Well Being: Today’s shaman song
BY DALIA BASIOUNY Cairo – Shamans are medicine men and women in the tribal cultures from Northern Siberia to tropical Africa and the Americas. They are known to facilitate transition and work between the physical realm and the spiritual non-material world. They communicate with the elements and the plant kingdom. In modern societies they act as conduits between worlds; they help their fellow humans who are troubled either in mind or in body.
Shamans do not choose their job. They are chosen for their life path by higher powers. In primal societies, the shaman is summoned. She hears the song inside her. It might come in a dream, as a vision, or a voice inside. When she hears it, she has to follow it to find her true path of healing herself and the world around her. The path is often full of obstacles and challenges. Yet that voice inside has an inexpressible truth that makes that difficult journey worthwhile.
Today most of the modern world is immersed in a cookie cutter culture. In developed societies, many people inhabit similar kinds of housing. Your “look” shows others the level of your success whether it’s the make of your car, or your designer outfit.
In developing countries the picture isn’t very different. “Upworldly mobile” segments of society opt for the same formula of what they deem sophisticated.
In Egypt, it’s easy to see this phenomenon around us, from the clothing people choose to wear, to the style most of the middle class select to decorate their apartments. The cookie cutter culture makes little room for individuality. Many follow in the footsteps of those around them, ignoring the shaman’s song.
Many of us hear the song but most of us ignore the calling. We find justifications in our responsibilities and commitments. We fear to change our lives because of our obligations to others, traditions, what will they think, how will my family feel. The list of excuses we hide behind is long. But we all know that it is most important to be true to ourselves first, in order to fulfill our obligations more wholly, and share our authentic self with the world.
One of my friends started hearing his song. Its sound was too loud to ignore. As a man of computers and numbers he did not think of it as a shamanic calling. But he knew in his heart that he had to follow that sound inside him.
Although he was a successful banker, he quit his job and travelled on a quest to study filmmaking. He enrolled in courses, attended workshops, volunteered in small projects. It wasn’t easy. It’s hard to compare the comfort of the air-conditioned office of a bank manager, to the unglamorous, unpaid job of a gofer on a film project in the freezing cold streets of New York. But he was following his song and he was happy to dance to its unconventional beat.
A few years later, he started making a name for himself in the competitive film scene, and celebrated selling his first film script to an Egyptian producer. He was so much closer to being the filmmaker he wanted to be. The path was not smooth. Actually there was no path at all. There is no self-help book out there for bank managers who want to become filmmaker. He carved his own route, and keeps clearing the land to create a path for himself, in a continuous struggle with the demands and the intrigues of the filmmaking world.
In his book “Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation” the inspirational Joseph Campbell recounts one of the medieval myths of the Holy Grail. It ends with each of the Knights of the Round Table “entering the Forest Adventurous at that point which he himself had chosen, where it was darkest and there was no way or path.” Campbell comments on the myth saying: “You enter the forest at the darkest point, where there is no path. Where there is a way or path, it is someone else’s path; each human being is a unique phenomenon. The idea is to find your own pathway to bliss.”
In this exciting historical moment in Egypt and in the world, it is crucial for us to remember that we play a role, a vital role in the transformation of our lives and that of our planet. It is critical to remember the role we chose to be here to play. In order to revolutionize our societies we need to change ourselves, to follow the shaman’s song inside of us, to “live” our song out loud and clear, and not die with unsung songs.