Preparing for Shamanic Ecstasy
By Ken Jordon
One of our most informed and informative shamanic practitioners, Alberto Villoldo is a psychologist and medical anthropologist by training. He directs The Four Winds Society, where he instructs people around the world in the practice of energy medicine. He has written numerous bestselling books, including Shaman, Healer, Sage; The Four Insights, Courageous Dreaming and Power Up Your Brain.
Ken Jordan: You talk about “shamanic ecstasy” in your writing and lectures. It sounds so alluring, but what does it mean?
Alberto Villoldo: Well, it’s not the street drug, that’s for sure. Shamanic ecstasy is a state of primeval consciousness, or awareness, that we have lost in the West because of our fragmented lifestyles, our disconnection from nature, and the poisoning of our bodies with pesticides and heavy metals. In the West, we’re not able to attain a state of communion with the power of creation at all levels. We can’t dream the world in order to be in the world. We’re unable to bring peace into our own lives, or heal the rift we have with our loved ones, our parents, our children, our spouses, even our selves.
We live in a state of incredible disconnection and fragmentation. You find this not just in our psyche, but across the board. In medicine, for example, you have doctors so specialized in particular organs and illnesses, that a gastroenterologist won’t talk to a neurologist, even though most neurological problems start in the G I tract. When we receive bad news, or a bad diagnosis, or lose a loved one, or a relationship falls apart, we turn to a specialist instead of going out into nature, where we can rediscover a state of primeval awareness that will reset our instincts, and reset our bodies to create states of health so that healing can happen.
That’s the foundation of shamanic ecstasy. It is based on a profound reconnection with the self and the creative force of the universe that we call Spirit, with each other, and with nature.
Most of us think of ecstasy as a short burst, like a moment of orgasmic pleasure. But it sounds like you think of it as a state you’re in all the time.
Yes, though it’s not as monumental as an orgasm. An orgasm is monumental because you did not have one a minute ago, then suddenly you’re happy! But when you’re in a state of equanimity and balance, when you’re able to participate creatively in life, then there is an absence of mood. There’s no feeling of bliss or joy, there’s an absence of every mood — just equanimity.
It’s kind of outrageous to think that you could experience ecstasy, the ultimate pleasure, without stopping!
Yeah, it is pretty outrageous! But we know from working with the medicine plants and psychoactive substances that we can sustain those states for hours, right?
The quality of the oneness experience that the plants provide is extraordinary — and it lasts for hours. But afterwards we return to our fragmented state, because we cannot sustain that level of ecstasy. Neurologically, our brain can’t sustain it. That’s because our brains are broken.
Are you saying that there are people who can sustain it?
Absolutely! You can sustain it too. It becomes more than just a pleasurable state – it’s a state of play. It becomes a state of artistic creation, a way of expressing yourself into your world and your life. When you operate within that state, then the cosmos begins to conspire on your behalf, and you can be a full participant dreaming the world into being. Then you can go on to the task of stewardship of the earth, of animals, and of all beings.