If you have been reading my blog for any length of time then you should have a pretty good feeling for what shamanism is. Today let's take a look at the interface between shamanism and energy medicine and explore the idea that shamanism is a form of energy medicine.
Energy medicine takes lots of forms and energy is used frequently in traditional Western medicine. For example, x-rays are a form of energy used as a diagnostic tool. Radiation therapy as a cancer treatment beams high energy waves into the body to kill (cook) tumors. Sound waves, another form of energy, are used as a diagnostic tool in ultrasound, and also as a minimally invasive treatment for issues like kidney stones. The sound waves literally cruch the stones into sand. However, when I think of energy medicine and shamanism I think of subtle energies.
Subtle energy in around the human body has a long tradition in Eastern medical traditions. Traditional Chinese medicine views three energy fields or storehouses within the the human body, the three Dan Tiens, eight extraordinary vessels that circulate energy around the body, and twelve major meridians through which energy flows. Acupuncture and acupressure are techniques used to remove blockages in the flow of the human subtle energy or Qi.
Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India, also views the human body as part of an energy field. The diagram below shows the multilayered aura that surrounds the human body. Energy is pulled into the physical body by the chakras, energy vortexes, and then it circulates through energy channels. The ida, pingala and shushuman are the three most important of these energy channels or nadi. Energy imbalances can be viewed (literally) by the quality of the spin of the chakras.
In ayurveda, and to many shamanic practitioners, illnesses start in the outer layers of the aura and, as an energy imbalance increases, it is manifest as disease in the body. To heal (another blog topic, healing is not the same as curing) the person the energy balance needs to be addressed and the energetic body brought back into a state of homeostasis.
Shamanism is all too often viewed just as a psychological tool, maybe because many of the popular Western shamans come from an academic background in psychology or counseling. We heal a person's psyche through soul retrieval or by removing attachments, we gain wisdom by interacting with our power animals. However, as shamans we also work with the energetic body to effect physical healing as well. In fact, in the Andes where I learned from my teachers, people came to see a shaman (healer) for physical issues more often than they did for psychological or spiritual issues.
When you are living at 12,000 feet up on the altiplano in Bolivia, a two days walk from the nearest medical center, then you relied on the local curandero (healer/shaman) to help you. I once watched my teacher, Don Juan Carlos Medrano, heal a lung infection by removing stagnant energy from a person's lungs. He pulled energy, much like I might pull a long piece of thread attached to needle through a piece of fabric. He spent about an hour pulling invisible energy threads up and out of the person's chest and shaking the energy off his hands. While I watched, the person laying on a blanket on the dirt floor of an adobe hut begin to breathe easily.
The first step in learning to practice shamanic energy healing is to learn to sense the subtle energy field. I'll give you some ideas about how to practice that next time.
Peace my friends,
I'm Dr. Dave, an eclectic shaman. I lived and worked in Bolivia and Peru for over six years, where I and was trained by Andean Shamans, and today practice eclectic shamanism.