Ancient ways for today

In the last of our articles on shamanic practices, Leo Rutherford summarizes the key points of shama

Shamanic practises, which have existed since the paleolithic period, are the oldest way which humanity sought connection with creation. The shamanic practise is shared by indigenous peoples the world over with an underlying cosmology that cuts across cultural differences and customs. All of us have evolved from shamanic cultures. Shamanism is not imported; it is our roots wherever we live. Today shamanism survives on all inhabited continents in less 'developed' regions, in spite of relentless western scientific materialism, the exploitation of the Earth and nature as something to be dominated, and dogmatic male-dominated religion.

Shamanism is a path to knowledge which is gained through experience of many facets of life. It is not a belief system, it is a way of knowledge, which is known from inside and stands up to the tests of time and experience. It is proven to work unlike beliefs which are taken on from outside and not personally tested in the laboratory of life.

In the past two to three millennia, a male ‘God’ in the image of man has been put into the minds of the people, rather like a Father Christmas figure. He is seen by many religious people as separate from the Universe and often sitting in judgment of it – and of us. This is totally at variance with the shamanic cultures who saw Creator and Creation as one and the same ‘God’ as the essence of existence of which we ourselves are an integral part. When we see ourselves as living within and as part of God, we don’t need complicated theology, we can go out to the trees, the animals, the sky and feel God present in nature.

The shamans say we are supposed to be the Caretakers of the Earth. We are the one species with the knowledge of Self, and thus the power of conscious choice. We are challenged to awaken to our Oneness with All Things, to our relationship to each other as cells in the body of Creator/Creation and to use our powers wisely. As the insatiable and unsustainable nature of Western style civilisation is becoming visible, more and more people are turning to the ancient indigenous cultures for help and guidance in finding a way back to living in greater harmony and balance with nature, with Planet Earth, and with themselves. Will we be in time? How can we do enough to change our polluting ways before our Planet ceases to be able to sustain us in the way to which we have become accustomed?

I was an engineer/business manager until mid-life crisis propelled me to seek deeper meaning in my existence. My odyssey into self-healing lead me, to my surprise, to the most ancient cultures. I have been involved in shamanism for nearly 30 years now and my world view and my life have changed beyond recognition. I am free of the guilt of Christianity and of the whole concept that belief/faith is necessary. My life quest is for knowledge.

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The Future of the Left: trade unions are more important than ever

Trade unions are under threat - and without them, the left has no future. 

Not accepting what you're given, when what you're given isn't enough, is the heart of trade unionism.

Workers having the means to change their lot - by standing together and organising is bread and butter for the labour movement - and the most important part? That 'lightbulb moment' when a group of workers realise they don't have to accept the injustice of their situation and that they have the means to change it.

That's what happened when a group of low-paid hospital workers organised a demonstration outside their hospital last week. As more of their colleagues clocked out and joined them on their picket, thart lightbulb went on.

When they stood together, proudly waving their union flags, singing a rhythmic chant and raising their homemade placards demanding a living wage they knew they had organised the collective strength needed to win.

The GMB union members, predominantly BAME women, work for Aramark, an American multinational outsourcing provider. They are hostesses and domestics in the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, a mental health trust with sites across south London.

Like the nurses and doctors, they work around vulnerable patients and are subject to verbal and in some cases physical abuse. Unlike the nurses and doctors their pay is determined by the private contractor that employs them - for many of these staff that means statutory sick pay, statutory annual leave entitlement and as little as £7.38 per hour.

This is little more than George Osborne's new 'Living Wage' of £7.20 per hour as of April.

But these workers aren't fighting for a living wage set by government or even the Living Wage Foundation - they are fighting for a genuine living wage. The GMB union and Class think tank have calculated that a genuine living wage of £10ph an hour as part of a full time contract removes the need for in work benefits.

As the TUC launches its 'Heart Unions' week of action against the trade union bill today, the Aramark workers will be receiving ballot papers to vote on whether or not they want to strike to win their demands.

These workers are showing exactly why we need to 'Heart Unions' more than ever, because it is the labour movement and workers like these that need to start setting the terms of the real living wage debate. It is campaigns like this, low-paid, in some cases precariously employed and often women workers using their collective strength to make demands on their employer with a strategy for winning those demands that will begin to deliver a genuine living wage.

It is also workers like these that the Trade Union Bill seeks to silence. In many ways it may succeed, but in many other ways workers can still win.

Osborne wants workers to accept what they're given - a living wage on his terms. He wants to stop the women working for Aramark from setting an example to other workers about what can be achieved.

There is no doubting that achieving higher ballot turn outs, restrictions on picket lines and most worryingly the use of agency workers to cover strikers work will make campaigns like these harder. But I refuse to accept they are insurmountable, or that good, solid organisation of working people doesn't have the ability to prevail over even the most authoritarian of legislation.

As the TUC launch their Heart Unions week of action against the bill these women are showing us how the labour movement can reclaim the demands for a genuine living wage. They also send a message to all working people, the message that the Tories fear the most, that collective action can still win and that attempts to silence workers can still be defeated.