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Siberian Shamanism Ė the differences practicing in the West
There are many differences treating patents here in the West Ė I live in London, UK Ė and healing people in Siberia, where I was taught.
Here people are faced with many, many specialists in conventional and alternative healing. Often shamans in the West are the last resort for patients who have tried quite a few other very different therapists.
When I was apprenticed in Tuva, Southern Siberia, I was taught to expect a complete range of ailments to treat. But it was important to look past the initial complaint to detect other underlying conditions.
Curing the problem is one thing, my teacher would say, but if you can, try to give your client a way of avoiding the same problem coming back.
If you are interested in really helping the patient Ė rather than earning money when they keep coming back with the same condition Ė then it makes sense to help them look ahead.
Because Siberian shamans use a lot of different methods Ė including extra-sensory powers, herbal remedies, astrology Ė it is a holistic approach to healing, so itís not surprising we take after-care seriously.
I remember one woman coming to see me in London. She had a persistent pain in her jaw. She had been to her dentist several times, and to hospital, but she couldnít get rid of the pain. The specialists couldnít identify where it was coming from.
I was able to get rid of the pain in one session, but she was an anxious woman, and I knew that if she didnít deal with her extreme anxiety, the pain would soon return, for it was a by-product of that anxiety.
So I gave her a few exercises to do, and a few suggestions about avoiding stress.
Some patients see the sense in this. They understand the connection. But others do not. In the West, many clients have an expectation that the healer will deal with the problem and that will be it.
They donít see that how they go about their every day life could be a serious determinant factor in their health. And surprisingly many are just not interested in making changes in their lifestyle to avoid stress.
There is a big set of differences between clients in Tuva, and in Europe. For a start, everybody in Tuva knows exactly what a shaman is and what is involved.
They also know that shamans work with very powerful energies which can be dangerous if not harnessed properly. In the West Iíve known clients who have dabbled with a drum at home, thinking that shamanic practices are softly benign and safe. Itís just as well they didnít succeed in connecting with dark energies.
Itís rather like juggling with razor-sharp knives Ė if you donít know exactly what you are doing, youíll get hurt.
Another difference is that a much higher per centage of Western clients suffer from anxiety. It is a major difference I noticed once I began practicing here. And it is a hard one to deal with. If an individual is addicted to anxiety-creating behaviours, her or she will find it very difficult to change.
Most people will know someone who rushes and fusses all the time, 24 hours a day - even when they are doing things which are beneficial. They will be late for their yoga or tai-chi class. They will struggle against the traffic, and struggle to find a parking space, and they will arrive late and flustered, expecting to be calmed and instantly sorted.
Even organising a healthy diet can be a worry for some people. For they will worry over labels, worry about ingredients to the point of creating anxieties which undermine their healthy choices.
The anxiety levels in the UK also seem higher than in Italy where I practiced for a year. And the Italians seemed more prepared to take on board that they have some responsibility for avoiding stress.
Some of the answers are so simple. A lot of it is a question of balance. Simple common sense. Except I remember my father telling me: ďThe trouble wií common sense, son, is that itís no sae common.Ē
Siberian shamans deal with a wide range of problems, including clearing peopleís homes of built-up negative energies, but most treatments of individual illnesses entail extracting negative energy and putting in positive energy.
While thatís true here, too, the additional problem of a constant background anxiety usually has to be addressed. The client has to be helped to find a balance. And that does not mean extreme diets, extreme exercising, nor an extreme lifestyle.
You donít have to transform yourself into an athlete, or a hermit-monk. It is possible to achieve a balance while continuing to have a job, to be a mother or father, son or daughter.
It doesnít have to take up all your time.
And you donít have to become non-smilingly serious.
Some of the most jolly, fun-loving and cheery people I worked with as a musician, were Tibetan Buddhist monks. They are always laughing and playing practical jokes on everybody.
If you think this is leading up to a mystical revelation, youíre wrong. We all know the answer already. Itís inside us. Itís something weíve heard from our parents and grandparents.
Everything in moderation. Itís so much easier to follow than the ever-changing dietary advice you get about NOT eating this or that, and how you MUST eat thisÖand you MUST do that, but NEVER do this.
Sometimes you may need to rush, but when you donít, then take it easy. Fit in some exercise. Make time to do things which make you happy. Make someone else happy. Have a drink, if you feel like one. Or two. But not so many you fall over.
As you become less anxious, you will become stronger too, and more resistant to the negative energies being put out by all those people who just donít see it.
And it will be easier to treat you, too.
About the author:
Mackenzie Blyth was offered an apprenticeship by a senior shaman in Tuva, Southern Siberia where he was playing with local musicians in the mid 1990s. He kept returning to study and in 2000 he became an initiated shaman. He is based in London, UK.