I just read a description of two “shamanic apprenticeships” offered by different people who claim to train a person as a “full mesa carrier” in about 15 days. Both specifically mentioned that the training required a commitment of 15 days. The leaders state that these “apprentices” are then qualified as shamans. I was stunned by the temerity of such a claim.
In the Q’ero culture (the Q’ero consider themselves to be descendants of the Incans), an individual establishes a mesa through years of training under a recognized elder, often living with the teacher, working side by side. The mesa carrier has undergone various initiations and learned to work as a healer and ceremonial leader. Often, the apprentice interacts with powerful aspects of nature. I doubt the Q’ero would accept a 15-day apprenticeship for their healers or their spiritual leaders.
What arrogance to think that a healing system that developed as part of an entire theological cosmology, one based on thousands of years of culture and history, can be understood in a few weekends.
Even when there is no language barrier, a person from one culture cannot easily grasp the subtle beliefs and intangible concepts of an indigenous culture, especially when that society is based on cosmology, beliefs and traditions that have been unbroken for thousands of years. How can any individual compare a few scattered weekends to a lifetime of living and studying within that shamanic spiritual system?
Worse, the teachers advertised that an individual would establish right relationship with the world in a weekend. You read that correctly. A weekend? Buddha spent 24 hours a day meditating for 15 years to understand right relationship. Gandhi taught that right relationship was based on spiritual transformation and awareness and that such a change occurred through living a good life, that is, a lifetime of work and striving, not by attending a few weekend intensives.
A shaman functions through a network of intimate relationships. As with any association, developing a bond takes lots of time, honest communication and energetic contacts. Saying that someone carries a “full mesa” implies scores of complex established and healthy relationships. Shamanism is learned through experience, through observation of the world and through interaction — interaction with elders, with spirits, with the cosmos, and with the Divine and Ancient Ones. Believe me, a shaman is not trained in 15 days, and sometimes not even in 15 years.
As the concepts of shamanism have become more accepted in mainstream Western culture, it is natural that people want to connect to the world in a shamanic manner. But teachers should not fool their students into thinking that 15 days or a few years of workshops will turn that person into a shaman.