Several decades ago, I was a medical anthropologist doing research in the Amazon rainforest. My salary and expenses were paid for by a research grant from a pharmaceutical company hoping to find the bark or root that could become the next great cancer cure. After all, the jungle is natures pharmacy, filled with exotic plants whose powers have yet to be discovered. I spent many months canoeing to villages that had seldom seen a white man and wherever I went, I found there was no cancer or heart disease, even in the elders of the communities. Clearly, the indigenous people of the area knew something about health that we westerners didnt know. What was their secret?
At the time, I had difficulty understanding what they were trying to explain to me. It was only after years of studying with indigenous healers, or shamans, that I began to comprehend what they were talking about.
Shamanic medicine refers to the benefits you receive when you experience the merging of your individual consciousness with all consciousness and all creation. This happens during special brain-mind states. The new perspective you develop as a result of this ecstatic, exhilarating experience is like an awakening to a new reality that has been hidden from you: the invisible world of your soul and Spirit. For the Buddhists the natural outcome of this experience is compassion. For the shaman, it is stewardship of the Earth. The experience of bliss, while wonderful, is not a goal. Dreaming a world of healing and beauty into being is.
Once youve experienced the invisible world, you recognize that you have been duped into believing the visible world of the senses, the body, and the mind is the only reality. In fact, its not even the dominant reality unless you choose to perceive it as such. The invisible and visible worlds are always connected to each other, and you can travel between them once youve opened your eyes to the portal: your primeval consciousness.
Shamanic medicine works by raising the quality of the luminous energy field (LEF) that surrounds your physical body and tells your molecules, cells, and genes what to do. The LEF can be thought of as the software that informs your DNA, the hardware, to repair your body. Before taking shamanic medicine, your LEF simply creates your body (and your psych-spiritual reality) according to the instructions you inherited from your parents. It replicates the heart conditions, the breast conditions, and the psychological stories and dramas that cut across generations. Despite our longing to see ourselves as different, better, more enlightened than our parents, we continue to live out their pathetic health and psychological issues. We live the way they lived and die the way they died.
The LEF mediates between your brain, where you experience yourself as a distinct individual with your own unique awareness, and Spirit, where we are all One.
The LEF is the instrument through which you dream the world into being. It consists of light and vibration, so whatever you vibrate in your LEF, you create in the world. When we raise the quality of our LEF we can begin to express the genes for health and longevity. We can lead more original lives. Your inability to forgive your mother or your former spouse and move on causes a mark in your LEF that remains there after the physical body dies, so it’s carried into the next lifetime. This wound will draw you to the parents you’ll be born through, or a similar spouse, in order to manifest the family that will allow you the opportunity to heal yourself. If you don’t take advantage of the opportunity to upgrade the quality of the information in your LEF, and choose instead to stay stuck in the same old belief of Mom ruined my life, or the stork dropped me off at the wrong home, the wound remains unhealed, and you wind up with the reasons why you can’t have what you want. In the East this is known as karma. Not a good way to go through life. Much better to take shamanic medicine.
But this is much harder to do today than it was 100 years ago, or even during the time of our Paleolithic ancestors from 10,000 years ago, who lived longer, healthier lives than we do. This is because our brains have been damaged by toxins, heavy metals, and stress. We can no longer access the brain-mind states necessary to experience unity with all creation, and upgrade the quality of our LEF. No matter how long we meditate or how many times we chant OM the invisible world of Spirit eludes us. Avalon has been lost in the mist. The sacred Machu Picchu has vanished into the jungle.
In the West, psychology has become very focused on what happens in our minds, and neuroscience on what happens in our brains, and we have forgotten about Spirit. Shamanic medicine awakens you to the invisible world of energy where everything is intertwined, an entangled Universe where every thought you have impacts every molecule in the cosmos, including every cell in your body. After youve experienced it, you cease to identify exclusively with your body and your roles in the visible, physical world. You are born into a new life, one in which you recognize your Christ-like, Buddha-like, eternal nature. This process of awakening can also be described as killing the infidel: the self that doesnt believe in the invisible world and is certain that the predatory world of mortals competing for limited planetary resources is all that exists.
When you experience shamanic medicine, you come to recognize what Carl Jung described as the collective unconscious that exists within you. You recognize that youre not just intertwined with all of Creation; it is inside you. How can you harm the earth when you and the earth are inseparable? How can you not attend to your own well-being if you care about the earth and your fellow beings? The idea that you have to look out for number one, and damage the earth or hurt others in order to survive, is incomprehensible once youve experienced shamanic medicine.
Shamanic medicine allows you to realize that everything in your life is something youve chosen to dream into beingincluding the sense that you are a separate being, or the emotional pain and suffering you may be experiencing. Even the apparent schism between the visible world of the senses and the invisible world of Spirit is an illusion you have created. Its a helpful illusion when trying to operate in everyday life. Its not exactly easy to work through a To Do list when you are in a state of Timelessness and Oneness with all, experiencing your interconnectedness with the cosmos. But once you experience your interconnectedness with all, what you put on your To Do list will changeand your ability to follow it and not unknowingly sabotage yourself will improve.
Shamanic medicine allows you to move easily and fluidly between the two worlds and balance the work of the visible world with the non-doing of the invisible world. If you need to rest, you rest. If you need to summon all your might to take action, you summon it and act. You focus on everyday activities or choose to experience your unity with Spirit againwhatever it is you need in any particular moment. And whatever you are doing or not doing, you are fully present in the experience instead of longing for or thinking about whether there is something better out there. Then, your dreams are no longer rescue fantasies that involve other people changing their behavior and attitudes. Instead, you have visions of living authentically and imaginatively, liberated from the dictates of your culture or your fear. You begin to dream a new world into being.
Awakening Your Invisible Self
When we sleep, we are awake in our dreams. When we are awake, we are sound asleep in the invisible field where dreams happen. Dreams, and the ecstatic experience women occasionally have during childbirth, are the only way ordinary persons have to learn about the invisible realm. And even these images and experiences are often fleeting, leaving us as we make our way to the coffee maker from the bedroom. When we dream we are in a timeless world, one minute encountering our long-deceased parents, the next traversing some fantastic yet familiar landscape.
The visible and invisible realms always remain in balance in a subtle dance between life and death, form and formlessness, time and infinity. These are topics that in the West we have associated with religion. Yet shamanism is not a religion. Shamanism is more concerned with creation than with the Creator, about understanding the nature of the self unfettered from the limitation of time. The two can coexist, but you dont need the template of religion to be aware of your spiritual nature and allow it to inform you. Theres an old proverb: Dont point your finger at the moon and mistake your finger for the moon. Religion is the pointing finger. Spirituality is glimpsing the moon. And shamanic medicine is the understanding that you are both the finger and the moon.
Your beliefs and assumptions about how the world works determines your personal mythology, which is buried in your unconscious mind. When I was in graduate school I worked as a psychologist for Head Start Schools, a program for five to seven year old children from poor families. On the first day of school, I would ask the kids to draw a house. They sketched the most amazing houses, inside clouds, under the ocean, even inside a doughnut! At the end of the year I would ask them again to draw a house and almost to the last child they would draw a square with a triangle roof with two windows and a door. It was so disappointing to see how their originality and creativity had been squashed. They had adopted the belief that all houses look like that, even though many of them lived in run-down apartments. A belief is about a single theme. A personal mythology can contain a hundred different beliefs. And these children were beginning to embrace a personal mythology that compelled them to think like everyone else, and not dare to be different. Remember when you were 15 and dressed like everyone of your friends did, and you thought you looked unique and different?