Shamanic Transformations: True Stories of the Moment of Awakening, edited by Itzhak Beery
Destiny Books, 978-1-62055-475-3, 320 pp., 2015
In Shamanic Transformations: True Stories of the Moment of Awakening, Itzhak Beery, a shamanic healer, teacher and founder of ShamanPortal.org, has gathered almost 50 accounts of “moments of awakening,” called initiation in shamanic practice. Indeed, several times in my head I’ve called this book Shamanic Initiations. Yet that would be a misnomer, because initiation and transformation are two distinct experiences; the contributors not only recount their initiation, but how it took root and changed them irrevocably.
Initiation can happen in a moment, an hour, a day, a week, a few months, or over several years, and you can have more than one. It is the initial calling, the event or events during which Spirit tells you unmistakably you’ve got the job of teaching and healing people using specific shamanic skills, whether you want it or not. At this point you may not understand what happened, or what is being asked of you; you just know that nothing is the same as it was.
Transformation is the process in which the initiation takes root; it engages your heart and changes your relationship with life and those around you. It is a change in your energy body and has nothing at all to do with the mind, except that you slowly begin to understand the ramifications of your initiation and what it requires of you. As you are transformed your mind becomes subservient to the desires of your heart and you enter into a co-creational relationship with Spirit, to do the unique work in the world you were born to do.
As unique as that work are the backgrounds, initiations and transformational experiences of the shamans Beery features. Shamanism is a living, mutable tradition; as our world becomes less tribal and more multicultural, so are the individuals being called to serve. Their experiences vary greatly; what unites them is an invitation to the numinous that they choose to follow. Each story is fascinating in its own right.
I’ve selected two accounts from Shamanic Transformations to discuss for the simple reason that I have had personal experience with each of these shamans, and know them to be true heart-centered healers. I was a student in an online shamanic journeying course led by Sandra Ingerman and I attended an afternoon seminar on the Pachukuti Mesa Tradition cross-cultural shamanism, given by don Oscar Manuel Miro-Quesada, its founder. More on these practitioners and their extensive work can be found online.
In “The Call to Service” Sandra Ingerman describes beautifully her transformative process after some of her initiations, which involved near-death experiences (NDE) starting in childhood. At the age of seven, she was struck by lightning –a classic call to the shamanic path. A few years later she had “the deep revelation that as humans we came here to experience joy, but somehow we got our destiny wrong. At that moment I made a decision to dedicate my life to helping people remember that our destiny is to create joy.”
Ingerman’s experiences revolved around expressing, and helping others to express, the Divine light and joy she had been shown exist in every soul. She states that seemed to be lacking in others around her in her childhood home of Brooklyn, so she moved to try to find a community of people living joyfully and expressing their light. It was not until 1980 that she was introduced to the formal practice of shamanism, which provided a “path on which I could learn how to work with and bridge the spiritual knowledge I had attained” to teach others how to express their light.
Don Oscar’s initiation, poignantly recounted in “A Luminous Re-Membering,” grew out of his chronic battle with severe asthmatic hypoxia and his increasingly violent family life as a child. Chronic life-threatening illness and NDEs are two of the most common initiatory experiences. As don Oscar explains:
Viewed from the perspective of a heartfelt shamanic initiation — a veritable rite of passage — I now understand the true miracle of love that was at the root of my illness. The severe asthma and family dysfunction that was part of my life for so long had been the very path to my redemption. It pointed the way for my return to wholeness. It paved the road from the dark night of my aching soul to the luminous realms of my shamanic ancestors.
He goes on to describe his childhood encounter with star beings, three Shining Ones who showed him events and people in his future life and left him with a lasting message: “Remember the rituals. Remember the rituals. Remember the rituals.” Don Oscar went on to become a master ceremonialist; he learned the ancient Peruvian shamanic tradition of the mesa and transformed it into the Pachakuti (meaning “world renewal”) mesa tradition, to assist in changing ourselves and the world.
It all comes down to change, after all. Shamans are initiated, transformed, changed by Spirit so they can go out and effect change in the natural world and within the hearts of others. Shamanic Transformations: True Stories of the Moment of Awakening is a glimpse into how and why these individuals are chosen to do so; with this selection of stories, Beery demonstrates there is no typical experience, just like there is no typical shaman. Spirit, more and more, is casting a wide net in its call to service.