By John Cantwell
Don Sebastian Succle Apaza stood at the top of Grafton Street, surveying the shoppers advancing toward him. His face was still, but his small dark brown eyes moved from stranger to stranger with the same piercing assessment I had seen him use when checking on the welfare of his llamas and alpacas on the slopes of Andean mountains. “Their pockets are full, but their hearts are not,” he whispered sadly. Here was a Q’ero Indian paco (Shaman) who wanted, as a personal treat, to see the bustling energy of Dublin’s city centre. I wondered if he now regretted his choice of treat. For indigenous wisdom keepers like Don Sebastian, it is a major conundrum coming to terms with “the medicine of the first world.” How could all they see, the technology, engineering, academia, artistry, material wealth, political and religious traditions which have all been visited upon many countries with dramatic results, come with such emptiness? The sadness in Don Sebastian’s eyes came from his witnessing that these handsome people walking briskly towards another purchase on a chi-chi Dublin street had been in some way been conspiring against themselves.
In all the miles walked and hours in ritual with Irish, North American, South American, African and Australian indigenous healers I and my wife Karen have experienced, not one was remotely interested in offering a higher spiritual path. What they were very interested in, as were we, was in sharing and getting connected to our hearts by going within and beyond ourselves, to the living energy vibrations of the mountains, the trees, the seas and the stars. Every mile walked, every ceremony, was infused with satisfying our innate hunger to feel connected more and more to the pulse of life coursing through our bodies and through the natural world around us. Inevitably, experiencing this pulse as sacred becomes an affirmation of our Pre-Celtic Irish Ancestors’ perception that there is no difference between our hearts and our souls. To feel, feed and heal your heart is to know the experience of being of soul, of spirit. And to do that optimally, what is required is less about knowledge, but more about courageous wisdom.
When Karen and I assist people with various physical and psycho-emotional issues in our clinics, we do so from the spiritual place the client is currently in. Yet, we often hear from a client, “but I’m not very spiritual” or “I don’t follow a particular religion”. Well, from indigenous eyes, the atheist, the agnostic and the pope are all on spiritual paths. Life and a spiritual journey cannot be separated, for we all have an investment in filling our hearts in some way. We all want to feel more alive today than we did yesterday. And, indeed, there are a multitude of ways, some injurious, some sustainable and healthy, to raise that pulse of life and open portals of connection. To the shaman, all those ways are, by nature, spiritual, there are simply degrees of wisdom at work in our choices. And to raise that wisdom, the eternal teaching through the ages beckons us to develop awareness and mastery of one thing: Energy. Our potential for tasting life as divine is tied to a pulsating heart fed by the healthiest units of energy.
When we choose to recover our native self and retrieve the indigenous Man/Woman within us, we activate an ancient memory of our sacred belonging in the world; understanding of energy comes more fluently, as does the opportunity for seeing the wisest use of it. We become more grounded within and search less for things outside of ourselves to fill the hunger in our hearts. Whether you like the land of your birth or not, whether you are a home bird or an immigrant, taking the journey to “go native” is a powerful way to deepen the spiritual journey you have always been on. So, how have you been healing and feeding your heart? If you’re not content, you may not have to change, but your wisdom might. And to help that along… go native and come home to yourself.
John Cantwell and Karen Ward of Slí An Chroí Shamanism (www.slianchroi.ie, www.pathwayoftheheart.ie) have their centre and healing clinic in Smithfield, Dublin 7, and they offer shamanic training for all levels of experience.