The first shamanic tool in your toolbox is gratitude, an attitude and an orientation designed to open the heart. Gratitude is a high-level amplitude that is designed to open portals, windows, and doorways into the spirit world.
Shamanically speaking, in everyday reality (what a shaman considers a consensus dream), Spirit is not apparent to the naked eye. In fact this ordinary world of stone, flesh, and fibre is often quite depressing because it involves frustration, pain, and frightening circumstances and events. The pleasures are more often than not offset by the stress of everyday survival and the constant mind chatter that is enough to drive even the most stable person crazy.
Yet a shaman knows that just behind the movie set that makes up the world, Spirit lies camouflaged, bursting with light and freedom, waiting to be recognized and resourced. Spirit has cleverly arranged portals in strategic places that if opened, lead directly past the everyday outer world into the power of the inner reality where all answers lie and where all problems are revealed to be the illusions that they are.
These portals are literally everywhere, but there are primary ones that are so close to us that they are practically impossible to miss. The one most accessible is the heart, which lies smack in the middle of your chest just below your chin, and it is so accessible that you can easily reach your heart with your hands. When you speak it vibrates, and when you breathe it is massaged all around. It is hard to comprehend how you would miss it, yet we do ignore it every day unless we should have the misfortune of a heart attack.
Shamans ‘see’ through their hearts. Shamanic tribes like the Maori of New Zealand believe that the physical world we experience is actually a projection coming from each individual heart. The Mayans and the Q’ero tribe in the Peruvian Andes have their own versions of this basic understanding. Their shamans know that self-importance, created by the ego, is dedicated to keeping the powerful heart portal closed off enough to prevent Spirit from shining through.
The ego accomplishes this by shutting down the heart to the point where the portal remains closed to the spirit world. The portals pop open only when a certain amplitude is reached, so keeping it below a certain level prevents opening. What keeps amplitude low are all the familiar maladies: fear, hostility, self-importance, depression, self-doubt, cynicism, and frustration. Because of these, most people’s hearts are shut down most of the time, which feels bad in the chest and cuts off the main avenue of escape from pain and suffering — an open heart.
Gratitude counters these ploys by the parasitical false personality and raises the amplitude high enough to begin the heart-opening process.
EXERCISE: FOR GRATITUDE
When you feel down in the dumps, it is difficult to spring into complete gratitude for anything, so you have to work up to feeling grateful little by little. Turn your thoughts toward something you love, something that is innocent and deserving of gratitude such as your cat, dog, or parakeet. Allow yourself to feel a little bit of gratitude for this creature in your life. Then begin extending this feeling to other beings or things to which your false personality (usually created by your ego to deal with life at large) has a hard time objecting — sunlight on a cold morning, hot chocolate, or shade in the hot sun. Now remember that the ego has no effect whatsoever on Spirit. Our false sense of self can only affect our spiritual side temporarily, so the advantage of gratitude is that it engages Spirit by coopting the personality, thus separating it from the clutches of self-importance.
The gifts of gratitude are plentiful. Here are just some of the things gratitude will do for you:
1.Gratitude reframes experiences so that what seemed like a problem or something that hardly mattered becomes a good thing instead. For example, when you are grateful for the tree in front of your house, you stop ignoring it and focus instead on its gifts and benefits to you. The world instantly becomes a better place because you are grateful.
2. When you are grateful, you connect to something outside of yourself and recognize that you depend on others or on Spirit. In other words, having gratitude instantly switches your orientation away from self-importance and self-referencing and reminds you that we are all interconnected.
3. Gratitude reinforces what is benefiting you because Spirit is always inclined to give you more of what you recognize and acknowledge. The greater your gratitude, the more you will receive that for which you are grateful.
Sandra Ingerman & Hank Wesselman