Edited by HENRY REED, Ph.D.
September 28,   2010
Shamanic Breathwork

Shamanic Breathwork: Journeying beyond the Limits of the Self


Linda Star Wolf


An Excerpt*

Processing the Journey

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 healing.

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 Sanskrit word
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 lives.

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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