Ellen Winner

TAKE #13 - Shamanism in the Time of Coronavirus

Stuck at home, routines disrupted, without access to so many of the little treats that kept us going through the day — meetings with friends, lunch out with workmates, coffee latte to go . . . . We may be overburdened with children grown cranky with pent-up energy, confined with irritating family members, or left pining alone to face our anxieties.  Deprived of our usual avenues of escape, starved for connection and wanting to contribute to our society, we long for something, anything, to make us feel safe and worthwhile.

In this time of great change our habitual ways of coping are failing. We don’t know what’s going to happen. Our minds want to shy away from thoughts of what’s ahead with societal supports collapsing, healthcare systems overwhelmed, supply chains for goods and services taken over by profiteers, and government officials incompetent to deal with the chaos.

We don’t know what to expect. Will we have food, heat, light and water for our families? Who can care for us with hospitals and doctors overwhelmed? What if we have an accident or other ailment? Who of our loved ones will be left when the plague has passed? Will it come for us? Is it our fate to die alone, gasping for breath on the cold floor of a hospital corridor? We don’t even want to think about it.

Not knowing what to expect is uncomfortable, yet we are wise if we can welcome it as a state highly prized by spiritual teachers. It wakes us up, opening us to more expansive ways of being. It makes us look for help in new places, beyond governments and organizations, beyond the distractions of hobbies, parties, videos and gossip, beyond outworn ways of reacting and relating to the world.

Our ancient ancestors faced calamitous change: ice ages, alternating with warming periods of sea level rise, natural catastrophes of famine, drought, deluge, fire, storm, and earthquakes, predators, hostile armies … and plagues.

In dire straits, they too must have grieved their vanished lives of predictability and comfort and deeply longed for new wisdom to show them how protect themselves and find food and shelter. They must have lived through periods of deprivation and fearful uncertainty, as we do now. 

And the Universe responded to their longing with gifts from realms beyond the narrow horizons of their hand-to-mouth struggles — gifts of vision and prophesy to those open enough to receive them. Shamans arose among the people bringing wise consolation, guidance, and healing from the spirits.

Like those brave ancestors, we must turn, in hard times, to deeper places in our souls, becoming sensitive to subtle energies and presences usually obscured by the loud, bright chaos of our lives.

We are truly all one, integrally connected by a web of interdependence. The spirits keep on giving us this message. It has evidently taken a challenge as serious as a planet-wide pandemic to get our attention and make us understand we really are connected, totally dependent upon each other for our very existence. Rugged individualism has always been a pipe dream, as much as we admire those who work hard to develop extraordinary competencies. For nothing ever lived on earth that didn’t take its nourishment from the great planetary ecosystem, and give back its substance in turn to nourish it.

Now, as in past times, the more serious the challenge, the closer compassionate spirits gather. They are always moved to help is in our suffering, but they need receptive shamans to be their eyes and hands on Earth.

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