Backyard Shamanism: Finding Power at Home

In this time of global crisis, two truths have risen to the surface like never before: coming home is powerful, and everything is connected. These are also essential aspects of shamanism, which provides us with effective, time-tested practices for personal and collective transformation. We have reoriented our lives around our home spaces, alone and in […]

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In this time of global crisis, two truths have risen to the surface like never before: coming home is powerful, and everything is connected. These are also essential aspects of shamanism, which provides us with effective, time-tested practices for personal and collective transformation. We have reoriented our lives around our home spaces, alone and in groups. Keeping balance in close quarters takes consistent effort. Our relationships with nature, spirit, and ourselves dwell in this core space too. In this time of coming home, nourishing theses relationships feels like a powerful prescription and a soothing balm.

Connecting with spirit and nature, as shamans do, often conjures images of wild, remote places, maybe traveling to the Amazon, or going on a vision quest in the high desert. While there can be great value in the spiritual experiences people have in those places, shamanic practice is about the here and now. Your here and now. If you’re like me, that here and now is usually less romantically wild and more subtle backyard beauty; it’s a balance of tending family and my own internal states, it’s seeing neighbors’ rooftops while watching the birds, it’s noticing violets blooming as I take out the trash. It is intense ordinary life, both inside and out. There is exquisite power and wisdom in the “home” of our bodies and the everyday spaces we inhabit.

Power of Interconnection

I am physically and spiritually connected to my small piece of land, and this time of staying put has deepened those relationships. To find your true power and connection to spirit, put down roots wherever you are—in the city, on a farm, or in a suburban backyard. Send out tendrils to sense and deepen your relationship to the spirit of your place, and to the elements around and within you. By nurturing those relationships, through observation and conscious interaction, you develop the reciprocity we need to create health and equilibrium now and in the future. Put aside the idea that power resides only in certain places or with certain people.

Indigenous cultures know that everything is part of an interconnected web of existence. Our potential for affecting each other through that web is dramatically illustrated in maps of the spread of COVID-19. The more we understand the interconnectedness of all things, the more we realize our sources of spiritual power are available from anywhere, and at any time. The air you breathe is fundamentally the same as the air I breathe. Like a hologram, one part contains the whole.

4 Ways to Work with the Elements from Anywhere       

In shamanic journeying, we shift perception to connect with compassionate helping spirits. Teachers, including myself, are available even in these times of social distancing. More important than any particular method however, is to understand that we ARE nature, what happens outside happen inside, and vice versa. The suggestions below are based on embodied shamanic practice, and will also help reduce physical and emotional stress.[i] If you can’t do these things physically, imagine that you are and use all your senses. This can generate similar effects in your body.[ii]

Water: When you wash your hands (which is hopefully often!), thank water. Envision anything that’s not yours (physical and energetic) changing into something beautiful, like shimmering light, and rinsing away.

Air: Step outside. Breathe in deeply. Experience air moving gently in and out of your body. Relax your body with each breath. The word inspiration has origins in the Latin inspirare, “to breathe or blow into.”[iii] Listen for any inspiration. Thank the element air.

Fire: Feel the sun’s radiance on your face and body. Are there ways you would benefit from stoking up, or tamping down, your fieriness right now? Listen and give thanks.

Earth: The earth is ancient. Over time we share it with our ancestors and our descendants, but it can be easy to focus only on our own lives and perspectives. Sit or lie down outside. Feel the earth under you, strong and supportive. Breathe deeply. Relax into the safe embrace of the earth. Ask the spirit of the earth to help you see the larger perspective. Is there anything you should know about being in good relationship with the spirit of your home place on earth? Offer gratitude for the place you live.

The wisdom of shamanism holds keys to our joy, being in nourishing relationship, and ultimately our survival. Wishing you a peaceful heart and a healthy body.


[i] Ewert, A., & Chang, Y. (2018). Levels of Nature and Stress Response. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland), 8(5), 49. https://doi.org/10.3390/bs8050049

[ii] Ranganathan V.K., Siemionow V., Liu J.Z., Sahgal, V., Yue GH. (2004). From mental power to muscle power—gaining strength by using the mind. Neuropsychologia. Volume 42, Issue 7, 2004, Pages 944-956 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2003.11.018

[iii] https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/the-origins-of-inspire

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