Shamanic Healing

What is Shamanism?

Shamanism is a spiritual practice found in cultures around the world from ancient times to present day. It is an ancient form of spiritual healing. First and foremost, shamans' practices are practical and adaptable. These practices coexist over millennia with varying cultures, systems of government, and organized religious practices. The English word shaman comes from the name given to traditional tribal healers of the Tungus people of Siberia, and it roughly translates as "one who sees in the dark" (the hidden realities). This description is partly due to the fact that many shamanic practices involve meditation, often with eyes closed, sometimes in a deep trance state, to help discover the nature of a problem and determine potential solutions. The shaman "looks" into the shadows or dark places in a person, the community and the planet, and finds how to bring them light, hope and healing. In many cultures, a shaman is a healer, counselor and spiritual director all in one.

Most people seeking a balanced life often find that nurturing a personal spiritual connection is helpful, even essential to their quest. Scientific studies are now being carried out in support of this idea, affirming through research the benefit of a strong spiritual connection and regular meditation practice to maintain optimum health and foster healing. Shamanism has been described as "the first spiritual practice of humanity," with traditions and techniques traced back more than 30,000 years. Evidence of shamanism has been found in every culture and on every continent throughout the world since the dawn of mankind. More importantly, its legacy, methods and belief structures can be useful today in personal growth and healing.

Many formalized religions, from Buddhism to Christianity, came from ancient shamanic roots and still bear the shamanic threads of deep connection to the divine in all things. Shamanism itself is not a formalized system of beliefs or an ideology, rather, it is a group of activities and experiences shared by shamans in cultures around the world. This perspective is not inherently contradictory of any religious practice which allows a person to be in direct relationship with whatever they perceive as a higher power.

"Because it is not an organized religion as such, but rather a spiritual practice, shamanism cuts across all faiths and creeds, reaching deep levels of ancestral memory. As a primal belief system, which precedes established religion, it has its own symbolism and cosmology, inhabited by beings, gods, and totems, who display similar characteristics although they appear in various forms, depending upon their places of origin." ~John Matthews, The Celtic Shaman

Just as in ancient times, contemporary people consult with modern day shamanic practitioners for practical and pragmatic solutions to problems in everyday life-from personal illness, professional challenges, or family discord to ancestral issues.

At the core of shamanism is the belief that everything has a significant spiritual component and we are all connected in this web called 'nature'. In fact, a shaman believes everything exists as Spirit in its ultimate nature: Every person, every animal, every tree, every illness, literally every single thing that exists. Moreover, this Spirit can be accessed, engaged or encountered in ways that bring about positive change to enhance the quality of life, relationships and health. Modern shamanic practices also consider the importance of the mind-body-spirit connection to include: healthy eating, getting ample rest, engaging in appropriate exercise and having solid emotional support. Beyond all those things, the shamanic path recommends that we stay centered, aligned, and energetic in Spirit so that we can really live well and achieve optimum health on all levels.

What is a Shaman?

A shaman is a healer who moves into an altered state of consciousness to access a hidden reality in the spirit world for purposes of bringing back healing, power, and information. The word shaman widely refers to those who are medicine women/men, healers, and seers. Shamans believe that all problems, physical, emotional or mental, have their root cause in spiritual imbalance. A shaman works to restore balance and wholeness by addressing the root cause of the problem. Many methods are used in shamanic healing, including soul retrieval, retrieval of a spiritual ally, removal of unwanted energies, soul remembering, ancestral work, psychopomp (helping the deceased to cross over into the Light) and hands on healing. Shamans never work alone, but in conjunction with spiritual allies who guide them in providing what is needed for people. In my own practice I tell clients this is not my work, but rather Spirit working through me. My goal is always to be a clear and open channel for God's healing, wisdom, and love to flow through me for the healing of the client.

Shamans work in voluntary, ecstatic trance states, which alter their consciousness to travel to the realms of the invisible worlds. Their ability to gain information and make changes in the invisible realms is dependent upon the working relationships they develop with spirits there. In this sense, shamanism is a relationship-based practice of making changes in invisible realms to impact healing, of individuals or communities, in the realm of ordinary reality. In shamanistic cultures, all adults are responsible for their relationships with spiritual energies, including those of their home environment—geography, animals, and plant life, their ancestors, their own personal helping spirits, and God; the creator force.

The shaman is unique in that he or she not only has increased facility for traveling in non-ordinary realms, but also uses their Spirit relationships to create changes that will manifest in the physical world, for the healing of individuals or the community. This definition differentiates shamans from other types of practitioners. For example, mediums use altered states of consciousness, but they do not take action in those altered states and sorcerers take action in altered states, but not necessarily to heal.

For some peoples, such shamanic practice is part of their dominant culture, for others it is directly contradictory. Some individuals are intuitively guided to seek help from a contemporary shaman, often when other options have been exhausted, without even understanding what a shaman is or how they work.

Abilities of shamans—According to Christina Pratt in The Encyclopedia of Shamanism, a shaman is a practitioner who has gained mastery of:

  • Altered states of consciousness, possessing the ability to enter alternated states at will; controlling themselves while moving in and out of those states.

  • Mediating between the needs of the spirit world and those of the physical world in a way that can be understood and used by the community.

  • Serving the needs of the community that cannot be met by practitioners of other disciplines, such as physicians, psychiatrists, priests, and leaders.

  • A shaman is therefore a specific type of healer who uses an alternate state of consciousness to enter the invisible world, which is made up of all unseen aspects of the world that affect us, including the spiritual, emotional, mental, mythical, archetypal, and dream worlds.

    There are three categories of contemporary shamans, including those who:

    • Come from an unbroken shamanic tradition and continue to practice in that tradition, usually in their native culture.

    • Come from a shamanic tradition, but serve to bridge between that tradition and the modern Western world, often by adding ceremonies and rituals that were not necessary in their indigenous culture.

    • Are called by Spirit to serve the needs of their community as shamans, though they may be long separated culturally from their original shamanic roots.

What is the Shamanic Journey?

The shamanic journey is the basic technique one employs to initiate his/her personal spiritual connection and then to access ever deeper and higher levels of spiritual guidance. The journey frequently involves opening into a trancelike state similar to that of deep meditation and often results in striking visual and somatic imagery full of archetypal themes, visions, metaphors and intuitive messages.

Journeying is undertaken to enter into what author Carlos Castaneda named 'non-ordinaryreality', the realms of healing, wisdom and empowerment accessible by great mystics, teachers, artists and healers. The shaman is able to meet with work with personal spirit guides or helpers commonly thought of in our culture as guardian angels. The journey can offer profound intuitive and spiritual guidance. Moreover, shamanic traditions teach us that work done while journeying in alternate or spiritual dimensions can lead to functional and effective change in ordinary reality and can improve our everyday life.

Shamanism & Healing: 

Just as shamanism teaches that there is a spiritual component to everything, it also suggests one or more spiritual elements exist at the center of every illness. Therefore, there is a functional spiritual aspect to any physical and emotional recovery or healing experience. Shamanic practitioners seek to assist their clients in cleansing, strengthening and/or renewing their vital life force or Spirit. One's soul essence can be depleted or damaged through trauma or ongoing abuse or distress throughout their lifetime. The shamanic practitioner often works with clients in one or more initial sessions to bring them back to a state in which they may experience deep inner strength and balance. Further exercises, study, meditations, prayer-work and/or ceremony may be recommended to be performed by the client alone or in community. This additional work is intended to further the process of spiritual growth and repair, which also helps with physical and emotional healing or wellness.

Our culture already embraces one principle which is shamanic in nature: People who are always negative or constantly in a negative environment often become ill. One shamanic remedy might be to find ways for the sick person to be very positive to help manifest wellness. In shamanic practice, negative energy and its effects are called "spiritual intrusion." The shaman performs what is called a "shamanic extraction" to remove the negative energy from the client's system. From a shamanic perspective, people who constantly look in the mirror and think negative or critical thoughts, dump negative energy into themselves, wounding their spirits. In turn, this creates a field of negative energy around them, which magnetically draws more negativity to it. The cycle can go on and on until it is broken by a more powerful, personal spiritual shift; a shaman can help facilitate that shift. Shamans direct and move energy to restore the harmony within the individual, between the individual and the community, and between the community and the spirit world. Shamanic healing work requires two distinct phases: the accurate diagnosis of seen and unseen energies at the root of the problem as well as carrying out the specific choreography of energies needed to resolve the problem.

How can Shamanism benefit your Health & Wellbeing?

Individuals may seek shamanic healing for many different maladies. If they are living within a shamanic culture, shamanic healing is oftentimes a part of a multidisciplinary approach used for any disease or imbalance, in partnership with physical healers, botanical medicine, changes in diet, and other therapies. In contemporary western society, shamanic healing is unfamiliar to most non-indigenous individuals. Despite this, people are finding their way to contemporary shamans for all types of health challenges, but especially when they are not making satisfactory improvements with conventional approaches and seeking an alternative approach to mainstream medicine.

The perspective on individual disease differs in shamanism versus a more conventional medical view. In a shamanistic view: Similar symptoms or diseases do not always stem from the same underlying root energetic problem. Any illness may have a significant underlying spiritual or energetic issue, regardless of the form in which that illness manifests; physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or relational. Certain illnesses are more likely to have a spiritual component that may respond to shamanic healing techniques. These include psychological diagnoses such as: depression, anxiety, addictions, ADD/ADHD, and autism.

Illnesses that manifest physically may still have significant spiritual underpinnings. This is especially true for illnesses that have atypical or premature presentations, such as a degenerative illness that normally occurs in elder years occurring in a young adult. The sense that something is "missing" or that "I haven't been the same since..." can often be indicative of an energetic loss of some type, including soul energy loss. Shamanic healing is often part of a multi-pronged approach to an illness, and is fully compatible with both conventional medicine and other integrative treatments, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, homeopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic, and others.

Shamanism and soul retrieval have been around for better than 40,000 years; practiced by healers of most every indigenous culture on the planet. These ancient peoples understood what our modern culture has forgotten—there is more to healing and health than just the physical. In fact, there are four levels of our being that must be addressed in order for us to enjoy balanced and healthy lives. Our modern medical practices focus on the physical, our culture is obsessed with the mental, and psychotherapy addresses the emotional, but the fourth of these aspects, the spiritual, is mostly ignored all together. We are not discussing religion here—Shamanism has been practiced by the cultures of most of the religions of the world.

A shaman is a person who deals with spiritual illness. A trained shaman can perform a soul retrieval and actually bring back lost parts of a person's soul. This is a gentle, noninvasive technique that can be profound and life changing. In our day of medical miracles, it is a shame that so many of us suffer needlessly for lack of the most ancient of healing modalities. Fortunately for us all, this ancient form is being rediscovered and competent trained practitioners are becoming increasingly available..