Shamanic Breathwork: Journeying
beyond the Limits of the Self
Linda Star Wolf
After breathing, the journeyer (still somewhat
altered and assisted by the co-journeyer) engages in one or more expressive
art forms (mandalas, sculpting, mask-making, collages, Shamanic Shakti Painting
Process, etc.) as well as sacred scribing. In sacred scribing, the journeyer
describes in detail what their specific experience(s) were during their session.
The co-journeyer scribes what the journeyer tells them in a journal and relates
back and scribes what their own experiences were during the journeyer's Shamanic
Breathwork. This process allows for integration and grounding as well as for the
journeyer and co-journeyer to briefly process together what their experiences
were during the session.
The Shamanic Expressive Art
Process may include drawing a mandala, working with clay, painting, writing
poetry, journaling, or some other form of expressive art. These processes allow
the journeyer to express and work with the images, messages, and experiences of
their sacred Shamanic Breathwork process. This integrative expression is closer
to the language of the soul than speaking about the experience in words alone.
The artistic expression is meant to give full access to the unconscious and
conscious processes animated by the breathwork. The following is a brief
description of one of the more powerful art processes, the Shamanic Shakti
Painting Process, from its creator, Judy Merritt, Red Hawk:
The Shamanic Shakti Painting Process (SSPP) is about the Sacred Marriage of the
Shamanic and the Shakti energies. It is a calling in of the Shaman within, that
Divine Witness and Healer, to show up as witness and to hold the space for the
language and vision of the soul revealed through the painting process. The
Shaman within is summoned with the ritual of smudging and the setting of the
intention for healing and revealing. The Shakti energy is activated and invited
in through the process of kidney breathing. The kidneys flow and filter that
deep wellspring of creative energy. The SSPP then requires the participant to
enter into the commitment of communication between soul and ego through the
application of paint to paper, allowing the colors to be chosen and the movement
of the brush to be informed by the inner voice, the feeling and movement from
deep within the body of the painter. The SSPP is not about thinking about what
will be painted. It is not about putting onto paper any representation of the
outside world. It is about using paint, paper, energy, commitment to the
process, and the act of surrender to reveal to the painter what the soul and the
Shaman within need the painter to see and to feel for deeper understanding and
The use of the mandala drawing can be an extraordinarily powerful tool in the
Shamanic Breathwork process. The mandala is a form of expression in which the
journeyer artistically describes their experience in pictorial form. The
mandala means "circle." Indeed, each mandala
begins with a softly drawn circle on a large piece of art paper or other media.
The mandala circle is a suggestion--a starting point from which the journeyer's
experience comes to artistic life. Almost invariably, the experience pours from
the journeyer's psyche onto the paper, overflowing the confines of the suggested
circle and consuming the entire media. This artistic expression allows the
journeyer to quietly reflect upon their experience, using the mandala as a form
of expression to encapsulate that which words alone cannot. The mandala is both
a reflection of where we are now as well as a preview
of coming attractions in our
Jung believed that the
mandala allowed for expression of both the personal and the collective
unconscious. He believed that, in drawing the mandala and connecting with the
collective unconscious, we are allowed the opportunity to move away from the ego
as the center of our psyche. He said,
The goal of contemplating the processes depicted in the mandala is that the
yogi shall become inwardly aware of the deity. Through contemplation, he
recognizes himself as God again and thus returns from the illusion of individual
existence into the universal totality of the divine state.
He described mandalas as a reflection of the self--the wholeness of personality.
He believed that the construction of a mandala accessed our psyches and allowed
our core truths to emanate forth. He said mandalas "cannot tolerate deception."
Of mandalas, Jung also said,
I had to abandon the idea of the superordinate position of the ego. I saw
that everything, all paths I had been following, all steps I had taken, were
leading back to a single point--namely, to the midpoint. It became increasingly
plain to me that the mandala is the centre. It is the exponent of all paths. It
is the path to the center, to individuation. I knew that in finding the mandala
as an expression of the self I had attained what was for me the ultimate.
Contained with each individual mandala is often essential information for the
journeyer about the meanings of the images, symbols, and motifs they
experienced during their Shamanic Breathwork journey. These images, symbols,
and motifs are interpreted both literally and for their underlying metaphorical
meaning. One of the powerful aspects of mandala interpretation is examining the
archetypal themes inherent in them. Present in all people in all cultures,
archetypes have been recorded by dreamers across time and from all walks of life
with remarkable commonalities.
Engaging in a spirited dialog
with the archetypal forces visible in our mandalas allows each of us to
integrate material that may otherwise exist outside of our waking consciousness.
In this process of recognition and integration, we have the opportunity to fully
engage with and purposefully invite core archetypes into our consciousness so
that we may live and learn their lessons rather than resist them unconsciously.
*This excerpt reprinted with
permission of the publisher, Bear & Co. All Rights Reserved. Copyright c 2010
Linda Star Wolf
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