I was very excited to get my hands on this book to review. It seemed like something that was right up my alley. I do a lot of meditation, guided and otherwise, including leading the occasional guided meditation workshop. I’m also a flutist, and breathwork is integral to my body and my being. To be handed a book about breathing and trancework was fantastic!
In short, I wanted to like this book. Honestly, I really, really wanted to like this book.
In the words of Mick Jagger, you can’t always get what you want.
Out of the 14 chapters in this book, only 2 are geared toward learning Shamanic Breathwork. Unbelievable? Don’t to take my word for it. In chapter 11 (“Preparations and Instructions for Breathing Alone”), the author recommends choosing a co-journeyer to help you process the results of your breathwork journey. If that person is not familiar with Shamanic Breathwork, “[y]ou may even want to give them this book ahead of time, and ask them to read this chapter and chapter 4 on the Shamanic Breathwork experience.” A grand total of 24 pages. That’s all you need to know.
Another 3 chapters are devoted to testimonials and journal entries from SHIP participants (SHIP is the Shamanic Healing Initiation Process, a series of five 5-day “initiations” over the course of one year.) These testimonials read like evangelical exhortations after the adrenaline rush of a tent revival meeting. And they sent up some red flags for me. For one thing, 16 out of the 23 individuals providing testimonials were, by their own accounts, battling alcoholism, drug addiction, severe or even suicidal depression, and/or involved in an abusive relationship. In other words, vulnerable individuals.
Here’s something that really disturbed me. The “Venus Rising Guidelines for Reentry After Shamanic Breathwork” includes the following [emphasis added]: “Don’t get a divorce (just yet); don’t get married (just yet); don’t quit your job (just yet); don’t adopt a pet (just yet); don’t change your hair color or get a Mohawk hairdo (just yet); and don’t give all your possessions away and join an ashram in India (just yet).” Keep that quote in mind while reading from these two testimonials. One woman relates this story [emphasis added]: “A divine intervention team was formed consisting of Venus Rising staff and SHIP-mates, and I was encouraged not to go home or return to my job at that time. I came for five days and stayed for eight weeks. I never returned to my job.” Another participant, a psychotherapist, takes a similar action just before attending his second SHIP workshop: “I sent my resignation letter to the clients of my full-time psychotherapy practice from an Internet coffee shop on my way to this initiation, and thus quit my profession of twenty-nine years.” The idea that a Shamanic Breathwork “Initiation” cycle will encourage you to simply walk away from your life smacks of irresponsibility.
Linda Star Wolf, herself a recovering alcoholic (a fact she mentions frequently), has developed and trademarked the Shamanic Breathwork process. It seems, from the way she presents the material in this book, that she has a broad view of what she wants and expects from this process. However, the details of her work are, at best, ill-defined, and at worst, contradictory. Her Code of Ethics for the Aquarian Shaman includes the following: “Live inside your body - be juicy.” Not exactly an “ethical” directive, in my view. Here’s another: “Do not enable others to stay as they are.” Really? Even if one is in a positive, stable and happy state? Although I suppose that, if she is targeting people with severe addictions or emotional stresses, she doesn’t come across happy and stable people often.
I should also mention the CD that is included with the book. There are two tracks on the CD, a 45-minute track of music that is intended to be used during your Shamanic Breathwork Journey, and a 25 minute guided meditation recorded by Linda Star Wolf. Neither bowled me over. The guided meditation is uneven, though I have heard worse. The Shamanic Breathwork journeying music is intended to guide you through the 7 chakras, with music at the end to help you ground and return. So that would mean 8 identifiable segments, right? Um, no. There are a total of 5 distinct pieces, with too many synthesized elements (in my opinion) to be enjoyable. Plus, 3 of the first 4 pieces have similar drumbeats, at nearly the same tempo. The other of the 4 (the second in the sequence), has a marginally slower beat. The music never drew me in, nor did it help me down a path.
The book is more of an extended sales brochure, encouraging people to come to Isis Cove to participate in SHIP initiations (after which you automatically become an ordained Shamanic Minister, by the way). The process seems geared toward people with significant personal issues looking for dramatic resolutions, a quick fix for a lifetime of issues. It is presented as a cathartic and dramatic exploration and integration of the darkest depths of one’s “shadow self,” and if that is what you are looking for, you might . . . might . . . find it here. I would, however, approach it with great caution, and, if you are relatively stable and happy, I doubt you will get much out of this.
If you still have some interest, you may want to consider instead purchasing the 2-CD set, The Spiral, which includes the 2 tracks on this CD. While I have not heard the whole set, it is $5 cheaper, and you’ll get at least 45 minutes of uninterrupted music out of it.
~review by KatSai
Author: Linda Star Wolf
Bear & Company, 2009pp. 254, $20.00