The world of the shaman and shamanic healing is a vast topic, and there are many excellent books and websites out there that go into more detail than I will give here. My goal for this section is to present a simple explanation for those who are not familiar with these ways.
Most people in developed Western countries are familiar with visits to their doctor’s office or a local hospital. From birth to death, many of us have a lifetime of experiences with seeing the man or woman in the white coat who gives us injections, sets broken limbs or sends us to specialists for further tests.
Much of modern medicine is considered to be treatment for symptoms or emergency care. If I don’t feel well I will go see a doctor who will examine me and perhaps prescribe a medicine or treatment that will relieve the symptoms that are causing me to suffer. Often, these treatments do help to alleviate the symptoms, but the given pill may not address the cause of the ailment, so those symptoms may return again and again.
Modern Western medicine does not tend to address the whole person. All too often patients feel like they are not really being seen or heard. We get booked in for a 15-minute appointment during which time the doctor seems to spend more time entering our responses into a computer than actually looking at us. I’ve even had appointments where I was not touched at all! We may walk away with a prescription, but somehow deep down we still feel that something hasn’t been addressed. I’m not criticizing modern Western medicine because it definitely has its place, and I like to see it used alongside alternative treatments. I’m just giving a general snapshot so those who are not familiar with shamanic or energy healing can get an idea of how they differ.
A person who offers shamanic healing services goes by many different names. The most common one, shaman, has become so greatly overused in the modern world that it can be difficult to recognize an authentic practitioner. While the precise origin of the word shaman is not known, it is said to come from the Siberian Tungusic Evenki language. Over the years, the word has expanded out from its Northeast Asian origins and found its way to all the corners of the earth.
Other names for someone who works in the shamanic way include medicine man or woman, healer, curandero/a, or simply shamanic practitioner, but there are many more depending on culture and location.
While a Western doctor spends many years in medical school and residency, a true shaman also spends many years apprenticing with a master who guides him or her along the subtle but difficult path to being a bridge between the worlds.
Perhaps one of the main differences between a Western doctor and a shamanic healer is that of where they operate from. To understand this more clearly it is necessary to give a brief description of how those of us who walk this path see the world.
The Shamanic Worldview
To most people, the world is as we see it. We walk upon solid ground, swim in the earth’s waters, feel the wind and the sun on our skin, and interact with those we encounter in our daily lives. If we can see it or touch it, it’s real.
In the shamanic worldview, this universe has multiple layers, most of which cannot be seen or felt with the ordinary physical senses. And not only is the universe multidimensional, so are we. Much has already been written and published about our chakra system and multiple energetic bodies such as for example, the etheric and astral, so there is no need to go into those here.
I liken it to how we can tune into different radio or TV stations, each of which is broadcast on a different frequency. It is necessary to have the right equipment in order to be able to receive the signals that are transmitted from their source.
We humans are only able to perceive a very small portion of the entire electromagnetic spectrum, but this doesn’t mean those frequencies outside of our seeing and hearing don’t exist. Our “equipment” can only receive a limited range of the signals that are being transmitted from the extended universe. Many animals and some people are able to see beyond the normal human range of 700 to 400 nanometers, which is called the visible light spectrum, and hear beyond the range of 20 to 20,000 hertz.
All throughout human history there have been reports of people hearing voices or seeing otherworldly beings. It is believed that many forms of non-corporeal beings inhabit the unseen worlds. The shaman seeks to form alliances with the higher level beings in order to receive advice and assistance in dealing with an earthly task such as healing.
So now that we have a simple picture of the extended shamanic worldview we can return to the difference between where the Western doctor and the shaman work from. Our medical doctor works in the same reality as the patient. He draws upon his many years of schooling and practice, following strict industry and legal guidelines. His consciousness is in the room with him and you – or at least it should be!
In a shamanic healing, the practitioner uses different methods to go into an altered state of consciousness where she consults with her divine guides and healing masters who give her knowledge about what is going on with the patient and how to help them.
There are many types of this altered consciousness varying from the very obvious to the imperceptible. An example of an obvious one might be someone who is using drumming or ecstatic dancing to achieve the trance state, or someone in an African-based practice such as voodoo where the healer takes on the persona of his helping spirits and his outward manner changes noticeably.
On the opposite end of the spectrum we have the healer who is able to expand his or her consciousness into the unseen worlds and communicate with the spirits while they are in the act of working on their patient. The healer is in the room with you, but their consciousness is split between the physical and spiritual dimensions. They may be speaking to you at the same time they are receiving information from a spirit healer.
So, back to our original question – what is shamanic healing?
Your shamanic healer will be working in multidimensional realms in order to find the most effective solutions to the issues that you have brought in. In additional to the physical dimension (things of the body and your environment), you may also be addressing the emotional, mental or spiritual states.
We like to use the analogy of peeling back onion layers when we talk about how energy healing works. Energetic healing work doesn’t just look at the main issue a person brings in, but instead is more holistic. Not only do we look at the person’s lifestyle, we will also connect with our divine advisors for information that lies in the deeper, hidden layers.
Here’s a very simple example. A client – let’s call him John – may come in complaining of a recurring skin rash. He’s been to all kinds of doctors and none of them have been able to find the cause of the rash and none of the medications they prescribe bring any relief. In desperation, John turns to a shamanic healer. During the consultation, the practitioner suddenly sees deep red and feels strong, negative emotions. Because part of her years-long apprenticeship includes learning to deal with her own issues in order to be able to distinguish them from those of others, she knows that the things she is being shown pertain to her client. On going deeper, it turns out that John has been carrying a lot of unresolved anger towards his father. The healer then uses different techniques to release these strong emotions which then result in the rash disappearing over time.
As with other treatments, there can never be assurance of a particular outcome. A client has to be willing to consider the advice that comes through the healer during the session and take steps to carry out the suggested life changes or at least make a good attempt to do so.
One of the things I’ve seen come through frequently is for a client to contact someone with whom they may have a troublesome relationship . The energetics of their dysfunctional relationship may be the root cause of what has manifested for them in the physical sense, so we may receive divine guidance to work on healing this old wound.
What may happen on first hearing that they should contact their estranged family member is a feeling of extreme resistance, which is normal. But because the suggestion to do this has come from a higher source than the human ego, what happens next can be very surprising.
Time and again I have had clients come back and say that even though they were reluctant to make that call they decided it was worth a try. Using our friend John again as an example, let’s say he receives a suggestion to call his father. He initially cringes, thinking that speaking to his parent will once again result in the all too familiar arguments and shouting matches. But instead, when his father answers the phone, he tells him he was thinking about his son and is very happy that he called. They are then able to have a conversation that further encourages the energetics of the healing process to continue.
Shamanic healing is not a magic bullet or a one-time fix. It can take years, or even lifetimes, to accumulate the energetics that are causing us problems in this life, so one has to be patient and allow the process its due course.
“The journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu