Healers of the soul, bean feasa, medicine people. western shamanists, animists and certain energy workers often speak of “medicine” in ways that are sometimes confusing to us. Usually when we think of medicine we think of a prescription a doctor gives us or an over the counter pharmaceutical to ingest. So what does it mean when we hear our alternative health practitioner speak of the medicine of a cherry blossom or of a garden snake? What healing alchemy could they possibly mean?
Many alternative health and spiritual practitioners work with energetic fields and spiritual consciousness, bringing harmony and balance to our lives with the aid of our natural world. Examples of disharmony in these realms would be the tension one can feel in a room after an argument has taken place or a sense the person we are talking to isn’t being “present”, or has a jittery nervous energy. In these cases, the medicine is not drawing on a chemical compound interacting with our physical body as with medical medicines, but instead it draws on the energetic and spiritual qualities for an ability to restore a healthy balance within our emotional, spiritual and then in turn, sometimes our physical health improves as well.
Let’s think of some of the qualities cherry blossoms bring us. Softness. Beauty. Sweetness. Gentleness. They are delicate and uplift our spirits after a long hard winter. These qualities make for a sweet remedy to any residual hard feelings after an argument. A shamanist when seeking to bring balance may have the spirit of cherry blossom come through to be applied in a variety of ways. We can bring a bouquet of cherry blossoms into our home, swish them in our water cup to create a flower essence, we can sit under a tree while the breeze snows petals around us on the wind or even visit the spirit of cherry blossoms in a meditation or shamanic journey.
Now what about a garden snake? What healing qualities might be found here for the ungrounded, anxious person? Let’s think about snakes for a minute. They are belly to the earth grounded, their skin shedding makes them experts at releasing what they have outgrown, they are acutely aware of their surroundings with a tendency to rest in complete stillness and without wasting energy on useless movement. These aspects all would help balance out an ungrounded person. If a garden snake came to the shamanic practitioner in their journey and brought these medicines, they could be integrated over time by practicing these qualities, perhaps by walking barefoot or lying on the earth, finding ways to release and let go of situations that bring anxiety, and taking time to be still in the sun.
Other times we may hear spiritual healers speak about “being in the medicine” and again this has a different meaning. In this case it is usually a reference to undergoing a process of deconstruction followed by growth that is being supported by a conscious personal spiritual practice. A sort of “what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger” type experience. Outwardly it may look like a personal crisis such as the end of a relationship, loss of a job, death of a loved one, maybe mental or physical illness. Inwardly, there is an element of mindfully moving through it, drawing on all the spiritual and energetic supports one has available. Prayer, meditation, energy healing, plant medicines, journeys, vision quests, yoga, dance, making offerings, dream work, journaling, intention setting, following our cultural spirituality, all the aspects of our personal practice - this is being in the medicine. When balance has been restored and health regained, we often find we have reached a better place than previously imagined, stronger, and having learned valuable life lessons. A new and healthier relationship has been found, or a more satisfying job, even renewed physical health and strength.
A lovely exercise to try is to identify an area where you feel out of balance, or that you could use some support with. It might be a weary heart, a difficult relationship with a co-worker or racing thoughts at bedtime. Find your symptom situation, and set an intention to notice a natural remedy of energetic or spiritual medicine as you go for a nature walk, sit in a garden or meditate. See what catches your eye, stands out or appears in a dream or meditation. It may be an animal, plant, stone, clouds, wind, warm sunshine, rain drops, bird song - be open to the many forms it may come to you. Then relax and sit with the idea of the remedy until the medicinal qualities become apparent. You could journal stream of conscious style or research information, or simply tap into your inner knowing. Then allow a method of connecting to this medicine come to you. If you need some support in this area, here are 7 ways to cultivate a relationship with spiritual medicine, in this article or you may choose to book a soul restoration session with me. To learn more about my practice and how we can facilitate well-being together, visit www.3foldbalance.com for sessions & journey circle information and www.returntoreverence.ca for our year long immersion programs
* Edited in 2022 to update language and links.
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A bean feasa of Gaelic heritage shares stories & insights from her animist and 'shamanic' practice on the West Coast of Canada.