In my last piece I said that I put shamanism - or it put itself - on a back burner in the early noughties. That was true inasmuch as I stopped doing stuff and ran with astrology instead. But not true inasmuch as I was around someone doing it, though the guy concerned would not have used the word 'shamanism'.
We moved into a new house in Glastonbury in 2001, and I had the wish that a Native American teacher would turn up. And turn up he did, a few months later. A friend had rung saying there was this guy over from Canada who was a story-teller, teacher etc and was looking for places to run events from, so we said yes. And for the next 8 years or so Chip (as I shall call him) and/or Fish (his pupil) visited twice a year and did story-telling, teaching, sweat-lodges, pipe-ceremonies and individual counselling and healing. As well as some great conversation round the table.
So why did he turn up in the first place? Was it just because I wanted him to? I'm sure the bigger picture was playing its part, and there's nothing I can say about that. And I like sensing that dimension - which is most of everything - about which I have nothing to say, and never will. As Chip used to say (speaking from the Chippewa-Cree tradition), our individual human consciousness is tiny compared to the consciousness of the universe, so how can we individually know more than a miniscule amount about the universe?
That just seems to me so sane compared to the modern attitude, inflated by technological success, that sets human consciousness at the pinnacle of knowledge.
So yes, the bigger picture played its part. But I'd also wished he'd turn up. And looking back, it was a wish in the form of a prayer, though I didn't put it to myself like that, and that is also why Chip turned up.
It wasn't just a fancy, it was more of a desire that had a depth and sense of congruence to it, it felt right. And I think that is how prayers work, as in what we do in pipe ceremonies and sweat lodges and wherever else. There needs to be deep feeling involved that is beyond narrow personal desire. If you like, there needs to be a transpersonal element that connects to the wider web of all-that-is. And that gives it power. And it does not need to be 'realistic': that can just get in the way. A prayer is what comes out of our mouths spontaneously and in a heartfelt way. Who are we to say what is and is not possible? Spirit is beyond time and space: shunting things around on the physical level is the least of its problems. Getting us intransigent humans to look at ourselves and act in what is our own best interests is the really difficult problem!
Some people say don't think about your prayers in advance, because they need to be spontaneous. Personally I say dwell on them, think on what you really want for yourself and for others, and those wishes will grow inside you, so that when you are in the ceremony your words will have more power. And when your words have that power, how can there NOT be a response? When we feel something deeply, it connects us to the universe.
But we also need to be open to what that response might be. I know someone who used to treat her prayers like a shopping list, and say them in the full confidence that she would get exactly what she asked for, and as far as I could see, she rarely if ever got that. We may be specific in our prayers, and I think we need to be specific. And then open to the outcome, to the response, because there is something that knows more than we do that is responding.