Voices from the Faculty
Shamanism and Everyday Life
A conversation with David Vust,
faculty member FSSE (part 1 / 2)
Many people in Europe grow up without ever coming into contact with shamanism. David, you yourself say that your first encounter with shamanism was characterized by skepticism. Now you yourself have been holding seminars for FSSE for several years. What convinced you?
It´s true, for a long time I was not interested in shamanism. I was interested in different spiritual directions, but shamanism was completely outside my world. I didn´t find it good or bad, I just didn´t perceive it. In this respect, the skepticism was not rejection but rather restraint.
At some point in my mid-30s, I noticed a quiet but distinct call and signed up for a basic workshop because I felt that it was just the right thing for me at the right time. When the time came, I asked myself what kind of people I would be dealing with and what kind of contents I would encounter. I originally come from a scientific background and sometimes tend to be a “head person”. But what convinced me were my experiences during the shamanic journeys.
I am thinking in particular of a journey from my first basic seminar, which was so intense that afterwards there was no doubt for me that a non-ordinary reality existed. This is also what convinced me again and again. For a while I still oscillated between doubt and conviction. But then in the seminars and shamanic work I had strong experiences again and again that removed any doubt; be it through synchronicity or successes in healing and divination.
Paul Uccusic once said that shamanism is for sceptics. Does that also apply to critically thinking people who want to attend the basic seminar for the first time and without any previous knowledge?
Yes of course, this goes in a similar direction. I would suggest not to eliminate scepticism and critical thinking altogether, but to get involved with the experiences in the seminar first – without evaluations, without thinking in the usual analytical schemata. You get involved with your sensory perceptions. Critical thinking is still important, but can sometimes be in the way if you prevent the immediate experiences by thinking too much. That is why I recommend openness for your own perception.
I still have Paul Uccusic´s words in my head, too. I first met him at my first basic seminar. For example, he said the wonderful and liberating phrase “It is worth going over the threshold of embarrassment” when he introduced the power animal dance. Because embarrassment has to do with comparison and evaluation. Only when you leave these out you can experience them. In my opinion this is the only way in shamanism to experience strength and the other worlds. In the beginning I was also convinced by the fact, that I experienced myself in a new way in the seminars. I knew myself as very restless and always planning. In the seminars, however, I was completely relaxed in the here and now and was not at all interested in what came after. I simply experienced and was pleasantly nourished afterwards. Only months later I thought about attending another seminar, which was completely untypical for me. When I started something else, I usually wanted to go through the whole curriculum right away. So I would like to invite you to take the opportunity to experience yourself anew in the seminar; beyond known patterns, limitations, etc.
After a seminar many participants come home moved and with strength for their everyday life. How should they continue then?
In my experience, it is also important here to pay attention to your own perception. Especially when you come home after advanced seminars, I find it helpful to simply perceive what has changed without thinking about it too much. Nevertheless, it is advisable to continue practicing yourself in order to stay in the strength.
However, I have a little trouble with “fair weather shamanism”, as my sister would call it. I wouldn´t want to separate so much between great experiences in the seminar and the grey everyday life. Actually shamanism and everyday life are one. You carry the strength into the everyday life. It is also about staying in contact with your allies. Shamanism also means work, taking responsibility and making decisions in everyday life. The seminar continues in everyday life. Therefore I find it difficult to imagine that shamanism could only take place from seminar to seminar. That would mean that there is no integration at all.
Is there a seminar or shamanic experiences that touched you personally and that you would like to share?
There are countless (laughs). I would like to come back to my first basic seminar. Without the experience there I would probably have never taken a seminar again. It was the shamanic journey where you get to know the teacher in the upper world. This journey changed everything for me. In my subjective perception it lasted several hours or even days and was characterized by very intense, sometimes frightening, sometimes joyful moments; a very deep experience for which I am still grateful today. I did not understand the scope of this experience at that time, but this journey changed my convictions and my life, because I knew afterwards that we are not alone. There are other realities, worlds and beings that support us.
It was a very moving experience. Afterwards I felt shaken and experienced myself and my environment in a different way. This state was neither pleasant nor unpleasant. It was easy! And I felt full of trust and supported. Such formative moments often take place. On the shamanic path there are always small initiations of different depths, which do not necessarily have to be only pleasant. Shamanism is no “wellness”, no feel-good experience, but can also be hard, although beneficial. But it also does not always have to bang. Shamanism can also be very quiet and soft.
In the second part of the interview, David Vust talks about how he integrates shamanism into is work. Where does shamanic work find its place in our society and which ethical aspects have to be considered?
David Vust is a supervisor, healing psychotherapist, and faculty member of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies Europe.