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Stories of Healing

Stories of Shamanic Healing:
Further Thoughts on Medical vs. Shamanic Understanding

As stories of shamanic healing reach me, I like to sometimes make not of them, particularly because they can be so educational. Because of the sensitivity and confidentiality of healing work, such anecdotes are often only known between specific practitioners and their clients. Yet it helps, I think, to hear of such stories because they have the potential to extend our vision and understanding of shamanic healing in an era that has largely forgotten this. Whether we are a potential shamanic practitioner who is looking at starting training, or a potential client considering seeing a for the first-time practitioner, it helps to know of real situations to understanding exactly what can be hoped for.

First, it is imperative to know the scope of shamanic practice so as not to confuse it with other healing modalities. For instance, shamanic healing is spiritual work and not medical, psychological or even social service in nature. I suggest reviewing the shamanic healing article on this site in order to not get a false impression of what shamanic healing may or may not be.

With this information, our understanding of our shamanic practice can deepen and broaden, as we hear the reports of our colleagues and friends. Naturally, all material remains confidential, and thus anything potentially identifying any specific client has been altered. 

For instance, take a look at the following:

Not Able to Breathe
“My son… was sick with a cold and complaining of how stuffed up he felt. He was having trouble sleeping because of not being able to breathe. I felt so bad for him because he is constantly getting sick with upper respiratory infections because of his lung issues. I asked him if he would like me to perform a song doctoring. I explained a song doctoring in terms that he would understand and he seemed very open and excited to have one performed for him.
I started out by Calling in the Directions with the use of my rattle. I sat down with my son laying on his bed across from me.  I used my rattle to journey to the upper world to meet up with my spirit teacher. My spirit teacher, the one that I have been working with previously in this level, was waiting for me and immediately started singing the healing song for my son.
As he continued singing it, I felt him merge with me and we both began singing it. The song, again, was words that I did not understand and went something like this, “Aom glidesh valtrome”. It had a very soothing melody to it. My spirit teacher told me that (my son) was to sing this song whenever he gets sick. Once I was sure I had the song memorized I thanked my spirit teacher and unmerged with him.
At this point, in the Inuit tradition, my son and I sat across from one another holding hands and rocking back and forth while we sang the healing song. As he began to commit the song to memory, I became quieter while he continued to sing. I was bursting forth with pride and had such a smile on my face because he sang his little heart out so seriously. I am truly impressed with his ability to feel shamanism and the principles in his core being. Later on, in the evening when I was walking past his bedroom, I heard him singing the song.  
What is really amazing is the next morning bright and early he came into my bedroom to tell me he felt so much better. As the day went on I could tell he was much improved. This is unusual for him because when he gets an upper respiratory infection or cold, he usually needs an antibiotic to fight it. Both my son and I said thank you to my spirit helper for the healing song.”

What an absolutely beautiful experience this was for this shamanic practitioner and her son! My heart becomes completely warmed hearing such reports. This particular practitioner is someone I know who follows healing protocols very closely, and I believe it is this, in addition to her exceedingly close relationships with her spirit helpers, that make her work so effective.

It is nice to read such material, yet it is important to be very clear about what has and what has not been done. In the contemporary world, it is all too easy to mix medical and shamanic paradigms, since practitioners are usually familiar with both. For instance, this shamanic practitioner is referring to her son's 'upper respiratory infections', 'colds', and 'antibiotics'. These are medical terms that mean specific physiological things.

Then, the practitioner went to do a healing with her spirit helpers. Regardless of how the practitioner is framing it, what the spirits with the practitioner’s assistance were not healing was an 'infection' or a 'cold'. They were working together on spiritual things that may or may not be related to any physiological phenomena. 

Certainly, a healing effort approaches the work with a hope that whatever suffering is happening will cease or lessen. However, if that happens, it is because everything is deeply interconnected between the spiritual and the mundane. To be certain though, it was not a 'cold' or an 'infection' that was being treated with the shamanic work. These are problems from an entirely different paradigm from that which is shamanic.

We can, however, say that 'not breathing easily', not sleeping' or 'feeling badly' were targets of healing. I wrote her back and told her how it gladdened me to see her work so successful. A few days later, she wrote again:
"I feel blessed and privileged that the spirits find me so worthy to work with... I know what you mean when you say it 'warmed your heart' when I wrote about my son and the song doctoring. He continues to sing his song and is almost back to his normal self. All this with no antibiotics or doctor visits!"
So... how do we talk about these things? Just as it is difficult for us to explain these things to others (or even comprehend them ourselves!) how do we communicate the paradigm shift that is demanded when we step away from how most of our contemporary world understands everything, and step instead into a paradigm of understanding that is closer to that of our original, indigenous human consciousness? It is difficult at best, and even harder for those who have not been taking shamanic training to explain their experience to us.

Take, for instance, the following short anecdote:

"I had a nice experience which you certainly would like to hear. First of all, it will be very good to hear that my client of the dance-doctoring (a moderately advanced shamanic healing practice involving both merging with a spirit helper and movement. sjs) had very positive reactions. He improved a lot, not only of his symptoms but also deep inside as he says something has changed. He can´t clearly say what, but he does feel the change in a positive way."

It would be too easy to just leap to an assumption led by our contemporary ways of thinking and guess that his change was 'psychological'. Such an assumption is founded on an understanding of reality that proposes that there is a physical 'outer' world and a psychological 'inner' world, and that these are separate. However, in a shamanic paradigm, none of this is true.

I invite you to read the stories of shamanic healing below, yet keep in mind that there are many things going on in a person’s life other than matters that are spiritual. Shamanism is a spiritual healing practice. We understand that there are spiritual aspects to our world and for this reason, that shamanic healing can be effective. Shamanism works strictly with spiritual dimensions of being human, and these may or may not be related to matters such as an illness that may or may not be present.
It is also important to remember that one can never promise an outcome. Everything that a practitioner does only facilitates the spirits’ work: what comes from any shamanic healing practice is strictly in the hands of the spirits, and it would be worse than misleading to suggest otherwise.
Also, there is always the potential for numerous issues to be at stake that are entirely non-spiritual. For this reason, whenever a practitioner suspects a non-spiritual element in a client’s situation, referral to an appropriate licensed caregiver is always necessary, whether on ethical, practical, or legal grounds. I begin with their report, and then make comments after.


" daughter is pregnant with her second child and had a bellyache. Her first baby was born too early and she was afraid that it could happen again. So, she took rest which helped. After a couple of days, she had a lot of bangs in the underbelly and she had to pee every five minutes. After a couple of days, she went to the obstetrician who said that she had an inflammation of the bladder and she should bring urine with her the next morning. So, she asked me if I could help her and came for a (shamanic) session.

I journeyed to the Upper world to ask my spirit helper what to do and he told me that I should merge with him in ordinary reality and dance for my daughter. My daughter said that she probably couldn´t stay for more than five minutes without going to the toilet and I told her that she should go if she needed to.

She was sitting at a low chair and I danced around her. First I did the purifying dance as I learned and then I started to move spontaneously the way my spirit helper wanted me to. The movements were very fast, especially of my hands. I danced for quite a while and when I stopped I realized that she never went to the toilet.

She told me that her symptoms disappeared almost immediately, within three minutes. She lost the urgency to pee and the pains were gone. There were no symptoms anymore. Her urine was clean and she never had any more of these complaints. It was really a miracle for us, because the healing was so fast and so complete and for me in fact so easy. I only must say that after the session I was very tired."

I look at this as extraordinary work done by someone who is becoming a very good practitioner. It really doesn't serve us, I think, to try to translate the experience into contemporary concepts of physics, physiology, psychology or even logic. Someone went to a shamanic practitioner feeling unwell, and left feeling better. I think this is the matter that we should be focusing on.

You notice how fatigued the practitioner was after doing her work? Shamanic practices can be extremely exhausting, and practitioners' experiences of such exhaustion after working with a client are quite the norm. Her report probably indicates the tremendous degree to which she gave herself to it.

Sinus and Chest Problems  

"I have been sick lately, bronchitis and with a recurring sinus infection, so we actually had an observational healing on my own physical body… I found that when I entered the upper world there was nothing, just pure white light, and I saw a woman standing there. She was short, and a little round, with her hair tied back. She had a dress on that looked like some of the people in South American areas wear, and her presence was strong and comforting."

"She told me her name was Maria, and invited me to join with her as she healed my lungs. I was drawn into her, and I was observing her kneel down in front of my physical body as though looking out from inside of her. In one hand she held a jar, and through her I saw the way she perceived my body and my energy body, like a misty x-ray. My lungs were full of something green and she began reaching in and pulling it out. It looked like handfuls of seaweed, and she placed it into her jar. She told me I should take that jar and bury it in the sacred Earth to destroy the illness inside."

"The next day, I went to the doctors, and my lungs showed no sign of bronchitis, or infection. I experienced real healing, and I discovered a new way of looking into the energy body that I can continue to exercise and experiment with for myself."

"…these journeys filled me with a sense of renewal and power in their support and work with me, and I think it helped me overcome some doubt issues that I have been dealing with, so I am ending this week feeling great!"

Once again, the 'presenting problem' as seen by the client (who was also a shamanic practitioner) is viewed as 'bronchitis' and 'infection', both of which are medical terms used to designate specific physiological symptoms and their antecedents. When she returned to her physicians, from their medical lens they could find no sign of bronchitis or infection. This would also be from a medical perspective.

However, the healing that was done was spiritual healing, from which we might easily infer that there was an effect in physical, ordinary reality. This is always hoped for whenever such healing is undertaken, however it is important that shamanic practitioners recognize that what is being 'healed' are not the physical illnesses as understood by the astounded physicians.

'My Chest Hurt'

"Thursday afternoon I traveled to the upper world to meet a Healer who had passed on. I went to my teacher and asked her if she could introduce me to such a person and she did. I spoke to him (the Healer who had passed on) briefly explaining to him… that I wished to merge with him so I could learn from him and his experiences. He agreed. The first time we went to merge I had a little difficulty and so I stepped back and took a deep breath. Nerves, I am sure."

"The second time we merged it just didn't feel right. I had a hard time breathing. I felt like I had all kinds of knowledge but unsure how to use it, I felt like my body had aged, at one time I thought he had died from a heart attack and I was feeling that, but remembered that once you die you leave your broken body on Earth so it couldn't be that. I just couldn't pinpoint it. I just knew that my chest hurt, not his (the deceased Healer with whom she had merged)."

"I decided to end the merge, and once it was broken, he told me to ‘lift the weight off my chest and I would be fine’. I did not know what he meant and I should have asked him, but at the time I was rattled and will admit it. This morning, Friday, I went to see my doctor for asthma and while there was telling her how much my chest hurts when I cough. Long story short it turns out after ultra sounds etc. that I have a hernia under my breast bone."

"…I knew when I got up this morning I had to go to see my doctor. I knew the journey was important and that what he said to me was an important message not to taken lightly I just didn't expect the news I got obviously…"

"...I thought for sure I was ‘losing it’ and I had done something wrong. The (spirit) healer I met with, I never got his name but I know I will meet with him again. The entire meeting was like a Broadway show being played out in front of my eyes and as soon as he knew I was in danger, our senses kicked in together and I knew the merge had to end. He gave me the best information he could and he has saved my life, literately."

"I have no immune system, Epstein Barr, and will need surgery. If I had not done this journey, honestly the doctors would still just be doing blood work, and their typical test to ‘quiet’ the woman complaining of breathing problems."

"Damn straight this works, I don’t care who thinks I am strange, and my next merge I am first going to try to find him to thank him again…"

This is a clear example of the juxtaposition of these different paradigms of healing. As we review what happened, the practitioner journeyed to a healing spirit to 'merge', meaning to share that spirit's consciousness and perceptions, in order to learn how that spirit healed. Instead, what the practitioner received was an immediate physical sensation of weakness and a hurting chest, which somehow, she realized was not that of the spirit, but of herself.

Then, the spirit gives her an important bit of information, and says to her to 'lift the weight off' of her chest, and then, that she 'would be fine'. Somewhat rattled about the whole thing, the practitioner went to her physicians to see about how her chest hurt when she coughed. In the physician’s office, terms like 'asthma', 'Epstein Barr', and 'blood work' would all be expected to arise, but these are not shamanic terms. Nor is the discovery of a chest hernia that requires surgery.

But she was prompted by the information from the spirits to look into the 'weight on her chest', which sent her back to her doctors to look more deeply. This information she was given may well have saved her life. 

Skin Redness and Scabs

"During my last trip to the city, two weeks ago, I picked up a couple of stones in a new age store.  I did not choose them as much as they chose me; as soon as I picked them up, I felt a strong energy from them, moving right through my chakras. The store employee called them Polychrome Jasper. I purchased them, thinking they would be good for meditating with.  

A few days ago, intrigued as to their nature, I held the stones in my hands, connect with them, and asked what their purpose was. I silenced my mind to listen to the stones, words came to mind; to remove fears, to calm, to give courage, to inspire, and this is very interesting ‘shamanic stone for journeying’. Seeking confirmation, I looked up their attributes in a crystal book.  I was reassured to find the following purposes for these stones; facilitates shamanic journeys and dream recall. Helps align chakras, encourages honesty, and brings courage. 
The next day, I held the stones in my hands during an upper world journey.  I met one of my spirit guides...  She brought me to a secluded area in a treed ‘park’.  We sat together, in an open grassed circle, on stone benches… 

I returned to the circle and asked (my spirit helper) for a healing for my husband’s skin condition (he has been combating this rash for a couple of months, we had tried almost everything on, without positive results), (my spirit helper) gave me a handful of energy that appeared like a cloudy substance. I quickly blew it into one of my shamanic stones, returned to middle world real time and informed my husband that I had returned with healing energy for him.

With my husband’s permission, I blew the energy from my stone into his heart chakra, and then into his crown chakra. I also returned with the knowledge that a shampoo and an ointment containing tar would be helpful. Yesterday, one day after receiving the healing energy, and using the ‘remedies’, my husband’s rash has greatly improved. His ears, the worse area affected, are now clear of any redness or scabs. The rash on his arms and legs has greatly improved.”

So who is to say exactly what is going on. We do not have a clear etiology of phenomena in shamanic work, meaning without jargon, that we cannot step-by-step determine a specific series of unfolding causes and effects between, in this case, a 'cloudy handful of energy' blown into a stone of jasper, tar remedies provided by a spirit, and the reduction of skin redness or scabs. We are quite willing to resist proposing that jasper or tar effects changes on a human body in the same manner as the medications or protocols that physicians had prescribed, but again, as in the examples provided above, it would be equally hard to resist the implication that in some way a healing was facilitated.

My recommendation is to first become very clear about what is shamanic, and what is medical and physiological. A shamanic practitioner can ask for healing for chest pain, but cannot ask for a healing for bronchitis. Why? Because bronchitis means specific factors resulting in specific physical consequences. Bronchitis refers to specifically physiological causes and effects.

But chest pain? Yes, for this we can ask for shamanic healing. 'Chest pain' does not refer to a medical paradigm, where 'bronchitis' specifically does.

This is a delicate matter, this teasing apart of what is shamanic within the larger context of a medically informed present era. However, this is the work of the shamanic practitioner.