One of my teachers humourously called shamanism “The Path of Paraphernalia”. He was right, of course.  Shamanic practitioners tend to collect things like magpies do.  I have a variety of rattles, each with her own voice and specific use.  My florida water is is a permanent fixture on the alter space in my house, along with various gifts that remind me of the givers.  I have a mesa filled with stones and other magical objects. There are bells and crystals with which I work regularly. I am deeply attached to my drum, my conspirator in transformational work.

But none of these is a fundamental tool of a shaman. If all of them were lost, healing would still be possible. Transformation would continue to occur. Information and insight would come available from the other side.

There are, however, some tools of the shaman that are essential to this work.  They are, in fact, essential to living a rich and powerful life as a human being, so essential that they are hard-wired into our human energy systems. It is these I want to discuss here.

The first of these tools will be very familiar to anyone interested in transformation – of themselves, of situations, of lives.

That tool is gratitude.

And here’s why it is important and useful from a shamanic perspective.

Think about how you are being when you feel that something is owed to you. There is a tightness or a dullness to your being, and you are closed, perhaps to receiving anything else in fear of some sort of swindle taking place, of you being given a poor substitute for the thing you want and feel you should have. Anger, suspicion and fear are the flavours of this being state.

Now think about how you are being when you have just received something delightful and unexpected and you are thankful for it. There is an openness and freedom with the way you feel.  This being state is expansive and full of power. Your truest, deepest self is peeping out and can now come out to play.  New and good things have the space to arrive, to take shape and grow.

A shift from the “I am owed” state to the “I am thankful” state is possible at any time. In everyday life we often expect that this sort of shift only happens to us, that we are not able to instigate it ourselves.

The shaman, the human being of power, knows better. Knows that our speaking holds a key that can open the door to a rich life full of joy.

This form of speaking is gratitude. “Thank you for the wind that touches my face.” “Thank you that my sister cares enough about me to become angry when I ….” “Thank you for this challenge to my health and how it is teaching me to step into my own power.” Not always easy, consistently expressing gratitude requires awareness of ourselves and a determined mind.

We have very little direct control over what life brings us.  We do, however, have choice in the matter of who we will be in the face of what life brings us.  I challenge you to become grateful, to give thanks. More than once. Try it consistently for a week, a month, a year, and see the change in the quality of your life and of yourself.

Gratitude is transformational. Practicing it transforms you. It transforms what life brings you from a trial into a gift. It may even transform the world and the people around you.

Go on, try it. I dare you.