by S. Alexander Alich

We are all looking for our way. This is universal. For some, our search will take us into the field of Shamanism to find something for ourselves. Unfortunately many will come away with more questions than answers. In this article I will share a little about the Shamanic perspective of healing. I hope you will find some answers, understand more about what Shamanism is and what is possible for your health and growth.

Shamanism is a spiritual way toward a mystery we cannot understand. Its roots date back as far as 40,000 years in Australia and 30,000 in Siberia . We can find it in every part of the world. It is not a cure, technique or method. You cannot read about it, though you may read about others’ experiences of it. Shamanism is not a religion; by its nature it is based in individual expression. Some people have found their healing on this way, and others have found a way to live.

Shamanic View of the Body

In Shamanism we see five bodies or aspects of a person–physical body, mind, heart, spirit and soul. We view these aspects in a circle, with the soul sitting in the middle and the other four around it. The wheel is in constant movement and change. Seen in this way, there is not one aspect we consider superior. Instead we emphasize the development, expression and balance of all aspects, which can take many years, if not decades, of guided work.

The Gift, the Trauma and the Journey Begins

When we think of illness or symptoms, we commonly think of one part or experience of the body. In working with someone, I want to see as much of the person as possible. I look at all five aspects, as well their life, work, relationships and dreams, because it is important to understand where someone is on his or her way. The same symptom in ten people can have ten different meanings, and it can be difficult to understand this without first seeing a bigger picture.

We are all born with a gift to share in this world. We are also born knowing our connection to the mystery and each other. At some point early in our lives we forget this connection–we have to. Although the connection is not broken, our experience can feel like it is. The pain from our separation begins. This usually happens from an experience that seems shocking to us or maybe even traumatizing. This can seem unnecessary, but it is not. It is an important step in our growth and human experience.

Because of this experience, we will develop habits and a way to survive in the world. We will each find our unique perspective of life and validate it through our interactions and relationships. We will develop fear, anger, depression, isolation or deceit, to name a few. These habits will root themselves so deeply in our lives that we can no longer see them, and this is when our symptoms begin. The bigger the gift we carry, the more extreme our experiences might be.

Healing: Unfolding Our Gifts and aligning with Our Soul’s Purpose

Healing moves us through unwinding our habits to return to our soul’s gifts and expression. Fear can become courage, deceit becomes honesty, and anger can transform to love. Along the way you will remember your connection to the mystery and to everything and everyone around you. Eventually you will be able to fully share the gifts that you have brought here.

My teachers said that healing is 70% the work of the person, 20% the guidance of Great Spirit and 10% the help of a healer or practitioner. Most of the work is our own. Our symptoms can guide us to know what to do next. If we are not on our way, we can only trade one symptom for another, getting rid of one problem and possibly creating two in its place. We must learn to accept that symptoms come and go. There are times we will feel good and times we will not feel good. Only when we are tired of the habits we have created and the painful separation they bring us do we begin to find our way. There are no simple answers and no one correct way to go.

The First Step on the Journey

The most important step is to create an opening in your life for healing and the changes and challenges that will come with it. I rarely see healing that doesn’t touch every aspect of our lives. I offer these questions as a starting place to examine where you are now and what you may need.

  • Do you want to heal?
  • What, if anything, do you get for not healing?
  • What would you have to give up or give away to heal?
  • What help do you need to reach your goal?
  • What support do you have?

The Help Great Spirit Sends

There is an old story of a man who is told he has two hours to live. The man prays to Great Spirit and Great Spirit answers, “Don’t worry, everything will be fine, I will help you.” Then one healer after another shows up at the man’s door offering their herbs, teas and prayers, and, one after the other, the man sends them away saying that Great Spirit will help him. Two hours later the man dies. Completely confused and irritated he goes to Great Spirit and asks, “What happened? I thought you were going to help me?” Great Spirit answers, “Who do you think sent the healers?”

There are so many therapies and methods available today, it is easy to be confused. It is also easy to stop our own way while we hunt for and evaluate others’ ways. This is a trap. You can find yourself sitting in the same place for years. On your way you will meet many different possibilities. From these you will have to pick what is right for you–no one else can make this choice. The most important thing is that once you have started, you stay on your way.