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What Is Shamanism?

Shamanism connects people to the realms of Spirit in ways that help with self-healing, self-knowledge, personal exploration and evolution.  It was the first spiritual practice of humanity.


Through a deep-meditation-based altered state of consciousness, it can be effective in work to heal the self, the organization, the community and the planet. It can bring a profound spiritual connectedness across all religious and cultural boundaries.


Shamanic ceremony, practice and teaching are done in a respectful and healing way to benefit all life. 

As modern medicine begins to acknowledge the interrelationship between the physical and the spiritual, shamanic teaching and practice gives us functional awareness about “non-ordinary” realities and how to attain and engage them for personal empowerment and self-healing. 


We can learn to connect with the sources of energy, creativity, passion, healing and love that power the everyday world we know, and to employ them for our own benefit.

People who seek a balanced life often find that nurturing a personal spiritual connection is helpful —perhaps even essential — to their quest. Science has begun to support this idea by affirming the benefit of a strong spiritual connection in maintaining health and fostering healing. Shamanism is often described as “the first spiritual practice of humanity,” with traditions and techniques that can be traced back more than 5,000 years. Evidence of shamanism has been found in every culture and on every continent throughout the world since the dawn of mankind. More importantly, its legacy, methods and belief structures can be useful today in personal growth and healing.

The English word shaman comes from the name given to traditional tribal healers of the Tungus people of Siberia, and it roughly translates as “one who sees in the dark.” This description is due in part to the fact that many shamanic practices involve meditation, often with eyes closed (sometimes in a deep trance state) to help discover the nature of a problem and determine potential solutions. The shaman “looks” into dark places in the person, the community and the planet, and finds how to bring them light, hope and healing. In many cultures, a shaman is a healer, counselor and spiritual director all wrapped into one.


The most basic tenet of shamanism is that everything has a significant spiritual component. In fact, a shaman believes everything exists as Spirit in its ultimate nature: Every person, every animal, every tree, every illness, literally every single thing that exists. Moreover, this Spirit can be accessed, engaged or encountered in ways that bring about positive change to enhance the quality of life, relationships and health. Modern shamanic practices also consider the importance of eating healthily, getting plenty of rest, engaging in appropriate exercise and having solid emotional support. Beyond all those things, the shamanic path recommends that we stay “pumped up in Spirit” so that we can really live well.


Stephen Neal Szpatura

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