“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
-George Bernard Shaw
In his CBC interview, historian Chris Kutarna argues that we are currently in the middle of a renaissance and a natural part of this is an element of disruption. Many of us live with a belief that things should stay the same. We stay locked into the nostalgic memories of times when we felt we understood life and how it works. The only truth I know is that life is always changing; it must adapt to grow. Because we are a part of nature, this is true for humans too. In the natural world, though seasons follow roughly the same pattern year after year, there are constant evolutionary changes happening at the DNA level to ensure that we can survive and thrive through the ages.
This past year, we’ve seen really massive shifts in the collective conscious of humans. The “Me Too” movement saw countless women and men coming forward with stories of sexual abuse, demanding an end to this type of violence in the world, for example. We saw things some of us never thought we’d see as a response to a shift in the world political climate this year. Some of these things brought out the shadowy part of the collective unconscious. While some people dismayed, I saw it as an opportunity to heal these shadow aspects of our species. After all, it is hard to heal something that hasn’t even been acknowledged. Bringing the shadow into plain view, though sometimes harrowing, can be a huge gift. Gael Carter and Marilyn Keffer speak about this in their guide to ceremony “Shamanic Ceremonies for a Changing World:”
“Some people like to focus only on their light aspects. Others pay more attention to the dark or ‘shadow’ aspects of self – those things that they have not yet healed. But the key for your self-growth and transformation is to attend to both your light and your shadow in a balanced way and to reconcile your shadow side, knowing that self-importance and self-pity are your greatest enemies and they can be vanquished.”
The psychologist Carl Jung popularized the idea of the shadow, the unconscious part of our psyches that we disown for various reasons. Sometimes this is because we don’t like those aspects of ourselves or then those qualities of ourselves are not validated in the culture we grow up in. If we don’t dig up those unconscious pieces, they often wreak havoc on our lives. If we don’t want them running the show, we have to go in and look at the lightest of our light (which many people also disown) and the darkest of our dark with compassion and ruthlessness at the same time–kindness for our humanity and decisiveness when it comes to changing our harmful patterns of behaviour, thoughts, and actions. Luckily, shamanic practice offers us tools in the way of drum journeys, working with totem animals, and ceremony to help us find those patterns and transform them.
In her landmark book, “Natural Born Shamans,” Imelda Almqvist speaks about the role that consciousness plays in healing wounding from the past: “I…teach the children ways of doing shadow work and how doing this heals all of our human relationships. This way, we learn that every story is ultimately one perspective, one point of view. At any given time we are free to choose another point of view. Choosing a different point of view will create a different story. Every story…can shape-shift…from a wounded or distorted perception to a healthier [one].” Many people see this as a type of revisionist practice where we change our histories at whim. However, what is to say that the way we interpreted these experiences in our past is the correct or best way? In every experience, we can choose to pull the power and victory we had from it. This does not negate the negatives that happened to us, but it does put us back in the driver’s seat in our lives. Sometimes, we need to stand up for ourselves and bring awareness to wrongs from the past in order to heal.
As a shamanic practitioner, I’ve learned that conflict is a natural part of life. In his book, “Lightningbolt,” Hyemeyhosts Storm speaks of the way the ancient Mayans saw confrontation: as one of the twenty Great Teachers of Life. Confrontation is not equivalent to aggression right out of the gate; it is about meeting an energy to bring a new awareness to a problem or issue. Confrontation has taught me to open up to inner truths and allow other perspectives in too. It’s taught me how to navigate conflict to come to a win-win for both sides. It’s also taught me to stand up for what is just. I’ve also learned that sometimes, win-wins cannot be found. Sometimes, people would rather hold a grudge than find a way to transform a situation. But even in those instances, I can still find a way to win inside of myself. I value that I have the ability to be all in and I have a high level of devotion to people, places, issues, and philosophies that I care about. I don’t give up easily. That, for me, is a win and a part of my light aspect that I honour.
This universal energy of chaos that we are in can be harnessed to promote transformation and change. I’ve had friends and family tell me that I’ve changed with that not-so-positive tone in their voices. I’ve had people admonish me for breaking implicit societal rules to favour my own health and sanity instead. Choices I’ve made to change harmful patterns in my own life inevitably cause ripples in the lives of those around me. Not everyone has been happy about those changes, but the truth is that I would be a shell of a person if I hadn’t been brave enough to make them. I refuse to live like a hostage to other peoples’ judgements of me. I’ve learned that I cannot change other peoples’ perspectives, but I can change my own. I can confront my own shadow continuously and shift the narratives I am telling myself about something.
In this time of sweeping changes, we can each learn to adapt, grow, and shapeshift out of old skin. Trying to control the arch of energy “out there” is futile. Becoming masters of our own inner worlds is the only thing we have full control over. We will make many mistakes along the way and things will most certainly not go the way we’d hoped or planned, but this is not a bad thing. We are all here to learn and grow. In 2018, my wish is that each of us can surrender to co-creating our lives with Spirit’s guidance. May we know ourselves so well that we can transform our shadows on a dime when called to. May we manifest the kind of world that can sustain life for many years to come.
CBC’s The Current: “What the Renaissance Can Teach Us About Our Disruptive Age”
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”
For more information go to: www.spiraldanceshamanics.com