A frequent question submitted to Shaman Links are inquiries about whether shamanic healing can address a specific illness. In order to answer this question, the nature of shamanic healing must be understood.
Shamanic Healing addresses the spiritual aspect of illness. That is to say, it addresses the part of the illness that is in your spirit, soul, or energy body. Shamans believe that illness/injury appears in this spirit before it shows up in the physical body, and that if the body is injured the injury will also exist on the level of the spirit. Shamans believe that healing on the spiritual level can prevent conditions from appearing in the body, and also that healing the spirit helps or allows the body to heal once a condition has appeared.
Unlike western medicine, the way the spiritual illness effects the body is not always the same. The way to address the same condition may be totally different from one client to the next. The “one method/one pill cures all” idea doesn’t work in shamanism. There is a mysterious element to how the shaman effects a cure. The shaman cannot say in advance whether the healing will work or not.
Healing versus Cures
However, there is a difference between healing and cure. Healing occurs on many levels: in the emotions, in the body, in relationships with others, and in relationship to the planet. A cure is one dimensional, you have an illness and a cure eliminates it. Cures do not address your sense of well being, or whether your life is rich and full of power.
Shamans seek to perform healing which may also result in cures. Shamanic work has and continues to provide cures, but is difficult for a shaman to say to you ‘yes I can cure your such and such condition.’ Occasionally a shaman will find that he/she is good at a particular cure, but for the most part you can only find out if shamanic healing will work for something specific by trying it.
Please note, a shaman should never suggest that his or her healing can take the place of western medicine. There is no reason that shamanic work cannot be done in conjunction with western medicine. An ethical shamanic practitioner would never suggest you give up your doctor or your current treatments. You should always consult with your doctor if you feel adjustments need to be made to your current medical treatments.
Illness as a Teacher
No shaman wants another to suffer. (As always, these are descriptions of shamanic practitioner in the best sense. It is possible to meet unethical practitioners, and you should take care to engage a trustworthy healer.) A shaman does the work because of a desire to ease your way, and out of wanting the best for you. However, most shamans understand that illness can be a great teacher. In fact it is the shaman’s own illnesses / difficult times that have created an open and compassionate heart. It is this compassionate heart that allows the shaman to heal.
A shaman knows how to be with you when you are suffering because of his or her own times of suffering. Therefore a shaman will not assume that curing your illness is the best thing. Instead he/she performs healing for your highest good. That means that instead of forming preconceived notions about what is best for you, the shaman lets the spirits / God / the universe make that decision and then acts as a vehicle to bring healing to you.
There are many individuals who have had some illness and claim that it helped them learn something they wouldn’t have known or to achieve something. By working through the illness it may have taught them how to persist in other areas of their life. A shaman can never be sure whether curing a person could interfere or help. Michael J. Fox had an interesting thing to say about his own illness:
When something enters your life that is so big and so non-negotiable as catastrophic illness, you either go in denial for a while … or ultimately you accept it and you make space for it. And in making space for it, you illuminate a lot of things that you normally don’t have room for … you simply just look at the world differently.
Because a shaman cannot be certain of the answer to such questions, he or she will not assume what is best for you. Instead the shaman puts out a call to the healing forces in the universe. It is a call that strongly says ‘heal for this client’s highest good.’ This healing then may address something emotional, it may address something physical, but it is always intended to give you more spiritual power.
Shamanism has produced many miraculous healings. Documented cases exist of individuals being cured of cancer, blindness and other seemingly unbeatable illness through shamanic treatment. You may receive such a healing and the more you can open yourself to that possibility the more you will allow the healing forces to come in.
Your own healing powers
Whenever a scientific study is performed to test a medicine there is always a group of people who receive the actual medicine and a group who receive a placebo. The placebo is not the medicine, but is a sugar pill. A placebo is used because there is always some participants that will show improvement or cure regardless of whether the medicine is effective.
Scientists are not sure why the placebo effect works. Is it the power of belief? Is it because of the medical attention the patient receives when they partake in a study? A shaman’s explanation for this would be that belief in the placebo helped the individual engaged with her own power to heal herself. In other words the patient recovers on the placebo because he is connected with his own power of self healing.
Your body, your spirit, your soul can heal itself.
What is going to engage that healing action within you?
That is in part what shaman’s are trying to engage, your own healing abilities. Shaman’s certainly do work on the spiritual level, clearing out blockages and returning lost power, but one of the aims of healing is to connect clients with the power that is inside themselves. This power can be used to improve one’s life various ways including: coming from a powerful place as you interact in the personal world or the business world, being a creator in the world, and being the healthiest human you can be.