The remark has been made many times and I wanted to put the big banner somewhere that I am not a self proclaimed Shaman. There’s a difference between being a Shamanic Practitioner and a Shaman. This is currently a hot bed of a debate, and I don’t want to argue with people. That’s not my interest. But I do wish to clarify where I stand with this situation, and also define myself as a practitioner.
There’s this wonderful organization called the Society of Shamanic Practice that is a collection of Shamanic Practitioners. They organize different events, and have a directory of events, teachers, and practitioners organized by State. If you sign up to be a member, you might want to listen to the audio recording they released back in January of 2018 which has Lena Stevens moderating a discussion between Sandra Ingerman, Jose Stephens, and Ben Boomer. This was a very enlightening conversation between three very experienced individuals that are leaders in their field. Sandra Ingerman is world renowned for her leadership in teaching Shamanism for over thirty years. She got her start with Michael Harner and the Foundation of Shamanic Studies, and has since been on her own path of spreading her teachings that she has received through her Guides. Jose Stephens is one of the founders of the Power Path School of Shamanism and is a board member of the Society for Shamanic Practice. He has completed a ten-year apprenticeship with a Huichol Maracame in Mexico and has studied with the Shipibos of the Amazon and the Paqos of the Andes for the last thirty years. Ben Boomer was raised participating in both traditional Diné ceremony with his mother’s family and traveling to California for Christmas with his father’s side of the family. These experiences created a deep recognition of the validity and importance of the ancient ways of knowing from a spectrum of cultures. His life has created natural fusions between the modern western society and indigenous civilization.
The summary that I took away from that interview really helped clarify a lot of things for me. In order to be a Shaman, you must have a community that you belong to. A weekend workshop or a 1-2 year training program does not count. The community recognizes you as the Shaman and the Shaman recognizes the community. To use the word “Shaman” because it’s something cool and fashionable does dishonor to the role of a Shaman. In this contemporary society, there is currently a glamour around the word Shaman. It also breeds ignorance because there can be a superficial context of which to understand what exactly the role of a Shaman is. Traditionally it would take years of apprenticeship, study, and dedication in order to follow that path. And even further still, the role of being a Shaman is gifted by the Spirits. The Spirits choose who the Shaman is, and a community recognizes and feels the vibration of that choice.
Let’s put this into perspective. In a traditional Shamanic culture, everyone would be able to communicate and talk with the Spirits. It was a daily act of cultivation to be able to interact with the sacred. The Diné have the expression to “Walk in Beauty”, because the Sacred is in everything and should be honored. That is the meaning of respect, and cultivating that respect with the world around you. It’s knowing that the world around you is connected in a great web of life, and seeing the hands of Spirit/God/The Universe reflected in all things.
However, in our culture, those who can talk to Spirits and communicate with them regularly are marginalized. We have lost that point of connection where everyone in community can do those tasks, and it’s only a percentage of the population who are sensitive enough to explore and hone their gifts. There is an emergence of psychics, mediums, and other varieties that are becoming more common. Nothing is wrong with them, and they do have gifts. This should be more commonplace, to recognize the people that have true gifts. We should celebrate this instead of shame them. This would be considered “normal” and a functioning part of a Shamanic culture, because divination is still practiced in active Shamanic Cultures today. This is one of the reasons why I teach Shamanic Journeying (and have been for years now), because it’s a way to begin having these experiences of interacting with a trusted Helping Spirit. We as humans need help from the world around us to begin to see things from a different perspective. To project what we feel is “right” or “wrong” is actually imposing our will on our outside world, and is not taking into account that everything has its own Spirit.
Have you ever walked into someones house and felt nice and calm? Just started relaxing as soon as you walk in the door? And then what happens when you walk into an office building and you feel your shoulders start tensing up because of all of the stress that’s in the environment? Buildings have spirits too, and so does the land that the buildings are on. No one needs to be a Shaman to tap into that.
To be a Shamanic Practitioner means to be able to use Shamanic skills in your everyday life to interact in a healthy and respectful way with the world around you. It’s about constantly improving our language with Spirit and understand the messages we are being given. To Journey to the Spirit of the Land and give respect to the stream in your backyard by tossing some tobacco or cornmeal outside is a great way to begin cultivating the relationship with the world around us. You can honor the Ancestors by setting aside a little tiny plate of food at each meal to give gratitude for the food you are about to eat. These are things that (in my opinion) should be normalized to help us feel more connected to the great web of life. So many of my clients suffer because they feel the strain of loneliness, feeding into the story of separation – that they are separated from God/The Universe/Spirit. In an indigenous culture, everyone would be expected to maintain this relationship with the divine by honoring the Sacred in all things.
So in short: No, I am not a Shaman. I am a shamanic practitioner and shamanic healer. I have not studied or trained with an Indigenous culture for 20+ years. Yes, I’ve had a near death experience and have learned the shamanic healing forms like soul retrieval, curse unraveling, and compassionate depossession. Yes, I’ve talked to Spirits since I was a kid and have been immersed in other books about Shamanism, following a Shamanic Path without realizing it since 2006. But I didn’t really find my path until I found Mary Tyrtle Rooker and picked up Sandra Ingermans journeying book back in 2013. I find myself a beginner on this path of Shamanism. Constantly going back to the basics and spreading the truth of what I have experienced and the wisdom that I have cultivated into the world. If someone calls me a Shaman, I won’t correct them because if they happen to be at one of the events I’m leading, then they are part of the community that’s there. The community has the right to call me a Shaman, but I myself will not call myself a Shaman. I’m just here to do my part in community and to spread ease, joy, love, and laughter into the world.
I know it might sound ridiculous and you’re afraid people might laugh at you or judge you if they catch you doing it. However, being kind to your food actually helps you in the long run.
Sensitive people can tell the difference when someone makes them food, and they really put their love and care into that food. When we get food prepared for us (especially from a fast food restaurant), it’s disconnecting in a way. Sure, it might taste good, but somehow it doesn’t fill us up like Grandmas Apple Pie did.
We can be magical just like our Grandparents and make amazing food with depth and meaning if we just focus our attention on our food in a conscious way. Most people live to eat. We should be making the switch to eat to live. If we slowly stop overconsuming food because the food that we cook or eat has our intention cooked into it, we can become “full” even easier. Thus learning to stop overeating can become easier.
Many people that are Reiki practitioners bless their food with Reiki. Hey, if that floats your boat then cool! I actually pray by singing. I connect my intention with my voice and singing always puts me in a good mood. I intentionally connect with the food that I’m about to cook and will often sing to it. What does that mean energetically? I am blessing my own food and eating my prayers. I’m not as disconnected from my food and I feel a sense of connection to something bigger out there in the big web of life.
Even if you’re a horrible cook and can’t cook for yourself, try just humming something to your microwave dish. Make the intention to connect to your food and give gratitude for the many hands it took to get it to your table. If you’re also looking to deepen your Shamanic Practice, set a little food aside for the land spirits and ancestors in gratitude for the food that is about to nourish your body.
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
There has been a great deal of turbulence in the air, and many people have been affected in some way by the issues that are being brought to light. It’s not the fact that more “bad stuff” is happening in the world, it’s just the fact that we are able to see more it than ever. It means that we have to stick together as we peel the rest of this facade off and we get down to really being who we came here to be.
For as many opinions as there are out there, there is a plethora of causes to stand for. With fear running rampant in our main culture, there’s rising amounts of racism, sexism, acts against people of other religions, acts against transgendered or LGBTQ communities/individuals, and more issues of violence and discrimination than we can count. I urge people to pause, breathe, and get out of a reactive state before proceeding forward. We can’t do good in the world if we don’t take care of ourselves first. I know there are many heated emotions flying around, and people are quicker to get reactive because there is so much going on that’s triggering people to be defensive and protect what they “know”. I don’t blame them. But if you’re going to stand up for something, really evaluate your values and morals and see which movements align with them.
The first step after self-care, is to think about things that really make a change in this world. No, putting posts all over social media about how upset you are doesn’t change anything. It might trigger other’s anger and outrage, but engaging constantly in what makes you upset makes more of us upset, and is a trend that has been perpetuated by the masses. Instead, focus on the little things to help make a change or a difference. Here’s a great article from CNN on just this, if you are ready and in a state of mind to take more action that makes a bigger difference in the great scheme of things.
Part of self-care is recognizing what is within our ability to change, and what is beyond the scope of our ability to do. I have two jobs and a kid, so obviously I’m not going to go gung-ho and do everything listed there – it’s meant to be a roadmap for some of what you can do. That goes for joining every protest that’s out there. Be selective, and it’s generally recommended to pick a cause that is close to your heart. It helps because our energy is not scattered, and more focused so that it can effect a greater change.
Now that that’s out of the way – let’s talk about Standing Rock. Why do people care about Standing Rock? What is it? Obviously it’s something that is dear to my heart, but why should we care about it?
I’m sure many people have heard of it at this point. It has finally hit mainstream media to some degree, but mostly it’s through social media that this movement has thrived. The Dakota Access Pipeline is a pipeline being built by Energy Transfer that will be used for transporting crude oil over 1,172 miles and through 4 states. Click here to read the fact sheets on Energy Transfer. Sunoco Logistics (whose parent partner is Energy Transfer) will take over transporting the crude oil once the pipeline is complete. The reason for the pipeline? They claim it moves oil faster over longer distances, and it will help boost the economy in certain areas. Prior to the construction of the proposed pipeline, they have been transporting crude oil via trucks and rail. They claim they take the utmost care and security during transportation, however Sunoco has the highest spill rate of all of the companies that transport crude oil. Their public statement says they will do their best to “minimize spills”. They have also not been documenting all of the spills that take place, stating that they didn’t want to “over-report” their spills. The biggest recent spill happened October 20th, 2016 when a Sunoco pipeline burst, leaking 55,000 gallons of oil about 100 miles North of Harrisburg, PA. Because the oil was leaked from that area, it soaked into the water supply and has reached down as far as the Susquehanna river (it first spilled into Loyal Sock Creek which then flows into the left branch of the Susquehanna) about 15 miles south of where the oil spill occurred.
- Read about other fatalities of other oil spills
- Read about oil spills in other areas and their environmental impact
We now begin to understand the severity of the situation on a physical aspect alone, of the environmental impact of transporting crude oil via pipelines. Another layer to add to this, is the fact that the construction process did not even consult with the owners of the property this pipeline will be going through. Many farmers and people that own private property have been pressured into selling their property so this pipeline could be created. Some of the land that this pipeline runs through was promised to the successors of the Great Sioux Nation in the treaties of Fort Laramie in 1851 and 1868. The government itself has broken the property stated by seizing 56,000 acres for the Lake Oahe project (dam and reservoir) by the US Army Corps of Engineers without prior consent from the Sioux tribe. Technically speaking, the property that the Energy Transfer, DAPL is cutting through military property – and they continued construction on the pipeline even without consent from the US Government. When approached with this legally, the CEO of Energy Transfers released a public statement that equated to drilling first, asking forgiveness later. Even with the Army Corps of Engineers, and President Obama getting involved and sending official letters and documentation, Energy Transfers still decided to proceed with the construction of the pipeline, have dug the trenches and have brought equipment for drilling underneath Lake Oahe on both sides.
As if that isn’t enough, we are also able to witness the layers of inappropriate action in regards to the handling of the protesters. They arrested people at the camp and threw them into dog kennels for “protesting” when they were practicing their freedom of speech and religion through praying. They fired rubber bullets and sprayed pepper spray on a crowd of protesters as they tried to protect sacred burial grounds. The basis for their non-violent protests have been a message of peace. When people come to Standing Rock, there are multiple classes a day that try to educate people about their way, and about how their fight is based on prayer. When beginning any protest, their elders lead them through a ceremony with prayer, and make it a point to include everyone there, including any law enforcement officials present. I was there myself during the protest in Washington DC, and I was there as they gave the blessing that “Everyone was to stay safe and continue to be so.” I was in the back of the protest line that was close to half a mile long, and I didn’t hear any arguing, or fighting. Just the chants for freedom, equality, peace, and the sweet smell of tobacco and sage being burned as we marched to the White House.
If you have questions about what exactly this fight is for, the Indigenous Youth Council put out this wonderful video which highlights the fact that this isn’t just about Native Americans fighting for their land. It’s not just about this one pipeline. It’s about the human race fighting for survival against tyranny and corruption. The blessing of this movement is the fact that a Global Community has been formed around Standing Rock, because they see the value in protecting what is Sacred. There are tales of people not understanding what this movement is – so they go to Standing Rock to see what this change is about – and instead it changes them. This is not just about fighting for what it right, it’s a wave of a mental, emotional and spiritual awakening that’s being led by prayer and ceremony. Its changing lives, the way people look at things, and how they interpret what they see.
It’s obvious the acts of disrespect have been seeded by the creation of the pipeline, which was started and continued without consent from the indigenous people, OR the hundreds of private landowners that the Energy Transfers Partners have cleared out/bought out. We need to be more mindful about what we are manifesting in this world. A good majority of this Western Society is founded on profit, and emphasizes sacrificing many things in light of convenience.
A good majority of the humans running things are doing so with power, greed, and without thought for the communities or environment. What would happen hypothetically if the pipeline was created, and everything went through and a major oil spill happened just like what was witnessed on October 20th? Lake Oahe feeds into the Missouri river. Obviously there’s going to be the immediate area that would be affected, but who’s to say what will happen when the other contaminants leak into the surrounding water supply? What happens if all of those chemicals associated with crude oil get into the water supply that feeds into the bread belt of the United States? We already have a large number of people that are allergic to wheat or developing gluten intolerances with the amount of preservatives in our food, and other factors. If the food that we grow is being fed by water that is contaminated, what do you think that is going to do to the food that is grown? It’s a chain effect.
The Standing Rock movement isn’t just about the DAPL. It also is a call to action for all people to wake up and see what is going on around them. What is the environment we live in now like? What pollution is around us that we are contributing to, for the sake of ease and convenience? All of these are big questions, and we turn inward to find the answers. If we are not in a stable place as we ask these questions of ourselves, then how can we be in a position to think about the greater world/community that is stitched together because of this simple thing we all need.
This movement isn’t JUST about the Oahe Lake and the surrounding water of North Dakota. It’s about all of the water that the Oahe Lake feeds into. It’s about ALL rivers and ALL life. Water is Sacred. #WaterIsLife
If you want more up to date information on Standing Rock, visit the Sacred Stone Camp Facebook page. Find out facts about the Dakota Access Pipeline and the protesting.
Feel moved by what was said here? Feel inspired to help now that you have a broader understanding of what is going on? Then congratulations, you just took the first step by reading this article and educating yourself more on the situation. This blog post is not meant to be all inclusive, but provides only a small sampling of the information available to you about why people are making such a big fuss about the situation. I encourage people to do their own research and to double check all of the facts provided here. There will be many sides and perspectives, and the side of the story you get will often be filtered through the eyes of the person seeing it. I know that my view point of the world is very different then others, hence why I encourage you to find your own truth.
If you’re so called to help with this particular protest, then here are some things that you can do to support this movement:
The Sacred Stone Camp is the compilation of different camps at Standing Rock. They are on the front lines where they are directly bordering where construction is taking place. They are keeping an eye on the pipeline construction with drones, and are keeping themselves informed on the progress. Many people here are praying, surviving, and doing their job to protect the land. These protectors are being called to stay at Standing Rock, and have either left their jobs or have taken time off work in order to come support the cause. A lot of people that have gone there are living off of donations.
- Here are Frequently asked questions and how to Support the Camps at Standing Rock.
- They are winterizing their camp so the Land Protectors can stay warm during the oncoming Winter. They have an Amazon Wishlist for supplies.
- There are many people who have gotten hurt at the protests, and that have acquired injuries. Click here if you would like to donate to medical funds.
- If the Standing Rock movement is something that moves you, but you would like to support the Non-Profit organization that is helping them legally in this matter, then find out more and donate to Earthjustice.
Don’t have money or supplies to donate? There are other ways that you can help. In order to “starve” the Black Snake (oil pipeline), there are efforts to defund the project.
- Letters to Officials to stop DAPL – email list to stay in contact with the movement
- List of Banks to write to – Banks are much more susceptible to pulling their funding from projects. Especially if large numbers of people write to them asking them to change their minds.
- Largest Bank in Norway pulls its assets
- DNB bank threatens to pull their assets
- Latest update as of November 14th – still a chance! Our hope is growing! Obama administration and Army Corps of Engineers have stomped down their foot because of protesting
- (Not immediately connected, but by proxy connected because of the awareness the movement has brought about) Interior Cancels Oil Leases On Sacred Tribal Lands In Montana
- As of November 16th – NADL in Financial Jeapordy (Letters to Banks have been working)
Shadow side of this movement
Obviously with the majority of people following along in the Standing Rock movement and its footsteps, we also have those that have become so moved/touched by this movement that they jump in without really knowing what it’s all about. These extremists do not understand the true meaning of standing with Standing Rock, but that shouldn’t be the whole example that can appear to discount what this movement stands for. With every act of balance, there is always a side of the argument/movement which is done with good intention, but their actions come out as warped and twisted. Read about the Killing of Buffalo “in the name” of Standing Rock. It would be unwise to pull up all the wonderful facts about Standing Rock without understanding the other aspects of what some might be reading about. We must embrace all sides of an argument and understand that they exist and are still apart of us – even if it is misguided.