How Can I Choose the Right Shaman for Me?
Choosing the right Shaman has become increasingly difficult these days. Because of the high demand for a modern Shaman’s services, there are more options available. Unfortunately, many of them are charlatans, dogmatic wanna-be’s with “good intentions”, clueless New Age phonies, cultists, and worse. But don’t despair, there are also many great, honest, hard-working Shamans out there who want to help you.
“How can I tell the good ones from the rest?” you’re probably asking.
Trust your gut, not your “but”
While this isn’t necessarily the most reliable test, it is the first and, often, most important. In most cases where someone was taken advantage of by a phony Shaman (or Guru, Yogi, Priest, Therapist, Coach, whatever), the victim almost always says something like “Something felt off but…” or “I thought something wasn’t quite right, but…” etc. Don’t let your “but” get in the way. If it feels wrong, run.
If your would-be Shaman has a strict belief system or rigid philosophy, escape at once. No “enlightened” person has ever said “I know the exact way the universe works and there are no exceptions.” Anyone who thinks that way is full of BS (and might be dangerous). If anyone seems to have all the answers (and s/he is certain of it), s/he doesn’t and you need to get away from him/her ASAP.
Only be vulnerable around people you can trust
Ayahuasca is growing in popularity and rightly so – it’s a powerful transformative medicine, when prepared and used properly (in places where it’s legal, of course) by and with people who are trustworthy and reliable. There are criminals using ayahuasca’s growing popularity to prey on the unwary – don’t be one of them.
If you are participating in a ceremony using any entheogen, make sure that you are not alone and make sure that the Shaman guiding you is deeply trusted by whomever you’re with (or recommended him/her to you) and/or through your own experiences with him/her. Every Shaman who’s worth a damn (unless s/he is famous and has a sterling reputation) is willing to correspond with you and/or allow you to participate in events that don’t involve sacred medicines. Take advantage of this.
And if you participate in a ceremony involving any entheogen, do your research and follow the “rules” (such as foods to avoid and other preparations to take) precisely. Failing to follow the rules can cause you illness or even death. And don’t rely on your Shaman to know all of the rules (there can be culture or language barriers involved and honest mistakes can happen). Don’t be lazy. Do your research.
Humor is in; pretentiousness is out
When meeting a Shaman or when researching a candidate, make sure s/he has a sense of humor and limits his/her pretensions to making people comfortable with his/her expertise.
A good Shaman doesn’t have to be a comedian, but s/he understands – through hard fought experience – just how funny life really is and is comfortable with this facet of reality. A Shaman lacking humor is wasting your time. S/he doesn’t know anything and isn’t offering anything you could possibly need.
A(n overly) pretentious Shaman is a fake (at best). You’re not looking for an actor (unless it’s in a therapeutic “paratheater” sense); you’re looking for someone to help you hang up your hang ups and become a better person. Sure, there’s a little bit of theater involved when it comes to making a professional impression, but this should be minimal. If the person you’re looking at has too many (figurative) bells and whistles, you’re likely talking to a charlatan.
Not everything is sunshine or rain
If you’re talking to a “Shaman” who is obsessed with everything being sunny and bright or, conversely, everything being dark and mysterious, you’re talking to a phony of one kind or another. If this person is working hard to appear to be either one of these polarities (unless you’re looking for someone who specializes in said polarity and that’s what you specifically need help with), get away and fast.
Delusions of grandeur? No thank you
If the Shaman you’re thinking of working with put him/herself on a pedestal (outside of being a humble “guide”, “healer”, or “teacher”), s/he isn’t ready or isn’t able. Work with someone else.
I had no choice but to walk the Shaman’s path when I started having visions after a near-death experience at the age of eight. It changed me and I’ve practiced/explored Shamanism diligently since then. But I wasn’t ready or able to work with others until recently. In my twenties, I thought that my visions and unusual perspective(s) somehow made me “more” or “better” than those who haven’t experienced them. Ridiculous! Everyone has a unique way of seeing the world, distinct talents and insights, and a distinct value as (at least potentially) creative beings. I know this now and so should your Shaman.
Don’t expect perfection
Shamans are people and none of them have “figured everything out.” Expecting them to be anything other than human is a terrible mistake. Take their insights with a grain of salt and be willing to overlook their flaws, as long as these flaws don’t trample on you or your progress.
And if you meet a “Shaman” who is obsessed with perfection, you’ve met a fake.
Meet whenever possible
Sometimes, if you’re going to a session in another country based on a strong recommendation from someone you trust, meeting the Shaman beforehand isn’t possible. But if this Shaman operates in your approximate geographical region, it is best to meet him/her. Sometimes this is difficult because a particular Shaman might be in high demand, but, generally, most are available for a meet-and-greet and/or host public workshops, events, picnics, and/or group exercises. Be comfortable.
Follow these rules and you should be able to avoid unpleasant experiences. Happy evolving!