13 March 2024
11 min read
“‘Shamanic healing is a journey. It involves stepping out of our habitual roles, our conventional scripts, and improvising a dancing path.’”
Gabrielle Roth

Spring in the air

The spring is on its way. Every day, the apple tree in the orchard looks a little greener. We’re in that in-between place. The air is still wintry but the sun, when visible, is definitely warming up. The light is returning and with it, life’s urge to renew. I was meditating this morning on a favourite rock I like to visit in the mornings on the hills above where we live. It was a gorgeous morning, cold and bright. I felt the wind blowing through me, and for a short while, the world stopped right where it was. I disappeared into the landscape around me, like a casket of ashes released.

I love those moments. In fact, I would say I rely on them. To remember how fleeting I am. How impermanent my body, my concerns, and my thoughts are. When I wake up in the morning, I have taught myself to keep the world at bay whilst waking arrives. I usually wake early and I love that morning quiet, before dawn when the world around me is still sleeping. I begin my day with a meditation called the 21 Gratitudes, in which I go through all 21 gateways of the Movement Medicine mandala as a means of giving thanks to the miracle of life that I’m part of. At some point in that journey, I come to the gateway called ‘community.’ I begin with what’s around me; family, friends, the animals we live with, the stream, rocks and trees. 

Slowly, I expand that circle to include all the people and places I know and love. And at some point, I feel that sharp dagger of grief at the ongoing massacre and enforced starvation of the Palestinian people. I remember the families of the hostages too and the hostages themselves. Ukraine and the many young boys fighting another lunatic’s expansionist absurdities. I think of our family and friends in the Amazon, fighting to protect the forest. I think of the cruel conditions that so many millions of animals are forced to live in. It’s not in my nature to turn away. The reality of interconnection makes that impossible. 

I also turn my attention to the many millions of acts of kindness that nobody wrote about yesterday that are a normal, everyday feature of life on earth too. Beginning the day with gratitude is not a ‘sugar on shit’ exercise. It’s an exercise of perspective. The more I remember and take in the many blessings of my life, the less I am prone to fall into the modern disease of distraction and acquisition which is so destructive to the collective wellbeing of life on earth. 

Vicious circles and medicine circles

This month on the Study Hub, I'm offering the Mind and the Lens of Perception as our focus. Since I had the defining vision of my working life after being in ceremony at Auschwitz so many years ago, I have been committed to challenging the roles that Stephen Karpman so brilliantly described in the Drama Triangle, both in my own day-to-day life, and in my professional offering to others. Part of the vision I received in Auschwitz was about bringing this work to Israel and Palestine and I have been doing that for over twenty years. If I was wasting my time trying to weigh up the benefits or otherwise of my work, I might give in to despair at the current horrors continuing every day to unfold. Many years ago, I read Martha Graham's understanding of the artistry of what we offer into the world and it's stayed with me ever since.

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time. It is not your business to determine how good (or effective YDK) it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”
Martha Graham

The fact is we rarely get a sense of the actual effect of our work. What I do know is that the capacity we humans have to be so deeply identified with being the victim of everyone else’s bad behaviour whilst paying zero attention to our own is truly astounding. It’s at the centre of all conflict. And the whole blood-stained catastrophe is fed by the ideas and paradigms that we take for granted. Whatever we’ve got, we always need more. We think the land we live on is ours. And perhaps most damaging of all, people are either good or bad and that ‘fact’ is set in stone. 

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? ”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956

So, with all this going on, each day is a fresh challenge to remember the miracle that we are here at all. I get up, take care of my body, and get to work with doing whatever I can to loosen the grip of the Vicious Circle within me and around me. I will continue to dedicate my efforts, personally and professionally, to bring more of what we call the Medicine Circle (sometimes called the virtuous circle) into my personal life and to as many people and situations as possible through my professional life. That process is ongoing. Old stories unattended to tend to play out again and again. Humans who have been victims of cruelty who do not find the resource, courage and commitment to break that chain of suffering, become the next persecutors. They pass on their unprocessed pain as if it made sense.

In peaceful circumstances where everyday survival is more secure, we have a choice. Not about whatever it was that hurt us in the past. We cannot change what happened. But given support, we can change the meaning we make from it now. Those moments are tremendous opportunities for liberation.

To give you more insight into what these circles are, I am going to quote some words from Chapter 8 of my book Shaman: Invoking Power, Presence and Purpose at the Core of Who YOU Are

Vicious Circles are self‑perpetuating blame and counter‑blame patterns which spiral deeper and deeper into negativity and destruction. They can happen within us and between us, and they frequently do. Our world is full of them and our media is full of the resulting aggravation.

Medicine circles are the complete opposite. They are rooted in positive stories and ‘win‑win’ feedback loops that nourish and empower everyone involved. They are also self‑perpetuating, but they create connection and hope, rather than destroying them.

The (Shamanic) Drama Triangle

The drama triangle is made up of three wellknown characters. Please enter Victim, Persecutor and Rescuer. In our work, we have found it helpful to name a fourth role, the Hungry Ghost. This expands Karpman’s drama triangle into a vicious circle whose momentum can devour enormous amounts of life energy. All the roles keep us away from the underlying emotions that they mask. Most of these emotions are rooted in past pain projected onto present circumstances. You will be likely to find, for example, that a Persecutor was once a Victim themselves. But unowned emotion leads to blaming, bullying, selfpity and our human predilection for maintaining the moral high ground by claiming to be the biggest Victim on the block. It is the foundation of our rigid certainties and dismissal of those we do not understand – dismissal that can so easily end in violence. It is present, too, in the spiritual malady of our addictions.

Wherever I travel, I see these roles being played out to devastating effect in our relationships with ourselves, each other and the world we live in. All of them support one another so as to remain convinced of their point of view. The Persecutor needs a Victim to blame. The Rescuer needs a Victim so they can keep the focus off themselves. The Victim needs both Rescuer and the Persecutor to keep them powerless and locked into the story that nothing can change. And the Hungry Ghost sits on a dark whirlpool of ancient emotion that feeds this vicious circle and keeps it turning at speed, sucking the life out of us and keeping us locked into our suffering.

Over the years, I’ve developed a way of working with these characters that leads into working with the shadow. In my experience, shadows can and do show up in all areas of life – money, sex, power, you name it. I’ve found it enormously fruitful and life‑benefitting to actively seek out my own shadows. I’m confident you will too.

The Inner Shaman (the dancer) is a fine ally in this. Their love of the unknown and intrinsic creativity are invaluable at those inevitable times in life when the lights go out and we find ourselves stumbling in the dark. (I’m asking you, is it time now….) to ask the Inner Dancer to help you acknowledge and own how the roles of Victim, Persecutor, Rescuer and Hungry Ghost operate in your life as a vicious circle?  (I’m asking you, is it time now to look into how the roles of the Vicious Circle…..) collectively make up the central the Charlatan or False Self, who is guaranteed to cause you and others pain.

(There is a….) way out of this circle. (In our work…..) we invoke and embody the four archetypal presences that make up the medicine circle: the Dancing Warrior, the Dancing Fool, the Wise Elder and the Wounded Healer. These four medicine archetypes are powerful allies who collectively empower our central archetype – (whether we call it the Inner Shaman, or the Dancer, or the Artist). Their mutually enhancing skills will give you the resources to see how the vicious circle operates, step out from it and step into the Medicine Circle. 


In essence, this work is the core of my offering. If you want to study it deeper, read the book. Or better still, take my three-part Encounter Series, which takes you step by step through the book and gives you a thoroughly embodied grounding in the resources needed to do this work with the help of the Inner Shaman. 

Recognising the lenses through which we see the world is an ongoing commitment. We all have many blind domains, points of view that have been so normalised as unquestionably true within us that we no longer even notice them operating.

And that dear fellow human, is why we dance. To loosen our certainties. To give the mind legs and a body through which it can listen rather than dominate. To connect the mind to our emotional and physical intelligence. To be able to stand up inside who we are, grow up and take responsibility for our lives and play our role in life to the very best of our ability.

So may it be. Thanks for reading and may the spring force be with you. 


March 2024.

P.S. If you want to join us and our Guests from Combatants for Peace in our Equinox online ceremony, click here.

Ya’Acov DK

Ya’Acov Darling Khan, is the author of ‘Jaguar in the Body, Butterfly in the Heart...