I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I started reading this book. I've been a shamanic practitioner for a long time now, and I've read a wide variety of books that offer different versions of the nuts-and-bolts: how to prepare yourself, how to journey, how to make shamanic tools, how to connect with the spirits. But Heart of Life isn't like that. It has a certain amount of how-to, but it goes deeper than that. If I had to characterize it, I'd say it's a book about the philosophy behind shamanism and how it can be applied to heal not just individuals but whole family lines and even the Earth itself. I found it to be profoundly moving. The ideas within these pages give me hope.
Author Jez Hughes divides the concept of the soul, and the book, into three parts: the Body Soul (the physical body and its connection with the material world), the Ancestral Soul (the part of ourselves and our families that is passed down over the generations), and the Dreaming Soul (the spirit-portion of ourselves in which we create our story, the spiritual architecture of our lives). Within each section he explores the way each soul-part affects our inner and outer lives. From this information he develops paths for healing each aspect, ways in which we can put ourselves, our families, and the Earth itself back together again.
Though this cosmology was new to me, I find that it works and makes sense. What's especially touching is the way the author opens up about his own wounds and healing experiences via this three-part worldview. It was his journey through shamanic initiation and into healing that helped him form these concepts. Throughout the book, I got the strong sense that shamanic practice is not just relevant, but vital for the modern world. It's not some antiquated set of ceremonies that 'primitive tribes' practice, but an active, living method of healing wounds and putting ourselves and the world back together again, better than before.