Please be so kind and tell us briefly – what is earth-based psychology?
Earth based psychology is a heaven and Earth approach. This approach helps us go into altered states of consciousness with awareness and bring these states back with us into everyday life. Its purpose isn’t just to alter our states but to use these states like a vision quest, to go out to get guidance for our lives and for our communities.
Can we call it the modern-day shamanism?
We can call it modern day shamanism because it is happening now and it is based on ancient timeless shamanic traditions of being called to, connecting with, and being guided by the Earth and the Universe. Shamans from the beginning have relied on altered states of consciousness to balance out and guide the way we live in consensus reality. Process Work honors these ancient traditions as borrows from these traditions and takes this work forward in a way that makes these altered states accessible to a broad range of people.
Do you believe that earth-based psychology teachings will follow the current popularity of ayahuasca ceremonies in Europe and maybe become a way of integrating altered states of consciousness into our everyday lives and serve as a way of prolonging empathogens teachings?
Earth based methods can help people integrate the experiences they have while on ayahuasca or other such ways of achieving altered states. I now know of a few people who lead ayahuasca ceremonies with a Process Work person there to help people integrate what comes through. There is a deep need for altered states of consciousness and Process Work is one important outlet for fulfilling this need in a way that is safe and integrative. When I began to study Process Work my work with shamans changed. I was able to go deeper and deeper more rapidly and integrate more of the experience using the awareness Process Work gave me. So yes Process Work emphasizes altered states and integration and can help integrate other powerful methods of accessing altered states. It is a very deep powerful method and I think it will grow more and more popular as people understand its benefits.
You mention that the earth and heavens can be facilitators too and you give an example of imagining ones favorite place on earth and „becoming that tree, becoming that rock” as a means of bringing openness to a dialogue between two parties (in this case Israelis and Palestinians). How does this work? In what other ways can earth and heavens facilitate us?
The Earth and the heavens take us away from all the polarities for a given moment. I first saw the power of this in a couple that was breaking up. They each became parts of nature and did the most beautiful dance together in front of the group and suddenly they understood why they were together and the mythical meaning of their relationship. The Earth isn’t polarized. You don’t hear the sand and the ocean fighting or the trees and the mountain. The Earth is one. The heavens are one. By learning to shape shift and become the Earth or and Heavens we merge with this consciousness and alter our states and move into oneness consciousness. We can use this consciousness to get a tip on how to solve conflict. We can use the Earth and heavens as our facilitator and dance the energies of the polarities until the polarities become more fluid or a unity dance occurs and from this unified state we can resolve our conflicts. I remember an Israeli Palestinian conflict work at a time that was so tense both sides from the beginning refused to even look at each other. Regular conflict work was impossible. I took everyone to their Earth spot. They got centered for a moment, dropped under the conflict level and began to look up and interact with each other and we had a really good several days of work together. So these methods are powerful they don’t necessarily create solutions but put us in a state of consciousness where we can be more open and guided and find solutions and relate and move forward.
Whenever people connect with their deepest selves and then can bring back their awareness to their daily lives, I call that shamanism.
In the interview with Mike O’Connell you mention that “out of differences and polarization comes an appreciation of differences and diversity”, that we are different and can be proud of our differences, given that (especially when faced with deep conflict) we can “access the part that is also unified and connected”, how can we tap into this unity? This connection?
We tap into this unity in a few key approaches. One is going to the Earth. We all share the Earth as a place we live. Second, we can go into unity through going into space time dreaming. While in this unified place we can get tips on how to deal with conflict. We can use these states to do what we call X and U work. This work means we dance with the energy of who we are and who the other side is until through our moving we find a unity. My enemy has this kind of energy. That is X. Lets say they are so aggressive and violent. Then I have who I am. Let’s say I think I want peace and cooperation. That is a U energy. While at my Earth spot or while space time dreaming I make a movement representing each energy and find a way to flow between the energies. This breaks the polarity. If one side or both sides can do this the polarity is broken. Finally sometimes common ground just happens. Enemies suddenly see they have the same concerns and desires for themselves, their families etc. A moment of common ground arises that momentarily overcomes the polarities. In work in Israel Palestine work often all sides start to spontaneously dance together. It is a moment of magic. Or people who have fought terribly in the seminars for their side suddenly start talking about loving each other. These are powerful, magic moments that don’t solve the whole conflict of course but are an important step forward.
Would you agree that the polarity that we see in the world and in the nature is the divine representation of the forever present duality of life itself which shows in our thoughts, emotions, desires and endeavors?
In terms of polarities as part of ever-present duality, as long as we dream there are roles and polarities. However, we can also develop that Process Mind that is unified and not polarized. This is the enlightened mind that can grow and develop. I think we are doing great developing the polarized mind but could use more individually and collectively of the Process Mind.
Arnold Mandell in his interview on Thinking Allowed outlines how hard it is to „go with the flow”, as the „flow”, as he emphasizes is in big part unconsious and goes against what we consciously want to do. How can we find unity within this internal conflict between the conscious and subconscious and reconnect ourselves with the Tao in order to freely flow with it?
My own view of flowing is that flowing is our natural state, and it is just we have gotten so far from nature in modern life. When we flow as individuals, groups, organizations, businesses, countries we feel well. The further we get from this flow state the more trouble and suffering we have so we are pulled back to this flow state I think Arnold Mindell may be referring here to what we want to do as what society and modern life needs us to do which can take us far away from our more natural flows. So in Process Work we learn to flow not by just going to the monastery to live but by dropping into this flow place on a regular basis. Arnold Mindell reminds us about 24 hours dreaming, to drop into this dreaming place of flow all the time, not to just wait for our night dreams to reconnect us to ourselves.
Do you believe that the days of greatness for the shamans will return? That we will open our eyes a bit wider, reconnect with our roots, with Mother Nature and re-prioritize our goals as humanity? Do you think we are ready to start viewing the world in a more universal way?
Interest in shamanism continues to grow on a worldwide basis. It is a deep part of us that can’t be destroyed. We need to do what we can to respect the indigenous cultures worldwide that have carried this wisdom and do what we can to preserve and live that wisdom. One of the most important lessons to learn is to take care of the Earth and respect her and love her. I think the greatness of shamans is returning. People are suffering so much, and the Earth is suffering so much that there is so much searching going on. Whenever people connect with their deepest selves and then can bring back their awareness to their daily lives, I call that shamanism. Wherever people value consensus reality and altered states of consciousness and bring the two together I call that shamanism. So yes, I see it coming back. It may not always be called shamanism. When I go into a corporation and use these methods they don’t say I am doing shamanism or they are using shamanism. Yet when we go to the Earth to center ourselves and use that in corporate work, that is shamanism. Much of what happens in therapy if the therapist can open up themselves is a form of shamanism.
So I hope through our respect for traditional shamanic cultures we can learn from then and bring back more of that wisdom. And it is coming back anyway. It is a dreaming process. One of the aboriginal elders told us, and Arny Mindell quotes this in one of his books, that you can kill the kangaroo but you can’t kill kangaroo dreaming. For me this means that as long as we dream, as long as we seek out and experience altered states, shamanism lives. To save the Earth in a time of such global warming crisis we must listen again to the Earth. It is possible that this crisis will wake us up. Like all crisis there is the potential to go either way. I am hoping it will wake us up to a new relationship to the Earth that is based on loving and caring for the Earth and bringing through her dreaming as shamans all over the Earth again. With this consciousness we know like all of nature we as humans have great diversity to be valued and appreciated, and we have a deep oneness that connects us all.
Thank you for your time and all of the wonderful work and support you bring into the world.
Gary Reiss has a private practice in Eugene and Portland, Oregon, has been Director of Rivers Way Community Clinic in Portland for 20 years, and teaches Process oriented Psychology worldwide, now actively teaching in 17 countries. He is a senior faculty member at the Process Work Institute, and brings 40 plus years’ experience to his work. His specialties include family therapy, sex therapy, working with coma patients, Worldwork in hot spots in the world, organizational development, and integrating Process Work with different spiritual traditions. He has published 10 books including The Dance of Sex; Dreaming Money: and Families that Dream Together. His latest book is Love, Power and Wisdom.