What is Shamanism and Shamanic Healing

Shamanism and the Future Edge of Health Care
by Zayin Neumann


Shamanism has come to mean many things to a variety of different people. For the purposes of this community, our shamanism definition will primarily be in terms of a healing modality; healing accomplished via relationship and interaction with the trans-physical or spiritual worlds. Shamans have learned to cross the veil between realities, and are actively working to bridge relationships between the trans-physical and the physical worlds to bring healing into their communities.


The shamanism definition always involves the shaman who, in most indigenous cultures, acts as a mediator between the worlds of spirits and of humans. A shaman might also be an herbalist, a chiropractor, a community official, or an M.D., but none of these qualifies her/him as a shaman. It is their interaction with the trans-physical, the ancestors, the plant and animal elders, the elementals, all of those teachers just out of sight and hearing for the majority of the population. All of this holds true in our contemporary cultures as well.


There is currently a revival of shamanic as well as indigenous healing and wisdom in contemporary Western society. Much of this shamanism healing work is practiced outside of the various contexts in which it was born, and yet people throughout the world are daily finding deep and long-lasting healing and nurturance via these time honored methods. The questions naturally arise. “What is shamanism? Why is shamanism relevant, even necessary, for our place and time?”


Our modern lives lend themselves to anxiety, isolation, and a variety of diseases that stem from alienation from ourselves and from the world around us. Shamanic healing and ritual can help us deepen our connections to Life, empowering us to build relationships with the world we live in, both the seen and the unseen.


If you went to see a shamanic practitioner for healing they would almost certainly point you towards relationship. They would help you build lines of communication to the natural world of plants and trees, the wisdom inherent in the movements of our animal elders, and to knowledge of our ancestors and teachers in the spiritual realms whom we know must be there, but who we cannot often interact directly with ourselves.


By nurturing these relationships and asking for healing on a spiritual level we can cure diseases ranging from cancer and bad knees to sleep disorders and depression. Shamanism healing looks to the trans-physical cause rather than to the physical symptom. It is generally non-invasive, though the cures can be far-reaching and long lasting. As we mature and grow towards our future we will no doubt begin to honor the vast history of human knowledge throughout the ages. I assume that in so doing, what is shamanism today will prove itself to be a perfect counter-balance to the Western allopathic model of healing.


About the Author


Zayin Neumann, The Integral Gardener, has worked in intensive settings with several highly respected shamanic teachers, chief among them, Michael Harner and his Advanced Training in Core Shamanism. He is currently working towards his Ph.D. in East-West Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, where he is working to bring shamanism into the contemporary conversations around Integral Cosmology and Comparative Religion. He has a private practice in San Francisco, and facilitates workshops in and around the Bay Area. To learn more about Zayin’s work and practice visit: The Freedom to Inhabit.





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