I wrote last about gratitude as the first tool of the shaman, and of any human who desires to live a rich and power-filled life.

Today the tool I am considering is not so easily or concisely named. It has to do with the ability to see what is in front of us. Simple,  right? Just open our eyes, and there it is.

I would assert that it is not so simple, that most of us see not what is in front of us, but what is  in our minds. Which is not to say that the computer / phone screen on which you are reading this is a figment of your mental imagining. It is, however, saying something about our consensual way of seeing the world, and it is saying something about our inherited human way of seeing the world.

One of the things we inherit as human beings is an imperative to know ourselves. Put more personally, I have an in-built imperative to know myself. Not my ego-driven persona, so necessary to survive this world, but my truest deepest, finest self – which is, for the most part, invisible to me. So I project her onto the world around me: on people, situations, organisations, landscapes, objects, belief systems, deities, ideas and so forth in order to make her visible. If I can spot these projected aspects of myself and own them, it is a great gift to me and to the universe as I then become a bit more whole, a bit more myself.

I find it difficult to spot my own projected self just from the experience – my projected self looks, sounds,  smells, feels and tastes like something outside myself, something maybe even strange to me.  She is in the dark, so far as my conscious mind is concerned. The way I can recognise her, though, is from the emotional charge on meeting her. A landscape that makes me weep is still beautiful (or tragic, depending on what I am seeing), but may well be reflecting back to me something hitherto unknown in me. A person I revere, hate or fall in love with is just as likely to be showing something in myself as to be my destined teacher, enemy or soul mate.

Which is not to say that I should not have teachers, enemies or soul mates – simply that on experiencing one of those knee-melting encounters that feel like I have met something numinous and fateful, my first question has come to be, “What in my own deep soul am I seeing here, played out on the screen the universe kindly agrees to be, without recognising it?”

And then I wait for an answer….

The other side of this tool, of seeing what is in front of us, has to do with this physical world and our consensual way of seeing it, how we are trained to see only part of what is there.

We live in a society that is very materialistic. By that I do not mean just that we value the accumulation of consumer goods, but that we value only the physical aspect of the world we live in. Many people have said this, but it bears saying again.

From a shaman’s perspective – and indeed from the point of view of indigenous people around the world, those who live closer to the earth than Americans and Europeans do, everything that has a reality in the physical world also has a spiritual (energetic, unseen) aspect which, very possibly, gives rise to its physical self.  The tree has soul. The car has spiritual expression. Just like me. Just like you. Often this energetic aspect of the world is invisible to me, it is in the dark. I have to practice seeing it.

And the unseen, spiritual aspect of the laptop, or the grass that makes up the lawn, or the wind sweeping leaves around the patio, or the hill I see in the distance is connected up with the unseen aspect of everything else. And with me. Who I am is part of a greater whole. Not just as some distant idea, but as an immediate experience. So not only what I do, but also who I am choosing to be, has an impact on all of this continuum of being.

Seeing this reality behind the physical sets me to asking what I am giving to life, to the universe, to the biosphere? And this brings me to a place of being more neighbourly to all those entities who share this marvelous universe with me. I greet them at the beginning of the day. I ask their help when I am not doing so well. I thank them for participating with me. And I listen….

Life fills with wonder, and with joy, when we have the company of our deepest selves and of the myriad participants in this world. This is the outcome of practicing seeing what is in front of us. Like riding a bike, it takes practice to master. But also like riding a bike, once mastered the ability to see what is there is yours forever.