Connecting to an intimate sense of source is something that has intrigued women since the dawn of time. This central relationship to selfhood and beyond is the matrix for all others. As women, we search for vehicles that take us to our own deep mysteries. The doorway to the divine.
But, how do we get to the place where body, mind and spirit really do converge in harmonic alignment ?
The shamanic journey provides such a vehicle, offering passage- both means and method- to transport us from our physically-bound body/ego existence to a universal sense of connection and unity. The mystical experience found in the journey offers us a bridge to our spiritual nature, and thankfully, one that is not chained to normal intellectual process. A direct experience of the energetic nature of all things can change one’s entire relationship to life.
In my experience, the shamanic journey is not a science. Even if the ceremonial conditions, journeying techniques or rituals- sometimes highly elaborate- can be repeated through the use of carefully defined instructions (often passed down from one generation to another and stretching across a venerable lineage), what actually happens within the space of transformation is both personal and unpredictable. To the point, Goswami Kriyananda once said that the rate of an individual’s spiritual evolution was the one thing that an astrology chart could not foretell.
Shamanism is the ritual, reflecting an Earth-Sky cosmogony wherein the shaman – also known as a medicine wo/man or healer- communes with the spirit world. This union occurs through specific spiritual practices induced by the ingestion of plant medicines that bridge subtle realms, providing insight, vision, and a renewed sense of alignment with the universe, holographed in our own human spirit.
Sometimes, these altered states are accessed by specific breathing, chanting, or dancing. Breaking past grueling physical trials (like the Native American Sun Dance, or the Vision Quest) we can encounter the spiritual nature of the world. Obstacles and suffering- not the least of which are aging and illness- are another way to break past the barriers of everyday consciousness to higher levels of awareness. Whatever the ritual, whatever the tradition in which it is practiced, these altered states of consciousness become the conduit by which our holy encounters and visionary states are had.
The shamanistic ritual is not limited to the shaman or healer acting on behalf of a community. In many traditions, the healer serves as an experienced and reliable guide who deftly oversees the initiation process for a wider body of seekers wishing to develop spiritual wisdom.
The initiation process usually involves steps or stages of self-mastery, witnessed in the achievement of spiritual skills acquired over time through repeated practice. While they can be applied to the every day life, the spiritual skills are cultivated in surroundings that are neither familiar nor particularly comfortable. The seeker is purposefully removed from the quotidian. This is not merely to ruffle her feathers or her hair. Being plunged into the unknown fosters self-discovery by creating conditions where self-discipline, mental control and emotional equanimity are required.
In altered states of consciousness, we are not only challenged to meet the ghost in the machine, but to go in, naked and willingly unarmed, to be stripped of the hand-me-down beliefs that have defined our actions and often, disguised our truest selves.
These states allow us to see our habit patterns, thought patterns through a different prism, and we slip out of the old robes we mistake for ourselves into more luminous ones. In many ways, the process is not unlike death. I am not sure whether it is a necessary ingredient or by-product of transformational work, but vulnerability is as essential to the process as mud is to Spring. Without the water of melting snows, our own tears, the hard winter earth won’t get soft enough, muddy enough, to let new life come through. The alchemists called that mud ‘the massa confusa”. If we can accept the terrifying and glorious chaos of transformation, the messiness of who we no longer are and who we are becoming, the light of Spirit can and will shine through.
In these healing spaces, we don’t go in with “something borrowed or something blue.” Many women healers and shaman have never graduated from grade school. There is zero tolerance for psycho-fluff. The demands of real life are far too pressing. A relationship with spirit isn’t a luxury and teachings are put to the test of the every day. These encounters with the spirit make life better, but to deserve them, we are obliged to move beyond pat formulas and party lines.
Whatever we are called to experience, and however the experience emerges, in this composition, decomposition and recomposition that is a direct experience with the mystery of life- we emerge the wiser, the stronger, the brighter-eyed.
We discover our ferocious love for life, as we come face-to -face with our impermanence. We find what we cling to, sometimes embarrassingly, and we find how sometimes what we call detachment is merely an unwillingness to claim what is ours, or, as tragically, to speak our truth. Even when the transformational process involves a partner or a group, the inner work is always personal. And, it is exacting.
Human females are hormonally rigged to keep the species going and glued together. Our food has fed families and created communities, our nurturing has raised entire civilizations. The chemical currents of sexuality are an unalterable staple of our humanity, but the waves can be calmed, and our spiritual attention altered, shifted, re-directed and rendered more aware. In shamanic practice, the expressions of sexuality transcend the physical plane, and, at higher levels, can become concerts that lead us to the divine. It is in the rising and falling of a breath as it meets the rising and the falling of another breath that the small boxes for the stay-small self disappear and die. We find our capacity to live in dynamic opposition, and if we don’t walk away from the tension of transformation or relationship, we grow, psychologically and spiritually.
In these shared spaces, it is gratitude, not dependency that we feel for the beloved. Our knees may be skinned and hearts shined smooth like sea glass as we stumble and then stand in our hard-won definitions of what makes life meaningful. Beyond doubt, we know what we live for, know what we’re willing to die for. Our intentions are deeply aligned with a sense of purpose and mission. Clarity dawns.
There is nothing glib or easy about these deep transformational spaces. Enlightenment, I believe, is hardwired into our spiritual anatomy, and yet, we are warned. We may go into these spaces chattering, but we’ll be called to silence soon enough.
It’s a good thing to be quiet. It is a good thing to be focused. To meditate. To be in the company of Spirit. It is why we leave our children and our companions and our comfort zones a week or a month or an experience at a time.
We’ll risk it all, for a chance to cross the threshold. The doorway to the Divine.
Upcoming transformational workshops led by Diana Bourel :
April 7-13 Bikram Yoga Montreal Yoga Detox Week at the Laurier Studio in Montreal. $90 for unlimited studio members, $125 for non-members. One week of unlimited Bikram Yoga + 1 colonic from Source de la Sante, + 3 special ed classes taught by Diana and a meal suggestion and juicing menu for at-home use. For more info, visit http://www.bikramyogamtl.com/home_fr.html
Foundations RenewalRetreat at Jake’s in Jamaica from
May 25-June 1, 2013
a spiritual experience in a cool kind of place
The Foundations Renewal Retreat is a multidisciplinary 7-night, 8- day yoga retreat at Jake’s that combines yoga lineages, healing traditions, teaching styles and modalities. Its intention is to lay the groundwork for the creative and powerful foundation upon which participants can build a spiritual practice that maximizes physical, emotional, mental and spiritual capacities.
To confirm your participation or for more information,
please contact Susan Cianfarani at InStyle Vacations: www.instylevacations.ca or email@example.com
Please note registration ends March 30.
St. Barth Summer Camp Yoga Challenge : July 15-August 18, 2013
Summer is the time when St. Barth locals and privileged insiders shift from the VIP shuffle to a quieter, more gentle pace. With off -season rates and the fifth edition of Diana Bourel’s signature St. Barth Summer Camp Yoga Challenge, July is the perfect time to channel your inner yogi/ni, get strong and lean, make new friends and fall in love with your life in one of the most beautiful places in the world. More details soon! Please contact me for more info and pricing : firstname.lastname@example.org
“The Goddess Within” from September 10-20, 2013, to be held in Abruzzo, Italy. This incredible itinerary takes us to Italy’s heartland, Abruzzo, a land where magic prevailed for centuries, where its people were renowned for their healing abilities and the ability to serve the greater good. Come with us, experience the alchemy of change and re-discover your Goddess Within.
The cost for the Goddess within is CAD$6299.00 based on double occupancy, single supplement is CAD$650.00. This rate is the land-only package price all inclusive of Diana Bourel workshop, accommodations, bus, 3 meals a day, drinks with meals and all tours included in itinerary.
For more information about the schedule, please contact Diana at email@example.com/