Shamanism is the most ancient spiritual tradition found on our planet and is far older than organized religions. It is used worldwide for healing, problem solving, and for maintaining balance between humans and nature. It is the spiritual practice that the overwhelming majority of our ancestors practiced, generation after generation, going way back into human history. It is itself not a religion.
The word Shaman came from the Evenki people of Siberia. It means “the one who knows”. A shaman may use drumming, dancing, singing, plant medicines, or meditation to experience a shift in consciousness, which allows her to travel to the spirit world. There, in the other reality, she meets with spirit helpers and gets help and advice, which she brings back and uses in the physical world.
Shamanism has no priests, no hierarchies, no sacred texts, no sects or factions, no external moral injunctions. It is based on a direct and immediate personal connection with the sacred. Shamanic practitioners experience the world and everything in it as being alive and conscious.
The shaman’s worldview sees everything as infused with life. Everything that has life also has spirit and energy. Spirit and energy are the links between all forms of life, between people, animals, plants, rocks, wind and water, earth and sky. It is the shaman’s job to communicate with other life forms for the purpose of healing.
Given the number of different cultures in which shamanism is performed, there is a remarkable consistency in which shamans experience and practice. This core shamanism is deeply wired in the human psyche; deeply familiar at an ancestral level, if not consciously remembered in the present. That makes (re) learning shamanism as easy and familiar experience for many people; a kind of spiritual homecoming.
Shamanism is a set of tools. It can be used in many ways including healing (of self and for others) and personal and spiritual development. Shamanic practice brings a deep sense of wholeness and a sense of connectedness to all life. It can instill in one a profound sense of connection with nature, something that is lost to many of us in our urbanized lifestyles, and which brings its own feeling of well-being.
Shamanic treatment today
A contemporary shamanic practitioner works, in principle, like traditional shamans have done in other cultures for centuries. But our practice here and now is obviously influenced by our own culture. Because every shamanic practitioner works with and is trained by his own spirit guides, there may individual variations in treatments. Everyone has their specialties or areas of work they do best.
Therapeutic Shamanism operates at where Shamanism and psychotherapy meet. It is concerned with empowering and enabling the “client” as much as possible. The practitioner works with the client, to enable the client to become their own shamanic practitioner. The client is encouraged to enter their own shamanic consciousness, meet their own guides and helpers, and find their own answers. The practitioner is there to help the client recover their own spiritual authority, power, and wholeness.
The practice also draws deeply from principles in person-centered counseling, of treating clients with respect, empathy, and honesty. It is embedded in the understanding of ethics and power issues that one hundred years of psychotherapy have given us. Its core principles are gentleness, awareness, empowering, and enabling.
Core to practice, drawing from body-centered psychotherapy, is a deep understanding of the wisdom of the body and body symptoms. From shamanism comes a deep sense of resonance with nature, and the aliveness and interconnectedness of all things. From both traditions comes a profound understanding of energy and consciousness.
Therapeutic Shamanism can be used for personal healing, help with life issues, raising self-awareness, personal and spiritual development, and much more.