coming together

Lessons From Indigenous Communities: How We Can All Benefit From Some Of Their Principles by Guest Writer Omar Beretta

July, 2018

Lessons From Indigenous Communities: How We Can All Benefit From Some Of Their Principles

By Guest Writer Omar Beretta

 

(Photo by Pablo E. Ortiz on Unsplash)

Imagine this: you switch off your iPhone now, pack your backpack, and get lost in a tropical jungle in search of powerful lessons from Indigenous communities. You’d better have a passport, because Indigenous communities are rarely found in our backyard. And we need to go now, because Indigenous wisdom is rapidly evaporating in the heat of modern times, but there is still a lot we can learn from them.

But direct to access Indigenous tribes isn’t always easy. Not everyone has an enlightened employer that will support your mystical journey and time away from the office. Or, an understanding and loving significant other that will drive you to the airport without a return ticket.

What’s the bottom line? Accessing alternative sources of knowledge may change your life forever — and this is good news. But you do not need to burn all your bridges to take the first steps in the direction of a new understanding of life. Take one step at a time.

First – what does “Indigenous community” mean, exactly?

This may seem crazy, but Karl Marx got it right when he explained that the natural world is further and further removed from us and arrives only in a relatively processed, mediated form. And he wrote that in 1844. The immediacy of nature has been lost, and nature confronts humanity as an alien entity. Moreover, as the Marxist theorist Max Horkheimer would later put it, “The history of man’s efforts to subjugate nature is also the history of man’s subjugation by man.”

The chances of finding an authentic Indigenous community in a natural, pristine environment, willing to share their wisdom to a newcomer that does not speak their language, are next to nothing. What we can learn from good old Marx is that we have created a production system that alienates us from nature, and over the years it has generated an urban malaise from which I suffer, and, if you have read this far, probably you too. The bad news is that apparently this malaise can only be cured by accessing the wisdom of aboriginal communities, which have been almost entirely crushed by the very system of production to which we contribute each day by waking up, buying coffee, and going to work.

But even if we got lost for a few months in the Peruvian Amazon, we would discover that most of the Indigenous knowledge has already been formatted to the urban lifestyle. It would take significant time and effort to find a spot where white men and women have not already set up a spiritual shop to cater to our quest. And before the spiritual shops arrived, various churches roamed the aboriginal wilderness, turning original knowledge into a mere remembrance of things past.

So, if you only have one or two weeks to spare for your spiritual quest, do not shop in the Spiritual Supermarket. More importantly, do not buy that six-day, four-ayahuasca ceremony package tour to the Amazon, facilitated by white people that can speak your language. Rather, donate that money to a reliable NGO and wait for good karma to hit back. It always does.

Here’s the kicker: we may actually find powerful lessons in our backyard. We have the atavic need to be a part of a tribe, because it offers protection and the possibility of achieving greater goals. Some of us might have belonged to, for example, a gym tribe or a clubbing tribe. Over the months we found out, perhaps with bitter resentment, that the tribe we thought we belonged to was actually what is called a pseudo-community, a gathering that was not based on fundamental principles, merely on transitory activities. The day I stop going to the gym or reduce my clubbing expeditions my tribe will desert me.  

But perhaps you have a meditation tribe going, or you feel that you belong to a yoga tribe that has passed the two-year acid test. If you and the core tribe members are still meditating or practicing yoga after two years, your tribe may be ready for the second stage. This is advice I got from actual Indigenous masters in the Amazon, as well as from teachers at an intentional community in Scotland: first you need to have things in common, then you strengthen the bond. Finally, a real community is born.

Want to know the best part? Here is something that you can take away. Basic aboriginal wisdom: consume less and spend more time together. You can divide your tribe in three groups. On week 1, the first group goes shopping for organic products to cook veggie burgers. The second group gets together and cooks the burgers, while the third group rests. On weeks 2 and 3, the groups shift chores. This may prove more challenging than you think, because it entails coordinating people to get together once a week to do an additional activity that is not merely recreational; it supports the welfare of the tribe. Thus, we learn to put the interest of the collective before the interest of the individual. If you can achieve this, you have probably learned the most important lesson there is to learn. It is highly likely that your tribe will be decimated over the first two weeks, but you will learn who is for real. Keep it going for a couple of years, and abundant wisdom you never thought you had inside you will flow from your heart.

***

About the Author:

Omar Beretta is the co-author with Bénédicte Rousseau of Shaman Express. A former lawyer, yoga instructor and publishing company owner who – after a near-death experience – left his corporate career to practice yoga and shamanism, Beretta is now a full-time world traveler. He learns from people living in countries not yet fully spoilt by Western capitalism as well as indigenous communities. When he is not traveling, Beretta teaches creative writing workshops in Asunción del Paraguay. For more information, see www.yacarevolador.com

About Shaman Express: Amazon US link: amzn.to/2vKd4CZ 

Shaman Express

Dance as Catharsis

May, 2018

(Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash)

 

Do you know what I’ve learned? That although ecstasy is the ability to stand outside yourself, dance is a way of rising up into space, of discovering new dimensions while still remaining in touch with your body.  When you dance, the spiritual world and the [physical] world manage to coexist quite happily.”

-From “The Witch of Portabello” by Paulo Coelho

 

I was fortunate to grow up in a culture that valued dance. Every weekend, the whole extended family would get together at a relative’s house, eat together, socialize, and dance. After everyone had had time to chat and digest their food, we’d all pitch in to help move the furniture to the outskirts of the room, thereby creating a dance floor. The record player belted out Top 40 hits, world music, dance music, and all sorts of other eclectic beats and sounds; we’d easily go from Michael Jackson to Julio Iglesias in an evening! Although I confess, I was never much of a Julio fan, the adults in the group certainly loved him. And that leads me to the other brilliant thing about these evenings: they were multi-generational. The kids danced with the adults, teens, and elders. Everyone was included.

This went on until I was about twelve years old. I knew that something was wrong in my extended family when people stopped gathering as often. But I knew that something deep was at work when my family stopped dancing altogether. Internal family conflicts divided people and they simply did not know how to utilize the dance for anything other than celebration and personal expression. They didn’t know that dance was therapy and that they could dance through anything and come out the other side of it more balanced than before. I often wonder what might have been different and if communication would have improved if they had had this knowledge at the time.

It took me about sixteen years to recover my love of dance after that. I found myself attracted to non-choreographed dance modalities such as belly dance, rave, and trance dance. I’ve been dancing 5Rhythms (www.5rhythms.com) for almost two decades now and it is a practice that has supported and moved me through some serious transitions in my life. I’ve danced through tremendous grief, exhaustion, fear, sadness, joy, rocky love relationships, moving away from my family, and healing an addiction. I dance because my body doesn’t lie to me like my mind does. It is utterly honest. When I come to dance an issue in my life, my body tells me exactly what is going on as I move the way it wants me to. My body tells the story of what is out of balance and gives me clues for what I need to do to regain my centre. It does not use words so I’ve learned to uncover the messages of the somatic language of feeling throughout years of practice.

Going to class isn’t a “So You Think You Can Dance” sort of atmosphere. It is the polar opposite of competition, showing off my steps, or learning rigid dance moves. It is a spiritual experience where my body literally moves and heals me. All I have to do is follow my feet and my instincts. Often, I can feel burdens lifting off my shoulders and emotions leaving the hidden caves they’ve been trapped in- sometimes for years. I never know what is going to happen and that unpredictability is a part of the attraction for me. The unknown is where we heal, learn, and grow. They body knows how to move us in that direction if we surrender to its non-linear intelligence.

Dance, rhythm, and music have been used since the beginning of time by shamanic cultures throughout the world for healing and celebratory purposes.  These elements were and are often entwined in ceremony and guided by the culture’s medicine person.  Shamanic cultures the world over weave these three practices into their daily lives because they know of the increased health and well-being they bring into the lives of the people.  These creative modalities give the body and the psyche expression without words. In short, they take the ego mind out of the equation so we have a chance to experience our true selves.

It is fair to say that most people in the Western world are disconnected from these readily available healing tools.  One need not have extensive formal training in any of these modalities to receive healing benefit from practice.  This is intended as an invitation into a spiritual experience that has no dogma and is not affiliated with any religion.  Everyone can practice it.  It is through the experience of it that healing naturally occurs and since no two people are exactly alike, each person will have a different experience.

When in the midst of dance, we can heal without words by learning to tap into the body and spirit wisdom that is lying dormant inside of us.  Along with patterns that don’t serve us any longer, we have a chance to witness those that do.  The beauty is that it is never too late to heal pain or celebrate victories from the past.  Indeed, engaging in this ceremony takes courage and willingness to show your true self; that is a huge victory in and of itself! Dancing within a ceremonial context is very different than a class; however, practicing in dancing meditation classes is a good way to connect with our bodies if this is a foreign concept!

These days, I lead Soul Vine Dancing Ceremonies, which are done in a spiritual container of safety with a very specific alchemy. Folks come and dance at their own pace in a way that works for them, their bodies, their hearts, and their psyches.  Most of all, I encourage folks to be gentle and to forgive themselves through the practice.  They can allow what’s there to be there: joy, grief, sorrow, anger, boredom, exhaustion, resistance, or sadness.  This includes negative inner dialogue.  We can keep moving through all these; they are indicators that something is shifting!  We can talk to our High Selves while we dance for guidance.  It’s safe to let go of the past and move that healing right through our beings.  We dance for and with ourselves because we are all worth it.

*Part of this article originally appeared on the author’s blog in August 2014 (https://jenniferengracio.wordpress.com/). The author has added content to the original for PaganPagesOrg Magazine.

***

About the Author:

Jennifer Engrácio has been a student of shamanism since 2005. Jennifer is a certified teacher who has worked with children in many different education settings since 2001. She is a certified shamanic coach, reiki master, and lomilomi practitioner; in addition, she runs Spiral Dance Shamanics. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, she now lives in Calgary, Canada with her life partner.

Engrácio participated in self-publishing three books that are now available:

The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within”

Women’s Power Stories: Honouring the Feminine Principle of Life

Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing

Click Image for Amazon Information

For more information go to: www.spiraldanceshamanics.com