Shamanism provides a holistic view of healing that embraces the body,
the psyche, the soul, and the spiritual dimension of well-being.
What is Shamanism?
The word shamanism is often used to describe the ancient spiritual practices of indigenous cultures. In the core, shamanism is a way to connect with nature and all of creation. In our core, we are all indigenous.
For me personally, shamanism offers me practical tools to stay grounded and protected, while reliably and safely move between different worlds and realities. Something I’d been doing all my life – mostly getting desperately lost in it, because of the lack of proper guidance in our Western culture. I have been treated with pharmaceutical drugs in an attempt to suppress all kinds of symptoms, only creating other symptoms on top and getting more and more out of balance. Shamanism offered me great tools and practical insights to develop a sophisticated relationship with helping spiritual forces and support my personal and professional growth.
The shamanic worldview doesn’t split the world in two: good or bad, right or wrong, sacred or profane. On the contrary, it seeks to find unity and balance in the interactions between all existing forces. This non-dualistic view helped me to incorporate the even seemingly-competing and contradicting elements. My ability to be here and there at the same time, changed from being a psychiatric disorder that needed to be suppressed into a profound shamanic gift.
Plant Spirit Shamanism helped me to discover what I am here to do and be on our planet during my lifetime and provided a path for becoming a healing light in the world, by bringing our ordinary and non-ordinary realities together. – Yama
Medicine (wo)men are not gurus or saints
As John Lame Deer (Lakota Sioux medicine man) puts it: “A Medicine (wo)man shouldn’t be a saint. (S)he should experience and feel all the ups and downs, all the despair and joy, the magic and the reality, the courage and the fear of the people. He should be able to sink as low as a bug and soar like an eagle. He has to be God and the Devil, both of them. Being a good medicine man means being right in the midst of the turmoil not shielding yourself from it.”
And Ross Heaven states it this way: “Medicine (wo)men are ordinary men and women who have been through their share of trials and found a way to heal by working with their spirits and so therefor, with their guidance, can heal others. They do not claim to be ‘ascended masters’ or whatever new age title the Western imagination wants to dump on them.”
Contemporary medicine men
There are three categories of contemporary medicine (wo)men.
- Those who come from an unbroken shamanic tradition and continue to practice in that tradition, usually in their native culture.
- Those who 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.
- Those who were called by Spirit to serve the needs of their community as medicine (wo)men, though they may be long separated culturally from their original shamanic roots. As an Initiation they often go through deep challenges themselves. Those healed become the healers.
The Wounded Healer
The Wounded Healer is the person who has gone to the depths of difficulties, challenges and great suffering in order to be strengthened. As a result of that process (s)he becomes a source of great wisdom, healing power and inspiration for others.
The diamond in the wound
It is the wound itself that can drive you to an inner journey that becomes the transformation itself. After stripping away the selfish, ego-based feeling of being all alone in our wound, you might find the diamond inside and expand to meet others in the pain of their wound. If you can actually transcend it, you can choose a different role and successfully lead yourself to a path of service.
A Medicine (wo)man will not ‘fix’ you, it is your responsibility to cure yourself with his/her assistance. He might know or feel what you are going through and have some ideas and techniques that might help you – but every experience is unique and personal. The shaman will try to provide whatever you need in that moment, but (s)he will not do the job of healing for you.
Are you a Shaman?
Believing that you can easily hold a ceremony of your own after a couple of times drinking plant medicine is often a function of the Ego and not compatible with the essence of the Medicine and true healing work. Instead, concentrate on building a strong core in yourself through your own work with the plants or whatever tools that are resonating with you. Knowing how to relate without ‘technique’ to each individual in your care during a ceremony, what to do and say (or not say) and how to assist the healing of the plants by knowing the spirit and intentions of the Medicines, are skills acquired by drinking and working with the Medicine over a long time, and forming a bond with it – often in combination with dieting other plants. If you discover that you are truly drawn to ceremonial work, find a shaman you can apprentice with.