What is the SAGE Shamanic Breathwork Journey?
(S)elf Inquiry through (A)ltered States of Consciousness & (G)uided (E)volution
The SAGE Shamanic Breathwork Journey is a synthesis of healing modalities that addresses the 4 states of consciousness through the vehicles of the….
Body – with mindful movements and the yogic chakra system (Unconscious Mind)
Emotions – with sound healing as a portal to the heart (Subconscious Mind)
Mind – with Buddhist inquiry (Conscious Mind)
Spirit – with shamanic journeying, ceremony, inner guidance and receiving messages from Spirit and the Higher Self. (Superconscious State)
The intention is to create a complete pathway towards healing the body, mind and heart while reigniting and reclaiming your spiritual connection. And in doing so, you will infuse meaning and purpose into your past, present and future experiences through a renewed sense of trust in your internal and life guidance system.
The modern wellness paradigm is one that is fractured. It is heavily influenced by conventional medicine’s reductionist doctrine of breaking down all the visible parts to analyse the cause. Placing one’s autoimmune disease under the microscope and viewing it as a series of chemical processes without taking an overview of the patient’s mental, emotional and spiritual history diminishes their sense of agency and humanity.
Even traditional psychotherapy has its limitations.The same reductionist perspective paradigm of associating all current life issues to an earlier childhood trauma traps your viewpoint on life strictly in the framework of cause and effect. Without negating the initial benefits of traditional talk therapy, it is only a jumping off point. To stay there traps one’s psyche in constantly trying to rationally analyse their way through life.
It was Einstein who said, “no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” He saw the limits of conventional physics, which motivated him to constantly search for the explanations of the seemingly random unexplainable phenomena of the universe. Through his quest, he acknowledged that even his theories were only a jumping off point to something greater than what he could ever propose.
The ancient yogis, Buddhists and shamans had their own systems for bringing what is ignorant or the unknown (avidya) into the known (vidya). They all understood there was also that which was Unknowable (ajñeya), forever mysterious and inarticulable. Throughout these ancient traditions, all conscious doing eventually led to a surrender to the sublime Unknowable. In modern language, we can say it’s a unified experience of the left and the right brain. The left brain creates meaning through analysis and frameworks, while the right brain pulls you into an abstract and sensory participation with life. The dance between the Disciplined Doer who strives for linear progress and the Mystical Muse who thrives from living between the lines is an age-old quest towards living in balance.
When you are engaging deeply in developing your awareness and evolving your consciousness, it is nearly impossible to bring your total awareness to every moment. Just as when you were to deliver a slide presentation for work, the conscious part of your brain is aware of the content you must get through. However, you are not aware of your gestures, facial expressions or even the kind of demeanour you’re projecting to the room. This is the unconscious shadow or blindspot that everyone has. For some reason, 70% of the office thinks that you have a standoffish attitude. You don’t see that, or even understand it because it is part of your shadow and is transmitted through the body’s energy and body’s language. Though you can never fully know someone’s story just by looking at them, it is undeniable that human beings are hardwired with emotional sensors and an innate ability to scan the environment for potential obstacles through the unspoken.
The yogic chakra system through bioenergetic movements, Buddhist self-inquiry, shamanic journeying techniques and sound healing principles all address each of the 4 states of consciousness (the unconscious, the subconscious, the conscious and the superconscious) in their own unique way. The synthesis of all of these modalities creates a more well rounded experience that can address the ever growing complexity of the modern neurotic human.
4 Levels of Consciousness
The model of consciousness is the metaphor of an iceberg as presented by Freud, offers a visual understanding of how humans operate. At the surface of the ocean, we see the tip of the iceberg, that represents your waking state, the conscious mind that is aware of the material world. This part of the mind takes in the world through the 5 sense organs or jnanendriyas (eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin) plus the 5 organs of action or karmendriyas (hands, feet, genitals organs of elimination and the voice). It is concerned with experiencing the 5 elements around us (earth, water, fire, air and ether). This is the part of your awareness that sees things at face value. It is where conventional science lives, in constant pursuit of trying to understand the visible world and its parts. However, just as scientists have discovered dark matter (which is invisible) makes up more than 80% of the universe, the consciousness iceberg mirrors this.
The conscious mind makes up 5%-10% of our consciousness. Below the iceberg, exists a much larger body of ice, more so than the surface, which we call the subconscious mind, which consists of 50-60% of your consciousness, and the remaining 30-40% is the unconscious mind which is depicted by the vast ocean floor beneath the iceberg.
The subconscious is the realm of dreams. It’s a subtle realm where previous experiences in the way of thoughts and emotions have created an impression that is codified into a belief. Through repetition of similar experiences, these beliefs became operating systems that rule one’s patterns and proclivities, what they like and dislike. Memories are easily retrieved from the repository of subconscious imprints. When someone says, “no thanks, I don’t do roller coasters,” they’re drawing from previous experiences of how it made them feel, dizzy, nauseous and terrified. Their conscious mind gets to decide if they want to try the rollercoaster a second time to conquer their fear, however, if the subconscious imprint is too strong, it will most likely be a, “no thanks, I’ll pass.”
Most of your life is driven by negative and positive subconscious imprints. It was Carl Jung who said, “until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life, and you will call it fate.” The entire point of any personal and spiritual development is to bring to light what is driving our behaviours versus being driven by the behaviour subconsciously. The example of refusing to go on a roller coaster may seem trivial, however that previous negative experience planted a memory of more than nausea. It planted a seed of fear.
In yogic and Buddhist philosophy, these imprints are called vasanas, which are the previous influences that directly impact current behaviour. Other negative experiences in life then start to compound this seed of fear, and before you know it, what started as nausea from a roller coaster ride a long time ago becomes a “no thanks” to the many adventures that life has to offer you. Imagine living life saying no to new opportunities or new experiences because it makes you too uncomfortable.
When these subconscious imprints grow sizable enough like the roots of a tree that grows downwards, these imprints will exponentially feed the ocean under the iceberg – the unconscious mind. In yogic and Buddhist philosophy, this is known as samskara. Samskaras are vasanas that have become so ingrained that they have merged with your personality. Samskaras generate more karma by pushing you deeper into ignorance (avidya) and create more mental clutter that keeps you from remembering your pure essence. Addictions may even form as a way to cover up the samskara in a misguided attempt to feel more whole.
The unconscious mind is a bit more difficult to access. In this iceberg metaphor, it is represented by the ocean. The essence of the behaviour has already seeped into all of the oceans’ parts. Just like it’s nearly impossible to sift out pollutants that have made their way into our oceans, the parts of your memory that draw a blank, yet still cause you grief today are the invisible forces of your unconscious mind. While the subconscious mind acts as a gatekeeper to your conscious mind, every part of you that is deemed as unpresentable is shoved into the darkness.
Through the SAGE Shamanic Breathwork Journey, the aim is to increase your awareness, which is the equivalent to the sun’s brightness at the surface, so that you become more conscious of what lies underneath. Like a scuba diver who has great visibility in a sunny coral reef versus diving during overcast weather and unsure of what you’re even seeing. When your awareness and capacity to hold your attention on the subconscious/unconscious expands your metaphorical light expands. You’re able to use your light to embrace the shadows under the surface.
This is the union that the ancients might have called the superconscious state of awareness. The 4th state is a transcendent state that abides in the wholeness of the conscious, subconscious and unconscious. It is the merging of all the realms of consciousness. Deep wisdom arises from this state. The polarities of likes/dislikes, attachment/aversion, good/bad fall away here. This is the state of sublime bliss, ecstatic joy, the Peaceful Silence because your awareness has become so illumined that the boundaries that separate the 3 levels of consciousness melt away. The yogis and Buddhists called this Turiya – the True Self, the most fundamental and indestructible part of each being that is eternally connected to Divine Oneness.
The Yogic Chakra System
There are 8 limbs of yoga: yama (moral restraints), niyamas (positive habits & practices), asana (cultivating life force energy through a series of body postures), pranayama (cultivating prana through breath), pratyahara (honing the senses inwards), dharana (developing concentration), Dhyana (becoming absorbed in a meditative state) & Samadhi (merging with Divine Oneness in a state of Bliss/Enlightenment).
Yoga primarily in the western world has been diluted into a series of athletic poses that create physical strength and mental/emotional clarity. The depths of yogic studies enables you to discover what makes you tick, essentially who you authentically are.
Carefully sequenced physical postures done with concentrated breathing will most certainly generate more vitality and an overall sense of well-being. This is because the yogis understood that the body stores the density of the vasanas and samskaras in the bones, organs, muscles and tissue, in the form of physical tightness or disease.
The yogis also knew that certain physical ailments carried a corresponding emotional frequency that would emanate from the corresponding energy centre, called a chakra. For example, 3 different people who have pelvic floor issues, urinary tract infections and colon cancer respectively, will have a blockage in the root chakra. The corresponding mental emotional theme associated with all three of these people would have to deal with not feeling safe and not feeling like they belong. The specifics of what that looks like in each person may slightly vary as they are different manifestations of physical ailments. For example, not feeling safe to express one’s true self versus not feeling physically safe in one’s body are variations of the broader category of not feeling safe.
The yogic system offers a vast compendium of exercises involving breath and body to alleviate this kind of suffering. The limitation of the yogic system is how you might come to a conscious point of realisation. Traditionally, yogic practices were taught separately from yogic philosophy and the practitioner is left to put the pieces together. If your teacher instructs you to do a whole series of balancing the root chakra, you might practise it bio-mechanically. You technically do the movements properly with the correct breath, but yet for some reason, you are still feeling “unsafe” on some level.
This happens because when you are addressing the body with a therapeutic sequence, you are telling the conscious mind to do something healthy and beneficial for the unconscious story that is manifesting itself through your physical body.
What is missing is addressing the psyche through the subconscious mind. Remember the subconscious mind is the gatekeeper between the conscious and the unconscious.When the proper cues that stimulate the psyche are offered during your practice sequence, you can easily access memories and even dreams to give meaning to the sensations that might arise.
This is where Buddhist inquiry comes in to support the gap. Inquiry according to the Oxford dictionary is “the act of asking for information.” We often associate the act of making an inquiry between at least two parties. In Buddhism, the art of self-inquiry is an inwardly directed question that is open ended. These questions are reflective and provoke your psyche to find a new pathway into understanding a deeper aspect of yourself.
An example of a closed ended inquiry would be, “Will I stop my emotional eating this year?” The answer elicited would be a yes or a no.
Whereas, an open ended inquiry could be phrased as a question or a prompt that evokes wonderment like, “Why am I still continuing emotional eating behaviour?” or “What I need to understand more fully about my emotional eating is …”
An open ended question stokes wonder, which in turn activates the creativity of the 6th chakra of the brow. Wonder is actually a complex human emotion that is a mix of surprise, contemplation and joy.
One of the keys to wonder is curiosity. When you are curious as to why you are behaving a certain way, or curious as to why someone else might be disagreeing with you, you are asking yourself to suspend judgement of yourself and of the other person. Then a bridge of empathy is formed, and your mind starts to explore new pathways of understanding. Without curiosity and wonder, you live on auto-pilot, never questioning ‘WHY’, and your consciousness plateaus.
The Four Noble Truths
All of the Buddha’s teachings can be summarised by one goal – the elimination of all suffering for all beings in all dimensions by developing karuna (compassion) and panna (wisdom); essentially a unity between the intellectual and the emotional.
The Four Noble Truths being at the core of the Buddhist teachings offer a method to do so.
- Dukkha – Life is Suffering. Often, this doctrine is misunderstood as a pessimistic world view. What is meant by life is suffering is an objective truth that to live, means to also experience suffering, whether great or small – and this is a quality that all humans can understand about each other.
- Samudaya – The cause of suffering comes from craving, desire and attachment. Essentially, all of humankind’s stress comes from getting too attached in the way that they grasp for things, habits, outcomes, at other people, land, power, etc.
- Nirodha – Suffering can cease when there is a letting go.
- Marga – The 8 Fold Path is a system that helps you to relinquish suffering.
- Samma Ditthi – (Right Understanding) – There are two types of understanding. There is the understanding of knowledge as information that has been gathered like byte sized data and stored in the intellect as memory. In other words, ‘book smart,’ known as anubodha, or knowing things accordingly. Then there is pativedha, knowing something at its deepest level by penetrating through all the judgments and labels. To know the true nature of anything requires breaking up with old belief systems, old judgments and negative behaviours to elevate consciousness.
- Samma Sankappa – (Right Thought) – In modern law, if you have a violent thought about someone, but don’t act on it, it is acceptable. However, in Buddhism, to carry even the seed of the thought shows that there is intent. Right thought is parallel to the yogic observance of ahimsa (non-violence). To think loving thoughts and want the best for those around us instead of thinking jealous or thoughts of ill-will against others. When your thoughts are non-violent, loving and in service to others, you become less self-absorbed and embody living wisdom.
- Samma Vaca (Right Speech) – This is a parallel to the yogic observance of satya (truthfulness). Words carry power, and we manifest our life from the words that we choose to speak. Do you speak in truthful ways? Are you aware of how you speak? Do you gossip incessantly? Do you speak only to fill the void of being uncomfortable in silence? Do you use abusive and hurtful language? The practice of intentional speaking is also about abiding in intentional silence when you have nothing meaningful to say.
- Samma Kammanta (Right Action) – The proverb of ‘how you do anything is how you do everything,’ can be applied here. So, just as what you speak will create an impact, how you act will follow suit. Are your actions creating harmony around you? Are your actions dishonest? Are your actions benefiting yourself selflessly, or is there reciprocity in them? Are your actions joyful and peaceful? Are your actions respectful to others?
- Samma Ajiva (Right Livelihood) – This is an extension of right action through your profession. Is your profession creating more harmony or disharmony in your communities? For example, big corporations that make profits off of selling malnourishing foods pumped with high processed sugars, oil companies that destroy the environment and gangs who trade black market weapons, would be examples of professions that would go against right livelihood. On a deeper level, it is also about staying very aware. Even if you work for a legitimate organisation, yet you see that they are getting money from a big corporation that pollutes the oceans, and you don’t speak up, you become part of the problem.
- Samma Vayama (Right Effort) – Just as it takes a lot of effort to melt gold – 1064 celsius to be exact, this principle is about you staying the path, and not giving up. In order to keep negative thoughts and emotions at bay and to be able to even observe all the previous precepts above – you need consistent practice. You commit to eating nutritiously because it fuels your body and mind. You commit to doing your yoga practice and breathwork practices to clean your mental, emotional and energy bodies. Without the heat of effort, you cannot transform your consciousness, and will thus revert to the suffering.
- Samma Sati (Right Mindfulness) – This practice is about expanding your ability to sense into all parts of you. Some people are only utilising their rational thinking, and forgetting about their body to the point they have numbed themselves to feeling anything at all. Becoming mindful of all sensations of the body, mind, emotions, thoughts, new ideas and concepts whether they are positive, negative or neutral is a prerequisite of mindfulness. Mindfulness is a process that involves your whole self, not just your brain.
- Samma Samadhi (Right Concentration) – There are 4 stages that lead you to samadhi or enlightenment. The first stage begins with a detachment of any negative thoughts, followed by the second stage where all intellectual activities are temporarily at a standstill to allow for a constant absorption in the feelings of peace, joy and happiness. The third stage, the joy felt through the mind and body starts to dissipate as you continue to abide in a state of happiness in neutral equanimity. Finally, in the fourth stage, all sensations that are mad, sad or glad dissipate and only equanimity and pure awareness sustain. You can equate these four stages of concentration leading towards enlightenment with the turbulent surface of a lake becoming more still.
The beloved and late Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh said that “letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.” This does not mean don’t have goals, or feel bad if you have a car, a house and other material possessions. It simply means that if you move through life without reflecting on why things are the way they are, you have merely accepted life happening to you.
When life happens to you, you are a victim of circumstance or the intergenerational expectations and stories that you never questioned. When you awake from this, you realise that you are actually dancing with life. You are in a sacred co-partnership with life.
This is really the power of an open ended question. It can lead you not only on a road of self-discovery, but towards eventual self-empowerment and enlightenment.