Interview with Arnaud Riou

Arnaud Riou was born in France in 1963, and became a student of Tibetan Buddhism over twenty-five years ago. He first studied with Tibetan teachers at a Buddhist centre near Paris. His travels later brought him into contact with shamanic traditions, which at once strongly appealed to him, in particular because of the way direct experience is central to all shamanic practices. He has written several books on Buddhism and meditation, and his most recent work in his native French, Awakening the Shaman Within (an English translation is planned for the near future), has been a great success. He is also a public speaker, healer, coach and teacher of shamanism. He runs retreats in places of great natural beauty, such as the Moroccan desert, or Brittany, in France, where he resides. I was recently privileged to speak with him, and have the conversation below.

Me: To begin with, could you tell us about how you came to Buddhism, how old you were, what stage of your life you were at, and in what circumstances it happened?

Arnaud Riou: My first encounter with Buddhism and meditation, my first conscious introduction to spirituality, occurred when I was twenty-five, when I came across the Tibetan tradition, and met Tibetan masters. For fifteen years or so I followed their teachings, notably those of Garchen Rinpoche, and Togden Rinpoche.

I have Lama Dudul Dorje to thank for my discovery of Buddhism. He became my teacher, and I received my initiation from him. It is also he who subsequently opened the doors for me to meet other lamas.

Did you take refuge with this lama?

I took refuge with Gyalwang Drugpa, and I took refuge again ten years later, because I wanted to do so with the Drikung Kagyu lineage, which is perhaps the more esoteric lineage of the Kargyupa. That’s when I took refuge with Gyalwang Rinpoche once more, and a second time with Togden Rinpoche.

Did you at first have to travel to meet these teachers, or were you in regular contact with them?

In fact I was lucky enough to have access to a Tibetan centre, in Seine et Marne, in the greater Paris area. I had my master, Dudul Dorje, with whom I spent time and practiced almost daily, for eight or nine years. I did many retreats. We would invite other Tibetan masters to come to France, for example there was Lama Tenpa, but there were many others.

So you had an acual Buddhist practice from the outset? Was it just a meditation practice, or a more secret, esoteric practice?

There were several things, of course there was a meditation practice, but also very down to earth instruction, in order to learn to embody the teachings and the laws of Buddhism, the laws of impermanence for example. Our sangha was made up of fifteen people, so it was a small one, which made it possible for very individual, one-on-one work, not unlike therapy. It was really holistic guidance.

And how were you able to reconcile your work, your other activities, and this serious commitment to Tibetan Buddhis practice, which clearly occupied a good deal of your time?

In fact, I understood fairly rapidly that they were both contributing to each other. Initially, meditation was a more secondary aspect of things, because it seemed to be a separate activity, and I didn’t at once see very clearly how it might apply to my everyday life. Then, gradually, it became a part of my day, and I noticed changes beginning to occcur: my relationships changed, my posture and my attitude began to change, my confidence and self-esteem became healthier also. My understanding of phenomena began to evolve, and so even my work changed. At the time, I was mainly an actor and director, and then I started teaching, first drama, then meditation too. It just happened that way, and over time my profession changed as well.

In other interviews, you have spoken about a serious car accident you had in your youth, that almost cost you your life. You’ve also written about suffering from stomach ulcers in your twenties. These events must have shaken you up, are they in any way related to your attraction to Buddhism? Or was it the other way around, did you have your Buddhist practice to help you deal with them?

In fact, the car accident happened when I was 24, and it triggered a powerful wake-up call within me, because during the accident I had an NDE. And this experience made me see life, and death, in a different light. It showed me viscerally the fragility of life. After the accident, I really decided to take a new and closer look at myself, I realized that my life was passing me by. And I got the stomach ulcer after the accident. So I got this ulcer, then another that I initially treated with pharmaceutical drugs, but fairly soon I realized this kind of medication wasn’t going to heal me. At the time I was smoking a couple of packs a day, now and again I’d have half a bottle of whisky, so I really wasn’t paying much attention to what I was putting into my system. After the accident, I started changing my lifestyle, my diet, I gave up smoking and drinking. But it all happened naturally, because I realized that the physical body and the mind are intimately linked – you can’t feel well in your mind if the body is in poor condition.

And since I’d been destroying my body, I changed course, I changed not only what I was eating, I also slowed down. This of course made me healthier, and as a consequence I haven’t seen a doctor in twenty-five years. So I really underwent a profound transformation in mind and spirit, but also in body.

If I’m not mistaken, in the course of the NDE you mention, you saw the whole sequence of your life’s events flash before you. And I think you also experienced having a choice, or had a sense of a choice being available to you, either to continue, or not continue, your path in this present incarnation.

Yes, I think I did in fact really have that choice, to return or leave, and I made the decision to return. And I truly did it precisely to live my life differently, to be more mindful and make my existence more meaningful.

At what stage, then, did shamanism enter into your practice? How did an interest in a shamanic parth emerge from this serious, committed and uninterrupted practice of Buddhism?

It was very much the fruit of chance encounters. I spent a total of fifteen years with the Tibetan masters, among whom were masters of the more mystical Drikung Kagyu sect I mentioned earlier. And so there were lots of practices connected with fire, involving rituals, and these gradually broadened my vision. I subsequently traveled to Indonesia, Canada, and Mongolia, where I met other masters. For twelve of my Buddhist years I received the Dzogchen teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, and by discovering, in the course of my journeys, other masters, whose approach was particularly Buddhist, but rather shamanic, I realized that these approaches were actually not contradictory. These masters simply had a different angle, everything was complementary. The latter masters were, in fact, perhaps less dogmatic. And one thing that really appealed to me in shamanism, was that it truly is something that you practise, that you experience. And it is from experience that the teachings stem. It also helped me nourish my meditation practice, I never sensed a contradiction between shamanism and Buddhism, each practice shed light upon the other.

What prompted these journeys? Did they stem from encounters at your home Buddhist centre?

No, no, I simply went traveling, I went to India, to Tibet, and then to Indonesia, Canada, and further. But I had set an intention, I was setting out in order to seek out masters.

Let’s talk a bit more specifically about shamanism. For many of us, a shaman is possibly first and foremost a healer, perhaps also a guide, one who can give advice in times of hardship. A shaman may also be someone who has access to other dimensions of consciousness, to other worlds, able to communicate with the spirits there. I’d like to ask you about healing, but in a very broad sense. For example, how would a shaman approach healing an unharmonious situation? Because people do find themselves in situations they may feel powerless to change. Let’s say a person is stuck in a job in which they don’t feel fulfilled, of which they are a prisoner; or perhaps they’ve lost a job, and reemployment eludes them; or perhaps they’re desperate to move house, to get away from where they live, but their property won’t sell. What does shamanism suggest when we feel well and truly stuck?

What shamanism aims to help us understand, is the underlying unity of all things. That is to say, we are not separate from one another ,we are not detached from our environment. And so we are invited to look within ourselves, and this introspection allows us to examine all the dimensions of our being and situation, our health, where we live, the people we work with, our profession. All these things will have intertwined influences, it is impossible to isolate things from each other, the whole is always interacting with its different parts. And shamanism allows us to understand these connections, visible or invisible, between different dimensions. If for example I am unhappy at work, I may self-create an illness. What the shaman does, is to talk with the spirits, in order to identify which areas of our life are out of balance. The work I offer people is precisely the awakening of the shaman within, so we may sense for ourselves what areas of our life, or being, are out of balance, and which are in harmony.

Hence the title of your book, Awakening the Shaman Within. But what you’ve just said implies that we can still seek the help of a third party, a person like yourself, to help us reach a diagnosis. Because shamans of course can be guides, but even in Tibetan Buddhism, it is my understanding that there are beings which exist that can assist us. So the book doesn’t rule out a more in-depth exploration, with someone we may feel is more competent than ourselves as a guide perhaps.

No, it doesn’t rule it out, but the end goal for me, and of the book, is summarized in the title. I mean, I encourage people to awaken the shaman within themselves, rather than go and see a shaman, so as to avoid giving away their own power to someone else. Even though at times we may indeed need help, assistance in finding clarity, we may need advice. But fundamentally, the idea is to awaken our own power, our power to heal, our intuition and communicative powers. So even if now and again we need a hand, really we want to go deep within and awaken our own inner teacher.

And in order to do this, we might experiment with some of the tools you suggest in the book, contact with nature, seeking stillness, introspection, and so on?

Yes, contact with nature, developing one’s intuition, becoming more attentive to signs from other realms, paying attention to diet, being careful of one’s relationship with the environment, with trees, rivers, lakes, with everything that lives. Because since everything is alive, if we act, even in thought, in such a way that the spirit of even a lake, say, is displeased, we will create toxic connections with the environment.

Let us move on to ailments of the soul, though still with the issue of feeling powerless or helpless to find a solution unaided. You mentioned that at one stage you yourself had been a smoker, and had also consumed alcohol for a time. It seems we live in an era where a great many people are affected by addictions of one kind or another, to legal or illegal drugs. Or perhaps even more subtle addictions, that might not commonly be described as such, to negative thought patterns, or behaviours, which may lead to other problems such as depression. What does shamanism have to offer here?

Well we can observe first of all that its really a hugely cultural thing, because in Mongolia for example, shamans drink a lot. But I’ve noticed they can drink large quantities of alcohol and remain seeminglyunaffected, they don’t become inebriated. For them, alcohol is used to contact and communicate with spirits. Their relationship to alcohol is very, very different to our own. And the same goes for tobacco, they offer tobacco to the spirits, they partake in tobacco in this context, so it’s not at all the same relationship with this substance that we may have, because it is counterbalanced by a spiritual practice. And indeed, if we become dependent on alcohol or cigarettes, then in effect it’s as though we had signed a contract with toxic spirits, to be dragged downwards. So shamanism helps us identify these spirits, in order to be rid of them.

But for a Westerner, what form do these spirits take, can they really be entities, such as a disincarnate being, or are we talking about inner demons, a notion more accessible to Westerners, such as a negative or self-destructive thought pattern or emotion? In practise, how are these spirits identified, and how do we free ourselves of them?

Well these things are in fact often not so different, which is why in mental illness there is also a viewpoint which considers the involvement of spirits. The more fragile our character and the more unstable we are, the more we risk attracting toxic spirits who invade our inner space. Tangible signs of these can be suicidal thoughts, poisonous thoughts, thoughts uncharacteristic of a person. Sometimes, in a murder case, the killer will say, “I heard a voice telling me to do it.” These people have become so weak, so wobbly shall we say, that their body has become home to other spirits. Shamanism can drive these out.

So is there a two-step process, the first step being to chase out these spirits, and the second being to ensure they don’t return?

Spirits are drawn to areas of darkness and shadow, areas of fear, so the first thing we can do is to improve our physical and mental hygience, and then be mindful of our speech and our inner dialogue. We become overrun by toxic spirits in the same way we get involved with toxic friends. People who are drug addicts, who are actively using, will attract toxic spirits, but will also associate with toxic friends they have attracted. It is as easy or difficult to get rid of toxic friends as it is to get rid of toxic spirits. It works in the same way – you simply ask them to leave. And choose other friends.

Nevertheless, some people struggle greatly with drugs or other addictions, though it may never have occurred to them to think in terms of malignant spirits. I don’t know if shamanism recognizes a God or a Divine plane, but if a person has no (conscious) contact with spirit guides or their totem animal for example, is there any spirit or entity that can be prayed to for help?

Of course, one can always pray. I mean, there is of course the Great Spirit, the Spirit of All Things. But we can seek support from trees, from the sun, from animals, rivers, the earth, from fire, the five elements, water. There are spirits everywhere, so we can, for example, cleanse ourselves and seek protection from the spirit of fire. We can do this by lighting a candle, and using it to sweep a room or a space, while asking the spirit of fire to be present with us and purify us. Because you see, the healing of shamanism is not so much a solution to a given problem we may perceive as isolated, as a restoration of the balance of energies, of harmony, so that conditions for the issue in question to manifest are no longer supportive. We could also light an incense stick, and ask the spirit of air to purify our space. Or we could scatter salt crystals, and reach out to the spirit of the Earth. Or water, we can invoke the spirit of water when it rains, or by sprinkling water around us. So the five elements, for a start, help us cleanse. And then of course each place has a resident spirit, we could call upon the spirit of a temple, or the spirit of a mountain, or even of a country, all these are spirits that may assist or support us.

Just to finish up on this exploration of shamanism and healing, I’d like to ask you about healing injuries. For example, I am here in India deepening my yoga practice. In this or any other physical activity for which we are asking a lot of our bodies, minor injuries, aches and pains are commonplace, in particular joint problems, and muscle or tendon trouble. What does shamanism suggest for enhancing our self-healing powers, and for us to communicate better with our bodies?

For my part, I see, yoga, meditation and shamanism as highly complementary. Shamans actually don’t work with the body much. There are relatively few physical practices akin to yoga in shamanism. When there is an illness or an ailment of sorts, there are three energies shamans will work with towards healing. There is the spirit of the healer, the spirit of the ailing person, and the spirit of the illness or disorder, which is a spirit in itself, come to visit us to pass on a message. This is never a negative occurrence, it always appears with a message, to help us for example to be more flexible, less rigid, or to help us take better care of ourselves, or to be more grounded. And there comes a time, if we aren’t listening to the subtle signals, when the spirit of the ailment or disorder has no choice but to create tangible symptoms and pain, or to trap us in a sense, so that we are forced to look at the issue that needs addressing. So the ailment is not negative in itself. I myself have met a number of yoga teachers with joint problems, their lesson may simply be to modify how they practice, it could be as simple as that.

I see. But I wonder, if the ailment has become well established in our psyche, must it not first be unseated from its place in our consciousness, in order for the physical symptoms to cease to be a part of our experience?

That is to say, we should strive to be one with the ailment, to go with it, let it in, not position ourselves as a force opposing a separate entity or energy field. We should allow it to be, so as to truly identify and understand its message, and then use the message to heal ourselves.

And, rather than refer to outsiders, even qualified people, for their opinion or diagnosis, would it not be a shamanic practice to ask Source, the Great Spirit, or the Universe, to reveal to us the cause of our ailment?

We can meditate, cultivate inner stillness, look within, use visualizations, all these are tools which can give us clues as to the causes of our troubles.

I’d like to move on to a question which is not unrelated to my query about difficult situations. On your blog, you’ve posted an inspiring piece about your life path, and towards the end there’s a particularly beautiful paragraph on finding one’s purpose in life, one’s place in the world. You have written:

“To my mind, we are here on earth to honour two paths. The first is to identify the temperament of our soul. Among whom does our spirit feel vibrantly alive? Creators, teachers, healers, facilitators, travelers, builders, or others? Each of us has a unique energy vibration, our own frequency. Once we have identified our wavelength, we need to share our light with the world, to make it more beautiful, through our actions, our words, our writing, and so on. Whether we work as a baker, school teacher, mechanic, actor or author, we each have the means to contribute something to make the world a better place. I believe this is our greatest work, and our true path. We must follow this path until it leads us to where we feel we belong. Are you listening to your inner voice?”

I doubt, however, that I am the only one to have found the above difficult. When you relate your own life story, how you discovered acting, how you met your teachers, how the inspiration for your books came and how you wrote them, how you became a teacher, then a shamanic healer and so on, we get the impression your whole life path has been very flowing. Certainly, you have encountered difficulties, but overall there seems to be an element of effortlessness in what you have achieved and experienced. For those of us whose experience has been rather less seamless, have we been lacking in faith, motivation, self-discipline, or simply skill in living?

There is no….there are no levels. We are all here on earth for the same reason, which is to enable our soul to awaken. Certainly it can be hard to know what this entails, but there are no levels, there are no people who are inherently more advanced than others. There will be obstacles, and some people will meet them with flexibility and openness, others will harden and find them problematic. For example, right now I am working on a project to create a meditation centre here in France, and I have purchased a property to this end. Strangely, all the banks I contacted regarding the implementation of my project, turned me down one after another, they all refused to lend me money. And my initial reaction was to see this as a failure, but after the fifth or sixth bank, I simply understood there was a message behind all this. Banks were not the way to go. I had rather to find a community of investors. So I created a non-trading company, and I looked for partners to contribute in whatever measure they could. In this way, what seemed like a looming failure, which could have made me say, “OK, clearly this is not happening, let’s just forget it,” actually turned into an opportunity to broaden the project.

In India a few weeks ago, I had planned to visit a temple, but the taxi driver ended up taking me to the wrong place. In fact though, this turned out to be a gift, because thanks to this I met someone who introduced me to somebody else, who took me along to a beautiful ceremony. When we are confident, and have faith, there are no failures, not even sickness. When I became seriously ill, it turned into an opportunity to slow down and review my work life. So in each thing, we should strive to see not only the material plane, but the higher spiritual plane which is there also. Whatever happens to us, we can try and connect to that higher dimension, and see what the situation can teach us. And when we’re in that inner state, whatever arises is a gift.

But what is it we should have faith, or confidence, in? In ourselves? In some benevolent higher power?

There is no separation, Oneness includes everything, there is no “self” and there are no “others”. Sometimes we contrast those who believe in God but not in themselves, with those who believe in themselves but don’t believe in God. For me, the more you believe in one, the more you are inevitably led to believe in the other. Because God, the Divine, is not separate from us, and we can put anything we like in God. We could put Buddha, it comes to the same thing because there are no opposites.

But there are times when we really ask ourselves, “What am I doing here?” Even if we are doing something we felt inspired about at the outset, we may find ourselves doubting the good sense of an endeavour, or find ourselves in a situation which seems utterly meaningless. Or perhaps we feel stuck in a doldrum, nothing seems to be happening, our life seems to have to a standstill. And yet it is not my understanding that shamanism embraces the notion of there being a divine plan for our lives. This would imply that although we may not understand our circumstances, they are intended, and serve a higher purpose, which is how some traditions or schools of thought explain these things away.

No, there is no higher entity which will tell us where to go or what to do. We write our own story. But at the moment of our incarnation, our soul sets an intention, and at times we seem to forget this intention. If, for example, I am here in this life to discover the world, because my soul needs to radiate and contribute to it, it’s clear that if I stay cooped up in my apartment, sooner or later my soul will begin sending me messages, to remind me of this higher intention. But we don’t all need to travel to distant or exotic places, if we go there it will be because the experience enables us to grow. For example, if you to to India, it could be to deepen your connection to yoga. That, of course, is the higher cause, but in order to follow through, you have to get up early, drag yourself to the shala, and so on. So there is a cost, there are hurdles. But when we are connected to that higher dimension, these hurdles take on meaning, they are a necessary part of it all.

And is being concerned about our place and our role in the world a legitimate preoccupation from a shamanic perspective? The Bible tells us to seek first the Kingdom of God, and all the rest will be added unto us. Some modern teachers, like Eckhart Tolle, suggest we have an inner purpose (awakening) and an outer purpose (or several), in the world. I get the impression that Buddhism is unconcerned with the latter, the goal is to realize our true nature, and if we work towards this, everything else will quite likely fall into place. Or not, but either way it wouldn’t really matter.

Mmm….I like this idea, that “We are not here to have spiritual experiences, we are here to enable our soul to have bodily experiences.” Therefore the more we take care of ourselves, the more we are taking care of the world. From a shamanic perspective, we are here on earth for self-realization, that is, to realize our potential, both on a soul level and on an individual level, with our personality, our attributes, who we are on a relative level. The two can perfectly well go together. The main thing is, that when we aspire to do or experience something, we should know what is really movitating us. And if we are connected to our soul, we’ll be connected to our higher dimension.

I greatly enjoyed your book, which we’ve talked about, Awakening the Shaman Within, I think it speaks to a great many people, not least because you use language that even a layman can understand. Over the last two or three decades, many books have spoken of ancient traditions in less esoteric, more accessible language. Is it still nevertheless necessary to receive an initiation, or transmission (which are fundamental in Tibetan Buddhism as well as commonplace in shamanism), from a teacher, in order to really make progress on a path, to be more easily able to overcome negative influences?

Well actually what inspired me to write the book….You see, authentic teachers, that is to say who are truly the inheritors and receivers of an ancient tradition, are gradually disappearing from the face of the earth. In Mongolia, shamans are abandoning the vast open spaces and migrating towards towns, because government regulations have changed. Amerindian medicine men have long been relegated to reservations, and formerly persecuted or destroyed. And the Aboriginals are losing their land. The Tibetans were invaded by the Chinese, and so on , so in every place there were really true masters, these masters were destroyed or exiled or worse, and with them, that millenial transmission from master to disciple disappeared. And so today, other modes of transmission are appearing, such as books, or even the internet, which is a part of it too, these are completely new means of transmission, but they are also in alignment with our times.

Certainly it would seem that meeting a true, legitimate master, is not easy in this day and age, with charlatans and self-declared teachers abounding. But it is hard, I think, for most people to truly have faith and believe that they possess the strength, wisdom, and perseverence, to proceed alone without a guide or master.

Both are necessary, that is, there can be no spiritual experience without solitude, we need to be alone and to learn for ourselves, to come face to face with ourselves, with our lives. And there comes a time when we also need teachings, so as not to stray from the path. So I think we need both. The Tibetans speak of the outer master, the inner master, and the secret master. The outer master is the lama whose teachings we receive, the inner master is our soul, and the secret master is the union of both of these. On our spiritual path, we need to to encounter a master who is not too lenient, to shake us up a bit, we need to confront our ego, and we need to contemplate the self. Both components are necessary.

It is also said that we don’t need to seek out a master, because if we need to meet one, that encounter will somehow take place.

Yes, but we need to have that intention, because if we stay at home all the time we won’t meet anybody. Even if the idea of meeting a master has arisen, we need a direction. We may still need to take action for the meeting for which we are ripe to actually take place. And if we’re unsure of what direction or action to take, we can still set the intention to find out.

I feel your book is an invitation to interact with the world in a different, more alive, way. For a start you really emphasize the deepening of our relationship with the natural world. I think we would all like to live in a more magical, enchanted world, to which there is more than meets the eye, and in which nothing is as inanimate as it may seem. And your portrayal of shamanism seems to suggest we engage more fully with our environment, with the tangible world and beyond. Buddhism, on the other hand, seems to advocate transcending the world, going beyond it, at the very least, not getting caught up in it. Or it suggests the world is illusory.

We cannot transcend something we have not encountered nor experienced. If we want to transcend the body, we first have to really get to know the body and make friends with it, otherwise we just end up negating it’s needs, or being in denial about them. We often wish to transcend emotions without having got to know them well either. Or we want to transcend matter without being able to embody matter harmoniously. And for me, we need both. Otherwise it’s very easy for the ego to play games, or slip into delusion, and say, “Well matter is an illusion, everything is energy, I’m a spiritual being.” However, in this dimension we are composed of matter, we need to eat, to sleep, we need shelter. So it’s not a question of one or the other. Another example would be people who have been unable to find a suitable partner, and who say, “I don’t need a partner, I’ve gone beyond that need.” But they may often feel frustrated nevertheless. Others may think they have transcended money, but if we have really transcended the need for or the dependence on something, there will be absolutely no tension in us. If on any level there is the slightest trace of residual tension, it means we are not yet in fact transformed, that particular aspect of ourselves or our being has not been transcended. Even the experience of meditation can be neither a sign we have transcended something, nor even necessarily an aid to transcendance. It can be an avoidance strategy, or an escape. You can go into a cave for three years and three months, but at the end of the day, a dormouse that emerges from a cave is still a dormouse. Until we have transformed a particular experience, a particular plane, nothing is resolved.

You have described some of the Tibetan Buddhist masters you have met and studied with as shamans. What enables us to label them thus?

The reason they can be referred to as shamans is that that is the function they fulfill. Their role is to communicate with spirits, with the spirits of healing, the spirits of nature, and so on, and to converse with them.

I’d like to finish with three more down to earth questions if I may. You play a number of different instruments, and the cd that goes with your book contains tracks of you playing these. Could you speak briefly about the role of music in shamanism, since music seems to be a universal component in shamanism around the globe?

Music is very important, because we are made up of vibrations, the human body is a network of frequencies, of vibrations. And music is vibration of course. This is why there are some instruments that are truly healing instruments, for shamans the main ones are drums, flutes, bells, and so on. So these are shamanic instruments, I also became drawn to other instruments, singing bowls, percussion instruments, and other Amazonian, Peruvian or African instruments. These are healing instruments.

But if music is a vibration, can not any music be potentially healing?

If the intention behind the music is good, yes, any music can have a healing effect.

And how about meditation, is it a fundamental shamanic practice also?

Yes, for me, there can be no spiritual experience without meditation, because meditation is coming to terms with the mind, it is the very foundation of the path, meditation encompasses everything. But it can be done even for only short periods at a time. There are many kinds of meditation, it is up to each of us to find our own. But the meditation posture is one we must learn to inhabit, the meditative attitude one we must learn to embody, and this will give meaning to our lives. Just being present, here and now, aware of one’s breath, of one’s body, is already a meditation in itself.

Finally, you mentioned that not long after your accident, you understood that you no longer needed to eat meat. Vegetarianism is widespread in yoga circles, as it is in many schools of Buddhism. And yet many shamans come from regions where the people eat meat – Siberia, North America, parts of Africa. Is vegetarinism a part of shamanism?

Shamans are not particularly vegetarian. On the contrary, look at Mongolia, out in the steppes not much grows, shamans eat a lot of meat. Having said that, their relationship with animals is special, they pray for the animal, they give thanks, they pay their respects to its soul. All this ritual, these thoughts dedicated to the animal, are very present. But shamanism is in no way associated with vegetarianism.

Personally, I consider we can be in better health, that it’s poŝsible to have access to more information, if we are vegetarian, but this is only my own opinion and experience. I never force anyone, it is better to eat a little meat now and again, and have an open heart, than to be a hundred percent vegetarian, and get uptight every time anyone eats a chicken. The important thing is not to eat or not to eat meat, but the intention with which we eat the meat.

In nature, some animals are herbivores, and weigh half a ton, others are carnivores. It’s the same for humans, we each have to find the diet that works best for us. But it all has to happen with a softness of heart.

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