No longer shrouded in mystery, the ancient spiritual practice of shamanism is attracting the interest of psychologists, registered nurses and medical doctors that study its guiding principles to use personally and benefit others. They train one-on-one and in small groups with indigenous shamans in the U.S. and around the world and enroll in programs offered by established schools such as the Foundation for Shamanic Studies and The Four Winds Society. Both offer workshops and expeditions for participants to meet the specific shaman that teaches congruent philosophy, practices and principles.
Since 1986, The Four Winds Society, with international headquarters in Miami, Florida, has graduated more than 10,000 practitioners. It teaches a genuine respect for the sacredness of metaphysical forces existing in all natural beings and objects and the connection between the material world and spiritual plane.
Dr. Daniel Rieders, a physician specializing in cardiac electrophysiology and interventional cardiology, completed the society’s basic curriculum in 2014. Having matriculated to advanced master classes, he uses shamanic understanding, tools and skills for personal use and in his complementary medical practices, Life Rhythm Therapies and Jain Ayurveda for Optimum Health, in Palm Coast, Florida. He notes that medical procedures and prescriptions aren’t always the answer to problems.
“I’ve studied various areas of medicine and found them devoid of tools and methods that empower patients to make changes that lead to better health. Studying shamanism means being on my own healing path of cleansing body, mind and spirit. It’s necessary for any empowered healer that aspires to inspire and generate confidence and assertiveness in others, enabling them to do what is needed to live out their life purpose,” he says.
Spirituality is an extension of the inner being’s connection to what the conscious mind longs for, to seek a higher awareness and realize one’s full potential.
~ Richard L. Alaniz
Rieders found shamanism to be an effective complementary therapy for strengthening the body and building resilience. One of his patients was unhappy with his job, feeling it only served to support a costly family lifestyle. Upon discerning his true desire was to own a gym and teach people how to get healthy, he took action. “A heart procedure was no longer necessary. Stored anger can create heart disease, as well as cancer,” he remarks.
Seti Gershberg’s life changed dramatically while studying shamanism in the remote Peruvian Andes, where he lived with the indigenous Q’ero people for two years. Taking a break from a career in international investment banking, he set out to learn about a shaman’s relationship to energy, consciousness and the supernatural, with an eye to creating a system of universal reciprocity, balance and harmony. He was also interested in indigenous people’s views of the relationship of the physical world with self, consciousness and multi-dimensional space-time as a single interwoven idea; a continuum.
“Today, I’m an executive producer and creative director in Phoenix, Arizona, working on a video series, TV commercials and films, including two documentaries on shamanic rituals and ceremonies, as well as the Q’ero culture,” says Gershberg. He practices the Q’ero shaman’s gift of Ayni, giving of our self first without asking for anything in return. His website, ThePathOfTheSun.com, offers a “pay what you can afford” option.
Sean Wei Mah, a Native American Cree, grew up on a reservation in Alberta, Canada, around tribal medicine men that practiced smudging, ceremony and ritual. “Smudging, by burning fine powders, considered sacred medicine, is significant to any shaman as holy medicine to cleanse the body. It’s part of Native American life and the foundation of how we communicate, give thanks to and ask for help and guidance from the Creator. Ceremony is our church and smudging is how we purify it,” says the shaman, artist and actor known as “The Rattlemaker”.
Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.
~ Richard L. Alaniz, A Shaman’s Tale: Path to Spirit Consciousness
Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq, a shaman, healer, storyteller and carrier of the Qilaut (wind drum), is an elder from the Kalaaleq tribe, in Greenland. His family belongs to the traditional healers from Kalallit Nunaat. Endearingly known as Uncle, he has traveled to 67 countries to conduct ceremonies including healing circles, sacred sweat lodge purification and Melting the Ice in the Heart of Man intensives, where he teaches the spiritual significance of climate change.
He advises, “A shaman’s responsibility is to guide you on your inner path and support you in recognizing your beauty so that you can love yourself and know who you truly are. A shaman guides you to a new level of consciousness through teachings, storytelling and ceremonies, which my grandmother taught me were the key. All of this helps you rely on your own inner guidance.”
Linda Sechrist is a senior staff writer for Natural Awakenings. Connect at ItsAllAboutWe.com.