01/22/2015 05:48 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Urban Shaman

Shaman -- a person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of good and evil spirits, especially among some peoples of northern Asia and North America.

Picture yourself in this scene:
A group of people are gathered in a wooden yurt. They are all sitting on mattresses in a circle awaiting the shaman. Around them are hanging sheets with detailed patterns. Heavy incense smoke rises and spirals in the room. The leader of this gathering is adorned with colorful garb: patterned clothes, crystal gemstone necklaces, feathers, smoking real tobacco from hand rolled cigarettes blowing into bottles filled with brown, gooey liquid while chanting in some ancient unknown language.

What is happening and where are we?

Now observe this other scenario: a group of people in a small dome-shaped hut sitting around stones in sauna-hot settings listening to chants uttered by a native elder as he smokes a tobacco pipe for ceremonial purposes.

Or consider these scenes: people communing with nature in absolute solitude sitting stationary in self-imposed sacred ritual while going days on neither food nor drink in the heat of the day and the illuminated night . Other may celebrate Winter and Summer solstice with shamans while simultaneously giving thanks to mother earth, father sky, and the four elements.

What is remarkably interesting and poignant about these incidences is the reality that these venues are actively sought, re-constructed, re-imagined and re-enacted by folks in the western world either concretely or symbolically. The question of why this has happened speaks to the need in our modern day world for sacredness and the pursuit of a deeper, richer and more meaningful truth. This search has led many of us including me to seek the truth in age old rituals.


Our world is one of many of contradictions: complete abundance amid utter poverty; a time of extreme extravagance and growing unrest in a population in search of meaning and validation. It is a time where we feel that we have lost our direct connection to our food, to our tribes, to the earth. None of us feel "grounded" in cities as the concrete ground separates us from the earth.

As modern society evolved, we destroyed our own mythologies and relationships to what we deemed 'holy' and 'sacred' by supplanting the spiritual with new gods of 'science'; gods that allowed us to destroy each other by the touch of a button. In essence, we became our own Gods - destroyers of our own world as we filled our days and nights with trivial activities. Our hunger compelled our search for both spiritual and emotional fulfillment.

Organized religion attempted to provide us with answers, but doctrine in itself was considered 'obsolete' and irrelevant. "Religion" lacked the ability to appeal to a growing number of us who could not relate to religious dogma. Instead of finding solace in 'official' houses of worship, we hit the Internet and shared posts from 'IFLScience' and Neil Degrasse Tyson as a way to fill that spiritual and emotional void. Without a need for formal religious practice, the world of organized religion became at least for us, both archaic and obsolete. Nevertheless there were a few key elements that religion served that satisfied our desire for: a sense of community, sacredness, and meaning. It is these fundamental needs that we currently pursue.

How did we achieve that in a modern day rat-race of a world deluged by unending data and information streams; a modern world state of being that has resulted in precipitating our current addiction to 'busyness'? How did we find our meaning, purpose in life, take time to slow down and connect back to nature when we are in a constant technology loop?

From meditation, yoga, sweat-lodges, shamanic rituals and transformational festivals, myself and others like me have chosen to walk beside ancient guides. Our goal was simple: we sought solidarity as we worked toward a shared vision fueled by antique traditions completely and consciously connected to the original world of plants and animals. Our union connected our conscious selves to ancient tribes of wisdom as we worked to create and evolve our global village.

I believe the reason this is happening en masse now is because of the predicament we are in, and the tasks at hand.

In order to truly evolve as a species and to take care of our ailing home planet, we need to wake up, switch on, grow up and start working together. These shamanic rituals by and large were coming of age rituals. In our modern times we've stopped growing up and remained adolescent (I believe the "selfie" is a great example of that behavior). And with that mindset we have overpopulated, polluted and pissed-off the planet.

Plants, animals, and the planetary ecosystem communicate in very different ways than we do. In these times of planetary upheaval, learning from ancient traditions that teach how to respect the land, listen to nature and feel the interconnectedness of our planet, is no longer a nice "hippie" concept - it is a necessity for the survival of our planet.

The importance of the idea of an urban shaman is that it creates a bridge between traditional teachings and our modern day world. By bringing ancient wisdom back to the boardrooms, the offices, and co-working spaces, change agents, social entrepreneurs and visionaries can congregate, collaborate and direct themselves toward the rejuvenation of the world.

As the ancient shaman walked between worlds - so can the urban shaman bring a sense of connectivity between: nature versus humans while merging old sacredness to new traditions.

Perhaps it's finally time for us to put down the tech, lock it away for a weekend and embark on a shamanic journey. You'd be amazed what lies out there - beyond the veil.