Who I Am and What We Are Doing Together
© Jason Shulman 2018
So let’s start with who I am not. I am not a Bolivian or Peruvian fellow and have not lived among the ancients in the forests of Columbia. I am not from Siberia nor am I a Native American though a First American was once my dream teacher. In this life I am not Tibetan nor Indian nor a member of a secret sect. I am not from Long Island or San Francisco or Rio or Beijing. I am, however, from Brooklyn, and proud of it. I am a student of Kabbalah, Advaita and Zen, especially the Jodo Shinshu or Pure Land sect. I have sat and meditated most all of my life but do not consider myself a traditional Buddhist per se, though I have had several Buddhist teachers and hold an abiding place in my heart for each one of them.
Still, I am a healer and a nondual shaman. What that is exactly, and how I can be a shaman (or “voyager” as I will call it later) without being from a traditional society is the topic of this book.
Traditionally, shamans are people who have learned to enter into altered states of consciousness for the good of their society, either through the ingestion of psychotropic drugs or through long periods of trance-inducing dancing, drumming or ritual (as examples) in order to access non-ordinary states of reality that allow them to bring back knowledge and acts of healing to those they want to help. Often, they are also experts at the pharmacological use of plants as medicine.
The neo-shamanistic and core-shamanistic movement of recent years has sought to create a form of shamanism that is no longer tied to indigenous cultures but instead tries to find the essential ingredients in traditional shamanism and mold them for modern cultures that are no longer tied to the forest or field.
My approach is not neo-shamanistic, which is to say, it is not a modernized version of traditional shamanism, which uses tools that were originally used in the context of a traditional society and environment. Nondual shamanism also does not attempt to duplicate the look and feel of indigenous healers—although, like the shamans of old, it does see being a shaman as involving the totality of one’s life and not so much as a series of special acts. It is a way of living. It recognizes that the intercourse between heaven and earth, between dimensions and worlds—responding to the eternal need for healing in light of the larger view of the full scale of possible human consciousness—is not the province of traditionally-schooled shamans alone, but of all human beings who are willing to undergo the rigorous and exhilarating training it takes to become this type of voyager in our time and place.
In this form of shamanistic healing, the healer is the main object of my attention since the healer must be “made new” in order to accomplish the work of voyaging. This book seeks to help healers have a new paradigm with which to look at themselves and the world, one that both includes and goes beyond the psychological framework. In this new perspective, we are also interested in healing the paradigm maker, the inherent storyteller, which is to say, our ego itself and how it functions within our emotional and psychic environment.
We have come to a time and place in the world where our narrative-making machinery itself must be healed, because—unhealed—it is not a reliable guide for what reality is and is not. It is buffeted by fashion, the political moment, nostalgia for an imagined golden age and rebellion against the current one. Unhealed, it can be a destructive force. But gathered up in insight and tenderness, it is a force for wholeness—another part of our true nature.
We could say that in order to see reality clearly, and with that clarity, begin to have conversations with the sky and earth, we must heal the healer on a profound and thorough level. We must understand why and how our narrative-making egos work the way they do, and—understanding their hurts—heal them so that they might heal others without passing along unspoken suffering and obstacles to living a truthful and healed life.
The nondual approach, as I outline it here, is the best possible approach I have found to this problem. But, unlike traditional nondual approaches, we do not seek to exile the ego as illusory, useless, or an eternal inhibiting obstacle. Instead, with an abiding belief in nonviolence, we try to heal it so that its true function can be free to operate for the good of all. We include the ego, as well as our imperfections, in our work, mixed with the kindness we need to see this journey through. This is a path of flesh and bones, the hard and the soft. A human path. This is the foundation of the journey, the beginning and end as well.
The work of the nondual shaman or voyager does not concentrate on appearances or methodology in any way that overrides or substitutes for the inner journey we must go on in order to be authentic instruments of healing. It seeks to find a new way, one that emerges from within and not from any concept mirrored from the outside. It seeks a model that respects all healing modalities and techniques but is most interested in what is happening in the healer: the state of consciousness, the degree of wholeness, the readiness to open wide the heart and mind.
It says, in essence, that healing takes place from the truly nondual state, a consciousness that does not consider the absolute perspective to be what nonduality is about, but one that combines the impersonal and the personal, the absolute with the relative—one that does not reject the ego because it is troublesome and inconvenient, but rather seeks to heal it so that it can take its beautiful, rightful place in the constellation that makes up each sentient being.
As we come into awareness and union with the totality of our being, we heal. We heal psychologically, culturally and, because we are no longer expending energy to keep illusions alive, we heal physically as well. And because our healed or true nature is now more available to us, we heal others directly if we choose, through our chosen profession as healers, and indirectly, by our very presence in whatever work we do.
If we add to that the very detailed and explicit knowledge of being a nondual voyager, the methodology that does not replace self-awareness and awakening but is its foundation, we have the opportunity and grace to help in a focused and ongoing manner and to reduce suffering in both small and mighty ways.
This work is shamanistic because—taking a cue from the “old ones”—it teaches us how to dive beneath the appearance of things to find how the appearance of things is really the most divine, whole, or healthy thing we could imagine. It trusts the surface of things as the holographic mirror of even the deepest parts. We are explorers of this single thing, in all its facets and dimensions, diving deeply into the ocean of being.
It does not discriminate between various supposed worlds but uses them all to heal the body and soul and, finally, because this is the true object of all healing in this temporary, lightning-quick world, to make a human being who is healthy enough to love.
These pages do not tell the whole story, but they tell part of it. They set the stage for working through the conceptual field so that the mind is freed to listen to the heart. There are exercises along the way to help the student palpably experience the unitive shamanistic state. But it will also be important for the discriminating student to notice those places that are blank, as in “but how do I do this?” Often, I show you how to do this, but often I am pointing you in the direction of learning with a teacher.
The type of learning I am suggesting here is not traditional in the Western sense: you cannot learn to be a nondual shaman or voyager from facts alone. There is an old Kabbalistic story of a young Hasid who travelled to see a great rabbi. Upon his return, his friends said to him “So, how did he say the morning prayer? And did you listen as he expounded the Torah? And did you see his illumination and closeness to God when he broke the bread and said the prayer on Sabbath?” The young Hasid answered: “No. I didn’t look for those things. I went to see him tie his shoes.”
This young man knew enough to even consider that the great rabbi tying his shoes might be a holographic guidepost that would show him what holiness looked like in daily life.
This book is all about daily life. It is not about journeys to other dimensions (though they show up . . . ), nor is it about special guides or creatures (though they might show up too . . . ). It is about daily life and how we, as highly trained, dedicated seekers and workers in the world of spirit, as imperfectly impeccable beings, can help. Help in the here and now. Help ourselves—because helping is the greatest illumination and liberation possible—and help others, because after all, they are really ourselves in disguise.
The book begins with a description of continuity/density, which is the paradigm through which all of our work will be seen and through which it grows. Continuity/density describes an alternate perspective to the compartmentalization and conceptualization of different realms and instead treats reality as a single continuity with varying degrees of vividness.
It will also introduce you to a path that leads toward a life of self-responsibility, one built on healing ourselves of our most ingrained and unconscious defenses and bringing them to the surface so that they are no longer exiled but part of the family of who we are. This is how we reduce the power they possess when they are unconscious arbiters of our life. This is also how we begin to stop unconsciously passing our unhealed pain on to others.
The power of the metaphor of continuity/density flows through the shaman’s entire life and work. It creates a seat from which the aspiring shaman can meditate through the whole of life with deeper acceptance and tenderness than is usually possible. It makes the work of healing our neuroses possible and redefines what healing our self and others actually looks like. It is a way of loving the world and simultaneously making the whole world, the seen and unseen parts, a physical experience. It is something our wonderful bodies and nervous systems were created to do.
This material is designed to free you from limiting thoughts or, better yet, to let you see your omnipresent limiting thoughts clearly so that you are not caught by them as frequently, so that you do not always believe that these negative mental utterances are actual pictures of the truth.
Ultimately, a shaman is someone who loves the world. A shaman for our time, city-time, psychological-time, technological-time, and world-nervous-system-time, must go deeply within in a new and fresh way. Psychological insight alone will not suffice, nor will spiritual investigation without egoic acceptance and transformation suffice. Imitation alone cannot help. But because each person has within themselves the seeds of everything they need, which only require the proper amount of darkness, rain, and time to germinate, the proper husbandry this book offers can help send you on your way.
This is the purpose of this book. It is not a substitute for direct contact with a teacher but is a living teaching itself, pointing the way to the next step.
Please enjoy the book. It is a book not so much of what to do but how to be. Ask questions, first of yourself and then of others. Be diligent and faithful, kind and thoughtful. Don’t give up. Ever.
Jason Shulman Truro, 2018