become. When we look at our human and animal lives, isn’t that exactly the same as raising our own children and offspring. Hence, why wouldn’t the same attachments and love follow, as those most closely identified with two-legged and four-legged beings.
3.) Death and Loss – This is another very complicated issue and even more so, in the Shamanic sense. So let’s just look at it just from the standpoint of how one feels when they lose a family member or a pet. Obviously, if you’ve been loved and loved back in some way, the humans you leave behind mourn the loss of something that will not be there in their continuing journey in ordinary reality. Why do we feel the loss? At a very basic level, we’ve been able to watch, share, communicate and been made to “feel good” by this person or pet. This may not be as obvious when discussing plants. The problem is that the use of speech, and hearing with our ears . Also, a complicating factor is that plants cannot return the communication in a manner that can always be observed with the human eyes and ears. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. For those who may have a favorite place to relax next to a favorite tree or plant to think or meditate, know that it is part of the whole “feel good” experience. This is precisely why I didn’t question what the healers or practitioners were doing in the video.
So I ask now, What is so odd about holding a funeral ritual for that tree that one may have raised and spent time, even a lifetime, with?
So, what do we make of the comments and those making the comments on social media? First and foremost, I think we just talked ourselves into the fact that the commenters may have put themselves in a place where there are limited avenues of communication, and thus, understanding. This may be from upbringing, but probably more from not exploring communication possibilities that are not accepted in the environment that most of their time is spent. Furthermore, the longer this practice goes on it can turn the most intelligent humans into skeptics to the point where they fear or will not accept the unknown.
I believe most Shamanic practitioners understand this as a basic premise, and the majority of this is not earth shattering. Throughout Shamanic studies, I was constantly reminded not to share certain information. I knew there were valid reasons for this, but I also had a nagging feeling (practitioners know what that feeling means) that one could avoid unnecessary criticism along their spiritual path, free from distraction. However, this exercise wasn’t undertaken for the benefit of the Shamanic practitioner. It was written with the normal everyday western civilization working man and non-practitioner in mind.
The title of the article was a play on words from a song by Elton John called “Funeral for a Friend”, one of my earliest musical inspirations.
Mark Glynn, CSP