The question is not what you look at, but what you see.
In the darkness of our restricted modern lives,
we need new visions that can open up our hearts
and give us a hopeful metaphor by which to live. . . .
We turn to the shamans, the mystics, and the visionaries
who seek unity and harmony with all creation.
In our age of crisis, turning to the inner wisdom of the seer
may be the most practical, down-to-earth thing we can do.
Seeing the earth as one dwelling place for all living beings
and caring for that common ground is a necessity
if we are to survive.
-- Linda Schierse Leonard,
What is the nature of weather beyond our physical descriptions? Does weather possess an innate spiritual essence, one that we can intentionally relate to and interact with? To truly understand the weather means looking beyond physical explanations. Sometimes there are no obvious interpretations, and in these cases science tries hard to find one.
The assumption in our modern worldview is that a purely physical cause is there, waiting for technology to reveal it. Though there may be a rational, physical explanation for a particular phenomenon, to the shaman this is only part of the story—the “ordinary reality” version. To grasp the concept of weather shamanism and the path of aliveness and harmony it holds for us, we need to look at the origins and scope of our own learned perspective of the world—our worldview.
What Does Our Worldview Consist Of?
Our worldview consists of all the ideas, ideals, definitions, descriptions, and rules of what reality is all about and how to properly live our lives that we have been taught since birth; likely we began to learn this worldview even while gestating in our mother’s womb. Our worldview infiltrates everything. It is our inherited, culturally transmitted story, one that fashions for each of us the lens of perception through which we “see” and interpret our worldly experiences.
From the Talmud we have the adage, “We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are.” Lacking this awareness, we can easily fall into the deception of regarding any particular worldview as the correct version of reality and defend it—sometimes with great hostility—by dismissing or denouncing the perspective of others. History is replete with examples of wars and other tragic tales caused by the collision of worldviews.
Learning To Dream A New Dream Of The World
We live by our stories, including those experiences and memories from our childhood when we heard stories, from fairy tales and biblical accounts to family anecdotes, all of which compose the tales of ourselves—our personal history—and reveal our interpretation of reality. These stories are our dreams of ourselves and our surroundings and as such carry great power, as they continually shape us and our manifestations in the world.
If we can cultivate an awareness of our own personal stories as well as the stories we hold as a culture, we can then see how they describe our understanding of reality and of how we live today. Furthermore, they will point to where we are headed. The clarity that this awareness brings can motivate us to initiate the changes we need to create if we are to safeguard the vitality of our world. These changes can be made far more easily and effectively when we know how to reframe our worldview. Shamans speak of this as learning to dream a new dream of the world—and of ourselves in the world. This is the first and most important step in any creative act of manifestation.
Through our current worldview we have torn ourselves away from the natural world in our attempts to encapsulate, regulate, and dominate it. We have run away from home and have forgotten the way back. Our relentless acts of consumerism are rapidly eating away at our dwelling place, to the point where we may soon find ourselves in the predicament of no longer having a life-sustaining home to which we can finally return.
We are fast running into trouble. We face sobering issues of fossil fuel depletion, wars over resources and nuclear proliferation, and environmental degradation, some of it irreversible. These are but a few of the challenging problems we and our descendants must meet. But what if we could learn from the legacy of our ancestors? What if we could infuse our prevailing worldview with a spiritually oriented perspective founded upon respect and a sense of reverence for this world and its inhabitants, including ourselves? If we could marry such a worldview with our technological abilities, then we would have a far greater chance of solving the life-threatening problems of today.
Looking To The Legacy Of Our Ancestors For Wisdom And Guidance
We can look, once again, to our hunter-gatherer ancestors and to those indigenous peoples alive and well today, with their vast experience and considerable achievements of successful living in the natural world. We look to their legacy for wisdom and guidance, for the help we need today to survive and thrive in good relationship with all, and not at the expense of all. We can study the literature, the ancient mythologies, and anthropological and historical accounts, which contain practical knowledge for living on the earth as well as spiritual and religious teachings.
We still have doorways left to us to recover our heritage of ancestral wisdom. Underlying the cosmologies and worldviews of indigenous peoples around the world is the tradition of shamanism. Largely eradicated by oppressive political systems and religious fundamentalism, shamanism is reawakening. Today we are witnessing and benefiting from a growing population of initiated shamanic practitioners. This spontaneous revival of the oldest form of spirituality known to humankind has been fostered over the past few decades by those called to its promise of healing, empowerment, knowledge, and gifts of well-being for our world.
It is significant for us to reflect upon the fact that no matter who we are or where we live, thanks to the nearly ageless presence of shamanism in the world we each have ancestral ties to one or more of the world’s shamanic traditions. Although its roots are archaic, by virtue of its inherent aliveness and ability to evolve in technique and perspective according to the needs and ways of the times, shamanism cannot become obsolete.
The Shamanic Worldview
Dr. Harner has this to say regarding the resurgence of shamanism in our modern world:
Another important reason that shamanism has wide appeal today is that it is spiritual ecology. In this time of worldwide environmental crisis, shamanism provides something largely lacking in the anthropocentric “great” religions: reverence for, and spiritual communication with, the other beings of the Earth and with the Planet itself. In shamanism, this is not simple Nature worship, but a two-way spiritual communication that resurrects the lost connections our human ancestors had with the awesome spiritual power and beauty of our garden Earth. [The Way of the Shaman]
In the shamanic worldview, all that exists is alive, and everything and everyone is interrelated with everything else. We are related not just to each other as families and humans but also to the beings and elements of Nature—to the trees, rocks, animals, clouds, wind—and we are privileged to live upon our relative, the earth. From this basic premise, we can say that the tradition and practice of shamanism works to promote personal and planetary health, empowerment, relatedness, and spiritual growth. Shamanism recognizes that we live in a universe of both ordinary reality, this physical world of space and time, and nonordinary reality, the usually hidden spirit world. Knowledge of both these worlds is vitally connected to the well-being of all.
Within the worldview of shamanism, with its techniques of communication and union with that which is alive in all things, we find the tools to learn directly from Nature. The shaman is one who learns more from her or his own experience than from the teachings of others. By accessing the wisdom that is inherent in our surroundings, we, too, can learn what is behind appearances.
We can ask Nature herself, “What is it we need to know at this time, and what is required of us to maintain balance in the world?” In this way we can begin to forge our own personal relationship with all of Nature and with the spirits of weather. The shaman who practices in the interests of maintaining good relationships among the human community and the plant, animal, and spirit communities of the local environs is no stranger to the spirits and forces of weather. She or he works to cultivate friendly relationships with these beings and may be gifted with a greater ability to predict the weather, and to sometimes influence the course of storms.
Restoring Balance and Harmony and Thus Relieving Pain and Suffering in the World
The highest calling of the shaman is to help maintain and restore balance and harmony and thus relieve pain and suffering in the world. Shamanic weather working, or the attempt to change the weather in a particular place, is ultimately healing work. As with all shamanic healing, it is not only about “curing” a symptom, be it a headache or a drought; rather, it is aimed at bringing the whole system back into balance, to “heal” the earth, so that each part can function harmoniously on its own and in relation to all other parts. To try to change only one thing, to make it rain here or shine there, will ultimately damage the whole, like trying to heal a disease by treating only one symptom.
There is another side to this effort as well. As important as the lessons of the past are, what we also need, perhaps even more so, are the teachings that can come to us today that are appropriate for our world in all of its present complexity. The teachings of the compassionate spirits of the worlds of nonordinary reality, and especially the helping spirits of this middle world, are what we must have now.
Barring catastrophe, we can’t bring the world back to a preindustrial or preagricultural age, nor would we want to. Our population is far too great and our environment drastically different from that of earlier days in terms of plant and animal communities, habitats, air and water quality, and so forth.
To survive as a species we must alter our course. To do this we need to find that which inspires a change of heart and to seek the counsel of those who can show us a better way.
To change our hearts we have only to reach out to the natural world that is still available to us. We can start right where we are with an open heart and a desire for relatedness. To offer something in return, we begin simply with our presence, our willingness to show up. In this way we’ll tend those wild seeds of our internal garden.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Bear & Co.,
a division of Inner Traditions International. ©2008. www.innertraditions.com
Weather Shamanism: Harmonizing Our Connection with the Elements
by Nan Moss with David Corbin.
Weather Shamanism is about transformation--of ourselves, and thus our world. It is about how we can develop an expanded worldview that honors spiritual realities in order to create a working partnership with the spirits of weather and thereby help to restore well-being and harmony to Earth. Through a unique blend of anthropological research, shamanic journeys, and personal stories and anecdotes, Nan Moss and David Corbin show how humans and weather have always affected each other, and how it is possible to influence the weather.
About the Authors
Nan Moss and David Corbin have been faculty members of Michael Harner’s Foundation for Shamanic Studies since 1995 and also taught courses at Esalen Institute in California and the New York Open Center. They have been researching and teaching the spiritual aspects of weather since 1997 and have had a private shamanic practice located in Port Clyde, Maine. (David passed away in 2014.) Visit their website at www.shamanscircle.com.