Shamanism is a broad term. It describes religions from Australia to America and everywhere in between. These religions are incredibly diverse, each with its own unique rituals and cultural elements.
They have a lot in common, too. The spiritual leaders have deep connections to nature, their community and themselves.
These people live off the land without much technology. If they have a problem, they need to solve it. They need to make sense of a vast, confusing and challenging world.
It takes a lot of strength to survive without civilisation. Having technology – whether that’s spears or something more advanced – isn’t enough. Being able to communicate, strategise and plan isn’t enough.
You need to learn to think like nature.
Animals act on instincts. This gives them the advantage of always having a plan. These instincts tend to work, otherwise they’d be expunged from the gene pool. They are quick, effective and reliable.
Human-level intelligence may be slow and costly. It takes decades for a baby to become an adult. There’s always the risk that they’ll learn the wrong thing.
But it does have one major advantage.
It allows you to steal the best instincts from the animal kingdom (and develop new ones).
There’s a quirk with humans where we grow our minds through our clothing. We civilised folk are not above this instinct. This is why young kinds sneak into their parents’ wardrobes and play dress up. It’s why people feel more confident in a business suit, military uniform or lab coat. Clothes reflect our psyches, and vice versa.
Shamans take this to the next level. They wear costumes of predators and prey. Then they work themselves into a frenzied altered state. In this state, the boundaries between skin and clothing melt.
They learn to think like the animal they wear.
If you think I’m exaggerating, then I have good news: you have so much more to gain from meditation. If you’ve never seen the world from a wolf’s perspective – or even a tree’s or a cloud’s – then you have more to learn.
Shamans use meditation to tap into their own power. They need the flexibility to see the correct course of action. They need the charisma to lead the people through hard times. When disaster strikes, they need to provide the way forwards.
When I talk about mind training, this is the model I have in mind. It’s not just about releasing anxiety. It’s about peering into the jungle – concrete or otherwise – and seeing the patterns, hum and rhythms of nature.