My Predestined Date With Shamanism

My Predestined Date with Shamanism

I was lucky enough to score an extra ticket to a modern shamanism class in Los Angeles. What I knew of shamanism prior to the intro course was limited at best and while I like to be spontaneous, I also like to be prepared. I tried to research the event itself but also knew that the lower expectations that I had, the better. Luckily, there wasn’t much information on the event, so I was going rogue. My friend Julie and I talked the night before to discuss our plan of attack and the car situation so that when we walked in wearing yoga pants and leggings compared to everyone else’s Levi’s and boots, we would at least be partner pariahs. And that’s exactly what happened.

Quickly disposing of our corporate Starbucks coffee cups in fear of being judged by hemp-loving, incense-burning, damn-the-Man hippies, we walked into the Manhattan Beach Marriott. The room was markedly less Marriott than anticipated: an ambiance that consisted of a 30-chair circle and a maraca rattling, rain stick thrusting, and indigenous Amazonian drum pounding ditty awaited us.

In the car, Julie joked that it was going to be one of those, “I see your light, and I appreciate you” workshops and it seemed to be the case. For a hot second I thought I’d be a real jackass and use this as an excuse to practice my comedic repertoire on the cheap. I’d play the straight man and ask the shaman questions as if he were a World of Warcraft expert: Do you throw lightning bolts? Can you see into the world of spirits and communicate with creatures invisible to eyes of mere mortals? When did you discover this other realm? On Draenor, now shattered Outland, the orcs were shamanistic; on Azeroth, trolls and tauren were shamanistic. Though shamanism on Azeroth flourished and still continues to, shamanism on Draenor was all but extinct by the time of the great crossing of the Horde into Azeroth via the Dark Portal. Your thoughts, sir?

Though as the session started, I realized I couldn’t be that much of an asshole. Just drink the kool-aid and leave the New Yorker cynicism and expectations at the door. After all, I live in California now and I decided to jump on the thought free, sun drenched fun bus in full force.

The rockstar shaman went around the room and introduced himself. When he stopped at Brendan they did a little, “Who’s on First” bit. It went a little something like this:

Hamilton: Hi, I’m Hamilton.
Brendan: Wait, I thought I was Hamilton.
Hamilton: You are you and I’m you.
Brendan: If I’m you and you’re me, then we already know.
Hamilton: Yes, we do. What time is it?
Brendan: It’s now o’clock.

They let out a few hearty chuckles. Hamilton proceeded with the introductions. The day began.

"Be here now, man."

Along with my yoga mat, I also left any pre-conceived notions in the car. I turned it all off in an attempt to swallow what Hamilton was selling. Be here now, man. So when I overheard conversations consisting of, “I laughed so hard doing my arcani yatra (sp) practice that water came out of my nose!” and “Those of you that were here yesterday, how was everyone’s sleep last night? Was it deep? Did you have weird dreams?” I was unfazed.

So what is shamanism? I still don’t really know because Hamilton never actually defined it. I don’t know if you even can. When he spoke to the group I found myself pondering Asperger’s Syndrome. He could have been a punk ass middle schooler explaining how to be the dungeon master: very straightforward, authoritative, and matter of fact but struggled navigating the abstract and heady sea of ideas that comprise shamanism.

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