“If you are unprogrammed in the cultural causa-sui project, then you have to invent your own: you don’t vibrate to anyone else’s tune. You see that the fabrications of those around you are a lie, a denial of truth. A creative person becomes then, in art, literature, and religion the mediator of natural terror and the indicator of a new way to triumph over it. He reveals the darkness and the dread of the human condition and fabricates a new symbolic transcendence over it. This has been the function of the creative deviant from shamans through Shakespeare.” ~ Ernest Becker
We’ve all experienced that feeling of emptiness at our core: that something important is missing. Even in our synthetic, dog-eat-dog society, we can feel our souls aching, pushing up like flowers through the asphalt of our lives. We catch fleeting glimpses of it in poetry, in the embrace of a lover, in the howl of a distant coyote, or during a magnanimous sunset. Most of us muffle that cry, pressing the thousand-and-one inane snooze-buttons of our lives. But some of us are beginning to hear the call again.
For us, all is not lost. We are beginning to listen again. We are finding that there is still time to reunite ourselves with mystery. And nobody is reuniting things with the Great Mystery more so than modern day shamans, specifically, post-modern shamans with the ability to transform disaster into regeneration. Here then are six ways you may be a Disaster Shaman.
1.) You heal disaster situations through shamanic cosmology and ecopsychology
“The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.” –Walter Bagehot
In the disaster situation that is our modern culture, you are a force to be reckoned with. The world is your tribe. You demand respect. “Chiefs,” “Head hunters,” even “fools” have no choice but to respect you. For you bridge the gap between victim and world, between lost citizen and the natural world, between the innocent and the numinous. Your reach is beyond the typical person’s reach precisely because you are a force of nature first and a person second.
Your way of healing is by immersing yourself in disaster situations and doing your best to heal (directly or indirectly) as a beacon of hope for the victims involved. You are a shoulder to lean on, a sounding board to bounce ideas off of.
You empower the disempowered and lift the downtrodden through shamanic reengineering. Your philanthropy is not money, necessarily, but sacred energy. You realize as Henry David Thoreau did: “To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.” But you do not preach. You teach by eco-conscious example, using ecopsychology as a direct method to reintroduce the afflicted to the healing properties of the greater cosmos, using a post-modern shamanic cosmology as a medium for safe passage into higher realms of thinking about the human soul.
Like Andrea Gibson, you realize that “We have to create. It is the only thing louder than destruction.” In the midst of destruction, decay, and tragedy, you reinvent the sacred and the numinous. You understand that everyone is an artist, and your goal is to help others to tap into that innovative force of unstoppable creativity. You see that we are not only capable of retrieving the mysterious, inexplicable, constantly flowing creative phenomena – we are the phenomena. Even in disaster situations. Each of us is an agent of transformation, wired to perceive, absorb, and transform knowledge (pain, suffering, destruction) into imagination and imagination into creative, healing energy that has the potential to heal the world.
“Shamanism demands that you take your own steps with courage, compassion, and vision. It requires that you learn how to learn from nature. It teaches you to meet power directly, embrace it, and claim it”… “The priest is interested in the answers; the shaman is more interested in provoking you to ask the questions that will lead you into paradox and duality. The task of the shaman is not to pursue meaning but to create it, to bring the sacred to an otherwise profane and mundane reality. That takes a daily act of courage and a willingness to make mistakes.” ~ Alberto Villoldo
You use a nature first culture second approach to life. You are a space that the cosmos fashioned to feel its own grandeur, and you are not afraid to feel the double-edged sword of that grandeur. You are a custodian of interconnection, attuned to the paradoxical reality of the human condition as being both god-like and animal-like, and so you operate outside the cultural framework of right & wrong.
Outside of this typical framework, you are free to use a bottom-up (feminine/strong-god) approach, instead of a top-down (masculine/straw-god) approach, to healing the world. Like Klaus Joehle said, “The Universe is saying: Allow me to flow through you unrestricted, and you will see the greatest magic you have ever seen.” And you are intent upon sharing this magic with others.
Through this bottom-up approach, you dare to be a conduit for what Derrick Jensen called “a language older than words.” Like Terence McKenna said, “Nature is not mute; it is man who is deaf,” But your ears are wide open. Your soul is a sponge prepared to absorb sacred knowledge. Indeed, there is a concert hall in your soul welcoming the orchestra of the cosmos to play its sacred music. You are intent upon listening to what nature has to teach, especially as it pertains to the concepts of healthy and unhealthy.
“A free life still remains for great souls. Truly, he who possesses little is so much the less possessed: praised be a moderate poverty.” –Nietzsche
Similar to Gandhi, you, “live simply so that others can simply live.” You realize that living moderately leads to living deliberately, and if you limit yourself to what’s comfortable, you deny yourself what’s possible. A deliberate life is all the more liberating. The lighter you become, the more meditative and methodical you become. Indeed, the lighter you become, the brighter your light will shine. And so you have adopted a moderate lifestyle. Your lighter load has led to a lighter heart, and you are freer because of it.
Living moderately is challenging, but you embrace the challenge, knowing that the liberation of the soul is worth going through any amount of hardship. Living this way upturns convention and undermines tradition, creating a sacred space for new world-building. And because your load is so light and you are so adept at practicing moderation, you tend to exist on the periphery.
You are in between worlds, in more ways than one. But this gives you a distinct advantage, a kind of – outside the box, on the outside looking in – perspective into “the box” that others seem to be stuck in. From this vantage point you are free to create a new sustainable world that has the potential to leave the old unsustainable world behind.
4.) You are skilled in diagnosing and healing nature deprivation
“You can’t wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.” ~ Navajo proverb
You bring back continuity to the whole by guiding people back to their personal power, a power that can only be discovered through solitude and meditation in nature. You understand that it is only by getting outside of the rat-race of civilization that we can truly heal the divide between nature and the human soul. Like Alan Watts said, “When one speaks of awakening it means dehypnotisation. Coming to your senses. But of course to do that you have to go out of your mind.”
In order to heal our nature deprivation we must “lose our mind,” a mind that has been molded and conditioned for years by an unsustainable culture. But, like Carl Jung surmised, “In all chaos, there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.” And so by losing your unhealthy-mind (chaos), you are allowing for a healthy-mind (order) to emerge.
As a disaster shaman, you restore wholeness and power to people using the natural world as your guide. That wholeness and power then heals whatever is wrong with that person (mind, body, and soul). And then the domino-effect continues, until we go from living in an unhealthy, unsustainable culture, to a healthy, sustainable one. You teach how to develop emotional bonds with nature, in terms of wildness, parsimony, and spirituality.
You teach people how to live sustainably within their immediate environments, revealing how a moderate lifestyle, as well as a nomadic existence, allows the environment to regenerate. You even take the concept of re-wilding to the next level, applying it to human beings as well as non-human animals, so that they can rediscover a sacred spirituality by getting back in touch with Nature and Cosmos as God.
5.) You are adept at transforming weaponry into livingry
“All of us, Westerners and indigenous peoples alike, are descended from tribal ancestors if we go back far enough… and they all had great shamans. This fact reveals that the shaman’s path is part of the cultural heritage of all people, everywhere, although it was largely lost in the West due to the ruthless suppression by our organized, state-level religions and ideologies. Interestingly, shamanism is not a religion, nor does it conflict with any religious tradition. It’s a method. And when this method is practiced with humility, reverence and self-discipline, the shaman’s path can become a way of life.” ~ Hank Wesselman
You are adept at healing ecological, psychological, and cultural environments, especially those that have been decimated by the militarized nature of mankind. As a technician of the sacred, immersed in the numinous tapestry of the cosmos, you realize that the only thing that trumps moderation is volition, and so you understand the importance of education.
You realize that if moderation isn’t taught as an imperative for a healthier world, then the volition of people will become immoderate and militarized, and the world will therefore be unhealthy. As a disaster shaman, you realize that times of crisis are the best times to teach, and that teaching by non-violent, demilitarized example, is the best method of teaching.
If we are to “transform our weaponry into livingry” as Buckminster Fuller suggested, then we must tend to the soul with art, poetry, and myth, with failure and loss, with ambiguity and complexity (ecopsychology); rather than soulless, machine-like, diagnosis and treatment (psychotherapy). As a disaster shaman, you personify “rolling-with-the-punches,” knowing intuitively what Darwin surmised years ago when he said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor is it the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”
You are adaptable to change like no other. It will be your creative vision that will transform the destruction inflicted by the weapons of unsustainable men into a creative force for progressive technologies created by sustainable men.
6.) You are willing to die in order to bring water to the Wasteland
“Fortunately there are many other ways to collect and interpret information about our reality. The ability to hold several seemingly contradictory views simultaneously, the willingness to cultivate, explore, and trust subtle sensory signals, the boldness and endurance required to set a course that defies the dominant paradigm – this is the domain of certain artists, poets, musicians, shamans, ecologists, philosophers, and others adept at seeing and feeling connections to the obscured dimensions and forces of nature that others neglect to notice.” –Alyce Santoro
You understand that we live in dark times. You realize that the stories we’ve been telling each other are unhealthy stories that too many people believe in. Indeed, the landscape of the human condition is a wasteland filled with parched souls. But, disaster is to the disaster shaman as ashes are to the Phoenix. And so from the destruction of the old, you are beginning to build the foundation of the new. You are rewriting the story into a healthier version.
You have the courage to rise up out of the mass-destruction of unsustainable men and dare to become a sustainable force of nature. Art is your medium. Creativity is your vehicle. Sacred play is your power, and not even death can prevent your message from being translated.
Creative play, the essence of myth-making, is the sacred “reach” of a disaster shaman. As a disaster shaman, your creative play is your power. You are neither scientist nor priest, but artist. You are Artist incarnate. Your sacred art is like water for parched souls. And you have the audacity to bring it to them, despite the powers-that-be. You have no fear. For you realize that safety is an illusion and security is a prison in an ever-changing, ever-evolving cosmos. Like Clarissa Pinkola Estes said, “When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.”