One of the best-known methods of divination, using the elements of the natural world, is the stone gazing technique of the Lakota Sioux. The medicine man used a stone about the size of his palm, which had at least four sides or faces. Even the act of finding the stone was done in a reverential and sacred manner, in the recognition that all things are alive, sentient, aware, and offer themselves to us out of friendship and a desire to help. The Sioux themselves have an expression which sums up the proper relationship of human beings to ‘the stone people’ and other natural allies: mitakuye oyasin – they are ‘all my relations’.
Having drummed or danced or chanted his way into a quiet and reflective meditative state, the medicine man would then turn the rock to one of the faces and hold in mind a question that he or his people needed an answer to. ‘Why, Who, What, How, When, Where?’ questions were all fine; those that required a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer were somewhat more difficult since the otherworld, the formless web of energy that we now call holographic, does not operate in the same way as human beings and polarities such as ‘Yes/No, Light/Dark, Right/Wrong’ are human constructs by which a non-judgemental universe does not operate.
By Ross Heaven
In the ceremony of limpia - cleansing - the patient may sit on a wooden chair below which is a bowl of smoking copal incense. This will purify the patient's body and is relaxing to any spirit intrusions, which are made drowsy by the smoke. As the limpia takes place, the shaman circles the patient, chanting, blowing tobacco smoke over her and stoking her body with flowers. The tobacco smoke eases the passage of the intrusion, which is then caught by and 're-housed' in the flowers.
Sometimes an offerenda is also made in thanks for the healing - or to the intrusion for leaving - in which case a gift of some kind may be tied up with the flowers. The whole bundle is then taken into nature and buried so the spirit will not be disturbed and others won't be infected by it. Coastal shamans may take the flowers to the sea instead and cast them to the waves so the tide takes them away from the shore.
In the Amazon rainforest, it is not flowers that are used, but the leaves of the chacapa bush. These are approximately nine inches long and, when dried, are tied together to make a medicine tool which is used as a rattle during ceremonies. In a healing, the chacapa is rubbed and rattled over or near the patient's body to capture or brush out the spirit intrusion. Once he has it in his chacapa, the shaman then blows through the leaves to disperse the intrusion into the rainforest where the spirits of the plants absorb and discharge its energy.
Another way of dealing with intrusions is the use of cleansing leaf baths, a method practiced in Haiti as much as in Peru. Haitian shaman, Loulou Prince, explains:
There is a Buddhist practice called "exchanging oneself for others" that is intended to cultivate compassion and empathy -- in Tibetan it's called "tonglen." As we breathe in, we bring into ourselves that which is difficult, problematic and upsetting from the other person -- everything we wish we could get rid of. As we breathe out, we send them every good quality -- openness, clarity, affection, peace -- everything we would like to hold onto.
Tonglen is an outrageous practice in that it reverses our normal tendency to include only that which is comfortable and easy and to exclude anything that is challenging or difficult. The result is that we open ourselves further, our heart and mind, and allow for a wider range of what we are willing to include and work with in our lives. Ultimately, this particular meditation is liberating for the person actually practicing tonglen, but due to a possible shift in our attitude it can also benefit others.
Meditation labs have sprung up at universities across the country--places such as Yale, UCLA, University of Oregon, UW Madison and Maharishi University of Management. Their contributions have helped researchers identify three major categories of techniques, classified according to EEG measurements and the type of cognitive processing or mental activity involved:
Controlled focus: Classic examples of concentration or controlled focus are found in the revered traditions of Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, Qiqong, Yoga and Vedanta, though many methods involve attempts to control or direct the mind. Attention is focused on an object of meditation--such as one's breath, an idea or image, or an emotion. Brain waves recorded during these practices are typically in the gamma frequency (20-50 Hz), seen whenever you concentrate or during "active" cognitive processing.2
Open monitoring: These mindfulness type practices, common in Vipassana and Zazen, involve watching or actively paying attention to experiences--without judging, reacting or holding on. Open monitoring gives rise to frontal theta (4-8 Hz), an EEG pattern commonly seen during memory tasks or reflection on mental concepts.3
Automatic self-transcending: This category describes practices designed to go beyond their own mental activity--enabling the mind to spontaneously transcend the process of meditation itself. Whereas concentration and open monitoring require degrees of effort or directed focus to sustain the activity of meditation, this approach is effortless because there is no attempt to direct attention--no controlled cognitive processing. An example is the Transcendental Meditation technique. The EEG pattern of this category is frontal alpha coherence, associated with a distinct state of relaxed inner wakefulness.
The article goes on to explain the benefits of each.
Weather shamans held the responsibility of working with the elements on behalf of their communities. Through intense dedication to their calling, some of those practicing weather shamanism are said to have demonstrated unusual - and even miraculous - powers. These individuals were recognized for their abilities to call in rain, or to stop rain, and to work with wind and storm.
The alliances of weather shamans with the forces of Nature and weather did not automatically insure their emotional maturity, nor did their prowess protect the individual or the community from a potentially damaging fascination with Power. It was not unheard of for weather shamans to enter into contests demonstrating their abilities to influence weather. There were also those who used their influence with the elements to harm their enemies. On the other hand, appropriate demonstrations of a weather shaman's good relationships with the spiritual forces of earth and atmosphere helped the people have confidence in their shaman's abilities.
Similarly, a significant part of the initiation process is for the new shaman to demonstrate the self-control which separates healers from sorcerers. Self-control is manifested in resisting the immediate urge to use newly acquired powers to cause harm. Among the Shuar, there is a general sentiment among the people that becoming a shaman — acquiring tsentsak, magic darts — creates an irresistible desire to do harm, that “the tsentsak make you do bad things.” Shuar shamans themselves dispute this. While the tsentsak indeed tempt one to harm, the desire can be resisted; those who “study with the aim to cure” become healers.
The magic darts kept within the chest of a Shuar shaman, for example, are living spirits, who can control the actions of a shaman who does not have sufficient self-control. The magic darts want to kill, and it requires hard work to keep them under control and use them for healing rather than attack. Similarly, the Parakanã of Eastern Amazonia believe that shamans possess pathogenic agents that cause sickness, called karowara. When animated by a shaman, karowara are tiny pointed objects; inside the victim’s body, they take the concrete form of monkey teeth, some species of beetle, stingray stings, and sharp-pointed bones. Karowara have no independent volition; but they have a compulsion to eat human flesh.
The use of coca leaves in rituals involves the creation of kintus. To form a kintu three perfect coca leaves are taken from a bag of leaves, they are then held at the finger tips of both hands by the stem end, either as a bundle or slightly fanned. If the kintu is to be used by the person who formed it then the leaves are held green (non-veined) side up, if the kintu is to be given to someone else then the green side faces the person to whom they are to be given.