When we think of shamanism, we instinctively associate it with something that belongs to the deep past and not to our present day world. This somehow stereotypical view cannot be further detached from the truth. In today’s world we are still blessed with having men and women walking along the path of the healer, the shaman. Shamanism is still present and alive today but more importantly it is as relevant and needed as ever…if not more.
Intrigued by the quest of getting to know more about shamanism and its role in present day society, I talked with Shaman Jon Rasmussen, author of “Dreaming your World into Being: The Shaman’s secret to having the life you desire now.” Jon is a gifted healer and modern day shaman who I particularly admire for his refreshing outlook, eloquence and down to earth approach.  Jon has been initiated in the Peruvian energy medicine practice since 1995 from the Four Winds Society, a school directed by Dr. Alberto Villoldo. He has been serving his community in the Monterey Bay & Big Sur area through individual and group healing sessions and also globally by means of video conferencing. He has also created two CDs “Practical Meditations for the Modern Lifestyle” and “Shamanic Journeys to Empower your  Life“.
I asked Jon a few questions and as usual his answers conveyed enriching insights that extended beyond the limitations of my questions. I will quote Jon’s answer beginning with his first name ‘Jon’.

1. “First thing I want to ask you is to tell us a little about yourself. What brought  you to this wonderful path you are walking today as a shaman and healer?”

Jon: “I was born with a high level of sensitivity, empathy, insight, healing, and psychic abilities that are common traits of shamans throughout human history.  It was natural for me to leave my body and observe situations in other locations, and then report what I learned.  Part of the traditional shaman’s training is to induce near death or out of body experiences gently and safely in ceremony in order to “map the territory” of the non-physical world to become familiar and comfortable accessing allies to help with our work in this physical world.

Shaman_Jon_Rasmussen1I was raised in a modern western suburban culture and family who didn’t have the traditional knowledge of shamanism that the primary cultures have, so the near death experiences happened to me the hard way, starting with the cord wrapped around my neck at birth, electrocuted at age 4, then several more “accidents”. These early experiences prepared me to be open for the shamanic training and initiations that I would later undertake. As years passed, healing would happened through my massage work and general advice, but I didn’t make the connection to broader gifts of the shaman.

“A Shaman is just a Mediator of Souls between the Worlds”

After much informal exposure, study, and training in many of the world’s healing, spiritual, religious, scientific, and shamanic modalities, my full training and initiation found me when I attended a workshop by Dr. Alberto Villoldo, Founder of the Four Winds Society, and the first words he said were “A shaman is just a mediator of souls between the worlds”.  “A mediator of souls between the worlds” were the exact words given to me three years earlier by a healer, Dr. Richard Baldwin, when I asked him what my true purpose and work was in this lifetime.  At the time, neither he nor I understood what those word referred to or meant.  I immediately began my training with Alberto’s school, and the results of my work were remarkable from the start, and word-of-mouth made it continue to grow.”

2. What is your word of advice to those people who feel that they have the innate gift to be a healer or a shaman but they haven’t yet found the courage or the resolution to step out and claim it?

Jon: “I have had the great privilege of meeting many shamans who did not yet know of or understand what their uniqueness, struggles, and gifts meant.  My advice to them has always been to go directly into training with a school such as the Four Winds Society, and now others, that offer complete and comprehensive training and initiation rites that will allow them to share their gifts in the most safe and effective ways, while staying healthy themselves.  Each individual and journey is unique, and there are many ways to heal, come into our power and freedom, and practice the many facets of shamanism.  It is important that people with these gifts find the training and modalities that resonate with their unique “colors of medicine”. My first Northern Native American teacher explained to me how each and every healer/shaman has a set of abilities that can be thought of as colors, and their collective colors will resonate with those who are drawn to work with them.

“If you are a shaman by nature, claim it, get whatever training and initiations that you need, and offer your gifts to those that are asking”

downloadThroughout the history of humanity, there was typically one shaman born into a tribe or village of 30 to 100 people or so.  This is still happening, even though our modern society doesn’t have the structure to recognize those children, and we live in cities of millions, and a village is the immediate neighborhood.  The sooner we can reclaim that awareness as a people, the easier it will be to help recognize and begin the training of a shaman as early as possible.  I am seeing this happening more and more.  And it is never too late.  If you are a shaman by nature, claim it, get whatever training and initiations that you need, and offer your gifts to those that are asking.

Shaman-Jon-RasmussenIn the last several years, I have been meeting people who have had enough life experiences and training in various healing modalities, that I can give them all the knowledge, experience, techniques, and initiation rites that I have in relatively short period of time, so that they can work very effectively and fully as the shaman that they are.  And it is important to note as well that being a shaman is not about what you do, rather who you are.  A shaman by birth and training, can be a doctor, teacher, massage therapist, personal trainer, mother, father, coach, athlete, sex worker, actor, musician, writer, inventor, and so on.  True shamanism is an open system beyond rules, judgment, or institution that continues to grow in complexity with the complexity of society focused on improving the quality of life of all beings in practical and pragmatic ways.

The shaman doesn’t separate and make hierarchical spirit and matter, but rather recognizes that all matter is alive and conscious – swimming in and with the consciousness of the one source or Great Spirit in all forms and that is known by a thousand names in all languages.”

3. I know you were initiated by the Q’ero indians. Who are the Q’ero indians? What have your learned from them and what can they teach us today?

ec14f6242f2642e4b361358d1b06b01de255d426Jon: “The Q’ero natives of Peru have isolated themselves in five small villages at 16,000 feet deep in the Andes mountains for the last 500 years.  It is still a three-day journey on foot or horseback from the nearest road to get to their villages.  There is a population there of about 2000 total today.  The Q’ero shamans purposely isolated themselves so that through generations they could hold on to the full traditions, myths, techniques, and rites for healing and maintaining a peaceful, healthy, and sustainable existence on the Earth.

“The Q’ero have a word for this time and prophecy in their Quechua language, which is “Pachakuti” and literally translated means “world turn over””

They have maintained full integration and harmony with Nature in both its physical and non-physical forms, while most of the rest of humanity succumbed to the new myths that were in opposition to nature that were spread all over the world.  The Q’ero shamans had the insight to see that this was going to happen and lead to wide-spread disease, environmental damage, wars, and all forms of suppression and abuse of the Feminine that would be highly destructive and unsustainable.  They knew that one day, when it got bad enough, humanity would begin to turn around again, and that the Q’ero shamanism, healing, and worldview, and that of all “natural” primary cultures, would need to be shared and spread to make the process as gentle and efficient as possible. It is a part of their prophecy to teach and initiate the shamans of all cultures who are called to them, and this is what they have been doing primarily through Dr. Alberto Villoldo’s Four Winds Society, and now others.  The Q’ero have a word for this time and prophecy in their Quechua language, which is “Pachakuti” and literally translated means “world turn over”.maxresdefault (3)

The Q’ero have a rich cosmology that includes many dimensions and energies of the non-physical worlds as well as connections to beings from other parts of the Universe. They are highly engaging through the non-physical channels, and commonly show-up in people’s dreams and meditations to teach and inform them, even sometimes giving people my name to look me up and receive my work.  I too have experienced their eager interactions through dreams and most certainly in my sessions as they are always present working with me and my clients at that time.”

4. One thing that fascinates me and many others about shamanic work is the idea of ‘soul retrieval’ and ‘soul contracts’. Can you tell us something more about it through your own experiences?

Jon: “The Soul Retrieval process, as with all shamanic processes is universal and one of the most widely know, thanks much to the work and publications of the great shaman/medicine woman and teacher Sandra Ingerman. Essentially, when we perceive a painful or traumatic event as victim – but also perpetrator or rescuer – that wounded part of our soul separates and goes in to hiding so that we can continue to live.

“We also then create a myth and belief that is referred to as the “soul contract” that continues to influence what we experience going forward because of how we perceive the world”

maxresdefault (2)The otherwise extreme reaction to a traumatic event is dying of shock, where the whole soul decides to leave the theater because the movie is just too awful; but, this is rare since we really go through quite a bit to get into the theater each lifetime, even if the movie of our previous life wasn’t that great.  There is always the hope that the movie would be better next lifetime.  Just like with actual theaters and movies.  Modern psychology has words for this soul loss like ‘compartmentalization’, ‘disassociation’, and the symptoms diagnosed as ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder’.  When that soul part leaves, the passion and gifts that part held go with it – we are not the same bright and happy-go-lucky person that we used to be for example.  We also then create a myth and belief that is referred to as the “soul contract” that continues to influence what we experience going forward because of how we perceive the world, and the experience we are unconsciously creating.  And because that soul part is essentially frozen in the time of the event, there is little chance for growth, healing, or movement without an intervention like the soul retrieval process or an act of power where and individual goes through a similar event but this time chooses a perception that is not victim, perpetrator, or rescuer, but rather creator and impersonal.

This also explains why when two people are involved in the exact same event, one can experience soul loss, and the other may not – one ends up with PTSD, while the other doesn’t.  The shaman can assist in the retrieving the lost, hiding, or stuck soul part by journeying back in time to the event, and helping the client in that moment to change their perception from victim to non-victim for example – to not take it personally, or to broaden their perspective to the bigger picture of the theater that each are simply playing a part in.  The shaman can then change the contract with the person, and bring the healed soul part, along with the passion and gifts back to the client in the present moment so that they are whole again and freer to create their preferred experiences going forward.

An example is a young girl who is abused by her father, and in the process of soul loss, then makes the contract that “love and abuse go together because daddy loves me and he abuses me”. Then that myth and belief continues to create the experiences of being loved and abused by men throughout her life.  In that case, the soul contract is changed to “love is warm , kind, and supportive’, and this becomes her experiences going forward. The process often includes bringing a power animal to the client whose characteristics and instincts will help remind the client to not get caught up in the victim, perpetrator, or rescuer disempowerment perception again, and thus lose go back to the soul loss state of being.

“…one of the more challenging aspects of soul loss comes in the form of “double-binding” contracts”

In my experience, one of the more challenging aspects of soul loss comes in the form of “double-binding” contracts – meaning essentially “I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t”. The shaman and client have to work to break and separate the contract and work with each part.  An example might be “because of my wounds, I hurt the one’s I love. But because I hurt the one’s I love, I don’t deserve to be healed”. In this case we have to first address and change the perception that our healing is conditional, and that they were the “perpetrator”. Then, we can change the perception and contract that they were the “victim” of their previous painful experiences.  As you can see, this process along with all of the shamanic healing processes can be quite tricky and complex, and thus the importance of good and comprehensive training, which includes the shaman going through their personal healing process as completely as possible so that they are not healing through their clients.”

5.Another interesting thing I heard you talk about in the past is shadow work and although it is somehow connected to the path of the shaman, I have the inkling to say it is something deeply relevant to all walks of life. What are your thoughts about this?

Jon: “Shadow work is a huge part of complete healing and empowerment and can be the most difficult.  I will start by saying that it can be very difficult to do the shadow work before all other healing processes have been completed; namely clearly past imprints from personal and ancestral wounding, doing soul retrieval and freeing ourselves from being driven by ego, fear, and rigid beliefs, and recognizing that we create our experiences regardless of the events around us.  It is at that point that the final process of shadow work is best addressed.

“Anyone and everyone in all walks of life can benefit from all of these steps in the healing process…”

Anyone and everyone in all walks of life can benefit from all of these steps in the healing process unless they are already fairly clear, healed, and free to dream their world in to being as creators of their own experiences on a regular basis.  And then by virtue of the fact that solutions and issues related to our shadows, as the name implies, are typically hidden, counter-intuitive, and mostly unconscious they become a critical and often neglected piece of work on individual and group levels.

6072-2013-02-shaman-jon-rasmussen-by-gabriel-skvorThe process is basically to recognize, own, embrace, and even love the parts of our being, behavior, or potential behaviors that are coming into our experience on a regular basis through the same behaviors in an exaggerated fashion from those around us.  The only way to stop experiencing those people and behaviors in the way that bother us, is to stop judging and battling that little part within us that we may not even be conscious of.  A good example is someone who might say “I’m NEVER violent or abusive”, and yet continue to run into highly violent or abusive people.

“It is a simple process of deciding to embrace something within you…”

The truth is that as long as we are in bodily form as humans on this planet, in this theater, we have all possible behaviors within us.  By embracing that shadow piece, you are not condoning or giving yourself permission to behave that way, in fact nothing changes, you are simply no longer doing the internal battle that is sending the signal creating the exaggerations to show-up in your experience.  You are essentially laying down your weapons an allowing peace to ensue. But again, it helps to first make sure that your experiences aren’t coming from old wounds repeating instead through the previous healing steps.  For example, it is very difficult if not impossible to embrace the violence in you, when you are still carrying being violated or violator as a wound and/or soul contract.  Shadow work is also a very big part of the collective experiences related to big wars, disagreements, and righteousness of all kinds in the world today.  For example, we may be able to diminish terrorism by embracing the tiny bit of terrorist or potential terrorist that lives within us.  It is a simple process of deciding to embrace something within you, but it can be very difficult when it is something that we have been taught to judge, push against, and get rid of our whole life.”

6. Last question is about the role of the shaman in an ever-changing society. Is the modern day shaman dealing with new myths or are the ancient archetypes still relevant in his or her work?

maxresdefaultJon: “As an open system of myths, healing techniques, and wisdom teachings for humanity and all of nature, shamanism grows and changes with society.  New myths are part of the growth and evolution of society, and the shaman recognizes when it is time to shed old myths that now longer server or apply.  Knowledge and wisdom are accumulative in the shaman’s view and in the Natural world.  This is the beauty of the initiation rites where all accumulated knowledge, wisdom, and experience are passed down from shaman to student in an unbroken lineage.

 

“There are no limits or rules, nor time and space, getting in the way of the work of the shaman”

The best of the old myths are kept, and new and better myths are created and added to the mix.  There are no limits or rules, nor time and space, getting in the way of the work of the shaman. So the modern shaman can be a fully integrated participant in their society in all ways, and bring the mythic and energetic to where it serves again to enhance the quality of life of their village as always.  I see many powerful shamans and healers as clients, colleagues, and students, and it is clear to me that they are the new great beings, prophets, “Gods and Goddesses”, and mythic figures of today, every bit as impressive and powerful and even more so than the legends and stories of thousands of years ago.  This Pachakuti, the return of the Feminine, and re-claiming of the mythic and energetic/soul level of our being and in all of Nature/Creation in our modern societies through the resurgence of true shamanism is what we have been asking and waiting for. It’s happening now, and now is the time for shamans to fully claim their role and service in their unique way.”

You can visit Jon’s website here for more information about his work.