Before there were churches and temples, before there were sacred books, before there were doctrines and dogmas, men and women practiced living in harmony with the universe, nature, and all other human beings. Some of these people, as long as hundreds of thousands of years ago, traveled to places of the spirit and returned to tell of worlds outside the common awareness.
Shamanism has survived among aboriginal peoples through the millennia. Mostly a verbal tradition, it has been practiced on all the habitable continents passed from teacher to apprentice. The shaman learns, through instruction and personal experience, to understand the spirit of the world. They journey to inner places where they learn about power and healing. Often their spirit journeys involve the spirits of animals. The shaman will, through ritual and trance work find a special relationship with the spirit of a particular type of animal. The shaman can then draw upon the characteristics of the totem animal, empowering themselves with the strength of a bear or the far vision of an eagle, for instance. Observing the ways of animal spirits, the shaman learns valuable lessons about being human.
Journeying in the spirit world, the shaman learns wisdom. Learning to perceive the subtle energies of the body and mind, the shaman learns healing. Attuning to the spirit of the natural world, the shaman learns to honor the earth and its inhabitants.
Imagine yourself standing on the south rim of the Grand Canyon at daybreak. Around your shoulders are wrapped two wool blankets, and lying across your folded arms are your spirit stick and prayer-tie stick with all the prayers of those spirits, including the spirits of the four directions, whom you have asked to travel with you to this place. The canyon is blanketed in rose; the air is crisp and still. All other travelers are still sleeping. All is silent.
Hawk Flight Meditation
Standing in this sacred spot, you open your being to the Great Spirit as the sun begins to rise in the east, chanting softly, "hey ya hey ya hey ya hey" to the beat of your heart. Your moccasins begin to move to the beat also in a slow and sacred rhythm, hey ya hey ya hey ya hey, as you connect with the rhythm of Mother Earth.
Spread your wings now. Feel the currents from the canyon begin to lift you up and out over the edge of the canyon. Feel the currents, warm and strong, carry you into a spiral that takes you out and up over the canyon floor. Notice the canyon floor as you fly into the great circle of life. Open your being even more and experience the feeling of oneness with all you are and all that is around you. Hear yourself squawk periodically as you fly.
Now dive low through the canyon, along the river snaking its way through the cliffs. Listen to the sounds of the canyon and feel its coolness on your head and wings. Search for snakes and other small prey with your excellent eyes. Notice sleeping campers at various places in the canyon, the mules who carried them, the banked embers of their morning campfires, and the colors of your feathers--brown and white. Feel the sharpness of your beak and talons. Fly as long as you like, opening up more and more as the sun changes the colors of the canyon.
Whenever you are ready, return to the south rim, gently planting your feet on the ground. Turn around and look out over the canyon more. Fold your wings. Lift up your prayer stick, giving thanks to the Great Spirit for such a wonderful place and beautiful time, then bow your head and slowly dissolve into the morning.
© 1999-2002 Tom Barrett