Art / Awakening / Books / Consciousness / Dreams / Health / Paranormal / Spirituality

Introduction to THE GIFT OF SHAMANISM

Itzhak Beery

Don José stopped on his heels in the middle of a dark busy avenue of Corona, Queens. He turned to me, paused, and looked up at me with his fierce black eyes, “Did you start doing healings?” he asked. Perplexed, I watched this short, powerful shaman whom I admired, dressed in a blue llama-wool poncho, white cotton pants, white fabric sandals, and a gray felt fedora, in total disbelief. I pretended to not understand him.

“So, did you?” he prodded me.

“Oh no, I didn’t, was I supposed to?” I finally said and went on anxiously protesting, “I’m not ready. How can I? I know nothing about it. I’m not even sure that this is what I want to do with my life.”

“You are ready,” he declared flatly and with authority. “Vamos, let’s go eat now,” he said as he opened the door to a Chinese restaurant.

This was unexpected. My thoughts were racing. What does he mean? Do I have to change my life? I was confused and also frightened by the weight of the enormous responsibility he put on my should­ers. Immediately my old self-doubts cropped up like monsters looming out of their cage. Is he tricking me? What does he want from me or 
see in me? How can he be so sure I have what it takes to do what he does? Besides, I am a declared skeptic, cynic and atheist. I’m just an ordinary ­middle-aged man who was brought up as a communist Jew. Oh my God, what did I get myself into? Do I have to? Why me? Why now?

Before we start on this fascinating journey I must confess to you that for the longest time I did not allow myself to believe in the mounting evidence of the existence of unseen worlds, nor did I take the time to learn about them. But despite my doubts I was slowly forced to admit their existence and relevance; I found that I just did not have any other choice. At this point I no longer tried to intellectualize or understand these things in a rational way, as the shamanic experience is truly about learning to surrender to the magical and join in the workings of life’s mysterious forces. I’m now convinced that we human beings are truly living in multidimensional realities and that as humans we have the ability to perceive knowledge, images, and information otherwise hidden from our ordinary senses by shifting from th­­e earthly plane into a shamanic state of higher vibrational consciousness. I believe that this is the key to humans’ survival for hundreds of thousands of years. It is not trickery or self-delusion as many more scientific and logical people might say, as we’ll see later.

Like me and perhaps you, there are millions of people who are now awakening every day, like sprouts after a long rain, to the call to embrace this age-old knowledge. Many indigenous societies have continuously lived with this wise worldview from the very beginning of time. We, in the technological, so-called First World, have forgotten it and in many ways have learned to despise it and label it as backward or primitive, rejecting it outright without even examining it. As the ancient Maya and Inca prophecies point out, since 1993 we entered into a new Pachacuti, a time of realignment and correction of the human journey and consciousness. It is time to be awakened and accept our true nature, by living in equilibrium and harmony between the two opposing and complementary forces of feminine and masculine that exist within each of us. It is a time to take the long overdue journey from our minds to meet our hearts. Only then, when the heart and the mind live in harmony, we can resolve war, poverty, and environmental destruction and ensure future generations’ survival on this miraculous planet.

I must confess that like many contemporary males I’m truly excited to play with the latest technologies and gadgets, read about new scientific discoveries, and hear about fresh innovations in every field, and I am sure I passed this enthusiasm to my kids. The future fascinates me, ignites my imagination, and sets free my fantasies. Growing up, I admired my dad’s constant search for new ways to improve machines to achieve better production and develop processes to make life’s tasks more efficient and convenient. I believe inventiveness and curiosity is ingrained in our DNA, as it is essential to our successful survival as a species on Earth. We have truly achieved a lot in the past few hundred years. We are now able to communicate in an instant all across the planet. Distances have become shorter; we travel into space; we predict the weather a year in advance; our homes are becoming digitized and weather insulated; we harvest solar, wind, and water energies; we engineer food to have long shelf lives; we have a DNA map of our bodies, better medical diagnostic tools, and robotic machines; and we all live longer.

No doubt this process is speeding up exponentially, as my friend Ray Kurzweil and other scientists say. And as this process accelerates, we need to rethink what kind of future human beings we are evolving into. We are now paying a huge price for these advances environmentally as a society as well as individually in our own physical, emotional, and spiritual existence. Obesity is at a record high. More people are using anxiety pills. Religious fanaticism is spreading like brush fire. It seems to me there is social disengagement and a disconnection from nature, which leads us to forget the most important aspect of who we truly are. Humans, like all animals, learn about the world through—and are entirely dependent on—their ability to employ their heightened senses for their survival: the ability to smell whether food is good or rotten; the coming rain; smoke from fire; and the subtleties in the fragrances of flowers. Touching, feeling, seeing, telepathically communicating over long distances, and energetically connecting to the wisdom and knowledge of spirits and our ancestors are all part of our human birthright.

This process of digitally shutting down the senses can be illustrated by this example. As a young graphic designer I still witnessed the use of hot type presses, where each character was set individually by pouring molten metal into a tiny mold and once cold it was hand assembled into a word, a sentence, and a story. The press took a group of three people to operate. Today we only have to type on a virtual keyboard and watch it appear on a flat screen. To create a brochure, we used to personally meet with the client, come up with a concept, draw a sketch in pencil, use water colors, colored paper, or markers (I still love that smell) to fill it in, and measure and draw the brochure’s size on a board with three different color pens. Once the copywriter’s copy was approved, we sent it to a typesetter. Getting back the galleys, we rolled it into a wax machine (which produced a great smell and texture) at a particular temperature. We then glued everything together on a white board, covered it with transparent paper for protection, and sent it by messenger for the client’s approval. Only then did it go to the printer, who then did color separations, prepared plates, etc. Today one person, using only his or her eyesight, with a click of a mouse chooses from prepared color palettes, template sizes, stock photography, and illustrations and can complete this entire process in less than a day on a flat computer screen in a virtual reality without leaving his or her chair. The tactile, physical, sensory, communicative, and team elements of the old process are gone.

Modern technology has certainly made our lives much easier and more convenient, but at the same time it has also separated us from nature. And in the process it has isolated and detached us from our own true human nature. This has bred in us a fear of nature and the unseen worlds that we cannot control. As technology progresses we are learning to shut down our own senses. Instead we rely on smartphone apps. We use these apps for everything from weather forecasting and GPS navigation to finding out about star constellations and taking our pulses. We have learned not trust our eyes anymore because we have an app for face recognition. We do not even have to trust our memory because everything’s stored on the Internet and it’s so easy to use Google. Consequently, there is a universal memory loss; I no longer need to calculate numbers or remember phone numbers and addresses as I used to because all this information is stored in my smartphone. Who needs to learn a new language when you can have an app that translates simultaneously? The danger is that we lose trust in our senses and ourselves. To diagnose our bodies we put our trust in the medical system. To know the truth about the world we trust what our politicians and the corporate media tell us. To know how to dress we trust the fashion gurus.

We give our religious leaders the monopoly on the connection to spirit. We are attempting to make logical sense of and, by extension, control nature, not live in harmony with it.

More and more people are plugged into technology 24/7. Unplugging and digital detox have now become buzzwords among the high number of gadget-users. People yearn for a time out—a break from the constant slavery of being connected—in order to gain a new perspective on life. There are even Internet rehab centers and technology-free vacations and retreats popping up to help us cope with “reality”! At Shaman Portal (www.shamanportal.org), the website I created as a hub for the global shamanic community, statistics show that three quarters of the visitors to the site come from the technologically advanced societies of the United States and Europe.

This sensory shutdown is real. You can tell by looking at the millions of eyes that are constantly glued to the two-dimensional screens of our smartphones, tablets, computers, and TVs. I am concerned human beings are becoming handicapped, dependent, and sometimes purely apathetic as we trade in our birthright sensual gifts and abilities for the gifts of technology. I believe we are in danger of losing our place as a species. Learning to trust and allow all your senses to come alive again can make you fully engage in life around you. The practice of shamanism helps to reestablish the “seeing” (our sixth sense or intuition), which is an important part of our ability to survive. Seeing is not linear or logical. It communicates to us in symbols, through poetry and idioms, and in body language, colors, shapes, smells, and bodily sensations.

Why a Book of Stories?

This book started with a vision—somebody else’s, though. “Pages, pages, pages—I ‘see’ white pages flying all around you,” Frank Andrews exclaimed, waving his right hand in the air in a large circle around his head. We were sitting in his cozy wood-paneled reading room for my yearly tarot card reading. A large flower arrangement and an antique crystal ball sat in the middle of the round table as my opened cards were spread in formation on the embroidered tablecloth. “You are going to write a book,” he proclaimed with unshakable certainty.

“Me? A book? Oh no, Frank, that’s totally ridiculous. I don’t have anything to write about or say. I am not a writer, I’m a visual artist. English is not even my first language . . . ” I went on protesting, finding all the excuses I could think of.

“But you will,” he repeated, looking at me through his large eyeglasses with his big, warm brown eyes. He giggled, saying, “You’ll see, you will see. Start writing stories about your healing experiences and spirit encounters, a page at a time.” I started to feel a certain excitement, but also mixed with a lot of doubt. Frank’s five little white Papillon dogs barked in excitement, looking at us with high curiosity from the gated kitchen door. I had met Frank, said to be one of the ten best psychics in the world, whose portrait was painted by Andy Warhol a few years earlier, and we had formed a close friendship. Later on you will read about a dream he starred in. And so it was, despite my disbelief and doubt in his “seeing.”

Some years before this it was an unexpected initiation vision I received in the High Andes that started me on an apprenticeship with my teacher and on the shamanic healing path. You will read about this later too.

I am not unique by any means. The truth is that many other shamans, healers, and seekers, as well as ordinary people, have had similar experiences. But I can only fully stand behind my own experiences, and I hope these will prompt you on your own path.

I am aware that writing this book goes against an old shamanic tradition of oral knowledge transmission. There is a reason why you never find books written by indigenous shamans prior to recent years. The concept of writing down wisdom teachings that have been passed down to shamans by their ancestors or from spirits—which they do not “own” to begin with, as they belong to everyone—has been unthinkable for most of history. Shamans believe that knowledge is not static; it is a living thing that changes in every moment in time, like nature herself. There are only a few things that do not change: the direction in which the sun rises and sets; the seven cardinal directions; and birth and death. Shamans believe that putting knowledge and wisdom down on pieces of paper and binding it between two covers freezes its energy and does not allow it or the reader to develop and grow. The Bible, the Holy Book as it is called, was itself a collection of tribal stories that were passed down as teachings from fathers to sons through many generations. You can expect that each person added his own version and interpretation. But once it was inscribed on parchment or animal skin, the religious authorities forbade changing even one period, let alone challenging it. Worse, some believed that God Himself transcribed it and, if so, we must apply every word, written thousands of years ago, to our more pluralistic and advanced technological society. This attitude has led to close-mindedness and fanaticism, as we see now in many societies around the world. Lacking their own direct experience of the Creator and nature, the representatives of the various religions try to impose their teachings on people. There have been many times that I asked my two teachers to write down their teachings, thoughts, and healing techniques for a book, and I always got slippery answers: “Maybe …” “One day …” “We’ll see …”

Actually, scientific teachings are not all that different. All around the world, every day, students sit behind their desks to learn and be tested on scientific “facts” that don’t keep up with the times. Moreover, these can even prove to be misleading as every day we learn new things about our solar system, the brain, the body, nature, and human history. Our textbooks are mostly outdated and full of assumptions, not facts, and do not challenge students to discover their world. On the other hand, stories that have been passed down orally, requiring us to learn in more holistic and collaborative ways than pure memorization, teach us about ourselves, our morality, and our values as well as the universal laws and the limitless magic of the universe.

And yet I have to contradict myself again, because I acknowledge that books are a powerful and useful way to effect and spark ideas, to move people to action, and to expand consciousness and possibilities. After all, it was Hank Wesselman’s book SPIRITWALKER that introduced me to the world of shamanism. And it was a workshop by Michael Harner, who wrote THE WAY OF THE SHAMAN, that brought me to another workshop given by John Perkins, who wrote THE WORLD IS AS YOU DREAM IT, which in turn guided me to becoming an apprentice of Don José Joaquin Piñeda, who in turn introduced me to the shaman Ipupiara. And it was a book by Olga Kharitidi, ENTERING THE CIRCLE, that opened my eyes to the phenomenon of holographic seeing. And it was a book by Sandra Ingerman, SOUL RETRIEVAL, about that ancient practice that greatly influenced me. I must also say that even before all of that I eagerly devoured all the books by Carlos Castaneda and Lynn Andrews that I could find. Following in this tradition, and without pretending to be an authority on the subject, I chose to write a book of stories that might connect with you emotionally and guide you indirectly into the shamanic ways of “seeing.”

The Power of Vision

Deep within each and every one of us, I believe, lie dormant visionary powers waiting to be realized and freed from the confines of our fears, cultural taboos, and old habits. Once in a while we get spontaneous glimpses of them in the forms of dreams, experiences of déjà vue, unplanned visions, out-of-body experiences, and other phenomena. Most people learn to minimize these experiences: “Just a silly coincidence”; “An accident”; “Only a dream.” However, I am convinced that once recognized and intentionally applied to our lives, these powerful intuitive experiences can help us become more in tune with life and help us live in harmony with everything around us, and so make us whole.

Being in touch with our “seeing,” our visions, can help us also chart new paths not only for our own life, but for society as a whole, hopefully allowing us to create a sustainable world that honors each individual person as magnificent, promotes equality between people, and builds respect for all animals, plants, and the natural elements. That is why shamans the world over believe that each of us can be a shaman possessing the potential to change him- or herself and the world around us. That is what makes the shamanic practice so relevant to our digital modern age. After all, the premise of the practice of shamanism is to foster real, measurable physical, emotional, and mental change.

Going forward you will read actual, true stories that span generations: stories of premonitions and forewarning dreams; stories of people who have long since passed and have returned to inflict pain or to bring objects to their rightful owners; stories of past lives that continue to influence people’s lives in the present; stories about remote viewing of illness or emotional or physical problems, of seeing into others’ life situations and homes; stories of meeting people in the spirit world and then meeting them again in real life; stories of seeing spirits of animals that are embedded in people’s bodies, and of seeing spirits of unborn or aborted children. You will read about visions of gods and other spiritual entities as they come in holograms, and about animal spirits that manifest in our reality. Through these stories I hope you will be guided to unleash your inner modern-day shamanic powers, to ignite your natural intuition, and to become a shamanic warrior, one that learns to face your innermost fears and to act decisively to achieve your goals and dreams in spite of them. These are my experiences; I hope they will inspire you too.

Most of the stories that you are about to read occurred in my life over the past few years.* I initially recorded them in an effort first to convince myself, and maybe others, that there are some universal phenomena whose origins we may not completely understand at this time, but nevertheless can have an incredibly useful and practical value in our daily lives. The common thread in these stories is that they all started in a vision or a dream, sometimes invited and other times not, and ended up manifesting in what we call “reality.” Although many different spirits played an important role in each of these events, the stories are not intended to be spiritual; as I said, they were written simply to record facts, and maybe to inspire.

Messages from spirits in the form of power animals, guides, and teachers during shamanic journeys to other worlds, nightly dreams, or meditation allow us to receive useful insights, answers, knowledge, and healing for others or ourselves. But these techniques are not new. Similar techniques have been used since the beginning of human time by healers and shamans in all indigenous cultures all over the world. The word shaman is translated as “person who possesses the knowledge” in Tungus, Siberia. Or as a contemporary Tungus shaman claimed when I asked him, “the keeper of fire,” which I like better as it widens the shaman role to the whole community. A shaman (a see-er) is a person who journeys to nonordinary realities in an altered state of consciousness, at his or her own will, and brings back knowledge that can effect physical or mental changes in this realm for the purpose of healing or for knowledge. There are various ways shamans reach these realms—by chanting, drumming, dancing, consuming hallucinogenic brews, or eating mushrooms—but their goal is always the same: to tap in to and connect and align with the vast source of knowledge found in the natural world, where all knowledge exists. The shamans with whom I have met or worked insist that all humans have the inherent ability to tap in to this source. Throughout our lives we experience this involuntarily and call it coincidence, intuition, miracle, or other names.

In my workshops I like to tell participants that all humans are walking iPhones. We all have bodies—the phone itself. And we all have software—our brain. And like iPhones, we all have transmitters and receivers or antennas, which enable us to broadcast and receive information to and from long distances out of thin air. As with an iPhone, we can’t see the waves of information that enter or depart our bodies; they are pure energy, which travels via different vibrations. But nevertheless we know they exist, as we have the direct experience of the phone ringing and Uncle Bob speaking to us from the other end. All we have to do is raise the bars of our intuitive power and embark on the journey that awaits us.

So let’s start on this extraordinary adventure together. For me it was triggered, as I said earlier, by a book …

*Please note that most of the names and some of the situational details have been altered in order to protect the privacy of my clients.

THE GIFT OF SHAMANISM by Itzhak Beery Copyright © 2015 Destiny Books. Printed with permission from Inner Traditions International. For more information visit www.InnerTraditions.com.

Itzhak Beery is an internationally recognized shamanic healer and teacher. He was initiated into the Circle of 24 Yachaks by his Quechua teacher in Ecuador and into the healing tradition of his Amazonian Kanamari pagè teacher. The founder of ShamanPortal.org and cofounder of the New York Shamanic Circle, he is on the faculty of New York Open Center and Kripalu. The author of SHAMANIC TRANSFORMATIONS  and THE GIFT OF SHAMANISM, he lives in New York.

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