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Shaman 101: Change the Question

Posted: April 11, 2014 by Rob Voyle

I want to be a healer just like Jesus.

All of my ministry I have been fascinated by the transformational conversations Jesus had with people. Initially I thought he had super-human power or awareness. Now I don't think so at all. I think he was incredibly perceptive, strategic, and skilled in his use of language and that we can learn to effectively use these strategies and skills as well. At least that has been my experience.

Prior to becoming a priest I was a mechanical engineer, and in many ways "engineering solutions for people" is my preferred way of doing ministry. Learning specific, repeatable skills and strategies is essential to my engineers mind and heart.

Especially important is learning the off-beat or crazy strategies of parables, paradox, or spitting on the ground to make mud to put on a blind man's eyes. I've got the making mud figured out but I am still working on understanding walking on water. I think it has something to do with lightening up but I have an awful tendency to get weighed down by taking things way too seriously...

All the great Shaman, Jesus included, seemed to use bizarre non-linear approaches to teach and create opportunities for enlightenment or transformation. One of things they are really good at is asking different questions. Consider Jesus with the many born blind. The disciples asked whose sin caused the man to be blind, his own or his parents? Jesus doesn't ask questions of blame and sees the mans blindness as an opportunity for the glory of God to be manifest.

In addition to asking different questions they all seemed to see things from a different perspective. At this time in the church year I like to ask: What did Jesus come for? Was it to give us less death or to give us life? The answer seems very obvious yet in our churches and in our communities most of our programs are "less death" programs. They are designed to stop or prevent bad things from happening rather than being designed to ensure good things happen.

Think of some situation in your life that is unresolved...
What question are you asking?
Are you working to have less of something you don't want?

Steve Andreas, one of my teachers, says: It's easy to spot wrong answers, it's not so easy to spot wrong questions. When we get stuck in a problem we need to start asking different questions.

In your unresolved situation:
What would an alternative question be?...
What would the paradoxical question be?...
What would a really crazy question be?...

Do the questions shed light or darkness?
Keep asking different questions until you find the light?

Learning the art of asking good questions, and changing the perspective by which we view things are essential skills for both leaders and shaman.


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About the Author

Rob Voyle

Rob Voyle

The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle is a leader in the development and use of appreciative inquiry in church and coaching settings.

Rob's Approach to Training

  • Helpful: Training must provide practical, sustainable solutions for today's challenges.
  • Humorous: Creativity and humor go together as people enjoy new insights.
  • Healing: I create opportunities for people to experience transformational insights that lead to new ways of living, working, and being in the world.

>>   See more on Rob's
        Helpful, Humorous, Healing
        approach to training.