In the late sixties I was a Peace Corp volunteer in a remote village named Matu in Malaysian Borneo in the state of Sarawak. My then husband and I traveled three days by boat to reach our new home. As we chugged along, I watched as all varieties of monkeys and orangutans playfully swung from the trees that populated the dense rainforest. We arrived at a peaceful idyllic village where houses precariously perched on wooden stilts lined the riverbank. There was no electricity or running water. Floating outhouses rose and fell with the tides. To my initial horror, I discovered that one was to bathe and drink from the same water in which all relieved themselves. One either developed immunities to deal with these conditions or died. I was the first white women they had seen. Despite the fact that the world from which I came and this remote village could not have been more dissimilar, a growing awareness that I had come home swept over me.
The spirit world permeated the land; it was clear that there was a sacred trust between the spirits and the people there. The local shamans were not only the lone source of health care, but also the medium through which the spirits spoke. Not all spirits were beneficial. There was a vampire spirit named Pontianak who had long dark hair with white skin. She seduced men, then sucked their life force from their bodies. I was warned never to go out at night by myself as I might be killed, underscoring the solidity of the spirit world there. One’s ability to see and relate to the spirit world is determined, in part, by whether one is encouraged to believe in its existence. As is the case with most children, I could see, sense and feel spirits as a child, but was punished for “making up stories to get attention.” Gradually I learned to ignore the spirits until my connection with them reawakened in this magical land.
After a life-changing two years in Matu, I returned to the US and was immersed in the anti-war, feminist and racial equality movements. Several years later I returned to graduate school to become a clinical psychologist, specializing in working with women who had experienced severe trauma. At one point six of my clients had what is commonly referred to as multiple personalities or what is clinically known as dissociative identity disorder. I would watch in awe as dissimilar beings moved in and out of the same body. A different vibration ran through the room as one personality came while the one before me left. Each personality or alter had a unique manner that distinguished her from the others. Often the physiology varied from one alter to the next. One personality wore glasses while the others had perfect eyesight; one personality had severe asthma while others were free of asthmatic symptoms. How was it that different beings with varying physical symptoms lived in the same body?
At the time I was pondering these questions, I felt a strong pull to return to Malaysian Borneo. After twenty-three years, I did not know what to expect. As I made my way by a much faster boat to Matu, I was heartbroken to see the extent of the logging that rendered the riverbank a graveyard for tree stumps. The Japanese had occupied Matu during WWII and were despised, I learned, for their treatment of the local people. Now they had invaded economically, destroying the rainforest at breakneck speed. When I arrived in Matu, there was electricity and running water; the houses were sturdier and some now had beds, tables and chairs. The women were no longer bare-breasted, but wore clothing befitting Muslim women. The village was mainly comprised of women, children and older men as the young men were off logging. Their standard of living had greatly increased due to many now having paid work. With the clearing away of the rainforest, there was new construction, open spaces for play and areas set aside for farming. I was simultaneously happy for my dear friends that their material quality of life had improved so dramatically and forlorn over the destruction of the rainforest and the loss of the magnificent beings that had called the rainforest home.
While visiting there, we gathered each evening at the house of the local shaman, called the Bomoh. His son Yakuup had been one of my students and passed the exam to go to secondary school. During these gatherings, Yakuup was able to translate his father’s stories to us – my memory of this unwritten language had lapsed with disuse. One day the Bomoh invited my friend and me to travel with him to a distant village built entirely over water to attend to a man who was dying. No one knew what was wrong with him. We arrived by boat, then climbed a rickety ladder into a house that was built on stilts over the water. The house was made of uneven wooden boards with a thatched roof of dried grass. There was no furniture. Everyone sat on the floor on hand-woven mats. The man was bloated and distended with a green pallor. He looked to be in his eighties although he was just thirty-nine. I took one look at him and thought he might die at any moment.
The Bomoh performed an elaborate ceremony. First, he prepared a green paste that he smeared over the man’s body. He covered him with newspaper, then waved knives above him while saying prayers and incantations. After the ceremony, the man began to stir. By evening he was sitting up and was able to eat. I asked the Bomoh what had been wrong with him. He told me that the man was a fisherman; his boat had capsized in the shark-infested waters of the South China Sea. The man was rescued before he was attacked, but anticipating his death, he had left his body. The Bomoh later told me that all illness—whether physical, emotional or spiritual—is caused by two things: the loss of part of one’s core essence, and the intrusion of other energies. In this case, the fear and terror of being eaten alive by a shark had almost completely filled this man’s energy body, leaving just a faint trace of his soul behind. The Bomoh removed the terror from his energy body and returned the man’s soul essence; it had popped out of his energetic body through what we in the West understand as dissociation. The Bomoh did a healing for the soul part before he returned it to the man.
Chills spread through my body as I realized that at last I had answers to my questions about multiple personalities. When one dissociates during a traumatic occurrence, the dissociated part leaves the energy body making space for the energy of the trauma to flow to where part of the soul essence had been, thereby blocking it from returning to the person’s energy body. When this happens to a small child, the fragile psyche can fracture into distinct personalities, some of whom carry the energy of the trauma and the perpetrator that flow in and out of the psyche and physical body. I came to understand that if we can grasp the vibrational nature of the universe, we can begin to heal vibrations of trauma and pain within the body, the psyche, the collective conscious and the earth.
Before the end of my visit, the Bomoh was told by his guides to initiate me to the path of the shaman. At the time, I was teaching in a doctoral program in clinical psychology and soon realized that I had information that greatly expanded our understanding of the psyche and psychological processes through an awareness of the energy body and how we absorb and take on the energy of others. The Bomoh initiated me into an ancient healing practice, the Unai tradition, which is thought to date back to the ancient Greeks, and into ancient indigenous healing practices from Borneo. I received several elemental transmissions from my teacher, such as water and forest spirits that guide and enhance the work that I do coupled with the spirit guides and power animals that arise from the spirits of the land in America. In the East all healing practices are rooted in an understanding of energy and the energy body. This understanding includes an awareness of the oneness and interconnection of all that is and the amazing healing potential of plant and elemental spirits. A key aspect of this healing practice is to learn to use the mind, coupled with support from one’s guides, to move energy to facilitate the healing and removal of energies that do not belong while bringing the soul into wholeness. The Bomoh was able to remove cancerous tumors from a person’s body. In my concrete Western mind, I expected the tumor to somehow end up in his hand. Before long, I came to understand that he had the ability to dissolve the vibrational imprint of the tumor with his mind and the energy in his hands, transforming the cancerous cells into healthy ones.
Initially in my practice I focused on an integration of shamanism with psychological processes but I soon realized that the division between physical and psychological problems was a product of Western thinking and has severely limited the West’s ability to heal those in distress. Many have called for an appointment in anguish after a medical doctor told them that there was nothing wrong with them, that it must all be in their head, when in reality they were experiencing real pain and suffering. I have yet to work with someone with chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia who did not have a trauma history. It appears that trauma has the power to alter the physiology of the body through energetic shifts in the vibrational body. Often rape victims report that no matter how many showers they take, they can never feel clean. Most rape victims dissociate during the assault, sometimes watching from above or from the corner. In this vacuum the energy of the rapist enters the energy field where part of the soul essence once was. The predatory energy within the victim’s field further torments the rape victim while also sending out a vibration that draws other perpetrators to her. The imprint of abuse is carried in the rape victim’s energy field. One can experience soul loss in less traumatic ways. When a parent or teacher repeatedly shames and berates a child, the child tries to disappear or dissociate as hurtful words such as “you are stupid and worthless” or “I wish that you were never born” swarm their energy field and hang there as the words cement themselves in their cognitive structures. Both the words and the energy behind the words are deeply embedded into the child’s core identity.
Sometimes a child will send part of their energy to a depressed or addicted parent, unconsciously hoping that the parent will then be able to care for them. Other times a parent might unconsciously drain energy from the child to fill herself up, leaving behind their depressed, anxious or addicted energy. Often I find a leak in a client’s chakra and the stale energy of the one that drew her energy stuck around the chakra. The leak in the chakra tends to draw others to her of a similar vibrational imprint. Thus if one has an abusive father who yells and beats one all the while stealing the child’s energy, then one is apt to draw others who have the same vibrational pattern. How many times have you heard people lament that they keep falling for a person who hurts them in the same way as the last one? They chastise themselves for repeating the same pattern again and again, not realizing that there is an energetic pull that draws one to the same vibrational pattern. In order to heal these imprints, one must become cognitively aware of the pattern and understand the power of the energy attached to the pattern.
We absorb energy from our families by osmosis. If we grow up in a family with depressed or anxious energy, we absorb these energies into our energy field and these energies become part of who we think we are. We also absorb both beliefs and the energetic imprint from our culture and our community. Often these messages and the energy behind the cultural imprint reinforce what we learn and absorb from our families, creating a coherent way in which to view reality. Sometimes, however, we are born into families and cultures that are at odds with our core karmic essence. The wisdom that we have accumulated from our various incarnations may not mesh with the teachings of our families and communities. Some in this category fall into despair, feeling they do not belong; others sense that something is not right and go on to be social and political activists.
A man in his early 40’s came to see me. He had just been diagnosed with stage four cancer. Jack was a successful businessman, married with three children. He had grown up in one of the wealthy bedroom communities of southern Connecticut with a harsh and critical father where the message of who he was supposed to be was reinforced both by the community and his family. Jack had rebelled to some extent in high school, but basically resided within the energetic and cultural bubble of who he was supposed to be. While in college he majored in philosophy and reported that many of his most meaningful conversations to date had been with his professors. Instead of pursuing this interest in graduate school as he longed to do, he did what he felt he had to do and went into the business world.
During the healing work for Jack, I began to remove the ancestral imprint of his father’s energy that embodied and carried with it all of the messages about who Jack was to be, as well as the anger, disappointment and harsh criticism that accompanied these messages. The cancerous tumors were displayed as dark masses within the body. His father’s energy had been so toxic that it had resulted in a life-threatening illness. I worked as hard as I could to channel divine light from my healing guides to transform and heal the cancerous tumors. Finally my guides told me to take the part of Jack that embodied his father’s toxic energy into my being and heal it from within my own energy field. I did this until I saw light and form return. A healing was also done for the father’s energy that had been removed and was returned to him, and in doing so, both Jack and his father were released from this angry, driven, controlling energy that had haunted them both.
At Jack’s next CAT scan, the doctors were delighted to find that the cancerous cells in the major tumor were in the dying process and that no new cancerous cells were revealed. I do not believe that the shamanic work alone helped to reverse the growth of Jack’s cancer. I do believe, however, that the removal of the toxic energies that were within Jack’s energy field combined with the return of healed parts and parts that represented the true essence of who Jack is enabled him to make the best of the cancer treatments. I do not suggest that shamanism is a replacement for cancer treatment, but it is a way to return the soul and the psyche to wholeness so that the body can begin its own healing process, freed from toxic and unwanted energies.
The extremes that the wiser aspects of our soul essence go to in order to challenge us to awaken and to heal is indeed impressive. They do not always make us sick physically. Sometimes we become depressed; other times we shut down, numbing ourselves with mindless activities or addictive behaviors, being only half present to our lives. It is important to realize that it is not selfish to do what we came here to do. In fact, it is essential for our overall well-being and the well-being of all around us to be and become what we came here to be.
The Bomoh taught me how to work with sacred prayers, written in Arabic, that shift the vibrational frequency of the energy body. The prayers are placed in water and activated through a ceremony using one’s guides, incense and a sacred bowl. More than once a person arrived in my office in a full-blown psychotic episode and was given the sacred water to drink. Within moments the person was fully reconstituted. It is fascinating to contemplate that there are ancient sacred words that can shift the vibrational frequency within the body and psyche. At first I was unsure how to integrate the ritual aspects of these teachings into my psychotherapy practice. The Bomoh used knives to diagnose as he placed them on the major chakra and acupuncture points. When I returned to the US, I journeyed to my guides to devise rituals that were palatable to westerners. I use crystals rather than knives for diagnosis and healing. The Bomoh often put the sacred prayers in a bucket of water and poured them over his clients in order to saturate their energy bodies. Sensing that few would be open to such a ritual in chilly New England, I adapted this ceremony by sprinkling the energy body with the sacred water.
When I first began to apprentice with the Bomoh, all in Matu were so happy that I was taking their “medicine” to my country as they believed it superior to western medicine. During my last visit in 2014, not long before my teacher’s death, many were surprised that I was still coming to study. “Why are you studying this old medicine when yours is so much better?” some asked. I was saddened by these comments. It is not a matter of whether one system is better than the other, but rather how each healing system can augment and improve the other.
Historically, the role of the shaman was to balance the positive and negative energies in the world. For the past ten years my guides have impressed upon me that this role has shifted. It is time now to bring the negative forces into the light for healing and transformation. To do this we must become aware of the negative energetic states and beliefs that we carry and meet them with love and understanding as we release them. The Bomoh often reinforced a major tenet of his teachings that the light is more powerful than the dark energies. At this time the dark underbelly of our world is being exposed personally and collectively. If we meet these energies with anger, fear or self-reproach, we will feed and foster the growth of negativity within and around us. If we come to understand that many of the energies that we carry derive from our families, culture and previous lifetimes, then we can release them and let who we truly are emerge from beneath the layers of energetic imprints.
We are in a period of profound transformation on the planet. Many of us chose to be here at this time to facilitate this process. Numerous shamanic practitioners are participating in ceremonies and rituals to heal the land from the ravages of mining and fracking while others are doing work to heal the vibration of violence, genocide and slavery that lives within the earth and feeds human beliefs. Within the vibrational imprint of the earth we are all aspects or vibrations of the whole planet. When we willfully harm another being, be it person, animal, plant, tree or rock, we harm the vibration of all on the planet. Conversely, when we notice and embrace the beauty of a sunset or the sweet vibration of a flowering tree, we become a healing presence. When we honor our sacred connection with the spiritual and energetic vibrations of the earth that hold our planet together — as my dear friends in Matu and the great shamans have always done — we contribute to the healing of all.
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About the Author
Ann Drake is a clinical psychologist by western training and a shamanic practitioner by eastern training. She lives and works in the coastal town of Gloucester, Massachusetts. In addition to her healing work, Ann offers workshops and trainings for those who are called to be shamanic practitioners. Her first book, Healing of the Soul: Shamanism and Psyche, was published in 2004. Her current book, The Energetic Dimension: Understanding our Karmic, Ancestral and Cultural Imprints, is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2019. A current article, entitled, Healing the Vibration of Trauma in the Land, is featured on the Society of Shamanic Practice website. To learn more about Ann and her work, visit her website www.anndrakesoulwork.com where she has blog posts that relate the energetic basis of our being to contemporary issues.