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Articles    H4'ed 6/3/10

Modern Day Shamanism

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I do meet spirits. Some come often. Some come only once. All have interesting perspectives. I listen. I take their guidance as best as I can. I try to do what they tell me. I work with energy. But also I try to help people change their stories. I endeavor to empower them to own their work and to continue it without me. I don't know what to call this. Why do we need so many labels anyway? Couldn't I just call what I do, "something". I could say that I know a lot about something. On the other hand, I don't know anything about everything. I know nothing about some things. Couldn't I just do what I do without labels? That's possible in traditional society and in small towns. I could be "that guy", the one you call when you're suffering more than you wish. That would be preferable to me than being a shaman, or a psychiatrist, or a healer. I'd just like to be "that guy". Could we have an "Institute for That Guy Studies"? Could we offer a Master's degree in Something?

The problem here is accountability. If I'm "that guy", I'm accountable to others in my village and tribe. If I'm out in the modern world and charging for my services, I'm accountable to "the powers that be". I have to have some assurance that I'm not hurting people. So I need a label. I need qualifications. I need to assure others that I'm not harmful. That's what changes everything. Anonymity is the birthplace of hierarchy. When no one knows my name, I need labels and certifications and regulations. It's when everyone knows my name, that I need none of this. Traditional healers have that luxury. They don't need to be called shamanic practitioners, because everyone who matters knows who they are.

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Lewis Mehl-Madrona graduated from Stanford University School of Medicine and completed residencies in family medicine and in psychiatry at the University of Vermont. He is the author of Coyote Medicine, Coyote Healing, Coyote Wisdom, and (more...)
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