On my quest to understand the purpose of life, and to truly connect to myself, I make a point of keeping an open mind and taking part in experiences that are outside my realm of normal. Recently, one such event I attended was a Shamanic Fire Circle hosted by Devotion Yoga.
I was a little nervous before this started, because I’ve never attended anything like this before. The image in my head basically had me dancing around a fire with a bunch of strangers in some odd clothes, and probably some kind of chanting.
Here’s how it actually went down (in a really simple version of the steps):
1. Everyone entered the room and circled the fire (a bunch of candles) three times before taking a seat that called out to them. Sitting around the fire like this was called community.
2. Four Shaman were leading the event. One called out to the spirits of each direction (quartered) and requested that if they see fit they come help us. This included the four directions along with the ground and the heavens. Another used smudge sticks to clear the energy for the ceremony.
3. Everyone choose a music maker (either a shaker or two sticks) and began to circle the fire again. One shaman wore a mask and was the gatekeeper – responsible to protect and support each person as they entered the circle and went up to the fire. After a bit, one of the Shaman went into the center to add intention to the fire.
4. Two shaman took over the drums as the rhythm became fluid. One by one people went into the center to release whatever was holding them back in life. Each time someone would enter, the music would get faster. When they were finished, we all cheered in celebration and the music went back to the original beat. The went on until everyone had a chance, including the Shaman.
5. We all sat back in any seat, and we closed in community. Everyone held hands, and the gate keeper thanked and released all the spirits.
Overall, this was a very powerful experience for me, and I took away a lot. Here’s what I (re-) learned:
Be Open and Free of Expectation with New Experiences
Even despite the image in my head, I was able to walk in with very little expectation. My goal was to be open to what we were taught, and to get the full experience. If at the end it didn’t really resonate with me, so be it. But in the moment, I was going to be fully involved so I could make an educated decision.
Of course, this was uncomfortable at first! Growing up in a western society, it’s not common to dance around a fire to drums and yell out so someone can get a spiritual release. For the most part, we barely even consider spirituality openly any more. Or sit around a fire.
But being fully involved gave me something I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.
Groups are Good
Especially in the US, we have this thing about individuality and independence. On some level, these are good traits. Not needing someone to support me has allowed me to create a very comfortable life. I don’t just sit around and wait for another person to get something done or learn something interesting.
On the extreme, however, we move away from a primal survival mechanism. Safety is one side of this coin – my mom drilled this into me as the buddy-system; which I hated while I was growing up but appreciate now.
The other is for evolution. As humans, we learn about ourselves in relation to someone else. If we only have our current selves to relate to, it is very difficult to judge where we need growth and focus, as well as get a whole perspective on what we are learning. Our current trend toward isolation could have a serious impact on what the human race looks like a 1000 years from now.
We Still Need the Lessons of the Past
Science has made tremendous leaps over the past 100 years. Understanding as much about our planet and life is a very good thing. That does NOT mean that we should throw away what our ancestors have done for 1000s of years before hand.
Traditions around the world, isolated from each other, have all paid respect to the earth. They’ve appreciated the resources available to them. And they allowed us to live in a world with lots of comforts.
We should be finding ways to do the same for our future generations. The sciences we have available could make sustainability incredibly efficient, without sacrificing any comfort we are accustomed to. As a people, we need to be looking into this instead of fighting over oils.
In the same vein, many different cultures had some understanding of how energy worked within the body and the environment. There should be a balance and a flow to it, and sickness often comes where a blockage occurs. And often, blockages occurred when we got too far away from nature.
Regardless of the subject, science should increase our understanding of our ancestors lessons, not completely eradicate them.
My personal experience during the ritual was intense.
I was amazed when I entered the circle and actually felt a shift of energies. But, even more awing was the experience of taking in the energy from the fire.
I sat down with the intention to take it in, release anything that was still holding me back, and let the energy back out. I decided I would use the Qi Gong technique to gather energy over the fire, which I learned in Physical Therapy of all places.
The rush I felt was intense! With all the meditations I’ve taken part in, I was expecting a similar level of experience. This was so much more than that, and so much easier for me. All I needed was the one breath and I felt cleansed. My intuition told me that was all I needed, so I turned around and re-joined the circle.
From that point, I felt very in tune with the energy in our circle.
I really enjoyed the experience, and I absolutely recommend jumping on the opportunity if something comes up locally to you.
If you’re in the NYC/NJ area, Brian and Leigh both consistently run events and workshops. You can check out Kate’s site for drum work or 1 on 1 shamanic coaching. And Karuna does a lot of healing work as well!
If you’ve ever had a similar experience, please do share!
P.S. If you’re interested, here are a couple books to learn more about shamanism:
The Way of the Shaman
Awakening to the Spirit World: The Shamanic Path of Direct Revelation