You won't find another book like this on the market. Thoroughly addressing the needs of children as shamanic students, Natural Born Shamans is carving out its own niche. The 32 lesson plans for introducing children to shamanism cover a large range of topics. While this could seem very woo woo, at the heart of these lessons is the desire to teach kids to be resilient, emotionally healthy people. For those already practicing and wondering how to work with kids, this is a great jumping off point. For parents who don't practice shamanism, this book opens the door to understanding.
The author, Imelda Almquist, studied shamanism with Sandra Ingerman. Ms. Almquist is a Dutch artist who lives in London. She started a shamanic training group for children and called it the Time Travelers. These lesson plans are culled from her experience over 4 years running this group. The sheer number of lessons, breadth of topics discussed, author and student feedback on lessons and honest accounting of her own trials and tribulations makes me think this book could become a classic. I look forward to seeing future editions.
The activities are designed for use with mixed age children and short attention spans. The idea is to be more hands on and experiential. Children don't tolerate long time frames, deep theoretical lectures and adult topics. The beauty of these lessons is how they are crafted to the level children understand without dumbing-down topics. The first section of the book is introductory with a special focus on issues relating to children with special needs and children with shamanic gifts.
Although written for children, these lessons don't shy away from life's big questions: Is there a heaven? Life before birth? Life after death? What are the spiritual lessons of war? How does violence in video games affect children? What makes her a great teacher is how she allows the kids to search for answers through shamanic techniques and group discussion rather than lecturing. She describes this as letting spirit lead. The quotes from her students give a sense of the wonder and the critical thinking kids employ in sorting out these issues.
This book is honest about the problems a group leader will encounter. Equally important, it is honest about the problems kids face. The spiritual toolkit for life is like a first aid kit for the soul, giving kids the power to heal their own personal issues early. The lessons on body image are pertinent to kids with changing bodies and changing body image issues. Sections on dreams and nightmares, bullying, meet the monster-shadow work allow children to talk about their fears and shame and find ways to manage their feelings. More common shamanic topics like working with spirit animals and plant allies are taught in fun and creative ways. Empowering kids and building community are the essential lessons learned.
Some of these exercises are adaptable for use within a family or small circle of close friends. The author trained her own kids in her group and says parents and children tend to have power struggles. I wondered how these lesson plans would play out in real life with real children and decided to try a lesson with my daughter and the children of consenting friends. We did session plan 2, meeting your power animal. Six-year-olds can do this exercise. Having tried one lesson, I would be willing to try others with young kids. However, it's true that teaching your own child is harder. My daughter got jealous that I was paying attention to her friends. She refused to participate. The other girls found their power animals and enjoyed the experience.
One of the questions any parent is likely to have is whether it is a good idea to train kids in shamanic practices. Are you interested but afraid your child will be seen as weird? Ultimately this is a family choice. Family consent is stressed as essential before teaching any child. A consistent concern for children's well-being and acting within ethical boundaries provides a good overview for how to run a public group safely. For parents who don't practice shamanism, it's acceptable and important to check the training and character references of a potential teacher. If you plan to offer classes yourself, expect that parents will have these questions and make your process transparent.
How well these lessons transfer to your kids' group will depend on the group facilitator's skills in managing children and experience level as a shamanic practitioner. A good teacher will need to be able to mentor and model the values of respect, listening to others and speaking honestly. Imelda Almquist has dealt with many of the possible pitfalls of the work and taken into consideration what is good for children and what should be avoided. Foremost, she focuses on shamanic practice as a way of making connections, being healthy spiritually and physically. This book fills the void on how to start training the next generation. If her guidance on appropriate topics is followed to the letter, then kids should reap the benefits.
Highly recommended for shamanic practitioners who are parents or those living or working with children.
~review by Larissa Carlson Viana
Author: Imelda Almquist
Moon Books 2016
pp. 307, $27.95