Soul Healing

The Work of the Shaman

By Cyndi Dale
[Energy Work]

As healers, our roots lie in the shamanic universe. Regardless of our professional healing style, we’re always, if perhaps unknowingly, drawing on shamanic traditions.

What is shamanism, and why is it so vital for the contemporary bodyworker to understand and reflect its basic concepts? This topic is so important that I’m devoting two articles to it.

In this piece, I’ll briefly explore the definition and practice of shamanism, revealing its emphasis on soul healing, as well as two particularly important ideas: karma and dharma. I’ll then share a few tips to help you easily integrate your shamanic aptitudes into your client sessions. In the follow-on article, I’ll delve into additional shamanic mysteries. In the end, I think this knowledge will add significant depth to your client routines.

Shamanism Explained

Even though the subject of shamanism can sound esoteric, the fact that you are a healer suggests you are actually a shaman of some type and variety. After all, shamanism is the oldest system of healing across time, which means your practice is based on it.

Shamanism is based on the knowledge that a challenge must be tracked to its origin within three basic worlds of existence. These planes are frequently grouped as natural, human, and heavenly. However, each of these domains is multidimensional. The shaman’s job is therefore to serve as a mediator between these layers of reality; this is why shamans are usually called “priest-healers.” What’s common among all three planes of existence? The fact that our soul dwells within each.

We hear the word soul a lot. Sometimes it’s used glibly; other times, seriously. We speak about the hurt or joy in our soul, our soul’s attraction to another’s soul, and movies and songs that touch our soul. We hardly ever define the term, however; maybe because it’s not politically correct to cross the wavy and vague line between spirituality and religion.

In this article, I’m not stepping onto a religious plateau. The idea—and reality—that every living being “has a soul” is a universal truth. There are few people who won’t acknowledge that there is something ineffable that makes them unique. And most of us apply that sense to all natural beings. As a bodyworker, it’s important to realize that almost any issue presented by a client involves the soul, which holds that person’s immortal and mundane secrets.

Of course, you get to interact with your client’s soul in the way that is comfortable to you and your client. I’ll give you a few tips about how to do this in a bit. But for a moment, I’m going to digress and tell you what it’s like to receive a healing from a shaman whose community supports the fullness of shamanism. 

A Shamanic Experience

I’ve studied under—and been treated by—shamans around the world, in sites including tropical jungles, dry deserts, windy savannahs, and barren mountaintops. The first time I worked with a shaman was decades ago in Peru. The event was incredibly memorable.

I’d traveled from Minneapolis to Miami, where I met my group, which was organized by a Hopi shaman. After a night in a rather luxurious hotel, we jetted to Lima, and then waited six hours for our puddle-jumper to Iquitos, a town on the Amazon River. The small plane was four hours late, and very loud; I couldn’t help but wonder if it was losing an engine.

Landing at about midnight, we had another leg to endure. We boarded a bus that was missing most of its floorboards and took off for our hotel.

The builders must have run out of money before completing the hotel, as every room lacked the upper third of its concrete walls. Not only could mosquitos buzz their way into our abodes with great zeal, but the roosters, which cheerily announced dawn from about 2:00 a.m. onward, didn’t grow silent until about a minute past the sunrise.

The next morning, we embarked on the Amazon, carefully seated on a long wooden canoe powered by one small motor and several men with long oars. After a few hours, we pulled up on the bank of a village, the face of which consisted of a tiny store selling cigarettes, flour, and Coca-Cola products. I surmised that the 100 or so people who lived in this area either grew or raised their own food or went hungry.

The shaman’s assistants unloaded the live chickens and sacks of rice that would become our basic sustenance, while village boys tossed our backpacks on their shoulders. Off we went, trekking the two hours through the jungle to the shaman’s headquarters, bugs as thick as the overhead canopies, which were replete with chattering parrots and monkeys.

We then met the shaman. The small, 80-year-old man grinned at us, a large carved pipe in his mouth. Over the next two weeks, we participated in ceremony while he danced and prayed. As do most shamans in their natural habitats, he began our midnight sessions by first entering a trance state, employing tools like drumming, dancing, herbs, and plant medicine. While in this altered consciousness, he was able to perceive the truth of our souls, employing his “spirit eyes” in a transcendent manner.

We all sat in a circle around him, and he would stop, one person at a time, and relay the cause of our negativity, no matter the presenting symptom. To obtain his insights, he discussed matters with various otherworldly beings from among the three domains, but always brought his diagnoses down to our soul. He would then make recommendations, including changing diet, trying a new medicine, or working through spiritual issues.

Everyone on that trip experienced intense transformation, including myself. What did the shaman suggest was the root of my unhappiness? He stated that my soul remembered living on the “Blue Planet,” a place of brilliant blue and white light. There, I swam with other beings in a sort of liquid light. All was goodness. The shaman said many of my this-life issues were caused by the fact that I missed this once-experienced bliss. Ultimately, my shaman said, I had to alter my outlook. If I experienced connectivity once, I could do so again. After taking responsibility for my present-day attitude, my business took off, and now I’m nearly always joyful.

Karma and Dharma

Whoa, you might be thinking. How am I going to bring up past life issues with a client? You don’t have to. You don’t even have to believe in past lives. What’s important is to realize the nature of the soul is of a universal essence that connects to anywhere and anything. That’s true of your soul but also your client’s soul.

When working with the soul, a shaman basically reduces issues into two main types. They figure out what might be karmic rather than dharmic.

Karma and dharma are Hindu terms that describe philosophies that appear in most cultures; as such, these principles are imbedded deeply within each of us. They also reflect normal therapeutic and medical concepts. Karma describes events that enable us to learn a lesson about love. Most typically, our karmic issues are the result of harmful experiences that have become the basis for physical pain, dysfunctional beliefs, and frustrating emotions. Don’t I sound like a therapist talking? Physicians also understand that underneath many presenting symptoms and disease processes is stress; between 75 and 90 percent of all medical office visits are stress-related.1

The bottom line is anything that a client hasn’t fully embraced and dealt with is stored in the bodily tissue. It is often these challenges you are addressing during a bodywork session. Even those of us who believe in past lives assert that problems carried in from other time periods land within today’s body, which is the vehicle for not only physical but also spiritual improvement.

The soul isn’t only a carrier of karma; it also conveys dharma, which is the affirmation of truth. Fundamentally, dharma is the intelligence of goodness we already carry and express.

Dharma reflects the highest principles of love. Just as karma is carried within the soul, so is dharma. In fact, dharmic wisdoms are continually available to the corporeal or mundane self and should be the determinant of our beliefs, emotions, and activities.

Some dharma-based knowledge comes naturally to our soul. Other aspects are acquired through what we learn when dealing with our karma, or life’s hard-knock lessons. Optimally, when interacting with a client, we want to assist them in finding the place of love within a challenge, as my jungle shaman did for me. By helping me recall a dharmic or near-perfect experience of love, he revealed my bottom-line karma or problem—my attitude. I was left empowered, however, once I understood I was able to choose how to better approach my life, regardless of what I’d gone through in this lifetime—or any other, for that matter. 

Putting It Into Practice

How do you draw on these shamanic basics during a client session, especially in ways that aren’t too esoteric? Following are a few tips that could boost your client’s ability to connect with the inner workings of their own soul and enhance their healing interactions.

Use the Word “Soul”

It’s OK to sprinkle the word soul into a conversation. Keep it simple. For instance, you can say, “What might your soul contribute to this conversation?” or “How would your soul want to handle this pain?”

Employ Substitute Terms

Other labels for soul include higher self, inner self, wise self, and inner wisdom.

Reference Karma—Subtly

Remember, karma constitutes issues requiring a deeper understanding and clearing to enable transformation. If appropriate, allow space for the client to reflect on their history. For instance, when massaging a particularly painful or stuck bodily area in a client, you can ask, “Do any emotions surface when I do this?” Or if performing an intake, you might query, “Is there an event that might relate to your symptoms?” If the client brings up a childhood issue, provide support and perhaps refer them to a professional therapist.

No Guilt or Shame

The idea of karma is often misapplied to deliver guilt or shame to the person who’s hurting. In my profession as an energy healer, clients frequently ask me questions such as, “Was I abused as a child because I mistreated someone else in a past life?” or “Do I have to stay married to a mean alcoholic because I had a drinking problem earlier in my life?” We never ask for someone to wound us, nor do we deserve it. In fact, a person’s body frequently won’t clear the symptoms resulting from being harmed or oppressed until they are told it wasn’t their fault. Love requires the release, not reinforcement, of shame. Reassure a client that no matter their “karma” or the unloving events that have affected them—or that they have committed—healing is their birthright. The lens of love should always be shaped by the light of forgiveness.

Allow for Dharma

Every soul carries spiritual wisdom that might need to be unlocked. Encourage the client to draw on their own inner sage. For instance, if they are focused on a site of pain, request that they connect with their soul or wise self to get a sense of how to best approach any related situations or causal issues. Reassure them of their intuitive perceptions and natural goodness and suggest that they trust these faculties.

Ask Permission to Share

If your shamanic abilities are really turned on and you believe you’re receiving spiritual input for a client, gently probe for the client’s willingness to hear your reflections. Always ask whether they would like you to share what you’re intuitively hearing, seeing, or sensing regarding their deeper issues and knowledge.

Above all, know that you can always connect with your own soul during a session. As presented in the beginning of this article, if you’re operating as a healer, no matter your methodology, you are a working shaman. Enjoy the brilliance of your own deep heart, and illuminate, inspire, and intuit the truth. Who knows what help you might receive from each of the three worlds?


1. WebMD, “The Effects of Stress on Your Body,” last reviewed December 10, 2017, accessed March 2019,

Cyndi Dale is an internationally renowned author, speaker, and intuitive consultant. Her popular books include The Subtle Body Coloring Book: Learn Energetic Anatomy (Sounds True, 2017), Subtle Energy Techniques (Llewellyn Publications, 2017), Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Chakras (Llewellyn Publications, 2016), The Intuition Guidebook: How To Safely and Wisely Use Your Sixth Sense (Deeper Well Publishing, 2011), Energetic Boundaries: How to Stay Protected and Connected in Work, Love, and Life (Sounds True, 2011), The Subtle Body: An Encyclopedia of Your Energetic Anatomy (Sounds True, 2009), and The Complete Book of Chakra Healing (Llewellyn Publications, 2009), as well as nearly 20 additional books. To learn more about Dale and her products, services, and classes, please visit