Shapeshifting and what it says about our more fundamental nature

I am reading The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images and love the content and format, and just about every paragraph is a pointer for several types of explorations.

For instance, there is a chapter on shapeshifting. (One expression of this is shamans experiencing themselves as a jaguar, condor, bat, or whatever it may be during their shamanic journeys.)


For me, that’s a reminder of our more fundamental nature.

Yes, in one sense I am this human self. And more fundamentally, I am consciousness. I am the consciousness that this whole field of experience – the wider world, this human self, and anything else – happens within and as.

I can take on any perspective.

I can create an identity out of any perspective and mental representation. I can imagine myself as it, and perceive and feel as if it’s true.

Most of the time, the consciousness we are is identified with and as our human self. Why? Because that’s what others do, and when we grow up we do as others do. If we were connected with the body of a different species, and we grew up in a society where people had that type of body, then that would be our typical identification.

This identification works pretty well in daily life, so most of us don’t have any strong incentives to question it. (It does come with inherent friction and stress since it’s somewhat out of alignment with reality, but most of us don’t realize the root cause of that discomfort.)

The ones who tend to move outside of this typical identification are the outsiders in society, the insane, mystics, and shamans.


How can we explore this for ourselves?

The Big Mind process is perhaps the most direct and effective way to explore this. We can explore taking on a wide range of perspectives. If we can imagine something, we can imagine into that perspective. We can explore what happens when we identify with and as a particular perspective. We can even find our more fundamental nature and explore how it all looks from there.

We can also get a taste of our more fundamental nature through the Headless experiments, and explore identities and how we are not – more fundamentally – any of it.

We can dismantle of identifications through The Work of Byron Katie.

We can explore how our mind creates perspectives and identifications through the sense fields and how they combine, for instance, guided by the Kiloby Inquiries.

And there are many other approaches. Just find the one(s) that resonate with you.


My path into this was perhaps a bit unusual and had some shamanic elements.

At age, fifteen, something shifted so it felt like the world – any content of experience including this human self, feelings, thoughts, states, and so on – felt very distanced. It all felt very far away. At the time, I had absolutely no interest in spirituality (I was a self-identified atheist), what happened was scary and didn’t make any sense, and the doctors and specialists couldn’t figure out what was going on either.

Already here, life showed me my nature. It showed me that I wasn’t fundamentally anything within the sense fields, within the field of experience. Because of my background, I didn’t get it which is normal and fine.

Almost exactly one year later, there was another shift. This time into oneness. Here, all was revealed as God, Spirit, the divine. The whole field of experience and the consciousness it happened within and as was revealed – as consciousness, Spirit, the divine, or whatever we want to call it.

This didn’t go away and led to an intense process over several years for my human self.

I have continued to explore this – through Buddhist practice, Taoist practice, Christian practice, parts work, several forms of inquiry, energy work, and so on. I even dipped into shamanism a few times, but not seriously. (Although I love it and am very happy people go into it deeply.)

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Bringing all of us in

Many traditions have ways of bringing all of us into transformative processes.

In Tibetan Buddhism, it is done – among other ways – through visualizing all beings taking refuge with us, during the first of the four ngondro practices, each done a hundred thousand times. In Shamanic traditions, by inviting in the protectors from the six directions. In Christianity, through the Christ meditation where Christ is visualized in the six directions and the heart. In many traditions, through prayer or well-wishing for all beings, including our enemies and those in the hell realms. And so on.

In each of these apart from the Christ meditation, there is an intention and visualization of all beings aligned… in taking refuge in Buddha nature, in participating in sacred space, being included in healing and awakening. And even the Christ meditation has a sense of completeness and absolute inclusion in it, by visualizing Christ in all directions and in the heart.

And each of these is a way of inviting all of us to participate, and to align all parts of us. Using voice dialog language, each subpersonality or voice is invited to join and align in the same overall purpose of healing and awakening of the mind and heart.

In addition, it helps us see all beings in the same boat in different ways. All beings are taking part in this sacred process of life. All have the potential for awakening, and all have Buddha nature. We can learn to see beyond the surface ripples of contraction, and see how we each seek happiness and freedom from suffering, and all are awakeness.

Spirit animal


When I was a child, I had a Big Dream about a black panther, and I realize later that it was very similar to shamanic experiences and connections with a spirit animal. In the dream, there was a connection with the panther as long lost friend, and someone who had immense wisdom, insight and ability to guide me.

The world is a mirror of what is inside of ourselves, and animals can be especially helpful in mirroring and evoking certain qualities in us.

When we journey – whether in dreams, shamanic rituals, active imagination, through using the whole of us as in process work, or even through voice dialog – we are often guided to exactly those qualities that wants to come into our lives more fully. Those that may have been disowned, or just temporarily forgotten. There is an infinity of sources for reminders, including animals.

What comes up is what is needed here and now, so will change over time. But some may have to do with longer term processes, unfolding over decades, and the black panther for me seems to be one of these.

For me, the black panther evokes a beautiful combination of polarities, maybe especially a natural confidence and relaxation, and alertness and explosive activity, depending on what the situation calls for. It is firm and gentle, cute and vicious, and follows its path with receptivity yet in a non-nonsense way and undistractedly. Its velvety blackness reminds of the fertile blackness and awakening of the belly center, which nurtures each of the qualities listed above.


Shamanism is probably the earliest form for psychology, and from the little I know about it, it can be every bit as sophisticated as any contemporary western psychology. Judging from the earliest examples of rock art, it is a form of psychology that has been with us since before the dawn of civilization, which is humbling and also gives a sense of connection across time and universality.

I have worked with the black panther more lately, bringing its qualities into my daily life, and have found it a great support.I may find the black panther qualities in myself through images and movements, or just ask myself what would the black panther do?

Interpretations and substance

When I read about the Munay-Ki rites, a part of me was exited to have the opportunity to receive them, and another was slightly concerned about how they were talked about.

They are described from within a context of taking a sense of separate self as real, as something that needs to be protected, and so on. It doesn’t quite fit in with my Buddhist background, or my other explorations right now.

But at the same time, it is pretty clear that this is just how it is filtered, interpreted and talked about, by this one person, or this one organization. It may not even reflect his own experience of it. It could just be a way of talking about it that is more accessible to most people.

So for instance, when the first rite is described as protection for our individual self, I can appreciate the wisdom in that. Why not protect this human self through shamanic means? We do it daily anyway, in other ways, whether in the context of exclusively identifying with it or not. We eat, put on clothes, seek shelter, go to the doctor, look both ways before crossing the street. So why not also through shamanic means? It is, after all, just the initial rite, with many other ones following.

And the same is the case with the other rites. They are all aimed at transformation at our human or soul levels, so why not? It is just another exploration. Another way to discover what is possible. And it can happen within the context of taking a sense of separate self as real, or not. Either way, it is fine. Even desirable, from relative and conventional views of wanting to support life (minimizing suffering, nudging towards happiness and awakening) and evolution.

Dream: transmissions



I am participating in a group receiving the Munay-Ki rites. It is led by a Tibetan Rinpoche, who is one of several Rinpoches seeing the effects of the rites as very helpful for themselves and anyone else open to receive them. (John Cleese is there as well, and I talk with him briefly.) The Rinpoche tells us that although we only have received one or two rites so far, the changes have taken place and are available for us to use. We are already released from old patterns, even if we haven’t quite noticed it yet, or trust it enough to live from it.

A friend told me about the Munay-Ki rites a couple of days ago. They are offered where I live, a new cycle start in a few weeks, and it comes from a tradition I have been interested in for a while (Four Winds Society, Alberto Villoldo, Inka shamanism), so I decided to participate. It is similar to shaktipat, energy transfer serving as a catalyst for awakening or healing, which I know works from my experience with Waking Down, Diksha and some other flavors of it. And the differences just makes it more interesting.

In their typical pragmatic and inclusive way, the Tibetan Rinpoches in the dream see the value of the Munay-Ki rites, and use them with their students and anyone else interested. My associations of John Cleese is of a slightly cynical person with a big heart, so him participating may mean that even cynical aspects of myself are on board with it. And the release from patterns may reflect something already happening for me, or something that may happen through the rites, or, most likely, both.

The terrain dream followed this one.