By Cosima Klinger – Paul
The wisdom and knowledge of ancient shamanic traditions are being revived in the west as healing techniques. Here, an introduction to shamanism and how it can restore us to wholeness.
I listen to the sound of the drum and slowly enter into an altered state of consciousness. I am always aware of where I am and slowly travel into what the shamans call the lower world to regain power and strength for my friend Ajay who is currently suffering from depression and stress. He came to meet me after he heard about how shamans in all parts of the world have commonly used this technique to solve the problems of themselves and those of their communities.
Ranging from the medicine men of native North and South America or the healers (Noaidi) of the Sami tradition of the northern belt of Europe stretching from Norway to Siberia, the aborigines in Australia or the priests of Korea and Hawaii, shamans are known to be the first healers of humankind.
Shamanism dates back to some 10,000 years and is the first spiritual practice known to the world. It can be used by anyone as a problem-solving technique if it is understood and translated into modern times.
The word ‘shaman’ originates from the Tungusic language of Siberia. Shamanism was, and is still practiced, by people around the globe. Shamanism existed before religions and as the well-known anthropologist, Dr. Michael Harner, mentioned, the main elements of this ancient technique has very similar structures around the globe. Now, why would it be of any value to us in the modern world of the beginning 21st century?
Do you sometimes experience an inner emptiness but do not know why? Are you missing the kind of happiness and wholeness you remember from your childhood? Do you feel that you are not using your full potential but do not know how to access it? Is stress eating your days up? Do you feel powerless to enjoy free time with your family? Do you feel that you and your family are losing touch with nature?
Of course, there are many different ways to solve problems and to release stress and anger. India, especially, has a rich background of spiritual wisdom, which the western world is currently benefiting from. What makes shamanic healing techniques unique is the fact that they go beyond traditional healing forms, as it is a method to directly access spiritual information and guidance. It works when other methods get stuck.
Shamanism is an ancient trance technique, in which the shaman acts as a mediator between the spiritual world and the inner self. He or she opens the door to the inner and outer world of nature. Information about ourselves in the form of spiritual guidance lies hidden in these other worlds and is accessible to the shamanic practitioner.
To be healthy and well from the shamanic point of view is to be one with the powers of the universe. Whenever this equilibrium is disturbed, order and balance are interrupted and illness will occur. Therefore, even a series of unfortunate events is considered to have an impact on one’s health. Shamanism addresses all these spiritual causes of ill-health and re-creates order and balance. One of the main causes of illness in the shamanic sense is the loss of power. Power – or soul power – is the sum of vitality, health and energy, together with the feeling of being in control of your life. In fact, the German word for power ‘kraft’ is a better word for the meaning of power as a life force that is flowing within us and is freely accessible. Soul power can be lost in various ways. It can be reestablished by the shamanic practitioner through journeying or traveling into the other world. There, various helpers will show themselves in the form of power animals or helpers in human or god-like form.
The Shamanic Journey
Their core technique is called shamanic journeying or traveling into ‘nonordinary reality’. A shaman is a man or a woman who enters into an altered state of consciousness by using monotonous sounds like drumming, rattling or singing to access hidden information. They travel out of time and space. They visualize an opening into the earth like a cave or hole to enter into this other realm. It was the famous author Carlos Castaneda who first named this realm ‘nonordinary reality’.
Depending on what mission they travel on or what kind of information they would like to access, they ‘fly’ into different territories; the lower world, the middle world or the upper world. They leave their body behind and their free soul travels into what is considered to be a parallel universe. Luckily, modern quantum physicists are already clear that parallel universes do in fact exist as described in the books of Marcus Chown.
The Concept of Power Animals
Most shamanic cultures around the world ask power animals for energy, guidance and help. When a child is born, one or more power animals take care of them in the spiritual world. For example, the bear helps children to come into this world. Why do you think that teddy bears are so popular amongst children around the world? Children still have a natural feeling and intuition to correspond with the other world. It is we, the adults, who lose touch with this natural phenomenon and dismiss our children’s attempts to tell us about their conversations with animals in their dreams.
Shamanic practitioners will help to find your spiritual power animal or connect you with your guardian so you can access them throughout your life. Some of you might need the energy of a tiger to regain control in today’s difficult world; others would benefit from the power of the alpha wolf to become a leader and protector; it could also happen that an elephant will show up to bring light and happiness into your life.
Sometimes, we need to make a clear decision, but are confused by the options available. That is the time when the eagle might lend us his eyes to rise and look at our problem from another angle and perspective – as Ailo Gaup, a shaman from the Sami tradition of northern Norway describes in his book, The Shamanic Zone.
Power animals are mostly representatives of wild animal species because domesticated animals do not have enough power as they have given up control over their life. Birds or fish can also be power animals, but insects or spiders do not really qualify as helpers from the other world. Mostly people have one or two power animals at a time, but people can also have access to plenty of them. There are no rules in the shamanic world. Everyone makes his or her own experiences and these are neither right nor wrong. Sometimes, a power animal leaves us and is replaced by another one to protect us and keep us healthy and safe. But there are times when we go through a crisis and lose our soul power or give it away voluntarily.
Helpers in the other world appear either as power animals or as helpers in human or god-like form. Your guardian angel can also present himself in some form.
The Concept of Soul Loss
‘Another cause of illness might be the loss of parts of your soul. The soul is our life force, our essence, our vitality. When one suffers an emotional or physical trauma, a piece of that essence separates from the body and travels into nonordinary reality to survive the experience,’ writes Sandra Ingerman, who has taught shamanism for 25 years around the world and was formerly the Educational Director of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies in the US. She describes that in Western culture the spiritual cause of illness is not considered important, therefore shamanic practitioners today face a big challenge in popularizing this form of therapy.
There are various origins for soul loss. When a person goes through a personal crisis or trauma, has an accident or is facing a death within the family, a part of his soul essence might split and depart from his soul. This reaction is a life-supporting system of the soul or psyche to be able to cope with reality. In normal circumstances, these soul parts will come back after some time, but more often, some of the parts remain where they are – in nonordinary reality. That means that over time we have less spiritual power and feel tired and depressed. Even medical or psychological treatments might not be successful in the long run because you cannot treat what is not there.
A Checklist of Symptoms
Sandra Ingerman provides a checklist of questions in her book, Soul Retrieval – Mending the fragmented self. These questions describe a number of indicators that are helpful in determining whether soul loss has occurred.
o Do you ever have a difficult time staying ‘present’ in your body? Do you sometimes feel as if you’re outside your body observing it as you would a movie?
o Do you ever feel numb, apathetic, or deadened?
o Do you suffer from chronic depression?
o Do you have problems with your immune system and have trouble resisting illness?
o Were you chronically ill as a child?
o Do you have gaps in the memory of your life after age five? Do you sense that you may have blacked out significant traumas in your life?
o Do you struggle with addictions, for example, alcohol, drugs, food, or sex?
o Do you find yourself looking at external things to fill up an internal void?
o Have you had difficulty moving on with your life after a divorce or the death of a loved one?
o Do you suffer from multiple personality syndrome?
Shamanic Healing Versus other Treatments
Shamanic treatment is not seen as an exclusive treatment for illnesses. Moreover, it is a complementary method to other medical and psychological treatments. Shamans address the soul and spiritual aspects of the suffering person. Therefore, shamanic healing techniques can add valuable aspects to other medical and psychological treatments. Together, the chances of becoming well again and maintaining health on all levels of existence are better than before.
Sometimes people even lose a piece of their soul to a lost relationship and therefore are prevented from moving on in their lives. This too can be retrieved by the accomplished shaman. Sometimes, it takes a lot of effort to convince the lost soul part to ‘come home’. When the shaman travels to the other world, he or she is guided by their own power animals to reach out and bring back the soul essence to the patient.
Sometimes, a soul might not come back on its own because it was stolen by someone else. Even if this concept might sound alien in today’s modern world, it is more common than we might have thought. Jealousy or greed might be the reason for others to steal our soul; even simple power games or the fact that someone is permanently exposed to emotional pressure, might trigger the fragmentation of our soul. That is the time when our vitality and soul essence is not accessible to its full potential and we feel stuck in the situation.
The Return to Nature
Feeling whole and complete means feeling one with nature. When we are able to be what we are meant to be, then the power of nature flows freely throughout our lives. Our inner and outer nature is one. We are strong and independent, balanced and in control of our life.
Do we remember how much energy we can gain from outer nature? How does it feel when the wind in the mountains rifles through our hair and fresh air fills your lungs?
Our children experience nature only on Discovery Channel and educational pressure keeps them from playing in open fields, learning from trees and birds, drinking water from the original source or listening to the sound of falling snow. We have become scared of nature and therefore scared of ourselves. Shamans listen to nature and learn her language and it seems that it is time that this language returns to our lives.
The good news is that it can be re-membered by everyone for there are no hidden secrets. We must open our eyes and hearts and learn how to combine knowledge of science with the wisdom of nature. Shamanism is a global heritage.
I hear the shaman’s drum. It is my own drum that I hear. It is my own inner shaman that beats the drum and has come back again to teach me – again. Welcome home.
Dr. Cosima Klinger-Paul is currently working as a shamanic
counsellor in Dehradun. Contact: 0971901110; email firstname.lastname@example.org
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