By Ciel Patenaude —
Shamanism is the oldest known system of healing practice on Earth, and yet it offers great wisdom to our contemporary challenges. Deeply connected to and reflective of nature and the oneness of all things, this practice seeks to reconnect an individual with their spiritual path within the context of the whole. It views illness of mind and body as, ultimately, illness of spirit first, and views illness of spirit as springing primarily from the misinformed view that one is separate from the rest of existence.
The Shaman (or Shamanic Practitioner, depending upon their level of initiation and training) serves as a kind of intermediary in this process, conversing in their particular way with spiritual forces that may be acting within and upon an individual’s life. Although the scope of their practices is relatively unlimited, the Shamanic healer may utilize herbal medicine, energy work, ceremony, ritual, guidance from animal and elemental spirits, prayer, movement, and creative expression to facilitate awareness and healing. Ideally, the client or patient is asked to be engaged in most of the work being done—allowing them to not “get” healing so much as to heal themselves in a lasting manner—though some practices involve a direct transmission of healing and balance from the Shaman to the other.
The word shaman comes from a Siberian Tunguska word that means ‘to know.’ Shamans are those who have a direct experience of their own individual truth—sometimes called their ‘knowing’—and this allows them to step beyond their limited egoic perception of life and become connected to non-dual universal truth. (This is often achieved through trance-like states, though each Practitioner has a unique manner of connecting to Source). The Practitioner serves to translate this truth to assist those who have forgotten their own connection. Sickness results when we live without alignment to our truth, and healing results when we come back into contact with it.
Within shamanic practice there are several tools that may be employed by any individuals for the process of healing, regardless of whether they are working directly with a Practitioner. These tools serve as a kind of ‘reset’ and training for spiritual and (resulting) physical illnesses, shaking us out of habitual responses to life that may not be serving our best interests. They are simple and direct, and yet can be both profoundly difficult and effective when we have forgotten the perfection of our own existence, and find ourselves separate from the whole.
The three main tools that we work with in practice, and which I would offer as a tool for your own healing and path are as follows:
Everything that we mentally and emotionally focus upon can only become larger in our lives. Should we choose to see only the bad and the negative aspects of our experience, our brains will become trained to only notice and seek out those things, further confirming that life truly is as terrible as we expect. The brain then overrides the spiritual truth that is available to us all—that we are experiencing a perfection in process and experience, and always have been—and we become ill.
The mind is like a machine. We give it far more power than it deserves in modern society, for it is a processing unit, and not the true source of wisdom. The extent to which we associate ourselves with the chatter of the mind will determine exactly how much neurosis and pain we experience. Training the mind—as we would a muscle group at the gym—to think good, supportive, and loving thoughts is essential, and gratitude practice achieves this. By intentionally focusing on what is good and right in our worlds we naturally begin to see more of the same, and open up to the possibility that we increasingly deserve such goodness.
There is a kind of karmic law in shamanic practice which states that everything you wish upon someone else will come back to you seven times over. Both the “good” and the “bad” wishes you make for another being will, at some point, in some lifetime, come back to you in this way. Knowing this means we must commit to constant diligence in our thoughts (for it is ever so easy to become jealous and spiteful in a culture that feeds directly off of us feeling like less than and competing with everyone), and deliberately engage in wishing the best for people. This is blessing. There are many ways that one can do blessing—countless, really—but just the simple act of sending good thoughts to another being shifts us out of the spiritual illness and separation to be found in competition and comparison, and into a sense of unified experience that is reflective of true reality.
This is the last and seemingly most complicated of the tools here, and yet the simplest when it is understood.
The Buddha has been quoted, “When you realize how perfect everything is, you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.” This idea of perfection might seem like a far-fetched idea in a world where we are so often focused on what is wrong and bad both within ourselves and in our surrounding environments, but this is where ultimate truth is. This is seeing: all things are and always have been perfect.
Seeing is the act of really understanding and trusting that there is a beauty and perfection to your existence beyond all your judgments and chaos; that you have done your best at every turn in your life, and that you need not judge yourself (or any other) for choices made. It does not come immediately (unless you happen to be one of those chosen few destined for spontaneous realization), but we may dedicate ourselves to the seeking of it, and life will respond in kind to our dedication. Seeing is ultimate compassion, unshakable self-confidence, and unwavering faith.
Utilized consistently, these tools have the capacity to shift every part of our experience. Especially when we are lost in self-loathing, judgment, or depression or embittered by the experiences that have presented themselves, shamanic tools may change the course of our path entirely.
Real healing must be accompanied by a realignment of the heart and mind to universal truths and individual spiritual awareness, otherwise it is just a temporary abatement of physical symptoms (which will come back later in some other form). Shamanic practice offers this kind of healing, and as such is the most potent form of practice available to us today. I urge you to try these tools for 40 days as an experiment: what have you got to lose? I’m quite certain you will be convinced.
If you have interest in shamanic practice or the current re-emergence of shamanic medicine all around the world, I encourage you to have a look at online photographic essays of this summer’s “Call of 13 Shamans” in Siberia. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2751139/Summoning-spirits-ancestors-Shamans-world-gather-Siberia-ceremony-timed-coincide-cosmic-cycles.html An incredible gathering of some of the most powerful medicine people from around the globe, the intent of this festival was to bring dedicated attention and awareness to the need for great healing on the planet and within our collective hearts. I would think it is a near impossible thing to look at these photos and not be moved by the practice and the ecstasy that it evokes in those involved.
As well, if you are interested in first hand experience in shamanic practice I will be offering an eight-week course on Living Self Aware (working with the Ego) beginning this October. This is the first of three courses aimed at invigorating and uncovering the potential for self-realization inherent within us all. Please email or call for more information.
Ciel Patenaude is an Integrative Health & Shamanic Practitioner based in Williams Lake, BC. A highly trained and naturally gifted intuitive healer, Ciel holds a BSc in biology, an MA in Integrative Healing, and is a certified yoga teacher & wellness coach.