Shamanism - The Wisdom Way

by Colleen Deatsman
Author of Seeing in the Dark: Claim Your Own Shamanic Power Now and in the Coming Age

Though shamanism, is the oldest living path of spirituality and healing, many people have never heard of it, or don't understand what it is. Shamanism is a way of life and a practice that is rich in tradition, eclecticism, and mysticism,. It is not a religion. Shamanism is not an ancient archaic art - it is a living power path. It is currently practiced in many countries where it often co-exists, blends with, and complements at least one religion, including the major world religions of Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism. It is practical, not dogmatic, nor does it have a specific set of rules to follow. Shamanism is interactive, creative and in constant dynamic change based on what works in each unique set of circumstances, not any particular protocol. Shamanism is based in animism. Animism is the understanding that all things are living and have a soul; trees, animals, this magazine, the chair you are sitting in, and you and I.

Shamanism - The Wisdom Way

The term "shaman" has been adapted from the Tungus people of Siberia meaning "one who sees in the dark." This name denotes the ability of the shaman to "see" energy, but shamans not only see energy, they feel, sense and experience energy using all aspects of their being - physical, emotional, mental, energetic, and spiritual. The work of the shaman is to harness the power of this energy for the benefit of themselves and the people, by acting as the bridge between the energy-based, Spirit otherworlds and the physical middle world. Using techniques such as journeying, the shaman travels outside of space and time to seek information and harness energy for balance and wholeness for many things including diagnosing and treating illness. They are often called "seers" or "knowers" because of this ability to journey into non-ordinary reality and experience information and energy first-hand.

Shamanism represents the most widespread and ancient methodological system of mind-body healing known to humanity. Shamans are the visionaries, healers, counselors and psychologists of their communities. They are the medicine people that look out for the well-being of the entire tribe, clan or community, as well as providing individual treatment. Studying shamanism and learning basic journeying techniques does not make one a shaman. To become a shaman requires a deep, undeniable internal calling, intense self-exploration, initiations, and a lifetime dedication to study, training, apprenticing, experiencing, healing, and practicing. It is no easy undertaking and one that few ever consider. However, learning to use the shamanic journey for personal use is easy and powerfully healing and enlightening for many people. We all have a natural ability to connect with Spirit and the energy of the otherworlds.

In shamanism there are three worlds, the middle world, the lower world, and the upper world. The middle world is the world in which we live that has both physical and spiritual aspects. It is both the ordinary and the non-ordinary worlds overlapped. It is the world of balance and integration. The upper and lower worlds are places of power where we directly access guidance and empowerment. The lower and upper worlds are non-ordinary worlds that have nothing to do with heaven or hell. These spiritual worlds are referred to as the otherworlds or spirit realms. These otherworlds exist within and around all of us, just outside of our daily perceptions. They are the "places" that shamans and journeyers experience and can be accessed through portals, gateways, or tunnels.

Shamans consciously choose to live in two different worlds at the same time. They have one foot here in the everyday ordinary physical world and one foot in the non-ordinary world of the Spirits. The fact is, we all live in these two different worlds, but are commonly not aware of the non-ordinary less visible one. The world that we are most aware of is the world of telephones, cars, airplanes, stress, work, taxiing children, paying bills, responsibilities, loves, hobbies and worldly comforts. It is the world of our everyday life. But there is another world that intermingles and overlaps the everyday world. This world does not exist in some other place, but is right beside us, just outside of our usual perceptions. Because we must hone our perceptions to connect with this subtle world it seems separate, when in reality it is the undercurrent of the world that we are familiar with.

We often think of non-ordinary reality as the land of mysterious miracles and the paranormal in which only the wild-eyed few who have ESP can communicate. Not true. Shamans are ordinary people trained to enter the non-ordinary world to bring its benefits to the aid of the everyday world. We all have the innate ability to do this. Much of the art, music, and wisdom that we enjoy in our daily lives comes from ordinary people who know the power, beauty and ecstasy of the non-ordinary world even though they may not travel there consciously. The world of non-ordinary reality is the world of the energy, mystery, and magic that created our world and holds it together by threads of an interconnected web that is the Spirit that moves in all things, referred to by many traditions as The Great Web of Life. Everything is alive with this soul essence that is both the source of life and the giver of life and vitality to everything everywhere. Through the simple techniques of journeying and performing ceremony and ritual the veils that separate the two worlds are lifted and the Web can be seen, sensed, experienced and accessed, and the Helping Spirits who reside there can be contacted. It is by entering this world of non-ordinary reality that shamans tap into the infinite life force energy that heals, creates miracles and reveals wisdom.

A shaman or journeyer enters a trance state in order to access the otherworlds in an ecstatic state that is commonly termed the shamanice state of consciousness (SSC) and/or non-ordinary reality (NOR). This state of deep awareness allows the journeyer to place the conscious critical left-brained mind at rest while exploring the realms of vast possibility in the otherworlds. The trance-state used by shamans and journeyers is the theta state of brain wave activity, a state that is the close to sleep. Thus, many shamans are called "dreamers" or are said to be "dreaming" the journey. This state feels similar to daydreaming though much, much deeper. The shamanic trance is often entered into with the assistance of monotonous rhythmic drumming, rattling, singing or movement. Once the shaman enters this altered state of consciousness, they journey to meet with their Helping Spirits and fulfill the intention of the journey whether it be for growth, guidance or healing for personal use or on behalf of the community or a client. Helping Spirits are ambassadors of the Great Web, and may appear as energy or may take the form of Power Animals or Totems, Angels, Religious Deities, Mythological Beings, or Ascended Spirit Masters to name a few.

We are a part of this Great Web of Life. The omnipotent force of the Web is the source of your life and the giver of the energy that you need to live your life. This life force energy within you is your soul essence and constitutes your soul-self. Anytime your connection to your soul-self or the Web of Life is compromised an imbalance and disharmony is created. If the imbalance continues it eventually develops into an issue, a symptom or a syndrome. This is your wake-up call. It is your inner wisdom sending a message to your consciousness that something is out of balance. If you don't get the message, or if you choose to ignore the message, it will eventually develop into a chronic condition. To put an end to this spiraling decline you must become aware, listen to yourself, and reconnect with your soul-self and The Great Web of Life. Within your soul-self lives your inner wisdom, inner healer, inner guide and inner peace. Being aware of, and connected to these aspects of yourself is integral to living a life full of energy, vitality, health and wisdom. You can achieve this by practicing shamanism. Learning how to journey will help you get to know yourself and these important inner aspects for self-healing and self-fulfillment. In doing so you will learn how to energize and heal yourself by becoming centered in your universe. You will learn how to find your center space within your soul, body, mind, emotions, energy field, your life, the Web of Life, the world and beyond.

Shamanic Healing

From a shamanic perspective all illnesses, whether mental, emotional or physical, are spiritual imbalances that can be corrected with spiritual intervention. Individual shamanic healing centers on restoring spiritual wholeness, energy and power to clients, and establishing harmony and balance in the client's world. A shaman accomplishes this by entering into the journey with their, and the client's, Helping Spirits, diagnosing the nature of the imbalance, and performing the specified shamanic techniques. Energy obtained by the shaman on behalf of the client is blown into the client's energy field and the journey and healing treatments are thoroughly described. Healing takes place on an energetic and spiritual level that affects the mental, emotional, energetic, spiritual and physical bodies of the client. Most people find the session to be peaceful and relaxing, yet uplifting and energizing at the same time. Shamanic healing can be performed both in person and at a distance. Three commonly used techniques for individual healing are soul retrieval, power retrieval, and extraction.

Soul Retrieval

Soul loss is a spiritual and energetic illness where a part of the soul, or core essence of a person, splits off. This loss can cause symptoms such as: depression, addictions, numbness and inability to fully live life, a weakened immune system or frequent illness, and feeling empty inside. Soul loss can occur when a person experiences trauma such as: a child separating from a parent, an accident, surgery, break up of a relationship, substance use, witnessing a traumatic event, any type of abuse, neglect, abandonment, etc. To correct soul loss the shaman journeys with their Helping Spirits to the lost soul part and gathers in the sacred energy. They may also be shown or told the story about why the soul part left. The Shaman then brings the soul part(s) back into ordinary reality and blows them into the energy field of the client. The soul parts are pure, soul energy and are not tainted or wounded in any way. Soul retrieval is a beautiful healing experience that creates wholeness by reuniting the client with their own soul.

Power Retrieval

Power loss occurs when a person becomes dis-spirited, losing connection to their Helping Spirits. Symptoms of power loss can include: chronic fatigue, chronic illness, depression, weakness, on-going misfortune and problems. Shamanic cultures believe that everyone is born with guiding Spirits that protect and share power with us. This Spirit help may be lost for many reasons. The shaman restores a person's spiritual power by journeying to reconnect the client with their Helping Spirits.


Extraction is the technique of removing obstructions from the energy body, called intrusions, that block the free flow of personal life force energy. An intrusion is characterized by localized chronic pain or discomfort. A shaman, with the help of their Helping Spirits, journeys to identify and remove the intrusion.

Shamanic healing techniques can be used to augment counseling, psychotherapy, medical treatment, and mind/body therapies and may provide the missing link to your recovery. While I believe that that seeking "professional help" from a shamanic practitioner is important, I believe even more in the healing power of learning to become your own shaman for yourself.

Soul-Self Shining Sessions

A way of soul seeing and affirming; a gift that heals body, mind, emotions, life, and soul. In these sessions, safe, sacred space supports each person in eliminating the cloaks and congestion that block the free flow of energy and soul essence. By journeying within to the soul center that holds your already existing divinity, wholeness, balance, and perfection, a shamanic practitioner is able to readily see what is blocking, hiding and limiting your soul expression. She then assists your soul in clearing what limits you, activating that which actualizes your soul's expression, path and purpose.

To facilitate in bringing forth your Soul-Self the following may take place:

  • Clearing your Luminous Energy Body (Aura)
  • Clearing, Balancing and Stabilizing the Chakras Energy Centers Addressing and Resolving:
    • Programming/Conditionings/Imprints/Behavioral Patterns
    • Soul Agreements - Contracts
    • Cellular Memories
    • Soul Retrieval
    • Psychic Cords
    • Early Life Experiences
    • Past Life Events
    • Entity Intrusions
    • Other Personal Factors

First and foremost, before body and mind, each person is a soul - pure energy. Each person resonates with this soul energy, or soul signature, experienced as a unique vibration or frequency that is the source of life force energy interfacing with our body. In this light, our body and mind can be seen as vehicles of communication for our soul. When you become aware of and attuned to your soul vibration, you are literally One within yourself and in Harmony with your surroundings. With this conscious connection, knowledge of the self and universal wisdom become accessible. A sense of peace and inner power prevail. Many people discover their innate abilities to intuit, to listen, to know, and to more clearly perceive or sense what is right for them to embody their soul purpose. Soul-Self Shining Sessions can greatly assist you in attuning to your unique soul signature to allow for a more natural, healthful and fulfilling life.

Want to learn how to do these techniques for yourself? Seeing in the Dark: Claim Your Own Shamanic Power Now and in the Coming Age by Colleen Deatsman and Paul Bowersox. (Red Wheel Weiser 2009) can help.

Colleen Deatsman is the author of Seeing in the Dark: Claim Your Own Shamanic Power Now and in the Coming Age (Red Wheel Weiser 2009), Energy for Life: Connect with the Source (Llewellyn 2006) and Inner Power: Six Techniques for Increased Energy and Self-Healing (Llewellyn 2005), is a Masters Degreed Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Social Worker, Shamanic Practitioner, Reiki Master, Certified Hypnotherapist, and Certified Alternative Healing Consultant at Circle of Life Counseling and Healing Services in Mason, Michigan.

Copyright - 2007

Image "Shaman's Dream" above: / CC BY 2.0

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