If you have been reading my blog for any length of time then you should have a pretty good feeling for what shamanism is. Today let's take a look at the interface between shamanism and energy medicine and explore the idea that shamanism is a form of energy medicine.
Energy medicine takes lots of forms and energy is used frequently in traditional Western medicine. For example, x-rays are a form of energy used as a diagnostic tool. Radiation therapy as a cancer treatment beams high energy waves into the body to kill (cook) tumors. Sound waves, another form of energy, are used as a diagnostic tool in ultrasound, and also as a minimally invasive treatment for issues like kidney stones. The sound waves literally cruch the stones into sand. However, when I think of energy medicine and shamanism I think of subtle energies.
Subtle energy in around the human body has a long tradition in Eastern medical traditions. Traditional Chinese medicine views three energy fields or storehouses within the the human body, the three Dan Tiens, eight extraordinary vessels that circulate energy around the body, and twelve major meridians through which energy flows. Acupuncture and acupressure are techniques used to remove blockages in the flow of the human subtle energy or Qi.
Ayurveda, the traditional medical system of India, also views the human body as part of an energy field. The diagram below shows the multilayered aura that surrounds the human body. Energy is pulled into the physical body by the chakras, energy vortexes, and then it circulates through energy channels. The ida, pingala and shushuman are the three most important of these energy channels or nadi. Energy imbalances can be viewed (literally) by the quality of the spin of the chakras.
In ayurveda, and to many shamanic practitioners, illnesses start in the outer layers of the aura and, as an energy imbalance increases, it is manifest as disease in the body. To heal (another blog topic, healing is not the same as curing) the person the energy balance needs to be addressed and the energetic body brought back into a state of homeostasis.
Shamanism is all too often viewed just as a psychological tool, maybe because many of the popular Western shamans come from an academic background in psychology or counseling. We heal a person's psyche through soul retrieval or by removing attachments, we gain wisdom by interacting with our power animals. However, as shamans we also work with the energetic body to effect physical healing as well. In fact, in the Andes where I learned from my teachers, people came to see a shaman (healer) for physical issues more often than they did for psychological or spiritual issues.
When you are living at 12,000 feet up on the altiplano in Bolivia, a two days walk from the nearest medical center, then you relied on the local curandero (healer/shaman) to help you. I once watched my teacher, Don Juan Carlos Medrano, heal a lung infection by removing stagnant energy from a person's lungs. He pulled energy, much like I might pull a long piece of thread attached to needle through a piece of fabric. He spent about an hour pulling invisible energy threads up and out of the person's chest and shaking the energy off his hands. While I watched, the person laying on a blanket on the dirt floor of an adobe hut begin to breathe easily.
The first step in learning to practice shamanic energy healing is to learn to sense the subtle energy field. I'll give you some ideas about how to practice that next time.
Peace my friends,
How is your relationship with nature? If you grew up in the West, and especially if you grew up in one of the religions that makes use of the Torah/Old Testament, then your relationship with nature may have been tainted by Jewish/Christian mythology. According to this myth the First Man and First Woman were placed in a garden and were told that they could eat anything that they wanted except for the fruit of The Tree of Good and Bad.
I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian home and went to Sunday School every Sunday morning (some day I'll tell you what happened when I rebelled). Anyway, I was a free-thinking little brat, something my father didn't manage to beat out of me, so when I was in second grade and the Sunday School teacher told us the myth of The Garden I raised my hand and asked, "What kind of God would put a good tree in a garden and say, 'See that pretty tree, don't eat its fruit.'?" It just didn't make sense to me. My question got me sent to the pastors office. Common occurrence.
You know the rest of the story. First Man and First Woman thought that the fruit looked pretty good (another one of my questions to the same teacher, the very next Sunday, was "Remember the fruit from last Sunday? Did eating the fruit really mean that they made love? He he." Same result, off to the pastor's office I went. Whatever the "fruit" was that they "ate", First Man and First Woman got kicked out of the garden and into the dark and dreary earth. The picture that was painted for me was that of getting kicked out of a luscious, cool, green garden with waterfalls, beautiful birds, and animals (even lions and tigers and bears) that would come and play with you, and out into something that looked like the Northern Arizona badlands (been there quite a few times but if you don't have a mental picture then google images of the Navajo Reservation).
For them, and for anyone else who bought into the myth, the earth became a place of suffering, subsistence farming, toil and labor. A place where you had to be careful because the snake might try and bite your foot. The earth was hot and dry and water was hard to find. The earth became a scary place and one that had to be subdued, controlled, manipulated and used. In addition, a duality formed, First Man and First Woman and all of their descendants came to view themselves not as part of creation but its managers or controllers, fighting against the forces of nature.
I hope that your view of creation is different because to shamans we are not separate and apart from creation but part of it. In fact, we are just one little node on the web of life that connects everything, every person, plant, animal, rock, cloud . . . into one living being; the All. I hope that you noticed on the web of life diagram above that humankind is not at the center, in fact nothing is at the center. There is no center.
Pachamama isn't a scary place, she is a loving mother who cares for us, and wants us to love and respect her back. It is dual relationship, not a duality, but a family relationship. When I greet Pachamama every morning I greet her as a loving son saying "Good morning mom, I hope you slept well and had pleasant dreams." When I greet Intitayta as he rises over the horizon, waking up like he does every morning, I do it like a son to his father, speaking with love, gratitude and respect. We are a family.
You, reading this are my sister or my brother. So is the crow perched outside my window looking in at me as I type, or the doves that woke me up every morning in Peru last month. So is the raccoon that knocked over my garbage can last night. Welcome to the family. Its sometimes a messy family, but one filled with love and support.
Why are you here? Not here on earth or in the city or town where you live, but here, right now, sitting in front of your computer reading this. I am convinced that Spirit talks to everyone and tries to lead them on a spiritual path. Unfortunately, few listen to the promptings of Spirit. You have been lead here because Spirit thinks that shamanism must be a viable path for you.
Why shamanism? You, like me, may have found that fundamental (book religion) religious practices are exclusive rather than inclusive, and restrictive. They promote the idea that if you don't believe exactly the same way that they do that you will not receive any rewards in this life or the next. Ouch. I live in a very Christian and religious (not so spiritual) community and in some parts of town it seems that there is a church on every street corner. All of these different denominations believe that their way is the only way, with slight doctrinal differences. This leads a dualistic, us-against-them mentality.
Shamanism is different. Shamanism is the oldest of spiritual paths. It has been with us for at least 50,000 years. I say that because two French archaeologists unearthed a 50,000 year old burial site in 1972. At this site, the Horta Site, they found the body of a Neanderthal man wearing a leopard hide, typical burial garb for shamans.
Shamanism isn't different just because it is old and it has survived for so long because of its spiritual and cultural value. It is also inclusive and practical. Shamanism isn't dogmatic. It has not doctrine or articles of faith. In fact, it is so nonrestrictive that you can believe what ever you want as long as you are true to Spirit. Unlike most religions, shamanism is experiential and a life style. Shamanism isn't something that you read about in a book (although there are great books about it), it's not something that you learn about in a Sunday school class. It is something that you do and live. As you experience shamanism you learn who you are, your place in the universe, and what you need to do to take care of yourself and this wonderful, beautiful earth that we inhabit. It provides tools for psychological and physical healing for yourself and others.
Interested? I have placed a clickable index of my shamanism blogs on the resource page. Wander around and read about it, then give it a try.
It's good to be home, sort of. I have just returned from about six weeks in Peru with my wife and three sons, and then with nine participants in a shamanism workshop. My family and I spent about two weeks with one of my teachers in his new home in Lurin, a suburb of Lima. We then went on a family retreat to the high (about 5,800 feet above sea level), Central Jungle of Peru where Oxapampa was our base camp, and then to the Andean highlands (about 12,000 feet above sea level) where the mining town of Jauja became our base camp. We used both base camps as our jumping off spots for getting out into nature. My three boys are all teenagers now so they were old enough to enjoy the trip and be good explorers.
Once I felt well grounded and centered I met nine shamanism students at the international airport in Lima for a five-day retreat and energy transmission. It is winter in South America and winter in Lima is pretty mild with temperatures in the mid 60's most days. The temperature in Cuzco is considerably cooler at wetter this time of year.
Obviously, because we didn't go to Cuzco, we didn't visit Machu Pichu this time. Rather, we spent a day exploring the pre-Inca ruins of Pachacamac near Lurin and held a ceremony on the top of the Temple of the Sun looking out towards the Pacific Ocean.
The ocean is very "bravo" (high waves) this time of year but we spent two days, one near the beginning of our workshop and one at the end, on the beach feeling the power of the ocean spirits and building our connection with the force that covers covers more than 70 percent of the surface of our planet. It's hard to imagine, but about 97 percent of the Earth's water can be found in our oceans. Another 2 percent is frozen up in glaciers and ice caps.
Here are two more pictures of Pachacamac:
What else did we do? Well we went to a local market at everyone selected and purchased their own aguayos (pronounced "awayo") to use to hold their mesa and to serve as their altar cloth. The picture to the right shows two of the aguayos that I bought for my collection. That done we spent a day collecting objects for our mesas, consecrating them, and then performing individual ceremonies with our mesas.
Other workshops topics included:
Sound like fun? Our next trip will be during the winter (Northern hemisphere), summer in South America and so we will return to Cuzco and Machu Pichu. Contact me for more information. I'm still negotiating prices with hotels in Cuzco so I don't have price information yet, but that will come.
It's good to be back, although I did notice for about a week (that's how long we have been home) that my legs felt like I was walking through goo. I think that the energy level here is much, much more dense and heavy than it was in Peru. I miss the light energy.
Today doesn't quite feel right. For the past few weeks I have been teaching a graduate seminar for 8 hours on Friday (13:00 to 21:00) and then 8 hours on Saturday (08:00 to 16:00). We ended the seminar last night (Friday night) at about 23:00 so my mental clock is messed up. I feel like I should have arrived at the university between 6:30 and 7:00 this morning and that I should have started teaching 90 minutes ago. Instead I have been sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee and looking at the trees in in our back yard (back forest), and feeling strangely guilty.
If you were raised like I was then you were taught that time marches forward and that not a second should be wasted because once gone, that second is lost forever. I'm afraid that way of thinking has all too often transformed me from a human being into a human doing. So this morning I practiced being a human being . . . I entered the "I am" state.
Besides sitting and drinking coffee while gazing at nature the other way that I practice being is by meditating. Learning to meditate is a lot like learning to walk a tight rope, something I decided to learn how to do over 40 years ago. Here are the instructions I developed for myself when I wanted to learn to talk a tight rope:
That doesn't seem so hard does it? I just requires lots of practice to cycle through the steps 3-4-5 loop over and over. Meditation is pretty much the same. Here are my meditation instructions in case you consider yourself to be a non-meditator:
Give it a try if you have never done it. Five minutes of practice is a good length for a start. You will probably find that you have a monkey mind, one that jumps from thought branch to thought branch and that's alright. Be kind to yourself and every time that happens just return to step 5 above.
I have found that when my mind is too focused on being a human doing that it is hard for Goddess or God to get my attention. Only when my mind is quiet do I seem to be receptive to Their promptings. Although many physical and psychological benefits accrue to meditators, for me it has become part of my spiritual practice.
Peace my friend,
Munay is a Quecha word with several meanings. The most common meaning of munay is "to want". But, just as in Spanish, "to want" can have a special meaning as in Anchata munayki or "Te quiero mucho" or "I love you a lot" [1, 2] . It can also be used as a noun to describe the state of being in love. When combined with the word niy, which means "to say or to tell" as in niyta munay, it means "to mean" or "to say what you want (mean) to say".
Munay means more than to want, to love, and to mean. It conveys a feeling that is intertwined with the word that is almost hard to express in English. It makes me feel, when I hear the word, that there is an urgency in the wanting, the loving, that comes from deep within. To say that it means to want or to love with willpower doesn't motivate the right feeling. It is more of a feeling of to want or to love with ones whole being. When a Q'ero becomes a shaman, a pampamesayuq he or she does so with munay .
Isn't thinking in another language fun! I love it! Sorry, that's not the purpose of this post. I just wanted to wish you munay today. As you practice shamanism or paganism of whatever path Goddess and God have called you, may you do so with munay, with a feeling of love that emanates from your whole being.
Find love and purpose on your path my friend,
 Note that in Spanish the verb querer which literally means "to want" is used romantically to mean "I love you". In fact, in Latin America you are more likely to hear people say Te quiero mucho than Te amo mucho when in English they would say "I love you a lot." in both cases. After all, if one is to say "I want you" in English, the statement would probably convey a sexual connotation that doesn't exist in te quiero.
 A popular teacher of shamanism would have you believe that the "ki" at the end of "munayki" refers to the Japanese work "ki" as in Reiki with its meaning of "life force energy". That is not the case. "ki" is the second-personal singular marker or ending in Quechua. That's all. For example, the question "What is your name?" in Quechua is Ima sutiyki? and my response would be Ñoqa sutiy David. Notice the change from second person singular to first person singular in the verb ending
 Pampa = flat land (think altiplano, the high plain between the West and East ranges of the Andes mountains. Mesa = table or altar. Yuq = possessive suffix, but in Quechua there really isn't a word for "to have". Rather, Quecha speakers use a suffix that really means "with you". So to ask, "Are you married?" or "Do you have a wife?" one would ask, "Warmi-yuq ka-nki-chu?" which literally means "Wife-with be-you?" The shaman who is a pampamesayuq isn't one who own's or has an earth altar, but rather someone who carries an earth altar with him or her. Quecha speakers linguistically recognize that we don't own or "have" anything, the stuff that encumbers us is just with us. Consequently I don't think of my pampamesa as mine, but rather that it is something with which I have been entrusted for safekeeping and appropriate use.
The curanderos (healers or shamans) of Peru and Bolivia travel from place-to-place as they serve their communities. Unlike established churches with buildings, formal, physical altars and stationary priests or ministers, and the expectation that the congregation will come to the church once a week, the curanderos travel to those who need their services. This means that their altars need to be light, portable, and easy to set up and put away. All of the altar pieces are usually bundled up inside of an Aguayo (pronounced uh-Y-oh), a piece of woven fabric about 45 inches square.
These portable altars are called a mesa or table and can be set up anywhere. My teacher, Don Juan Carlos Medrano Jimenez of Bolivia, use to set his mesa up on the ground, a tree stump, a large stone, or even occasionally on someone’s kitchen table.
Curanderos are eclectic and practical, and select altar pieces that resonate with them and that represent the spirits with whom they work. The Northern Costal Peruvian (NCP) mesa is probably the easiest to start with because the set-up is simple and straight forward. The NCP mesa consist of a manta (literally a table cloth or bed covering) laid on any flat surface from the ground to a table top. An assemblage of artes or sacred altar pieces are arranged on top of it. These artes are the tools that the curandero uses to conduct healing, for divination, and to communicate with Spirit. The collection of artes is very personal and is motivated by the curandero’s own spiritual guidance and training.
The NCP mesa is often divided into three vertical, left-to-right sections or campos (fields). Each campo is used for the specific type of healing that is being performed The left third of the manta is called the campo ganadero (cattle field) and it is the side of the manta where the curandero will place artes used to dispatch and release dense energies. The center third of the manta is called the campo medio, (middle field) and it is the section of the manta where the curandero will place artes used to balance and integrate energies. For example, this is the field where I “plant” my chakra balancing stones when I set up my mesa. The right third of the manta is called the campo justiciero, (righteous field) and is where the curandero will place the artes used to raise energy and bring good fortune.
Several times a year I host a workshop where the participants learn to build and use their own mesas. I provide them with an Aguayo and a few artes. We start with a NCP mesa and then move on to constructing and working with the more complex Andean mesa. However, if you want to work with a NCP mesa then grab a piece of notebook paper. Turn it sideways (landscape) and divide it into three columns. Write (1) campo ganadero, (2) campo medio, and (3) campo justiciero as the headings at the top of the appropriate column and then meditate on the artes or ritual objects that you would use to (1) dispatch and release dense energies, (2) balance and integrate energies, and (3) to raise energy and bring good fortune (see table below).
As the artes come to you then write them in the appropriate column. Don’t worry if you don’t have all of the altar pieces or artes, they will come to you with time. If you are following a Druidcraft path then at least some of your artes will probably come from the Celtic/Nordic and Wiccan traditions. Remember, your mesa is yours and it represents your energy and your personal cosmology, not mine, and not that of a Peruvian or Bolivian curandero. Make it truly yours.
Have fun with this, and if you do it please email me a photo if you would like to share it with others.
Peace my friends,
Have you ever felt like you were falling love with the whole earth and everything in it? Heidi, my wife, and I went for short walk yesterday in the evening after a day-long rain storm. I could smell the freshly washed air, the scent of the trees in the breeze, and we stopped at a honeysuckle bush and harvested some honey from the styles of a few of the honeysuckle flowers . The sun was setting and the light was perfect, the kind of light that gives photographers orgasms, and I sat down on a log in the forest and cried tears of joy and love.
This morning, while reflecting on the experience, I decided to do a little research on the practice of Forest Breathing or Shinrin-Yoku. The belief of Shinrin-Yoku practitioners is that there is medicine in simply being in a forest. Medical research, most of it conducted in Japan, seems to bear this out. For example:
Pachamama, mother earth, nourishes and protects us just as do our human mothers. Love her back, and get outside and enjoy her presence, make it a daily part of your life.
Peace my friends,
 Here is a link to a web site with fotos so you too can harvest honeysuckle "honey".
 I have placed a 16-page PDF file on the resource page that contains the abstracts and links to many published research reports on the benefits of forest bathing.
I wrote recently about altars and ritual. While deep in a Goddess meditation last night the following words came into my mind and so I thought that I would share them with your. I can't think of anything to add and if I did, it would probably detract from the message. Have a wonderful day.
You are your altar,
Your actions are your offerings,
Your thoughts are your prayers,
Make your life a living altar
I ask for nothing more.
Do you ever think about why we do what we do? I do, all the time. For example, this morning while putting my altar away I asked myself, “Self, why do you do ritual? Does Deity “need” my rituals?” I sort of doubt it. If Deity is so powerful that She/He could create the world and all that is in it then Deity doesn’t “need” my rituals. So why do ritual?
Deity doesn’t “need” our rituals, we do. We need the rituals. We need our religious practices because they help us remember our place in the universe and our relationship with Deity. Rituals help us remember that we are connected to all that is sacred, both in the world, and our connection with Deity.
It seems like it is way too easy to become distracted with work, kids, obligations, bills, car problems, and the cat that wakes me up every morning at 3:30 because he is lonesome. In the process of becoming distracted we forget that we are connected to Deity. Rituals are our reminders. My rituals remind me of the commitments that I have made to Deity. They remind me of the power of the Goddess and the God, and that I can call upon Them at any time (more about that in a second). Rituals and religious practices also remind me that I was created by Deity and so I have a spark of divinity within me and that I'm not in a depraved state as some book religions would have us believe.
Do you have any acquaintances that get in touch with you when, and only when, they have a problem and want your help? I have a couple of acquaintance like that and when I see their names on the screen of my cell phone I instantly think, “What now?” and question whether or not I should even answer the phone. When I do get around to answering the phone or, more often, returning the call when I have time then I have to keep myself from begrudging listening and responding to their request for help.
I wonder if Deity feels that same way when They receive request from strangers, from those that only remember Them in times of need. That’s another reason why I do ritual. I don’t want Deity to be a stranger to me, I want Them in my daily life, and I don’t want Them to view me as an opportunistic stranger.
Those are my reasons for doing ritual. What are yours?
Find peace and joy in ritual,
I'm Dr. Dave, a modern druid. I lived and worked in Bolivia and Peru for over six years, where I and was trained by Andean Shamans, and today practice Druidcraft and contemporary shamanism.