REVIEW - Summer 2017
Shamanic Healing – Traditional Medicine for the Modern World, Itzhak Beery, Destiny Books, Rochester, VT, 2017, 226pp, $16.95.
As I began reading Shamanic Healing, I was stunned by the statistics. “the third leading cause of death in America is hospitals … mistakes and infections in hospital care [contribute] to the deaths of…between 210,000 and 440,000 patients each year … if you live to be eighty-five years old you will have a 50 percent chance of having diagnosable Alzheimer’s … one in forty children is diagnosed with autism … Fifty-nine percent of all Americans…are taking prescription drugs daily…15 percent of all Americans take five drugs or more each day … 10 percent of Americans are depressed and 18 percent suffer from anxiety.”
To the contrary, when Dr. Alberto Villoldo, a medical anthropologist, searched the rain forest of central Peru to find “the next big cure for cancer or dementia” for a Swiss pharmaceutical giant, he found no incidence of cancer, heart disease, or dementia.
Western medicine is a “sick-based model, profit-minded assembly line, speed-dating-like, impersonal” system that uses medicine “by trial-and-error methods.” Some treatments simply mask symptoms, and some medications cause toxic side effects that require more medication. As one doctor said, Western medicine “is treating the smoke and not the fire.”
Western doctors won’t ask “Where you are from, your emotional state, your lifestyle, your social and cultural beliefs, or what you eat…” They weren’t taught that the body is more than one symptom.
Shamanic medicine “sees the sick person as a whole complex environment and makes an effort to reinstate the person's overall health.”
We need to balance Western medicine with Shamanic methods. As Brazilian shaman Ipupiara explained: “Calming and balancing the physical and emotional bodies creates less opposition for the medicine, which allows it to work better.” This is called integrative medicine.
One thing Shamans do is tell stories, and Beery tells his story very well. I was so engrossed that I didn’t realize how much time had passed as I read.
Shamanic Healing is broken into four sections: 1) Beery’s journey and those who guided him; 2) What Is Shamanic Healing; 3) Healing Teachings, Ceremonies, and Techniques; 4) Healing Stories.
Beery’s journey is interesting, and meeting his teachers seemed somehow preordained.
An Ecuadorian shaman told Beery that “…the three most important principles of shamanic healing [are]: (1) be in balance with yourself, (2) be in balance with your family and community, (3) be in balance with Mother Earth … It is all about being in balance.” Simple, yet complex. I encourage you to pay close attention to this section of the book, as it explains where blocks to balance may come from and diagnosing and removing them so your energy once again flows freely.
In Part 3, Beery explains what a healing might entail, though each one is individual and geared to the client. He then goes over tips for self-healing.
Part 4 contains healing stories that are riveting. Although shamanic healing does not assign labels, the stories are organized into Western categories. It’s interesting how clients be-come their disease, as in “I am schizophrenic” rather than, “I am in an imbalanced state and want to change.”
Shamanic Healing – Traditional Medicine for the Modern World is an easy to read, easy to understand the book. I have recommended it to a few people who have an imbalance in their lives and are finding no solutions in Western medicine. I have also begun using some of the self-healing techniques.
Thanks to Destiny Books for sending this book for review, and thanks to Psychic-Magic for selecting me to review it.
- M. Lenahan
Itzhak Beery’s Shamanic Healing is a doorway into another world.
As someone who comes from a particular spiritual lineage, it was fascinating for me to gain entree into a different tradition. There was much kinship. We are speaking of spirit, after all! Yet shamanism is spirit filtered through a different lens. This is powerful cosmic connection, as felt and developed over centuries by indigenous Native American and South American cultures.
Author Beery’s shares his Shamanic journey. You are there with him during each meeting, each test and adventure.
I particularly enjoyed his description of a contest of strength with one of his Shamanic mentors. It was a battle for him rather than against him which drew a strength from him that he did not know he possessed. This and other stories feel magical, mysterious, special, otherworldly.
Equally fascinating is Beery’s description of the tools of shamanism. The sugarcane rum, candle, eggs, sticks and flowers are all implements of every day life, imbued with a spiritual purpose. Despite the simplicity of the tools, Shamanism offers healing on a profound level. Often it is used as a last resort, after all other resources have failed. As such, it proves to have many answers still elusive to modern science and medicine.
The final chapter of the book is dedicated to clients’ stories. One of the most moving was of a young woman who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. She lived at home with her mother. She heard voices and feared to go out alone.
Beery explains, “In contrast to Western medicine, traditional shamanic healing is not necessarily about curing someone’s symptoms or manifestations of illness. Rather, it sees the sick person as a whole complex environment and makes an effort to reinstate the person’s overall health.” He continues, “The Quechua strongly believe that all physical, mental, and spiritual problems are essentially the results of an imbalance in our energy bodies.”
Beery reframed the young woman’s ‘disorder’ as a talent.
Unlike Western medicine, Beery didn’t ‘pathologize’ or try to ‘fix’ this client. Instead, he gave her the tools she needed to accept and master her sensitivity. He explained it as a gift akin to his own psychic and energetic sensitivity. Within a few sessions she had blossomed into a different version of herself. She was newly confident and able to navigate the world.
As a healer myself, I know the power of reframing our so-called liabilities as gifts. I applauded this young woman’s transformation, and the many other empowering stories shared in the book. Equally moving were the many stories of soul retrieval. The shamanic approach to the inner child and trauma is profound. I can see myself adopting one of Beery’s prescriptions in my own work with clients. (Hint: it involves a doll. You’ll have to read the book!)
Other parts of the book felt more foreign to my experience. Some of the stories were pretty wild – possession, evil spirits, the red fox and the snake come to mind. Again, you’ll just have to read the book!
Shamanism is to be celebrated as a valuable answer to much of what ails us and what we lack in this modern culture.
I highly recommend this journey into shamanism. It is a rare treat, indeed, as most shamans eschew writing about their art. They believe that shamanism is something that changes in response to the client in front of them. While shamanism has a rich tradition, yet it remains improvisational, unpredictable and surprising. It is a living thing, many traditional shamans feel, not to be captured and pinned down in a book. As an outsider from another culture who was invited in, Beery provides an ideal outsider/insider’s guide to this mysterious and colorful world.