This is an ongoing US and global project to help enthusiasts, scholars, practitioners, and curious parties learn more about shamanic living in a contemporary culture. The space here is devoted to sharing info, experiences and opinions about all forms of shamanic expression covering shamanism's multiple permutations. Among subjects explored are traditions, techniques, insights, definitions, events, artists, authors, and creativity. You are invited to draw from your own experiences and contribute.

What is a SHAMAN?

MAYAN: "a technichian of the Holy, a lover of the Sacred." CELTIC: "Empower the people...by changing the way we think." MEXICAN APACHE: "Someone who has simply learned to give freely of themselves..." AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL: "...a teacher or healer, a wisdom keeper of knowledge... (who) takes people to a door and encourages them to enter." W. AFRICAN DIAGRA: "views every event in life within a spiritual context." HAWAIIAN: "...human bridges to the spiritual world and its laws and the material world and its trials..." QUECHUA INDIAN: "embodies all experience." AMAZON: "...willing to engage the forces of the Universe...in a beneficial end for self, people, and for life in general."

-- from Travelers, Magicians and Shamans (Danny Paradise)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Yoga Meets Shamanism: Danny Paradise

At the BaliSpirit Festival this year, I met my first yoga master who openly incorporates shamanism into his yoga practice and instruction. With 35 years experience as a yogi, American Danny Paradise is also a gifted musician, philosopher, political commentator and practicing shaman. He believes “yoga is shamanism,” because “both are about healing and awakening the body.”

Danny is an advanced master of Ashtanga Yoga, which is among the most physically demanding forms of yoga around. He balances out Ashtanga’s intensity by encouraging “a sacred, safe, meditative, healing, joyful, expanding, and pain-free,” practice for himself and his students.

Danny's shamanic experiences draw from the wisdom of various indigenous cultures including those of Hawaiian, Mayan and Native North and South American cultures. “It’s the same exploration all over the world,” he says, “we’re all part of nature, so we’re all part of Spirit.”

Danny links yoga and shamanism especially because of the underlying spiritual lineage of both, calling shamanism “the root of all religions,” and describing yoga as a way to “allow clarity to increase, and to step outside the regular order of things.”

“They have a crossing over point,” Danny says, “they both explore deeper levels of consciousness… These are sophisticated practices.”

While yoga is normally more physical in nature than shamanism, Danny talked about the inextricable link that unites both, “You can’t separate spirituality from humanness. If you start with the bones, human breath, your intuitive nature, then you are in tune with the shamanic realms,” he affirmed.

Paradise also devotes time to expanding his knowledge of history, power politics, self-development and other fields. He promotes community activism and personal education as well as spiritual and physical practices in his classes too, which may start with a group discussion about spirituality, yogic and shamanic values, philosophy or the current world order.

During his class sessions he may also cite authors, share his definitions of shamanism, or give his students a reading list handout, which contains his favorite texts on shamanism and yoga.

Many of us in the West start practicing yoga strictly as an alternative physical fitness exercise. Danny Paradise reminds us that doing yoga is not just about getting in shape or even closing our eyes and meditating—there’s something special about synching both. The ancients likely realized this.

It’s the movement-meditation, body-mind combo that is integral to Yoga, Qi-Gong and other similar physio-spiritual practices that, I believe, make them significant doorways to the creative realms/Spirit worlds.

Could growing interest in these forms be related to a blending of the body-mind in a way that supports a more direct experience of the divine/shamanic? Yes, I think so.

By emphasizing shamanic awareness through yoga, I believe Danny Paradise is signaling to us that making contact with our bodies in a mindful way creates a potent opening to energy, power, and information.

The benefit of mainstream yoga in this age is that Spirit can be accessed more readily by larger numbers of people—sometimes intended; other times not. Either way, yoga supports an expanded state of mind, which, in my view, and perhaps Danny’s too, can be the gateway to a deeper and more fulfilling co-existence with our inner and outer worlds.

For more information on Danny Paradise, visit his website at: http://www.dannyparadise.com/

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