Sounds True Inc
pbk 272 pp
Reviewed by Marian McCain
Does the word ‘shaman’ conjure up for you the image of some mysterious person at the edge of a remote tribal village somewhere, muttering ancient incantations over sticks and stones and chicken entrails?
Although such practices might seem arcane and strange to us, they make sense to the people whom the shaman serves—perhaps even better sense than the practices of our doctors, psychiatrists, gurus and priests make to us. Moreover, since in most indigenous wisdom traditions there is no discontinuity between body, mind and spirit, the guidance and healing the shaman offers are holistic, unlike the carved-up system of specialties we have in our Western culture. Regardless of what ails you or worries you, at any level of your being—practical, physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual—the shaman’s house is a one-stop shop.
Sadly, many people rely on ‘experts’ for their physical and mental wellbeing and pay scant regard to their spiritual wellbeing, but I believe increasing numbers of us nowadays are going beyond merely seeking remedies for whatever ails us and taking responsibility for our own wellbeing at all levels. We are reading up on theory, studying our own bodies and minds, learning our own needs and rhythms, following healthy lifestyles and—realizing that in fact all boundaries between body, mind and spirit are artificial—embracing the holistic concept of wellness. Though we still appreciate the miracles of modern medical science and technology, quantum physics helps us to realize what the shaman knew all along, which is that there are no actual divisions. All is one. Material solidity is an illusion, everything in the Universe is pure energy and disease usually begins as a disturbance in the energy field long before the first symptom materializes.
In this book, well-known Western shaman Sandra Ingerman explains the key role that shamanism plays in any society. It is always about understanding, connecting and reconnecting, and healing by restoring whatever is out of balance. It teaches, she says, that everything on Earth is interconnected. Any belief that we are separate from other life forms or living beings—such as the Earth, the stars, the wind—is purely an illusion, and it’s the shaman’s role in the community to keep harmony and balance between humankind and the forces of nature.
Ingerman not only totally demystifies shamanism for the lay reader but shows how its various tools can also be used as a self-help toolkit by individuals. We can use it to bring our own mind body and spirit back into internal balance, provide our lives with new meaning and hope, bring ourselves back in balance with the rest of Nature and, most importantly of all, do our part in healing our damaged Earth.
And when it comes to our dreams for Earth healing, there is yet another kind of balance to be found. Ingerman echoes another wonderful Western shaman—the late Angeles Arrien—when she reminds us of the need to balance our yearning with detachment. The dance is to engage in creation and dreaming practices while letting go of the attachment to the outcome at the same time. You will need to be persistent and hold the vision of what you want to see for yourself and what you want to see for the planet while also surrendering the outcome to spirit.
Many of the practices are simple but their effects can be profound. Such practices involve, for example: breathing, dreaming, imagination, music and drumming, journeying in trance states to other realms and finding our guidance in many places that we were never taught to look for it, e.g. in meaningful communication with the more-than-human world.
I sometimes have problems with ‘spirit world’ terms like ‘elves’ and ‘faeries’ and ‘devic realms’ but I deal with this by remembering that imagination is a powerful force and if it helps you to visualize the energies of the natural world in those whimsical forms, well that’s fine. I take from books like this what I need and there is enough in this one to make it worth my recommending. Having experienced sessions with an expert shaman, studied under two others who are world-renowned and practised shamanic techniques myself for many years I can certainly attest to the potency and value of the methods described in this book.