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From the Author
This book is the result of decades or growth, learning, pain and healing. The great physicist John Wheeler once said that universities exist so the students can teach the professors. This holds true of any profession and healers learn a great deal about themselves through working with others. The credit for this book goes to all those people that have graciously taught me by coming to me for healing.
My intent in writing this book was to provide an in-depth look at the healing experience in order to assist other healers and the people they work with. It is a manual of sorts for anyone using or wanting to get involved with shamanic healing. Throughout the book, I offer history, case studies, and relevant research along with first-hand examples of methods and suggestions. Excerpted from The Book of Shamanic Healing by Kristin Madden. Copyright © 2002. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
While ritual, magicko-spiritual power, and interdimensional journeying are obvious and very significant elements of the shamanic path, woundedness is one of its most vital and least recognized aspects. The shamanic path is one of brutal self-honesty, intense personal healing, and deep self-knowledge. It also includes a responsibility to be of service to one''s self and to the community. The shaman passes through personal wounds, usually beginning with the shamanic initiation, and emerges as a fully transformed being. The new shaman is thereby capable of handling the dangers and responsibilities inherent in the shamanic vocation. This healing and transformation continues for a lifetime. Through this process, the shaman becomes the Wounded Healer. It is commonly understood that the shamanic initiation often includes the wounding and healing of the shaman by helping spirits. Among traditional shamans, the experience of dismemberment or decapitation is common. This process strips away the original identity of the shaman, removing any association with the body and the current personality. In facing the spirits of disease and wounding, the new shaman gains complete knowledge of them. Often during these journeys, the spirits will teach the new shaman through the process of reintegration, providing an intimate knowledge of both wounding and healing. In passing through this test of one''s complete being, the Wounded becomes Healer. Many indigenous cultures recreate this aspect of the shaman though their initiation ceremonies, during which the neophyte shaman is ritually killed or wounded. Like all ritual, this serves to ground Otherworldly and profound psychological experience into physical reality. This is also a physical representation of the shamanic initiation by the spirits. These ceremonies may assist members of the community in perceiving the new shaman as a different being than the individual they once knew. The shamanic initiation in the Otherworlds is frequently a psycho-spiritual crisis that manifests as a death-rebirth scenario. This violent and frightening type of initiation is fairly common, particularly among traditional people. However, it is vital that shamans remain continually open to spirit guidance and work to clear personal issues that may interfere with the work. An initiation alone does not make one a healer or a shaman. This is an apt description of the shamanic experience. One cannot truly walk this path for any period of time without facing up to one''s own wounds. When we consciously open to Otherworldly communication, our spirit guides will not permit us to continue deluding ourselves and avoid personal shadow aspects. Furthermore, our own subconscious selves will project these shadow aspects into our everyday lives and our shamanic journeys. None of us are completely beyond our personal issues or beliefs. These always have the potential to affect one''s judgment and one''s ability to heal. This is particularly true if the ego is permitted to get out of control. The need to be right and powerful and knowledgeable can be very effective in putting up blinders and impeding the free flow of energy. It is also true that our own personal beliefs act as a filter through which we perceive reality. Unless we are aware of these beliefs and how they affect us, the clarity with which we interpret shamanic experience and communications from spirit guides can be compromised. It is a good idea to explore your own personal symbolism and belief systems when developing your shamanic abilities. Self-knowledge is the key to power and protection. It is especially important to examine those beliefs that appear to be absolute truths.1 To us, these are not simple beliefs. They are Reality; this is just how the world is/I am. They are easily justified through a variety of means and they are not something we feel is changeable. They are also often not something we feel comfortable exploring. Absolute truths are dangerous because of our absolute conviction that they are Truth. This doesn''t need to be as intense as the existence of a higher power or the presence of gravity. It can be as simple as "The world is a violent place," or "Some people can''t be trusted." We blindly cling to these beliefs. We won''t investigate them or where they came from because we don''t want to risk losing the security of our reality constructs, even if these constructs make for an often uncomfortable reality. We tell ourselves it is silly to work on these, because they are not just beliefs. In this way, we prevent ourselves from taking the leap to true self-knowledge and freedom. Nothing should be off-limits to our questioning. Resistance within the Self should always be perceived as something to investigate, not avoid. Often, and particularly early in the path, the frightening images and experiences we encounter during dreaming or in more conscious journeys are our own projections. They are shadow aspects that we have denied. They are searching for a way to be acknowledged, cleared, and integrated. These are opportunities for growth. Unfortunately, we frequently react to these aspects with fear and loathing, slamming yet another door on our inner selves. The individual that has been wounded and healed is most capable of healing--and of understanding the wounds of others. This is especially true when the wounded individual is directly and consciously involved in his or her own healing process. In our own search for wellness and balance, we gain the methods and abilities to heal, and to empower others to create their own healing. This is vital to any path involving service and community. The empowerment of others is an important point. Shamanic cultures recognize that those in need of healing are an integral and powerful part of the healing team. These individuals must believe and accept the healing in order for the shaman to be most effective. One of many reasons our mechanistic Western medicine is not fully effective, and often does not last when it is effective, is its failure to involve the individual in creating his or her own health. Health is a different experience than healing. Healing is often defined as curing, fixing, making...(Continues)