This is a massive question and in all truth it depends upon the perspective of the one proposing to answer. As I work with my Shamanic guides it seems appropriate to let them answer this question collectively…
To your Western minds, Brothers and Sisters, Shamanism is something foreign and emergent from either the past, or some strangely perceived ‘backward’ culture.
This is a symptom of your collective sickness.
The culture of the Western Mind is permeated by a sense of superiority, and coloured by schizophrenic comprehensions. There is no more gentle way to expose what your culture has become, nor is there time left for ‘Kid Gloves’.
Collectively you are so disconnected from your environment and so your real selves that you are sick to the core. There is an inherent psychological structure within your culture, which ultimately makes you feel lost and therefore lonely. You are surrounded by your own creations and cut-off from the true created Earth, and your place within it.
Collectively you have forgotten your place within the grand scheme and so you feel unwelcome within it.
Your belief structures that are installed within the young minds are twisted and destructive. You believe that you were cast out of the garden, but this is only so you can alleviate responsibility for the garden, and the garden is the Earth you inhabit. Your culture has raped and consumed not only the natural resources, but also the resources of your fellow mankind.
It is no wonder your culture is riddled with cancer, because you are collectively cancerous.
Your behaviour as a culture is disgraceful, in the real sense of the word. To be ‘In Grace’ is to know that you are divine and all around you shares the same divinity. To be disgraceful is to not know this, and so it is possible to dehumanise other cultures and thus destroy them.
Those with courage forsake denial and study their history, and it is a tragic tale of destruction and consumption. Your patterns of behaviour across time are obviously fear based, and thus you are collectively sick.
Firstly your culture encounters any other thing and seeks only for the use it may have, and only those things without practical use survive your locust like range. If the living thing happens to be other people and societies, then you commit your greatest of sins.
We do not wish to gouge out your guilt here and now, for it is for each of you to wash the blood from your ancestral hands. Your sickness is evidenced in your behavioural symptoms, for the only way that a culture could behave this way, is if they were able to disconnect from their connection to all things.
You have forsaken the truth that we are all Brothers and Sisters of Mother Earth, and so you are able to commit genocide. Historically you have raped your Mother Earth and murdered your siblings, including the trees and animals. When you forsake this truth that we are all one, you forsake your comfort of being welcome upon the Earth.
You are sick because you are in fear.
This fear is akin to the unwelcome guest or the criminal who may eventually be exposed, and it is not beneficial for security. Your culture has forsaken your sense of security in order to gather resources, and now you are beginning to pay the price.
Collectively you feel unsafe existing within your bodies, and within you is the deepest conflict. Your religions expose the truth of your predicament, as they speak of rejection, divine divorce and collective Guilt. You have no respect for your dead and less respect for the life surrounding you.
For you a tree may be furniture or shelter, but a tree is equally as important as us all. Imagine when the day comes and you are treated in the same manner that your culture has treated life. You would be viewed as resources, disconnected from your divinity and humanity, traded as objects and psychologically imprisoned. The truth is that the day has been and passed.
You are prisoners of your own sick minds and so your environment is reflecting your internal ill health.
Your bonds are weak and your behaviour is predictable. Your culture is one-dimensional just like your perspectives.
To us you are the walking dead, numb from your violence and subsequent guilt. You are graceless and deep in your lost hearts you know it one and all. Your culture is selfish as each of you see no further than the end of your nose, or the perimeter of your reductionist world view.
So what is Shamanism?
Shamanism is your only hope and within the concept rests your salvation. Like all that you experience from your categorised perspective, you have catalogued Shamanism and considered it understood. As ever you are wrong. Shamanism is not some indigenous ritualistic practice, drenched in mystery and fuelled by psychotropic substances. You Fools!
Shamanism is the absolute expression of Human Divinity.
It takes many forms and expressions yet all emerge from the very same universal thread. Shamanism is reverence for life in every form and every expression across all creation.
Eastern Shamanism is known as Buddhism and this was the initiation of your rescue. Your culture built the Atomic Bomb and your sickness was exposed, for your addiction had become dangerous. It was time for you each to be influenced by Mother Earth, and so we moved from the East and began to teach you through Buddhist Shamanism.
At its core Buddhism teaches a reverence for ALL life and exposes the ability to shift perspective, known as meditation. It is no accident that your culture was infiltrated with Eastern teachings, for Shamanism seeks to heal both individuals and the societies they create.
When one becomes a Shaman in their lifetime, they do not cease to be following their physical death, for they are committed to the Earth and ALL of its creaturas.
It must be understood that you are perceived as sick and so you are being assisted in returning to wellness, but like all addicts you fail to even realise your sickness. The Eastern Shamanistic philosophy is one of Heart and so you have been treated well, been given the opportunity to become well.
Some of your culture embraced this opportunity and became the antibodies within your culture, and from here the treatment began.
Shamanism is the true expression of Human excellence.
Consider the consistent teachings of Shamanic perspective and you may well understand what you really are. It must be understood that Shamanism may be understood as permeating every religious structure, theology, and philosophy and belief system.
It is not something that a person does because it is something that every person already is.
Shamanism is the true art of being Human and is the experience of Human divinity. It is only in your sickness that Shamanism has become something separate from your culture, for like any disease they reject and fight the cure at first. Shamanism is surrounding you and you shall be cured of your disease, whether you desire it or not.
So what actually is Shamanism?
Shamanism is the experience and recognition of being Human and the connectivity of this Humanity in regard to ALL things. In practice it is the exposure of the multi-faceted Human Being and the inherent ability we all have, which is to shift our perspective point.
Shamanism is recognition of the flowing life within us and the flowing life without us, and the realisation that it is the same life we are experiencing. This is to say that there is not difference between the life force of a Human and the life force of anything, whether animated of not.
Shamanism is a state of mind, and it is from this state of mind or perspective, which we may each understand that EVERYTHING emerged from the same point.
Indigenous Shamanism as your culture recognises and categorizes Shamanism, is but another expression of what Shamanism is. The indigenous Shaman has their practices and rituals, which are culturally specific, yet all Shamans are doing the same thing in different ways.
A Shaman interacts with their environment in reverence of it, and from this position they perceive that they also should be revered, and so they realise that all is one. From this perspective it becomes impossible to destroy anything for it is akin to destroying oneself.
Shamanism is the comprehension of the value of life in all its forms.
Of course there are those who use drums and plant medicine, as there are those who use prayer and incantations. It matters not because each practice is but an expression the NEED to connect to something broader or deeper than oneself.
Shamanism is both the desire to explore the self and all that the self is connected to, and the practices of Shamanism are simply methods to achieve this goal.
It is when one goes through this process that one realises both how insignificant one is, yet also how vastly important all life is, and this includes them. Shamanism is the recognition of one’s own divinity and the appreciation of the divinity within all things. It is nothing less and it is nothing more, and the practices of Shamanism are the methods to achieve this realisation.
Your culture is sick because it does not know these things, and so you are being rescued from without.
There is something you have identified as the Ego but you know not what it is, for you have forsaken the questions beginning for WHY? In order to answer the Who?, the What?, the When?, the Where? and the How?
It is the questions beginning with why that are to do with Shamanism, and the other questions are relevant to the Ego.
This ‘thing’ you call the Ego is only a fraction of what a Human being actually is.
The Human being is comprised of many facets and each operates as the workings of a clock, or in synchronicity in order to complement each other with a shared purpose. The Western culture has forsaken the multi-faceted self and invested all its energy into a one dimensional structure of the matrix, known as the Ego. This is your sickness.
The Ego is not sick as it is the circumstance of it being in control of your entire being that is the sickness.
The Ego as you call it is the aspect of the self which is in existence to ensure survival, for it is the aspect of the self which facilitates survival. It is the aspect of the self that knows where the resources are, what the resources are and when the resources are available. It does not know why the resources are there however, and nor should it.
Do you see?
You have reduced your experience of being Human down to the perspective of survival, and ALL of your actions and behaviours are sophisticated expressions of your fear. This fear is based upon your core belief that you shall not survive, and so you gather resources like a squirrel gathers nuts.
The winter however never arrives and so you gather more and more nuts, hoarding them within your nests until you become defined by the amount of nuts you have in relation to others. Your Ego is competitive and the competition is one of survival. Those with the most nuts consider they have an increased rate of survival. They hoard and then by the nature of the Ego they must defend these nuts, and so begins your constant wars.
You are addicted collectively to your own fear, and this is the fear of death.
Your Ego has become the master of your minds and hearts, because it is the Ego that is in existence to facilitate the release of fear. The Ego is there to reassure the entire self that survival is assured, because the Ego strategically comprehends the environment and then orientates itself within it, with a view to achieving continued survival.
The evidence is everywhere within your culture, yet more so in your fear of death. It is within your fear of death that you may perceive the reason that the Ego has been given control. If you were not in fear of death then the Ego would relax and so relinquish control over your entire mind and society.
Shamanism always involves the experience of death and the thus the reverence of life.
It is Shamanism which moves the Human Being into an experience of death, and so it is realised that death is not what the Ego pertains it to be. It may be understood metaphorically of course...
Would you allow your 5 year old child to manage your family finances? No. This is because they have a limited perspective and they would quickly bankrupt your house. This is what you have done with your Ego. You have allowed a scared and incapable aspect of yourself to manage your entire Human experience, and the results are akin to bankruptcy.
The horror of your situation deepens when you collectively and individually have turned upon the child you have given control. Even those who embraced the Eastern Shamanic rescue through Buddhism have decided to demonise the Ego and make attempts to kill it!
It is akin to removing the steering wheel of your car because you have lost your keys, and then smashing up the steering wheel because it let you down. Shamanism is the antidote because when understood correctly, it teaches reverence for all things, including the Ego. We talk not of pseudo-Shamanism but the Shamanism which heralded ALL religious and philosophical thought.
Shamanism is not a practice or philosophy but a way of being and that being is Human. Do you understand?
The Shamanic death is the experience of the Egoic realisation that one is safe, regardless of physical circumstance. Shamanism grants one security in the knowledge that NOTHING ever dies, and this realisation settles the Ego into a peaceful state. The Ego stops panicking and acquiring resources, as it stops its constant rhetoric within the Human mind.
Shamanism exposes the Ego to the concept of immortality and so the Ego stops ranting about the insecurities of existence, and more importantly begins to operate effectively. This is why Shamanism is the cure for your Western sickness, because it heals the reason you are sick at all. All you do and the reality you create is from a fear-based position, and so everything you create is drenched in fear.
This is the loop of sickness you are within and it simply proves you correct in that your future is uncertain and soon you shall die!
From here the Ego becomes ever more invested in, and perpetually develops into a paranoid, poorly equipped manager who ultimately is destined to bankrupt both you and your entire society collectively. Shamanism is nothing that your Western culture perceives it to be, because your perspective experiences it as a threat, and it is.
Shamanism is a threat to your power fuelled Ego dominated consciousness.
Your Ego is in fear and this is your illness, but unfortunately this Ego defends consistently and talks its way out of every rescue. It is akin to the patient being told they have cancer, and then proceeding to convince themselves and the Doctor that they do not. The Ego wins but eventually the body dies of cancer.
The Ego does not desire to relinquish control because it is perceived as failure, from its limited perspective. It is supposed to be keeping you safe and so that is exactly what it does.
Shamanism teaches the Ego that it is safe and so it can be satisfied in the knowledge that it may relinquish control.
When the Ego relinquishes control the Human Being becomes free of the fear and torment of insecurity, and steps into their own divinity and ultimately experiences love. There can never be love and fear in the same place at the same time. Shamanism teaches one how to recognise the divine within all things, including the self and so this leads onto the further realisation, that the connection between these things is actually the force of love.
Shamanism is the experience of knowing why love exists and exactly what it is.
From this perspective which is Shamanic, there is no violence nor war and fear. If one feels safe and experiences love then one simply desires to live in peace and spread this love. If one lives in fear and insecurity then one is destined to proliferate fear and insecurity, which is your Western society historically.
Shamanism is the force of love and the source of this love is the universe and all things within it.
It matters not whether one connects to the spirit of an animal in Bolivia, the Buddha in Basingstoke, Christ in china or Allah in Jerusalem. It only matters that one does connect and thus circumnavigates the Ego, but more importantly loves the Ego for it is in the most pressured situation.
Shamanism is the process of connection regardless of what one is connecting to, for it is within the connection that one realises there is love and all things are an expression of the same life force.
Shamanism is the experience and right of every single living Human Being and it is Being Human.