A Couple Thoughts on Shamanic Practice

One of my instructors at school (well, a couple of them actually, but one in particular) incorporates energy work into her counseling practice. She and I have had a couple of all-too-brief conversations about that, and my shamanic practice, and some related topics. I’ve been a bit on the hesitant side to talk too much about my shamanism in school, just because even though I’m at one of the most liberal schools in one of the most liberal states in the U.S., it’s no guarantee of acceptance. However, she’s encouraged me to talk to her about it, so I feel pretty comfortable.

Tonight I talked to her some about integrating shamanism and counseling. I have some misgivings about incorporating a lot of my personal practice into counseling, because it’s not exactly public-friendly. Aside from the fact that a lot of potential clients could be turned away by the “mystical woo-woo” aspects of it, either for religious or other ideological reasons, I’m not sure I’d be willing to share some aspects of my practice with clients for a number of reasons. There’s disclosure, and then there’s disclosure. And I don’t want to only attract clients who think shamanism is a-ok–that tends to be a fairly privileged demographic to begin with, and I don’t want to alienate people outside of it.

I’m beginning to see why core shamanism is gaining popularity among counseling professionals. It’s more easily digestible, and can be couched in non-shamanic language. A core shamanism-style soul retrieval could be presented as a guided meditation to “find your inner child” (or however you wish to describe the missing soul part), for example. But I’m not sure how comfortable I would feel A) integrating something I have ideological disagreements with in my personal practice, and B) how much creative description do you get into before you’re misrepresenting what you’re doing?

It’s something I’m going to keep thinking about. At the very least, I figure I need to have a number of years established as both a practicing counselor and as a practicing shaman before I entertain seriously combining the two.

Speaking of being a practicing shaman, I’ve also been doing some reflection as I’ve begun to shift over into doing shamanic work for other people. I finally feel comfortable venturing into that territory, with a good bit of caution and a lot of guidance. One of the things I brought up to some peers who have more experience than I do is: How do I find people to work for, or, perhaps more appropriately, how do they find me? We talked some about whether to approach someone who has expressed a problem I could help with or not that I feel reasonably sure would accept my offer of aid, and the responses ranged from “Don’t–just let them come to you on their own terms” to “It’s better to beg forgiveness than ask permission”.

I have had a couple of people approach me, so it’s not as though word of mouth couldn’t work, but it has to start somewhere. I’m most certainly not at a point where I could ostensibly hang up a professional shingle. I think I’d feel weird trying to “sell” myself in this regard, especially with my lack of experience in working for others. But I also feel ready to offer my help, and I have support from some–not all–of the spirits I work with, in that some feel ready to collaborate with me on certain things.

How has that worked for readers/other folks?

6 thoughts on “A Couple Thoughts on Shamanic Practice

  1. I would definitely suggest not playing the core-shamanism game if you’re not comfortable with it. If you aren’t, your clients won’t be feeling the love either; they’ll feel that something is off. That is likely to cause more problems than it’s worth. Aside from that, I’m not sure what other advice I’d give. If you have folks coming to you for shamanic work, that suggests to me that there’s a potential for it to continue to develop in that direction, particularly if you encourage folks to let others know if they’re satisfied with your work.

  2. Most of the concerns you cited will rear for shamanic practitioners, counselor or not. Such is the culture we live in. It always comes down to finding the dialogue that is meaningful to the client, and that may not your own personal style. As a shaman in this culture your style is always shifting to meet the needs of clients, finding the context that works for them. How you do that work is entirely personal and does not have to be disclosed.

    As for selling yourself… A lot of that is perspective that sounds like putting forward something that you aren’t. If you look at it as selling yourself (which you don’t sound comfortable with) that effort will remain uphill. The thing that always stands out about energetic or spiritual workers is that they are almost always poor at presenting what they do. They are usually very introverted in that regard, if not flat out afraid. You have to decide what of yourself and your work you can put out there without flinching, which is what you’re doing right now. It will evolve as you hone in on what areas work and and what ‘shape’ of yourself reaches people best. If there are those near you in similar work ask them what places work well for advertisement. You can advertise there as well, but the really informative thing from that interaction is now you know where all the energy healers/etc are. What you want to find out is where they are not and put yourself there. When you find that niche that is where the word of mouth will really spark. I started out putting ads in every counterculture periodical, local and afar, which was about 5-6 places. Now I advertise in one. Also, much to the chagrin… become affiliated with the shamanic foundations who offer professional listings. Yes, your contemporaries who are more off the hook or are indigenous will poo poo that, but your clients will be comforted by it. It is for them that you do the majority of what you do. And finally, do what you are already doing–write write write. That is the best way to give potential clients insight into what you do and how it can benefit them.

  3. I’m still at the point of offering to friends. And that is also how I do it, if a friend has an issue I say “I might be able to help via x/y/z,” the usually accept, I do what I do, and they’re usually happy. Word of mouth is hard for me to generate around here since I don’t interact much with the general pagan community.

    Also been toying with the idea of putting up a Divination/Services page on my blog. My friends who do seidh will post online that they’re doing a session on such and such date and they can email questions.

  4. Lupa, I totally know what you mean! However, professionally it worked out in the reverse for me, wherein I became a professional Astrologer, Tarot Reader, and Dowser first. I had a layperson’s knowledge of herbs, nutrition, and flower essences, and enough energetic healing tools (Reiki I, Chakra knowledge, etc.) to often get the job done, and referrals for anything beyond my capacity.

    Upon moving from SoCal to Montana, my work was not viewed well by the general religiously-orthodox public. An unexpected surgery prompted me to get proper training to become a Master Herbalist, with additional nutritional and organic garden knowledge. Being an Herbalist is more acceptable to most of the population, even if they sometimes still valued orthodox medicine more highly for themselves.

    If I manage to capture someone’s interest to go further with healing, I then ask what spiritual background they have, and any deviations from that background, if any, they may practice now. Nearly always, they are raised Christian in one form or another (often fundamental rather than esoteric), but the second part of the question allows me to see if they are open to other healing practices. Often, I have noticed these designations just describe their family’s traditions rather than their actual beliefs – many of which after discussion realize they are even agnostic. To go further, if the person is feeling ill enough, they really are open to nearly anything if they think it would help them!

    With discussion, I can often frame my talents into a Christian background so that there is no fear. For instance, with Dowsing, I can let them know there was an example of this in the Bible, where it says, “Thy Rod and thy Staff they comfort me.” The reason this was comforting is because these were dowsing tools, and the force that many call God can be interpreted with these tools to find whatever one needs for survival. As an example, if a person was lost and they wanted to find the nearest water, or the nearest way back to the place where they know where they are, this is possible through Dowsing. There are other examples of divination and healing arts in the Bible, which helps people understand what I do is not “devil’s work.”

    If the skepticism arises instead from a hard-scientific mindset, I ask them to remain skeptical, yet open, to see what happens, as no harm would come from observation. This is much easier to deal with, since they usually don’t come from a place of fear, but of discernment. I must admit it is wonderful when they notice that indeed the healing energies do work!

    However, if after the spiritual discussion I learn that the person aligns heavily with fundamental Christian thought, I can still practice a form of herbalism that will work well for them, as I was taught by a Christian (more specifically Mormon) herbal school, of which I was spiritually led to by amazing circumstances – and now I know why I needed the training in this fashion – it was to put others at ease!

    In your work, there will be many of many backgrounds that will come to you. In your geographic area, I believe having alternative therapy specialties ought to be a benefit for you, and the word alternative in this case could be applied to a different application of psychological techniques. People of religio-fundamental OR hard-science backgrounds are usually open to psychology, as it is an accepted mental (or mental-emotional) science, so perhaps calling your talents names that are accessible to the public (i.e. alternative psychology techniques, rather than shamanism) will allow those who are more mainstream to come, and to also allow those who really do understand your talents on a deeper level. I would also say you can work with people with what could be termed as alternative lifestyles, since you yourself are a participant on a few levels! 🙂

  5. Ah each of us meets this question…People just ‘found me’ for about 7 years, then I created my first website in 2001. For me creating and publishing my website was an act of power. It was scary to come out and being seen.

    My healership isn’t about selling, it’s about sharing the gift and telling the story. Not being afraid.

    There are great heart centered shamanic practitioners who are afraid to come out, afraid to tell their story about their shamanic path. Don’t know how to market themselves…can’t connect the practical business side of healing with the mystical side of healing. One needs both sides of the equation to work effectively. Those people I call brokeback healers.

    Each healership is unique, each one of us has different gifts to share. It is in telling of our healing story that brings the right person to us…you share your healing stories here on your blog.

    Create a new post…What kind of clients do you want to work with, who do you speak to? What do your helping spirits have to share? Just putting it out there creates the vortex for things to start to unfold in wonderful ways.

  6. Given I have, after my own fashion, done a few soul retrievals and other kinds of what could be determined ‘shamanic work’, I just suggest that you offer your help if you feel they could use it, and let them come to it on their own. If they initiate conversation on something that needs work, I suggest it needs work and what kind. If they aren’t going for it, I don’t push it, but I do suggest what I think would be beneficial. For me, it is better to know that even if they don’t share my philosophy or method of working, I have tried to reach out and help in my own fashion. Whether or not they decide to appreciate that is up to them.

    If people really need you, they’ll find you…one way or another. I like to shorten the gap between them finding me and me helping them by initiating conversation.

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