A Personal Look at Core Shamanism
By Timothy Flynn

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For people like me, who have been pulled by experiences and intuitions that are shamanic, Core Shamanism gives us a place to begin. The clarity of the teachings, not dependent upon a specific cultural tradition, allows me to build a practice in my daily life. I have practical actions I can take each day to deepen and to achieve balance with my own experience of shamanism. 

There are others called to shamanism who focus primarily on studying traditions still steeped in indigenous cultures. For some this calling is especially strong, truly the heart of their path. I applaud this work, it is invaluable. Not only does it often result in powerful healing, it brings new vitality and perspective to the development of shamanism in the West. In my own work I prize more the shamanism that is growing directly out of modern peoples lives. If shamanism is going to help address our problems it will have to be resonant with modern lives. If it is to come to its full potential for us it must be born from our own experiences, crippled though they might seem by our industrialized way of thinking and behaving. Indeed it is the shamanism that can transform from within that is most needed now. This shamanism will be at least partly home grown.

When we first enter into this work we can easily get caught up in devaluing our own experiences in favor of indigenous cultures. "If it’s not as powerful as Black Elk’s visions it must not be worth...," we tell ourselves. We mistakenly believe that because our religious traditions teach us we are separate from the natural world, we are therefore incapable of accessing its spiritual aspect in any meaningful way. In truth, the threads of shamanism exist within all of us because we are human and alive - that is all that is required for the initial price of admission. The common aspects of our days - breathing, eating, raising our children, working, and finally dying - are all potent gateways to an authentic shamanic experience. Because Core Shamanism focuses on what is essentially human in shamanism, it allows me the opportunity to embrace my own life experience, flawed and inhospitable to the natural world though it may seem to be. Almost immediately after receiving the most basic training students are often able to move forward in their lives with all the wisdom they can handle.  

Several generations from now, when shamanism has had the time to fully develop roots in our culture, our ancestors may look back with great appreciation for our generation’s shamanic re-discovery. The practitioners who struggled with their own health issues while working intensively with the spirits, the single mothers who saved for years to be able to afford to learn shamanic techniques, the artists who finally accepted the shamanic dimension of their work and let it carry them where it would, the health care professionals who faced the disdain of their mainstream peers with courage and openness – these may all turn out to be the heroes of shamanic practitioners yet to come. In our most private struggles we are opening doorways for empowered future generations of shamans.   

My first formal class was the FSS Basic Workshop, The Way of the Shaman, with Michael Harner. Though I had already learned to journey, there was something unique about training with someone with his breadth of experience. We journey with our hearts, not our heads. Someone who has spent so much time exploring nonordinary reality just feels different. The lessons come through more clearly. The icing on the cake is that Michael has a hysterical sense of humor, made especially delightful by his enjoyment of being the butt of the spirits’ jokes. I find it comforting when a facilitator can dissolve so completely into laughter when the joke is on him.   

At the time of my first workshop I didn't even know what to ask him. It would be many years later when, as a student of the FSS Three-Year Program in Advanced Initiations in Shamanism and Shamanic Healing, my head caught up to my heart enabling me to more fully engage him as a teacher. The Basic Workshop served as an introduction to Michael and the integrity with which the FSS communicates that core shamanic spark. They understand how essential this work is. They understand the way in which it belongs to each one of us. They're willing to put in the effort to create the environment in which we can remember this precious gift. They are not seeking lifetime students for their organization. When we've learned all we can from them, they expect us to go out into the world and integrate what we've learned into our lives.


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