From my book




Shamanic healing, which is an intrinsic aspect of shamanism, is different in many ways to Spiritual Healing and Reiki, my shamanic path started in 1996 and although I no longer train people in the shamanic way, it is still the very core of my being. My spiritual guides gave me my spirit name “White Eagle” many years ago, it wasn’t always that, it changed over time as I grew and expanded my being. The meaning of White Eagle is – a protector of the medicine wheel, protector of the teachings. It means a spiritual teacher, and is regarded as a sacred messenger between people and the divine. The white eagle’s ability to soar high symbolises a deep connection to the spiritual world reaching heights that others cannot reach.

In chapter three of my book: The Effects of Shamanic Healing & Other Healing Practices on General Well-Being, I look at shamanism and shamanic healing and its relevance in todays world, below is part of that same book.

……..So here we are at the central pivot of this learning. Everything spoken of so far has been to lay somewhat of a foundation for this chapter to rest on. It has given us a basic understanding of who and what we are individually and collectively within the universe. It has given us an idea of what we need in order to live in harmony with ourselves in a state of general well-being, but what it didn’t do was delve deeper into one specific healing method – that of shamanic healing. That is what we are going to do now; look deeper with, hopefully, an unbiased view of an ancient healing method.

Shamanic healing has been around for thousands of years, not just in the Americas but around the world. It is sometimes dressed differently, it sometimes has different names, but the underlying philosophy remains the same. As shamanic healing relies heavily on the communing with other spirits in other realms that seems a good starting point.

Whether or not the spirit realm and spirits are real is a far reaching question for many, which brings with it complex answers and, often, inconceivable results for us as humans. The answer to such questions can have a major impact for our culturally shared beliefs, for the way we conduct ourselves in life, for how we relate to one another, to nature, and to all living things; such questions can and will impact on how we continue to exist from this point on. The difficulty we have here is that beliefs can and do change. What one believes today may not be what one believes tomorrow, and that is because beliefs are usually based on our communities’ beliefs. They are often a culturally based and shared opinion that we have adopted as a child. As we grow, we often start to analyse our beliefs and throw out the ones that no longer fit our understanding of life. So we can’t base all things purely on beliefs as they are too easy to change.

But what I have found is that we can base many things on our personal understanding or our personal perspective, and although the same experience will be different for all, it will nonetheless give us some central themes that we hold in common. Questions like: do we have a non-physical aspect that interacts with or affects our physical body? Or, do we have an aspect which has the ability to move freely on the earth without a physical vehicle? Or even, do we have a non-physical aspect that we can actually converse with and be heard? Questions such as these may seem mind-boggling to some, but are pretty elementary to others. So we need to look at why it is mind-boggling to one and not the other, and if we look deeply enough or raise enough questions, we will see it comes down to experience. From experience, I can say spirits are real. I have seen the spirits of deceased individuals since I was five years old. From a mental health perspective and from one who trained in mental health, I can say with much conviction that I am not deluded, I am not suffering with a psychosis or other mental health issue and I do not use substances to bring about such occurrences. So if I am wrong, there must be some other reason for these occurrences. These sightings have occurred all throughout my life. I am not able to will them to happen and they don’t happen all the time, but they do happen and they are natural occurrences that I have no control of. So with such experience throughout life, I cannot ever accept that spirit beings do not exist – they simply do and they exist in reality not in my imagination. To further support my theory, my experience and the theory of others, I will share one such experience which happened when I was only seventeen years old.

I was working in a nursing home for the elderly. I was working with a nurse at the time. It was late evening and we were turning an elderly man in his bed whilst changing his sheets. As I cradled the man in my arms so that the nurse could put the clean sheet under him, I felt something which is akin to a breeze when it touches your face. What I felt passed straight through my body. I felt it come out of my back. The feeling was so strong that I naturally turned my head to see what it was. At that particular time, I didn’t see anything. I only felt it. I knew what it was and said to the nurse, ‘You don’t need to rush, he has just died.’ In complete disbelief the nurse laid the man back down to check him, and upon examination she was able to confirm that the man had passed quietly away. What I felt was his spirit passing through me as it left his body.

Experiences like that never leave you. You don’t forget them and you certainly can’t deny them. Does this spiritual or energetic component relate to God or the Divine? I believe it does. I believe our spirit is directly related to the Divine, as we are all interconnected. Is it provable? This is where the difficulty lies. How can you prove such things other than relying on the experiences that people have? It is not necessarily measurable in the same way that science measures things in the physical realm, and we can’t set up an experiment with spirit, as not all see or sense spirit and we wouldn’t be able to determine imagination from reality. The current methods of studying our physical, tangible reality is so different to how we could study the spirit realm, especially as our belief systems and spiritual experiences are centered on the intangible. Assuming that we do have spirits that can communicate with us leads onto whether or not these spirits or spiritual forces can have an effect on healing, whether it be through direct techniques from themselves, or whether it occurs due to the beliefs of the practitioner, the atmosphere of the healing room or even the patient. These are all valid issues which require exploring, and through exploration, cross-cultural studies, examples, personal experience and the knowledge and wisdom of others, I will attempt to demonstrate to the best of my ability not only that spirits are real, but also the relationship between the spiritual realm and the physical realm and how spirit informs matter. With these important issues opened up it will permit us a deeper understanding of how shamanism and other healing practices help us to heal.

Shamanism is a way of living. It was a common practice in ancient times and still continues to be practised today. Some call it a religion, while others view it as a set of techniques and philosophies; how it is viewed is irrelevant to some degree. What matters is whether or not it has a positive impact upon our being in way of healing. Shamanism is based on interaction with the spirit world. In ancient societies the shaman played a key role within the community, acting as a spiritual leader, healer, herbalist and teacher among other things. They were highly respected by the community, and their gifts and their wisdom was honoured. It has been said that shamans are a type of medicine man or woman distinguished by the use of journeying to other worlds and through their personal healing journey. They journey by entering into an altered state of consciousness usually brought about via external sound and rhythm. It is the shaman we are going to concentrate on rather than a shamanic practitioner who uses some shamanic techniques.

Agreeing that spirit is real is one thing, but can the shaman really commune with spirit in order to affect matter? This is a question that will continue to be a rhetorical question for those whose culture understands shamanism and a mystery for other cultures. Shamanic cultures believe that not only does spirit affect matter (which includes our body) but that the spiritual realm and the physical realm are reflections of one another. It has been said that to understand the law of cause and effect, look to nature. In regards to shamanic cultures, to question these realities is as preposterous as asking a priest if God exists. The answer will always be, ‘Of course it does.’ Every religion and every belief system has its core beliefs and convictions and to question these often seems ridiculous to those who share such beliefs.

Ken Wilbur speaks in his book: The Marriage of Sense and Soul (1998)10-Bibliography about the difficulties between science and spirituality. It was thought that due to the authority given to scientists in empirical science that their power dramatically affected how people perceived the spirit realm. Anything that was not proven was deemed irrational or non-existent, and that pretty much stands the same today.

If scientists state it’s real, we accept it. If they come back later and say it isn’t, we may tut and complain, but many of us will then change our view and accept it because they, the authoritative ones, the ones who know, said it was so. In regards to science, the spiritual experience is often devalued; paranormal experiences, miraculous cures, or any other abnormal phenomena is often considered hype, fraud or plain ignorance if it lacks quantitative data to prove its existence. As time has gone on, and with science gaining more and more popularity for people who were or are looking for the truth, much of the ancient spiritual knowledge of how to coexist with the spirit world has been lost or forgotten. As many cultures pass on their knowledge verbally, it is becoming increasingly difficult to hold onto important truths that were discovered thousands of years ago. As with all things, over the centuries verbal instruction starts to become disjointed or confused and often loses its power and intent. For some, what was in the past is no longer relevant for today; but we take that perspective at our own peril, for there are thousands of years worth of spiritual wisdom and knowledge that is still highly relevant for today and the future.

Shamanism has stood the test of time. It may look different on the outside when we look around the world, but the basic precepts, the basic values are the same. It has been and always will be a bridge between spirit and matter, a bridge between the spirit realm and the physical realm.

Martin Prechtel, a contemporary shaman, says in an interview with Derrick Jensen on Saving the Indigenous Soul:8-Resources For the majority of human history, shamans have simply been a part of ordinary life. They exist all over the world. It seems strange to Westerners now because they have systematically devalued the other world and no longer deal with it as part of their everyday lives.

At this point we may want to consider what a shaman actually is, and although it may conjure up many ideas in today’s minds, this is what Martin Prechtel explains as a shaman, from the same source, Saving the Indigenous Soul:

Shamans are sometimes considered healers or doctors, but really they are people who deal with the tears and holes we create in the net of life, the damage that we all cause in our search for survival. Shamans deal with the problems that arise when we forget the relationship that exists between us and the other world that feeds us, or when, for whatever reason, we don’t feed the other world in return. (Full copy of the interview available)4-Appendices

We Need, As Spiritual Human Beings, to Remember:

“It’s like my old teacher used to say, (says Prechtel) you sit singing on a little rock in the middle of a pond, and your song makes a ripple that goes out to the shores where the spirits live. When it hits the shore, it sends an echo back toward you. That echo is the spiritual nutrition.” When you send out a gift, you send it out in all directions at once. And then it comes back to you from all directions”.

What we sow we reap, good or bad. Even the Bible tells us:

Cast your bread upon the waters for you will find it in many days. (Ecclesiastes 11:1).

Although shamanism may differ in its presentation on the outside across the globe, the techniques used across many diverse cultures are very similar and therefore considered to be core shamanism. It is this core shamanism that acts like a golden thread weaving shamans and shamanism from around the world together as one; they become the shamanic tapestry that holds the light and points the way. This macro-cultural approach is especially relevant in today’s culture as it permits shamanic healing techniques and spiritual knowledge and wisdom from the past to be utilized today. In a throwaway culture of time, it is important that we maintain the circle and hold on tightly to the wisdom of our elders, the techniques of our ancient healers, so that we have something of quality to pass on to the future generations. With ancient history, wisdom and techniques available, it also permits those who are not born into a tribe or shamanic culture but whom feel called to such a path to be able to fulfil that calling. Practitioners such as Myron Eshowsky, Sandra Ingerman, Michael Harner and Susan Marcantonio are all on a heartfelt quest to continue to embrace and respectfully make use of, and work with, that same ancient, spiritually based, core shamanism in order to bring a fresh awareness of spirit to a contemporary world.

Unbeknown to many, shamanic healing can be used in conjunction with orthodox medicine. There are practitioners today who combine their knowledge of alternative medicine whether that be psychotherapy, counseling, massage or other healing methods with orthodox medicine and achieve outstanding results.

In different places around the world, patients with mental health issues are viewed very differently than in the western world and are treated very differently, often using power animals and/or soul retrieval. Orthodox medicine and alternative medicine CAN work together, if only we would permit it. There are tribal doctors that are certified to practice in local hospitals; in Arizona, a Navajo surgeon combines her knowledge of American Indian culture and practices with her medical training to put patients at ease and improve her surgical outcomes.

Shamanism is an effective therapeutic model as is intercessory prayer and other natural healing models, all of which are worth investigating further. Shamans journey or travel to ask for help from spirits on behalf of their patients; those who conduct intercessory prayer somewhat journey, if only in their thoughts or heart, to ask for help from spirit – the Lord, the Holy Spirit, God – on behalf of their patient or fellow members. Praying in this way has been demonstrated to help the healing process. Prayer is an element of most major religions and, therefore, opens many doorways. If healing practices, whether of core shamanism or religion, can gain scientific validity it will help bridge the gap between science and spirituality; this would be an amazing milestone and one which would lead us into a brand new arena where science and spirituality could finally walk side-by-side.

Whether through prayer, shamanic healing, or other forms of alternative, energy-based medicine, the time has come to utilize all such methods and techniques to facilitate healing, but in particular, the spiritual wisdom of shamanic healing has the potential to impact our health, and these healing methods and techniques are not limited to human beings. They can be used on animals, trees, plants and all of creation.

The Relationship Between Spirit and Matter in Regards to Shamanism

The basic premise of shamanism is that everything is alive – with spirit. The earth we walk on, the air we breathe, the vines of the forest, the birds, the plants, the animals – everything. Even our ancestors have or are spirit. Spirit is used here to mean a spiritual aspect that is different from, but is connected too, a physical aspect; and when that physical aspect dies or withdraws from a living state, the spirit continues to live. But spirit is not reserved purely for that which has or had a physical existence. Shamanism also believes that there are spirits that live in an intangible world that have never lived in a tangible way. Some of these spirits may be animal totems or spirit helpers or allies. Spirit can refer to the creative force of the universe, to the concept of God, or to the vast, impersonal universe that supports all of creation. It can refer to aspects of nature such as tree spirits or the spirit of the wind. It is a widely used and accepted term.

Faith in the existence of spirits is a fundamental principle of shamanism and many other cultures. Another word for this belief is animism: the belief that places, creatures, people and nature have a sentient life force, a distinct spiritual essence that animates them and makes them alive. In regards to the tangible, it is the belief that all physical beings have a spiritual aspect that is related to and connected to the physical being until death, where that same spiritual being can then still function as a separate aspect. The physical body cannot function without the spiritual body, but the spiritual body can function without the physical body, which could be seen as demonstrating that the physical body is a mere vehicle for the real self.

Every level of being, from a plant to a stream to the landscape itself, has a unique spirit, and we must relearn respect for this aspect of life. Traditionally, shamans would ask the permission of a tree spirit or plant spirit before cutting it down. This was done to honour the spirit that embodies the physical aspect of the tree or plant. For the same reason, if a shaman wanted to enter a forest they would first find the guardian tree and ask permission from the guardian spirit. If they were told they must not enter the forest, they didn’t. It was as simple as that! All around the world shamans rely on communing with spirits. It is an intrinsic part of shamanism. It is as normal as getting up in the morning and expecting to eat or drink. It wasn’t something they did out of self-discipline, it was something they did as part of their natural life.

Serge King: Kahuna Healing (1983)11-Bibliography talks about Kahuna healing and how the Kahuna (shaman) receives initiations into ancient healing councils whose powerful healing energy is channelled into the client.

Ake Hultkrantz: Shamanic Healing and Ritual Drama (1997)12-Bibliography talks about the Cree’s belief in the manitous (which means spirits) that exist universally in the natural world and how they also believe in a Supreme Being called Manitou or Kitche Manitou meaning Great Spirit. This way of thinking is called animism. Joseph Campbell describes the philosophy of animism as being: all the forces of nature, imbued with a life force.

In some cultures the elements of nature take on specific roles in relation to humans such as protectors or guides. In some shamanic cultures, the spirits of the sun, water, thunder, mountains, the bear and the crow are considered guardian spirits, particularly of the shaman, and although these spirits are sometimes seen with the physical eye, they are usually invisible; and for many Westerners, invisible often equates to non-existent. For shamanic people, invisible forces are often amongst the most powerful allies in their lives, believing that our relationship to spirit impacts on the quality of our life.

A harmonious relationship with spirit can be cultivated in many ways, including: honouring our ancestors, showing thanks to animals and plants that give their lives to sustain us, and respecting our body and treating it well. Many of these qualities are missing in today’s world. Often, we no longer give thanks to those closest to us never mind our ancestors. We don’t show much thanks, appreciation, or respect to the animals that have been slaughtered, nor do we fully appreciate the plant life who give of themselves to sustain us. The attitudes of today are partly to blame for the lack of balance in the world and in our own personal worlds, and for this reason the shaman who masters the human to spirit relationship intervenes and tries to restore health and balance otherwise known as health and well-being.

The Spiritual World

In shamanic cultures worldwide there is a world which can be seen with our physical eyes and another world perceived with non-physical eyes. The non-physical world is of primary importance for any shaman. Some native people consider this non-physical world as the real world.

Many shamanic cultures divide the spiritual world into different realms, such as the lower, middle and upper realms. Some people call these same worlds spheres or levels, numbering them as one, two and three, with three relating to the upper realm or world. It has been my experience upon my journey that there are in fact four realms, which we touch on later. All realms are said to be intersected by some kind of axis point; for some, this is the axis mundi:

The axis mundi (also cosmic axis, world axis, world pillar, centre of the world, world tree, in certain beliefs and philosophies), is the world centre, or the connection between Heaven and Earth. As the celestial pole and geographical pole, it expresses a point of connection between sky and earth where the four compass directions meet. At this point travel and correspondence is made between higher and lower realms. Communication from lower realms may ascend to higher ones and blessings from higher realms may descend to lower ones and be disseminated to all. The spot functions as the omphalos (navel), the world’s point of beginning. – Wikipedia

The human body can express the symbol of the world axis. Some of the Tree of Life representations as found in the chakra system merge with the concept of the human body being a pillar between heaven and earth. Religion regards the body as a temple, and prayer as a column uniting or bridging the earth to heaven, our body to the spiritual world. So whatever culture we live in, if we are praying we are sending prayers upwards. We don’t generally think of sending them downwards, because by sending them upwards we are sending them via the axis mundi, the world tree, up through the levels to God, the Divine Source, Greater Consciousness and so on. As healers and shamans, we stand as portals, as vessels, for God’s spirit, the Source of Life, to flow down through us and out of us. This is why it is thought we receive the energy through our crown chakra. As it pours through us, it can leave our body via our other chakras or even through our hands or our direct connection to the earth, our feet.

The image of a human being suspended on a tree or a cross locates the human at the axis where heaven and earth meet. If we think back to the image of Christ being crucified on the cross (and in those days they also crucified people on trees not just a wooden cross), we can then understand that the message was pointing to the spiritual path being a life of sacrifice in order to walk closer to spirit. The cross also reflects the four directions which means many things on many levels depending on what culture we are looking at. Something we need to ask ourselves is was Christ showing us the axis mundi and was his message one of: as human beings, we stand between the spiritual world and the physical world as spiritual pillars and that we are already connected and that we just need to learn, or remember how to make use of the axis? Christ said that no-one comes to the father except through him – was he saying just as he communes with God the Father, so too can we? And did this image of Christ on the cross also represent Heaven (the sky – the spiritual realms, the different spheres) above us, and Hell below (Hell representing the earth, and all the trials and tribulations of living in a world without God, without the spiritual realm)? Do the four directions of the cross, also represented by the four rivers leaving the Garden of Paradise and the four directions from the American Indians, represent that no matter from which direction you come, the directions, the paths, will still lead back to the central point which is the axis mundi? These are very deep questions that we may need to ask ourselves individually, for depending on our perception of life or the culture in which we live, we will come to very different conclusions.

One popular shamanic concept is that the shaman traverses the axis mundi to bring back knowledge from the other world, the other realms, which reflects the shaman in ascent and descent. There are other myths or stories which also reflects the need to ascend to gain knowledge. One such story is Jacob’s Ladder. If we need to ascend the ladder, the ladder being the axis mundi which represents our journey to God, our journey into the spiritual realms of knowledge and truth, then we also need to descend the ladder in humility in order to bring those same truths back into the physical world to help others and the world heal. But this isn’t the only place we can see the axis mundi.

Plants and trees also serve as images and reminders of the axis mundi. The cosmic tree symbolizes the uniting of the three planes spoken of; the branches represent the sky, the trunk represents the earth and the roots represent the underworld.

The Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in Genesis represents two aspects, with both being said to stand at the center (axis mundi) of the Garden of Paradise of which four rivers are said to flow; just like the cross of Christ, with the cross representing the four directions. There is no coincidence that in the beginning we were shown a Tree of Life at the axis point, and later on we were shown the Tree of Christ or Cross of Christ at the axis point.

Throughout many shamanic cultures worldwide, we can see a tree as representing the axis mundi and connecting the spiritual realms; but it isn’t always a tree. Sometimes the axis is represented, as already discussed, by a ladder and sometimes it is represented as the rainbow. But what is the real message about the axis mundi if it isn’t about our inter-connectedness, if it isn’t about the web of life that holds us all tightly knitted together, if it isn’t about balance, and our responsibility as part of the cosmic whole? We will never find all the answers to all our questions, but we must not let our lack of knowledge prevent us from bravely stepping up to the challenge and blessing, of truly living as a spiritual person in a physical world. If our conviction is that all life, be it spirit, animal, human, or plant, is connected, then our actions, thoughts, beliefs and intentions towards the whole would be to live in harmony in a multidimensional universe as a multidimensional being.

The shaman honours this web of creation, this multidimensional, woven web of life; they are well aware that if the world of spirit is a tapestry, then we as spiritual beings represent the individual threads in which the shaman helps to weave into place in order that we can be woven into the best we can be. Many cultures believe we are sung into existence by the spirits, in which case honouring our soul’s song should be the seed that pushes us forwards and upwards on our own personal shamanic path to bring change and transformation into our own lives. When we can heal ourselves we will know how to help others to heal. As always, change starts with both you and me. We must be willing to reach out and be the change we are looking for. But how can we change, how can we transform our hurt and tears into blessings, our pain and sorrow into laughter, if not by working with spirit to help transport us safely through the realms of learning and transformation?

The medicine wheel or sacred hoop has been used for generations by different cultures but specifically by American Indians to facilitate change and transformation. The wheel or hoop can be used to facilitate healing and to seek direction not only upon our physical path through life, but also upon our spiritual path through this life. A medicine wheel can be made outdoors by selecting twelve stones (although you can also use four stones) to create a circle. You enter and leave the circle from the east side, the side that represents the road or doorway into the spiritual realm. When you have entered and blessed the wheel, when you have called in the spirit allies or ancestors, the medicine wheel is then closed by placing the last stone. You are then ready to work the wheel.

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