Voices from the Faculty
Rooms and Roles in Shamanism
A conversation with David Vust,
faculty member FSSE (Part 2 / 2)
In many places of Europe, seminars have a long tradition as the history of FSSE goes back more than 30 years. David, you yourself currently offer seminars at five different locations in Germany. You also grew up in Switzerland, but live near Potsdam, near Berlin. Do you feel differences in working with the spirits when you work at different locations?
Basically yes. Shamanic practitioners are at home in different worlds – in the ordinary as well as the non-ordinary world. So one could also see Switzerland, East Germany and Bavaria as different “worlds”. There are different qualities. However, I would define these less geographically, but more in terms of landscape. For example, I don´t experience such a big difference between working in Munich or in Berlin. It is rather depending on whether I´m in a city, in a forest or in the mountains. The power of the mountains is naturally rougher and more immediate.
The seminar room also plays a major role. Every room brings its own quality, almost independent of where it is located. That is why I try – and this is not always easy – to find rooms for my work where one feels comfortable and protected. Especially in the first seminars this seems important to me, so that the participants can get involved with shamanism. Therefore they should feel comfortable and safe. Of course the seminar leader contributes to this, but also the room and the atmosphere. And of course this can also be related to the surrounding forces.
You also create such protected rooms in your everyday life. You are active as a consultant and therapist. To what extent does your shamanic practice help you and how can you use it?
Here we have to differentiate a little. When I am working as a supervisor or alternative practitioner for psychotherapy, I of course do not use any shamanic techniques, for the simple reason that as shamanic practitioners we only work with one assignment. And I do not have a shamanic assignment from these people who come to me, but rather a consulting and therapeutic one. If I work as an alternative practitioner for psychotherapy with conventional methods and notice that shamanism would be helpful and the person is open for it, then I can offer this to get a shamanic assignment. But in my main profession as a supervisor I do not use such methods at all.
I would generally beware of practicing shamanism everywhere without reflection. That would not be in the sense of shamanic ethics. We are in different roles. Sometimes I am a shamanic practitioner, sometimes I am a supervisor. And in these different roles I take on different functions and assignments which I do not mix up.
Nevertheless, shamanic practice does help me, for example to have self-confidence in the process and in my intuition. The experiences in shamanic work lead me to pay more and more attention to my intuition and pay attention to these impressions. Even if they seem strange to me at first, they often prove to be accurate. In the past I might not have dared to do that.
The new workshop “shamanism for inspired local and global change” deals with collective concerns and their treatment in the ordinary reality, supported by divination. Working on a collective issue often involves many people who do not give us an explicit shamanic mandate. How do you deal with this?
If there is no concrete assignment, we have to look closely at the situation. If I am asked by a local council as an advisor or moderator for a collective cause, the people have a different assignment for me. They do not ask for a spiritual dimension. I can still prepare myself shamanically. Then I have a concern of my own, namely what I can do for myself to fulfill this task in the best possible way. In the same way I can do a shamanic journey to prepare for a difficult appointment or a creative process.
So here too, it depends on the role in which I work. If my shamanic services are not in demand, I would stay with the so-called intuition and with my own preparation. Otherwise there is the danger of planting the people on something that they don´t want.
In the seminar mentioned above, for me it was crucial to start with myself. How do I appear as a person? Why do I look like this? I reflect on how I have acted so far and why this has not always led to success. And this is mostly based on my person and my actions. If I had approached the local council differently, for example, I might have generated less resistance. For me this is shamanic work in the run-up to the event.
With your work you help people in crisis situations. Also the compassionate spirits help us in need to relieve suffering and pain. What do you think about the aspect of being in “need”?
Through need or suffering, compassionate spirits become aware of us. When the shamanic practitioner takes suffering upon himself, he awakens the attention of the spirits. Another aspect that can easily be misunderstood is the receptiveness of people in need. A bereavement, for example, is deeply painful and at the same time a blessed time, when people return to the essentials. One notices in these times, what is crucial in life. These are moments that can point the way forward, moments in which it is worthwhile to think, work on yourself, reflect back and make decisions for your future life.
When the crisis is over and we are well again, we usually fall asleep again, like in paradise. We all know this, this comforting trance in which we don´t think about anything. That is why crises are also moments when we wake up again and think about the essential things in life. An ambivalence of suffering and joy, of pain and beauty. Moments of distress can provide very beautiful and deep moments of encounter and work. That is why I find them quite difficult, but also special and blessed.
In the first part of the interview, David Vust shared moving experiences from his first basic seminar. He reported about how shamanism and everyday life belong together and why it is not only about the well-being of the practitioners.
David Vust is a supervisor, healing psychotherapist, and faculty member of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies Europe.