The World Through the Eyes and Heart of Three Local Shamans
Peruvian shamans that Leize Perlmutter studied with
Early in humanity’s evolution, relying on the instinctive feeling of relationship with a living Earth and a sense of kinship with all creation was the only way to survive. In our modern world, this way of living is known as shamanism, which has existed in many parts of the world since the beginning of civilization.
“Over countless thousands of years, shamanic myths and rituals of connection kept alive the awareness of the existence of an invisible spirit-world or soul-world,” writes Ann Baring, in The Dream of the Cosmos: A Quest for the Soul.
The main feature of the shamanic way of knowing that Baring emphasizes is that in all shamanic traditions, dualism does not exist—there is no other. Nature is not split off from spirit; the two are one. She muses that the lack of recognizing the existence of such a way has led to the disconnect of humanity’s collective soul from its roots. She also proposes that this problem is the reason for why our culture has become dysfunctional and unable to respond to our deepest needs. A longing to return to these roots may be why so many individuals are turning to shamanism.
The growing interest in shamanism has provided the impetus for numerous new book releases on the subject. Two of the most recent, The Re-enchantment of a Shaman: A Shamanic Path to a Life of Wonder, authored by Hank Wesselman, Ph.D., and Encounters with Power: Adventures and Misadventures on the Shamanic Path of Healing, written by Jose Luis Stevens, Ph.D. Wesselman describes the magic of connecting to the invisible world while Stevens writes about it from the perspective of acquiring the kind of power that teaches and nourishes us.
For Leize Perlmutter, who studied shamanism with The Four Winds Society, it is about magic and re-enchantment, as well as power realized from connecting with the web of life and with source or divine energy. “Our culture perceives ordinary reality in a very limited way, whereas a shaman sees it from an expanded state of consciousness and connects viscerally to all that is. Einstein could have been a shaman, because he went into a place of stillness, what we call sacred space, and the information he needed came to him there,” she says.
Perlmutter explains visceral experience as physically within the body, real and undeniable. Her own personal experience clarified this. “It was my near-death experience 25 years ago. My deceased grandfather came through so clearly that I could smell the nape of his neck as I did when I was a child. I heard him say, ‘You’re going to live.’ I recovered slowly,” she says, noting that this kind of experience leaves a deep sense of knowing that requires no intellectual interpretation.
“When people start seeing and feeling things they can’t explain and others around them can’t comprehend, they begin to look for a way to deal with their experiences. Shamanism is often the answer,” says Leize Perlmutter.
Shamanic work is empowering. “It showed me beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are connected to everything and reinforced for me that we are unmistakably energy beings having a human experience. Our work as shamans is to clear an individual’s energetic field of imprinted information left by trauma and conflict. These imprints are residual remains. They may have been generated by the culture, family or other relationships; even by ancestors. These act as interferences, blinding us to perceiving the world as it is. Clearing these empowers the individual,” says Perlmutter.
Shamanism is a calling for some individuals. Others come to it as a result of trauma or illness, as Perlmutter did. “When people start seeing and feeling things they can’t explain and others around them can’t comprehend, they begin to look for a way to deal with their experiences. Shamanism is often the answer,” remarks Perlmutter.
A suburban shaman living in the Fort Myers, Whale Maiden encourages every one to find the magic in the land, starting with the front yard. She’s also a writer, teacher and photographer.
“Shamanism came naturally to me while I was growing up in the suburbs of eastern Pennsylvania. I spent a lot of time in the woods tuning into plants and trees. I recall a lot of cultural forces in our music and other media then that I believe turned a lot of people on to shamanism. I later studied it through Michael Harner [Core Shamanism and the Foundation for Shamanic Studies] and have done extensive reading about shamanism in other cultures,” explains Whale Maiden.
Part of a dynamic network of shamanic peers, many of which are in Florida, Whale Maiden gathers with them to periodically to participate in a journey, a shamanic practice that allows the individual to achieve an altered state by meditating and drumming. During the journey, the soul leaves the body to travel to a spiritual aspect of places on, within or above the Earth. Her Earthways Shamanic Path is based on observing the unfolding seasons and cycles in Southwest Florida to learn the physical environmental and spiritual aspects, what they mean and how to celebrate them.
She also sees the mundane world from a mystical and shamanic perspective. “The world is full of magic if you know where and how to look,” enthuses Whale Maiden, who developed her place-based shamanic path during 30 years in Florida. She teaches classes with a co-facilitator on the first Tuesday of every month at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Myers.
Born a shaman and a healer in Uganda, East Africa, Minazali Bhimji (Ali) grew up in a very spiritual family with a long family line of shamans. The massage therapist and shiatsu instructor, who teaches at the Eyes Wide Open Center, in Bonita Springs, received his shamanic teachings from his grandmother. “Grandmother taught me to be totally in alignment with Gaia, Mother Earth, whose vibrations I feel through my feet. I sense Father Spirit’s energy from above. When I bring these together in my heart chakra, I become a vessel for healing,” says the owner of Ancient Touch Massage Therapy and Shiatsu Practitioners, in Bonita Springs.
Bhimji speaks in an ancient green language, which he says the animals and plants use to talk. A fascinating storyteller, his questions are piercing, but meant to teach, enlighten and educate. “Did you know that you are the Earth, sun and moon; that your heart is the sun that beats 25,900 times a day? Did you know that your liver is Jupiter and your gallbladder is Mars? That your spleen is Saturn, your kidneys are Venus and your spine is Uranus? Did you know that we are part of all planets, including the meteor belt? When you practice shamanism, you are practicing oneness based on unconditional love from Divine Mother and Father Spirit. Here there is no separation and no labels,” advises Bhimji.
It appears that shamanism lends itself well to the poetry of Rumi, who wrote, “We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust;” to that of William Blake, who saw the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wildflower. Perhaps they, like shamans, viewed the world with the magic of childlike wonder, a worldview that our culture snatches away from us all too early. Perhaps once, we were all shamans.