From the time we are born, there are certain foods that we naturally like and other foods for which we have to acquire a taste. For instance, you might like ice cream but need to acquire a taste for sushi, coffee or certain kinds of wine. This applies to all kinds of outer tastes, or anything we absorb through our five senses. We like certain fabrics, certain smells or certain sounds, but might have to develop a liking for other sensations. When we begin studying magic and shamanism, we realize that just as we have outer tastes, we also have inner taste. This inner taste refers to the sensations related to thoughts, feelings and emotions. These are our inner likes and dislikes, our natural inclinations toward some emotions and thoughts and repulsion to others.
Now it is commonly said that shamans live life somewhat backwards from the rest of the world. With regard to inner taste, this saying is certainly true. You see, in regular life our environment and our instincts teach us to like and want certain things with regard to our inner lives. We want approval and praise, to be important, to be held in high regard, to have a high self-esteem, to fit in, to be comfortable, to experience happy emotions and most of all, to be right. Shamans, on the other hand, acquire a taste for the exact opposite. Shamans enjoy absurdity, contradiction, being the fool, being wrong, having no esteem, being treated poorly by others and living in a manner completely backwards from ordinary life. Why is this?
Because in the apparently backward life of a shaman lies freedom of such inexplicable joy that the momentary comforts of ordinary life pale in comparison. Think of it this way: If we are forever the prisoners of other people’s opinions about us, if we must always be right before we can be happy and if we cannot be joyful unless we appear to fit in, how free are we? How much are we allowing outer circumstances and other people to control our lives? How can we live a free and self-directed life under the burden of all of these influences?
It seems absurd that we would find freedom in being wrong, in being treated poorly, in not fitting in with the rest of society, and yet it is true. Generations of masters throughout time have lived in this way. Sure, in being wrong and being a made a fool in front of others there is the knee-jerk reaction to feel embarrassed and ashamed. Yet, the longer we walk the shaman’s path the more we will be able to wait patiently through that onslaught of hot reaction. What lies beyond that torrent of reactions is peace. When we no longer care what others think of us, we experience the sweetest joy of freedom. This is truly an acquired taste.
Does this mean we should all run outside and declare to the Universe that we are ready to be made fools of so that we can be shamans overnight? Certainly not! Progress on the spiritual path comes from small moves not giant declarations. We don’t have the force to back up any giant declarations. No, a better place to start would be to choose area of your life as a laboratory, then see if you can find the sweet taste of freedom beyond the usual reactions. For instance, do you always seek praise and approval from others? If so, pick a situation in which you know you will want to seek approval, and make an exercise of deliberately not asking for it. You might choose a sports event you’re participating in, or a creative project you’re working on. Make sure it’s a small thing, not a big one. We have no force around the big events in our lives as yet, just the small ones. Observe in yourself the need to ask for approval and observe how much force it takes not to ask. Be observant of even the subtlest hint of asking. Many times, we don’t ask for approval outright, but we might bring up the topic in anticipation that someone will give us a positive stroke as part of the conversation. Wait out the whole event and see what lies beyond that need to ask and the momentary blush of pleasure your get from other people’s approval. What’s there? Can you taste it? If you can, notice your thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations. Noticing all three will help to lock the experience more fully into your memory.
If you’re not an approval hound, you can choose being right, fitting in, being the best, being perfect, having everyone around you be happy, pleasing others or any number of human personality traits to work with. Find pleasure in catching yourself and being still at the moment you want to express that personality trait. There is pleasure to be had if you can just hold the impulse back a moment or two longer than you really want to.
So have fun tasting your world in a whole new way. You will, perhaps, acquire a liking for a whole set of new tastes, and for the shamanic path in general. Good luck!