A funny thing happened on our way to becoming civilized – we became barbarians with nice hair.
It goes without saying that the human race has made amazing strides, particularly with technological advances. But have we really made much headway culturally?
In my shamanic training I was introduced to the concept of Indigenous Mind, the ancient worldview universally held by native people. This perspective values the importance of being in relationship with the world around you – e.g., the natural world, the members of your community. People holding this worldview consider how their actions may impact future generations and the world around them.
Indigenous Mind was supplanted by the more “civilized” perspective referred to as Colonial Mind, the predominant worldview in existence today. Colonial Mind is a worldview that values dominion over others and the environment, amassing wealth through acquisition of land and resources, and esteems the lives of humans (primarily the ones with white skin) over all other species.
Since we can’t go back to pre-colonial times, it seems worth bringing these opposing perspectives to the surface for consideration. Particularly since the worldviews we hold are so insidious, so deeply unconscious – they’re simply not something we think about as we move through our day-to-day lives.
The Mother of us All
We refer to the Earth as the archetypal “mother” – the giver of life, the one who nourishes and sustains us. So, it’s not a stretch to suggest that Colonial Mind is akin to having cultural “mom issues.” It also wouldn’t be too far-fetched to suggest that being estranged from the earth could leave one with a deep-seated feeling of loss and a longing for connection.
I believe this disconnect is serving as an unconscious force that’s inspiring more and more westerners to pursue the practice of shamanism in order to reconnect with the natural world. As Hank Wesselman points out in his excellent new book The Re-Enchantment: A Shamanic Path to a Life of Wonder, having a personal shamanic practice allows you to directly interact and develop relationships with what indigenous people refer to as nature spirits. And these experiences change you. For example, once you’ve had a conversation with the spirit of the tree who lives in your yard you think twice about cutting your tree friend down because it’s blocking your view.
Even though we can’t go back in time we can still try to embody the ancient wisdom of Indigenous Mind – and step into a mature, respectful relationship with our mother, the Earth. I have to yet to see when connecting with nature causes harm. In fact, it’s very good medicine.
In watching the chaos unfold in the world right now, my hope is that we’re witnessing the death throes of Colonial Mind as this worldview flares up in a final dramatic attempt to cling to life. Kinda like this: