From a shamanic perspective an illness or emotional imbalance is not a matter of one cause or one effect.  Behind the surface of things there are interconnections that we can’t see or understand that may cause what we are seeing in the physical body or emotional psyche.

To a shaman, a physical illness is not more important than an emotional imbalance.  In our society, emotional or spiritual imbalances are sometimes trivialized.  For instance, only recently has depression been identified as an illness.  When western individuals think of healing, many see it in terms of having an illness that needs a cure.  This is not bad, but it is somewhat different than what a shamanic healer is focused on.

For shamanic healing, the healing itself comes from the spirit world.  The shaman or shamanic practitioner is responsible for serving as a conduit to bring through the healing that is needed at a given time.  Viewed from the spirit world: depression, low self esteem, the flu, an addiction to smoking, a personality disorder, or an illness like diabetes or cancer would not be categorized differently.  These are all evidence of some type of imbalance that needs healing.  In other words, every one of those things is an “illness.”

In some ways, this makes for a simplistic healing model.  There is something the person has, something that is present that he/she may be attached to or is carrying within that needs to be detached or removed.  The client is missing something he/she needs, and that something needs to be returned.  The person is connected to that which makes him/her less healthy and must be connected to that which is healthier.  The technique to address these things can be more unique or involved.

How the healing is executed involves skill, experience, and the healer’s capacity for transferring energy through his or her connection to the spirit world.

A shamanic healer goes to the source of the imbalance or illness and clears or restores the individual at that source.  Unlike the pathology of western medicine, the shamanic healer sees the cause of illness as a type of energy.  The same illness will not always come from the same source with this view.  Each person is unique, so the reason for his or her illness will also be unique.  For instance the source may come through a client’s ancestry.   It may come from an incident in life that caused a trauma in his or her energy field.  The source could be from a different time such as a past life.  A shamanic healer does not come with preconceived notions about where to find the source of a given complaint.

Nor does he or she assume that a given complaint is the most important thing that must be healed.  Sometimes, another issue will have a stronger pull, and be much more critical to a client’s return to a state of balance.  As I mentioned earlier, the spirit world does not categorize illnesses the way we do.  While a healer will abide within areas of permission and will try to focus on the specific thing that has been requested, the healing itself will be true on a deeper level.   The “illness” is the surface manifestations of imbalance be they emotional or physical, once the deeper level is healed you cannot always predict how the new state of balance will manifest.

jump in the sunTherefore, some people find they are cured of the illness, some people are not “cured.”  If a particular result is not for your highest good, a shaman healer who is ethical will not violate that highest good.  For instance there are many stories of people who achieved great things after having had cancer.  They point to it as something which helped them achieve their full potential.  It would probably not be an individual’s highest good to cure him before he could experience the healing process in a full way.

Because a shaman healer cannot do the same thing the exact same way every time and get the exact same result, shamanic healing cannot be called repeatable.  Repeatability is a statistical and scientific term that western medicine uses to quantify the effectiveness of treatment.  From a western perspective, shamanic healing is not effective because it is not repeatable exactly the same way every time.  Not only will the procedure appear to change as a shaman adjust his or her methods to the needs of the individual.  If the healer produces four cures and six healings that only result in emotional well being, statistically he was only 40% effective.  A shaman would say that the emotional healing was equally important to physical cure and so will measure success differently than a doctor.


  1. Western medicine isn’t the best term.  People in the “East” sometimes point to the fact that there are Euro-centric assumptions when calling something Western.  I’m talking about medicine based in the scientific method, and thats not exclusive to people in the “West.” However calling medicine scientific brings connotations that can also be misleading.  We often use the word scientific to mean “good.”  If I use the term scientific medicine, that could imply good medicine or valid medicine.  The other medicine then becomes non-valid or not-good.  So I’ll stick with the term western medicine until I find a better one.
  2. There is no reason that you can’t seek healing from western medicine and also spiritual healing at the same time.  In fact, an ethical healer will not tell you to stop a treatment without your consulting a medical doctor.

Lauren Torres – Lansing, IL
Copyright © 2011 [Lauren Torres]. All rights reserved
Do not reproduce with out express written permission.

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