Shamanic Healing in the 21st Century–An Interview with Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D.

by larrytriv

Dr. Alberto Villoldo is a medical anthropologist, psychologist, and energy medicine practitioner who, for over 25 years, has studied with and researched the shamanic healing traditions of the Inka in Peru. In the course of that odyssey, Dr. Villoldo trained directly with the most highly regarded healers in the Inka shamanic tradition, and today is dedicated to spreading the healing benefits of shamanism throughout the modern Western world. As part of that mission, each year he trains thousands of medical professionals and lay people in the use of Inka energetic healing techniques.

At the heart of the Inka shamanic tradition is the concept of the Luminous Energy Field which shamans state surrounds all material bodies. By learning how to directly experience and interact with this field, Dr. Villoldo holds, we can learn how heal ourselves and others, prevent illness altogether, and more easily fulfill our life missions.

The word shamanism is certainly now part of our modern American lexicon, but I think there is still a lot of misperceptions regarding it. What exactly do we mean by that term?

The Shaman mediates between the visible and the invisible world. Classically the Shaman is a native person from the Americas, or anywhere else around the world. The word itself is a Siberian term, and it applies to aa healer who brings balance to the community, and who mediates with what we tend to call the supernatural world. This includes interceding with the ancestors, living in balance with nature, and influencing the weather, fertility, crops, the cycles of life and of death, and ministering over the major transitions of a person’s life. But in my use of the term, it refers to an individual who has assumed the role of stewardship with their community, with their family, and with the earth. And that involves both caring, as well as healing.

Based on that context, what you’re saying is becoming a Shaman is available to all of us, if we’re willing to step into the responsibility that comes with it.

Precisely. There is an agreement that the Shaman has with Spirit, which is the invisible laws of nature, if you will. When the Shaman calls, Spirit answers, Spirit responds, Spirit shows up. Whether it be for healing, to bring balance to a family, to a marriage, to a community, or to the land itself. Now the other part of the agreement is equally important, which is that, when Spirit calls, the Shaman has to show up and respond. Once that agreement is entered into, there is a unique relationship that the Shaman has with life in which everything is sacred. The sacredness of everything becomes the guiding principle of the Shaman. My presupposition is that we all have not only the ability and the gift, but, literally, the responsibility to become caretakers of the earth today. To become its stewards and to become Shamans.

The obvious question that most people in the lay Western world are going to have is, How does one go about that?

To become contemporary Shamans we have to become aware of our inner processes or spiritual processes, and we have to engage in our own healing journey. I want to address both of these points.

Classically the path of the Shaman is the path of the wounded healer. It is the path of the man or woman, who in the process of healing him or herself, transforms what has been a source of wounding, of pain, of grief, of weakness, or of sorrow, into a source of strength. So that which previously lived within one as a deep wounding — either an emotional wounding, or a physical wounding — now becomes the Shaman’s base of power. And the foundation of compassion and empathy. I know how you hurt, because I know what it is to hurt. So it’s essential for the Shaman to embark on his or her own healing journey. Not just to learn a body of techniques, or tricks, or interventions, or strategies. That’s allopathic medicine. That’s the Western model of curing, where you apply specific interventions or strategies to a condition.

The Shaman engages in healing, which is different from curing, and which involves profound personal transformation. This frequently results in a cure, but not always. Conversely, I have seen many medical cures in which the symptoms have been treated, but there had not been a deep healing. I’ve had clients where there has been a very deep healing, but in which the client dies. They have a terminal condition. They die. There’s been no cure, but they’ve died in peace. They died honorably and elegantly. That’s an important differentiation for the Shaman, the difference between healing and curing. Curing is the business of Western medicine; healing is the business of the Shaman. So being engaged in your own healing journey is an essential factor for becoming a Shaman. You’re healing yourself, and that becomes the foundation for your compassion, your generosity, your empathy.

The second essential factor is developing a vocabulary of the sacred. Learning about and becoming deeply familiar with your own inner world. Learning how Spirit dwells within you. The pathways in the West that we are most familiar with for doing this are prayer, meditation, and contemplation. The Shaman travels a path that we are very unfamiliar with in the West, which is the path of power — of direct experience, knowledge, and power. And this is the path that has been forbidden to us in the West by our mythology, because the last time that we tasted the fruit of the tree of knowledge, you remember what happened to us.

You’re talking about the myth of Adam and Eve.

Right. We were cast out of the Garden. We were cast out of a very primary communion with nature. The direct path of knowledge and power is the path of the earth peoples, of the Shaman, and it is very much a path of the feminine. In the West we are mostly familiar with the pathways of the masculine. For example, when we last tasted the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, we were cast out of our natural state in which we lived in an animistic world. We talked to the trees and to the animals and the rivers and to God. And the animals and the rivers and the clouds spoke back to us.

Now, you mean this literally?

I mean this literally, yes. I’m not talking about a metaphor. Because the Shaman has an active dialogue with nature, and still speaks to the rivers and to the trees. Not using words like we use, but still maintaining a very active dialogue and communication with all of nature. The Shaman lives in an animistic universe, not in an inanimate one, like we do. When we were cast out of the Garden there was this voice that said “And cursed shall be the earth because of you woman, and for the man, with the sweat of your back you shall take your fruit of the earth and she shall bear thorns and thistles for you.” We developed a hostile relationship with the feminine and with women and with the Earth. Later, we learned that matter is not spiritual. That matter is “dead,” and spirit is something that is up above, distant, separate from creation, and separate from matter. Yet, the word matter comes from the Latin word Mater, which means Mother, the feminine. So we learned that matter, that the feminine, Mother Earth is not spiritual.

So the path of the Shaman is one that is very unfamiliar to us in the West, but very necessary today, as we have exhausted the possibilities of that other paradigm, that we can call the patriarchal or the control paradigm, of the inanimate earth. Where we have taken the spoils of the earth, where we have polluted the rivers, where we have contaminated the air, where the ruling paradigm is of exploitation and of reaping the bounty of earth without concern for later generations. We’ve come to the end of that paradigm. It’s no longer sustainable.

So now we have to explore another paradigm, and that is a paradigm that is uniquely American, which is a paradigm of sustainability. Of a sustainable relationship with the earth. Of stewardship, not only with the resources of the earth, but with our own inner resources. Our health resources, our energetic resources, our emotional, and our spiritual resources. So the path of the direct experience of knowledge of how to live in stewardship, is a very unfamiliar one for us, yet it’s the classical path of the Shaman.

As I think about what you have just said, it opens up a vista of a truly magical and sacred perspective of life, which is indeed often lacking in the society as you’ve just described it. Yet, I’m curious to see if you can give me an example of how someone such as myself, who has not had exposure to what you’ve been studying for so long, would go about, for instance, learning the language of the river and how to communicate with the river. In practical terms, how does that take place?

Shamans are very careful observers of nature. They Inkas, for example, were extraordinary astronomers and architects. They built cities in the clouds like Machu Picchu, and they recognized the same laws of nature that we identified as physics. For example, they recognize the second law of thermodynamics, which is the law of entropy, which says that within a closed system everything within it will seek chaos and disorder. That ice will melt into water, and water will evaporate into a gas. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to recognize this. The Inka Shamans didn’t call this entropy. They called it Jaguar, the keeper of the life and spirit of the rain forest. But they also recognized that, while everything in the physical universe tended toward entropy, in the living world things were anti-entropic. They tend toward complexity, not chaos. In the biological world, things tend to higher and higher levels of organization. Cells team up with each other to create tissue, tissues team up with each other to create organs, organs team up with each other to create the body. The Shamans saw that this was the opposite of that same force of the Jaguar. Now, in the West, if our biologists and our physicists spoke to each other, they would recognize that these are two sides of the same organizing principle of the universe.

The medicine people of the Andes were able to call on the Jaguar. Since they have an animistic relationship with all of life, they are able to say, “Mother, sister Jaguar, come to me. Teach me your ways. Come into the village and bring harmony and order, or come into this marriage and help them to dissolve their union gracefully. Come and bring fertility into this field. Come and control the spread of this wildfire, or control the spread of this cancer throughout the body. Bring order and harmony to it out of chaos.” As a Shaman, you are able to summon these organizing principles of nature and they will respond to you, whether it be in controlling the spread of the cancer or of the wildfire, or helping the village maintain its unity. Whereas we in the modern world, if we say, “Oh, entropy come to me,” we’re not going to get anything. We have a very descriptive relationship with life, and not an interactive animistic one. That’s the difference. And that’s how you communicate with the spirit of the river.

Today we have a lot of interest in things like Feng Shui, where we want to have our houses be in harmony and balance with the land. We’re beginning to make some tentative explorations in this area. But the Shaman already has an active dialogue with the rivers, with the clouds, with Spirit, with God. So that God is not separate from creation, like it is for us in the West. We have “our Father who art in heaven,” not “who art here next to me,” or “who art in this chair.” We have a creator that is separate from the creation, whereas for the Shaman the Creator is one with the creation. So, when I speak to the spirit of the river, I’m having a dialogue with the Great Spirit, with God, and I recognize that the river is not separate from God. Or from me, for that matter. I no longer live in the grip of a myth of separation from God, of separation from nature. I have not been banished from my natural state.

And that’s part of the healing in the West our students go through in our training programs. We help them heal that rift, that original rift with nature and with their own inner nature, and with God and Spirit. Then we come into a proper and sustainable relationship with nature, and this is applicable whether you happen to be living in nature, or living in a city and working in the corporate world.

Could you give me an example of the latter case?

When you bring the principles of sustainability, of deep spiritual ecology of Shamanism into a corporate setting, you start looking not only at the bottom line, but at the top line. What quality of life are we bringing to our employees, and to our immediate community that we live in, and to our global community? Are we producing only products, or are we making a difference in the world? These are ethical considerations that become part of your strategic plan, of your mission statement. It’s like that old tale of a traveler who comes across two stone masons during the building of Notre Dame. And he asked them, “What are you doing?” The first mason replies “I’m squaring up the stone,” but the second says, “I’m building a cathedral.” The second one is a Shaman. You can be working in a shoe factory, but you know that you’re building a cathedral. That you’re making a difference in the world. This corporate vision is communicated across the board to every member of that business. You are always looking at the top line, not only at the bottom line, and what results from this are increases in productivity, reductions in absenteeism, and increased profits.

Based on what you’ve just outlined, Shamanism, in its underlying worldview, really has applicability to all aspects of our modern society.

It can be translated, I believe, to many arenas.

One of the problems that we’ve had is that Shamanism has been associated with feather waving and rattle shaking and drum beating, in a most trivial way, when it’s really about transforming the world. Uuntil recently, Shamanism has never been taken seriously by Western scholars. Because scholars have preferred to study the religious traditions that left a written record. The literate traditions, like Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, that left a written body of knowledge. In the Americas, writing never developed, so these cultures were considered to be illiterate. They had no literate body of knowledge, therefore they must be “stupid.” With the exception of a few serious researchers like Margaret Mead, Shamanism was studied until very recently. And what’s become absorbed into the popular lexicon is the Indian with the feathers and the drum, and not the deeper principles, some of which are 100,000 years old, that we’ve been speaking about.

One of those principles is what you describe in your book Shaman, Healer, Sage as the Luminous Energy Field. Talk about that as it is described in the Inka Shamanic tradition.

Let me reframe that question if I may. Let’s talk about the Luminous Energy Field as I’ve described it in my book, because otherwise I would have to go into a more anthropological, culture-specific definition of the Inka, and I’d like to speak more from a transcultural perspective.

The Luminous Energy Field is an envelope, or luminous cocoon, that surrounds, informs, and organizes the physical body, in the same way that the energy field of a magnet organizes iron filings on top of a piece of glass. These energy fields organize matter. The Luminous Energy Field informs the physical body, our psychospiritual world, and even our physical world outside of ourselves. That’s where the concept becomes difficult to follow, but the Luminous Energy Field is like a blueprint.

In the West, using the physical sciences, we’ve identified the blueprint that organizes the body as the DNA. In the Shamanic tradition, the blueprint is the Luminous Energy Field. In every culture around the world you find references to a Luminous Field, but we interpret it to be a quaint metaphor. When the Buddhists speak about illumination, we think that it’s symbolic. When Christ spoke about the light within or when the light surrounded Christ when he was submersed in the river Jordan, we consider that to be a quaint metaphor for an inner state of consciousness. You can find references to this Luminous Field in the Maori carvings from New Zealand, in drawings from the native peoples in Africa, in the illustrations of the Buddha with the field of fire surrounding him, and in the halo that surrounds the drawings of the Christian saints and mystics.

To the Shaman, the Luminous Energy Field is not symbolic. It is real and is the blueprint for physical reality. For example, if you have inherited a heart condition from your mother and your grandmother, both of whom may have died of heart disease, your doctor will tell you that the condition is carried in your genes. But the Shaman will tell you that is in your Luminous Energy Field, and that you had better erase it from your field before it has the chance to organize physical reality and you have to deal with a heart attack in the emergency room. At the beginning of our conversation, I said that the Shaman is the one who mediates between the visible and the invisible world — the invisible world to us, which to the Shaman is a tangible world. It’s one that can be sensed. From the Shamanic world view, you want to heal things before they are born and manifest into matter. You want to clear the blueprint for heart disease before it turns into a full-blown heart attack. You want to clear that energetic imprint for cancer before it develops into a tumor. But even after it does develop into a tumor, you want to clear the Luminous Energy Field so that, when you remove the tumor through surgery, it doesn’t reappear or manifest somewhere else. You’ve cleared it at the level of the blueprint. This is an essential element of the body of knowledge of the Shaman. You will not hear this articulated in exactly this way by the native peoples. I’m given you a description that uses the metaphors of science and physics, but if you study the cultures of the Americas, you will find adescription of this Luminous Energy Field, from the Eskimos, to the Mayans, to the Inkas.

All of these cultures recognize that the Luminous Energy Field contains information within it. We know energy contains information, and what we’re interested in doing is having the highest quality of information in our Luminous Energy Field so that we have the highest possible experience of health, and the highest possible experience of the world.

Let me give you an example of this. I had a client, a woman whose only son had died at the age of 18 in an automobile accident. She had loaned him the car that evening. She didn’t want to let him go. It was a rainy night, and he got into an automobile wreck, and was killed. That occurred on September 26th, five years before I met her. After that, every year on September 26th she would end up having a near death experience. One September 26th, she was rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light and landed in the hospital in the emergency room. Another September 26th, she had food poisoning and had to be taken back to the ER. They gave her barium to do a scan and her heart stopped because she was allergic to barium. This is known in psychiatry as the “anniversary effect.”

She came to me and said, “How can I be organizing somebody rear-ending me at a traffic light, or having food poisoning from eating a bad piece of fish at a restaurant?” Well, the Shaman understands that the world is as you dream it. We dream the universe into being and it mirrors back to us the condition of our souls, so to speak. So we worked together over a period of three months and were able to clear the instructions within her blueprint that predisposed her to having these near death accidents. After that, she was able to mourn and grieve the loss of her son, and she spent the subsequent anniversaries of her son’s death in completely excellent health.

The Luminous Energy Field actually choreographs and organizes the physical world, predisposing you to meet certain people. To be in the car that had the accident, or the one that barely missed it. To meet the same kind of person over and over again, until you end up marrying him and then divorcing. In fact, Joseph Campbell once said to me, “Alberto, if you don’t learn it, you end up marrying it.” This is very true, and the Shaman recognizes that the Luminous Energy Field predisposes us to a certain lifestyle and set of experiences in life, according to its imprints.

Based on what you’ve just said, at the time of our birth, the Luminous Energy Field already has certain pre-organizing imprints or blueprints within it, such as your example of an inherited predisposition to heart disease that went back a few generations. At the same time, based on the experiences that we incur, or that we create and bring to ourselves as we are going through our life, additional imprints can be formed that we may or may not be aware of, and these, too, start to have organizing effects over us. Correct?


How does one become aware of what those organizing imprints are in the Luminous Energy Field, and then go about the process of healing them?

The problem with imprints is that they are latent, and in their latent form it is difficult to become aware of them. For most of us, it is only when the imprints get triggered and we start becoming reactive, that we become aware of them. There are several ways this can happen.

One way is when your immune system is depressed and not functioning optimally. We do live in an immune-depressed culture, by the way, and when you suffer from chronic illness, generally your immune system is being kept in a depressed state by an imprint in the Luminous Energy Field. Once that imprint is cleared, what we find with our clients, and our students find with their clients, is that the immune system suddenly kick starts and very, very rapidly is able to resolve the health condition.

The same thing happens with somebody who has been stuck in a psychological closed loop in which they are repeating an emotional drama over and over again, or are dealing with an emotional dynamic from which they cannot extricate themselves. When you clear the imprint, suddenly there is movement, and healing is able to take place. So, when we find ourselves in a chronic psychological or physical disease process, that is a clear indication that there is an imprint in the Luminous Energy Field which is keeping the disease static, or unmoving.

If that is the case, what can we do to clear the imprint?

You’ve got to go see your Shaman. (laughs) What we do in the West is go see our therapist — and we can spend years in therapy without healing — or we go see our physician who will only address our symptoms. Western medicine is not designed to disinhibit the body’s own healing systems and the immune response.

When we speak about Shamanism, we are talking about psychoneuroimmunology, which has been practiced by medicine people in the Americas for at least 30,000 years because they have not had the MRI’s, they have not had the antibiotics, they have not had the antidepressants, and so forth. The Shaman practices a form of mind/body medicine that is exquisitely fine-tuned because of a lack of these other interventions. Conversely, while we in the modern world have been able to describe the mechanisms in which psychoneuroinunology functions, we have not been able to use those mechanisms to eliminate a cancer, to reduce pain significantly, or to create psychosomatic health. When you run into chronic disease, whether it be physical, psychological, or psychospiritual, it is at that point is that the resources and the tools of the Shaman become so powerful and effective.

How does this work from a preventive perspective? For instance, say someone comes to you for a check-up, for lack of a better word, just as they might go to a Western doctor for a health screening or a physical exam. If the person is not aware of any latent imprints or predispositions to any psychological or physical conditions he or she might have, how do you perceive what those latencies are if they have not manifested at that point in time? Or do you?

You do, yes. I’ direct a school where train Western Shaman healers, both physicians and nurses, as well as lay persons. One of the things we train our students to do is to sense and perceive. The Shaman is able to perceive the Luminous Energy Field and the imprints within it, as well as the stories that the imprints contain. Sensing the Field itself is not enough; you need to also be able to perceive the stories within it. This can be viewed as the equivalent of putting your hands over your computer’s hard drive and saying, “I feel the intensity of the energy,” but so what? What you’re really interested in is the letter you just wrote that’s in the hard drive. You’re interested in the information contained within that energy. So we train our students to be able to perceive the Luminous Energy Field and to read the information contained within it so that they can track back to the origin, to the original wounding that caused the imprint.

Then we use various strategies to clear, to erase, to overwrite, if you will, the Luminous Energy Field to reduce the probability of you ending up dealing with a heart condition in the emergency room. This is where Shamanic healing is most effective, as a preventive measure. Generally the people that end up coming to see me or our students do so only after they have exhausted every other possibility. I wish we had more of an understanding of the importance of the preventive in this country, because that’s where energy medicine and the work of the Shaman excels — in healing conditions before they organize matter into disease and manifest in the body.

I was very interested to find in your book the concept of chakras as they relate to the Luminous Energy Field. Many people are now familiar with the seven primary chakras that occur in yoga tradition. But I was very intrigued by the additional two that you identify and I’d like you to discuss their importance.

When I mention the chakra system that is part of the Inka Shamanic healing tradition, people sometimes say to me, “I thought chakras were Hindu.” And I respond, “Well, I thought that kidneys were European.” (laughs)

Chakras are elements of our luminous anatomy. We are going to find them in healing traditions worldwide. In the same way that everyone has 206 bones in their bodies, everyone has seven luminous centers, or chakras. The Inka recognized an additional two that exist outside the physical body. The Shaman’s animistic relationship with the world allows for a recognition of Self that is not localized within the physical body. Thus, the Inka Shamans perceived the existence of two additional chakras outside the body that are a part of you, but that are also a part of nature. Whereas in the Hindu traditions, all of the chakras are localized within the body. In the Hindu traditions, in fact, there is a rift or separation from nature, and yoga is the practice of bringing together that which has been separated. For the Shaman, however, the natural world was never separated, and these additional two chakras are chakras that you share with all of creation, yet they are also yours.

What are the functions of these eighth and ninth chakras?

The eighth chakra is a luminous center located directly above the head. It is sometimes depicted above the head of the goddess Isis in ancient Egyptian drawings. In Christianity, it is represented as the tongues of fire above the heads of the apostles at the Last Supper.

The eighth chakra exists outside of time as we know it, yet it also manifests within time. Its function is to house the seven physical chakras, and to manufacture the physical body, to guide the development of the body, and to carry the imprints that we may have brought with us from our former existence. At the time of our death the seven chakras located within the physical body suddenly converge and are enfolded within the eighth chakra. The eighth chakra then becomes the vessel for our other seven chakras. In that sense, it is equivalent of the soul, if you will, in Christianity, and its purpose is to create a new body in our next lifetime, at which time the seven chakras will then line themselves up along the spinal chord, and the eighth chakra will continue to hover above it.

In that sense, the eighth chakra holds the blueprint for our physical body when we incarnate, as well as for our potentialities in this lifetime.

That’s correct. And if the eighth chakra is equivalent of what we know as the soul, then the ninth chakra is the equivalent of Spirit. The difference here is that the soul is personal, and Spirit is not. You have your personal soul, I have my personal soul, and both souls are informed by the same Spirit. Another way of looking at this is to say that the issues of the soul are personal, whereas the Spirit, or the ninth chakra, is not personal. It is collective; it is One. The eighth chakra is where God lives within you, and the ninth chakra is where you live within God. It’s the place where duality disappears and there is no separation between you and I. We are one. We are the expression of the same life force, with two different faces. It’s when we recognize that we are that, and that the tree is, and the river is, and that the cloud is, and that we are no better or no worse than a tree or a star, that we attain a state of tremendous liberation. You can speak to the rivers and trees. This is the awareness which is the residing within the ninth chakra, and the Shaman’s goal is to attain this awareness of Self as the unity of all of creation.

How is that attainment achieved, through a series of initiatory experiences?

It occurs through a series of practices — meditative practices and practices of tracking the energy chords that connect all of the chakras. Following that energy chord up to this ninth chakra requires the death of the ego, the death of the previous conception of the Self. Not to be replaced by a higher and broader conception of the Self, but to end the Self entirely, so that separation itself dissolves.

What role or relevance do these two particular chakras have in the Shamanic approach to healing?

That’s a very interesting question. Let me go back to mythology for a moment. In Western mythology, on the seventh day the Great Spirit rested. Creation was complete. All that was left was the naming of the plants and the animals. This mythology has seeped into science, which says that on the seventh nanosecond after the Big Bang all of the universe was created, all of the laws of physics were created, and all that was left after that was the naming of the laws of physics. Physicists are still working on the unified field theory that will describe everything in creation.

In the Shamanic worldview, on the seventh day the Great Spirit said, “You guys finish it.” In other words, the Shaman recognizes that the creation is not complete, and that the universe is still in the process of evolving. The laws of physics are evolving, as well. They are not fixed. Even Time and Space is evolving, as are all of our notions of the universe.

The task of the Shaman is to consciously bring evolution into being. For example, there is a group of Hopi elders who spend time envisioning the possible world that they want their children’s children to inherit. Not the probable world, because we know what that’s going to be, but the possible world, no matter how improbable it may seem. They envision that. They dream it into being. There is a group of Inka Shamans that do the same thing. They know that through the act of envisioning they help create a healed world where we live in peace with each other, with the rivers, with the animals, and with the earth. Their task is to dream into being a world in which we live in harmony and balance, where that becomes a little more possible, a little more probable. They know that the odds are stacked against them, but they still do it, and to do this you have to be able to dwell and reside within the awareness of the ninth chakra.

This process can be used by the Shaman to track into the future, to help a client access a destiny in which he or she is healed and leading a creative, fulfilling life. As an example of this, I had a client named Steve who was a physicist with the Stanford Research Institute. He was working at the Linear Accelerator, where he and his colleagues had been analyzing data to determine the age of the universe, to determine if enough matter existed within the universe for it to continue expanding for eternity, or if the gravitational pull of the stars was great enough to make the universe collapse back into itself again. One day he called and I asked him how things were with the universe. He replied that the news was good, that it looked like there was enough mass in the universe for it to continue expanding infinitely. But then he told me the news for him was not very good. He had just been diagnosed with a terrible end stage cancer and the doctors at Stanford’s medical center had given him less four months to live. Ninety-seven percent of the people who have this condition live no more than four months.

Steve and I began working together tracking for his “healed state.”. There is within medicine this very bothersome area known as spontaneous remission. It occurs within every diagnostic category of medicine, and nobody knows how it happens. Yet, these are the fundamental mechanisms that the Shaman utilizes, because for the Shaman all healing is spontaneous. Its expression is not always instantaneous, meaning that it expresses itself over time, but all healing happens spontaneously. So when someone like Steve is told he only has a 3 percent chance of living, the Shaman would say that within that 3 percent window, there is enough room to squeeze an elephant through. So that’s what we did, we tracked through that 3 percent window for his healed self. Not a very probable state, but a permissible or possible one. Out of the many possibilities available to Steve in the future, we were able to track for and identify that healed self that now was to begin to inform his healing process. As a result, he was not only informed by his disease and by his genetic make-up, but by his healed condition. Steve outlived his prognosis by eight or nine years, and he was able to maintain a level of wellness that had been unknown to him previously. He lived symptom-free until the end of his days.

This is the same thing that Hopi or Shaman elders do when they are tracking for the possible earth that they want their grandchildren to inherit. The application of tracking is eminently practical on the level of personal healing, and of planetary healing, or even when you are creating a strategic plan for an organization. According to the Shamans with whom I have trained, you can only do this once you have tasted and identified with that self that exists outside of time, because then you can track outside of time itself. Then you’re not bound to tracking events only that happened in the past. For example, asking how did Steve get sick? How did he get his cancer? What’s gone wrong with the world? Such questions are about things which have already been dreamt into being and are bound by time, by the past. But the Shaman is able to track for a healed state outside of time, and when you find it, it begins to inform the present state. You dream the world into being.

You mentioned your school. What types of people are coming to you as students, and what is happening to them once they go back into the world?

I founded The Healing the Light Body School in 1990 to translate 50,000 year-old healing technologies into the modern world. And I think that we have done so successfully. It’s a two-year training program, with very close supervision, and a lot of hands-on practice, and we’ve graduated over 600 students. We are drawing a wide variety of people from the health professions, including therapists, social workers, medical doctors, and nurses, and also many lay people with no background in any of the Western healing arts. And sometimes it is the lay people who prove to be the most gifted. Some of them are born with an innate talent for healing, just as some people are born with the innate gift for music, but they have to develop and train and practice to become gifted piano players. We are training students in Shamanic healing practices and how to apply them in a contemporary setting.

Some of the health professionals we trained learning are integrating healing into their practice. One of ours students is physician in Los Angeles, and when you call his office, you are asked whether you want to schedule a session for Western medicine or Energy Medicine. He’s integrating what he learned at the school, and it’s causing a bit of a stir in the medical community. We also have trained a number of psychotherapists who are practicing soul retrieval with their clients and finding that they are accomplishing in one or two sessions what they haven’t been able to achieve during years of therapy. Soul retrieval is a practice the Shaman uses to journey into the invisible world to locate and reintegrate aspects of the soul which have become cut off due to the deep woundings that many of us experience during childhood.

Our students are bringing these methodologies into the modern world. Into the business world, into the world of complementary or alternative medicine, into the field of Energy Medicine, and into the healing arts in general. And they are doing so successfully. One of our students is the head of the Canadian Holistic Nurses Association. Her practice, which takes places in a hospital, is strictly in the field of the Energy Medicine techniques.

At the end of the training, we certify these individuals as Shaman healers and encourage them to go out into the world and change it. And they are accomplishing this by bring healing to their families, to their communities, to their organizations and to their clients. Often times, many choose not to set up healing practices, per se, but to take these healing methodologies into their jobs, into their children’s schools, or into the corporate world. We have a number of corporate Shamans. That’s what they do. They are healing corporations.

Summing up, from the Shamanistic perspective, what do we in the modern world need to do in order to heal ourselves and our world?

At a certain point, we need to shift out of the psychological into the sacred. We have exhausted the maps of psychology — of abandonment, of early childhood wounds, of “mommy-daddy” issues. Not that these concerns are not valid. They are, but we must now find our healing within the sacred, within nature, within Spirit. Then we can cease being victims of our childhood, of our culture, of our times, of our gender, and reclaim our power and dream the world into being.


Chakra Cleansing

The following exercise is adapted from Dr. Villoldo’s book Shaman, Healer, Sage, and can be performed each morning while in the shower to upgrade the energy reserves in your Luminous Energy Field, and involves cleansing the seven chakras, or vibratory energy centers, located along the length of the spine and head. The first chakra is located at the base of the spine, between the genitals and the anus; the second chakra is located midway between the pubis and the naval; the third chakra is located at the solar plexus; the fourth chakra is located in the center of the chest; the fifth chakra is located at the hollow of the throat; the sixth chakra is located in the middle of the forehead; and the seventh chakra is located at the top of the head.

While in the shower, place your left hand at the base of your spine, and with your right hand placed in front of your, three or four inches away from your body, feel for your first chakra. With practice, you will be able to feel it like a dense energy. Spin the chakra counterclockwise three of four times (imagine that your body is the face of the clock) by rotating your fingertips in a circle. Once you are down, rinse your fingers in the water, then repeat the process for each of the other seven chakras, rinsing your fingers thoroughly in between each one. According to Dr. Villoldo, this helps cleanse and eliminate the toxic energy sludge that can adhere to the chakra walls.

Once you finish, again starting with the first chakra, spin each chakra clockwise three or four times by rotating your fingertips. This completes the exercise, and increases the chakras’ speed, enabling each chakra to spin at its optimal frequency for improved physical, psychological, and spiritual health. For best results, perform this exercise on a daily basis.


The Four Winds Society, Inc.

The Healing the Body of Light School

P.O. Box 680675

Park City, Utah 84068

(888) 437-4077

Founded by Dr. Villoldo, the Society is a research and training organization dedicated to preserving the techniques of Inka Shamanism and bringing them into the 21st century. Through the Healing the Light Body School, training programs are offered in Inka Energy Medicine, Soul Retrieval, and the Medicine Wheel. The Society also leads expeditions to scared sites in the Amazon and the Andes Mountains in Peru.

By Dr. Villoldo

Shaman, Healer, Sage (Crown), 2000.

Dance of the Four Winds (Inner Traditions) (With Erik Jendresen), 1996.

Mastering the Inka Medicine Wheel (Inner Traditions) (With Erik Jendresen), 1994.

Healing States (Fireside Books), 1987

The following videos and tape series are available through The Four Winds Society.

Inka Shamanism and Healing (video)

The Shaman’s Altar (video)

Inka Prophecy: The Time to Come (video)

Healing the Light Body (seven audio tape set)