September 14, 2019
Shamanic yoga is based on psychophysical exercises and spiritual practices, and that is done in a magical place reached through ecstasy.
Draw Your Life with Shamanic Yoga
By Selene Calloni Williams
You’ve got a lot on your plate, you are busy getting results, you strive to become more productive and faster every day, you are racing and won’t give up. Well, now imagine a dragon suddenly appearing before you; not an evil monster, but an aspect of your animal spirit, coming to guide you on your path.
At this point you have no choice: you have to stop. To you, it looks as if others are overtaking you as fast as bullets. In your involuntary stillness, you are called into the depths of your being. As you sink deeper and deeper, you feel something waking in your body: wild power, instinctive energy reconnecting you to the earth. And as others keep on rushing by you, you expand in your stillness. And you realize that the stiller you are, the more you expand, you take on the trees, the sky, the wind, the mountains, the sea, wolves, eagles, marmots, griffins, bears, wild horses. Once you’ve become so vast as to have lost the boundaries of your Self, the dragon grabs you gently with its claws and carries you upwards. From up there, you finally see where all the paths along which everybody is running, lead to, and you start weeping with joy and gratitude.
Then, having overcome the initial wonder, you start realizing that from that high point, you can see the full picture of your life. You can’t comprehend it with your mind, for it is far too vast to be contained in thoughts, but you can certainly grasp it with your heart. Finally, the dragon takes you back down to earth, back to where you came from, and turning into a ball of fire, it enters within you. That is the truly breath-taking moment because it feels like you are dying, but you don’t – you become enthusiastic.
Now you are alone, still; you have seen that all paths lead to nowhere and you are wondering why everybody keeps on running. You know that what matters is the place where you are at that very moment, and you begin to listen. You focus on your breath, on your beating heart, on your organs, on all that comes your way: a gust of wind, a sound, a smell, an idea, an intention, a vision… you cultivate all this, you intensify it, exalt it, magnify it. As you are doing this, you realize all the others, the runners, have changed their direction and are coming towards you. First, they come sporadically, one at a time, but soon it’s a crowd – they bring opportunities, riches, reputation, respect, even love. You have remained what you’ve always been, you’ve simply stopped running and have seen life’s whole picture from above.
The dragon is the symbol of shamanic yoga, an ancient, wild, animistic type of yoga.
Shamanic yoga is based on psychophysical exercises and spiritual practices, and that is done in a so-called “imaginal forest”: a magical place reached through ecstasy. Ecstasy is an amplified, non-dual state of consciousness, a condition of self-transcendence reached by expanding oneself beyond the boundaries of the individual and of the usual sense of Self. Shamanic yoga leads us to think beyond our “person,” a word which originates from the Etruscan “persu,” meaning “mask.” The ecstasy techniques of shamanic yoga are numerous and range from active visualization to breath-control and fluid sequences (special yoga positions performed in a sequence and accompanied by controlled breathing, singing and psychic gestures), the repetition of mantras, shamanic song, prolonged stillness, dance, psychic formulae. The latter consist of repeated phrases and gestures which, if pronounced and performed correctly, can effectively change one’s state of consciousness.
Once we have reached the psychic forest, which is a deep inner dimension, we can develop a full picture of our life path, acquiring previously hidden meanings. Having had this vision, one can, without leaving the psychic forest, draw the picture of their life by the most authentic meanings that have been picked up along the inner journey. Thus you realize that it is useless to constantly race, constantly aim for productivity, but rather that you should do the right thing at the right moment. The right moment does not always come about so that the psychic forest also teaches you to wait, to forgive others and yourself for mistakes done in the past; you learn to have faith in the future and to always love yourself and your life project. All this is done through rituals that engage the body as well as the mind, that work through your organs and breathing, as well as your thoughts.
There is a saying in shamanic yoga: “there is no real transformation of conscience if there is not also a change in the physical conditions of existence.” There is only one energy, one conscience that at any one type is expressed as mind, emotion, body, so there cannot be any real change until the body has changed. Shamanic Yoga is wild and powerful because it takes place in the depths of conscience, where the psyche is the body and where the guide-instinct, like a flying dragon, can see beyond the usual boundaries of the Self.
One of the simplest exercises that anybody can do to enter the psychic forest is the following:
1. Take three breaths through your mouth, just slightly deeper than your usual breathing.
2. As you breathe in feel your unbreakable bond with nature and the cosmos. Be aware that, breathing out, you are emitting carbon dioxide which will be absorbed by trees, and that, breathing in, you take in oxygen produced by the same trees. Think of your breathing as a ring that binds you with nature and asks yourself, “who is actually breathing?” Admit that “I am breathing” is a something we say due to a social convention; in truth, there is no such thing as a “breathing I.”
3. Hold your breath and imagine a cosmic power wave running through you, dissolving you. Strive to abandon yourself to this wave, finding yourself beyond ordinary boundaries at the next breath.
4. Carry on like this for a few cycles: three breaths following by a held one whereby you strive to become ever vaster. Hold your breath with full lungs, then hold it with empty lungs, noticing the differences between internal and external retention.
You can practice this exercise any time of day, even multiple times a day. It is a small exercise, a short one, but if diligently repeated for at least a couple of months it will turn out to be the dragon lifting you up to the skies.
About the Author
Selene Calloni Williams, with a degree in psychology and master’s in screenwriting, has authored several books and documentaries on psychology, deep ecology, shamanism, yoga, philosophy, and anthropology. A direct student of James Hillman, she studied and practiced Buddhist meditation in the hermitages of the forests of Sri Lanka and is an initiate of Shamanic Tantric Yoga. She is the founder and the director of the Imaginal Academy Institute in Switzerland. selenecalloniwilliams.com