The Accidental Shaman: Journeys with Plant Teachers and Other Spirit Allies - Howard G. Charing 2017
The Colors of Infinity: Becoming Cognizant of Bioenergy Fields
There will come a time when a diseased condition will not be described as it is today by the physicians and psychologists, but it will be spoken of in musical terms, as one would speak of a piano that was out of tune.
Following the cosmological singularity of the big bang, the subatomic particles (energy) formed hydrogen, the most basic and profuse element (matter) in the universe. The hydrogen coalesced into stars as a result of gravitational forces. All the other elements were created from the eventual explosion of the stars. These elements combined, creating new and increasingly complex elements, such as carbon, which formed the fundamental constituent of biological life. We are the product of energy manifested as matter, and humanity is a part of the evolution of the universe. This is not a metaphor.
Two concepts at the heart of increasingly popular holistic healing methods are that the mind, body, and spirit are connected and that the body is a projection of an energetic field, or template. This is not exactly groundbreaking news or even New Age; shamans have understood these concepts for thousands of years. This holistic perspective is not shared to any degree by modern medicine, a reductionist system that establishes distinct specializations and discrete functionality.
The mind-body-spirit connection basically states that the body is not a machine assembled of individual components. Anything that affects a person at any level also affects the total person. The holistic approach takes into account all the factors in the treatment of illness and maintenance of well-being. In shamanism, the fundamental principle is that our field of energy determines our health and well-being. This bioenergy field*7 is strongly influenced by our mental state and emotions because they are part of the complex geometric pattern of this field. When we experience anguish, distress, or suffering, or enter into a negative and downward spiral of thinking in our lives, it manifests in our energy body as dissonance, discordant vibrations in the patterns of the field, which will eventually manifest in the physical body as illness, disease, or dysfunction. There is also an external factor; invasive forms of energy in our field are another major cause of illness. This is the why shamans heal the physical body through the energy field. This body of practices is known as shamanic extraction healing.
This intrusive energy scenario is not in any way a fanciful notion. We feel it in our physical body, and we use linguistic metaphors to describe it. We can feel “stabbed in the back,” “chilled to the bone,” “a pain in the neck,” or that “something is eating away at me.” We instinctively know when people hold a grievance or have an indignant feeling that the world has wronged them; these people have “a chip on their shoulder.” It is not just an idiom; it can be sensed as a presence or felt as a weight on their shoulder. An underlying energy accompanies stinging, stabbing comments from others. This is an intrusive, penetrating energy, creating dissonance in our field. If this energy is allowed to flow and release, all is well and good. If it is blocked or repressed, then we can feel unwell, and later, physical symptoms can occur.
From the shamanic perspective, we all have an energy body, although in the West this concept is neither accepted nor understood. When people are angry or envious, or have a pervasive bad attitude, they direct not just verbal harshness but also antagonistic energy to others without realizing they are doing it, thereby inflicting harm. If you are aware and working to achieve a higher consciousness, it is vital that you cultivate the quality of self-discipline. I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t be angry with someone—that is nonsense and a denial of your humanity and honest emotions—but you need to control the raw energy of anger and not direct it at another. Develop techniques that allow you to safely dissipate or transform this energy. Forgiveness for yourself and the other party is a powerful way to release this discordant energy. I related in the first chapter that I had a massive chip on my shoulder; I was filled with resentment for the screw-up that caused my accident in the elevator. It was only when I gritted my teeth and with all my heart forgave the people who caused the accident through their carelessness that my life changed and the way to healing and new adventures started.
Homeopathy is one of the longstanding holistic healing methods that embody the concept that the human energy body is the causal template for physical health. Homeopathy is based on the principle of “like cures like,” so symptoms are treated with a highly diluted dose of the applicable compound. The dose is so highly diluted that eventually there may not even be a discernable physical trace of the original compound remaining in the medicine. The medicine contains the energy pattern of the original substance, and it is this energy that influences the human energy body to resolve the dissonant pattern. This in turn enables the body’s innate healing faculties to clear the physical symptoms.
I am very enthusiastic about the efficaciousness of homeopathy, and I believe that energy medicine such as this is the medicine of the future. Over ten years ago when I became ill, I went to see my doctor, whose eyes grew wide when I showed him the problem. He said that it could be a serious problem and that it was urgent to get tests at the hospital. Instinctively, I was unsure that it would be a good idea to go down that route, so I contacted a friend, Lorraine Grayston, who is an outstanding homeopath. The following day she came by with another friend, Dawn Russel, who was studying with her. They asked me a range of questions about this illness, and each round of questions became increasingly focused. One of the last questions was “Have you been eating more oranges than usual?” This question really grabbed my attention. Although I did not usually eat oranges, I had recently started to drink about three liters of orange juice a day. When all the questions were completed, I received the medicine. In three days the physical symptoms and the fever had completely vanished, and I was fully fit again. I know firsthand that homeopathy works.
Perceiving Natural Energy Fields
There are a number of ways to perceive the energy field.
1. To begin this interesting exploration, rub your hands together for a minute. This rubbing stimulates the energy field. Then place your hands in front of you with the fingertips a few millimeters apart over a dark background. Gently look at the spaces between the fingertips, and you will start to see a milky wisp flowing in the spaces. This is your bioenergy field. Focus on this while moving your fingertips very slowly apart, and you will see the field expand to fill the space. Once you perceive this, close the gap slowly, and then again gently move the fingertips apart. Repeat this cycle a few times and then you will feel the “magnetic” attraction between the fingertips. Maintaining your attention while carrying out this exercise will stimulate your energy field. You may also have a sense of this, very much like a tingling around your body.
2. Place your hand, palm facing downward, just above the underside of your bare arm to avoid touching the hair. (The underside of your arm should be facing up.) Move your hand very slowly along your arm, and then slowly back. Repeating this a few times stimulates the energy field. Once you feel a tingling or heat emanating from your hand, look at your arm against a dark background, and you should perceive your energy field. The more you do this, the easier and clearer it becomes. You can also practice this with a friend.
3. Try this with plants: Place the palm of your hand just above a leaf, and direct a warm feeling toward the plant. This stimulates the plant’s energy field. Gently move your hand above the surface and edges of the leaf against a dark background. You may feel a tingling sensation in your hand as you do this. It is easier to carry out this exercise with fast-growing plants such as tomato or mint.
We can open up and expand the ability to perceive energy by seeing in a different way. In effect we return to seeing the world like we did when we were children. Unfortunately, due to the everyday hustle and bustle of our lives, many of us have become sensory indifferent, or even fatigued. It is if we have lost our passion with the world and have severed the magical connection we once had. However, when we were young, everything that we saw, heard, or felt was a totally new sensory experience. If you have watched a young child look at something new, you will understand this.
You can expand your sensory perception further by simply looking at things in a different way. Play with this like it is a game. For example, go out for a walk and look at a tree that you have looked at previously, and instead of just seeing the form of the tree, observe the spaces between the branches and the leaves; alter your view as if you were seeing the tree for the very first time. Look at familiar things in your house this way, or turn things upside down. When you look at photographs or paintings, take in the small details, the shapes between the forms. Get a different perspective. Change the way that you see things. A friend of mine, the artist Slocum Hewson, told me that when he teaches people to draw an object he gets them to turn the object upside down, and people who are convinced they cannot draw find themselves drawing the object perfectly. It is this deconstruction of and eventual disengagement from a preconceived paradigm that liberates energy, erases set boundaries, and liberates dormant creative power.
Another method is to develop an idiosyncratic, abstract view. Normally we see from our subjective perspective, our individual frame of reference. It is our naturally evolved cognitive way since the beginning of our species. Taking an alternative visual perspective does not happen of its own accord; it needs to be practiced. To do this we turn our point of view around in our imagination and project it on the object itself. So, for example, instead of seeing an apple fall off a tree, turn it around and see it from the viewpoint of the apple. Maybe you perceive that from the apple’s perspective, it appears that the ground is rushing up toward it. You can also adjust the scale and go microscopic. Imagine a bee landing on a flower. How does it appear from the bee’s perspective? How does it appear from the flower’s aspect? Although it is a quirky notion, we often do this kind of “view changing” looking out of an airplane window, watching the landscape from the viewpoint of a bird.
These are fun things to do, and, more important, it is a useful practice to expand your sensory perception; it is a way to see the world in a new way, just like a child.
If you want to experience the difference between natural bioenergy fields and human-made, or mechanical, energy fields, place the palm of your hand above the cable of a domestic device that has been turned on. Here the difference is very noticeable; the natural field has a subtle flowing quality, while the device has a relentless, unvarying pulsation, a mechanical characteristic.
Practicing sensing energy fields is the first step to working with shamanic extraction methods. Extraction is a traditional way to address invasive and misplaced forms of energy, the precursors of physical illness in the human energy field.
Working with natural objects augments the shamanic extraction practice. I often use feathers and stones. A feather is a precision instrument in detecting anomalies and dissonance in a person’s energy field. However, these natural objects are not just “tools”: there is an ineffable spiritual aspect to them. I learned from the Amazonian shamans in the practice known as the diet that a natural object is not a separate thing that you use as a tool. It possesses spirit, so to work with natural objects, it is important that you have a positive attitude and good feelings toward them. You have to enter into a partnership with them. If you do this, you will find that they will work in conjunction with you and guide you.
First, you will need to obtain a feather. This is not always straightforward because the feathers you find on the ground are usually in poor condition unless there has been a recent molt. One suggestion is to get in touch with a bird sanctuary to ask about the possibility of acquiring a suitable feather. An exchange, such as a donation to the sanctuary, is an equitable action. I have found that the flight feathers, or remiges, of raptor birds such as owls, buzzards, hawks, eagles, and condors are suitable for this (see color plate 3).
Important note: In the United States it is illegal to possess (under any circumstances) raptor feathers without a special permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As an alternative, turkey feathers have a firm edge to work with, and it is not illegal to possess them. In the United Kingdom it is permitted to own feathers of wild birds if you have proof that you have lawfully obtained them. I strongly recommend that you verify the regulations and laws in the country or region where you live to make sure that owning feathers is not an offense.
When traveling, be circumspect about the selling techniques used by local people to encourage you to buy artifacts such as feathers. On a recent group trip to Peru, I cautioned everyone about this, with particular emphasis on buying feathers. The following day, one of my friends in the group proudly showed us the condor feather he had just purchased. He said that it was okay and pointed out a white line on the edge of the feather. The man who had sold him the feather informed him that the white line indicated that the feather had fallen off naturally. I smiled at this and said, “He would have told you anything, even that the bird had alighted in front of him, plucked the feather out with its beak, and presented it to him on a silver platter.” My friend got the message and realized that buying feathers only encourages the hunting of these magnificent birds.
Removing Blockages from the Energy Field
You will need the assistance of a friend, who will pretend to be the client. The client lies down on the ground while you scan his or her energy field.
1. Very slowly move the feather approximately eight to ten inches above your friend’s body. Start at the head and scan down to the feet. Place your maximum attention on the feather’s edge as you carefully move it along. As you do this, you may perceive the bioenergy field in distinct ways. For instance, the edge of the feather could vibrate when it moves to a position above the blockage. You could also receive an image of the nature of the blockage in your “mind’s eye” or have a different sensory feeling.
2. Observe the movements of the feather. At times it may suddenly rise or drop. Make a mental note of the locations in which those movements occur. Complete the circuit of moving the feather along, noting other “blocked” or “stagnant” areas. Then talk to your friend about the results of the initial scan and get some feedback. Did the blocked or stagnant locations or the locations where the feather made a noticeable vertical movement resonate with the client? Was there a correlation between the areas with the most movement and the client’s sense of stagnation or blockage? In all likelihood you will be told that there is a problem where you noticed movement in the feather, maybe soreness, pain, or swelling.
3. Once you have established the main area to focus on, start at the head, slowly move the feather to the target area, and direct your attention there. Close your eyes, and allow your inner vision to inform you. Let whatever impressions come to you percolate and take shape. Then slowly lower the feather and let it glide along and around the area. Soon you may have identified the shape of the dissonance; it may be a depression, a protuberance, or simply a flat area that seems strange.
4. Trusting your intuition, begin to release the blocked area. As you place your attention on the blockage, sense that its tactile texture becomes gradually less hard and increasingly softer and more malleable. Continue this until the block has dissipated and the energy feels consistent with unblocked areas. Again, discuss this with your friend, share your experience, and get feedback. How is your friend feeling? Is there a difference?
Take a short break, and then continue working with your client, or swap roles.
It is also possible to directly extract physical intrusions (not energy intrusions) without physical contact using a feather. On a shamanic healing practitioner’s course some years ago, a participant hobbled into the hall. She said that in the previous week, a large thorn had got buried in the sole of her foot. It was fortuitous that this was the shamanic extraction module and that I had my feather box with me. With the group witnessing this “demonstration,” I examined her foot and found that the thorn had penetrated deep inside and was not visible. I worked with the owl feather and sensed the intrusion. In my mind I moved the edge of the feather underneath the thorn and started to slowly lift it up. It took about thirty minutes and required intense concentration.
Eventually, a dark spot appeared on her foot. As I continued to lift the intrusion, the thorn began to emerge, and when it stuck out sufficiently, I used tweezers to gently extract it. The thorn was more than an inch in length and curved like a hook. Here the feather was a conduit for the spirit healers. This happens when you establish a partnership with the nonphysical aspect of the feather. At times you can perceive or feel the spirit of the bird assisting you in this work.