Choosing a shamanic practitioner is easier said than done
(but don’t worry, I’ve listed a few tips to guide you along the way…)
When I worked at Anishnawbe Health in Toronto, choosing a healer was easy. Every traditional healer who comes through those doors is well-vetted. They work in an environment that is well-protected, spiritually-speaking, and if anything isn’t appropriate, sessions are recorded and carried out as to a collection of policies, so there’s recourse.
But in the non-native word of spirituality, it’s a real dog’s breakfast of practitioners, modalities, traditions and beliefs, and it’s tough to know who’s legit, who’s a fraudster, and who’s downright dangerous.
One of the reasons I started this practice is because, one day, I’d like to offer a safe place where clients can see many healers, and having seen how AHT operates, I have a decent idea of how I can go about making sure that the practitioners I bring on are doing good work from a good place and in a good way.
But that doesn’t solve the current issue of How Do You Know?
Ideally, I’d recommend you ask around, but in a big city like Toronto, there are a lot of people and a lot of practitioners and let’s face it, very few of us are going to approach our work colleagues and say “So, do you know a good shamanic practitioner?” I wish we could, maybe someday!
But this lack of community-informed knowledge to empower your decision definitely makes it tough to know who’s who.
Here’s a small checklist you can keep in mind. I’m not saying that every practitioner must satisfy every item in this checklist, but they should satisfy the clear majority.
And if they don’t, it doesn’t mean that the practitioner is terrible or dishonest or anything negative. It simply means they are not the practitioner for you.
1. Do They Check Their Ego?
This is a big a one, especially if you are looking for a practitioner to teach you part of what they know. Someone who works in the spiritual realm should be aware of not only their gifts, but also of their limits. Not every person is skilled in every modality of healing. Not every spirit person has every gift. The one thing that every reputable healer knows is how little they really know.
A healer who is constantly trying to one-up others regarding gifts or knowledge, is not only unpleasant to deal with, but is unlikely to be able to remove their ego from the healing which can be dangerous (you can read my blog about why healers must be a hollow bone here). It comes down to the fact that, when the practitioner’s ego is invested in the healing work, they may not have a clear mind to hear what the spirits are really telling them about the client or the courage or desire to express it, even if they do hear it.
In contrast, the best healers I’ve ever known were humble about the work. In fact, they don’t talk much about it at all. When you go to see them, they just… well, do the work! Very little fanfare, very little drama.
These are the kind of people that, when you ask certain questions, may shrug their shoulders and say, “I don’t know, do you want to ask the spirits instead?” and they usually don’t take themselves too seriously. If they sense you’re intimidated or worried, they will put you at ease, because you are the client. The focus of the session is on you, not on them.
2. Does Your Shamanic Practitioner Protect Their Ceremony?
Every healing session is like a mini-ceremony, but just because it’s small, doesn’t mean it’s less important or doesn’t require a strong container.
When a shamanic practitioner is working with a client, we are going back and forth into the Otherworld to interact with our spiritual helpers.
Sometimes, we will bring those helpers into this world. I was taught to call the link between the two worlds through which spirits come through the Western Door. So, you open the Western Door at the start of the session, and you must close it at the end.
Lots of people are good at opening the door, but many people don’t even know that it needs to be closed, let alone how to do it. Furthermore, one cannot assume that, if we randomly open that door, everything that comes through is going to be loving, benevolent and filled with light. Hell no.
It is the great responsibility of the practitioner to keep that channel safe, and to keep their clients safe from anything that could come through that door, and finally, to ensure that they (the clients) take nothing home with them after the session (even benevolent spirits in the wrong place can be troublesome, so they must ALL be sent home.)
If a client were to ask me the details of how I protect my sessions, I would readily assure them that I take a whole lot of time to protect the sessions, both before and after, and I have established systems that I have learnt from a number of good people over the course of a decade. That it’s something I take VERY seriously.
The red flag is when you ask a healer about how they protect the room or the session, and they don’t know how to answer at all. They don’t know what you’re talking about. Or they are offended by the question (ego alert!)
In my opinion, that’s a problem.
Again, it is irresponsible to open a client’s energy field to anything and everything out there, so it’s good to know that your practitioner is using some discernment in this area.
3. Did Your Shamanic Practitioner Do Any Training?
To be clear, I don’t believe it’s necessary that someone have a piece of paper behind their name or a PH.D. in psychology or theology. (Non-Native practitioners are obsessed with listing their credentials!)
With spirit work, I think it’s important that people have received some Ordinaryworld training at the hands of another, more experienced, spirit person. The protection paragraph above is an example why.
I know how they say that no man can teach spirituality, only the spirits can teach spirituality (I’m quite fond of saying that!) but it sure as heck makes sense to have an experienced practitioner guide you to ensure that things are being done in a healthy way.
Having said that, there are lots of spiritually gifted people out there who’ve been at it for decades and never did any training, but have figured things out in the trenches of experience. Or perhaps they did train, but their teacher is less known (remember that spiritual folks are not always comfortable putting themselves out there, so this is entirely possible.)
That brings us to the last thing I’m going to mention: What does your instinct tell you?
4. Watch The Signs
Ask for a dream, or meditate on it – whatever works for you, but you absolutely want to check in with yourself to see how you feel about this person.
Does the idea of working with them give you a pang of anxiety, or does it fill you with a sense of calmness and control?
Ask yourself ‘will this person give to me or take from me?’
What does your gut say? I believe our instincts are when the spirits whisper in our ear, so listen up and trust the feeling you get.
And never feel guilty! You may be talking to a trustworthy, ethical, skilled practitioner, but perhaps the timing is not right for you, or the timing is not right for them.
If you’re meant to work with this person, you will have a sense of right-ness and it will make you feel good.
Don’t worry about hurting our feelings. A good practitioner doesn’t have their ego invested in the work, and they surrender to the will of the spirits when deciding who they can help or when to step back, and they understand when you do the same. There’s no need to question it.
5. When In Doubt, Do Nothing
Okay, this isn’t really a checklist item, but I think it makes sense.
Spirituality happens at the right time (in its own time), and when it does, we should feel good about it. We should feel empowered and in control, not like we are giving up our power to someone we don’t entirely trust, or going into a situation we’re not entirely comfortable with.
Your healing journey should not be based on Fear Factor! If you have even a modicum of doubt or hesitation, hold up and think about it for a few more days. Wait till you have clarity.
Don’t worry, the spirits will always be there, so another day or two won’t make a difference in their ability – or willingness – to help you. I promise you this with all my heart.
I wish you luck in your journey and remember: Always trust your gut when it comes to the spirit world!