Shamanism is a blanket term for a large collection of differing Spiritual modalities that share some commonalities; often being naturalistic on the one hand and deeply mystical on the other.
Perhaps the most definitive commonality is found in the Shamanic states of Dreaming, something a Shaman refines beyond what we consider our ordinary dreaming experiences.
To Dream as a Shaman dreams is to exercise an innate ability in us all to develop a literal “second attention.” The difference between a Shaman and someone else is that the Shaman is keenly aware of the value of the second attention and pushes to develop it while the other does not know of it or does not try to develop such attention.
We all have a “first attention” by which we meet the world. It is comprised of all the information we have learned while the second attention accumulates the essence of our experiences. The first attention is held by the mind and in its highest form is expressed as Love. The second attention is held by the whole body and its highest expression may be called mystery, compassion, ecstasy or even perhaps Fun.
Distinguishing the two is essential to the Shaman. Both attentions coexist, yet in our day and time, only the first attention with its highly descriptive detail can be spoken or written. Yet it is the wonder of the second attention which the Artist strives to express.
At times, when we quiet the inner voice of our first attention and when we are clear enough to listen, we may indeed hear the voice of the second attention. Like flutes on the breeze, a ripple in time, a tantalizing metaphor, the second attention experience is there to behold. Not being nameable, we only chase our tails trying to bend the unspeakable into words. And for just such a reason, misunderstandings have arisen over the millennia.
This distinction is actually no different from the righteousness and piety commandments of Christianity. That is, to Love one's fellow humans (righteousness) and to Love the Creator (piety). It is to make a straight way in the wilderness, to distinguish between the sacred and mundane.
In short, the world of your first attention is upheld by the ways we all interact with one another, the ways of righteous behavior. And the world of the second attention is your private world and your personal association with the Divine. When the two are in harmony in a person, their attention is balanced and when society at large embraces their personal connection to Divinity, there will be no basis for religious conflict.
In our society, in our culture at this time, we have collectively forgotten how to use and enhance our second attention. The mundane is overwhelming us and we have turned our collective dream into a materialistic power grab in the first attention instead.
The solution is something the Shamans of long ago learned; be clear about practicalities, return the magic to the mundane by being clear also about what is fun ... what excites the imagination beyond the visions of this world.
There is a Divine reality that awaits your second attention yet it is only available to those willing to dream of worlds beyond. The obsessions of the first attention are unfulfilling alone without the bold dreaming of the real second attention.
Please remember that one can only beat around the bush in describing what is truly indescribable. Some will get it, some may understand intellectually, and some may be more confused than ever. The smallest clue can be the key that unlocks this mystery for you.