(In preparation for the course I'm teaching this summer, I'm going to be writing a lot about shamanic healing. This is the first piece.)
What is shamanic healing? What is a shaman? Probably if you asked nine shamans, you would get ten definitions. There are many strains of this ancient religion.
If you google shaman, (I did this morning), most of the definitions include the idea of doing magic, being a "master of the elements" and curing/controlling the situation at hand.
I am not that kind of shaman.
Master of the elements? Show me anyone who is master of the elements and I'll show you an individual with a serious ego problem. Same goes for the ones who brag about curing and/or controlling the situation at hand. Oh the arrogance! My goodness.
There are many warrior shamans who will go to the underworld and fight demons to save a part of your soul. These shamans will go hand-to-hand with sickness spirits. They are brave and valiant, unafraid to engage in astral battle whenever necessary.
I'm not that kind of shaman either. Good lord, no.
Below, a definition posted on a meet-up website for the Tribe of Beltway Shamans, of which there are almost 300. Who knew? I didn't, until I googled shaman.
Serge Kahili King, the author of `Urban Shaman', defines a shaman as "a healer of relationships between mind and body, between people, between people and circumstances, between humans and Nature, and between matter and spirit. In practicing his or her healing, the shaman has a view of reality very different from the one most of the world uses, and it is this unique viewpoint ... which really sets the shaman apart from other healers."
This definition comes closest to describing what I do and how I think about shamanism, though I have a few quarrels with it. The view most of the world uses? What would that be? I also would argue that we are not separate from nature, we are a part of it. Perhaps he means the green world, I'm not sure.
As a shaman, I am a diplomat, a negotiator. My job is to mediate, facilitate meet-ups between the worlds, realities, and beings. Once I'm able to put all parties in touch with one another, and when we all seem to be on the same page, my job is to take a big step back into my energy, hold space, and basically get out of the way of the healing. The only exception is when I do soul retrievals, but what I do is not the big super-hero soul retrievals that the warrior shamans do. I go after bits and pieces lost or wandering sometimes for no discernible reason. It's a gentle, non-confrontational kind of soul retrieval.
I am no master of the elements. I do not engage in sorcery of any kind, nor am I some kind of supernatural healing force. Hell no. By the way, I am not diminishing what I do. In my diplomatic niche, I have a lot of experience. There is never a guarantee that shamanic healing will have noticeable impact, but what I do harms no one, and has been extremely helpful in certain cases.
I admire warrior shamans and am glad they're out there, fighting the good fight. Sorcerer shamans scare me. Grandiosity is a distortion that can lead to faulty decisions as well as harmful outcomes.
In my work, there are no plans to save the planet, cure cancer or be heroic in any way, shape, or form. I love my work. It is very satisfying.