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Shamanic healing

A year ago I was asked to write about shamanism. Since then I've been thinking about the theme, and briefly touching it in some of the entries. In my mind I drafted a historical introduction, and some general philosophical / scientific considerations. But somehow I felt that I'd like to start with a more personal approach, and possibly adding theoretical or historical accounts later on. It took me a whole year until I feel ready to write about my own ways of practicing shamanism - no matter how talkative I am, I seldom speak about this topic, so finding words is not an easy task. So, to get me going I start by writing about Raiku the young mare.

About a month ago I had a vet doctor visit my place to trim horses' teeth. Velmu was pretty easy to handle, but I recommended her to use some chemical tranquilizer on Raiku, just to be sure. I took Raiku from the pen and was about to lead her to the vet, but Raiku felt suspicious. For a brief moment I felt her teeth touching my shoulder - my first reaction was to laugh friendly, turning to look at her telling that there is nothing to be afraid of. With that Raiku was OK and followed me willingly. With tranquilizer Raiku became mellow, sleepy, non-protesting and slow. While the vet was calmly and professionally working to trim Raiku's teeth she asked my opinion on why this particular horse is so bad tempered. I said that I guess it is because she was always somehow left unattended by her mother, and as she learned that there is no-one around to protect her she did it herself. And because of that she finds it hard to place her trust on others, but easily feels the need to defend herself. The vet didn't counter that. She said Raiku nearly biting me indeed was not a sign of disrespect, but just her way of showing her insecurity. Before the vet left she friendly suggested that there might be easier horses out there for me, too.

Aftet the vet left, I went through a number of things in my mind. First, of course it is true that my life could be easier I just chose an easier horse - we could be already doing a lot of work, insead of spending a lot of time just trying to get the basics right. But this same goes for my own personality as well - I have no option to get rid of my own personality to replace with an easier one. So my only option is to walk the path of trauma recovery, and for that we make a good pair with Raiku. Second, I noticed that I didn't feel uneasy while talking to the vet, and this is something new for me. Surely a sign of advance in my own therapeutical process. As, you see, the vet is a professional, and I know she has a lot of experience with horses. Also, I have a vague feeling that many of the professional would just label my thoughts as naive antropomorphizing, as a failure to treat a horse as a horse. My typical reaction since my childhood has been that I tend to automatically hide my true thoughts when I have a slightest reason to suspect that the listener might not understand what I mean. But apparently the years of therapeutical process have had their effect, as now I found it easy just to say how I feel and what I think. Thirdly, the moment Raiku pressed her bare teeth against my shoulder I had no time to think - I just went with my first reaction. Which was to laugh, creating a sphere of non-confrontative peaceful energy around me. I guess I have developed this kind of reaction only through practice and therapy, not only by reading theories in books.

So, where is the shamanism here? Well, I feel that this talk about "spheres" and "energies" is one aspect of shamanism. Sure, as a horse communicates her emotional state, there a number of clear physical signs in her body language you can read. But on top (or beneath) that there is also a whole different layer which just is there to be felt - energies like fear, anger, nervousness, tranquility, sleepiness etc. are there to be sensed on their own level. Similarly, if I stand next to Raiku, I see she is pretty much able to read my emotional state without me communicating it in any visible way. And for me the connection becomes stronger when I softly touch Raiku - sometimes it is almost I could feel her working with her emotions - first asking if it is really safe to relax, then relaxing a bit, and beginning to feel being protected by my presence, and then suddenly remembering that this is not the way to go, a quick fit of annoyement followed by a state of being alert and independent, seemingly ignoring my presence, and then slowly going back to accepting the peace and safety I offer...

All of this is part of my working with humans. Already as a teenager I somehow discovered that our emotional states seem to be deeply connected with our physical state, that sometimes tensions in our muscles are not because of physical work but because of emotional stress or unexpressed feelings or such. Over the years of work I've developed more sensitivity to this, especially when it comes to my own self-therapeutical process. During these holidays I have spent some time working with my own traumatic energies. Laying down on a sofa, allowing myself to relax, and softly placing my hands on top of my kidneys / adrenal glands. Pretty soon I can feel my major muscles becoming tense, my whole body going through the various stages of fight - flight - freeze -reaction. (Years ago this easily came with surfacing of clear childhood memories. I guess now I'm going so far back to my first year that it doesn't give me visual memories, just primitive physical reactions). I believe that working this way, in peaceful and safe surroundings, it is possible to defuse the negative energies which I have been succesfully storing in my body since my early years. For me it has been a long process, but looking back I see how much my fears and tensions have faded away, giving room for joy and playfulness.

A brief point from a somewhat more scientific point of view: In the scientific world view we tend to think that our memories and emotions are inside our psyche, and our psyche is based on operations in our brain. But that might not just be the whole picture. No, I'm not outright talking about a separate sphere of unseen spirits, but rather I'd like to take the other direction; going deeper into our natural bodily functions. We already know that our immune system, when faced with a new virus, might be able to find a way to deal with that virus, and then to remember that. So that next time we get the same virus our immune system already knows how to fight it and we don't get sick. So things like inventing new solutions and remembering the old solutions take place not just in brain but in the rest of the body, too. I wouldn't be surprised if one day the scientists discover that our adrenaline glands take play a role in storing traumatic memories. It might be this kind of primitive bodily functions which we then experience as "subconscious" or "involuntary" reactions. It is not a conscious decision on Raiku's part to feel insecure, annoyed, threatened and in need to defend herself - it is a stored reaction based on what she learned early in her life. Now she just needs some help to re-shape those reactions. And to do that I have to find a way to communicate with her primitive layers of memories, be they stored in her brain or in her adrenaline glands.

Well, a classical image of shamanic healing involves the shaman going into a deep state of trance, entering a dream-like world of visions, and operating there to retrieve information or to work with nasty spirits causing diseases or what not. In my life I have couple of times experienced somewhat that kind of state of mind. But I don't know how to purposefully induce that state. But I don't see a deep trance as a necessary condition of shamanic healing. Actually, to me it feels that most of the time when I am awake, I have both my ordinary rational consciousness paired with a mild trance. And occasionally the trance state gets stronger and the rational mind gets bit blurry. These states fluctuate easily, according to the situation. Which allows me to work with my own uncoscious fears and tensions, and to connect with Raikus non-verbal emotions. Nowadays I see this as a pretty normal way of being, and occasionally I'm surprised to see that some people seem like they were totally blind to the non-verbal energetic communcation. Ah, an anyhow, I feel that if I'm ever to learn to purposefully work with deeper states of trance, I anyhow have first to deal with my current traumatic energies - it is them which make it hard for me to relax deep enough.

So, but those brief moments when I have experienced a deeper state of trance it has been like a clear radar-like vision of people around me, their fears and pains showing as a nasty little critters in the radar. In such a state it becomes pretty straight-forward to work directly with those emotional energies - they are indeed like evil spirits, they try to hide, they refuse to leave, and you have to find a way to tell them or to persuade them to go back to their home. For me it is no wonder that our ancestors believed in supernatural spirits causing diseases and pains and accidents. As, this is how it easily looks like if you happen to slip into a shamanistic trance. But for me it is not so important to know what is the actual (scientific) explanation behind this phenomenon. As I believe that anyhow it is always so that what we experience is processed in our minds, and in a trance state the process produces these dream-like visions. What matters is that working with those causes some clearly felt effects in other people too - they report their fears or pains fading away. And for me that is what matters - the process of healing.

I'd like to finish this entry with a funny little detail - my own therapist also applies this kind of techiques. Soft touching to get a reading of my emotional energies and then working with those. Afer our last session she asked me if I have a special relation with elks - "as soon as I started working I felt as like there was an frienldly, enormous elk in the room."

The pictures are from different days, on our healing process with Raiku.

Raiku, chemically tranquilized
Raiku, chemically tranquilized
touch - connecting spirits
touch - connecting spirits
Raiku, naturally peaceful
Raiku, naturally peaceful
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