Many years ago while I was working at Semperviva Yoga in Vancouver, a Mexican shaman came to visit the shop with his translator.
He was maybe 50 or so, though it was hard to place his actual age. He had strange, translucent cataracts over his pupils--though he could see very well-- that made him appear much older and much wiser than the rest of his body. Just being close to him made my skin feel electric, as though he were brand new to this world and charged up, or was offering some experience not of this world at all. His energy infused the air around him with powerful magic. A strange mix of ancient wisdom and youthful vibrancy, he was by far the most compelling individual I had ever met.
The kind of person that made you want to pull yourself closer while running away at the same time, if you know what I mean.
He offered readings and healings to clients and staff in the store, and all who partook felt immense movement through his work. I declined the invitation for a healing, however (sadly, in retrospect). Even though I was surely interested, I said no for two reasons: for one, it was costly to have him address your system for an hour or so (or maybe five minutes if that's what it would take), and at the time I was a little short on cash and unsure about this whole 'shamanic healing' thing.
And the second and main reason that I declined was because he removed stuck energies in your body by pulling parts of your hair out and singing, and I just couldn't bear the thought of losing my hair. I know this sounds ridiculous, but at the time I had lost so much hair to stress that my ego absolutely would not allow me to pay to have more removed, and especially by someone I wasn't entirely sure of doing something I hadn't quite come to understand.
He was quite adamant that I should have a healing, and yet I waffled and debated as his translator kept calling. A couple days after his first visit the shaman visited me in a dream as a jaguar, and I woke up feeling happier and more ecstatically balanced than I had in as long as I could remember. The next day he came in to ask me how I felt with his visit and I still hummed and hawed about seeing him, unable to really comprehend the amazingness of the fact that someone had intentionally come into my dream world and then asked me about it. I still couldn't quite fathom that he had positive or amazing things to offer my path.
And so he left, and I've never been able to track him down again, but he did come into the store on one of the last days there to give me some final information.
He said that everything I was doing then--advising on supplements and vitamins, learning to teach yoga, aiming towards naturopathic medicine--was good, and that I would be very good at it, but it was in the healing of the soul that I would find my path. That it was not in the workings of the body or the mind that I would find the greatest ability to heal or be of service, but in the support of the soul. I didn't understand it then, nor for many years after, but in the last couple of years I have come to see the possibility of what he meant, as well as the possibility of what soul healing could bring to the whole world.
In shamanic practice, we get sick because we close off, lose, negate, misunderstand or misalign with our souls, and the symptoms that we experience are not just because of a chemical imbalance or invasion by a pathogen, but are a message to steer us back onto course. Depression, anxiety, chronic illnesses and all other imbalances are all the result of imbalance in the soul, and although they manifest in the physical and we can try to treat them there, as anyone who has been on antidepressants knows there is always some lingering feeling that the process and the healing has not actually been completed.
The beautiful thing about healing from the soul is that it is a process which becomes owned by the individual, not by the practitioner, for it is only the individual who has a direct and fully connected understanding of where they are in life, where they would like to be, and how large the gap between those two experiences is (the gap being directly proportionate to how much illness and sadness they will be experiencing…). It is not just about medicines and herbs and vitamins, but becomes something which is absolutely powerful for the person, increasingly so as they learn to listen and understand the messages coming from their soul.
We are all born listening to ourselves and understanding our unique connection to spirit, and to the extent that we become enculturated into the normative western society we dissociate ourselves from this wisdom and replace it with collectively agreed-upon messages and rhetoric. What we need now, I know, is for us each to invigorate and better understand what it is we are all bringing to this world, to call back the pieces of our soul that we have lost and release all that we are suppressing, and live honestly both individually and in community, healing not only our human souls but allowing for them to reconnect with the world-embued-with-spirit that is our reality.