Shamanism: An Ancient Universal Spiritual Practice
By Sandra Ingerman
Although I felt support from my family and teachers when I was growing up, I felt like I never received an “operating manual” for how to live in the ordinary world. As a child I had a deep spiritual life and was comfortable in the spiritual realms. But while I had spiritual experiences, I had no path to follow.
That is why when I was introduced to the practice of shamanic journeying in 1980, I received a great gift. I met my helping spirit, a guardian spirit who over the years answered my questions about how to bring joy, meaning, and health into my life. Shamanism provided me with a path and structure to follow to deepen my spiritual path. I found the empowerment I needed by engaging in the practice of shamanism as a way of life.
Even though shamanism is an ancient practice it is relevant to all of us today who are seeking ways to live a life filled with harmony, good health, and returning balance and peace back to our lives and to the planet. As a licensed psychotherapist my passion in teaching shamanism has been how to bridge such an ancient way of working into the Western world to deal with the current challenges that we face. Shamanism is a practice that continues to evolve to meet the needs of the times and the cultural needs of the people. The ability of the practice of shamanism to evolve is why it continues to be so relevant today.
Shamanism is an ancient universal spiritual practice that dates back over a hundred thousand years. The word shaman comes from the Tungus tribe in Siberia and it means “spiritual healer” or “one who sees in the dark.” Shamanism has been practiced in Siberia, Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, Greenland, and North and South America. As shamanism has been practiced all over the world, you most likely have personal ancestors who at one time practiced shamanism.
A shaman is a man or a woman who uses the ability to see with his or her strong eye. Shamanism is a path of opening the heart, creating a doorway that leads us into traveling into hidden realms. In the hidden realms, the shaman interacts directly with helping compassionate spirits to divine information and to ask for healing help on behalf of a client or the community. In the practice of shamanism, the spiritual aspect of illness is addressed. An illness might manifest on an emotional or physical level. But in working with shamanic healing, the shaman is shown the spiritual aspect of the illness. There are some general diagnoses of illness, but there are a wide variety of ceremonies that a shaman might perform on behalf of the client. The key to successful shamanic healing is for the shaman to open up and become a vessel of the unlimited power of the helping spirits. It is important to design an individualized treatment plan for each client in need of healing
The main diagnoses of illness include soul loss, where a client might have lost a part of his soul due to experiencing a trauma. Also a client might have lost some of her power, or there might be a spiritual blockage that needs to be removed. A client could also be dealing with a possessing spirit who has taken up residence in his body. In most cases there are a combination of these issues occurring. The shaman works in partnership with his or her helping spirits to diagnose the problem. The shaman works on behalf of the community to retrieve lost soul parts, to retrieve lost power, and to extract and remove spiritual blockages that don’t belong in the body. Shamans, also when needed, perform psychopomp ceremonies to lead souls of the deceased to the transcendent realms. The role of the shaman is also to divine information for a client or for the community. Shamans are not simply technicians of healing and divination methods. They have always acted and still act as healers, doctors, priest and priestesses, psychotherapists, mystics, and storytellers.
Besides performing ceremonies for healing, there are a variety of other ceremonies that shamans perform. Shamans lead ceremonies to welcome children into the world, perform marriages, help people transition to a good place at the time of death, and mourn the death of loved ones. There are important initiation ceremonies performed to mark transitions in a person’s life, such as moving from childhood to adulthood.
Shamanism is a way of life. The practice teaches us that everything that exists is alive and has a spirit. Shamanic cultures recognize that there is a web of life that connects all that is alive. Any belief that we are separate from other life forms or living beings, such as the Earth, the stars, the wind, is purely an illusion, and it’s the shaman’s role in the community to keep harmony and balance between humankind and the forces of nature. And it is the responsibility of each person in the community to live a life of honor and respect towards each other and also towards nature and everything that is alive. People are trained from a young age to use words, thoughts, and daydream in a way that creates a positive outcome for everyone in the community and all in the web of life.
Shamanism is a practice of direct revelation. And all that you need to learn can be obtained by working with helping spirits as well as tapping into your inner wisdom and vision. We all have creative gifts that we contribute to the collective. We all have the ability to be a presence of love and light that transforms our life thereby changing the world.
Sandra Ingerman, MA, is a faculty member with The Shift Network and teaches courses on Shamanic Journeying - click listen to her recent free introductory call and register to keep informed of upcoming classes.
Sandra is the author of nine books, including Walking in Light: The Everyday of Shamanic Life, Soul Retrieval,Medicine for the Earth, Shamanic Journeying: A Beginner’s Guide, How to Heal Toxic Thoughts, The Shaman’s Toolkit, andAwakening to the Spirit World: The Shamanic Path of Direct Revelation. Sandra has been teaching for over 30 years. She teaches workshops internationally on shamanic journeying, healing and reversing environmental pollution using spiritual methods. She has trained and founded an international alliance of Medicine for the Earth Teachers and shamanic teachers. Sandra is recognized for bridging ancient cross-cultural healing methods into our modern culture addressing the needs of our times.
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This article appears in: 2015 Catalyst, Issue 15: Shamanism, International Forgiveness Day and Atomic Bombs