Excerpted from Walking in Light: the Everyday Empowerment of a Shamanic Life by Sandra Ingerman, published by Sounds True.

In traditional cultures people were raised from childhood learning how to live in harmony with others in their community and with nature. When an illness occurred, they knew what was causing it was a state of disharmony. In the Western world, the focus in our early education tends to be on academic subjects, how to be successful, and how to adapt and fit into society. Many of us did not learn the skill of self-reflection needed to truly understand how our way of life has led to certain illnesses and a general state of disharmony.

You can journey to your helping spirits for guidance and information, and you can also journey to them when you are in need of healing. The challenge you are facing might have manifested as an emotional or physical issue. In traditional cultures, people in need of healing sought out a shaman who could perform the necessary healing ceremony. Today many people make great progress asking for healing in their own journeys while others do need the healing help of a shamanic practitioner. Many people today misunderstand the healing work performed by shamans. There is a belief that shamanic healing is an active role for the shaman and totally passive for the client. During the healing ceremony, the role of the client might be a passive one. But the client has an active role in doing his or her personal work. In shamanic cultures it is understood that the strength of each person is needed to contribute to the health of the community. Each person knew the personal work needed to be done to return after healing from an illness as a vital community member.

In my experience as a shamanic practitioner, I perceive a clear distinction between curing and healing. If a cure is provided by a shamanic practitioner, by your helping spirits through a journey, or through a dream, it does not mean the work is done. If you have completed a lot of personal work to examine what changes need to be made in your life that will support long-term healing, then the spiritual cure might be the last step of the work. But if you have not done your personal work to examine how your lifestyle, your relationships, your work, and your disconnection with nature are feeding into your mental, emotional, and physical challenges, then the spiritual cure is the beginning of the work.

Shamanic healing does not involve a practitioner passing a magic wand over you. You do have to take responsibility in your own process of healing. Looking at some of the changes you need to make in life that lead to healing will be a focus of many of the exercises in Walking in Light.

Before you visit a helping spirit to ask for a healing, it is important that you understand that the effects vary. You might have a profound and immediate effect from such a journey. You might find that the journey needs to be repeated a few times. And you might find that the effects are very subtle until you do more personal work deepening the healing over time. There are times when you might be too close to your issue to be objective enough to discover during a journey an unidentified wound that needs healing. In this case you might ask a trained shamanic practitioner to journey on your behalf.

In shamanic healing work there’s a difference between what you truly need versus what you think you need or want. Surrender to your helping spirits; let them assist you in the way that is best for your healing process. For this journey, you can make a decision to visit your power animal, guardian spirit, or teacher and ask for a healing. In future journeys you can request healing help from different helping spirits such as earth, air, water, fie, or another nature being such as the spirit of a plant, tree, or mineral.

Journey to the Lower World or Upper World to meet a power animal, guardian spirit, or a teacher in human form and present an emotional or physical issue that you believe needs to be healed. You can state an issue you are dealing with, or you can say, “Please provide the healing that I need right now.” You can also state a decree, “Thank you for performing a healing on my behalf.” Whenever you state a decree as an intention, it acknowledges that the healing work you are requesting is already being done. Be clear on your intention as this will help you to have a focused journey.

This is a powerful journey that can create deep healing for you. Please honor the power of this journey by doing your preparation work to get into a spiritual state of consciousness.

Experience your starting place in nature, opening up all your invisible senses to be there now. Notice the landscape you are in, listen to the sounds of the elements, animal life, and other beings in nature. Breathe in the fragrances, feel the quality of the air and the earth beneath your feet. Whatever your unique style of journeying is, remember to trust and embrace your way of working.

When you feel ready, begin your journey to the Lower or Upper World and focus on your intention. You are requesting a healing. Surrender to the love and light of your helping spirits. Experience all that occurs.

Once you hear the return beat or when you feel complete, say thank you and good-bye to your helping spirit, and retrace your steps returning to the room you are in. Take a few minutes to rest and breathe, noticing how you are feeling. Feel your heart beating. Notice any changes of energy moving through your hands, feet, or other locations in your body. Are your fingers tingling? Notice if you are breathing easily and deeply. Is there a release of tension anywhere in your body? Reflect on what happened during this healing ceremony. After a few minutes you can take some notes, get up and walk around your room, or take a short walk outside. Notice if you are feeling different.

Sometimes the helping spirits will perform a spontaneous healing for you while you are journeying. You might be journeying on one intention, and during the journey your helping spirit bypasses your original intention to provide healing.

This happened to Susan. She was journeying to consult with her helping spirit about a challenge she was having at work. While on the journey her power animal surprised her by performing a soul retrieval for her, retrieving a part of herself that she lost at the time of a car accident. As this was an unexpected surprise, all her filters and emotional boundaries were down allowing her to truly soak in the light of the soul.

I love hearing the wealth of stories of helping spirits providing spontaneous healings. Students have reported such beautiful stories of their helping spirits removing blockages, performing soul retrievals, or filling them with light. Many of my students shared with me how a helping spirit performed a healing ceremony that did not have a particular form but left the person feeling revitalized and healed.

These spontaneous healings that occur in a journey are unexpected and are a gift. I believe it all has to do with right timing, meaning the helping spirits give us what we need when it is time, and when we are ripe for healing to occur.

As I mentioned earlier, the helping spirits might role-play an issue that you need to look at. You can perform a journey and ask the spirits to show you an issue that needs healing in your life. For example, your helping spirit might show you that you have been betrayed earlier in life and that this betrayal is still impacting you as you try and create the life you wish to live. You can then ask for guidance on how to proceed with healing this issue. Your helping spirit might perform a healing ceremony to release this issue from your life. Or it might advise you on a series of ceremonies and healing practices you can do for yourself.

Another intention you can use for a journey is to ask your helping spirit, “What is the teaching I am receiving from the physical or emotional challenge I am facing? What are some ways to go about healing my issue?” During a time of depression in my life, my Upper World teacher Isis led me to the River of Grief in the Lower World. I was invited to bathe in the river as I was encouraged to cry and fully express my pain. This river is a place that exists in the invisible realms and is a profound place of healing. I have bathed in the River of Grief often. Some of my students share how they were taken to healing lakes or waterfalls. Some have been led into healing temples in the Upper World. I have led many of my students in workshops to a crystal healing cave in the Lower World. There are a wealth of locations in the non-ordinary realms your helping spirit can lead you to where you will find healing.

A helping spirit might brush your hair as it cleanses and releases negative energy from your energy field. Or a helping spirit might use tools such as a feather, a crystal, or smoke just as a shaman in the ordinary realm might use to heal you.

As I wrote in chapter 4, “Nature is Our Greatest Healer and a Spiritual Ally,” I have collected many stories of people finding healing by spending time in nature and lying on the earth daily for fifteen minutes or more. There are so many different shamanic practices to explore when you are in need of healing.

Although there are classic diagnoses of illness as soul loss, a spiritual blockage, or a possessing spirit, there are unlimited ways of healing these issues. We often put healing in a box and believe that there is one method to go with each diagnosis. Shamans work with invisible and formless energies. When we give the issue over to the spirits, they know how to bring through the energies needed to transform the challenges we are facing.

You do not need to beg your helping spirit for its healing help; your helping spirit knows what you need. Surrender to its love and assistance. My suggestion is to hold an intention for healing in your daily life. Start each day by honoring and welcoming the spirits. State that you are open to healing and give thanks for the healing you are receiving now and will continue to receive with your spiritual work. Let go of the outcome and notice how healing happens in spontaneous and beautiful ways.

Besides using journeying, you might receive a healing during a dream. Some of the material I teach has come through my dreams. Over the years I have received numerous letters from people, most of whom I never met, sharing that I appeared to them in a dream to give them a message or to perform a healing. Dreams are a portal into the spiritual realms and dreaming is a shamanic practice. Some practitioners use dreaming as way to perform shamanic work.

I have found that dreams have been a very powerful way for me to receive healing. The healing that comes can be quite spontaneous. But you can also hold the intention and ask for a healing dream. You can also ask for a teaching before you go to sleep at night. In a dream you might receive guidance to help you work through a challenge or find solutions to issues you are facing.

In the early 1980s I suffered from a physical condition that was very painful. It was not a serious or critical illness that would affect the longevity of my life. But my physical problem affected the quality of my life, and I felt that I just could not bear to live life with this kind of chronic pain. Every night before I went to sleep I prayed for help to come through a dream. I was persistent. I didn’t give up. I did not even know what a healing dream was. I was desperate, as I could not get any alleviation of my symptoms by working with the medical profession. I journeyed, endlessly asking for help. I asked friends to journey for me. Nothing was helping, and I became more depressed. At fist my co-workers had great compassion for my suffering. But at some point they did not want to take on more of my workload or hear about my pain. I started to feel very isolated as I watched my friends enjoying life, and I did not share in their experience.

One night, to my surprise, I saw myself in a dream in the living room of my house. A striking Native American man dressed in blue jeans and a blue shirt stood up and walked from behind the couch. His eyes were dark brown, and he had long black hair. He looked at me and said, “I’ve always lived here; you just didn’t know it.” Then he showed me an amazing blue rattle. It was made from materials that I have never seen, and it was an extraordinary color of blue that I can’t describe. He pointed his finger at my body and he said, “You have a pain right here.” Then he shook his rattle over the part of my body where I had been suffering. Within the dream I felt the pain leave and to this day the pain has not returned. Due to my experience I believe it is always worth asking for a healing dream. The key is that you must be persistent. If you need healing help, try setting an intention every night as you go to bed. State a decree, “Thank you for providing me with healing as I sleep. Thank you for healing me as I dream.”

Once you set your intention, you might work through a deep issue in a dream. You might receive a dream that shares great wisdom about your issue. You might be shown the cause of an emotional or physical issue that provides a diagnosis that has been missed by the professionals you work with. You might wake up feeling transformed in some way although you do not have a memory of the dream.

In my dreams I am sometimes guided to take a supplement. Faye shared a similar experience with me. She had picked up a bug while traveling. She asked for a healing dream and in the dream was told that she needed to take allium. Upon awakening she looked up what allium is and learned it is garlic. She followed the advice given and added garlic to her diet.

Years ago I had gotten a terrible case of food poisoning while traveling. The medication I was taking was only helping to a point. One of my helping spirits is Snake. Snake does not show up in my journeys.

But I know Snake is one of my guardian spirits who is around me at all times. Snake often shows up as an omen when I walk. And Snake shows up frequently in my dreams and always provides me with help and wisdom when she does appear.

While I was dealing with physical issues from my food poisoning, Snake showed up one night in a dream, and she bit my hand. The surprise for me is how much this hurt in my dream. I have been bitten by Snake before in my dreams—always in the spirit of healing—never to do harm. I kept saying in my dream, “This really hurts!” When I woke up the next day I told my husband, who is an acupuncturist, about the dream. He asked me where Snake bit me. He shared with me that Snake bit me on the acupuncture meridian that went with my intestinal problem. My symptoms disappeared after this dream.

Just as you might receive a spontaneous healing in a journey, the same might occur in a dream. Fred received a soul retrieval in a dream where he received back parts of himself that he lost during his time in the military. Linda experienced a shamanic extraction in a dream where an intrusive energy was removed that was causing her severe neck pain. As with journeying these dreams occur when we are ready to receive a deep and life-changing healing.

Dreams are typically metaphorical. People often have dreams about their house or car that symbolizes a physical issue. A garden in need of care might be shown as a way to describe an issue that needs to be addressed. Dave had a dream about his house. In the dream he was shown how he needed to fix certain rooms that had moved into a state of deterioration and disrepair. When he woke up, the meaning of the dream was very clear to him. He knew he was living a life filed with a great deal of stress. He was not attentive to his body, did not eat well, and rarely exercised. Dave knew that the dream was showing him that he had to pay more attention to fixing his body, so that like a house, it did not go too far into a state of deterioration.

Sometimes it is very obvious what the metaphor you receive in a dream is pointing to. And sometimes you might wake up with no comprehension of the meaning of a dream. You will find that a journey to your helping spirits can assist you in interpreting a dream.

I encourage you to remain open to how the spirits can heal during journeying and sleeping, and in the course of your daily life. Sometimes you might not even remember the healing source, for the healing can go so deep into the psyche that the unconscious takes in the healing without the conscious mind needing to hold onto the details or even be aware of what occurred.

Of course as with any traditional or alternative practice a cure cannot be promised. For many of us the process of going through the challenge, learning what changes we need to make in our life and what wounds, life situations, and events need healing ends up providing a tremendous amount of growth and evolution. If a challenge is taken away without the deep inner personal work being accomplished, another similar challenge might appear later on. When you combine asking for healing help while also doing your personal inner work, you can create long-term healing in your life.

You are gaining tools to live a harmonious and spiritual life. Emotional and physical challenges appear as you are led to explore the depth of your inner landscape and make the necessary changes to create a healthy inner garden.




Image by Moyan Brenn, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.