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When Shamanism Meets Western Medicine

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When Shamanism Meets Western Medicine

If you mixed the ivory towers of Western medicine with the back jungle villages of the native shaman and shook them up with Pop Rocks, you’d wind up with something that starts to resemble the way I work one-on-one with patients.

At least that’s what other people who hear me talk about my work tell me.

My Work is Shamanic? Say What?

For at least a year, people have been telling me that the way I practice medicine is very shamanic. Having never studied anything about shamanism, I’ve been a bit baffled by these comments since what I do when I’m with patients is purely driven by gut instinct.

Here’s an example of the kind of thing I might do:

The Patient

A woman who was abused and neglected throughout her childhood – let’s call her Glory – has grown up feeling unsafe in the world. She has been professionally trained to carry a gun and can knock a dangerous person flat on their back with one twist of an arm in the blink of an eye. As a child, she learned never to turn her back to anyone.

She has multiple mysterious medical problems. A disorder that saps her blood supply and requires “infusions” which I don’t understand as a physician. An inability to get anything inside her vagina. A debilitating combo of obsessive compulsive disorder and PTSD.

But she is done. Glory is ready to heal these bad boys. She is committed and will do anything in order to LIVE.

After I did two extended sessions with Glory that included atypical techniques like direct eye gazing, intuitive guidance came to me in the form of an image of this woman cradled in my arms, with her back to my chest - turning her back to me.

So we did it.

The Session

Before she came, I blessed the space with sage, lit a candle, asked God and the angels to be with me and to protect the sacred space, and did a clearing meditation to get my own ego out of the way so the Divine could use me as a healing channel.

Then I created the nest by laying a yoga mat on the floor and covering it with soft blankets. Leaning back against a wall, I became the container, and with a pillow on my abdomen, I invited Glory to lean back against my body with her head resting on my chest and her back to my belly.

She raised an eyebrow at me and grudgingly knelt down, hesitating before turning her back to me and assuming the position.

I asked Glory to close her eyes, put a hematite stone shaped like a heart in her hand, and led her in a grounding meditation that tapped her into the core of Mama Earth and invited the earth energy to fill her body and connect with Divine love. I then turned on music, rang chimes, anointed her forehead with an aromatherapy blend I had mixed especially for her, and lay my hands upon her in various locations – her forehead, the tops of her arms, over her heart, moving between locations as the spirit guided me.

As I held her in my arms, I felt her body begin to lightly twitch. The twitching was followed by something that more closely resembled convulsions. I breathed through it, visualizing all the while that her demons were coursing out of her body and down the redwood roots coming from her body down deep into the core of the earth, where they were vaporized.

As her body quivered, I kept my hands on her, feeling an electric charge in them that was almost, but not quite, painful. The whole time, I was sending it energetically back to the earth.

Finally, after quite a while, her body was still. I keep my hands on her, running my fingers through her hair, keeping my hand over her heart in silence.

And then I guided her back into her body, turned the music off, rang chimes, and invited her back into the chair, where we processed together what had just happened. She had seen an image of her abusive mother in front of her, and she felt exhausted, but free.

The Aftermath

Glory emailed me a few hours later to say she couldn’t get out of bed. She felt like she’d just been run over by a Mack truck. I told her she had just run an energetic marathon and that her response was to be expected. I encouraged her to sleep, rest, get a massage maybe.

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.  She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.  Lissa blogs at and also created two online communities - and She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.


+ add your own
2:21PM PDT on Sep 20, 2015

Thank you Lissa.

12:45PM PST on Mar 4, 2013

Thank you

11:33AM PDT on Jul 12, 2012

Louise Hay has many books on how to heal spiritually and how each disease has an emotional root cause and if you have read any of her books you will see they are scary accurate!!!" A-Z Healing" I think it is called now is great!!! (I have an older version.)

11:53PM PDT on Jun 19, 2012

I think that, having had soul retrieval sessions, that this kind of work is essential to help the Self heal, and Western medicine does not address it, nor does traditional psychotherapy. To have a person like you with skills in both areas would be go for it!!!

4:42PM PDT on Jun 19, 2012


5:07AM PDT on Jun 19, 2012

It works, but will insurance cover it?

12:25AM PDT on Jun 19, 2012

What I miss most about not living in Scotland is the great abundance of alternative healers and therapies that co-exist with traditional medicine. These alternative therapies are wonderful in helping to heal the patient in their entirety : holistically. I applaud you and other shamans and alternative healers for bringing about a healthier, happier and more whole world. Thank you for the article.

12:07PM PDT on Jun 8, 2012

Thank you Lissa,

There are several Doctors and many Nurses out there waking up to the larger perspective on the nature of Disease and Healing. I know one MD that has a full shamanic practice while he is the Chief Medical Officer of one hospital and is in charge of the Rehab Wing of another where he is allowed to openly use shamanic methods..

You have a gift, find shamanic training with someone to allow you to integrate the best of Western medicine with the Shamanic Path. Open to guidance from spirit and trust that guidance, as you did working with "Glory".

You were guided to a form of what I call compassionate Depossession. You were shown a way to release Attachments that could have been suffering beings, memories of trauma, thought forms that held her trauma, and yes, you could have begun a soul retrieval process.


Kent Dorsey
Center for Shamanic Healing

11:03PM PDT on Jun 5, 2012

I think that modern medicine needs to reconnect with the medicine of ancient times. I believe that our ancestors were more in tune with how nature actually works than we are today. We need to re-affirm the credibility of our ability to heal on an energetic level. Modern medicine needs to be less skeptical of the ancient arts.

1:19PM PDT on Jun 4, 2012

Shamanism is the oldest healing tradition. It appears that all the Human race has learnt via the various healing traditions. seems to be integrating into ONE

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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