Archetypal & Shamanic Work

It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. —Joseph Campbell

Archetypal and Shamanic Work

I offer shamanic work for those who are drawn to it. 

  • Shamanic practices are powerful, effective tools because they work with us at a core level, literally helping us realign our energy, beliefs and the architecture of our being with our true nature. 

As in any healing modality, this work involves a partnering of practitioner and client in the recognition and shifting of painful, dark or limiting aspects of yourself while helping your empowered, true self to come alive. It is no quick fix with the wave of an enchanted eagle feather! As on any healing road, it involves a dedication to your true self as it unfolds. 

  • It is a practice where you balance the connection with yourself and all of creation with the ability to “do the laundry” with dignity, humor and discernment. It is a way to find the practical tools to uncover your destiny and live it. 

Shamanic Work Can Help You:

If this aspect of healing feels right for you, we can add these tools to your exploration of aliveness. Shamanic practices can help you shift old blocks and live from your true self: 

  • Tap into the satisfaction of being part of the web of life 
  • Create and use sacred space 
  • Work with your energy and chakras 
  • Reclaim lost parts of your aliveness through a soul retrieval 
  • Discover the archetypes of your power animals and spirit guides 
  • Release old energies that are no longer useful – typically called extraction work 
  • Help make important shifts in your life 
  • Learn to “journey” to your own inner landscapes 
  • Use the power of storytelling to transform your life 
  • Find and feel the support of your "village" – family, friends, mentors 

What is Shamanism?

Shamanism is an age-old way of healing that is also modern and timely: it is a practice of deepening into our humanity for the good of ourselves and our community as we learn to walk our path with heart and wisdom. 

  • It is the belief that there is a connection between ourselves, our loved ones, our community and the planet. 

People, birds, stones, plants and the earth itself are all part of an interconnected web of life.

Each piece of the web affects and is affected by the others.

This way of looking at life acknowledges equal value in all things. We practice being in balance and harmony with all aspects of life. 

  • Shamanic practice is a dedication to learn to listen deeply to our intuition, trust ourselves, and learn to be stewards for all things. 

How does shamanism work?

Shamanism as a healing practice works at two levels: the “energetic” and the “mythic.” I can assist you in all of these areas: 

  • The “mythic” aspect of healing is about shifting from the old tired-out, limiting story we may tell about ourselves to a new, lively, beautiful story of the unfolding of our spirit and life-energy. At the “mythic” level, we actively re-write our scripts and find beautiful and practical ways to live from our true selves. 
  • The “energetic” aspect of healing: Shamanism works at the level of energy with tools such as energy work, extraction work, finding a power animal, and soul retrievals. 
  • Energy work and the chakra system: When you learn to recognize and flow with your own energy, you feel more balanced. 
  • Extraction work: The release of energies that are no longer useful to you is typically called extraction work. 
  • Power animals: When you work with a power animal, archetypal instincts and gifts that have been dormant within you and which are represented by that animal awaken to empower you. The archetypal animal is your ally and guide to show you aspects of yourself you may have never guessed at, but which can help you live more fully. 
  • Soul retrieval work is about energetically retrieving your wholeness.

What is a soul retrieval?

When we go through a really painful event, sometimes a part of ourselves will “split off.” Some common reasons this happens are: Abuse (sexual, physical, emotional), physical trauma (car accidents, falls, operations), abandonment, lack of support in significant times of our life like coming of age and rites of passage, abandonment, the death of a loved one, co-dependent relationships, betrayal. Our responses to soul-loss can be the same things that brings us to psychotherapy. 

  • As a result of this original wound, we keep “attracting” similar people, situations, accidents over and over – even through many lifetimes. 
  • The limiting beliefs that we formed at the time of the original wound keep us from living our true potential. 
  • The good news is that these beliefs or “contracts” can be rewritten and our natural gifts and vitality returned to us. 

For example, if someone was abused as a child, she learned that she had to be small to stay out of her parent’s angry radar. An important part of her, her big, powerful self, left her. At the time letting go of her power and staying small was the best – and likely the only – way to manage a difficult situation. In the shamanic view, that power is a soul fragment that split off. Without that strength she might feel depressed, anxious, or get in unhealthy relationships. 

The good news is that the strength and gifts of that part is waiting in all its completeness to be reunited. 

  • The healer goes to where the soul part has been waiting, and with the help of her own and the client’s archetypal guides and power animals, and the willingness of the client, brings that part home. That is the energetic shift. 
  • The accompanying step is the creation of the “new” story of the client’s unfolding journey. The client then actively learns to recognize and use the soul part’s gifts in her daily life. 

What is working with the shadow?

"The place where light and dark begin to touch is where miracles arise.” –Robert A. Johnson 
“Well if I exorcise my devils, my angels may leave too.” – Tom Waits 

Our “persona” is the way we wish to see ourselves and to be seen by other people. It is the way we adapt to our particular culture. But we also have shadow parts: 

  • Our “shadow” refers to the parts of us that we split off from our persona; indeed we forget about them or fail to see them. They are the unowned parts and qualities we think we don’t or shouldn’t have (the dark shadow) or aren’t good enough to have (the light shadow). 

We may tuck our dark shadow away, but it possesses energy and will not be denied. When we aren’t conscious of it, it has a way of slipping out: it can create havoc, confuse us, cause us to act destructively, or diminish our life force. Accidents, illnesses and crises can be the shadow asking for our attention – for us to have the insight to transform ourselves and bring healing and beauty to our lives and our community. 

We often unthinkingly “project” these unowned or “dark” parts onto others when we aren’t conscious of our shadow. This happens when we automatically view other individuals or groups as bad, weird, wrong, evil, odd. Our enemies and antagonists often carry our shadow for us. 

We also have "light" shadows

This happens when we disown our own wonderful qualities, and let other people “carry “ them for us rather than experiencing them ourselves – qualities like creativity, leadership, and spontaneity. People who have these qualities may be among our friends, lovers, partners, teachers. 

  • It can be even harder to own this “gold” in ourselves than to own the dark parts – to call forth a dormant and unused part of our wholeness. 

We must be willing to look in unlikely or unusual places for our wholeness

  • The shadow holds an enormous force of our creativity and instinct. With conscious work we can claim these powers. Owning our shadow helps us find fuller access to our creativity, expression, intuition, openness, and vitality. 

Some ways we can work with the shadow

  • Dreamwork (a place where our shadows freely talk) 
  • Using mandalas and mandorlas (the place where two circles intersect) 
  • Active imagination 
  • Shamanic work 
  • Drawing 
  • Movement 
  • Visualization 
  • Singing 

My Path to This Work

My interest in this form of healing started when I was a young child. I felt tuned into the health and needs of myself and my family through dreams and visions. Sometimes I would know things before they happened. I lived in a beautiful woodland, and I count this place as “family” too. It gave me help and taught me many things about beauty and connection. 

Back then there wasn’t anyone around who could help me recognize my gifts and help me learn to develop them. But I kept tapping into my own intuition and that lead me to the Bay Area in the early 80s. Soon after my move to San Francisco, I visited the eastern Sierra. I was astounded – I had been dreaming about the landscape around Mono Lake since I was a small child without ever having seen it! I felt like I had come home. 

  • I love this work because it is as real as a stone you can hold, as practical as finding the right tool for the right job, and as deep and meaningful as a heart flowing with love. It’s satisfying, it’s intense, it’s profoundly human – and I am called to it body and soul. 

My journey of healing has been to connect and study with mentors, healers, nature and my own archetypal guides to use the gifts I have been blessed with. I have studied shamanic work and energy medicine with teachers and healers throughout the United States and in the shamanic-energetic realms. The lineages I draw from include: Alberto Villodo and the Four Winds, Angeles Arrien, Emily Conrad, Peter Gold, Stan Grof, Joan Halifax, Michael Harner, Bear McKay, Vicki Noble and Brant Secunda.

Using the Words Shaman and Shamanism

What do we name ourselves as practitioners of archetypal and energetic healing? I use the words shaman and shamanism to refer to myself and my healing practice. These are ancient words for an even older practice that spans virtually all the epochs of human existence. I want to be sensitive to the culture that offers these specific words. I want to be true to the universality of healing practices and use a word that is woven into the web of life. I’ve given a lot of thought to my personal decision, and thought I would share my perspective. 

The specific forms of healing I have chosen to learn draw from healing practices that are archetypal rather than tribe-specific. I believe that healing and medicine arise both from human experience, and from culturally specific practices (which are also human, of course, but integrally woven into a specific peoples’ lives and stories). Culturally specific practices need to be honored and used only where gifted by a healer from that culture. 

After a great deal of thought I have chosen to use the word shaman as a descriptor. I have had transpersonal experiences since I was a young child that have lead me specifically to be called to this path and fulfill this calling, and which I honor by engaging in them. On a gut level this word has always resonated with me. Indeed, it is this word that called me to dive in and set upon this path a long time ago in a bookstore where I found Joan Halifax’s book Shamanic Voices calling out to me from the shelf. 

The word shaman comes from the Tungus-speaking peoples of Siberia. This word began to come into common parlance in the western world in the 1960s when Mircea Iliade and other anthropologists described their observations of the Tungus people’s spiritual and healing practices. There began to be an interest in the western world for healing methods that were based upon ancient—and inherently human—practices that intertwine the human psyche, archetypes, stewardship of the planet, and “non-ordinary” states of consciousness. Personally, it feels to me that a magical door opened in Siberia to a world wracked by two wars that had engulfed the planet and that was hungering for raised consciousness. 

I feel that a shaman or medicine person is one who continues to practice ways to be able to recognize and move the ego aside in order to access transpersonal states for the benefit of healing. In these states the shaman offers him or herself up to Spirit to be guided in healing practices for a particular client and for community. I believe that the healing a client wants and is ready for is available to them, often on a not-so-conscious level, but one that their spirit is prepared for. I am the midwife that helps that birth-into-new-being take place, but ultimately they are the one doing the work, and having to continue to do the work once they go home. 

I don’t know why this oddball gift was given to me! But it was, and I honor Spirit and my own higher being by using it to the best of my ability. Recently someone asked why I use the word shaman and practice shamanism if I am not an indigenous person. I want to honor the cultural practices of peoples by not claiming them and using them. I also want to honor what has been given to my spirit and heart and hands to do. 

Medicine woman, midwife of the spirit, healer—these could be names I use (and sometimes I do call myself a Medicine Auntie) but I prefer the word shaman. I have my particular offerings in that regard, which are specific. It would be weird to me for a doctor not to want to call him or herself a doctor. I feel it appropriate to name myself as something and own that, while understanding my specialties and limitations (ie., when to refer to others with different specialities). 

I thank the Tungus people for this word shaman, and no, I have not personally asked them if I could use this word that is probably pretty sacred to them. I want to continually understand my blinders regarding privilege. And, in a way that I can’t really put into words, that is the word that Spirit wants me to use. 

I shared my thoughts with one of my dear shaman mentors, Jon Rasmussen, or Shaman Jon. The comment he added to my thoughts was really helpful for me, and clearly put into words what I have been feeling. I will include it here. Jon says, 

“There is a word or set of words in every language to describe shaman, just as there is a word in every language for Soul, spirit, God, etc. And at the same time, since humanity is now such a global village, it makes sense to use a single word, and I feel there is no better choice at this point than shaman. Even my Q'ero teachers (who in Quechua would call themselves paqo for men, and laika for women) refer to themselves now with the word ‘shaman’ because of its accepted universality. I still have a note with Don Francisco's phone number which he gave me where he wrote, ‘Francisco, Chaman Qeror.’ The people of Tungus can be proud that we consider the word in their language to represent that role across the globe.” 

So it is in the spirit of universality, and with respect to the Tungus people, and to our huge global village, that I dedicate my practice as a shaman

Blessings, Kathleen 

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