"And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell, and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being." Black Elk

“There is something bigger outside ourselves that can help to give us the answers we need to feel full in our hearts. We are not alone” DP


The word “shamanism” is being increasingly utilized the world over and conjures up a variety of images based upon a person’s background and experiential framework. Paraphrasing excerpts from an interview of my work by Cynthia Ploski, published in chapter four of her book, Conversations with my Healers,
I hope to provide greater insight and clarity for those seeking answers.

Q: How did you move into shamanic healing work?

In the late 1980’s I became very ill and went to someone who practiced a technique known as “shamanic healing.” At that point, my life changed—it was like we got rid of things that were holding me back. It worked on me, re-empowering me….it created a path for me to where I was driven to connect with the people who did this training. I’d been seeing a Mayan medicine teacher before that and every time I saw him it seemed my life reflected positive changes so I was comfortable pursuing it further. The workshops I went to were conducted by Dr. Michael Harner and his staff of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, although there are other people who also do this type of training. In the basic training I learned how to journey to connect with spiritual teachers, or power animals, and start getting my own answers. It was a way for me to bring myself back to my own self and out of my illness. This training, and others I’ve since taken, has moved my life in a whole new direction.

Since 1990, I have been offering my services in shamanic healing work, and over the last 15 years, I have been fortunate enough to study with medicine teachers and shaman from a variety of traditions. Based on these teachings, and with spirit’s guidance, I have also created a series of cross-cultural spirituality and shamanic technique workshops.

See “CLASSES/EVENTS” for more details. click here

Q: How would you define a shaman? How would you define a journey?

I want to preface what I am saying about the role of a shaman by stating that I don’t call myself a shaman. I would never call myself that. I am a practitioner that does shamanic healing, and perhaps a woman who does medicine work, or even a woman who walks the worlds, because I know these things to be true for myself. But I will never advertise myself as a shaman or give myself that title. I leave that term for the elders and for the shaman I have met and honor.

A lot of terminology and information on shamanism can be found in books by Dr. Harner and others (see suggested reading at bottom of page). But, to paraphrase him, a shaman is a person who enters an altered state of consciousness, to make journeys into what are known as the lower, middle, and upper worlds (non-ordinary reality.) They enter these alternative realities intentionally to work with helping spirits, bringing back information for the healing of individuals, the community or the earth itself. This altered state of consciousness, sometimes achieved in indigenous cultures with psychotropic substances, is most often reached by using what is called “sonic drive,” use of repetitive sounds, most often with drums, rattles, and other percussion instruments, though some cultures also use singing or chanting.

Shamanism is based on animism-the belief that all things are alive and have an essence or spirit that can be contacted and that there is more to us than just our physical selves; that nature is alive with spirits, everything is interconnected and that different worlds exist within this one we know. Shamanism is not a religion in and of itself; rather, it is the oldest form of spiritual discipline in the world and found in part of human culture for tens of thousands of years.

I believe that we all ultimately come from heritages that were tribal in nature and every tribal community possessed shamanic wisdom and contained some source of shamanic work. Dr. Harner teaches what he calls “core shamanism” and is very clear that it is not based on, or meant to imitate, any one tradition. There is a basic core of teachings and beliefs, common to all shamanic practices.

In shamanic communities there are certain categories of work the shaman does. One is divination, shifting into non-ordinary reality to seek out answers to questions and find lost objects. Another is shamanic healing: this includes extraction of spiritual intrusions (things that don’t belong inside of us); soul retrieval, where due to any number of events in our lives, parts of our souls leave as a survival mechanism and need help returning; and power animal retrieval, where a person can experience a loss of spiritual power and we find and bring back a helping spirit manifesting in animal form whose characteristics and qualities are such as to help the suffering individual. Another category of shamanic work is called “psychopomp.” It is helping people die, moving the soul from life into death, helping them make that journey. We are helping the soul make that choice and get to the Light. Souls are often trapped between this world and that as well, and need help too.

In all of these cases, we work in conjunction with the spiritual realm or with “spirits.” Spirits are defined in shamanism simply as those things or beings which are normally not seen by people in an ordinary state of consciousness. But, in shamanism, it is not simple nature worship at all, but a two-way spiritual communication. Spirit is a loaded term and it can take a lot of people off guard; sometimes it helps people more comfortable if I call them angels, guardian spirits, guides, divine/source energy, God energy, names like that. It’s the God energy though and it can take a myriad of forms. The whole point is that it’s something bigger than me. Its something where I move outside of myself and Spirit works through me. It’s not possession. We work hand in hand. I’m a facilitator, or bridge, between worlds. There is a trust that comes for me the more that I do it. For years, I questioned its validity and wondered if I was just imagining it. But the validation has come from the truth of the information I receive. Dr. Harner says that it doesn’t matter where it comes from; what matters is the information we receive. It shouldn’t be analyzed; there are certain guidelines we need to follow, but trust it. Everyone can journey. Everyone can learn to get their own answers from their own spiritual realm.

The intention in working in the shamanic realm, for me, has to do with empowerment. It’s about becoming whole again, becoming re-empowered, regaining fullness, and feeling whole, which is our right, regardless of where we are in our life walk. People are searching for meaning in their lives, now more than ever, so I think its part of the search. Understanding the idea that everything is alive, that everything is whole, is a concept that people are turning to—they are seeking something bigger than themselves because they feel a need to be part of something. And traditional religion doesn’t always provide all the answers. Shamanism and shamanic practices are not at odds with more conventional spiritual perspectives. It is just another way of bringing people together more and helping each other heal and be whole. Because the more whole we are, our wholeness moves out into the rest of the planet and the more whole and healed the planet is. And Spirit is more than cooperative, more than willing to support our healing, our growth and our empowerment. They can only come partway, though, so it is up to us to open up to them to communicate, share information, and get the answers we seek to encourage this wholeness. The more I am given the opportunity to work with the spirits and within these sacred realms, the more I am awestruck and humbled by what is possible…for ourselves as individuals and for each other in community.

Suggested reading:
The Way of the Shaman, Dr. Michael Harner
Soul Retrieval, Sandra Ingerman
Shamanism as a Spiritual Practice for Daily Life, Tom Cowan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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