The Shamanic Pathway
A zoom talk by Derek Gane of The Healing Tree
to the Tamar, Devon and Trencrom dowsing groups
‘There are as many ways up the mountain as there are people to follow them – but there is only one mountain.’ I was told this was quote from the Buddha, but Wikipedia attributes it to either Hindu or Chinese sources. Either way, it was from someone east-the-Exe, and is often quoted by me.
Dowsing is just one method of retrieving information from beyond the five gross senses. There are many others, and some of them are distinctly parallel paths on the quest for enlightenment.
This session’s guest speaker was Derek Gane, a shaman from north Cornwall, who runs an organisation called The Healing Tree. His approach was completely different from last time’s speaker, Patrick MacManaway. Patrick has a global, even cosmic, approach to his method, whereas Derek has a deeply personal style of investigation. But these are just differences of approach, of style, perhaps more of embarkations from different places – the object of the exercise remains very much the same.
As Derek pointed out, one of the core differences in process between dowsing and a more shamanistic approach is that the dowser keeps at least one foot on home soil while asking their questions, and retains full consciousness. The shaman, on the other hand, seeks to journey over to the far bank, experience whatever it is they need, or are driven to know, and to return with their precious cargo of insight.
This journey clearly has its risks. While the dowser can certainly get out of their depth if wading into deeper water, or not being adequately protected, the shaman puts at risk their very existence by leaving their physical body behind and venturing onto another plane of existence.
Derek was quite candid about his occasional use of recreational substances back in those heady days that now seem more than a lifetime ago. But Derek-on-his-shamanic-path, is quite straightforward in warning of the dangers of using such an approach without fully understanding the nature of the activity. For youngsters like himself a trip may have alerted him to the existence of an alternative, but to do that safely, and in a way that will bring you back to your departure point, requires a great deal of training and dedicated practice.
The shaman is often accompanied, and assisted by, a member of the animal community. People often like to feel that their totem or power animal will be something exotic, such as an eagle or a bear, but it is just as likely to be a cat or a dog, a crow or even an ant! In the shamanic tradition, such spirits can shape shift into physical beings, and vice versa. Derek makes the point, and again in common with other spiritual approaches, that the guardian animal chooses you – not the other way around. During the recent zooms with Karen Stead Dexter, we were asked to keep an eye out for animals that lurked on the edge of our awareness, ones that popped up frequently, or at significant times. Protective animals, or animated spirits, seem to be ever present, if we have eyes to see them.
Another particular aspect of the shamanic pathway is the use of smudging – burning certain plants to cleanse the air, and the information it hosts. In this context, most people tend to use the symbolic plants of the North American tradition, such as white sage. However, during lockdown, Derek’s attention has been increasingly drawn to experimenting with locally available herbs and vegetation – plants of this land.
Another important aspect of the shamanic pathway is the use of drumming to increase focus and to induce trance. Derek started his presentation with a classic shamanic drum introduction, honouring the spirits of the four linear directions, those above and those below, each in their own manner. It set the scene, and it provided a non-physical enclosure to the whole process. Rhythmic drumming works both as aural sound and as a deeper internal resonance, drowning out the cacophony of everyday noise, and replacing it with the heartbeat of the planet, the rhythm of the universe.
DG runs training courses and drumming sessions at The Healing Tree – and some of those present at this talk were former members of his groups. Clearly, these activities have had to be suspended in the current climate. However, I show below details of how to get in touch with him, if you are interested. Ros had to give up djembe drumming when she broke her wrists four years ago, but interest in picking up the instrument again has been reignited by the sound of the frame drum on Sunday.
Derek shared many aspects of his personal life with us during this presentation, which put his own spiritual journey into perspective. He is not the first to find the shamanic pathway as a route out of a dark place, but he is a very good example of how an appreciation of the sheer magnificence of the world beyond the veil can enable us to see the far side of our current troubles in a more hopeful light.
Many thanks to Derek Gane for speaking to us. With over 90 participants, physically located all the way from West Cornwall to the West Midlands, it must have been strange indeed to be talking to a screen of assembled thumbnails from his very quiet and very rural home, deep in the Tamar Valley.
For further information:
The Healing Tree Centre
Derek tells me he has already received a few enquiries, so the content of his talk has touch a chord with at least some participants of the latest zoom.