Eco Shamanism

Becoming one with our Earth


What is Eco Shamanism?

"With eco-shamanism I think you have created something quite unique and I have a sense that although it appears to be about the Earth, it is not really – it’s about everything, it’s about truth, and Earth is how we experience that because we are human." Tara Byrne

Shamanism is an ancient cross cultural technique used to access the spirit world in order to gain healing, information and advice in our daily lives. Ecology (the eco in ecoshamanism) is the study of interactions among organisms and their environment. Eco shamanism helps bring the spirit of our inner and outer worlds into a closer communion.

"The greater part of the soul is outside the body" - Sendivogius

The practice of shamanism reaches so far back into prehistory that its origin is unknown. Yet it was, and still is, a worldwide approach to spirit that shares similar disciplines and techniques across a vast range of cultures. There has been a resurgence of interest in these techniques in the western world as more and more people experience the profound and life changing consequences they bring. This interest is beginning to change. As we launch ourselves into this new century, it is becoming more and more necessary to see ourselves 'as' our Earth, to see, hear, touch, taste and feel ourselves 'as' Earth rather than being 'on' it. We need to re-engage with the anima mundi, which means world soul, of our Earth, we need to 'become one with our Earth' (scroll down for more on the anima mundi).

We are 'in conversation' with everything in this world, and beyond us all things are in conversation with each other, including our computers and phones, kettles and dishes, trains and planes, not just our trees, rivers, mountains and seas. The photo above highlights a conversation between a tree and a cloud . . . the human photographer was lucky enough to be a witness to it and in that moment also became part of the conversation . . . would it have happened if there had been no human to witness it? That is a matter of perspective and if we are to believe that the perspective of communion between other beings is of any import then we must alter our paradigms, significantly. We, and all around us, are spiritual beings in conversation.

Another aspect of Eco Shamanism is Instinction, as opposed to Extinction. With the advent, or awareness, and concern around climate change, we need systems or perceptions that will help navigate the possibility of becoming extinct. Instinction gives us a different angle on our very existence and relates to the impulse of us as a species, which we call 'the dream of a species' (scroll down for more on instinction).

Eco shamanism helps people back into their bodies, to become reconnected to their animate selves with learning and healing techniques. This journey can be difficult yet when we heal and learn about ourselves we are healing, and more importantly 'being', Earth.

Wren - (a poem about reciprocity and included in Mandy's Birdfolk poetry collection)

Said the human

Wren, why do you shrill so?

Are you not hungry and need to hunt?

Are you not thirsty and seek water?

Why do you stop and sing?

Ah, yes, to fill your heart

and in doing so, fill mine too.

Said the Wren

Human, why do you listen so?

Are you not hungry and need to cook?

Are you not thirsty and seek tea?

Why do you stop and listen?

Ah, yes, to fill your heart

and in doing so, fill mine too,

for I have been heard.

© Mandy Pullen

Anima Mundi

Anima Mundi means world soul. It implies an intrinsic connection between all living things on the planet, and also things which we don't necessarily consider to be alive such as rocks. We can use the words Anima Mundi as an approach to how we experience our Earth and ourselves in relation to it. We cannot have a world soul if we don’t engage with it and we can do this by experiencing our individual worlds as us actually being our Earth - after all we wouldn’t be here if we weren’t part and parcel of the Earth. We (mostly Western cultures) have developed a sense of separateness from our Earth and in the process have become distanced from ourselves as earthly beings. It is an illness of our soul and as we are the world soul we make the world ill too.

A way forward is to start to see ourselves as Earth, using our senses as a form of perception, making what we consider to be matter conscious so that it becomes something we can converse with on a conscious level. That means there is nothing ‘dead’ in the world, it becomes alive because all is conscious. And we're not just talking about being out in nature, we mean everything, from the chair you are sitting on to the device you are reading these words on, to the walls of the structure you are within, to the very air that is passing in and out of your lungs as you breathe. When we engage with the anima mundi in this way we begin to engage with ourselves, our souls reconnect compassionately with all around us and we value our selves as we see that we are our Earth. A flow begins, and instead of excess or lack (poverty) an equilibrium begins to form, in a truely Gaian self regulating way.

Instinction - "It’s good to hear something positive and hopeful . . .” attendee at an Instinction talk

In Eco Shamanism we work with circularity and balance. We need hope and a perception of possibility, purpose and continuity and it is this that helps create balance in the face, or threat, of extinction. Our societies and cultures are at a juncture where a different consciousness is emerging, where fear needs to equate to the excitement of new creations and ways of being rather than keep us locked in stagnant energy.

Instinction is an antidote to extinction. The word 'instinction' itself became 'obsolete' (extinct) in the 15/16th century and means 'inspiration' or 'impulse'. With the advent of Climate Change and the Extinction Rebellion movement many are worried, fearful for their future and how to prepare for what might be 'the end of the world' for humans and many other species. Instinction allows a different paradigm where rather than the extinction of species we see the impulse and inspiration of species. There is always an opposite to the 'ex' - an antonym, and it is usually an 'in'. 'Instinction' was a word in use about half a millennium ago, it has re-emerged at a time when a new balance is needed. It has become 'extant', that is, still in existence in spite of being very old.

One of our current concerns is that humans are having such an effect on our Earth that we, as well as many other species, are likely to become extinct. The word 'extinction'  means the termination of an organism, usually a species. It is a very linear or final word, with nothing at the end of, or after, it. However, many species seem to reappear despite having been classified as extinct, a well known example is the recent siting of a species of Giant Tortoise which had not been seen for 100 years. There is also the Lazarus Taxon - these are species that disappear from the fossil record and then return at a much later date (millions of years). How do species return in fossil records millions of years apart? Those in the know don't seem to know.

When we look at species as they have appeared and disappeared (only to reappear again) it becomes clear that there are a lot of 'beliefs' and 'assumptions' about how species 'exist', or not. Species have the uncanny knack of disappearing only to reappear when we 'think' they're extinct, because we haven't seen them. This rather arrogant assumption suggests that 'things' or species only exist if a human has identified, recorded and distributed the 'sighting' or 'siting' of them. The Giant Tortoise has been happily existing without a care in the world about whether humans thought it existed or not.

Yet the chicken and egg question remains - where did we, as a species come from? In Eco Shamanism we work with 'the dream of species', that is, species arise out of spirit which, in this sense, are bound with our dreams, our intent, our wishes, our imagination. This gives import to that which we cannot explain with our rationale. We all have dreams and wishes and imagination and when we engage with these we become fully human, we become the 'dream of ourselves'. Let us give credence to this notion that we are more than blood and bone, let us believe in our impulse, our instinct!

'You won't understand anything about the imagination until you realise that it's not about making things up, it's about perception'.

from 'The Book of Dust' volume two 'The Secret Commonwealth' by Philip Pullman