Did my session really work? First we need to understand WHY shamanism works
I had the most delightful conversation with a client the other day who was about three weeks out from his appointment.
“How are you feeling?”
“Good. Although, I haven’t experienced any profound healing per say, and I don’t feel like anything has transformed the way you said it might.”
“So you didn’t have a healing crisis?”
“I didn’t, but you talked about it so much that, since I didn’t have it, I’m not sure it worked.”
“Ah. I see. What have the last few weeks been like for you?”
“Well, I’m dreaming of my power animal all the time now. And the other day I was called to climb a large hill in my area and, when I did, my power animal showed up and we greeted each other. Then I greeted the wind, and I’ve never done that before, and I sang to it. Now when I go down to the shore, I connect with that water spirit you mentioned, and I feel grounded and at peace.”
There was doubt the session had ‘worked’, but not in the hard and dramatic way I had initially presented it.
Why Shamanism Works: Darkness Brings Us To The Light
We shamanic practitioners love to go dark. Those long dark nights of spiritual awakening and ego death become our comfortable places. Discussions about difficult topics like trauma and fear replace everyday banter; I suspect that, at times, we are probably not the people you want to have at your dinner party.
Yet as much as I drone on about healing crisis, and that up and down pattern of healing, there are times when the Spirits simply want to light the way and bring us peace and joy. I often tell clients that their first shamanic session is like an introduction to their Spirits, and there’s no reason why that relationship can’t be easy and affirming.
The day this client actually wondered if maybe it ‘didn’t work’ because it wasn’t hard enough, made me realize that, in my well-intentioned desire to help people understand the work and be prepared for any outcome, I had become a bit too heavy about it.
I was taught about Spirituality in a community where to do spiritual work is to put our lives on the line. Literally. I have seen practitioners harmed in the course of the work, because a client or a participant did not respect the protocols set out. So there is a gravitas to the work, and when I hear people being flippant about shamanism, like it’s all light and rainbows, benevolent entities and good feelings all round, I pause.
This attitude leads to people not respecting protocols, which puts the lives of the healers doing the work – for the community’s benefit – at risk. But people will be people, and there will always be the odd client who lies about drinking before a session or steals a power song or whatever it is the healer has specifically asked them NOT to do. It begs the question:
If it’s so damn dangerous, why would anyone want to do this work?
A Story (shamanism is all about stories)
When I was working at Anishnawbe Health, my son and I attended a public ceremony that didn’t go well.
The medicine person who was conducting told the community gathered what had happened and why (a person had not respect the protocols set out), and in the end, although the healer did finish the ceremony, I remember leaving that night feeling unsettled and with fear for the healers and helpers involved.
It made me question why, even though my son is Indigenous, I would want him to participate in ceremony (I was new to the culture and didn’t understand very much at that time). I met with the conductor a few days later to ask him my questions.
“Why should I allow my son to participate in something so dangerous? Why would any medicine person ever do this work given the risks and what we saw happen?”
Elders are elders for a reason, and this man’s answer will always stay with me.
“Because it’s who we are, and what The Creator asks us to do. Nothing happens without The Creator’s permission, and within that trust, we do this work to help our community.”
That was the day I learned to respect the ceremonies.
Fact: Shamanism is Dangerous Work
Also a Fact: Shamanism is Beautiful Work
I carry that teaching with me, and it can cause me to be a bit heavy-handed when describing healing work to a new client.
I realize now that there is a time and place for that kind of talk. When a client starts to question the authenticity of their own healing journey because it’s not hard enough, I have taken it too far. How hard a session is or isn’t has nothing to do with why shamanism works.
The Spirits that we call on for shamanic work are spirits that only want to help us. While they do sometimes administer a dose or two of tough love, more often than not, they surround us with love and validation.
They show us unwavering compassion and smooth our rough edges with a feeling of peace. Spiritual healing work can be a balm, a temporary break from the pain of struggle, just long enough to remind us that succor is possible, that progress is possible, and this break often gives us the strength we need to move forward. And when we do move forward, we do it secure in the knowledge that we do not walk alone. That our Spirits are with us, encouraging us, acknowledging us, helping us, and when we need a bit of extra help, stepping in to heal us yet again.
The feeling of acceptance when the Spirits acknowledge us for the first time is incredible. It also feels incredible when we are told that the animal with which we have felt a special relationship all our lives is actually our power animal, and that the love we feel for them is reciprocated. Or when we can have a cry for the first time in years because, finally, we are surrounded with compassion, and we feel safe.
Now that I have stepped into doing this work, I know exactly why I do it. Yes, it can be dangerous and all of that, but oh, it can be so beautiful. So breathtakingly beautiful that all that danger and fear is erased in a single vision.
When you come to see me for a healing session, there is always a point, sometimes fleeting, other times I see it for longer, when I’m shown how the Spirits see you. I see a golden network of light that resembles the networks we see in a cornea, and the glorious brilliance of your soul where it resides in this lifetime, and no matter what you have been through, or what you have done, that light is there, and it’s astonishing and humbling.
If this is how they see you, then this is also how they see me, and that gives me courage to continue doing this work, and it fills me with joy and peace. It allows me to move forward in my life in with grace and ease. Maybe only for five minutes until I overreact to the next crisis, but perhaps, in that five minutes, I can change something, do something, that will help me to heal.
Soul Retrieval is a Cause for Celebration
Healing is a positive action. It is always a positive action. Even if the road is a tough one, healing can only be seen as positive.
The return of our inner power through soul retrieval and other such ceremonies is a cause for celebration. Sure, we can now use that newly restored power to sustain us through painful self-realizations and what not, but we can also use it to feel amazing. To feel like ourselves for the first time since whenever. Our joy is a gift, our access to positive emotions is a gift, our sensuality is a gift, and one of the great outcomes of soul retrieval for many is the ability to access these emotions.
If we have worked together, and the only thing you feel coming out of our session is peace, joy, relief, or awareness, then I am so happy for you!
You Know Who You Are 😉
To my client: I’m sorry I led you believe that your healing journey must be hard to be real. I encourage you to embrace this time of serenity and explore its teachings, for these will support you well in the future. Remember that you are filled with light and love, and, even if there is the occasional dark night, that light and love is your true nature. Finally, if this is what the Spirits have shown you over the past three weeks, everything is working exactly as it should.