In the spring of 1995, a BBC film team approached our shamanic drumming group in order to gain permission to film as we worked in circle. I hadn’t heard of the BBC show in question. Our group was contacted because one of our members had been on the Board of a shamanic organization, and, to her surprise, was still listed as a national contact. The group was consulted, and the decision was given to me.
In discussion with their representative, I was told they planned to be respectful, but that they might need to use filming lights. I told them that shamanic journey was not that interesting to film, and they said they just needed a sample of that, but that they were told initially that we danced and chanted as well (both true). I decided to decline the opportunity on the grounds that what we were doing was sacred to us and not for public consumption.
So, perhaps we could generalize and suggest that we don’t share what is sacred and personal, and might share what educates a larger group. But there is more to consider.
In our everyday lives we have likely seen examples of people giving away their power – abusive relationships would be one example. Another example is when someone shares information for attention or status – private information that a group might enjoy consuming. The integrity of relationships is compromised when personal knowledge or potentially confidential information is traded, outside those relationships, for momentary gain.
In the same way that we gain the trust of a good friend, client, or a team of peers by demonstrating our worth, so we also gain the confidence of our spirit helpers by earning their trust. Our Power and Spirit are not meant to enhance our status or inflate the ego. If we used our friends that way, they would not likely stay close to us for long. We would lose the connection or link with that person. All of our friendships, material and non-material, deserve the proper regard.
In my very first workshop with Michael Harner back in 1985, he told a personal story about weather magic. He began by informing the group that the shamanic path involves gathering personal Power, and there would be some things told to us by our personal spirit helpers that was given to us alone. He said that the shaman’s path involved collecting knowledge from the spirit realms, and that some of that knowledge might be personal medicine — your unique gifts for the world. He did not want us giving our Power away.
Harner gave the example of weather medicine, stating that he had once held weather medicine – a relationship with weather spirits that gave him an element of influence. But he stated that he had bragged about it. Consequently, the medicine left him. (Note: this was almost 30 years ago, and he may well have repaired his relationship with weather spirits since that time — I don’t know.)
I resonated with this, feeling that there was a time in my life when I too had had weather medicine. It’s not so much that I bragged, more that I didn’t know how to attend or develop a relationship with It. To be clear, I wasn’t respectful. I’d come into a relationship where I came to expect compliance simply by praying. I wasn’t yet in my 20s, maybe I did brag in a small voice. In any case, it occurred to me one day that something had changed. So, prior to shamanic training, I learned intuitively that gifts from the spirit world were to be treated with deep respect. That often meant holding the gift in silence, at least while we were growing together.
Sharing in a circle
In workshops we were encouraged to share, so that we could all learn from the experience. How does that square with holding silence? Harner went on to discuss the value of sharing in specific circumstances. In a circle of sharing, everything that is shared becomes confidential — limited to the confines or permission of the circle. Another circumstance for sharing that he discussed: sharing as a way to educate the circle or to broaden the retrieved information through resonance within the circle. When we are learning together the medicine grows.
Works in progress
Is the work or intention complete or still in process? Sometimes our shamanic work is complete in a relatively short period of time. But often, especially as we age, we are introduced to the to the teaching of a life’s path or to a problem that is deeply rooted and takes time to encounter and integrate. Then our work becomes process oriented. It is not uncommon, nor should it be a surprise, that some work requires our attention over time. When something is in process I generally feel that this is a thing I do not share. I have been told by spirit helpers, and feel it in my body, that we don’t share information or knowledge that is in process because it is still malleable in its interactions with reality and possesses a certain delicacy. In other words, telling the wrong people or sharing indiscriminately may cause a leak in the process. Birthing something new into the world, or integrating something old, may require private gestation or appropriately linked supports.
Through the years I’ve come to rely on my spirit helpers to guide me — when to share and when to hold silence. This becomes an automatic or reflexive response when your spirit helpers are held in continual reverence. What I found is that: when a story or event has run its course and time has passed it often no longer seems necessary to hold silence. Giving away your story may be the more appropriate thing to do. There are many personal experiences I have shared on my website (see the shamanic and personal experiences link at the right of the page). And there are many that I have not.