Shamanic Yoga & Self-Awakening

      Ancient Celtic figure of Cernunos, showing him as Shaman, Yogi, and Prajapati,  
       the original tribal Shiva, 'Lord of the Creatures.'

Two words much bandied about these days are "Shamanism" and "Yoga." When we demystify their vocabulary, what they mean is very simple: Self-empowerment. These are really one wisdom with different cultural roots. Shamanic Yoga provides us with techniques to derive life-force from our own embodiment, so that we no longer seek life from an external hierarchy, institution, or religious authority.

In finding this inner empowerment, the Shaman or Guru is the guide who ignites us, but we ourselves are the source, the fuel for the journey, and the goal. This is completely antithetical to all systems of religion that demand our dependency on the mediation of priests and ministers. The goal of Shamanic Yoga is not to find a savior or mediator, but to awaken im-mediate contact with the Divine.

The techniques of Shamanism and Yoga are essential to the birth of a new humanistic spirituality, freed forever from priestly authority. The techniques given by Yogis and Shamans empower us from within, reconnect us with our sacred bodies, and make us each an authority over our own spirit.

The great Yogis of India and Tantric Masters of Tibet were Shamans. The Shamans of ancient Ireland were Yogis, as are the Shamans of Siberia and Native America today. Shamanism is simply the science of Yoga in its indigenous earth-centered form.

The essence of Shamanic Yoga is the divine Mother-Energy or Shakti. Fully awakened, this energy is rooted in the earth, rises through the sacred tree of our spine, and blossoms among the stars. Our human body is created to be the conductor of this sacred electricity, a lightning rod connecting earth and sky.

But just as misguided teachers of religion divide East from West with an imaginary line, they also divide heaven from earth with an artificial boundary. So-called scholars teach us to see an opposition between the patriarchal Sky God and the earthen Mother Goddess below. Some feminist scholars have constructed a view of history in which the patriarchal Sky God, representing transcendental consciousness, invaded and repressed the original culture of the Earth Mother, representing human embodiment. In this dualistic telling of religious history, we must choose between oppressive patriarchal religion and liberating earth-centered religion. Yet this dualistic approach only drives a deeper wedge between our spirit and our body.

Through the practices of Shamanic Yoga, the polar forces of male and female are united within each individual, as spirit is integrated with matter. Whether we speak of Yin and Yang, Shiva and Shakti, Yahweh and Shekinah, Isis and Osirus, or Christ and the Magdalene, we are really seeking harmonious realignment with our own hearts.

According to the Gnostic Gospels of the Nag Hammadi library, Jesus taught Shamanic Yoga. His partner may have been Mary Magdalene. These early Christians practiced the realignment of the male and female energies in the sacrament of the Bridal Chamber, an interior union in the chamber of the heart.
"Then the bridegroom came down to the bride.... But that marriage is not like the carnal marriage... They unite and become one life, for they were originally joined to one another when they were in the Father... This marriage has brought them back together again, and the soul has been joined to her true love." ~Exegisis of the Soul
"Jesus said to them, When you make the two into one, making the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner and the upper like the lower, and you make male and female into a single one... then you shall enter the kingdom." ~Gnostic Gospel of Thomas
"In the Breath of Christ, we experience a new embrace: we are no longer in duality, but in unity." ~Gnostic Gospel of Philip 
The same union of male and female energies is the real purpose of Hatha Yoga. "Ha" refers to the solar force, the symbolic male; "Tha" refers to the lunar force, the symbolic female, as they intertwine around the spine in two channels, "Ida" and "Pingala." When these forces are united, they flow as one divine nectar up the central channel of the spine, the "Sushumna."

Shamanic Yoga is holistic spirituality, embracing the human body as the nexus of God-Consciousness. Yogic and Shamanic techniques return our wandering spirit to our flesh, sanctify our senses, and make our bodies temples again. In Shamanic Yoga we do not have to choose between spirit and matter: we simply dye the garment of the flesh with the radiance of God...
Every act an offering, every breath a prayer,
Every home a temple, every heart a priest:
So in each shall be increased
The Mystery that is everywhere...
Shamanic Yoga gives us time-tested techniques for breaking the shell of illusion and awakening the Radiant Self. We honor ancient traditions that hand these techniques down to us, but we don't need to "believe" in them. We can taste and see for ourselves whether they work. We honor our teachers, shamans and gurus, but we don't need to forfeit our spiritual power to any savior or religious authority. In the final words of the Buddha, "Be a light unto yourself."

Shamanic Yoga is a way of liberation for the coming age. And the whole point of it is simply this: authority comes from within.


Prior to awakening, the energy of the Goddess Shakti lies in embryonic sleep at the base of our spine. She is the coiled serpent of wisdom signified in ancient myths - the dragon in China, the Kundalini in India, the Snake Goddess Hecate in Asia Minor, the twined snakes on the Cadeucus of Hermes, which became the sign of Western medicine. We also see this potent serpentine force in the Staff of Moses, and Jesus referred to her when he told his disciples, "Be wise as serpents and gentle as doves." In the Wisdom literature of the late Old Testament, and in Jewish mystical tradition, she is Hochma, which is a feminine power, associated with both the Holy Spirit and the Shekinah, the feminine aspect of God.

Originally associated with the earth Goddess, the serpent wisdom was often depicted as coiled about the Tree of Life, a symbol of the human spine. Or the serpent was held in the hands of the Goddess, as in the figure of Hecate above. In the Genesis myth, the author distorts this ancient symbolism, turning the "pagan" serpent of wisdom into a dangerous seductive power. This portrayal of the serpent not only contradicts the wisdom literature of the world, but other images of the serpent in the Bible. The association of the serpent with evil in the Garden of Eden is only a brief digression in the history of religious symbolism.

Why are such ambivalent feelings associated with this serpent force? Why does she invoke a sense  of danger as well as wisdom? Note even in the Biblical story of Eden, how Eve's "temptation" is not a temptation to sensuality, but to Knowledge! I would suggest that this is not a conspiracy to suppress the feminine, but a legitimate wariness about awakening a force that we may not be able to handle.

In our embryonic consciousness, neither our mind nor our nervous system are ready to be conductors of such divine electricity. For, as the Bible says, “the divine is a consuming fire,” and “it is terrifying to fall into the hands of the living God.” Or Goddess!

Awakening the Kundaline Shakti prematurely, we could be overcome with confusion or even mental illness . The divine Shakti is a form of Kali. When she uncoils her wild dance and rises up the tree of our spine, we had better be ready for the shattering. 

Thus she lies coiled and latent in the root chakra at the base of the spine. And the whole field of Maya, or illusion, is actually created by our own mind as a protective shield, or shell, so that we are not overwhelmed by her.

Yes, we create the shell of Mayic illusion as a sheath of protection. We create this Maya out of our storehouse of mental images, our memory. We project these thoughts through our senses into what we perceive as our "world." 

But the shell of Maya is not the living world of divine energy, the radiant green earth which is our true Garden of Eden. Maya is only the world that our mind super-imposes on the radiance of creation. This act of mental projection has dominated our culture for thousands of years, making us slaves of our own minds, suppressing our intuition, and keeping us in exile from the dazzling revelations of the living earth.

We use our mental images like sunglasses to protect ourselves from the overwhelming beauty and fire of nature. And where our native Shamanic awareness would see the living gods in herbs and trees, the “civilized” mind sees dead lumber, paper, commodity and profit to be made in the market.

Here we must understand that the problems of "worldliness" and "materialism" do not arise from the material nature. Matter is holy energy. It is "Mater," the Mother. All that religions call “worldliness” arises in the mind, as insatiable and restless desire. We super-impose our internal world of desire onto the earth, often with devastating consequences.

But because the world that we see is only the projection of our past karma, worldy problems can never be solved in the world. Their cause can never be located. These apparent problems - whether social, political or economic - form a circular web of cause and effect without beginning or end. The web of karma never changes its patterns, because objects perceived are all made of thought, and thought is the repetition of past perception. And so it goes, ad infinitum.


At some point in this karmic morass of cause and effect, which circles on through many lifetimes, we start to feel a bit hopeless. But what is hopelessness? It is disillusionment. And what is disillusionment? Awakening from illusion. We begin to experience a healthy dissatisfaction with Maya. A crucial insight dawns in us: the future will never be anything but a repetition of the past. 

Thus we give up hope. And there is no greater step toward wisdom than to give up hope in the future, since this empowers us to dwell in the present.

Dwelling in Presence gives us courage, courage to behold the truth that sets us free: this outer shell of our perceived world is just a thin crust of sensory and social attraction, whose glamor we have created out of our own past desires. The world is an old movie on a screen, and we are so absorbed in the moving pictures we cannot even see the screen.

Now, like the author of the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes, we sigh to ourselves: "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." The Hebrew word for "vanity" is "hebel," which literally means "empty." Ecclesiastes is saying, "All forms of the world are emptiness." Is this not precisely the teaching of Buddha, whose central Heart Sutra tells us, "form is emptiness, and emptiness is form"?

At this stage, we are not only disillusioned with external forms; we also develop a healthy distrust of every political or religious system of authority. We find the honesty to admit that such institutions never really change, no matter how many “reformations” they go through, and they never actually solve the problems they claim to. Now we may turn from politics to spiritual transformation, for if the world will be changed, it must be changed from within the field of consciousness itself. 

The "unified field" at the source of all energy (to borrow a term from modern physics) is pure awareness. Our own ground-state of awareness is the seamless continuum where there is no gap between subject and object. Pure awareness is the silence of the creative void, where all forms arise and dance as a mirage in stillness. We are the field. The change we seek is us.

Note here that the outer shell of Maya is neither "good" nor "evil," but simply unsatisfying. We need not make value judgments about the world which our minds have created - about its parties, its religions, its institutions. They are all just forms, ever-changing circles of cause and effect, creating each other in patterns of polarity, pairs of opposites. One form is not "better" than another. And none hold the solution. 

The solution to all our problems is simply to shatter the shell of Maya.This seems like a stunning stroke - at once too easy and too radical. Yet it happens quite naturally, quite gently, when the time is ripe for the shell to crack and the serpent to awaken, dance, and connect us to the heavenly green radiance of the earth. 

When the shell breaks, Shakti within emerges to dance with Shakti outside. The inner and the outer are no longer two, but one continuum of divine energy. Heaven and earth, male and female, spirit and matter, no longer two but one dance. Our egoic mind has exaggerated these polarized opposites in order to develop its analytic function. But we went too far: we became stuck, fixated in arguing for differences. And our entire educational system was based on this divisive activity.

The mind-bound ego felt more alive when it argued for separation and division. But now is the time in human evolution when we can reintegrate as whole persons, merging intellect into the harmony of intuition. Time to see the all and not the parts. Intellect will continue to serve as a useful tool, but will no longer dominate as ego

When we transcend intellect through shamanic yoga, we can witness reality through the sparkling transparency of pure awareness, our vision no longer bound in a point. That means, we are no longer stuck in a "point of view," a judgment. Our vision expands like the blue sky, all-inclusive. Then real listening is possible, real love is possible.

In the sky of loving-kindness, we witness the pairs of opposites as vibrating strings in unbounded stillness. Each "pair" is really a unity, a continuum where no opposition can be found, just poles dancing with each other, arising and dissolving each moment. Now we may stop exaggerating differences between the sexes, between the political left and right, between religions, between East and West, between I and Thou, between a venison steak and a bowl of vegetables.

Clear seeing beyond opposites is the true revolution. In this revolution, no violence is ever required, only the clearing of the blue sky. 

In clear seeing, we need not be against anything. We can be for. Neither need we judge or compete: for in an energy field whose circumference is boundless, any point can be the center. The sky of love encircles all points. In the words of St. Hildegard of Bingen, "You are hugged by the mystery of God."

Friend, awaken your sacred presence. Not in a kingdom above, but here in your body. Every atom is divine. You are the light of the world, born to overflow. You have no edges. You no longer need to re-act, but to act. Don't be the effect of your world: be the cause.

There is only Yes.

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