Teachings and How We Learn
The western education process is very literal and linear. Human nature often tends to limit teachings to only fit narrow boxes of litany. When these two considerations are applied to teaching Taoism or Shamanism, two systems that are neither linear nor literal and rather are experiential, the majority of these systems teachings then get lost to the student. Western students often fail to come to an understanding of Taoism / Shamanism. In fact many times people will limit how they hold the teachings down to a single thread of the larger picture and practice.
Julie and I have to deal with these common questions:
- “What is real Taoist history?”
- “What is the core of Shamanism?”
So many histories and teachings of Taoism, so many variations of Shamanism. I have lost count actually.
In teaching Taoism / Shamanism we first explain that history is like any other story. History isn’t about truth, it’s about what you learn from the story to become greater and to live more gracefully (by not making the same mistakes over and over again). History is a form of social genetics which can give us a baseline to work from in society.
After I explain this, I then give students an exercise. Write a paper on Taoist history or Shamanism and then write down as many different colorful variations of the teachings that capture their attention. This exercise teaches the lesson to respect and learn from everyone’s history since you will uncover so many variations of Taoism and Shamanism. Learn from all the stories. Always let how you hold history help you move forward with more ideas to test out rather than holding only one truth.
This opens up a student’s eyes to see the many variations of stories people pass for Taoism or Shamanism. At this point Julie and I spend time filling in gaps missed, since Taoist and Shamanic history has many stories to tell.
Don’t reconcile all the variations of Taoist and Shamanic teachings down to a single truth. Allow for the contradictions to exist and use even the contradictions you find to help explore life more deeply.
Then we begin the real teachings:
What aspect of learning connects to your heart?
What is it that you need to compliment your life to move more gracefully?
The fact is much of Taoist or Shamanic teachings are focused within opening awareness, releasing preconceived forms, expanding your options and then live a fuller life.
It’s acceptable to have several histories, multiple practices and countless teachings in your pocket to explore from. Generally speaking history is more for lessons than for truth… Don’t ignore your history, stories and lineages yet also don’t let them limit you either. Learning is always a path to climb and explore.
When approaching Taoism or Shamanism from a lineage aspect then hold true to respecting your ancestors as teachers. But again don’t let any teacher past or present blind you to modern realities either… to focus too much on the past is to blind one to their future.
Practice vs History
People often try another angle to explain Taoism / Shamanism. People try to limit the teachings to the practices rather than history…
Practices are not Taoism. However, Taoists have a huge selection of practices to choose from in life. Many practices which might not have started as Taoist have over time gotten associated with Taoism. So it’s hard to sort out what can be considered primarily a Taoist practice at times…
Likewise, in Shamanism there exist many variations of practice geared to helping a person connect to spirit.
- Generally speaking most Taoist practices are geared at helping a person live a more graceful/compassionate/full life.
- Generally speaking most Shamanic practices are geared at helping a person explore their spiritual nature.
From my perspective: Taoism historically is a subset of Shamanism that grew into its own religion and philosophy. As a result each is quite vast, each has its own separate areas of concentration. Yet each are still very much connected. Even though I happen to be a Taoist, whenever I go to share in a shamanic ritual it is very deeply familiar and connected to me as a Taoist. Whenever Julie explores her shamanic teaching she resonates with my own Taoist practice very clearly.
Taoism and Shamanism are connected and separate at the same time.
The teachings Julie and I offer include: Qi Gong, shamanic practices, dance, healing practices, relationship practices, meditation, awareness, business management, how to read potential in various forms. However, we do also use modern practices as much as an ancient ones to assist in a person’s education since:
- To be a Taoist or a Shaman today: Is still to live in our times now…
Mix and match your teachings to flow with the spirit of your life…
Smile when anyone tries to define a perfect history or a complete practice for you. Discover what you are researching is also expanding your awareness of what is around you. This will allow you to discover many variations of answers that will be useful for you.
History and practice will always shift to match your nature, to match your nature the other way around is to limit oneself down to missing most of what actually is happening in life.