Tami Simon: You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today, I speak with Dr. José Luis Stevens. José is an international lecturer, teacher, consultant, and trainer; a psychologist, licensed clinical social worker; and author of 18 books and ebooks, as well as numerous articles. He’s also on the board of the Society of Shamanic Practitioners, and is the cofounder of the Power Path School of Shamanism and the Center for Shamanic Education and Exchange. He has a doctorate in Integral Counseling from the California Institute of Integral Studies and has written a new book with Sounds True called Awaken the Inner Shaman: A Guide to the Power Path of the Heart.
In this episode of Insights at the Edge, José and I spoke about how to align with the inner shaman through surrender and how to raise our frequency in such a way that we invite the inner shaman into our [lives]. We also talked about shamanic ways of seeing, talking to the body, and actualizing our full potential. Finally, we talked about questions of trust and faith, both in the inner shaman and in the unfolding of world events. Here’s my conversation with Dr. José Luis Stevens.
José, to begin with, you work with a term in your work: “the inner shaman.” What do you mean by “the inner shaman?”
José Luis Stevens: Well, the inner shaman is the wise one within each one of us. It’s the one that’s—shamanically speaking, it’s the one that’s plugged into spirit. Some people call it other names. People call it “soul” or “essence” or “core self.” I like to call it “the inner shaman” because that has such a historical meaning.
TS: Now, interestingly, in your work—this I found quite surprising, really. You talk about how there’s a very specific part of the human body through which we can best access the inner shaman. You describe this “sinoatrial node”—the upper-right quadrant of the heart. So talk a little bit about that. I’ve never heard anyone offer a geographic location through which it’s best to access this wise self or inner shaman.
JLS: Well, first of all, I don’t want to say that our access is restricted to that little node. There’s many ways that we can access the inner shaman. But if we want a physical place to really zero in on and focus, that’s the most accurate place.
The sinoatrial node is a little portal. Now, shamans like to talk about portals. They say that a portal is an opening or a passageway—like a wormhole or something like that—to the spirit world. To the dimensions beyond the physical one that we’re experiencing all the time.
The heart is a portal itself. It’s connected to the spirit world. The sinoatrial node is a little portal that actually has the physical function—when we’re a fetus—it actually produces that little electric spark that keeps the heart beating. So it’s literally, you could say, central to our life, our consciousness, and our awareness. As we grow older, that little spark tends to spread around the heart. That’s what I’ve been told by medical people anyway—that it begins to generalize around the heart. But when we’re an embryo and a fetus, it’s that one tiny little place where our life is kept going. [It] keeps the heart beating.
TS: Now, if in this moment I wanted to identify in the body the sinoatrial node—if it’s going to help me access the inner shaman, I’m all for it. How would I identify this place right now in my body?
JLS: Well, you know, the heart is slightly on the left side of our chest. If we go to the upper-right quadrant of the heart—where the sinoatrial node is—that places it just about behind our sternum. Just right in the center almost, there. And of course, that’s what we think of when we point to ourselves and we’re pointing to our heart. That’s literally what we’re pointing to—that little node there. That little portal.
Of course, size is irrelevant. Size doesn’t matter to spirit. You can fit an enormous amount of—well, it’s like fiber optics, you know. You can fit an enormous amount of information into one tiny, tiny little fiber optic filament. So, you don’t have to have a big, open doorway. All you have to do is have a little spot there. So if you just point to your sternum, you’re pretty much pointing at it.
TS: OK, so you mention that this is a portal, if you will, to the “spirit world.” What did you mean by that?
JLS: Shamans talk about the spirit world. They say that the spirit world is that that is behind the whole physical universe. It’s the place where all power comes from—all knowledge, all information. Everything exists there in archetypal form. So without the spirit world, there could be no physical world.
Well, that sounds an awful lot like what physicists describe as “the quantum field,” which is their description of what underlies the physical universe—where all matter comes from. It’s all speculation, but that’s their current thinking—that there’s a quantum field where the whole physical universe comes from. So, when you really look at both descriptions, they sound a lot alike.
TS: OK, but to make this real in a sense—in people’s experience—help me understand how, through this portal, I could have an experience of contacting the spirit world or the quantum field, [whichever you want to call it].
JLS: By definition, a human being will never be able to experience the quantum field or the spirit world in a physical way because the quantum field and the spirit world are not really physical. They’re—well, this is where words begin to fail. Call them an “energetic field,” if you will. Or a source of information. The ancient Greeks used to call it the logos. OK? You can’t really very well go and touch it.
But the closest way we could describe it is as a dream state. When we go to sleep at night and we have dreams, we can experience aspects of it or get a flavor of it. That ability to go anywhere in the blink of an eye—to change scenes, to morph aspects of the dream. Those are all qualities of the spirit world—all qualities of the quantum field. It’s not fixed; it’s totally fluid.
So I would say that if you recall a dream that you had, that’s about as close as you’re going to get to really being able to say, “Yes, I get a flavor of it. I get a sense of what it’s like.”
TS: OK, José. But I think part of what I’m curious about—and it may mean you taking us through a short process of some kind, but how do I work with this portal behind the sternum? How do I do that in an effective way?
JLS: One good way is to imagine or visualize that there are three little filaments—think of them as like fiber optics. These three little filaments that come through that portal. Each one is a different color. And each one governs a different aspect of life. So you could call them “Truth,” or the intelligence of the universe; “Love,” or what’s also known as magnetism; and “Energy,” or power.
So the intelligence of the universe is what gives us our intelligence—our sense of being able to think and know things. Love is the thing that causes attraction [and] connection with all things—with our loved ones, with the world itself, with nature, with God or spirit. It takes a certain amount of energy to mobilize yourself—to take action, to follow through on decisions and all that. That’s what we could call “Energy” or power.
Without one of those things, there would be no physical universe. Those are the three building blocks or ingredients that make up this physical universe, and they come straight out of the spirit world.
By focusing on the sinoatrial node and then focusing on those three filaments coming through, you can pretty much get a sense of your self being created as we speak. These three ingredients are being piped in at all times and if one of them were to stop for even a split second, any one of us would just drop dead because those are what sustain us. Those are what give us animation and a sense of being alive.
TS: Now, I think it might be helpful for our listeners if they could understand a little bit more about your training and background in shamanism. [Also], how some of these ideas—whether it’s the sinoatrial node or working with the filaments, et cetera—how you became first exposed to these teachings.
JLS: The different traditions—shamanic traditions in different parts of the planet—and by the way, they’re very similar with sort of cosmetic differences. All of them allude to these three building blocks of the universe.
So, for example, the Huichol tradition, which is one of my root traditions—that’s where I [really] began studying. I apprenticed with a Huichol shaman [from Mexico] for 10 years. What they consider to be the three building blocks are the deer, which for them brings all knowledge to life (so that would be intelligence); and corn, which feeds the people (so that’s love); and peyote, which is the energetic component. It’s the power—the energy—to feel the vitality of life.
Now, that’s their version. The Toltecs have their three parts. Even the Christian tradition—or I should say the Catholic Christian tradition—has the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We have the Hindu trident—the three-pronged fork. We have the French fleur-de-lis. These are all references to, in some cases, lost knowledge—where it’s no longer understood where they came from. But they all refer to the three aspects or the three-part experience of being alive in this universe.
My own training includes the study with the Huichols and study with Shipibo people down in the Upper Amazon in Peru. Those are my two primary sources of shamanic knowledge. But then I’ve supported that training with study of other traditions around the world—like the Sami people in Lapland, Finland, Norway. [Additionally], Australian aboriginals. I’ve done some study of Inuit peoples in the far north. Siberian shamanism. That sort of thing. Just to sort of round out my understanding.
My interest is mostly in cross-cultural shamanism, even though I have specific training in Huichol and Shipibo shamanism—and some Native American shamanism, as well. I’m interested in how all the shamanic traditions around the world—what their commonalities are. [Where] is it they all agree? Where they all come together and they’re basically saying the same thing? This is one of those areas: this three-parted, core elements [of] the universe.
TS: I’m curious to know your view on plant medicine. You talked about the Huichol people and peyote, and its association with energy. Do you feel that working with some type of substance like peyote is actually necessary to discover the inner shaman or no?
JLS: It’s not. It’s absolutely not necessary. But it’s remarkable how many shamanic traditions around the world—shamanic cultures, we could say—do use plant substances. Some often. The Huichols use a lot of peyote in all their ceremonies. It’s a big part of their traditions. But in some other places in the world, it’s used very sparsely—just only under very special circumstances.
No, it’s not necessary. But I have to say that—from personal experience working mostly with the Huichols in their use of peyote and the Shipibo people who use ayahuasca—that it sure does help. It can open windows into awareness that can give you a pretty quick grasp of what they’re talking about. Let’s just say that it can be a bit of shortcut.
But it’s not appropriate for everyone. Nor is everyone—how should I say this? I’ll say it a little differently. Not everybody is cut out for that kind of experience. It can be destabilizing. I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone.
TS: I’d be curious to know if someone was trying to evaluate, “[Would] ayahuasca or peyote be helpful to me on my path?” what your suggestions might be to help somebody evaluate that decision.
JLS: First of all, I would want to know if the person was stable in their everyday life. Do they have trouble grounding themselves? Do they have trouble keeping clear focus and order in their own lives? If they’re unstable, emotionally speaking, I wouldn’t recommend it. If they’re fairly un-grounded in their everyday lives, I wouldn’t recommend it.
But if those things are not problems for them, they’re very stable people, and they’re also very curious people, then I’d say yes. That makes sense. Why not?
TS: What about some of the questions that come up of a Western person studying indigenous traditions but being outside the culture? And then being outside the cultural framework—engaging in plant medicines that live on a different piece of land, that come from the earth of a different place. Can we really extract these teachings outside of their physical geography and culture?
JLS: That’s a valid question and that has been argued. I’ve heard discussions about that. From experience, I would say that yes, you can extrapolate. You can benefit from using plant medicines, for example, that are from a different location.
Now, that doesn’t turn you into a Huichol. It doesn’t turn you into a Shipibo person. That’s not possible. You have to grow up in those cultures to really be—you have to grow up in the culture to know that culture from the inside out.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t benefit from exposure to those people. Just like we can benefit from exposure to people of different races or different sexual orientations or what-have-you. It’s good to have friends who live their lifestyle a little differently, because you can get to know aspects of that even though you’re never going to be that. And it’s very similar.
TS: I want to underscore some of the teachings in your book, Awaken the Inner Shaman, that I found intriguing and, in some ways, a little outrageous. So I thought we would go there—right into some of the teachings from the book.
One of them is [when] you talk about how it’s possible—in contacting this inner shaman—that we can learn to talk to our genes. That we can actually talk to our DNA. So I wonder if you could speak a little bit to that. How could we possibly talk to our genes—our genetic material?
JLS: OK. The genes are part of our physical makeup. And our physical makeup, of course—we human beings are occupying simian bodies. They’re from that subspecies. According to the shamanic understanding of life, all aspects of nature—which includes animals, plants, and of course, we’re occupying animal bodies. Mammal bodies. We are mammals in that respect.
Those are all considered elementals, from the shamanic perspective. That is, that they are a certain class of physical beings who take instructions from nature—who follow the dictates of nature. We all have instincts, for example. Even we human beings. Our bodies are fairly instinctual. We have certain patterns beneath consciousness that tend to help us to survive as all plants and animals do. They have instincts.
Those instincts come from nature herself. Nature herself instructs the clouds or instructs the mountain ranges or what-have-you to do what they do. There’s a certain intelligence to what a hummingbird does or a bee does—because they’re elementals.
We occupy bodies that are elementals. Elementals are designed to take instructions. The easiest way you can see that is when you’re—for example—hanging out with your dog. [When] you give your dog an instruction to sit or heel or whatever, the dog does it because the dog is actually designed to follow instructions. And so are we.
So your body—our bodies—are awaiting instructions. They say, “What do you want me to do now? How do you want me to be? How do you want me to respond?” If we ignore that, then the body—looking for instructions—will take instructions from wherever it can get it. Often, it will take instructions from the subconscious mind—which is not a very good idea, because the subconscious mind has many different patterns. Some of them are self-destructive.
Our bodies are actually designed to be very healthy and strong, energetic, and have virtually no problems at all. But that’s based on whether we give clear and good instructions.
Now one—for example—very, very good instruction is to say, “OK, physical body, I want you to operate as you were physically meant to operate from your very earliest blueprint—from your state of earliest perfection. I want you to operate according to that. So I want you to be strong and I want you to be healthy and so on.”
OK. So you can actually—and I’ve watched shamans do this. Where they’ll literally get down and they will talk to the body part that is having difficulty. They’ll be whispering to it and they’ll say, “All the pain, go away.” And, “Circulation, come back in here.” And so on and so forth.
The person receiving that ministration—I’ve seen them get instantly better. I’ve had it happen to me, personally. Down in the jungle in Peru, I was very sick once. I had a very high fever and bad sore throat. A shaman [came] and he sang to my body, and he gave it some instructions—he told it what to do. Within five minutes, the fever had gone, the sore throat vanished, and I was able to sit up and be perfectly fine. There was no trace of illness left within five minutes. That’s how responsive the physical body is to instructions!
So, when we’re talking about the DNA, we’re just talking about a more refined area of the body. But it follows instructions too. We can instruct our DNA to bring forth the kind of information that the body needs to heal or to evolve or whatever we want it to do.
TS: As I’m listening to you, José, I’m thinking of experiences I’ve had and stories that I know of people who have had healings like the one you described—when a healer works on them and they come in in terrible shape. And they walk out, remarkably, much better.
But I’m also thinking about a listener right now who might be suffering—perhaps suffering from a disease of some kind. They’ve tried to talk to their body in all kinds of ways and said, “Heal this cancer!” in this way or that. Or they’ve gone to healers who have worked on them. And they’re not getting better. So what would you say to that person?
JLS: That’s a bit complex. There’s no one answer that will cover all the territory there.
If they’re meant to get well—if that’s the plan—it could be that there’s some contradictory messages. Some messages coming from the subconscious that maybe have to do with guilt and punishment over perceived guilt. That’s going to contradict what the person is telling their body—telling [it], “Get well, heal up, and all that.” But at the same time, the subconscious is telling the body, “No, you got to be punished. You’ve been bad. You deserve to be sick.”
So you’re getting mixed messages. And that’s a problem, so usually you have to go to somebody outside yourself. Like, for example, a shaman who can give the instructions from a less loaded place or a less confused place.
That’s one issue. There [are] also times when the body needs to be sick because the person is learning a very, very important lesson. And this is the only way they can learn that lesson and evolve. Sometimes illness is appropriate. It’s not always a bad thing. It’s not always inappropriate. Sometimes, we learn the most challenging lessons from being sick.
In that case, the inner shaman is going to override the instructions. [It will] say, “No no no. Just a little while longer. This illness is necessary.” And so it’ll just override it or disregard attempts to interfere with it. So those are a couple of possibilities.
TS: So I guess I’m wondering: How do I understand this power that we have to talk to our bodies—to talk to our genes? But only sometimes it’s effective.
JLS: The personality has to be completely aligned with the inner shaman. Sometimes, it’s not. In fact, the truth is [that] most of the time it’s not. Our personalities are off on our own trip—their own sort of fantasy. Or have their own agendas and axes to grind. To the degree that they’re disconnected, there’s going to be real problems being successful at healing and that sort of thing.
So the first order of business is that the person has to get aligned with the inner shaman. One of the ways to do that is—and this is daunting especially for Americans. They hate the idea of what’s called “surrendering.” They hate that idea. But the truth is that at some point, our personalities just have to let go and give up and say, “I’m not in charge. I thought I was in charge, but I’m not in charge. The inner shaman knows more than I do. I’m going to put this in the hands of the inner shaman. I’m going to give this problem over there and say, “You take care of me from now on. You run this show. You heal me because I don’t know how to do it myself.”
Once you get to that place, you’re ready for things to happen. That’s a major step. That’s a step in humility, but it’s also a step in wisdom. It’s a wise step. It’s a step in letting go of a false sense of control. If you looked, all the major mystical traditions talk about that very thing. That’s not news. That’s traditional wisdom, you could say.
TS: I’d be curious to perhaps experience an example of how you might talk to your body—talk to your genes—in this sense of alignment or surrender as the base or ground of the conversation you’re having with your body.
JLS: Yes! That’s a good question and, in fact, I have a ready-made, insta-example. So just prior to engaging in this conversation, I sat quietly and I had a talk with the inner shaman. I said, “Look, I’m going to be talking about shamanism for a while here. I want to really do a good job. So I’m going to put this whole conversation in your hands. You give me the words; you give me the ideas; you govern the conversation. You take the conversation where it needs to go, which will be absolutely the best thing for the most people.”
That didn’t take long. It took about five minutes to have a conversation with the inner shaman about that. Now, was I talking to my body? Well, of course I was—because my voice is being used, my breath is being used, my gestures—so, my physical body’s heavily involved. So I had to make sure that my physical body was on board and aligned with deeper wisdom.
Otherwise, I would just go off on what I thought might be important, but might not be important at all.
TS: José, when you have a conversation with the inner shaman, are you visualizing the inner shaman in a certain kind of way or working with the center of the heart in a certain kind of way? How do you know you’re talking to the inner shaman, after all?
JLS: I don’t always visualize, because that’s sometimes distracting. The key for me is that I feel this warmth in my heart. I feel connected. And I feel . . . I feel. That’s the key word here. It’s like I’m not thinking so much as I’m feeling. I have an intent—I have something that I’m intending that is really more of a feeling. It’s a desire, you could say. Or a wanting.
So when I start to feel some feeling—some emotion—I’m feeling more connected. It’s not just a good idea, in other words.
TS: One of the points you make in the book, Awaken the Inner Shaman, is that it’s actually possible to form a habit of thinking with one’s heart. And I thought, “Well, that’s a habit that I could sure learn to perform.”
TS: Because often I find myself thinking and I don’t think my heart’s particularly involved. How do we learn to think with our heart?
JLS: There [are] little helpers. One of the things that I learned to do was I just put my hand on my heart—or my fingers. I just place them there. That focuses me. It says, “It’s here. Here. Pay attention to this.”
And then I drop down. I kind of imagine myself dropping down from my head into my heart. I start—as best I can say—I just start talking from there.
Here’s the key: It feels good. That’s the simplest thing I can say about it. It feels good. I feel connected. When I’m just talking off the top of my head, it doesn’t necessarily feel good. It’s just [that] I’m rattling on. There’s a qualitative difference.
So I would tell people: just touch your heart. Put your fingers there. Put your hand there. That’s a great way to begin. It forms the habit.
TS: You also talk about how, for the shaman, that the most important places of seeing are both through the heart and the third eye, and that there’s this possibility of seeing through both at the same time. I thought that was interesting too.
Can you help us learn how to do that? How do we do both at the same time? See through the heart and the third eye.
JLS: Well, to be truthful, that’s something that takes years of training. But, with that said, it’s not so difficult to just get started.
Now, I already described putting the hand on the heart [for] getting attention or focus there. Then you can take the other hand and just take your finger and press the area just above where your eyebrows are—and just above your nose. You just press lightly—not real hard, but just press there. Close your eyes and see if you can go inside about three inches. Two to three inches. That’s a good place back in there. With practice, it’s a sense of feeling very comfortable. There’s like a little pocket in there. You can kind of rest there. You can kind of hang out there.
It’s great place to go in meditation, because it’s kind of a place of timelessness. You start to lose the sense of time going by. All of a sudden, you can wonder, “Well, I wonder how long I’ve been sitting here? Has it been five minutes? Has it been 15?” That’s a good sign, because that shows that you’re being successful.
So just with your hands—one on your heart and one there—you can start to get a sense of both places at the same time. Then, of course, you can see if you can visualize something. Like maybe you can recall a memory or you can imagine someplace that you’re going to go. You can use that sense—and you’re feeling your heart connected and you’re feeling your third eye at the same time.
This is one of those things that gets beyond words a little bit. I can only go so far in explaining it. These are kind of pointers to get started. But after that, it’s just like getting your own experience of it. That’s not so hard, actually. But it does take time to develop them into a refined state where it’s easy to do.
One of the things I point out in the book is that impatience is the enemy of the shamanic way. So shamans put a lot of emphasis on learning to be patient. You can’t really develop these abilities just in five minutes. It takes patience. It takes practice. You’ve got to put in a little time every day—even if it’s only two or three minutes. Two or three minutes every day adds up. You’ll see progress.
TS: José, there’s a quote from the book that I’d love you to comment on. Here’s the quote. It goes, “To liberate the inner shaman is to shift from identification with concrete, limited, physical Me to the context of Me.”
JLS: OK. That’s a really, really important statement—so yes. I’m glad you singled that one out.
Shamans consider human beings to be more context than a physical location. So we tend to identify with our bodies so much that we tend to say, “Well, I’m right here in my physical body. I can wiggle my toes and I can wiggle my fingers. This is me, here.”
But shamans would say, “Nahhh. That’s a distraction. That’s going to lead you away from wisdom.” Actually, each human being is the context that their body is part of. The body is part of the context, but so is the room that you’re sitting in. So is the conversation you’re having. So are, perhaps, other people who might be involved. They’re all part of the context.
The shaman would say, “Well, that’s all you. The whole thing that’s happening is you. You are the experience that you’re experiencing.”
Now, that’s very hard for us Western folks to grasp. It’s like, “Well, wait a minute! I thought I was here back inside this body. And those folks were over there in their bodies. That chair across the room is over there. That’s not me.”
Shamans would say, “No, no. That’s not accurate. That chair is being projected by your mind. Those people out there are being projected by your mind. Those are part of your dream.” So we are part of the dream.
I recall Eckhart Tolle—there’s a quote [where] he says something like, “We’re not in time. We are time.”
It’s the same exact notion that the shamans are trying to get at—that we’re the context of the whole thing.
TS: I’m curious if you would have any tips for people in any given moment [for] how they would shift from that sense of identifying with Me to the context.
JLS: Yes. It’s helpful to get the sense of out-picturing. Everything that you see, sense, or feel is being out-pictured by you. So, that’s where you start. You get the sense of, “OK, I’m going to open my . . .” (It helps to close your eyes). [Then open] them slowly. As you start to see your environment, realize that it’s all being projected out there. It’s like you’re a projector and that’s the screen out there. It’s all being projected out on the screen.
You practice looking at the world for—let’s say—five minutes. It’s all being projected. Now, the reason people don’t like to do that—they have an aversion to doing that or a resistance to doing that—is that once you get that notion, you then realize that you have responsibility for everything that’s going on around you. In fact, if you want to extend that to the out-picturing of the whole word, that means you have responsibility for everything that’s happening in the world.
Now, most people don’t like that idea because they don’t like some of the things that are happening out there. They don’t want to take responsibility for it. “Well, that war over there has nothing to do with me. That’s them.” But if it’s part of your context—if it’s part of what you’re out-picturing—if it’s part of your dream—then it’s time to shift the dream. So there’s responsibility involved.
Now, it’s co-created. Consensual. [That] brings us into another conversation. But to bring it back, five-minute exercises can be very, very helpful—just to start with your local environment.
TS: Now, José, let me ask you a question about [this]. So here I am and I’m opening my eyes slowly, saying, “All of this is an out-picturing.” And I can see how my interpretation is completely this dream that I’m in—however it is that I’m interpreting. But there is something there, [which] would be there even if I had dropped dead. The picture on the wall would still be there even if my out-picturing wasn’t happening. So how do you explain that?
JLS: Well, I don’t—because maybe it wouldn’t be. OK. You’ve been taught that the picture would still be there, but how do you really know?
Now, it may exist in other—well, I don’t think I want to go that way. So I’m just going to question the assumption that it’s still there.
TS: I’m willing to question that assumption too.
JLS: So it may not be. In the shamanic way of looking at things, it may not be there.
TS: How do you make the leap [that] you made—which for you seemed quite obvious but for me felt a little bit a jump—to being responsible for everything in this out-picturing? In this context?
JLS: This gets us over to another part of the conversation, which is: Once you get a sense of the inner shaman, usually it starts with a sense of having a private inner shaman. Like, “Well, I have my inner shaman and you have your inner shaman.”
But when you really start to penetrate in that, you start to realize that the inner shaman is connected to all inner shamans. There’s only one, vast inner shaman. You’ve heard the phrase, maybe, “One heart, many rhythms?” So each one of us human beings is one of the many rhythms. But there’s only one heart. There’s only one inner shaman. There’s only one being experiencing this whole thing.
That’s very difficult to grasp for the average person. It’s threatening because it begins to sound like, “Oh, you mean I don’t have my own individual consciousness? You mean I’m just a speck—part of everything?”
Well, they’re both true. I like to think of it as a bicycle wheel—where the hub connects all the spokes to the rim. Out on the rim, there [are] many, many points of reference. So that’s true. But they’re all connected by the spokes to the hub, and that’s true too.
So they’re both true. And that’s a paradox that is very difficult to understand for most people, because we always think of it in terms of “either/or.” It’s got to be this or that. But in this case, it’s “both/and.” We’re both unique and individual in our expression, but we’re part of something that is indivisible. There is only one, central being.
That’s what is referenced—by the way—in the Catholic tradition, which I was raised in. [That] is there’s the phrase, “There is only one son of God.” That’s actually a reference to an ancient shamanic understanding that there’s only one being.
Now we’re getting into theology and philosophy. [Stevens laughs.]
TS: I’m comfortable, José. Right where you are. It’s great.
TS: Now, one of the things I wanted to talk to you about is that in Awaken the Inner Shaman, you describe what obscures our experience of the inner shaman in our [lives]. You talk about it as “the false personality.” I think this is an idea that many people have heard from different traditions—that there’s this constructed sense of self and that it emerges in our life in response to the needs in our family growing up. Et cetera. The false personality.
But you call the false personality a “parasite.” And I thought that was really interesting. Why do you call it a parasite?
JLS: Because the false personality wants you to believe that it is you. Many parasites try to do the same thing. In other words, they try to go undetected. They enter your body—they go into your intestinal tract, let’s say—and they try to go undetected. In some cases, they’re very good at masquerading as other bacteria or other cellular structures. They can avoid detection by the immune system.
Well, you know that. That’s biology. Parasites are really fascinating things because of their strategies—the way they can do that.
So we have these individual identities that we—you know. Like, “My name is Eric,” or, “My name is Mary.” And, “I’m Australian,” or, “I’m Italian,” or I’m this or that. I’m a female; I’m a male. I’m wealthy; I’m poor. All these identifications seem to give us a storyline, and we say, “Well, that’s me! That’s me and that distinguishes me from everybody else out there. I’m not them. I’m me!”
As we just talked about, fundamentally that’s false. Therefore, it’s a false personality. It’s a pretend personality.
Now, we all have pretend personalities because we’re playing a game. When you play a game—let’s say you play Monopoly—everybody picks one of those little things to play the game with. Like you’re a little red car or blue little marker thing that you have to move around the board. So you have to pretend that you’re one of these things.
But nobody in their right mind would say, “Yes, that’s me! For sure!” Everybody realizes that I’m just pretending. I’m playing a game here.
We are playing a game. And the game is “The Game of Life.” The game is “The Game of Being Human.” Any good game—if you look at games—has to have a way to lose, if it’s going to be fun and exciting. There has to be a possibility of losing. That’s why gambling is so much fun for people. That’s why football or baseball—any of those sports—are so compelling. [It’s] because you could fail. You [may] not win.
In most really good games, there are opponents. Well—in gambling, it’s the casino. It’s going to walk away with your money. In football, it’s the opposing team. In hockey, same thing.
So, there is an opposing team that is trying to keep you from scoring—from scoring your goals. In our case, we could say [it] is evolving, becoming enlightened, realizing who we really are. And there’s a very definite—what shamans call a “worthy opponent.” A game is really fun when you have a worthy opponent. It means something that really challenges you.
If you take that as the metaphor—that we’re playing a game—and that there’s an opposing team, the opposing team is actually our own ego. Our own ego is trying to distract us—trying to get us to think we’re this when we’re not. If you’ll notice, the false personality or the ego is almost always leading us to misery. It always leads us to suffering—which is, by the way, what the Buddha noticed too. [He] taught that in his Eightfold Path. It’s true.
In the shamanic perspective, it’s no different. That suffering comes from separation, from playing the game and losing to the worthy opponent. So the game is trying to root out the false personality—to root out the parasite. To identify who we really are, and then we can do anything we want—so to speak. Which is what shamans are very interested in doing.
That’s why they can actually do miraculous things. They’re known for doing amazing things—the supernatural-type things. That’s because they’ve made enough progress that they’ve dis-identified with the ego (or the false personality) and they’ve begun to identify with something much, much greater. Something much grander.
TS: I’d be curious, José, to ask you a personal question here. Which is: in your own work with the inner shaman, have you seen anything manifest in your life, through you, that you would say goes into that category of “something miraculous”—or one wouldn’t expect, given the laws of the physical universe?
JLS: Yes. But nothing super-dramatic, like having ascended masters show up in my living room or something like that. You know? Some people report things like that, but no, not me. I’m more normal. I’m more regular, everyday.
But I’ve certainly had experiences in my life where things that I thought were absolutely impossible have happened. Or I’ve received some information that saved my life. Or things that got my attention, where I realized, “Wait a minute. How could this possibly have happened? This is not normal.”
For example—and I think I write about this in the book. I don’t remember now. I received information in a vision that I would die if I went skydiving. I had already signed up for a skydiving event. I cancelled the event and the instructor who was going to take me took somebody else and they both died.
That’s not everyday normal. But other people have those kinds of experiences too. Coincidence? I don’t think so. It’s almost impossible for that to be a coincidence. It’s just too specific. And I’ve given the short version—there [are] many, many details of that story that make it even more miraculous.
But I’ve had quite a few events like that in my life. So much so that, to me, there’s no question whatsoever that there’s something else running the show besides my personality. It’s given me the ability to trust that, which is a great gift, I would say.
TS: If somebody listening wants to align more with the inner shaman in their life so that the potential that they feel that is not yet actualized in them—”I haven’t quite yet in my life actualized this or that, but I know the potential is inside me. Maybe if I align with the inner shaman, this will flower in my life.” What would be your advice to such a person?
JLS: I’d say: A.) That’s an excellent decision. It’s totally possible. There are certain things that would accelerate that process.
Now, this is getting into the topic of frequency. There are certain frequencies that one must stimulate or generate that will lead to the inner shaman coming more forward—becoming more manifested.
One of those things is gratitude. So, the minute you start feeling gratitude, your frequency goes up by many levels. That creates a kind of fertilizer. That frequency is fertilizer for the inner shaman. The inner shaman likes that frequency and it says, “Oh! I can step forward into that! I like that. So, if you’re going to produce that frequency, I will be very happy to make that my home.” That’s why mystics and saints and shamans cultivate gratitude as often as possible.
Another frequency that’s very similar to gratitude—which is very high and has the same effect—is love. Feeling a genuine sense of love toward—it could be anything at all. It could be love for your dog. It doesn’t matter what the object of your love is. What matters is the feeling of love. The feeling of love creates the vibrations—the frequency.
Cultivating these high frequencies will accelerate the movement of the inner shaman. Of course, the most important thing of all is that you have to want it. You have to want it bad. It can’t be enough that you just go, “Euh. Well, I think maybe I’ll just kind of, you know, find out what this inner shaman thing is all about.”
That’s not going to quite do it. It has to be something that’s pretty compelling. It’s got to be something where you say, “You know, I could be a hell of a lot happier. I don’t have to go through the kinds of difficulties that I go through. I’m going to take an active part in moving myself in this direction because I want it bad.”
It’s almost like the choice to say, “There really isn’t any other choice. This is the only choice that makes sense for me.” Then things are going to happen fast.
TS: José, I just have one, final question for you. Early on in your book, you talked about how you had studied with Mayan elders and at one point you were told that the 60 years after 2012 would be a time in our world that you referred to as, “A kind of construction zone.” That we would be reshaping our world for good, but that it would be like living right in the midst of a time of deconstruction and construction—a construction zone. I’d be curious to know what your sense is of this next 60-year period of time.
JLS: Yes. OK. Well, that brings us to somewhere right around 2072. That would be approximately 60 years from 2012, which was the end of the Mayan calendar and the beginning of a new one, by the way—which didn’t get talked about in the media because it wasn’t dramatic enough.
It’s a time of construction. It’s a time of building. I’m not going to get into any kind of details here, but this is a timeframe—especially the next, oh well, now we’re down to 19, 18 years or so in this next sequence. [That] will primarily be a world coming apart. Old systems, old structures, [will reached] the natural end of their life cycle and they’ll be collapsing. They no longer will serve. They don’t match a frequency that’s coming onto the planet. They’re too low in frequency. People are very attached to them. All the “isms” like “capitalism,” “communism,” “socialism,” you name it. Isms are pretty much a thing of the past. None of them have worked adequately.
We don’t know what’s going to replace those. That freaks a lot of people out. They’re terrified of the fact that we don’t know what the world is going to be like in the future. All we can see is that these systems are really threadbare and failing.
And yet, this is where it takes some faith or some trust that they are forthcoming. That we are creative enough as a species. We have enormous support and help from the spirit world. We’re not going to fail, and we are going to replace all the failing systems with brand-new structures that work way, way better for the world—for humankind in general.
These are actually being created and thought of as we speak. They haven’t been put before the public yet. They’re not even known by very many people. But there are innumerable solutions to the problems we have. It’s just a question of them rising to the public’s attention and getting sufficient attention to become choices.
So, [these] next 20 years are going to be the most intense with regard to deconstruction. And then [there] will come a period where there’s a kind of deconstruction, but [also] construction—so there’s an overlapping. Then finally, there will come into play a huge renaissance where the new paradigms take hold and transform this world in a very, very rapid fashion.
By the time 2072 rolls around, we’re going to be looking at a vastly different planet. Different structures, different philosophies, different values. It’s not going to be a perfect world, and we’ll still have problems to solve. But it’ll be a hell of a lot better than what we’re looking at right now.
TS: Now, José, I’m going to sneak in one final question, because listening to you talk about the world transformation scene and then also hearing you talk about your own sense of trust in surrendering to life, really. I’m curious if you can comment on this quality of trust or faith that you have—and what you could say about it to somebody who is perhaps much more skeptical, doubtful, or even pessimistic in general.
JLS: There’s a big difference between skepticism and pessimism. Skepticism is healthy in the sense that it invites us to investigate. Some of the greatest discoveries have been made by skeptics. Pessimism is a whole other story, which is discouragement, depression, and hopelessness. It’s not particularly helpful. It’s a low frequency, so it doesn’t invite the inner shaman out.
So how do you cultivate trust? How do you cultivate faith? This is something that—philosophers have been trying to answer this question forever. It’s very, very difficult to talk about. But let’s just call it a result of investigation. If you have curiosity and you’re willing to investigate other possibilities for being human—alternatives to the straightjacket beliefs and ideas that cultures tend to give us—then trust begins to develop. It’s something that is the result of a certain path forward.
Now, you don’t have to have complete faith to take a few steps. They say, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” It’s absolutely true. You don’t have any idea what you’re going to encounter in those thousand miles. It’s going to be a wild adventure! But you’re willing to take a few steps, because to not take a step forward is to stand still—which is contrary to our human nature.
We have curiosity. We want to move forward, even if we don’t know what the hell we’re doing. Trust is the byproduct—it’s the gift—of having the courage to step forward even though you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. That’s, in fact, the meaning of the Tarot card that has the fool stepping off the cliff. That’s every one of us. But it leads to trust.
TS: I’ve been speaking with José Luis Stevens. He has written a new book, published by Sounds True, called Awaken the Inner Shaman: A Guide to the Power Path of the Heart and also has created a forthcoming audio program called Meditations for the Inner Shaman.
José, always good to talk to a fellow fool stepping off a cliff.
JLS: [Laughs] Well, thank you very much for the interview. It was really thought-provoking—really good to respond to your questions. I really enjoyed myself.
TS: SoundsTrue.com. Many voices, one journey. Thanks for listening.