Rhino vision:

Then, in the Spirit of beginning and opening ourselves to the shamanic teachings to be presented, Bhola asked us to drum and rattle, sing, move, dance and call in our personal Guides, Deities and ancestral Animal Spirits. Bhola himself had donned his red and white bandana and his Peacock feather headdress, his bells and malas and now began to drum and to chant in a very beautiful voice.
We all followed suit, everyone in their own way.

It was quit5e a dis-tonal symphony.

No sooner had I notice the high falsetto voice of one of the participants, that this very sound changed into muddy foot prints…. belonging to a small Jungle Cat with black, grey and dark brown fur……
Where is Lira? Oh! There, up on that large Sal tree! The rest of “the gang assembled beneath it, but somehow stayed in the background.
I felt a little confused.
Why were they not coming over to me and why was I rooted to the very ground?
A HUUUUUUUUUUUUUGE shadow rose over me. It started to shimmer sun coloured, then turned to grey.

A Huuuuuuuuuuge Rhino materialized right before me, in the space between my Miahanits and me.It chewed his cut and started to “transmit” concern and “being in charge”
I lowered my Rattle and bowed down before this formidable Spirit of the Land.
With much decisiveness and authority it transmitted:
“Here Rhinos teachers about how to deal with anger and aggression, – and short-sightedness!
Rhinos in the wild are sensing the aggressions of other Beings, especially other Rhinos and that is, how these Animals keep their distance and their personal space in the wild of the jungle, where visibility is limited. So ifffff there is a person, who is passive aggressive and nasty, Rhinos can sense that and they will “stay away” and not show themselves = not be seen by that Being……!!
“Short sighted Beings are Beings, that do not have the full picture, but charge and lash out anyway”
Short sighted Beings that just charge out, may not be able to see the full impact of their behaviour……”As if to illustrate this point, a small belligerently grumbling gnome materialized… and promptly changed into a small Rhino……..
“Beings like Rhino may not even think, they did anything wrong” They are just covering up fear and insecurity with preventative acts of…….. They need to………
….. Peter, who was next to me, touched me…. I started to shake violently, the vision disintegrating…….. Somehow I was still rattling and…. nobody else was…….They were all done and Bhola looked at me and then started talking …. something about….?? No idea…..
I tried to get the shaking under control and concentrated on breathing slow and even.
I find it hard, when an important journey is ripped apart like that, but I am in Bhola’s circle and there is much to learn……
OK!
Get it together, Mi-Shell!!

I opted for writing down, what I had seen, because is was VERY relevant and helpful !

teachings

Let there be teachers!

We arrive in the roof top meditation room of the Varja Hotel.
There Bhola had created a BEAUTIFUL ritual room with a central altar, a place, where he as our teacher had his personal altar with drums and his shaman outfit and an personal altar space for each of us in a wide circle around the centre.
This is, where we will learn and do work for the next few days.

Our ritual circle

Late in the evening, I went up with my rattle to the roof top garden outside the ritual room and sang and prayed. I called my Miahanits – (also sometimes referred to as “the gang” of Animal Guides), my Ancestor Guardians and the Spirits of Place, of here, of Nepal, of the Varya and the mighty Swayambhunat stupa right across from us on the next hill, shimmering in the soft light. I prayed, to be accepted by the Spirits of this land, as a guest and a seeker, that brings only admiration and respect. I humbly requested, that my Miahanits and my Ancestor Guardians be permitted to come here, to come through and to help me learn. I humbly asked for one of the Spirits of this land to come forth as my guide and teacher…….
I prayed, I rattled and I chanted…..

vajra2

Next morning he first subject of Bhola’s teaching circle is to learn about Dashain, the festival that is right now being celebrated all throughout Nepal.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dashain

Today is the day, where everyone returns home to receive a tika and a Blessing from the parents and family elders.
We light the oil lamps of our altars, then all receive a Blessing from Bhola, a tika out of red coloured yoghurt and Barley grain and we each get a few Barley seedlings for our personal Altar.
Then Bhola reads sacred text from the Vedas.
The book he reads from is from his grandfather, who also was a shaman…..
It all was VERY beautiful. Continue reading

My Nepali Drum:

In our ritual room we discovered, that Bhola had drums for us to choose from 🙂

Nepali shaman's drum

Nepali double sided shaman’s drums. There were several, but not for long….. 2 smaller ones were taken immediately. I held out my left all feeling hand and – there was one that had A LOT of Power.  No, Bhola said, that is my spare drum….

No wonder!

There was another one, that stood out, because it was all black and had a lower tone than toe 2 or 3 others. Actually that means, that the skin is just a little more loose…. In this weather – it had been raining buckets since the last 2 days; the Monsoon just not letting up this year…

but back to the drum: I will take this drum back to Canada, where we have to heat our homes for more than 7 month out of the year and although the humidity in summer sometimes is quite stifling, let’s face it, there is AC….. A very tight drum might not make it in a very dry environment….This one however felt just right and the wood the frame is constructed of was smooth and flawless. The carvings on each side of its phurba show 3 fierce Spirit faces as well as Spirit eyes and  tridents, the symbol for life, death and re-birth and spirals – Spiral of life…

Around the phurba each drum had red and white ribbons – for male and female energy

Each drum came with a beater, bend in a snake-like shape and was adorned with  a red cotton thread – for life.

Each drum also came with a modern bright blue goretex carrying case fit for the air plane home 🙂

Next Bhola talked  about the drums and here are his words:drums 2

Nepalese shaman’s drums (dhyangro) are double headed, and covered by animal hide the drums are made of special wood. The animal hide used nowadays is either mountain goat, deer or a domesticated goat or sheep. They also have a handle in the shape of a ritual dagger (often known in the West by it’s Tibetan name phurba) which has three sides to its blade, which in its three dimensional way represents all the cosmos.

On one side of this triangular bladed handle there is the beak of the regal Eagle, or perhaps an Owl or a Horse or a Thunderbolt or an Elephant. This is the male side of the drum, so when we hold the drum in front of our face, this male side should be facing outside.

The spirits hardly make any difference between a male and a female shaman, as the drum is the universal instrument used by both the sexes it makes no difference.

Some shamans respect the male and female sides of the drum, but some shamans don’t, it depends upon the instructions they have received from their teachers and the spirits. If the shaman works with the male and female sides of the drum differently, the male side is used in the beginning of a shaman’s ceremony to call in the spirits. The female side is used towards the end of the ceremony or ritual to send away the helping spirits.

The shaman starts to drum with a 1/4 beat [O O O O O O], during which they will observe their whole body to look for tensions, performing deep breathing in order to relax, They will then invite their spirits and ancestors in to help them, and make their intentions for the ceremony or healing clear. Suddenly the shaman’s drumming will change rhythm to a 4/4 beat [O o o o O o o o O o o o], during which the shaman starts feeling sensations of heat and cold in their body as the spirits come closer and start inspiring them.

When the body of the shaman starts to move and shake, or they start to dance, the rhythm of the drumming becomes very random.

Towards the end of the session the female side of the drum is used, and then the rhythm becomes a 3/4 beat [O o o O o o O o o]. During this time the shaman starts calming and slowing down, and eventually the beat changes to a 2/4 [O o O o O o O o] and eventually a 1/4 [O O O O O O O] before it comes to a stop.

As a welcome gift I presented my drum with a Peacock feather.

This is however only the first part of  what happened.

Stay tuned 😉

In Flight

over Uzbekistan

Desert below

Ripples of ridges, beige, brown, endless…

like an ancient lake bed.

The death bed of an ocean.

Mountains to the south-west!

Then again lakes, like teardrop shaped pock marks in the beige brown matrix.

Swallowed up by the vapour stream of jet exhaust

Flying into the setting sun – flying with it – hour for hour…

Delhi, Lahore, Peshawar, Samarkand, high desert

Turbulence, clouds and haze…

The plane turns, just a little…

It changes the view into a permanent rainbow!

Water vapour and jet fuel in the evening sun:)

Hills!

Then a mighty river! The Amu Darya!

Roads, then a large town: Nukus.

The mighty snaking River is being swallowed by the rainbow.

Then the plane turns again, just a tiny fraction of a degree….

Sandy brown scragggggly mountains,

ridges rippling into the distance

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ somewhat like this…..

Falling into the Caspian Sea

Blue stretches below

the plane bows down, Russian air space demands it.

From 12.500 m to 11277m

from 800km/h ground speed down to 778km/h

Grosnjy, here we come!

Mother Russia is coy!

Hiding beneath a blanket of clouds.

Up here – turbulences dipped in sunset gold!

Gold dripping into grey

then into darkness

just wing tip lights blinking

distance to London: 4000km >> distance to Delhi: 2742km

Time for dinner and a movie…….

Bhola about Bhola

And yes, here is a little about our teacher and guide, Bhola Banstola

Bhola3

in his own words:

I was born in 1966, in the mountain district of Bhojpur, to the south of Mount Everest. At a very young age I was chosen by the spirits of my ancestors to carry their messages and healing traditions.

My grandfather, who was a very skilful and well known local shaman, found out that I was going through what I would perhaps call a ‘divine embodiment’ – an intinstive communication with the spirits – and so he tried to help me. One night he performed a special ceremony to find out what was happening inside me, how the contact with the spirits was affecting me and what they wanted from me.

Having completed the ceremony, he found out the reason the spirits had chosen me, and so my grandfather started teaching me himself. If you want to be a shaman, having a human teacher as a guide is a must, as human teachers show you the best way to explore and work with the spiritual worlds; and they can teach you how to perform healing rites and rituals as well.

Finally, after I had learnt what I needed to learn I was initiated. Back then it was not easy to work as a healer, as I was a young student at the time too, but the process of honouring the spirits continued none the less. I remember my family and the local shamans used to get together during annual ancestral clan-deity festivals, held at our ancestral home.

During these ceremonies, clan relatives and members construct a sacred space at the edge of the village including a thatch-roofed spirit house with carved stone figures, representing clan deities, Mother Earth, nagas (serpent spirits) and other spirit beings. All the stone carvings use would be smeared in colourful vermillion and yellow powder (tika). All the people at the festival would make offerings of flowers, fruits, honey, water and milk.

The keeper and protector of the animals (Mahadeo), the archtypal forest shaman (Banjhankri) and the hunting spirits of the forest (Sikari) were also given special veneration during this time. Along with my grandfather and other shamans of the clan, I used to make the offerings and sometimes the spirits use to inspire me and speak through me. When the offerings to the spirits were over, everyone used to prepare special rice pudding out of milk they had collected from their homes and rice.

But as I grew up more, I found I had began to drift away from my shamanic calling, and I started to feel more and more uneasy and gloomy. Gradually I began to understand that it was because I was suppressing the natural flow of spiritual energies which my spirits were putting into me, and that was making me sick.

This made me realise that however busy I was as a student, I had to reconnect with my spirits again, and so I started practising shamanism once more. After graduating from university, I studied alternative medicines. For six years I learnt about and used herbal medicines, combining them with the shamanic practices I had learnt in order to help the needy.

When I got reconnected with the helping spirits, everything became very fluid, my clients did not only ask for herbal preparations but spiritual healings also. During this period I travelled extensively to collect rare plants and herbs and also to immerse myself deeply in shamanic practices from different teachers in Nepal, North-east India, Bhutan and parts of Sikkim and Darjeeling.

In 1997 I met Mariarosa Genitrini, my wife, in Kathmandu. I met her at the house of a shaman were she had gone to do some interviews. We got married in Kathmandu, and In 1998, I was invited to Italy, and it was then that I started travelling to the West. After this first visit to Italy, my wife and I started organising cultural and shamanic field study tours in Nepal, Tibet and India and I also teach workshops with my wife too.

But despite all the traveling, I still feel connected to the ancient ways I learned in Nepal as a child.

Bhola 2

Shamanism in Nepal

Healing

The main event in our journey to Nepal is the Nepali specific shamanic teachings given by shaman and tour guide Bhola Banstola.

Before I talk about my personal experiences and journeys during our shamanic sessions, I feel it is good to give a little information about Nepali shamans and their healing practices.

So here is a good intro about the topic:

.

Essays on the Ethnology of Nepal and South Asia,

Kathmandu 1983, A.W. Macdonald.

The tiny country of Nepal lies between India and the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China. Prithivinarayan Shah, the first king of the united Nepal once declared the country to be a “…garden for all types of people” for it is home to more than sixty different ethnic groups. The geography of Nepal is equally diverse ranging from the jungles of Terai in the South to the towering Himalayas in the North. It was not until 1950s, when Nepal’s borders were opened to the West, that foreign scholars become aware of this land’s amazing diversity and mystery.

Hinduism, Animism and Buddhism are the major religions practiced in Nepal. Regardless of their religion, however, the majority of people turn to the Dhami/Jhankri (shamans) for help. The people seek a shaman’s help for physical and emotional healings as well as relying on them to protect their animals and crops from natural calamities. The Nepali concept of health is quite different from that found in other parts of the world. A health issue is not just something that has gone wrong with an individual but can also include difficulties with their relationships with their families, communities and universe.

Nepali shamanism is based on an animistic belief that honors Mother earth and respects the spirit that resides in all living beings. This universal worldview is key in preserving the ecology of the land and in bringing harmony and creating healthy alliances with to all things visible and invisible. The role of the Dhami/Jhankri is to reestablish this harmony. Shamans are the central figures in their communities for they are not only healers but also the storytellers, dancers, singers, artists and musicians. They acquire these talents, their spiritual power and wisdom through their personal helping spirits, ancestral deities, elemental spirits and guides. They accomplish their work by voluntarily modifying their state of consciousness in order to perceive what aspects of the person, family or community require rebalancing.

In 1962, Prof. A.W. Macdonald attempted to define the Dhami/Jhankri in the following way stating that the shaman is “…a being who goes into trance and at that time voices speak through his body which allow him to diagnose illnesses and sometimes to cure them, to give advice concerningthe future and to calrify present facts in the light of the evidence which took place in the past. He is therefore, at the same time a priviledged intermediary between spirits (which give and cure sicknesses) and men; between the past, present and the future; between life and death and, in another perspective, between the individual and a certain social mythology. He can, it seems, be of any jat (caste) and he can take as pupil, in order to transmite to him his knowledge and his techniques, a person of any jat (caste)”1. In 1966, Macdonald designated the Dhami/Jhankri as the healer who, after having suffered possession by a spirit from outside of his everyday world, manages to control and regulate it. In his 1967 book, People of Nepal, Kathmandu, the Nepali anthropologist Prof. D.B. Bista defined “Jhankrism” as “Shamanism/Animism”. By 1976, publications such as Spirit Possession in the Nepal Himalayas, and testimony by renown anthropologists provided evidence that the Dhami/Jhankri played a similar role as the shaman in other cultures.

shamanThe Nepalese shamanic sources of power come from honoring Mother Earth and the spirits of the place where the shaman performs his ceremonies. The shamans must call on the guardian spirits and deities who inspire him; the keepers of the earth, snowclad mountains, trees, rivers, lakes, and medicinal plants. The sacred hidden language of the land is felt in the form of rhythms, vibrations and warm and cool sensations in the physical body. Understanding this language, the shaman has to honor the spirits of the place and ask their permission. If the place is spiritually dead or some malignant spirits have taken over, the shaman must first revive the balance or fill in the gap of what is missing by calling on the spirits of the place.

Among most Nepalese people, it is believed that the ‘soul’ never dies but transmigrates from one body to another through many cycles of death and rebirth. The culture believes that while the physical is a gift from our blood relations, the soul we have is directly inherited from our past life experiences. As we are part and parcel of all our ancestors, the ancestral deities are a strong source of power and protection for the Nepalese shaman. Bloodline ancestors from the father’s lineage and milk line ancestors from the mother’s side are equally important. Without the ancestors’ blessings and help, not only are shamanic healings difficult, but loss of equilibrium and imbalances are likely to arise in everyday lives.

While the term Dhami or Jhankri are used all over Nepal, some ethnic groups have unique terms for the shaman. Some examples include:

Tamang people: Bonpo

Gurung people: Khyapri

Kham Magar people: Ramba/Rama

Rai people: Bijuwa

Limbu people: Phedangba

Tharu people: Ojha

In research conducted by the university in the late 1970’s it was noted that for every shaman there were 70 people that the shaman cared for, where as a each medical practitioner was responsible for over 27,00 people. This meant that far more people received individualized care by a shaman than could be seen by a medically trained person. Today, thanks to the aggressive introduction of conventional care and religious conversion, far fewer people are seeking the services of shamans that in the past.

shaman

For instance, due to influences by other traditions, people in Nepal now have more choices when seeking seek spiritual help. Along with shamans, people may consult a Hindu Brahman pandit, a Buddhist lama, a Christian minister or priest, an Islamic spiritual healers(pir) or other spiritual counselor for assistance.

This “modern” transition is tragic as human beings are no longer attending to being in harmony. For most of our collective human past, people nurtured very good relationships with nature and all that is created. Our ancestors made offerings, revered their ancestors, honored Mother Earth and understood that caring for the plants and animals was a part of being and living a harmonious life. The result is that many human beings feel fractured, fragmented and disconnected from the Source.

The role shamanism can play in healing our collective “Fall from Grace,” is to help restore people to harmony, to mend the tears in the fabric of interrelationships that make and keep us vital, reintroduce individuals to their own preciousness and help people to remember the profound sacredness of nature. In many ways, it is our oldest spiritual connection that holds the biggest hope for a bright future!

festival

Kathmandu on Full Moon

We are in Kathmandu since a few days now, working with shaman Bhola Banstola and several other shamans. We also did several trance journeys to connect with the Spirits of the land and right away the mighty Rhino “came through” for me as a teacher Spirit of this magnificent place:)
I will write about it , when I get home!

Yesterday we visited the “Monkey Temple Swayambhunath, attended the chanting Bhuddust monks , made offerings of flowers and water to the Earth Goddesses, fed the Monkeys, and watched the Eagles circle overhead.
Today we visited Bhaktapur and its sacred sites.

Happy Full Moon Greetings from Kathmandu!