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It has been said that a shaman can be defined as a wounded healer… although there is more to being a shaman or shamanic practitioner, such as:

  • the process of how that wound is healed and how that wound becomes transformative
  • the relationship between the shaman and their community
  • the relationship between the shaman and the Self
  • the ability to journey into the worlds of non-ordinary reality to communicate with spirit allies and ancestors to receive wisdom, information, and Healing for the Mind, Soul, and Spirit for one’s self and for one’s community

Shamans experience all that.  They have worked with their shadow side — their emotional and/or spiritual wounds, their pain, their darkness — and have come through that to a place of being whole, healed and transformed and to working beyond the Self, to being in service to their community.

But yet … who amongst us has not been wounded?

And who amongst us has not healed… and been transformed as a result of that healing?

In her 2011 book Be Your Own Shaman, Deborah King said,

“We must learn how to uncover, recognize, and release the shadow aspects of ourselves, as they block our ability to receive and transmit the light that needs to flow through us.” (p. 158, Be Your Own Shaman).

So in some ways — many ways — we can be our own shaman.

The Gift of Spiritual Wounds

However, alongside the many who embrace their healing journey, there are those who do not begin the healing process:

They may be caught in the victimhood of their wound, which is reinforcing the negative beliefs they hold about the Self.

They simply may not know where to begin.

They may be engaged in spiritual bypassing. Robert Augustus Masters, in his 2010 book Spiritual Bypassing: When Spirituality Disconnects Us from What Really Matters, describes it as:

“Spiritual bypassing, a term first coined by psychologist John Welwood in 1984, is the use of spiritual practices and beliefs to avoid dealing with our painful feelings, unresolved wounds, and developmental needs. It is much more common than we might think and, in fact, is so pervasive as to go largely unnoticed, except in its more obvious extremes.”

So not only might they consciously choose to not work with their pain or shadow side, they may not even acknowledge it exists.

Ignoring one’s pain and wounds may give the individual a false sense of security — and identity — for a while, but ultimately the choice serves to stymie their growth and prevent them from stepping into the highest possible manifestation of the Self.

And as painful as a wound can be, consider the possibility that a deep wound is in many ways a gift, an opportunity. It can give us:

  • the opportunity to connect with our shadow side and draw it into the light…
  • the opportunity to learn how we became wounded… and learn how to not be wounded that way again
  • the opportunity to examine the beliefs and actions that no longer serve us… and release that baggage
  • the opportunity to adopt new beliefs and actions to will serve us in the future.

The Beauty of the Imperfect

Are you familiar with the Japanese art of Kintsugi (aka Kintsukuroi)?

Kintsugi is part of the wabi-sabi philosophy, where beauty is found in broken or old things, where one embraces the flawed and the imperfect.

In this ancient art, broken pottery is pieced back together with a special lacquer mixed with gold or other precious metals, drawing attention to the fractures and crack. The original break and the repair become part of the new whole.The imperfection is honoured and celebrated, rather than hidden or disguised. It is brought into the light.


Kintsugi bowl, repaired with gold

And that us what healing — and shadow work — can do for each of us. We may have been in pieces. We may have been fractured and broken. But through healing our wounds, we can receive and channel the light again. We can be functional. We can serve in new ways.

We can be even more beautiful for our wounds.

As a child, I was entranced by the fictional story of Pollyanna, the orphaned girl who could find the sunshine on a cloudy day, or something to be grateful for even in unpleasant situations. Pollyanna did not engage in spiritual bypassing, just the opposite. She found the beauty in the imperfect, in the shadows, and — in the novel — changed the lives of all around her as they too learned to look at life through a different filter.

And perhaps Pollyanna was a sort of shaman too. She was most definitely a healer of emotional wounds for others. And, at the end of the story, after a catastrophic fall leaving her paralyzed and despondent, she heals her own emotional wounds and finds a way to move on and embrace life once again.

The healing process is not instantaneous… but it can be rewarding.

It is transforming.

It is alchemy.

It gives us a new starting place.

One can be one’s own shaman or one can choose to work with light workers, healers and therapists to start the journey.

Begin the process of Self-Healing


Image by John Hain

Start by connecting with your shadow side. We all have one. Again, we all have one!

And accept that it is okay to have a shadow side. No judgment. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It just is.

Sometimes we recognize our shadows by what triggers us, those uncomfortable feelings of anger that arise when seeing someone else displaying our shadow. They can be a reflection of our Shadow side.

Some shadows are buried deep in protective layers, strong subconscious beliefs that are directing or influencing our choices without our awareness.

Use whatever techniques work for you to connect with both your Guides and your Wise Inner Self, so that you can commit to the process of peeling back the layers of Shadow, bringing them to the light to be acknowledged and transformed by the light.

You could:

  • Meditate
  • Journey
  • Dream
  • Write
  • Sing
  • Draw
  • Paint
  • Dance
  • Drum
  • Pull tarot or oracle cards
  • Work with your chakras
  • Reflect
  • Journal

Whatever technique works best for you, use it to explore the shadows that come into your awareness. If this is a challenge initially, do consider working with a healer, coach, therapist or lightworker to support you on your healing journey.

On your own, or with a healer, examine the beliefs those shadows held and where they came from and what happened in your life that caused that belief to emerge?

Consider these questions:

  • Does that belief still serve you?
  • Is it a truth or a learned belief?
  • What has that belief prevented you from doing or being?
  • Who would you be without that belief?
  • What could you do without that belief?
  • What belief would serve you better?

Examine the history those shadows held. At times we are dealing with memories of painful or traumatic events of which we had no control. They happened. We did not cause them. They are not beliefs, they are facts.

And then:

  • Release, release, release.
  • Create new affirmations or beliefs to fill the void of those you have released. (PSYCH-K®️ can be a very effective way of releasing and balancing those beliefs)
  • Practise new patterns of behaviour.
  • Give gratitude to your Guides and your Wise Inner Self for bringing the shadow to your awareness for transforming.