What is Shamanism?
Shamanism in its many forms is one of the most widespread and ancient traditions, tens of thousands of years old. Nomadic hunting and gathering cultures around the world have shamanic practitioners within them. There are many varieties of shamansim, but there are a few things common to all shamanic practices. In anthropological terms, a shaman is a healer, a medicine woman or man, who can voluntarily enter altered states of consciousness, where they are able to journey to other realms to acquire knowledge to help those in their community. These other realms are reached by “soul flight”, or “out-of-body experiences”. The word shaman itself comes from the Tungus people of Siberia, and it means ‘one who is moved, or raised’, or ‘one who knows’. (Roger Walsh, M.D., The World of Shamanism, New Views of and Ancient Tradition 2010.)
As cultures evolved, nomadic life became settled, hunting and gathering changed to agriculture, and societies became more stratified socially and politically. The role of the shaman began to diminish. Historically, a variety of other occupations took the shaman’s place, such as healers, priests and mediums. Shamanism became denigrated by “enlightened” societies.For many years anthropologists were concerned that the ancient practices of shamanism would be lost. Then in the 1960s the ideas and practices of shamanism became of interest to the Western mind. The idea of a global village, with the sudden awareness of different cultures and their spiritual and healing practices, made things like yoga, spirituality and meditation of interest to people and widely available in the West. Yoga and meditation achieve altered states of consciousness including inner stillness, deep concentration, and balance, which are similar to the altered states of consciousness experienced by shamans.
While anthropologists had been studying shamanism all along, in the 1960s and 1970s some anthropologists began to learn and practice shamanism themselves. Academic texts were written which described these experiences with healing practices. Psychology and psychiatry as professions became interested in transformational practices such as meditation and diverse forms of spirituality to encourage healing and spiritual awakening. Today, a blending of traditional shamanic practices with Western ideas of science and psychology are popular healing modalities in the Western world.
Shamanism is not a religion, but a series of practices and experiences.
What is Energy Medicine?
Energy Medicine is based upon the idea that changes in the life force of the body, including the body’s weak electric and electromagnetic fields, affect human health and can promote healing. Acupuncture, Reiki and shamanism are forms of energy medicine.
Energy medicine is one of five categories of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) described by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) in the US. The NCCAM defines two approaches to practicing energy medicine. One group of practices (veritable) uses forms of energy whose existence has been proven scientifically, such as electromagnetism. The other group of practices (putative) uses forms of energy which at the present are theorized, not yet proven by scientific method.
The idea that the mind and body are integrated, not separate, is a core concept of energy medicine. The mind is the most powerful organ in the body, and the huge potential for the power of the mind is shown through the concept of the placebo. Studies have shown that if people are told that a pill will make them well, a certain percentage of them get well, even though the pill contains nothing that is medicinally active. Additional studies show that while not everyone responds to a placebo, neither does everyone respond to an active drug. In one example, the percentage of patients who reported relief following placebo (39%) is similar to the percentage who were given 4 mg (36%) of hidden morphine. (Levine, JD, Gordon NC, Smith R, Fields HL. “Analgesic responses to morphine and placebo in individuals with postoperative pain.” 1981. Pain 10 (3): 379–89.)
Interestingly, a new field in Western medicine is psychoneuroimmunology, the science of the interactions of the mind and body, where emotions (mind) and physiology (body) are united. “That dauntingly complicated word means simply that this discipline studies the ways that the psyche—the mind and its content of emotions—profoundly interacts with the body’s nervous system and how both of them, in turn, form an essential link with our immune defenses.” (Gabor Mate, M.D, When the Body Says No, 2004.)
What is Four Winds Shamanism?
This lineage of shamanic medicine is through the Laika, the indigenous medicine people of the Peruvian Andes and Amazon. It was introduced to the West at their request by Alberto Villoldo PhD, a medical anthropologist, who studied with them for over 30 years.
His teachers took him through the four directions of the Inca Medicine Wheel. In the South, he shed his personal history, becoming free of the grip of the past. In the West, he confronted his fears, and the greatest fear is death. By experiencing himself as a being of conscious energy, death became a doorway, and lost its menace. In the North, he journeyed to acquire the wisdom of all those medicine men and women who went before him. And in the East, he learned to reconcile all that he knew with the world in which he lived.
“I had a notion that the Medicine Wheel could be considered as a sort of neurological map for overriding the four operative programs of our primitive limbic brain: fear, feeding, fighting and sex...which might allow us to step into a grander consciousness.” (Alberto Villoldo, Island of the Sun: Mastering the Inca Medicine Wheel. 1992.)
In 1982 Alberto founded the Four Winds Light Body School to teach the mastery of this energy medicine. What has evolved are practices thousands of years old interwoven with Western physics, neurology and psychology, a synthesis that provides powerful tools for personal transformation.
The underlying principle is that the human body is surrounded by a luminous energy field which contains imprints (dense heavy energy) due to trauma which cause us physical and emotional illness.
The focus of a healing session is to clear these energetic imprints through the Illumination Process. What distinguishes Four Winds work from many other energetic healing modalities, is that the affinity for the imprint is also cleared. It doesn’t just go away for a few weeks or months only to return, with its physical or emotional charge, again and again.
By stepping into this beautiful transformational journey, the client—with support from the shaman—creates a very specific and personalized new mythic map. This creates new neuronal pathways, new wiring in the brain, allowing the energetic shifts from the session to fully integrate into the person’s life, resulting in personal transformation and right relationship with the mind, body and spirit, that gets reflected in our relationships, families, communities, our work and in the world.
The Four Winds Shaman
Four Winds shamans go through the four directions of the Incan Medicine Wheel, plus the Light Body training. During this journey, which allows the shaman to do their own personal work, they also learn and experience many tools for healing. These include the illumination process, soul retrieval, extractions, death rites, destiny work, and mythic mapping.
Another part of the training are the Munay ki rites, nine energetic transmissions that work to clear the energy field, which are received by Four Winds shamans. In addition, they use a Healer’s Mesa in their energy sessions. A Mesa is a cloth medicine bundle containing powerful medicine stones (kuyas).
Finally, Four Winds shaman training emphasizes living in Ayni in all aspects of one’s life, being in balance, connecting to the earth and to spirit, living with integrity.
Ayni and Gratitude
Ayni is the Andean concept of reciprocity, of balance: “today for you, tomorrow for me” . In the Quechua mountain villages, the idea is that all in the community need to help each other. Today I help you plant your fields, tomorrow you help me roof my house. Ayni also contains the idea that all communities are part of a larger, global community, with conscious connection and gratitude to mother earth, Pachamama, and all living creatures. This is reflected in the Prayer for Opening Sacred Space, where gratitude for all beings is expressed as “thank you to the water, the rocks, the plants, the air, the two legged ones, the four legged ones, the many legged ones, the no legged ones, all my relations.” The next part of the prayer, thanking the sun, the moon, and the stars, connects us with gratitude to all of creation.