Shamanism – virtual upliftment
A healing art you can offer online.
By Vivienne O’Keeffe, CIBTAC, AAD, PEA.
In my 26 years as a professional spa consultant I’ve encountered more kinds of healing practices than you can shake a massage stick at, from ayurveda to qiqong, chelation therapy, reflexology, hydrotherapy and dozens more. But there’s one I’ve always considered to be lurking on the sketchy fringes, like a fly-by-night airline or miracle hair growth tonic.
Shaminism was just too weird, I thought – too out there, too woo-woo to be deemed a legitimate spa offering.
But then recent events in my life conspired to remind me of my long-standing friendship with professional and fully accredited psychotherapist Elizabeth Alanis, who also happens to practise the art of shamanism.
Because of those events – and because, like too many of us in the wellness business, I preach wellness but sometimes run around feeling exhausted – I needed help.
I needed a course-correction.
And what I experienced after only two sessions with Elizabeth changed my mind about shamanism.
It’s not only the centuries-old mystique that separates shamanic healing from other spa treatments. They can be administered virtually online, as mine were, making them a wonderful healing option in these dire times to fill the emotional void left in COVID’s cruel wake.
Who couldn’t use a lift right now? A recent Commonwealth Fund Survey of 10 wealthy nations found that during COVID-19, Americans were the most likely (33%) to report “great stress, anxiety or sadness that was difficult to cope with.” The next most stressed nations were Canada (26%) and the UK (26%). Norway reported the lowest stress and sadness levels, at 10%.
Plus, according to the Mintel international consumer trend research company, more than ever, people are searching for more fulfilling experiences. Its Consumer Trends 2030 report says “Greater value will be placed on inner journeys… than on outer experiences.”
In other words, the time may be right for you to make some authentic experiential additions to your spa’s menu of treatments.
Now, before I tell you how my treatments went, I hasten to point out that I don’t get any financial benefit for recommending Elizabeth. I’m interested in helping spa owners build their virtual businesses by considering exactly the kinds of remotely accessible treatments she and other practitioners like her offer.
Shamanism takes the spiritual path
As we all know, western society’s values are based on separateness, and individuality. Our healing methods tend to treat the symptoms, through prescribed medication or routines – without necessarily nailing the cause. By contrast, according to information I gathered from Elizabeth and my own due diligence, shamanic healing emphasizes unity and wholeness. Guided by the belief that everything has been divinely created and has a spirit and a soul, shamans cultivate personal relationships among all creation and spirits.
Shamanism believes that any illness (i.e., dis-ease) is the result of an imbalance or obstruction of energy in our relationships with ourselves and with the world. With the help of the Spirit and the assistance of Power Spirits, shamans open space to bring balance to those relationships and help clear obstructions.
Rather than something done to a client, shamanic healing is a collaborative effort with the client. During the process, once the sources of the imbalances become evident, shamans determine the type of treatment needed and guide their clients to participate in their own healing, aided by their own Power Spirits. Rather than creating dependency on drugs or routines, shamans help others to tap the power within themselves to restore balance and wellbeing.
Now living and working in New York, Elizabeth was introduced to shamanism in her native Mexico. In one experience she was able to avoid surgery to remove large kidney stones by drinking a mixture of herbs and flowers every day for a week. The stones were pulverized and eliminated without pain.
In another, a young family member suffering inexplicable medical problems was taken in desperation to a curandero at the suggestion of a friend – and cured after a variety of procedures including prayers, an herbal bath and chants using eggs and candles.
These and other gainful interventions were enough to convince Elizabeth to add shamanism to her roster of qualifications, though I admit her background in traditional western healing made it feel less risky for me to seek her help. A quick visit to her website (loveintowholeness.com) reveals her blue-chip chops: a psychology degree from City College of New York, masters in social work from Fordham University, psychoanalytic training at the Center for Modern Psychoanalytic Studies of New York, postgraduate certificates from the Centre for Applied Jungian Studies in Johannesburg, etc.
Not much ‘woo-woo’ there. And in fact, Elizabeth’s approach was quite disciplined, starting with a two-page form for me to fill out to clarify my situation and goals. To prepare for each one-hour Zoom session, I was told to drink lots of water, get plenty of sleep, and take no alcohol or other intoxicants. While I relaxed on my couch at home, we explored everything related to the issue I wanted to address and their relationships to one or more of the elements including:
- Imbalances or blockages in the flow of inner feminine and masculine energies
- Imbalances or blockages in one or more different bodies –physical, mental, emotional or spiritual
- Imbalances or blockages due to traumas to the soul in the present or previous lives
- Invasive energy that needs to be released
- Loss of essential parts of self-resulting from trauma or old agreements
The experience was quite a revelation. After just one session I felt very relaxed and, unexpectedly enough, very aware of my dreams. Elizabeth also recommended at-home practices to sustain and expand the energetic changes, which I dutifully performed.
But the real ‘aha’ moment came when Elizabeth reminded me of a simple truth: we have the power to shape our lives.
Common sense or shamanism, it was just the kick in the pants I needed. I felt balanced again!
What to look for in a shamanic healer
There is no professional association uniting shamanic practitioners, but those who have undergone serious training spend several years studying at a reputable shamanic school under the guidance of a master. Students also need to engage in service to the community to practice what they are learning under their teacher’s supervision until they gain the skills and knowledge to begin practising on their own.
“Every reputable school requires that the student start by working towards Wholeness and Oneness herself,” says Elizabeth. “We work on our own alignment with the Divine, all parts of us and all in creation – continuous spiritual work to face our shadow and to experience our real self rather than the many voices of our wounds and personality. We apply the healing techniques on ourselves or other students, our teachers or their assistants, then practise serving our communities to refine our skills and knowledge.”
The best shamanic healers abide by the Shamanic Code of Ethics, located on the website of the Society for Shamanic Practice (shamanicpractice.org). Shamans and shamanic practitioners have undergone as well as facilitated training, and have participated in healing circles and other healing events. It’s a good idea to ask if the shaman you’re considering is a member of a shamanic community and ask about their training and contributions.
Typical shamanistic treatments
The most commons shamanic services are:
- Retrieving parts of a soul’s afflicted person, usually lost due to trauma.
- Cutting energetic cords that help us release unconscious unhealthy agreements we’ve made.
- Shamanic extraction: replacing harmful energy with healing energy.
- Ceremonies to let go of guilt and shame related to past decisions and actions.
- Transformational coaching.
- Sacred circles.
- Rite of passage ceremonies.
Benefits your clients can expect from shamanistic treatments
- Feeling grounded and confident when dealing with life’s challenges as clients learn to tap into and trust their inner wisdom.
- A profound sense of wholeness, aliveness and joy as they learn to love and integrate all the parts they have rejected.
- A deep sense of freedom, self-love and mastery as they reclaim their power by setting appropriate boundaries and renegotiating old agreements.
- A sense of expansion and authenticity as they overcome the fear of expressing their needs, values and expectations.
- Experiencing reciprocal relationships that are genuinely loving and supporting.
- Feeling empowered, energized and fulfilled as they create a life of meaning and purpose that enriches them and the world.
How impactful were my sessions with Elizabeth?
Impactful enough to start feeling more focused on my intentions, and more balanced. Impactful enough to sit down and put what I learned in writing.
And impactful enough to conclude that you should consider looking at the benefits of shamanism and other virtually accessible wellness treatments for yourself.
Published as “Virtually uplifting” in Spa Canada September/October 2020
Vivienne O’Keeffe, CIBTAC, AAD, PEA, is President of Spa Profits Consulting Inc., and an expert in designing successful spa concepts. She is also an international consultant in developing product lines, treatment plans and training programs, a member of ISPA and a recipient of the Spa Industry Association of Canada Outstanding Industry Service Award in 2001, 2005 and 2012.