As I wrote in a newsletter a few weeks ago, I recently met a thirty-something friend-of-a-friend. He was a former investment banker and according to my boyfriend, graduated Valedictorian from a prestigious college–so, not really your typical hippie. So I was really surprised to hear that he’d recently gone to Peru, not just to hike the Machu Picchu, but specifically for a ritual with a shaman. Call it mystic healing, out-of-body experience, soul-searching, or a spiritual kind of therapy–what matters is that it really worked for him, and was nothing less than “life-changing.”
This really piqued my interest. Though I’ve never read (or seen the movie) Eat Pray Love, the idea of finding myself by “losing myself” in the wide beyond has a special appeal. Immersing yourself in lush colors, smells, and sounds of a foreign land, being guided by an old sage while feeling your spine melt down into a polished wooden floor of a holy shrine, and just maybe, leaving with [insert amazing insight I’ve yet to achieve], eyes both deeper and brighter than before? And henceforth, when people ask what did you do in ___, a mysterious smile lights up your face as you recall that unforgettable adventure? (Gives you sooo much street cred.) Yes please.
That sounds like a good fantasy, though I’m not really a shamanistic/pan-spiritual type of person in general. Disclaimer: I’m Catholic, but I don’t think it isn’t Christian to seek spiritual help through other means besides one’s religion. Without having experienced it, I think shamanistic rituals could provide similar comfort or soul-healing that one’s religious practice might provide. So I don’t think those two things are mutually exclusive, and that we can be open-minded.
Also, I’m a strict non-user of illegal drugs, and very reluctant taker of legal drugs. (I can barely bring myself to take cold medicine when I’m sick). While I am not endorsing drug use, some of these shamans use substances that have been traditionally used to bring trance-like state. So as with all things, proceed with caution, learn as much as you can, and make sure you don’t have regrets.
1. Ayahuasca in the Amazon jungle: This is what my friend’s friend above did in Peru. Ayahuasca, meaning “vine of the soul,” is a brew made from Amazonian plants that shamans have used for hundreds of years to induce otherworldly experience. Yes, this substance, though all-natural, is hallucinogenic and illegal in the U.S–but not in countries of its origin such as Peru and Brazil. Ayahuasca is also more than just a hallucinogen–it’s used for medical healing in these communities for ailments as varied from cocaine addiction to cancer. Furthermore, ayahuasca prompts greater sensitivity to body’s natural serotonin, and has been acknowledged as “sophisticated and effective way to treat depression” by medical experts. As for the actual out-of-body experience, you will likely see, hear, and feel things that are profound, terrifying and exhilarating…just read this account on The National Geographic.
2. Tibetan Shaman in Pokhara, Nepal: If hallucinogens scare you (me too!), here’s a ceremony that precludes that. It’s still not completely unintimidating, however. In Tibetan refugee camp in Pokhara, Nepal, Tibetan shaman heals by becoming possessed by one of Tibetan Buddhist deities. You can read about this American woman’s fascinating account on her blog and even watch the video.
3. Balinese healing in Indonesia: our own Jess Davis wrote about this one before. In this ritual, you may be tapped gently by the healer for physical ailments, and then given spiritual guidance and even some life predictions for those of us also wanting some soothsaying with our healing. 🙂 Read Jess’s story here.
4. Arunachala Mountain in India: One of the most ancient and sacred sites in India, this red hill is said to be the manifestation of god Shiva, with many reported miracles. It has many shrines and caves where mystics and monks meditate still to this day. It is said to have a strong magnetic energy which can make pilgrims dizzy, as they circle around it to cleanse themselves of negative energy and bad karma–not just of this life, but even from past lives. If you have felt as if battling against ill will for some reason, try coming to this “Magic Mountain.” You can also stop by the ashram nearby.
Are you intrigued by any of these? Have you ever had a mystic healing experience?
Related: How a Balinese Spiritual Healer Brought Me Back to Life
5 Travel Ideas to Cure Your Life Crisis
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Photo: Howard G Charing via Flickr; Dhilung Kirat via Flickr