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The Shaman's Medicine: A Change of Heart

Rediscovering the Shamans' Wisdom

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It may be, in the seventeenth century, we experienced the most powerful exchange on record with regard to healing: we fell in love with Sir Isaac Newton's discoveries and forgot the Shaman's wisdom: that we exist in two worlds simultaneously.

The essence of this exchange, certainly one of the more extreme examples of triage the world has ever known, is that something great died so that something great could live: quantifying the physical world displaced envisioning the spiritual.

In one sense, we experienced a wonderful event. We fell in love with the material world and with those who could help us to see it. But our faith in scientific medicine displaced our faith in spiritual medicine and so, we paid a terrible price for what we gained.

Now, some three hundred years later, we have begun to again value spiritual medicine. A part of this change is that our vague memories of the Shaman's lost wisdom have begun to resurface, mostly in the practices of alternative healers and in the name of holism. Still, we miss the mark. "Holism," and its sister word, "holy," refer to treating and honoring the whole person simultaneously; mind and heart together; physical body and spiritual body as one.

Is this how we now practice? Unfortunately, not. Thus, even when healers do cumulatively address all the physical and spiritual components of peoples' illnesses, rarely do these efforts address both the physical and spiritual bodies simultaneously.

Why do we make this error? Essentially because we believe that healing efforts are additive; that if we collectively address all the components of an illness, that these efforts will add up to health.

I call this belief, "sum-ism."

What is sum-ism?

Sum-ism is the belief that we can heal peoples' wounds by having specialists collectively address peoples' needs separately. To the logical mind, this does make sense. However, since even specialists rarely address wounds in both bodies simultaneously, even when these efforts do collectively address the whole person, rarely do they result in much more than symptom relief.

Often, then, healers, even alternative healers, fail to heal peoples' wounds even when they do manage to eliminate the symptoms. Why? Because they fail to address these wounds in both bodies simultaneously. Sadly, even the most knowledgeable and spiritual of practitioners make this error.

Admittedly, these healers are often warm, loving, and well educated, and in no way am I questioning their intentions. Nor am I questioning the value of specialization. Even so, since healing efforts do not sum no matter how wise and wonderful these practitioners may be and no matter how scientific or spiritual the techniques involved, the fact remains, unless you heal both bodies simultaneously, wounds do not heal.

Why am I repeatedly using the word simultaneously? Because, as any Shaman knows, all being in our "world" exist simultaneously in two equally important "sub" worlds, in the physical world and in the spiritual world. This belief, which I call, the "two that are one," is simply the essence of shamanism.

Thus, because we each exist simultaneously in two worlds (in a physical world and in a spiritual world), we each must exist simultaneously in two bodies, in a physical body, and in a spiritual body. Further, because these two bodies can not be separated without causing death, whatever affects to one body must simultaneously affect the other. This includes injuries.

Shamans know this idea, that of the simultaneous nature of wounding, to be the foundation of all genuine healing knowledge. It means simply that, since we exist in two bodies simultaneously, no injury can wound one body and not the other. In other words, all wounds must injure both the physical and spiritual bodies equally and simultaneously.

Moreover, since we can not separate these two bodies without causing death, it follows, then, that in order to heal, our healing efforts must address both bodies simultaneously.

Here, then, is the shamanic wisdom which has been missing from many of our healing efforts: because it is simply natural for us to live in two bodies simultaneously, wounds must be healed in both bodies simultaneously.

In this simple truth, then, lies the seeds of a new, truly holistic alternative, a medicine which, by honoring both worlds equally and simultaneously, not only heals peoples' symptoms, but also the wounds themselves. In this article, I will explore this alternative.

As for the source of the wisdom I present here, know only that I, myself, am a practicing shaman who has had, and still has, many teachers in both realms. I am also a healer, who, like others, senses that the time to share his visions is now.

The Power of Vision: The Way to Access the Shaman's Wisdom

Knowing you must heal both the physical and spiritual bodies simultaneously is one thing. Doing it is quite another. How, then, do shamans accomplish this? In a word, vision. Before exploring this idea, though, let me first briefly mention a few people who, even without consciously knowing the Shaman's Wisdom, have profoundly affected our world through vision.

Newton and Vision

Newton's passage from a falling apple to a falling moon was an act of the prepared imagination John Tyndall (1820-1893), Irish Physicist

What is said to be Newton's essential contribution, that if you can not measure it, it is not real, characterizes Newton's love of the physical world, truly a seminal moment for modern science. Ironically, most of those who interpret Sir Isaac's work fail to notice that some eighty-five percent of his writings were devoted to exploring the spiritual realm. Or that he was, in fact, an alchemist; a master of shamanic magic. Even more ironic, few notice, as the Irish physicist, John Tyndall, would later allude to, that Newton made his most famous discovery while accessing both worlds simultaneously. Translation. Newton's famous discovery occurred when he envisioned an apple falling from a nearby tree.

Of course, even in these times of spiritual reawakening, for many, the word "vision" remains negatively charged, as it brings to mind the Shaman and his supposedly "unscientific" methods. How ironic. Yet unscientific or not, the fact remains: one man envisioned a single scene. Over time, word of this vision spread throughout the world. Eventually, it altered the entire worlds' consciousness. This is analogous to a man throwing a single stone into an ocean and having this alter the entire surface of the ocean. Permanently.

Given this incredible power, you would think Newton would have chosen to use vision as his primary means to discovery. Did Newton ever choose to use vision to explore the world. Did he, in fact, ever realize the power his visions could have?

In truth, we will never know. In all likelihood, though, and based on the fact that Newton favored logic over imagination, this is doubtful. Thus, even though Newton had a vision which affected our entire world, he, himself, probably never recognized the Shaman's wisdom: that we live in two worlds simultaneously. Equally likely is that he never recognized that the living combination of logic and prayer which shamans call "dreaming" is the very thing which allows us simultaneous access to these two worlds.

One can only wonder how much more Newton would have affected our world had he known of and consciously chosen to use the power of vision: the power of simultaneous access to both worlds.

Einstein and Vision

Imagination is more powerful than knowledge. Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. Albert Einstein (1879-1955), Swiss-American Physicist

Others have also had visions which have profoundly affected our world. For example, Newton's counterpart in the Twentieth century, Albert Einstein, certainly did. And in Einstein's case, he even acknowledged the power of vision when he referred to imagination being "more powerful" than knowledge.

No surprise, then, that it was Einstein who first taught us of the equality between the two worlds (in his famous equation,E=MC2). In fact, Einstein frequently made references to this bond between the two worlds and that the scientist must access both. But did Einstein ever consciously recognize the Shaman's wisdom?

Here, again, probably not, as Einstein, like Newton, most times chose to explore our world with logic. In all likelihood, then, Einstein, too, failed to recognize the Shaman's wisdom and its connection to vision. Even so, his visions also altered our entire world's consciousness. And we can only guess at how much more he would have affected our world had he known of and chosen to use the Shaman's wisdom and the power of vision.

Aristotle and Vision

Twenty-three centuries prior, yet another man who loved logic also had visions which also altered the entire world's consciousness. Ironically, he even wrote about the power of visions.

Thus, in the opening paragraph of his book, "The Metaphysics," Aristotle even refers to vision as the highest of the senses. Clearly, in Aristotle's case, he intuitively did recognize the power of vision. Yet sadly, he, too, failed to see its true power, as even the casual reader of Aristotle can see that Aristotle also valued logic over vision.

Here again, we see a person who altered our entire world's consciousness with his visions. Yet here again we see a person who failed to consciously recognize the Shaman's wisdom and its connection to vision.

Chaos Theory and Vision

Even in the present, people continue to make this oversight and yet continue to influence our world with their visions, and one of the clearest examples of this is Chaos Theory.

Thus, many would argue that Chaos Theory is one of the three greatest "physical world" discoveries of the Twentieth Century, and that along with relativity and quantum mechanics, that we now have the tools with which to make visible the bonds between the worlds of energy and matter. No surprise that in his 1987 book, Chaos, one of author Gleick's main points is that we came to discover Chaos Theory because computers gave us the power to picture otherwise invisible aspects of science and mathematics. (James Gleick, Chaos, 1987)

Even so, have the physicists and mathematicians who discovered Chaos Theory truly recognized the power of vision?

Here, the answer is somewhat gray, in that, here, yes, like Aristotle, they have in part. But only pragmatically. For the most part, then, even these brave explorers have missed the deeper meaning of what they have envisioned. If not, they would have, long ago, thought to apply what they discovered to the wounds in our natures.

Alternative Healers and Vision

And what of alternative healers?

Admittedly, practitioners in the field of alternative medicine have come much closer to recognizing the Shaman's wisdom and its connection to vision. In fact, many alternative practitioners have advocated for the conscious use of vision; Shakti Gawain (Creative Visualization, 1978), Louise Hay (You Can Heal Your Life, 1984), and Bernie Seigel, M.D. (Love, Medicine and Miracles, 1986), to name but a few.

Yet despite these wonderfully loving people and their efforts to teach us the power of vision, they, too, never speak directly of the Shaman's wisdom nor its connection to vision. So, while they have offered us techniques which in fact, do utilize vision and even the Shaman's wisdom itself, they never actually speak of the great truth itself. In all likelihood, then, even these great healers have not consciously recognized the Shaman's wisdom and its connection to vision.

"Holism" and the Shaman's Wisdom

What I have just said is that there have been many people who have never actually recognized the Shaman's wisdom and yet, despite this, have managed to profoundly alter our entire world. Even so, because they never consciously recognized this wisdom, they also never learned to use it by design. Their discoveries were made largely by chance.

How, then, can we learn to use the Shaman's wisdom by design?

Let me begin by restating what is simply the foundation of a shaman's conscious experience of the world: that because it is our nature to live in two worlds simultaneously (in the physical world and in the spiritual world), we must exist in two bodies simultaneously (in a physical body and in a spiritual body). These two views are what I call, the Shaman's wisdom.

Further, because we can not exist in these worlds separately without dying, everything we experience must affect us equally and simultaneously in both worlds. This includes injuries.

Finally, because it is simply our nature to be wounded in both bodies simultaneously, and because we can not exist in these two bodies separately without dying, we must heal people in both bodies simultaneously.

Oddly enough, even though we have not consciously recognized this truth, we already use a word which encompasses it, one I previously mentioned. The word is, holism. In fact, the simplest way to define holism is to say, because, by nature, we exist holistically (in two bodies at once), our wounds must occur holistically. Therefore, we must heal ourselves holistically.

How do you heal holistically? You combine pragmatic techniques with shamanic vision to cause what I call, an "emergence." Why? Because this is the only way to holistically address peoples' wounds.

Before talking further about emergence, though, I need to first talk about what wounds actually are. What actually happens to people during wounding events, anyway? What, in fact, is a wound?

What Exactly Is a Wound?

The simplest way to describe what a wound actually is, is to say that a wound is an injury to our ability to experience life consciously. In essence, a wound is simply a kind of "wounded" learning which occurs at anything from the cellular level all the way up to the whole organic level.

What, exactly, is the nature of this wounded learning?

In a sense, it is simply that a certain few cells, or a system of cells, or even a whole person (or even a whole country) gets programmed to respond to some otherwise ordinary stimuli by going into shock. What do I mean by shock?

In the most basic sense, shock is simply the polar opposite to consciousness, in that with consciousness, we can assign meanings to what we sense, and with shock, we can not. In other words, being conscious means we can, in some way, understand what we are sensing, while being in shock means we can not understand what are we sensing.

Please realize, this means we can be aware something exists without knowing what it means and so, consciousness is much more than mere awareness. In other words, being in shock does not mean we have lost our ability to sense. We merely lose our ability to interpret what we sense.

In the more pragmatic sense, then, shock is simply the state of being in which we become unable to access the meaning of what we are sensing and so, have little or no way to decide how to handle what we are sensing. In other words, being in shock causes us to lose our ability to make choices and so, we lose our ability to take care of ourselves.

One way to picture this loss is to imagine a deer caught in a car's headlights. In case you have never experienced this, even if you walk up to the deer, the deer will not run away. This happens despite the fact that the deer normally has the skills to run away and would normally choose to use these skills. However, being in shock temporarily prevents the deer from accessing these skills. So, the deer simply stands there, frozen in shock.

Of course, when the headlights are gone, the deer will gradually come out of shock, and as it does, it regains its access to these skills. The point is, though, that the deer never actually loses these skills. Rather, the deer merely loses its access to them.

Likewise, when we go into shock, we do not lose our life skills either. Rather, we simply lose our access to them even though, in some cases, we can actually lose access to all but the most basic of our life support systems.

In a sense, being in shock means we have simply gone on what amounts to a built in autopilot which exists to protect us in times wherein we temporarily lose access to our ability to care for ourselves.

Now, what does going into shock have to do with wounds?

How is Shock Connected to Wounds, and How Do Wounds Occur?

How is shock connected to wounds and how do wounds actually occur?

Very briefly, in any overwhelmingly painful event, there is a moment in which the inflow of information peaks. If we experience a large enough peak with enough force, we go into shock.

For most people, this information will come as no surprise. What is not known, though, and what is important to recognize here is that, if the onset of the painful experience is startling enough, in the instant just before we go into shock, whatever we were sensing at that moment gets hypnotically imprinted into our memories, similar to the way the flash of a flash bulb temporarily imprints onto our retinas. Unlike the flash of a flash bulb though, this single frame of life experience imprints permanently.

Now, if this was all that happened, there would be no problem. But what also happens is that this single frame of life gets hypnotically associated to the pain we were experiencing in that moment, and to the shock we were experiencing as well. Thus, for those who experience these events, these single frames of life literally become hypnotic cues, the nature of which is to cause people to automatically, and instantaneously, re-experience the overwhelming pain of the event whenever they re-experience the cue.

In essence, whatever people had been sensing in that instant becomes an instruction which gets imprinted into their memories. The nature of this instruction is simply that, whenever they re-experience whatever they were sensing in that instant, they will re-experience the painful overload along with the state of shock which followed.

Now remember, when people go into shock, they go on autopilot. This happens because people in shock lose access to all but their most basic life support systems. They also lose access to any wisdom and skills they may have acquired in life, which precludes them from making the loving choices they might ordinarily make. In other words, these people simply freeze up in a way very similar to how home computers, which are ordinarily quite powerful, freeze up when they can not decide what to do next.

Thus, during wounding events, these cells, or organs (or people) lose their ability to function normally, and as their normal life functions atrophy, symptoms appear. In my language, regardless of how functional we ordinarily are, when we go into shock, we instantly lose access to some degree of our ability to care for ourselves. In addition, for as long as we remain in shock, we will continue to have little or no access to any related wisdom and will have access to only to the most basic of our life skills.

What happens to people when a wounding event ends? Life intervenes. In reality, the wounding part of these painful events lasts ONLY for the instant in which we experience the overload. But because we experience most of the event in the state of shock, we never notice this and so, like the way we continue to see light after a flask bulb temporarily blinds us, we continue to experience the painful instant and see the whole event as the wounding event.

Perceptions aside, the event does end. At this point, like a deer after a car's headlights pass, we gradually come out of shock. However, the experience leaves us imprinted with what literally amounts to horribly painful post hypnotic suggestion, a terrible cue which literally has the power to cause us to re-experience this painful event.

Oddly enough, when these slices of life are isolated, what we were actually experienced in these momentary instants of overload usually turns out to be just some ordinary life event, such as a particular facial expression or an ordinary sound. Here, then, is one of the more tragic and thus, important things to know about wounding events: Wounding events change ordinary life events into extraordinarily painful cues which can cause us to relive the suffering and shock of the original wounding event.

Now remember, because we never exist in only one world, at least, not while we are on the earthly plane, nothing and no one gets wounded in only one world. Therefore, all wounding events wound us holistically, meaning, they wound a part of both our physical and spiritual bodies in the same instant.

Consider the implications. What would happen to the cells in a developing fetus if the baby's mother suddenly experienced a shocking scare, such as being in a car accident or having a favorite glass vase suddenly fall and break? What happens to anyone in the instant in which they get abruptly startled?

As I have been saying, they go into shock. So, even if only for an instant, they lose a good portion of their normal ability to function and become like little deer frozen in car headlights.

I call this moment, "reaching the still point," as in, we become frozen and lose access to all but the most primitive of our abilities.

Consider the primary function of cells in a fetus; they divide, and they differentiate. This is how they co-create a life. In the process, some cells become liver cells; others, breast cells; some become brain cells, others toe cells.

What if, at the very instant the mother reaches the still point, what will eventually become a breast cell; at this point, still not a fully differentiated breast cell; is dividing. Obviously, this cell consciously experiences the same abrupt psychospiritual overload as the mother experiences. But what actually happens to them both?

For the mother, probably nothing permanent. This scare passes and life goes on. But for the cell which had been dividing, the outcome of this experience is that it gets hypnotically programmed to respond to whatever stimuli it had been experiencing in that painful instant

What was it, in all likelihood, that the cell was experiencing in that moment? Probably an enormous amount adrenaline (physical) and fear (spiritual). Further, the essence of this experience is that the cell gets programmed so that, if it ever experiences anything close to that exact same stimuli again, it will return to the exact same condition it was in when the shocking incident first occurred and won't even know it, as it will be in shock.

In any event, life goes on, and both the mother and the baby come out of shock. Further, there is no visible impairment because both mother and fetus experience the event in shock and so, neither ever realizes the cell was implanted with a cue. And because the impairment remains invisible, in a sense, it is like a sleeping dog. Don't startle it and it won't wake up and bite you. In other words, as long as this cell does not get cued into shock, there will be no danger.

What then happens to the breast cell that had been programmed? It continues to divide and to differentiate, along with all the rest of the baby's cells which did not get hypnotically programmed.

Years pass, and the little fetus becomes a forty two year old mother. Who experiences a terribly frightening car accident herself. Not surprisingly, she responds to this life event physically and emotionally in almost exactly the same way as her mother had, some forty two years earlier; she experiences a great amount of adrenaline and fear. And what effect would this event have on the descendants of the single wounded breast cell? In the instant of the overload, they would immediately return to the exact same state of being the original cell was in when it was wounded; meaning, they would begin to rapidly divide as if they were cells in a fetus, not cells in an adult. Worse yet, because these cells would be doing this in shock, the signals which would normally tell these cells to differentiate and to regulate their growth would not be accessible and so, these cells would blindly reproduce. The result. They would become what we call cancer.

What would happen if this person then experienced chemotherapy or radiation? Unfortunately, many of these cells would die, both physically nd spiritually. Why? Because many of these cells would get be so deeply shocked by the chemotherapy or radiation that they would lose ALL access to their ability to function, and any cell which loses ALL access will die.

There is another possible outcome though. This other possible outcome is that the chemotherapy or radiation could act like a slap to a hysterical person. By this, I mean the chemotherapy or radiation could actually jolt some of these cells out of shock.

What determines whether this outcome occurs? To be honest, this answer is far beyond my knowledge. But theoretically, whether this happens or not depends on whether the chemical or radioactive "slap" is timed well enough and with enough strength to snap these cells out of shock without causing more damage. And more wounding.

What would happen to these cells if they did come out of shock? They would resume their normal functioning, just as any other living being does when it comes out of shock. In the case of cancer, these cells simply begin to function like normal cells again. Yet as amazing as this outcome is in and of itself, sometimes something even more important happens. Because healing is simply the inverse of wounding, sometimes these cells get an amendment added to their wounded programming.

Translation. Sometimes, in addition to these cells coming out of shock, they get programmed with an additional instruction which comes into play only if and when these cells experience the painful cue again. What is this new instruction? It is simply that even if these cells experience this cue once again, they will not become cancer because they will immediately come out of shock.

This new learning, which I call, "tempered consciousness," allows these cells to remain conscious even in the presence of the originally devastating stimuli, and this restoration to healthy programming is what true healing is. Anything less is simply symptom elimination, or what I call, "damage control."

What happens, then, to people who appear to have been healed but who later relapse? Those who relapse after having their symptoms abate have simply experienced damage control; in essence, they have been temporarily relieved of their symptoms. This differs markedly from people who have had their cells reprogrammed. People in this later group will never will relapse.

Has This Story Just Shocked You?

Admittedly, what I have just told you is a big gulp to swallow, and many people, on hearing this story, go deeply into shock. If this is you, please remember, I am only trying to stimulate your vision of life and by doing this, teach you the Shaman's wisdom. More so, I simply hope that by introducing you to the Shaman's wisdom, that I will stimulate your conscious ability to love. After all, this task is my chosen profession.

In fact, you might try to see if I have actually succeeded in doing this here. You can test this by seeing if you can now picture my story in this new light. You can test this for yourself by seeing if you can visualize these cancer cells as baby cells which have become overwhelmed by the intensity of an experience and so, have lost their ability to hear their next instruction. In other words, see if you can now see these cancer cells as cells which have just been triggered into shock and so, have lost access to their ability to differentiate and to self regulate their growth.

The loving and conscious perspective here, then, is simply that imperfectly administered chemotherapy and radiation kills baby cells, cells which deserve loving interventions, not war-like devastation. And the cells' misbehavior, the cancerous growth, or what we call, the symptoms, is not the wound itself. The actual wound is the wounded learning which these cells became programmed with, which, when cued into action, causes these cells to involuntarily respond, blindly and illogically, to certain overwhelming but otherwise ordinary life situations.

How do these ideas apply to wounds in general?

Regardless of what form symptoms take, whether they seem primarily physical, or primarily spiritual, the essence of all wounds is that some certain part of a living being becomes programmed to regress to some prior painful event whenever it experiences what is otherwise an ordinary life event. Further, because this cell (or organ, or person, or country) experiences this event in shock, these cells or organs or people lose their access to their normal life skills and choices, no matter how "evolved" or asymptomatic they have become or appear to be. In effect, they become powerless to defend themselves or to even make loving choices.

What is most important to remember here, though, and what I have yet to directly state is, people who are both regressed AND in shock can not access the life skills they acquired after the time they were wounded. In essence, they return to the same level of maturity they had achieved up to the time of the original event. Further, no matter how hard they try, they will remain powerless to prevent this and so, regardless of how far people develop psychospiritually, until they heal, when cued, they will still regress, and they will still go into shock. Most important, the greatest loss they will incur during these regressions will be their conscious ability to make loving life choices.

How, then, does Vision Heal and What are BLocks?

Remember I said earlier, the way to access the Shaman's wisdom is with shamanic vision, what I call "emergence." These visions are what shamans use to heal peoples' wounds. How, exactly, do these visions heal?

First, let me tell you a bit more about what healing is. Healing is simply the act of revisiting the instant in which the wound first occurred and becoming holistically conscious (conscious with both head and heart) while in the presence of the original stimuli. In a sense, all that happens is that the person re-experiences the stimuli which originally shocked him or her, but this time, they experience it consciously; meaning, they do not go into shock this time. And like consciously witnessing how a slight of hand trick is done, once a cue is witnessed in this way, these cells or organs or people can never be "tricked" by it again.

What I mean by this is that, once a magician shows us how a trick is done, no matter how rapidly he or she does this trick, we will always see the ordinary nature of they are doing. And we will never again see it as something magical. And this same thing happens to people when they heal. During the healing process, they simply re-experience the originally painful slice of life, but this time, consciously. Once witnessed consciously, like the magician's trick, they see this slice of life (and only this slice of life, not the whole event) as the ordinary life event it is. Once this happens, this cue, for all intents and purposes, simply resumes its ordinary status.

Most important, once people heal, they will permanently retain this ability to experience the cue consciously. In other words, they will retain this ability to consciously witness this particular life event, the one which, prior to healing, had been putting them into shock. More important, this means they will now have the ability to consciously experience this and any similar life events with love. (Part of the nature of this ability to experience love consciously, by the way, is the kind of forgiveness which occurs from healing, the kind which requires no will nor further effort to experience.)

One More Healing "Vision"

Yet one more way to understand the healing process is to use a metaphor to explore the idea of wounds. (Please notice that a metaphor is a vision.) Know that what I am about to say repeats some of what I have already said. But despite the fact that some will see what I am about to say as redundant, others will see it simply as blessed repetition.

Also, please know that what I am about to say is not meant to offend those loving people in the medical profession. It is only meant to be a commentary on the word, medical.

To begin with, there are basically two ways to see peoples' "wounds," from a loving perspective and from a medical perspective. From the medical perspective, then, our wounds are something "bad" about us, an ugly part of ourselves we need to alter and get rid of, preferably, as quickly and as painlessly as possible.

This, by the way, is why, in the official lingo, medical professionals (including most doctors and talk therapists) call wounds, "pathology." Even the word, "pathology," sounds ugly, doesn't it? Who would want to keep their "pathology," or in other words, their suffering; their pathos.

So, from the medical perspective, ore wounds are something ugly. But from the loving perspective, however, "wounds," painful though they may be at times, are actually something we can experience as "a good part of ourselves," if we can see them as the parts of us which need gentle attention. (Giving this gentle attention, by the way, is a shaman's specialty.) Seen in this way, our wounds are not something "to get rid of" but rather, they are the very things which direct us to where we need love the most.

Seeing wounds as the things which direct us to "where we need love the most" is why I call wounds, "BLocks." Actually, the word "BLocks" is a contraction of the phrase, "Being Locks."

Why call wounds, "Being Locks," or BLocks for short?

Because, I believe all people are born with a totally "unblocked" ability to experience love; a holistic skill to "be" ourselves and to live life as "loving beings." However, as we age, we each experience life events at times so painful that our ability to consciously experience life gets wounded in places. In other words, our access to the inner pathways which carry love in us becomes blocked. (Incidentally, many people, including many healers, call these pathways, "consciousness.")

From the loving perspective, then, these painful events are what "wound" our ability to love each other, because they BLock our ability to access what makes us "loving beings."

What exactly is the nature of these "wounds?" To begin with, each of our inner pathways have protective fuses installed in it. These fuses blow when we experience too much of anything, including when we experience too much love (for instance, have you ever had a nice person overwhelm you with kindness?)

And when one of these fuses blows, we need to step back from what we are experiencing and allow the fuse time to reset.

Further, during this time, while we wait for this fuse to reset, we can literally see and even know that painful things are happening right in front of us and yet not be able to stop them or even leave the scene. Like when we fight with the people we love the most and afterwards, can not understand why we did it or even why we could not stop ourselves, especially "when we knew better."

How, then, do wounds occur? Wounds occur when we experience events so harsh that they not only blow our fuses, they damage our fuses. These "damaged" fuses never do reset, no matter how much time passes. As you might guess, the majority of these damaged fuses happen quite early in peoples' lives, although some of us have fuses damaged later in life as well.

The point is, these "damaged fuses" are what "BLock" our ability to experience love. This state is similar to the way that damaged electrical fuses would block the flow of electricity into a home. Our BLocks literally keep us in the dark with respect to love, because they prevent us from seeing and experiencing the love which surrounds us each and every day of our lives. And even when we spend years trying to find love by trying to see around these wounds, unless we heal these Blocked pathways, they remain "BLocked," no matter how much we learn and no matter who we bring into our lives. This means the very love we need the most can be right in front of us and still, we will not see it.

Probably the worst thing about these "damaged fuses," however, has been that no one has consciously witnessed them before and so, for thousands of years, we have been blaming our struggles, and our wounds and suffering, on each other and on ourselves. And when we blame, we hurt. And hurt each other. And when we hurt each other, we suffer. And feel unloved.

People incur wounds, then, only when they experience moments in which they suddenly transition from a state in which they are holistically conscious to a state in which they are holistically unconscious. In other words, people get wounded only when they get startled and abruptly transition from hyperawareness to shock. Further, as they enter this state of shock, they go from a state in which they can access their ability to love to a state in which they can not. (This inability to experience love, by the way, is why many people describe being wounded as an overwhelmingly intense experience in which they went from heightened awareness to total aloneness.)

Also, in order for these experiences to actually "wound" people, they must cause the person to experience the transition into shock in a totally overwhelming and abrupt fashion. This startling change is actually what makes us vulnerable to wounding in that it allows the cue to be imprinted in our consciousness, in a similar fashion to the way a flashbulb imprints an image on a person's retina.

Healing, then, is simply the inverse of wounding, in that when people heal, they re-experience these painful events but stay conscious this time, thereby deprogramming the cues.

How do shamans apply this knowledge? In a very real sense, they simply remember that wounds are simply wounded visions. And that healing is simply revising these visions by consciously witnessing loving alternatives, the result of which is that these once painful cues become ordinary, even loved, life events.

Unfortunately, exploring the more pragmatic aspects of using shamanic vision to heal is far beyond the scope of the present article. However, since the relationship between vision and healing is so vital to healing, it is important that I at least restate this connection briefly, once more.

This connection, then, the connection between the Shaman's wisdom and vision is: that shamanic vision, the act of internally picturing, is the easiest and most direct way to enter the state in which we can heal. In fact, one of the most powerful ways to understand what healing is, is to say that healing is simply the visual discovery, internally, that you are not ill. Finally, the most commonly used way to refer to this state is to call it, trance. Thus, a major piece of the Shaman's wisdom is that, in order to heal, we must be in entranced by the experience.

A Brief Discussion of Shamanic Vision and Trance

I realize the word trance is another word which is charged for many. Here again, we see the prejudice against the Shaman's seemingly unscientific methods. Even so, if we look with loving eyes, we can see many instances of entrancing visions throughout our world.

For instance, those lucky enough to witness, in person, the cave paintings at Lascaux, France, often report they feel as if they have been transported into another time, entranced by the incredibly lifelike scenes which Paleolithic shamans painted there, some, more than forty thousand years ago. It may be, these life scenes represent one of the first true languages and perhaps, even one of the most pure.

Of course, many have recognized the artistic value of these paintings which, considering the evolution of European art, were far ahead of their time. But what is truly amazing here is that these shamans, some of which died some forty thousand years ago, still have the ability to affect people so far into the future, in that their visions continue to be able to directly communicate their experiences thousands of years later and with not one word being spoken or read.

Now, consider for a moment, what would happen if we were to ask the people who have personally witnessed these paintings to put their experiences into words. They would, of course, quickly realize how inadequate and stilted language as we normally use it can be. What words could they use to describe what they saw?

In truth, no matter how articulately they might write or speak, much, in fact, most of the power of their experiences would be lost. In truth, what they experienced probably could not even be put into words. In effect, then, a good portion of the power these shamanic visions have to affect us can not be translated into words, no matter who does the speaking or writing.

Even so, healers can and often do use words to create healing visions, if they know how to use words to create such visions. The perfect example of this experience is hypnosis; the manifest power of vision to create a psychospiritual journey.

Here, then, is the pragmatic application of the first of the shamans' wisdom; the state we call hypnotic trance IS the most direct way to enter the state in which we can heal. Thus, healers can use hypnosis to help people to consciously access the one place in which they can heal; the conscious intersection of the physical and spiritual worlds. Further, anyone who learns to use trance in this way will have the power to heal, given they know how to let love guide the visions.

Am I saying that healers need to be hypnotists, per say? No. Hypnotists themselves admit they do not know what hypnosis is nor why it works. And most hypnotists, like most scientific geniuses, never recognize the true scope of their power to heal, even those, such as the past life regression therapists, who actually do use vision to heal. Thus, like the great scientists and healers I referred to earlier, hypnotists also touch the shamans' great truth without ever fully recognizing what it is.

Here again, the scope of the present article prevents a full discussion, this time, of the practice of inducing trance states. However, a brief explanation and a few examples may suffice as a doorway into this aspect of a shaman's healing practice.

A Little About Trance

The first thing to know about trance is that trance states are ubiquitous; we have all been in trance states many, many times. In fact, all human beings, except for the autistic and those otherwise profoundly injured during birth, spend the majority of their first three to seven years entranced by everything they see.

Unfortunately, no one ever teaches us to pay conscious attention to this state of being, let alone, to value it. Of course, even without knowing why, we all feel attracted to beings who even look like they are in this entranced state.

Thus, even poorly painted scenes of children with wide open eyes cause most people to become entranced. (Ever notice the change in your own state of being when you witness one of these paintings? Ever wonder why they were so popular at one time?)

In fact, people have known about this property of eyes for thousands of years. For instance, women in Cleopatra's time knew about this power and used drops containing the herb, belladonna, to dilate their pupils, thereby mimicking the physical appearance of a person who is entranced. In fact, we even refer to this quality when we say wide eyed women are entrancing.

Not surprisingly, the most common experience adults have with being entranced is the state we call, "falling in love." Further, these entrancing experiences are trance whether we fall in love with a person or with a car, with a living being or with some other part of the divine Universe. In truth, regardless of who or what we fall in love with, falling in love is simply seeing someone or something while we are in a trance state. Why? Because trance just happens to be the only state in which we have a full and direct ability to see the beauty in what our senses observe.

My point here, though, is that we all have a great deal of experience both witnessing and being in the state of trance. Unfortunately, though, most of us have long since lost our conscious ability to deliberately enter this state.

Would you like to recover some of your ability to enter the trance state? A good way to begin would be to simply spend a little time watching normal four month olds discovering the world, paying especially close attention to their eyes. What you will notice is that each time they focus on something new, they become entranced by it; literally, they fall in love with whatever they see. In fact, babies fall in love with everything they experience. This is how they learn. (This learning is what I call holistic learning, and it is easy to see how markedly holistic learning differs from the simple acquisition of either mental or emotional information.)

Let me say this once more. Why do babies spend most of their time in a trance state? Because trance is the only state in which true learning occurs. In this state, babies have access to both worlds and both bodies simultaneously. This means they learn simultaneously with both head and heart in the same space and time. More so, this true learning is simply the experience of falling in love with anything or anyone.

The implications, here, are profound; true learning and learning to love are one in the same. If you would like to see this for yourself, please take a moment to explore this idea using the following vision.

Start by briefly closing your eyes and picturing yourself at any time in which you discovered something pleasant, regardless of what that something may have been. You may chose to focus on a moment of self discovery, such as when you first learned to spell your name, or you may choose to see yourself in a scene in which a favorite teacher is teaching you what is to become a treasured piece of your sense of how the world works. This second experience, of course, can happen at any age.

Perhaps you would prefer to picture yourself in an awe inspiring nature scene, such as standing on the ridge high atop the Grand Canyon for the first time. Or perhaps you could see yourself in the moment in which you first saw your earliest romantic love. Or your first child.

Whatever scene you chose to picture, if you can see it in a vision, meaning, if you can internally picture it AND if you can "walk into this scene" which you can do simply by naming the details you see in this scene, you will enter a state of trance. It is really this simple.

Want to learn an even simpler way to enter a trance state? Try using this quality of trance.

I have said that trance is simply the holistically conscious experience of internally picturing any scene, even one for which you can experience no visual information; e.g. being in physical darkness. An easier way to understand trance, though, is to know that being in trance simply means being in a state in which you ask no questions. In a sense, the questions and answers simply blend into one's experience, in that these questions and answers simply become "knowing" in the truest sense.

How do you enter this state of no questions? The easiest way is just to do anything which, by nature, precludes questioning, such as focusing on a physical sensation, for anything like a solid minute or so. Sensing your breathe is one way, the most common way people who want to learn to meditate are taught. These people are also taught to deepen their meditative experiences by simply picturing the breath. Thus, by picturing their breathe, they replace the normally constant state of internal life; questioning; with holistically conscious experience.

The point here is, no one can achieve a state wherein they experience no thoughts or feelings, nor would we actually want to. What we can achieve, though, are limited times wherein we replace our normal state of being, the questioning process, with a more primitive and directly loving experience; that of giving some part of your life gentle attention.

Let me state this idea once more. The easiest way to enter a trance state is to use any of the five physical senses and or any aspect of the spiritual-intuitive senses to sense what you see without interpreting what you see. This, in fact, is how I teach people who tell me they can not meditate to meditate.

Lastly, the most important thing to know about trance is that, regardless of how it is induced (e.g. shamanic vision, hypnosis, guided meditation, seeing great art, hearing great music, watching a little boy play with puppies, seeing a baby horse being born, etc.), that experiencing instants of being in trance is what heals people, if they can experience them while they revisit a wounding event.

An interesting side note about vision is that, although we rarely notice, much our language skills stem from vision. In fact, at one time, we were quite aware of this connection.

For instance, J. T. Hooker, in his book, "Reading the Past, Ancient Writing from Cuneiform to the Alphabet" (1990) discusses the idea that "pictograms were the first of the four forms of written language we developed. Obviously, the word, "pictograms" is simply a reference to the way we used to write out characters which represented our inner visions.

Thus, these glyphs or pictograms represented various aspects of peoples' real life experiences; objects they used, actions they witnessed, people they knew, etc. In a very genuine sense, then, these simple drawings enabled the authors to convey to their readers what the authors were envisioning as they wrote down their experiences.

Unfortunately, we never realized where the power in these visions was coming from and so, we continued to create languages which abstracted us from our experiences. In other words, by developing what we call, "higher languages," we became neutral, more detached observers of our own lives, if you will.

Please know, I am not saying that there has been no benefit in developing language. In fact, abstracting parts of life is a wonderful thing for the scholar, in that, there is a beauty in logic that is inherent, not artificial. However, what may well be heaven for the scholar is literally hell for the healer, in that no healer can heal while they are detached and neutral.

In other words, in order to heal, the experience of the healer and the experience of the wounded person must merge into one holistic experience. Here again, we see an essential part of shamanic healing practice, the merging of the healer and wounded person during healing.

So what made us fall in love with abstract languages anyway? Perhaps we did it because we fell in love with the beauty inherent in logic. Or perhaps we did it because we can use abstract languages to describe our every day life experiences while at the same time, being able to detach from the pain in these experiences. What is the real truth? Here again, we will probably never know.

Certainly, the shamans of the Lascaux caves knew about these truths, though, and through them and other shamans, we can regain the knowledge we have somehow, so sadly, lost; our awareness of the power of vision and its connection to healing. And although there is a beauty in the logic of the scientific abstractions which we daily substitute for our living experiences, healing medicine requires much more than logic and beauty. Healing and healing medicine must be a living, breathing experience and never merely an abstract, essentially dead and detached experience.

The butterfly and its spirit can not be separated without killing the butterfly. Thus, you can not heal a butterfly's spirit by dissembling its parts then reconnecting them.

The shamans sensed and valued this truth but never shared it. The scientists overlooked and undervalued this truth and shared about everything but this truth. It is time we learned to merge these two philosophical medicines by realizing that observations made in visions are the true route to scientific discovery, and at the same time, they are most direct route to healing wounds, to learning anything, and to loving ourselves and our world.

The "Two That Are One": the Foundation of the Shaman's Wisdom

It may seem anticlimactic, now, to discuss the two that are on after having made so many references to it already. However, this part of the Shaman's wisdom has many implications, a good deal of which are good information for healers to know, despite their having little or nothing to do with healing in the usual sense of the word. Let me begin with some evidence that shamans have long known that we exist simultaneously in the two worlds, meaning in the two that are one.

Like all cultures, ancient Egypt had its shamans. In fact, the Egyptian god, Horus, who was a prototype shaman, was said to have been given the essential task of all shamans: to teach humanity to see the connection between the two worlds, the connection between Heaven and Earth. There is even a glyph which is frequently seen in panels of Egyptian writings, "the Eye of Horus," which represents this exact idea; the idea that we acquire "holistic consciousness" by healing our wounds, wherein healing is becoming "holistic consciousness" (entranced) in an area of life in which you were once wounded (blinded). No coincidence, the glyph I have just mentioned is literally an "eye." (E. W. Budge, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, New York, 1967).

Another glyph seen frequently in panels of Egyptian writings is the ankh. In fact, Horus and the other Egyptian gods are often pictured holding an ankh, and when they are pictured like this, they are said to be carrying the key to worldly understanding; in ancient Egyptian culture, "the key to life." (G. and B. Schueler, Egyptian Magick, 1994)

What is relevant here is that the ankh, ancient Egypt's "key to life," is one of the few symbols to visually represent the two that are one, the concurrent intersection of the physical and the spiritual worlds. It does this by combining the cross, which traditionally represents "matter" or "the four elements," with the circle, which traditionally represents "spirit" or "the infinite."

A second variation on this theme occurs in the Taoist yin yang symbol, which represents the mixing, blending, joining, and yet remaining separate of the heavens and of earth, again, a symbolic representation of the two that are one. Here again, this symbol is considered to be the key to understanding and to experiencing life, in that one visualizes the two parts flowing into each other, a living, creative experience.

Yet a third variation on visual representations of the two that are one is the Celtic Cross, a cross on which the center of a circle coincides with the intersections of the four arms of a cross. Here again, we see a symbolic representation of the two that are one, with the cross, which represents the physical world, intersecting with the circle, which represents the spiritual world.

What we see here are just a few of the symbols which have been used by shamans in attempts to teach us to be consciously aware of the two that are one. In fact, the only way to become a shaman is by healing some incredibly serious personal wound. Why? Because it is only during such a healing process that we can become actually experience the two that are one consciously.

Fortunately, once learned, this information is never forgotten and remains as fresh at the moment of death as it was in the moment it was first experienced. Further, whomever learns of the two that are one is themselves inspired to teach this truth to others. This is why shamans often create visual representations of this truth; for us to know they meant for all of us to know this truth as well.

In other words, shamans create these symbols so that we can have ways to see the two that are one "in plain sight." Unfortunately, few people ever learn to see with this "plain sight," which is simply yet another way to say, to see without asking questions; to see through the eyes of a child; or in a shaman's language, to experience a shamanic vision.

My point here is that because the "two that are one" is the foundation of all we see and can not see, of all the shamanic principles, this principle is most important. In essence, it is foundation of all healing and of all learning, and of holism and of love itself. Further, it is only through consciously recognizing and utilizing this truth that we become holistic healers. We do this through the visions we administer with compassion and loving kindness (speaking of which, can you now understand what placebos are?)

Stating the Shaman's wisdom once more: for as long as we live in this world, we live in two worlds at once, in the physical world, and in the spiritual world. This means that for as long as we are alive, we exist in two bodies at once, in a physical body, and in a spiritual body, always in the same space and time. Further, because this is the true nature of life here on the planet, wounding always affects both the physical body and the spiritual body equally and simultaneously, and this equality and the simultaneous nature of our existence is the essence of true holism.

What follows, then, is that the only way to truly heal is to address both the physical body and the spiritual body simultaneously, which we do by revisiting those painful moments consciously. Anything less is like attempts to ride a seesaw alone; no matter how hard we try and no matter how knowledgeable and spiritual we are, we accomplish nothing.

In other words, because we can not address the two worlds separately (unless, of course, we kill the wounded person in order to do it), we can not expect to heal the physical and spiritual aspects of our wounds separately. This means healing efforts can not be summed.

However, if we know how to use the Shaman's wisdom, we can heal both bodies simultaneously. This wisdom is: that everything in our lives exists in the two that are one, and that vision is how we to access the two that are one.

This is the true alternative. This is the change of heart we healers make.

Steven Paglierani is a licensed therapist, teacher, and shaman, whose practice in Nanuet, NY, focuses on teaching people to love themselves and others. He can be reached through his e-mail address at

(To read a Dialogue I had online about Sum-ism and Holism)