Buddha Groove’s Guru Series brings insight from experts across the fields of mindfulness, natural wellness, yoga, and meditation. This article features wisdom from Shamanic Practitioner and writer, Bénédicte Rousseau.
Shamans are the keepers of ancient techniques used to achieve and maintain well-being. They’re sometimes referred to as medicine men and women, healers, or (witch) doctors by Westerners. Shamans have been part of ordinary life for the majority of history, and they exist all over the world without exception.
So, what is shamanic healing? “Shamans are the people who deal with the tears and the holes we create in the net of life, the damage that we all cause in our search for survival,” says Martin Prechtel, a thinker, writer, teacher, and shaman. This is very true. Whether addressing individual or collective issues, shamanic healing restores harmony, creating a balanced relationship with life and the world of spirits.
1. A commonality of experience
There are many ways to be a shaman, of course, but there also is a commonality of experience. We are still human beings standing on planet Earth. Shamanic methods are strikingly similar the world over, despite sociocultural or geographical discrepancies. For example, shamans are able to communicate at will with subtle realities by the means of altered states of consciousness. They move between ordinary and nonordinary realities. In fact, we are all familiar with altered states of consciousness — in dreams. Shamanic altered states of consciousness are safer than dreaming. Indeed, they take place in a conscious waking state, and strict control over spirits is guaranteed, as opposed to dreaming, in which you might not be able to extricate yourself from an unwanted situation or nightmare.
2. A path of wholeness
Shamanism sees all creation as infused by spirits, natural forces of great subtlety. However, shamanism is not a religion and is compatible with any religious belief system. It’s a path of great freedom, aimed at reconnecting us with our instinctual nature and Indigenous souls. In other words, there is no such thing as an omnipotent god or spirit in shamanism. Moreover, in shamanic wisdom, neither God nor humans and their inventions are at the center of the universe, and this changes everything. So, what is at the center then? Maybe an empty space where gods and humans meet at the very core of existence. Shamanism initiates us to the glorious mysteries of the other world and teaches us to deal with this as part of our everyday lives, which is central to healing.
3. A journey of the senses
To be understood, shamanism is to be experienced. The world of spirits is to be experienced too, and this is fundamentally enjoyable. Senses play a key role in getting to know the other world and communicating with it, which may be challenging for the modern or domesticated mind. However, we must be aware that many things touted as shamanic or Indigenous actually are not. Besides, it requires more than good intentions, a few sweat-lodge ceremonies or shamanic workshops to become a shaman, a person who has the ability to perform spiritual healing and maintenance. Shamanic initiation usually takes years, and a shaman can only be recognized as such by their community and based on healing results. Experience and be careful who you decide to work with. Shamanic healing should strengthen you, holistically speaking, not make you weaker or dependent. It should also be affordable and transparent.
4. It starts in your own backyard!
Shamanic methods and ceremonial elements are not the same thing, though they are often performed simultaneously. The use of medicine plants or drugs is not a prerequisite to shamanic healing. Ayahuasca retreats seem to be increasingly popular, and these retreats can be beautiful and powerful experiences. However, what really matters is that we are connected to our own culture and roots and that we understand and respect the privacy of Indigenous traditions, which consumerism tends to undermine. We each landed in a specific part of the world for a reason, and that is where the quest for our spiritual lineage starts. Follow your instincts, travel and explore, but remember that shamanic healing is a journey, not an immediate destination. It’s a glorious adventure of the heart and of the soul, one step at a time. Are you ready?