Shamanism is experiencing phenomenal popularity in our culture today. Seeking the services of a shamanic practitioner or teacher might have beeb considered odd 10 years ago, but today even the National Institute of Health (NIH) is studying the efficacy of shamanic healing.
Why? What does shamanism offer the contemporary American who has no obvious connection to shamanic culture or tradition?
- As a curative and divination methodology, shamanism works. Shamanic curing and teachings return vital and seminal power to clients; this can result in cures for any kind of illness.
- Shamanism can be used safely as a stand-alone practice, with other complimentary modalities, and/or with western medicine. There are no contraindications for working shamanically with someone who is also using another mode of treatment.
- The practices used in shamanism have been time-tested over many thousands of years; it is a cross-cultural practice, and not a religion. Therefore, people from almost all faiths and belief systems can use shamanism ethically.
- Shamanic practices and rituals are of inherent value as potent and transcendent tools for working through the challenges we face in our daily lives.
- Shamanism is inherently ecological, and can offer solutions for living in unity.
- Shamanism is an ecstatic practice, which ultimately teaches the client that she is being held and cherished by the divine – no matter what.
- Shamanism teaches us to work in partnership with our ultimate reason for being incarnate, and can help us discern why we are “right here, right now.”
- Shamanism is in harmony with nature. Though its use, people can rebuild and re-member their inherent relationship with the natural world.
- Shamanic knowledge can help guide and transform us as we make the changes to we must make to survive as a species and relinquish our “dominion” over nature.
- Shamanism in respectful and ethical. The number one ethical guideline of core shamanism is you cannot do work for someone without their express permission. This kind of respect illustrates the integrity of the core shamanic process.
What Is Shamanism?
Shamanism is the world’s oldest spiritual curing modality, is cross-cultural and dates back at least 50,000 years.
Because it is a spiritual modality, the aim of shamanism is to offer spiritual cures. Equally important, shamanism helps people to answer important questions about their lives.
For people who have been working with different spiritual techniques and modalities for some time, the notion that “all illness begins as spiritual dis-ease” is a common one.
In shamanism, we not only believe that all illness is rooted in power loss, we believe that it is the Helping Spirits who cure illness.
The notion of curing vs. healing is more than semantic. It’s important to understand the difference. For example, imagine two women of the same age and same background go to see the same shamanic practitioner for chronic back pain. In the individual appointments, the shamanic practitioner is shown that both clients, although presenting almost identical symptoms, need different shamanic curing practices. The practitioner works with the compassionate Helping Spirits as they dictate, and the clients receive their individual cures.
After receiving the work, one woman’s back pain disappears, and the other woman, while still having the pain, is no longer depressed by it, and is empowered to work with her illness in a whole new way. This, in turn, leads her to creating a support group for others with back pain, and, over time, her back pain lessens.
The cure was delivered to both patients, but is integrated by each client in a unique way. So it is the way that the client integrates the cure that is a mitigating factor in determining what healing will unfold, and how healing will be experienced and expressed by the client.
In my practice, I have been taught by the Helping Spirits that it is important for clients to not just receive lost power, but to learn how to stand in that power, to direct it to birth a more creative, passionate and meaningful life.
This is where the healing begins. Here, too, the Spirits teach and design unique protocol and treatment, often in the form of interactive ritual and ceremony that almost all clients enjoy and value as deeply meaningful and transformative.
Note that the common term used in the west for someone who practices shamanism for others is shamanic practitioner. The term shaman is title granted by the community that receives curative treatments; it is a term of great respect and honor.
The most-common misconception about shamanism is that it is a religion; it is not, but is a reverent, spiritual practice. It has been – and is – practiced in every habitated continent on the earth.
The second most-common misconception is that all practitioners use visionary plants to alter their consciousness to do their work. In fact, most of the indigenous people in the world do not use drugs or plants to alter consciousness; cross culturally, most shamans use the drum, rattle or some rhythmic instrument. It is the repetitive beat which creates a sonic percussion, which enables the journeyer to safely alter consciousness. In many cases, songs and ritual movement are also used to help alter consciousness.
How Shamanism Works
It is by working with the Helping Spirits that illness can be cured. It is my observation that the spirits always cure, but the cure does not always manifest in the way we night imagine.
And, while shamanic cures do not always result in instantaneous, complete physical cures, they sometimes do. I am a dramatic example of this: in September, 1996, my twelve-year battle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome ended in one four-hour session when I took a shamanic journey to work with my illness. I literally went from being ill to being well in a four-hour period. Since then, my illness has never returned.
That I was cured is not atypical, but, in my case, my illness was a strong call from the spirits to work with them to serve others. This is not unusual in indigenous cultures as a way for members of a community to be selected to do shamanic work.
Because I had worked for so long in various modalities trying to glean what my illness was really trying to teach me, I know that what I ultimately learned through shamanism could not have been learned in any other way. In other words, until I learned the wisdom from my illness, the illness persisted.
The journey is the classic shamanic process of altering consciousness so that your spirit can leave your body to walk in worlds that exist in nonordinary reality, which is the home of the compassionate Helping Spirits. It is the journey that differentiates shamanism from other spiritual practices.
To walk in these other worlds, the shamanic practitioner first enters an altered state of consciousness. As mentioned above, drums or rattles are most often used in shamanism to aid the shaman in shifting from an ordinary state of consciousness to a shamanic state of consciousness. In addition to drumming, a practitioner may be given unique rituals by her Helping Spirits to help alter consciousness.
While shamanic journeying has been called the technique of ecstasy and can be an ecstatic experience, the practitioner is not seeking personal pleasure by doing this work. We do the work to meet with the powerful and compassionate Helping Spirits in the worlds of nonordinary worlds where they dwell. Through their compassion, they cure, transmit important information, and provide, at times, life-changing guidance.
In these nonordinary worlds of beauty, power and splendor, the shamanic practitioner walks in service. By serving the client, the spirits are served, and by serving the spirits, the client is served. So the shamanic practitioner is really not the person doing the curing work, although it is important to understand that the intercession of the practitioner is a seminal part of this work.
Also, shamanic practitioners need to have a particular kind of reverence for all life and for all beings. It is not enough to do the work in the studio, and then leave the studio to live carelessly; the practitioner has an ongoing responsibility to respect and honor the spirit in all sentient and nonsentient beings. And the shamanic practitioner must live in an ethical way or the Helping Spirits could desert her.
It is not just a metaphoric thing, this restoration of power. It is not abstract or conceptual. It is empirical. It is often miraculous, and always deeply humbling to work with the Helping Spirits in service to the client – whether that client is a person, animal, home, community or business.
Different Types of Shamanic Cures
The shamanic practitioner is, as described above, the person who leaves her body by altering her state of consciousness, and journeys to the nonordinary worlds on her client’s behalf; the practitioner partners with the spirits – in the name of love and compassion – to cure the client.
Most typically, the client is physically present as the shamanic practitioner does the work, although some work can be done long-distance. If the client is with the practitioner, s/he stays in ordinary reality in a relaxed and comfortable state as the practitioner works.
There are many different practices that the shamanic practitioner may use to help the client. The practitioner is ALWAYS dependent upon the Helping Spirits to diagnose and provide treatments. These can range from power animal retrievall, in which the practitioner finds and returns a power animal that was once with a client whom the client has lost through trauma (this practice restores power), to an extraction, in which a foreign spirit is extracted from the client, to soul retrieval, in which vital essence or soul parts which have left the client due to trauma, injury or abuse are returned to her.
While soul retrieval is probably the best-known shamanic practice in our culture, and while many people find their way into shamanic practitioners’ offices because they have heard of this work, there are endless ways that the spirits have of returning power to the client. In fact, this is at the heart of a shamanic practice: the spirits teach, as necessary, new ways to work with clients all of the time. There is no exhaustive shamanic menu of services anywhere, and there is no way of knowing what work the Helping Spirits will prescribe when you visit a practitioner.
Another practice that the spirits might prescribe includes psychopomp (a Greek word which means “conductor of souls”). In psychopomp work, the practitioner helps those suffering spirits who have passed on, but who are not completely at rest, to find their way back into the ecstatic nonordinary worlds. Psychopomp work serves both the living and the dead so that their relationship can become infinite and transcendent.
Depossession is another kind of curative work that the shamanic practitioner sometimes performs. While our culture has a very grim idea of depossession (think of Linda Blair in the Exorcist), this graceful and compassionate work can help a suffering spirit leave the body of a living person, and return to a place of love, compassion and grace. In turn, this work rids the client of any spirit that is not her own so she can, again, be “filled” with her own power.
Divination is the fine and subtle art of getting answers from the spirits to questions posed by the client. It is a way of going to the penultimate source for information, guidance and wisdom. This work can easily be done long-distance (that is, without the client being present in the room when the journey is taken by the practitioner). It requires nuance and skill to understand how to frame and ask questions of the spirits, and then communicate their answers. Sometimes, the answers are quite specific, practical and logical; at others, the answers are transcendent and metaphorical.
Also, practitioners are called to work with people who are in the process of transitioning from this life to the next. In shamanism, death is honored as a natural process, and as a kind of graduation day. In this work, people can not only be taught to journey, but they can explore where they will be going when they pass on and who will be waiting to help them when they die. This work can be empowering and transformative for both the client and the families/friends of the client. It is a deep honor to work with people as they rediscover their ongoing connections with the infinite.
These are just a few of the curative practices that the Helping Spirits might “diagnose” for a client who comes to a shamanic practitioner seeking healing. What is most important to remember is that, because all people are unique, the Helping Spirits will direct the practitioner to perform practices that are distinctively prescribed for you.
There is no one practice that can be used in a cookie-cutter fashion by the practitioner to cure all illnesses. The Spirits always orchestrates specific shamanic treatments for the client because the client is unique; that is why in this article I am not going to give you a laundry list of how a practice might be used to cure a specific allopathic ailment.
For me, that kind of encyclopedic approach is antithetical to the most fundamental truth in shamanism – the spirits cure and the spirits diagnose. Practitioners work in partnership with them to do the work, but the Helping Spirits are the all-knowing ones, and they create individual treatment plans for each client.
How to Choose a Shamanic Practitioner or Counselor
The best way to find a shamanic practitioner is through recommendation. Ask people you know; you may be surprised to find out that you have friends, family and acquaintances who have already seen a shamanic practitioner.
Doctors, psychotherapists and life coaches can also be a good source for finding shamanic practitioners or teachers. Also, other people in the complimentary health modalities – naturopaths, aromatherapists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, massage therapists, etc. – may be resources for you.
Many holistic veterinarians are also referring clients to shamanic healers; in my experience, the work is often quite dramatic when done with animals. About 20% of my practice has traditionally been devoted to animal people -- dogs, cats, snakes, horses, etc.
Whether you find the healer or teacher through referral or through advertisement, your first step is to call or write and ask some questions:
1. Whom did you study with?
If the person has studied with the Foundation for Shamanic Studies (FSS), you can read “The Way of the Shaman” by Dr. Michael Harner to learn more about “core” shamanic practices (the graceful name given to near universal-shamanic practices developed by the FSS founders, Drs. Michael and Sandra Harner).
There is a vast array of classes that the FSS teaches, from the introductory Way of the Shaman to the penultimate training in core shamanism, the Three-Year Programs in Advanced Shamanism and Shamanic Healing. This last class is generally regarded as the finest shamanic education you can receive anywhere.
I am honored to be Guest Faculty for the FSS, and my first workshop – Michael Harner’s Way of the Shaman – will be held on Bainbridge Island, WA, in March, 2012. You can sign up for the workshop via PayPal on this site when there is a Way of the Shaman class scheduled.
For information on the FSS, please go to www.shamanism.org to learn more about FSS workshops in your part of the country. My classes and bio are there, too.
I am not an expert on indigenous shamanism, and would not presume to advise any person on whether they need to work with an indigenous shaman.
2. What is the first thing I need to do when I contact a practitioner?
Many practitioners and teachers will spend some time with you on the phone or e-mailing before your first appointment (my own preference is to spend a lot of time answering preliminary questions), but you need to be prepared to actually book an appointment to share all of your issues and ask all of your questions.
When looking for a qualified practitioner, use the questions in this article as a springboard to deeper conversation. If you get satisfactory answers to the questions you may ask on the phone, it is then time to book an appointment.
When new clients come to me for shamanic work, I tell them that the first session is, in part, an assessment. But, I tell them, this session is for them to assess me and not vice versa; after years of doing this work, I have found that 99% of the time, the people who walk through my door are the right people for me to be working with.
In this session, I am asking the client why s/he has come to see me, and gather other pertinent information. This is the time, too, for the client to ask any question s/he may have about my practice and me. Once this stage of the appointment is finished, I always ask clients if they feel comfortable with me, and if they wish to proceed with the shamanic, diagnostic part of the session.
3. What is the first thing I need to do when I contact a teacher?
When looking for a qualified teacher, especially note if the teacher can communicate with ease and grace. You can ask how long the person has been teaching. In my case, I have been teaching for more than a decade.
While teaching is certainly a skill-set that can be learned, shamanic classes in our culture are, I believe, the modern-day equivalent of shamanic initiation; shamanic initiation can be exhilarating and joyous, and it can also be intense. This is a truly sacred time to hold with reverence. You want to be certain that the teacher is experienced enough to handle the many complex situations and questions that can arise during and after a shamanic class.
Understand, too, that there is a difference between certifying a teacher and certifying a shamanic practitioner. It is CRITICAL for the client or student to understand that NO HUMAN BEING can certify shamanic power.
Just remember this seminal rule: the spirits giveth, and the spirits taketh away. In other words, just because a person has trained with famous teacher does not mean that the student will have the relationships necessary with the Helping Spirits to be a really good practitioner or teacher.
Always ask about a teacher’s experience as a practitioner before taking a class. If they are not experienced practitioners, what, then, are they teaching you? If they do not have considerable experience in actually doing the work they are teaching, then what is their basis for teaching the work?
Remember, it is your job to ask questions to determine if the teacher you are interested in working with is BOTH experienced as a practitioner AND as a teacher.
4. Could you describe the training you received?
Many shamanic practitioners/teachers are highly ethical people who have received a lot of training, and who have a lot of experience before they open their formal practices.
Often, they have worked selflessly for many years, devoting themselves to learning about shamanism and deepening their relationships with their unique Helping Spirits before they begin to do work for others.
However, there is nothing illegal about opening a practice after taking just a weekend workshop or offering classes even though the practitioner/teacher has little actual experience.
Again, just because a teacher has learned at the knee of famous shamanic individuals is no guarantee that s/he will be a good practitioner, but my bias is to work with people who have availed themselves of as much training through the FSS as possible. This, at least, infers a commitment of resources (money, time and heart), of spirit, and a solid intention.
A vast majority of those who wish to learn to use shamanism as a dynamic, personal spiritual practice are able to learn how to journey, but not everyone is called to practice shamanism for others.
3. Could you tell me what shamanism is?
The person you are speaking with should be able to talk about the modality with nuance, grace and depth. However, it is important to realize that shamanism is NOT “talk therapy.” Still, you often need your shamanic practitioner to recount detailed information to you so good communication skills are an asset.
4. Could you please describe what a session is like and how long it will take?
The practitioner may be able to tell you about the session and give you at least a rough idea of how long the session will last. Different practitioners work in different ways, and the way they work may or may not resonate with you. One of my former practitioners worked in 90-minute blocks.
My appointments are open-ended so that whatever work needs to be accomplished in a particular session can be completed. I never want to interrupt the spirits mid-work because our culture is used to working by a clock.
Typically, clients in my practice are advised that the average session will take two hours. Some only take one, but others take three or even four. Also, the practitioner will not know until they confer with their Helping Spirits if you will need more than one session; in my practice, I have noted that very often more than one session is usually needed.
5. What are your ethics concerning shamanism?
Do the answers you receive to this question jibe with your own ethics? Does the shaman state clearly that she will never perform any shamanic work for you without your permission? Is s/he reverent and deeply respectful of the work and of the spirits? Does she practice shamanism as her primary curative practice?
Does the person strike you as both ethical and compassionate? Does her personal manner and style underscore what she says? Is her office comfortable?
If the practitioner promises a particular physical healing as a result of her work with you, find another practitioner.
Remember, a “cure” can mean a cessation of pathology and physical symptoms, an emotional evolution and/or a spiritual breakthrough (among other things too numerous and complex to explore here). While the work is always powerful, sometimes its results are immediately dramatic and sometimes deceptively subtle. Sometimes, work needs to be repeated, and some work can take up to a year or more to completely integrate.
Often, the cure happens, but the client is then faced with a new challenge: how to use that new power in new ways that will support life purpose while increasing vitality, creativity and passion? Through various shamanic rituals and ceremonies, which can be entirely unique to the individual client, people can learn how to stand in their power and wield it with insight and intention.
In my experience and observation, these are the people that ultimately experience the greatest healing; the cure returns the power, but in the integration work, the clients learn how to use the power to create the life they want.
Given all this, it is important you feel a resonance with the practitioner or teacher. You may be working together very intensely over a period of time.
6. Could you tell me a little about yourself?
Practicing shamanism for another or teaching it is a profound honor, and is a very intimate experience for both practitioner/client and teacher/student. I offer as much information about my background and training to my clients as they want. I have observed that for some clients, this information is very important, and for others, it is less important.
As a client, understand that what is crucial here is to feel comfortable with the practitioner. If anything just doesn’t “feel” right to you after you have talked, tell the practitioner that you wish to think about it before proceeding with the shamanic work, and end the session.
7. Who does the cures during a shamanic session?
The ethical shamanic practitioner knows that the true cures come from the Helping Spirits with whom she works. This is not a field where pride is an asset; in fact, if a shamanic practitioner or counselor boasts about her own abilities, find someone else with whom you can work.
8. What support can you offer me after you have finished the shamanic work?
Shamanic work is powerful, and you should have access to the practitioner/teacher after your session(s)/workshop to do follow-up work.
Sometimes, cures come in one piece, and, at other times, a series of curative sessions will be needed. There is no right or wrong here, only the way that the spirits prescribe the work. Keep in mind that new levels of cures can be initiated at any point in the process.
In my experience, sometimes clients like to move very quickly and intensely in shamanic work, and others like to move very deliberately and slowly; of course, the spirits set the protocol for treatment, but the client has the right to determine how slowly or quickly she’ll work through the necessary treatments. Never abdicate the responsibility for your own decisions to the “spirits.” Work at a pace that is right for you.
9. Do you see a shamanic counselor/practitioner yourself?
Does the practitioner/teacher walk her talk? Work with shamanic practitioners who have their own shamanic practitioner.
10. What are your rates?
Some shamanic practitioners charge by the hour, and some by the session.
Sometimes, talented part-time practitioners (those who work for only a few hours a month) will offer their services for a donation. Full-time practitioners and teachers set rates that are typically in-line with other complimentary professionals – acupuncturists, chiropractors, naturopaths, herbalists, etc.
Specific rates vary widely from practitioner to practitioner, and differ depending upon experience and time spent in the session. Many practitioners will never turn away a client because of an inability to pay; however, note that you should be prepared to pay your shamanic practitioner just as you would any other health professional.
Some practitioners may be open to creating a payment plan for you. And some practitioners even offer the convenience of credit cards.
I used to ask for a donation for my work, but clients continually told me they felt uncomfortable and did not know what to give me. One man cried after a soul retrieval and said, "My soul is back. How can I possibly figure out what donation to make?" On the whole, the donation principle did not make sense. If we were in a shamanic culture, the client would KNOW to pay the shaman well. In our culture, some people set rates because they know their clients will not understand what an appropriate donation might be.
My goal in offering this article has been to empower you to investigate the world of shamanism to help change your life.
Whether you are ill and seeking healing or seeking greater passion and joy in your life, shamanism may offer you some substantive solutions. Certainly, if no other curing modality has touched you or helped you, try shamanism.
Don’t make shamanism the last possible course of treatment or the last modality you study. Work it into your self-care regimen on a routine and regular basis. It is, simply put, good medicine.
Please feel free to contact the author of this article email@example.com or the person who shared this article with you for suggestions on books to read and for recommendations of who you can contact in your area to receive work.
I will only recommend people that I know or whom are recommended personally by reliable shamanic peers.
About Lora Jansson
Since 1997, Lora Jansson has been a full-time shamanic practitioner, teacher and lecturer. When journeying in 1996, a chronic illness, which she had for twelve years, which had almost totally disabled her – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – was completely cured in a journey, which lasted four hours.
Prior to shamanism, Ms. Jansson studied Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism, most especially Chinese Medicine five-element philosophy; she is a graduate of the School of Philosophy and Healing in Action (SOPHIA) program taught by the Traditional Acupuncture Institute in Maryland
Also, she is an experienced and well-educated aromatic consultant, and the spirits have shared with her work, which they call “Sacred Blending.” In this work, the spirits of aromatics are used for their spiritual “curative power” and not only their chemical properties and actions. Lora has taught and lectured about Sacred Blending since 1999.
Most importantly, Ms. Jansson received shamanic training in both Lakota Sioux Native American practices (work she pursued for three years including the time prior to and after the cure of her illness) and through the Foundation for Shamanic Studies (FSS).
She has taken all but one of the classes offered by the FSS, and is a proud graduate of the FSS Three-Year Program in Advanced Shamanism taught by Michael Harner and Alicia Gates, assisted by Amanda Foulger; this is generally regarded as the finest and most advanced training available anywhere in core shamanism.
In addition, she has trained in Soul Retrieval and Medicine for the Earth work with Sandra Ingerman.
She teaches shamanism in classes of one to eighty students, and starting in 2003, worked with Bastyr University students in Seattle, WA.
In addition, in 2004 she was honored to be one of eight shamans in a landmark study funded by the National Institute of Health.
In 2007 she has originated and facilitated the international project – The Star Gazer Shamananic Moon Bear Project. She oversaw a group of shamans who were engaged in doing long-distance curative work for Moon Bears rescued from “bear farming” by Animals Asia Foundation. The project lasted three years, is now on hiatus, but Lora hopes to be working with the project again in 2012.
Lora’s classes are constantly evolving and changing according to the spirits’ counsel and her own understanding of what the community needs. In 2012, she will devote her time to FSS The Way of Shaman workshops, and practitioner work.
She is honored to treat two-leggeds, four-leggeds, homes, businesses, communities, and the earth. She dedicates her life to serving the spirits, and the clients who come to her.
She lives with her husband Don and dog Ariel on Bainbridge Island, Washington.
Please call or write for more information on her services or shamanic recommendations: (206) 661-3875, firstname.lastname@example.org .
Author retains all copyright privileges.
Many shamanic practitioners around the country use this article as a handout to explain some of the fundamentals of shamanism, and the author is flattered if this article is of service. Please feel free to copy it or forward it.
No organization, including the FSS, has edited or had any part in the creation or content of this article; it solely contains ideas and suggestions of the author’s.
The sole request is that no portion of this article
be edited in any way without my express permission.
Lora J. Jansson, 2004 Ó
 The popularity of shamanism in our culture can be credited to one organization: the Foundation for Shamanic Studies. The work of Drs. Michael and Sandra Harner have literally changed the world in which we live. Michael not only pioneered the core shamanic movement, but also created the core shamanic methodology. If it were not for his work, many of the fine shamanic teachers and organizations that thrive today would not exist.
 Helping Spirits are spiritual teachers who appear in human form, as helping animals and as other spirits, and who live in a different reality than that in which we consciously live our lives, a reality outside of time and space as we perceive it. They choose to work with the shamanic practitioner who affects cures through the spirits’ grace. Many practitioners, me included, have received teachings from the Helping Spirits, which seem similar to the counsel received by indigenous shamans through the ages – that the spirits can be all-knowing and all-loving, all-compassionate and powerful. They are the keepers of ancient wisdom and curative knowledge/power which is vast.
 Even using this term is uncomfortable to an extent because it suggests that are you claiming a particular power or skill in curing, while, in fact, it is ALWAYS the compassionate Helping Spirits who help the client. Still, until we can find a more humble way to describe the work, this will have to suffice.
 A term penned by Dr. Michael Harner of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies.
 Although I was not intentionally tracking the empirical results of shamanic journeying at the time, I had had my yearly blood tests two weeks prior to this journey. Because I felt so different after the journey, I went back to my doctor to have my blood tests repeated; I was lucky to be working with a doctor who was open to investigating the results of the shamanic work. When my new blood tests returned, all of the markers had returned to normal. Because this was such a huge cure, my doctor ran the blood tests more than once to be certain that they were correct.
 You are, presumably, in ordinary reality right now as you read this article. The shaman is practiced at altering her consciousness to leave ordinary reality to enter nonordinary reality to affect healing for her client or to answer seminal questions.
 Michael Harner, Way of the Shaman
 Mircea Eliade, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy
 This is one of the seminal differences between shamanism and other modalities where people work with what they often refer to as guides. In shamanism, we do not call spirits to our world and our bodies; we leave our body to go to them where they live. The efficacy of shamanic work is solely dependent upon the relationship that has been cultivated between the Helping Spirits and the practitioner. Every person alive has Helping Spirits; almost everyone can learn how to journey as a personal spiritual practice so that they can communicate directly their unique compassionate spirits. Also, while it is true that much of the curative work happens in nonordinary reality, at times the practitioner is actually called to work in both nonordinary reality and in ordinary reality simultaneously. This is advanced work, which a practitioner can only effectively perform after much experience and training.
 Certain shamanic work can be done for oneself, and in other cases, it is important to have a practitioner do the work for you. It has been said that journeying takes only a few days to learn, but a lifetime to master. Rather than turning to books to self-diagnose or to learn how to journey, I recommend that you seek out an experienced practitioner or teacher.
11 Not all shamanic practitioners are devoted to these principles. Those that are interested in acquiring power for personal gain are called sorcerers.
 Power Animals are significant allies, and share their distinctive power with the client who has received the retrieval. All animal spirits are powerful, but hold different kinds of power. For example, both Bear and Mouse are magnificent allies; they have unique attributes, and so one ally might be more useful than the other at various points in your life. While your shamanic practitioner can help you to understand why a particular animal spirit has been returned to you, it is wonderful to learn how to journey to visit your power animal in his or her home. By routinely journeying to your Power Animal you can begin to truly understand why that animal has come back to help you at this point in your life.
 As with all things shamanic, there is an inherent paradox here. If I were to go to see an indigenous shaman, I might not be able to communicate with him or her at all. That would not get in the way of the treatment at all because, again, what is really important is that the shaman can work with his or her own compassionate Helping Spirits. However, in our western culture which is so foreign to the indigenous paradigm, it is most valuable to work with someone who is articulate.