In the midst of preparing for the launch of our new Power Animal Collection, I was thrilled and honored to speak to internationally-known shamanic instructor Sandra Ingerman. We had an inspiring talk about Shamanism, Power Animals, and the state of our planet today. Below is a written, edited version of our conversation, or you can download the full 30-minute MP3 interview now.
Sandra Ingerman is a world renowned teacher of shamanism and has been facilitating for over 30 years. She is the author of ten books, including Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self and Speaking with Nature. She is also the presenter of seven audio programs produced by Sounds True.
Sandra is well-known for bridging ancient cross-cultural healing methods into our modern culture, having been chosen as one of the top ten spiritual leaders of 2013 by Spirituality and Health Magazine.
Today, we'll be speaking about Shamanism as well as power animals and how they can support our physical, emotional and spiritual healing in everyday life.
Kimberly: Hello Sandra – welcome!
Sandra: Thank you so much Kimberly. I'm happy to be talking to you and anybody who's listening out there.
Kimberly: Some of our listeners will know who you are and know about Shamanism, but I'm guessing that an equal number will not. Maybe you can start by taking a moment to speak about Shamanism – what it is and its core principles?
Sandra: Absolutely. Shamanism is the oldest spiritual practice know to humankind and actually dates back over a hundred thousand years. The fact that it's still being practiced today says a lot, that it survived through all these many years and changes on the planet.
It’s a practice that comes from central Asia, Australia, Africa, North and South America, and Europe so everybody listening to this probably has ancestors who practiced Shamanism at some time.
There are a lot of different layers to the practice of Shamanism. For one, it has always been a way to open up the veils between worlds – the tangible world here and the invisible worlds where there are what are called helping, compassionate spirits who volunteer themselves to help us in our personal lives as well as to help us be in service to the planet.
Also, Shamanism is a way of life and that's something important to me to be teaching at this particular time on the planet, when there's so much disharmony and so much that's out of balance.
This side of Shamanism teaches us how to be conscious beings and how we can align our thoughts and words to create the vision we want for ourselves and what we wish for the planet.
Kimberly: Could you speak a little bit more about this idea of the invisible, unseen realms – the importance of those realms and how they can come together with our modern life?
Sandra: It's always been known in the world – until we got to a place where we put science ahead of our spiritual foundation – that there's more to life than just what we can see, feel, touch, smell and hear in the tangible realms. Wherever you look throughout the world, it's been known that one can alter their state of consciousness and open up the doors into these invisible realms where there are, as I said earlier, compassionate spirits who really want to help. They're there for us to ask for healing and help in our own lives and for the planet.
In most cultures, there were one or two shamans that responsible for going into the invisible realms and working with helping spirits in order to heal people in the community. As we're moving into a new evolution of consciousness, it's not appropriate for there to be one shaman in New York or one Shaman in London. So part of the evolution of consciousness is about all of us tapping into the divine forces that we can weave from the invisible realms into the visible.
I like to spin fiber into yarn on a spinning wheel, and practicing Shamanism is like spinning. When I spin fiber, I go into kind of an altered state, tapping into the power of the invisible realms. If I'm focusing on love while I'm spinning, those threads of love, the energy of love comes through from the non-ordinary reality worlds and weaves something into the physical.
Actually, in all spiritual cultures it's believed that everything starts in the invisible worlds before it manifests into the physical world.
Kimberly: I really am hearing you say it's so important that we each take responsibility and personally empower ourselves to be a part of the change that we're undergoing.
Sandra: Yeah. The thing about Shamanism and why I love it so much is that it is a practice of Direct Revelation. I think that one of the reasons that there's such a resurgence in the practice of Shamanism right now on the planet is that people are looking for ways to feel more personally empowered, but also to be able to get guidance for themselves at such a time of transition.
We all have the right to get our own information and to tap into our own intuition, to have contact with the spiritual world, to connect with nature and get signs from the invisible realms about being able to have our path lit.
Kimberly: I'd love to turn to this idea of nature, because I know that this is such an important topic for you. Could you talk a little bit about the role of spirit animals in Shamanism?
Sandra: From a Shamanism point of view, when we're born, the power of one or two or even more animals in spirit form volunteer themselves to us to guide us in our life, protect us from harm. They're not going to protect us from our life's lessons, which are oftentimes challenging – everything in nature is challenged as it grows. But the helping spirits will protect us from unnatural harm that isn’t a part of helping us to evolve and go through different initiations in life.
Most of us as children had our imaginary friends – we were talking to spirits at a very young age. And then as we grow up, society keeps on saying stop dreaming, don't talk to your imaginary friends, stay here in the tangible realms. So what happens is that as adults in the western culture, we've closed the doors to the amazing power that awaits us in the invisible realms with these helping spirits.
In Shamanic cultures, there had to be a really good relationship with the animal world, because they needed animals to sacrifice themselves for food. There was such a connection with nature and being able to be in good communication with the animal world was essential for the community to survive.
So these power animals that Shamans had been working with for thousands of years are still showing up for all of us to work with in the western culture.
A metaphor that I oftentimes use is that it's like being at some kind of ballgame where we as humans are playing the game on the field, and the helping spirits are sitting in the bleachers, so they can see what's going on from a completely different perspective. They’re coming from a true place of oneness and unity and a lot of love for humans and wanting to help.
Kimberly: This makes me think about growing up as a child and how I just loved bunnies. Rabbits showed up everywhere in my life. And as I've grown older and come into these realms of study and practice, I realize that contact was being made by that particular power animal.
I say that because it feels so important for people to know that yes, power animals can show up through particular Shamanic practices, but they can also show up in your daily life if you're willing to have your eyes and your senses open to those communications.
Sandra: Absolutely. There's some particular comfort there. It's like our teddy bears that we all loved and were so attached to as children.
There are different healing methods that are used in Shamanism to help people with emotional and physical illness. One of them is bringing back for a person a power animal who is willing to help with whatever issue is presenting itself for a client.
In doing healing work for people for over thirty years, I’ve found that I could do the most amazing healing for people, but what they really connect with, where you start to see the joy starting to shine through people's eyes again is when you start talking about a power animal that volunteered themselves.
Even people who aren't into Shamanism, when you start to talk to them about an animal that's protecting them, something wakes up for those people that brings them back to that childhood knowledge of the spirits being around us to help.
Kimberly: What do you think about the fact that if you Google an animal, you can read about what they represent … like the bear representing hibernation and looking inward, for example. Do you feel like that's a valid place for people to start investigating what the messages might be from particular animals?
Sandra: I have a different point of view than some people do who are working with Shamanism and like to look up the meaning of certain animals.
What I have found in working with thousands of people is that power animals show up to help us in a very, very individual way. What starts to happen is that when people look up what bear means or what raven means in a book, they might be missing the very individual lesson that these helping spirits are trying to bring to us because we end up giving our power away to somebody else's interpretation.
In my workshops, I really try to encourage people … if you want to know why a rabbit came into your life, ask the rabbit. Don't look up what rabbit is in somebody else's book, because you might be missing this unique, beautiful gift that this animal is trying to bring to you and special teachings that are just for you.
Kimberly: Wonderful. Ask the rabbit! That's going to be my mantra.
Let’s take a moment from your point your view shamanically to speak about where our listeners might start this process, some resources or directives you might have about where they can begin this practice of “asking the rabbit.”
Sandra: Part of the practice of Shamanism is what's called the Shamanic Journey. One of the definitions of a Shaman is a man or a woman who goes into an altered state of consciousness, usually through some kind of percussion, drums, rattles, bells, bowls, different forms of music.
When we're in our ordinary life, our brain is in what’s called in a beta state. But as we listen to some kind of percussion or repetitive sound, our brainwaves actually change into what's called a theta state, and in that theta state we have the ability to let our soul move into the invisible realms and get that kind of help.
The Shamanic Journey is one way that people discover their power animals. There are definitely many students who I train that make contact with their helping spirits while they're walking in nature. Some people also meet their power animals while they're dreaming at night.
The first step is to start exploring whether the Shamanic Journey is something you find yourself interested in. Then it’s about finding a resource to help you learn how to move into the invisible realms.
Kimberly: So somebody could go to your website and find resources if they needed a Shamanic practitioner to support them in this?
Sandra: Yes. I've been training practitioners for most of my years of teaching out there, so we have brilliant practitioners and teachers listed on one of my sites called shamanicteachers.com.
Then on my site sandraingerman.com, I have lots of articles and YouTube videos on Shamanism. There are some online courses that you can take to learn how to journey if you don't want to travel out to a workshop. I've written three books now that teach people how to journey, so there's lots of resources that can be found on that site.
Kimberly: I'm going to give a plug for the book we were talking about before we started this interview: Shamanic Journeying: A Beginner’s Guide. The hard copy includes a CD that has some of this sounding for bringing you into the theta state. It's such a great compilation and is how I got connected to Shamanism.
Sandra: Yes. It's a small book and gives you the basic understanding of Shamanism and then how to enter into those worlds.
The other book that I really want to let people know about is one of my last books, called Walking in Light: The Everyday Empowerment of a Shamanic Life. Part of the book is teaching people how to journey, but the other part of the book is connected to our earlier conversation about how Shamanism is a way of life. The book teaches different practices about how to be more empowered in life and to walk on this Great Earth from a place of honor, respect and love.
Kimberly: Sandra, I'm so grateful for your wisdom and your willingness to speak to what I think is probably the most important conversation that needs to be had right now in terms of our contact with the hidden realms and doing our part to really step up, given what's happening in our world these days.
Sandra: You're most welcome, Kimberly.
I just wanted to end by saying that I know people are losing hope and faith right now. We're living in a very, very challenging time on the planet, and oftentimes people feel like What is it that I can do as one person?
It has always been taught throughout the world in Shamanism and in other traditions that it really is the spiritual practices that we do that end up changing our outer reality. So practicing Shamanism is a way for us to feel empowered to participate in creating positive changes in the world right now during these incredibly turbulent times.