Frequently Asked Questions
Why Shamanism Today?
Shamanism is experiencing a big renaissance today. People are hungry for more meaningful, purpose-filled lives that connect with the body, nature, soul, and spirit. Much of our modern culture serves to alienate us from these vital aspects of living and tells us that our bodies, nature, and the sacred are unimportant, less critical than the more urgent human concerns around commerce, industry, technology, jobs and entertainment. As a result we have slowly dissociated from bodies and the "body" of the living earth all around us. Nature has been reduced to backdrop scenery or mere "resources" decorating the stage upon which human beings play the important roles. In this view the earth exists only as a kind of vending machine, a WalMart of resources for humans to extract, process, dump our waste into, and vacation on. This way of relating to the earth (and the Creator behind the earth) is unsustainable and our hearts know this.
There are many useful paths to personal healing and spiritual awakening. What shamanism offers our modern world is not more religious doctrine, commandments, clergy, gurus, or holy books. It offers something even more ancient and vital for today's world: a way of life aligned to soul, and time-tested practices for finding and staying in deep balance with the web of life all around us.
Your ancestors - no matter where your own tribe is from- believed that every created thing is alive and has a soul. And that to be happy, strong and well humans needed to be clear on their own aliveness and get to know their own heart. Only then could we bring our unique gifts, our 'medicine', alive in the world and live a joyful life in balance with the living earth, and the greater creative Intelligence behind all that.
People who attend our programs are often facing a big decision, relationship or career change. Others feel stagnant in their jobs or unsatisfied in their relationships. Some are recovering from a loss, divorce, illness or past trauma. Some aren’t sure what they are looking for, only sensing they are not living the life they are supposed to be living. Many young adults have used our programs to get clear on their own heart, their future, their vocation or college plans.
People who do not know their heart cannot know their purpose in life and will easily become overwhelmed by big decisions and big changes. This loss of vitality and direction is called soul loss. Soul loss is common and can result from many things, including past trauma and our societal loss of meaningful connections with nature.
For our ancestors, the traditional “treatment” for soul loss was not to stay busy, go to psychotherapy or take antidepressants. It was to get your soul back. That means embarking on a spiritual journey to find the parts of your essence that are lost, bringing your heart fully online, and living the life you were born for. It means getting your unique gifts and power–your medicine–out into the world.
Some people know exactly what has been lost and the adventure begins there. Others have no idea what is missing so we begin with practices that teach people how to identify and listen to their deep core for the first time. Every person is different, every path is unique.
"One of the changes I have experienced through Jeff is letting my heart lead in new directions. I have even been writing some poetry. I never imagined myself doing that a year ago! I can sense your prayers and feel your sincere compassion and direction. Thank you!" -Keith A., CPA
Personal Faith and Shamanism?
As anthropologist Michael Harner says, "Shamanism is a methodology, not a religion. It is a system of knowledge based on firsthand experience, not a belief system." The word shaman is from the indigenous people of Siberia, and simply means one who knows, or one who sees.
The earth-honoring spiritual practices utilized at Great Plains transcend particular religions. These practices became aligned with specific cultures over time, but the realm of the heart is as wide as 'Christ consciousness' or 'Buddha nature'. One can practice shamanic healing without being an AmerIndian just as one can practice yoga without being Hindu, or sit in meditation without being a Buddhist.
Jeff has worked with every major religious group during his 20-year career in public and private hospital chaplaincy. He understands the need to respect individual beliefs and knows that a true healer is a border-walker: one who travels between meaning-worlds of both faith and culture. This includes the perspectives of people with no religious belief at all. "Shamanism is for skeptics", says Harner, "it is a system of direct experience". The sacred text of shamanism is not found in a book written in ink or on stone tablets, but through the Great Spirit alive in our hearts.
If anything, people who participate in our programs find their personal faith expanding, and develop a deeper respect for the Spirit alive in all things. With respect comes love, and when you open the door to love, you open the door to healing and hope for the world.
"I treasure my Christian faith, and I appreciate how Jeff can guide me to a deeper understanding of myself using the tools of shamanism in a way that feels very respectful to my faith. The human heart is not easy terrain to explore, and Jeff’s help has been so valuable." -Jennifer, mother and graduate student
“I trust Jeff’s experience and training; I trust that he has done ‘the work’ for his own inner journey to live generously with and for the rest of us. He uses non-traditional methods that enable my heart to speak and be more full alive.”
-Cynthia, MA, D.Min., Catholic health care chaplain
How Does Your Work Relate to Native American Culture?
Great Plains teaches a wisdom path with roots common to all our ancestors, including indigenous European, Asian and African cultures. Our programs are not focused particularly on Native American culture and we do not co-opt Indian spirituality or charge fees for sacred ceremony, sweat lodges, or blessings. Jeff does not claim American Indian heritage, call himself a "shaman", or have a grandmother who was a Cherokee princess. His own ancestors come from the Celtic tribes of central Europe and the Anglo-Celtic Isles.
All are welcome at Great Plains. Every human being, regardless of culture, comes from indigenous ancestors somewhere on the living earth, and every human being has a responsibility to connect deeply with nature and the spirit world to better honor and protect the Earth. We each will honor our own ancestors and help to heal the planet by learning the earth-honoring ways common to our own indigenous kin, and those of other people around the world.
The point of our programs is not to play Indian, steal tribal ceremony, or sell stuff. Our goal is to open people's hearts, and do what we can to heal and learn from the earth.
Shamanic Healing vs. Psychological Counseling?
Shamanism connects people directly with their spiritual center or heart for healing, information and guidance. There is no intermediary: no therapist, priest, minister or spiritual guru. The heart is the teacher, and the shamanic practitioner acts as a facilitator or "hollow bone" (Old Fools Crow) for the teachings and guidance of Great Spirit. Shamanic methods provide the seeker with time-tested tools for doing this with skill and integrity.
The heart is understood as the real crux of life by indigenous people. In the shamanic view, everything has a sacred center; everything is a partial expression of the Great Spirit. To find the heart in oneself then, and to listen and follow the invitations within the heart, is to harness the power of the Great Spirit itself for personal healing, change and transformation. This a teachable skill that can be learned and trusted, so the seeker can discern between the authentic callings of the Sacred, and our passing emotions, impulse, and libido.
In standard psychological counseling the therapist acts as a doctor who diagnoses the patient as sick from various categories of mental illness. Clients spend weeks, months, even years digging into their past to explore the unconscious psyche and gain insight. But for the soul to be explored, it has to be fully in residence, and it's very difficult for therapy to succeed when the therapist is talking to a person who isn’t entirely there due to past trauma and soul loss. The shaman helps people get their soul-self back into the body and into the present moment, where all our power for change and forward living resides.
Shamanism is very practical. You know you are getting better not when a doctor or therapist decides you have completed therapy, but when you feel it in your body and in your heart as you come alive with new energy, vision, peace and joy. You see it in your life and relationships as they open up and move in new directions of your choosing. Shamanism is not an ideology, a new age metaphysics, a religion or philosophy. It’s an ancient, experience-based methodology for healing, life visioning and way-finding. And it works.
"It seems like weeks since I saw you and it was only five days ago. I am well! I can't tell you how ecstatically happy I am! Where the hell did that come from?! I have also asked myself questions that never occurred to me before. Whose voice was that?!
-Love & light hugs! Kat