So one of the most wonderful concepts I came across in Huna Shamanism is the idea that there are four levels of reality.
I'm always harping how no matter where I turn for more spiritual knowledge, I check out Huna and I find a better, more complete version that works together with everything else I know as a well tuned system. It's really that good.
So one area where Huna really shines is the level of philosophy. A lot of traditions poo-poo intellectualizing, and end up with a bunch of thoroughly confused intellects among their students. Not Huna- Huna integrates intelligence instead, and comes up with just about the single most fantastically organizing idea so you can deal with just about any spiritual tradition you come across. And it's so simple I can explain it in a blog post. Ready? Great!
The Huna teaching is that there are four different ways to experience reality, levels, so to speak. Like all knowledge it's arbitrary, but I've yet to come across a more useful way of thinking of and describing shamanic reality. And since one aspect of being a shaman is to be a shapeshifter, with shamanic skill, you can jump between them. That might happen so fluently that a Western anthropologist might assume that an indigenous shaman might be a fraud or confabulator, because the anthropologist doesn't know how to experience everything the shaman is experiencing. Yet the shaman simply has the skill to expand his or her awareness. The irony is that the shaman knows the anthropologists level, he just also knows three more. With this teaching you can start at your Western point of view, if you were raised that way, but you never have to be limited by it again, and you can take part in the vast wealth of experience that is completely normal for many indigenous people, and you will never be tempted to brush anyone off because of your own ignorance. Ready? Why that's just really great! So here goes!
The first level of reality is our Western style thinking. Everything out there is objective, and everything in here is a dream, and dreams are not important. We can count beans, we can build computers, and we can chose our partner based on their wealth and status. We think the universe is a giant machine, running like clockwork, and we tend to find ways to avoid situations towards the edge of our thinking where the evidence piles up against our assumptions. We like to study things and place them in categories, and might consider those categories to be the real thing. If we want to talk to somebody far away, we give them a call, or take a boat. If we want to heal a body, we figure out what's wrong and then fix it, like a machine. It works great often, especially with obviously physical things like broken bones, and it can also work great on more subtler levels, but there are limits to how far those go. Rocks are obviously dead, plants and fish are alive but mute and are there mostly for our enjoyment, and while animals are certainly alive because they move when we poke them, they are most certainly not very smart, especially compared to ourselves. We can eventually discover everything there is to know, and there are specific things to be known that must be true. Telepathy, clairvoyance and manifestation are poppycrock, because physical events cannot be influenced by chemical processes in the brain. The heart pumps blood and that's it. No explanation is too complicated as long as it is physical.
It is, of course, quite possible to perform various kinds of healing on this level, and they tend to work especially well when they are also physical in nature such as replacing broken body parts or setting those bones. When the physicality of a condition gets more blurry, such as when it involves brain chemicals, so do the results. It is also quite possible to do psychological healing purely on this level, mostly by changing habits of negative self-talk into positive self-talk, or taking up physical exercise and drinking enough water (which alone cures a surprising number of conditions). And you can have good relationships on this level by praising people more than you criticize them.
I think that sums it up pretty well. We are somehow alive, yet we live in a dead world, so we might as well take over and mess with it. While I like to make fun of this worldview, just because it tends to take itself way too seriously, there's nothing wrong with it. I love computers. This worldview helped bring them about and I'm grateful for that. But it simply isn't the only lens available to experience reality with- there are three more.
The second level of reality is the realm where we're still all separate beings, but we're all connected, floating in a bog of interconnecting energy that carries thoughts and feelings all around between us. Of course telepathy exists, I can feel those I love all the time and sometimes I just know things about them or even talk to them directly in my mind. Some of my best friends are trees. Plenty of Gods and Goddesses everywhere, although, as a shaman, I treat them more as (possibly more experienced) peers rather than as objects of worship, hopes and fears. I can talk to anyone, from any time, by thinking about them, and just because fairies, gnomes and trolls aren't physical, it doesn't mean they're not real. I can see them in a misty, imagination-like layer overlaying the real world, but I don't construct them, they are obviously alive.
And so is my computer. Such irony that I can talk to my computer, yet the first level idea that computers are dead helped bring them about. But they don't mind, they are just waiting for us to get smarter. I think they are nice enough to us to help us when they do.
Fiction isn't really fiction, it just exists on a different plane of existance, and I can connect with superheroes or cartoon characters or the founder of starfleet academy from Star Trek to learn about the principles of leadership, and it will work. (This kind of thing is more common than is commonly assumed among successful people, they just most often don't advertise it).
I can influence others by sending them messages, which they will certainly receive subconsciously, and possibly consciously. The messages work better when they are emotional, vivid, sensual, and represent something the receiving person wants. (Want to really charge your telepathy? Send pizza scent and confirm sex God/dess status). You can also do healing on this level by sending positive messages, much as in first level, but you don't actually have to be there. You'll notice communication is much more fuzzy and multi-faceted and open to interpretation than on first level. If you want perfect reliability and efficiency, sending someone a text that they should meet you at 2 p.m. at the intersection of 35th and 21st street will work much better than telepathically sending them a picture of the scenery with two pillars symbolizing the time- but if you are interested in staying emotionally connected, by golly you two are with each other with every thought, the exact details be damned.
Second level is really good for having rewarding relationships.
The third level of reality is all about symbolism. Everything is an omen, and whatever you figure it means is true. Poked your cheek with the toothbrush this morning? That's an omen. So you're like- uh, okay so may have an issue with feeling fresh, so I'll let some blue light rain on me that represents calm and confidence. This place is a psychoanalysts dream, you have carte blanche to go uber-symbolic. Of course you still need to decide if this is the level you want to use in a particular situation, but once you did- that dust on your window sill and lint in your bellybutton is really meaningful stuff. The catch is that you have to interpret it. Now the thing is- everything's valid, you have to decide which one you want to be valid for the purpose at hand. Want to build your confidence? Why the lint in your bellybutton must have gathered from walking around all day looking so sharp. And the dust is so sparkly because it came from you (it will, if you take it back to second level for a moment, be just as happy if you sweep it, though).
The neatness of third level is that you can also use it for messaging. So where you would send a positive message on second level, on third level, you conjure up a symbol of whatever you are working on, and then change the symbol until you like it, expecting change to happen just as well as if you were working directly. Symbolic colors is a great way to use this- if you decide in your mind that (to give an example from tradition) that pink means clearing away that which is not so very helpful, then you can douse yourself in pink light in order to get a general boost in feeling good about yourself, or douse a job situation in order to improve it. I was in a position of responsibility once where I couldn't really get along well with anybody, so I use the pink light and they all just left. They wouldn't have had to, I would have been just as happy if just the parts that didn't work between us had gone away, but that's how it played out!
Now one thing to look into is the negative aspect of this- there's the stereotypical idea of Voodoo, someone torturing a puppet symbolic of someone that person wishes to harm. Now while this works, to an extent- the person will be receiving negative suggestions, so if that person's confidence is low, they might be accepted subconsciously- working with all that negative symbolism first and foremost takes a toll on the practitioner. If there is one being I pity most in the universe, it's a black sorcerer's subconscious mind. They have to vividly subject themselves to everything the sorcerer is conjuring up to project on other people! Yikes. Needless to say, that kind of thing is a really, really bad idea- possible for the target, but mostly and certainly for the practitioner.
To take it back where it belongs, shamanically, to healing, the incredibly useful aspect of this level is that you can directly deal with and influence something really terrible while maintaining complete privacy. You can have someone in front of you who went through the most personal bad experience imaginable, and you can just ask for a symbol of it, and while some of the emotion will come through in the symbol, that person never has to relive any of their trauma, and you never have to subject yourself to the full impact of knowing all the details, both for your psyche, and for your relationship with that person. You ask for the symbol, and you change the symbol until you like it, and you send it back. That's that, good things will happen. You can repeat it of course until you feel the energy change has become powerful enough.
If you take this level really far than you can consider everything that happens to be purely a symbol of your inner state of energy (which is why everything is an omen). That's a great state to just be in and look around, it's quite a rush.
The fourth level of reality is the one where everything is one large all encompassing glob of life. That's what the mystics are after when they go for Nirvana- all is bliss, nothing matters, all is life. That's certainly an interesting perspective, and it can help to go there now and then, and there's some really great stuff you can do with identifying- but this is a shamanic perspective, not a mystical one, so you will notice that is presented as one of four possible perspectives that can be useful depending on the circumstances. A true mystic would balk at the idea of assigning use value to the mystical experience, but shamanically speaking, if there's no use, what's the point? We are not about transcending life, we are about living it to the fullest, and the mystical level is just another way of looking at things.
Now the most practical way of using it is the process of identifying- it's like when you really like something, it kind of feels like it's you, and you might feel protective of it, and you will most certainly start understanding it much better. Say, you're driving a car- that car kind of grows on you, and you kind of know if what you're doing is good for the car. Of course, on first level, you can just tell by ear if the engine is running smoothly or if a bump in the road hit a rusty part, but on fourth level, you are that car, as well as yourself- so you just know. Is your oil running well? No? Okay you need a change. Now, my observation has been that fourth level works much better for this type of monitoring something because it's much quicker. You just kind of feel it's time for an oil change, so you just do it, so you can save your thinking for other stuff. I work with computers a lot, and I can always feel if a computer is congested, or how I have to write software that will feel smooth to the computer. When I'm coding, I focus on the computer so much, the lines get blurry.
A book I really recommend for a lot of shamanic reasons is War and Peace by Tolstoy. He has a really great description of how you can tell apart a man who is sitting on a horse, from a rider who is riding the horse. Described this way, the rider and the horse identify with each other and have merged to a degree, resulting in really smooth movement between them. The man and the horse don't have that great of a relationship, so they are awkward and clumsy. They are separate so they annoy each other when they're so close.
Now if you take this all the way to the traditional shamanic applications, you can identify with absolutely anything in order to make changes. You can be a rock, or a fire, or be water, or be a cat, or a tree, and there is so much you can learn about things just by becoming them. You really, deeply connect, and you just know. The list of knowledge that came about this way is endless, and since it's the most simple, it may be the single original technique of shamanism. Sure, there's this theory that cave men were taking magic mushrooms, so suddenly they got all inspired. Having visited my fair share of electronic music festivals I'm a bit skeptical that it's that simple, and magic mushrooms don't grow everywhere. But it does seem perfectly logical that prehistoric people would spend a lot of time staring at nature, if it's because they're lost, for hunting, for gathering, to find medicine or food or water, or just because there isn't anything else to do. So it makes sense that, once in a while, something would stare back at them, and they would just know- oh, so you're the headache-relieving bush, that's good to know, is it okay if I pick some if my, I mean your, root bark? I could feel that's where most of the headache helper stuff is. I may? Why, thank you so much, bush! (The talking was second level, presumably after receiving the knowledge on fourth).
It's also possible to identify with something or someone very strongly, and then change your behavior. This has been done over and over again for hunting- the shaman becomes a herd of deer, and then decides that it is now okay and a good time to come by the hunters so some of them can visit the spirit world before incarnating again (animals have less qualms about this kind of thing than we do). Shamans use this for the weather as well- becoming the storm, feeling its might, and then deciding how nice it would be to calm down. You can even become someone else and then decide to heal (or lose at poker- presumably for friendly games only, you don't usually gamble your house with someone you think is you).
For healing, you become the person with the illness, feel the illness, and then feel your confidence that you know how to heal it, and then you use whatever else you know to heal it. You could go double first level and become that person, and then, as that person, become a healthy person, but that's stretching it- it's usually easier to become that person on fourth level, and then use the third or second to do the healing. It might take a bit of confidence building to assume and let go of the illness again when you're done, but practice helps.
Finally, if you ever feel the need for a little vacation, identify with the entire universe, and basque in your glory. Then come back, brush your teeth, put your pajamas on, and set a reminder to call your mother the next morning, she missed you while you where being the universe.
As a side note- with these identifying games, there is this notion of a shaman or other person not play-acting but actually becoming whatever that person is identifying with. This is true- it is much more accurate to describe a person who is strongly identified as having become something else, because play-acting has a faux-artificial quality to it that becoming does not. However, this does not mean that everyone who tries this immediately fully becomes that other thing. It's certainly possible, but it's rare. It's rare because it's for the most part not necessary. If you really become a beetle, it's just much more practical to wait until your time is up in this life, and then find some egg to hatch out of and enjoy your full physical beetleness. The point of this shapeshifting is to conjure up another energy as a human. So for the most part, you stay physically the same, but you become as much as like whatever you are focusing on as is possible while still humanly incarnated, which is an art form in itself, and allows you to use what you learned for your human life's benefit, and those of your friends. You know the saga of Prometheus, who stole the fire from the Gods? This is like that. Who cares if you actually become a God? It's the fire you're after, and it's your fellow humans you care about. But you most certainly become a human embodiment of God right now if you want to. It's a legitimate career path in India, but here in the West, it's mostly hobbyists doing it, but you sure can. You could turn it into a career if you wanted to- I'm sure plenty of people would love to have a little shrine with an actual God in the flesh to take care of. Personally, I tend to have enough rather quickly- I actually like my little human storyline. But if you observe the career universe identifiers, they sure look serene, and I'm sure they are expressing in their human form exactly what they universe is like, which is kind of relaxing to know that they don't start burning everything to the ground when they universify themselves.
Now I hope I gave a nice taste here of an absolutely fantastic perspective- a tool, if you will- to look at reality. If you're not sure what's going on in a situation, with these, you can immediately get a quick idea of what's happening, and use your various behaviors you have in store appropriately. It is also extremely integrative- you can deal with everyone on equal footing, because you know it's good to talk to a scientist on first level (if they don't drop the usual hints they might be open to other levels as well). You can talk to a traditional European psychics, children and various indigenous people as well, and you don't have to look down on anyone for loving his old teddy bear. You can talk to occultists and adepts of mystery schools on third level, and you can become one with mystics on fourth. Now the thing is- you can switch back, depending on what's called for, and what you feel like doing! Finally, I thought when I first learned this, I have found a complete map of the level of reality we are on, and it is really simple to understand and use. It is also completely made up- not by me, and not by my teacher(s)- I suspect this particular map goes way, way, way back to some super advanced intelligence that has always been around. I also suspect that a lot of fragments you find in all kinds of places can be traced to it. But this feels really complete, I wouldn't know what other level to add to it to improve it. But even if the authors were (to us) super-superhumans, it's still made up- I use it because it works so well to understand and cope with situations I come in contact with, and to finally satisfy my curiosity, I hope it does for you too.