<editorsnote> A few weekends ago @realityadjacent gave TNTML passes to check out an Introduction to Modern Shamanism workshop in Manhattan Beach, CA. I was all AHHH-MAZZINNGG … except, I was booked to be in Seattle that weekend. NOOOOOOOO!!!!! Fortunately, my buddy Steph was able to step in and she wrote about her experience! SUHWEET! Please note, while my shaman @realityadjacent did send us this dude’s info – it is NOT his workshop. Brendan is SOOO freaking rad man! Just had another session with him yesterday and it literally took me 5 minutes before I could move my body again. CRAZY!!!!! Either way, this is not that, but just so you all know. I only have one more thing left to say … HIT IT STEPH!!! </editorsnote>
One of the greatest lessons you learn while studying long form improvisational comedy is to always say, “Yes.” Always. It’s far more fun to perform, and for the audience to watch, a scene where the improvisers agree with their scene partner rather than deal with conflict. Naturally when Jen Friel offered me an extra ticket to, “An Introduction to Modern Shamanism with Hamilton Souther” I immediately said yes to the opportunity.
What I knew of shamanism prior to my intro course was limited at best and I’m typically one of those spontaneous, spur of the moment people but I’m also prepared. I tried to research on the event itself but also knew I had to have little to no expectations for what I was getting myself into. Luckily, there wasn’t much information around the event (ok I did some Googling) so I could go in completely blind. Julie Wilson and I had a call the night before to discuss our plan of attack and carpooling so that when we walked in wearing yoga pants and leggings, and everyone else was wearing jeans and boots, at least we would feel completely out of place together. And that’s exactly what happened.
After disposing of our corporate Starbucks TM coffee cups because we felt that we’d be judged by hemp loving, body odor nausea inducing, incense burning, damn the man hippies, we walked into the Manhattan Beach Marriott. We congratulated ourselves for making the decision to leave the yoga mat in the car and were greeted by coach Brendan Everett, (https://www.be-healing.com), who has worked with Jen and graciously provided us with the extra tickets. We walked into the ballroom to find a circle of 30 chairs and a soundtrack consisting of a combination of maracas, rainsticks, and indigenous Amazonian drums. Julie had joked in the car that it was going to be one of those, “I see your light, and I appreciate you” workshops and it seemed that was going to be the reality of the situation. I thought for a hot second that I’d be a real jackass and use this as an excuse for a cheap comedy bit. I’d play the straight man and ask the shaman questions as if he were a WoW expert: Do you throw lightning bolts? Can you see into the world of spirits and communicate with creatures invisible to eyes of normal beings? When did you discover this other realm? On Draenor, now shattered Outland, the orcs were shamanistic; on Azeroth, trolls and tauren were shamanistic. Though shamanism on Azeroth flourished and still continues to, shamanism on Draenor was all but extinct by the time of the great crossing of the Horde into Azeroth via the Dark Portal. Your thoughts?
As the session started though, I realized I couldn’t be that much of an asshole and just had to drink the kool-aid, leave my New Yorker cynicism and expectations at the door – afterall, I live in California now, and jump on the bus full force. Our rockstar shaman Hamilton went around the room and introduced himself and when he stopped at Brendan they did a little, “Who’s on First” bit which went a little something like this…
Hamilton: Hi, I’m Hamilton
Brendan: Wait, I thought I was Hamilton.
Hamilton: You are you and I’m you.
Brendan: If I’m you and you’re me, then we already know.
Hamilton: Yes, we do. What time is it?
Brendan: It’s now o’clock.
They gave themselves a good laugh and Hamilton went on with the introductions. This is how the day began.
Any pre-conceptions I had were left at the door. I had to turn it all off and buy in to what Hamilton was selling. When I embraced whatever was about to happen, overhearing a conversation consisting of, “…I laughed so hard doing my arcani yatra (sp) practice, that water came out of my nose!” and, “Those of you that were here yesterday, how was everyone’s sleep last night? Was it deep? Did you have weird dreams?” was just par for the course. Yes. And please.
So what is shamanism? I still don’t really know because Hamilton never actually defined it. He comes across as slightly aspergeresque in speaking to the group, as if he’s a punk ass middle schooler explaining how to be the dungeon master; very straightforward, authoritative, and matter of factly but in explaining very abstract and heady concepts. Personally, I don’t think you can actually define shamanism but here’s what I picked up. It’s a culture relegated to a spiritual society, formed out of everyday experiences based on a foundation of spiritual journey. Duh. It’s people engaging themselves and their environment in order to alter one’s current state of emotional being, consciousness, and essence of who they are. Clearly. According to the shamans, through spiritual guidance, trances, and a retraining of the mind, one will experience a change of self. Obviously. Potentially, once you unlock these techniques in the altered reality, you can work through the hierarchy of mastery into your own reality of daily life and invoke your principal guide through any and all situations, which of course were predetermined by your journey. There is no dogma that you have to believe in, just exploring what’s already inside of you. Oh and then there are the “principal guides”- beings with the following characteristics: they are omniscient, always truthful, know everything about you, know how to guide you, knows all OTHER spirits, and knows how to bring those spirits to you based on your needs. Ok…I’ll go with it. So how does one summon the principal guide? The principal guide comes from the invocation of the definition itself. How much weed are you going to smoke later for this to make sense. I live in California now, after all.
Tangible experiences I can wrap my head around. The first exercise we participated involved a blank cubed space which was approximately the size of the ballroom. There is a clear wall in front of you, one behind you, a surface below you, to the side of you, and above you. You are standing inside the space. You pick up the rubber purple ball that is on the floor next to you. You bounce the ball and catch it in your hands. As I’ve had this experience before, I know what the texture of the ball feels like, what it would look like, and can hear the sound of the ball hitting the ground and popping back up. Ok, done. Next, you bring in a glowing sphere into your space. So there’s your space, your purple ball, your glowing sphere, and you are standing in the middle of the sphere in the middle of the space. Fine. Now, bring in a red disk. Ok subconscious you know what a disc looks like and what you associate with the color red, now place that in your space with your purple ball and your sphere. Now add an orange disc. Now add a yellow disc, green disc, blue disc, purple disc (not to be confused with the purple ball on the ground in your space), and finally indigo. Indigo? Now jump from disc to disc. Great. Now add a door on your blank space and open it and walk into a new space that isn’t clear, it’s blue. Cut to: Hamilton quickly chanting ROYGBIV and participants manipulating the different colored spaces and jumping through time until they felt like they were going to throw up. Imagine the scene from Charlie & The Chocolate Factory with the acid trip boat ride and the glass elevator breaking out of the building. Yeah, kinda like that.
Prior to moving into the second trance state, we had to loosen up our bodies with child’s pose and some blood circulating yoga movements. And then the chanting and singing and rattles started and we were brought into the trance state. Again. With the lights off and bodies strewn about the floor, we were told that we were going to travel. We weren’t told where or for how long or why. We were just relying on our principal guide to take us there. I remember hearing Hamilton and his partner/wife chant- it might have been made up words, it might have been another language, regardless of what it was it was beautiful and I was relaxed. I just traveled the entire fucking color spectrum, I was exhausted! Ok re-focus, just relax. The only English words I remember hearing or picking up on were the various kinds of trees and animals, specifically hummingbird, lion, and spruce. Hamilton asked me to travel, so I traveled. I went back to Upendo orphanage in Muranga Town in Kenya where I was this past June, I flew over what I think was New Zealand though I’ve never been, I was on a boat among beautiful glaciers in Alaska, and could feel the brisk December chill on top of the Brooklyn Bridge. I was in a desert one minute and a tropical paradise the next and I never left Ballroom B. Maybe my practical guide is an airplane.
And just when I thought I had hit my shaman stride, the lights flicked on and I opened my eyes. I sat up and looked around. I was dizzy. Brendan looked over at me and said, “Wow. You look completely different.” It was time to break for lunch or rather, “injest the food spirit.”
Upon returning to the ballroom two hours later, the spell was broken. Maybe it was the fact that we went to Samurai Sam’s fast food sushi (because that’s a thing in Los Angeles) in the middle of stripmall but for whatever reason I became acutely aware of the situation I had put myself in and couldn’t seem to re-focus or relax. Keep in mind, Hamilton Souther leads 35 Iowasca (sp) ceremonies a year in Peru (where his physical body lives) and spends, “very little time in a world based on linear geography.” I think that’s probably what shifted me out of my altered reality. That, and the weird guy who sat on the floor with his mouth gaping open, who was clearly only doing this workshop under the false pretense that thre would be Iawasca at the end of this tunnel. Oh, and I failed to mention he walked around the chair circle with burning incense that made me nauseous. I’m a terrible hippie; I hate incense. And ptchouli. Point being, I couldn’t get back into it for the final trance state so when Hamilton told us we were going to travel through TIME I had myself a good laugh and chalked it up to a lovely way to spend a Saturday.
I couldn’t help myself, I told Hamilton after the last trance that I was frustrated and distracted. He asked if my practical guide showed itself; it had not. He told me that was totally normal and it was just an intro class. Like me, my practical guide is fashionably late. Fair enough, master. All snark aside, I have a new found appreciation and respect for this type of work and I told Brendan I’d like to set up a shakra cleansing appointment with him soon – that’s a thing, right? Also, my next travel destination of choice: Peru for an Iawasca ceremony with Hamilton.
The session ended 6:45pm. Julie and I got in the car and rehashed our weird ass day. Ironically, Radiohead’s Karma Police was the first song that came on the radio.