Plant Spirit Healing
The last forty years have seen a continual rise in people’s interest in traditional indigenous cultures that engage with the unseen forces of nature and the spirit beings that inhabit the astral / dreamtime dimension. This fascination with what is called shamanism is occurring in the Western world and seems to be a response to our malnourished spirits that long for connection with the greater web of life and the meaning that comes from that connection. This movement toward spirit is perhaps an evolutionary one, or maybe it is a return to our birthright. Our very DNA is encoded with a memory of a time when we all lived close to spirit and its individual manifestations.
Plant Spirit Healing is a way of life as well as a modality of healing because it helps us to become fully who we are, living according to our own true nature, following the path we are meant to walk. Coming to know our own true nature and living accordingly can be a life-long journey. The plants are our companions for life that guide, heal and help us along our journey. They will also assist with issues of intention and humility, reminding us that ultimately we are in service to the holy, the sacredness in all life.
Plants have a direct line to source energy, and it is this energy that causes healing to take place. This source energy is powerful and requires a container that can handle its magnitude and dynamism. The container of our bodies needs to be free of clutter and also needs to have the capacity to hold the enormous spiritual energy that moves through as we work with plant spirits. In the West we are now very conscious of needing to strengthen our bodies - the physical vessel - through exercise, breathing, and bodywork while eating good organic food and drinking pure water. However, we are lacking in our understanding that we also need to “clean house” internally; emptying closets of our psyche of worn-out beliefs, old patterns, negative thought processes, and unwarranted fears.
When working with Plant Spirit Healing, we focus on the energy body and on supporting the person to be all that they can be, fulfilling their own true nature. We address the source of dis-ease rather than merely treating a symptom. Symptoms are signposts to be used as guidelines but they are not the dis-ease. There may be many manifestations of illness in a person but they all come from the same source – a disruption in one’s energy body. When we are not at home with ourselves or not living according to our own true nature, the energy becomes contradictory causing mis-alignment or vulnerability.
The plant spirits can fill us full of all that is needed to live according to our own true nature, walking the path meant for us. Plant Spirit Healing is not about achieving perfection or perfect health – it is about becoming fully you. All that does not serve us as we becomes what we truly are falls away and the plants work to bring us back into balance with our complete selves.
Healing Trauma – Individual and Collective Transformation
Trauma is a fact of life. It has become so commonplace that most people don’t even realize its presence. Trauma is felt by everyone at some stage in our lives and doesn’t have to have resulted from the more obvious causes such as abuse or attack (shock trauma); accidents, injuries, surgery, medical and dental procedures, anesthesia, illnesses, inappropriate or harsh behavior by parents/teachers/peers, betrayal, robbery, financially hard times, pressure of societal/cultural expectations, fetal trauma, birth trauma, loss of a loved one, witnessing violence, etc., etc., can all cause a level of trauma in the system that can deeply effect the way we view and live in the world.
Throughout recorded and oral history, it has been the task of the shaman, or tribal healer, to help restore balance and health in individuals and communities where it has been disrupted. In contrast to Western medicine, which has taken its time in recognizing the debilitating impacts of trauma, shamanistic cultures have acknowledged such wounds for a very long time. Shamanistic cultures view illness and trauma as a problem for the entire community, not just the individual who manifests the symptoms. Consequently, people in shamanic societies seek healing as much for the good of the whole as for themselves. In the Amazon, the energy that results from a traumatic experience is called susto and this is one of the key areas of the work at the Temple.
Traumatic symptoms are not caused by the “triggering” of the event itself. They stem from the frozen residue of energy that has not been resolved and discharged; this energy remains trapped in the system where it can wreak havoc on our mind and body. However, we can remove this energy by working with the plants. The same energies that create the symptoms of trauma, when properly engaged can transform the trauma and propel us into new heights of healing, mastery, and even wisdom.
Held within the symptoms of trauma are the very energies, potentials, and resources necessary for their constructive transformation. Western medicine and culture typically blocks our innate healing process - by using drugs to suppress symptoms, by over-emphasizing adjustment or control or by denial or invalidation of emotions, feelings and sensations. This residual energy does not simply go away. It persists in the body, and forces the formation of a wide variety of symptoms e.g., anxiety, depression, sadness, disassociation, fear, panic, and other psychosomatic and behavioral problems. These symptoms are the way our mind and body gives us signals that there is undischarged residual energy that we need to address and clean. If we don’t deal with this energy and ignore the warning signs, dis-ease will then often manifest as a final warning system.
Trauma resolved is a great gift, returning us to the natural world of ebb and flow, harmony, love, and compassion. In order to release the energies caused by trauma, we need quietness, safety, and protection. We need caring and experienced healers to help us move through the release of the energies surrounded by the protection and support of Nature. We can then trust and honor the process that will bring us to completion and wholeness, and eventually peace. This is the environment that is offered during a healing workshop at the Temple.
Trauma has the potential to be one of the most significant forces for psychological, social, and spiritual awakening and evolution. How we handle trauma (as individuals, communities, and societies) greatly influences the quality of our lives. It ultimately affects how or even whether we will survive as a species.
Shipibo Master Healers – The Onanya
In ancient Hippocratic medicine the patient was called “asthenis” meaning a person who lacked strength or vital energy; the doctor was “iatros” which means the healer who re-establishes the “sthenos” or vital energy in the person. The field of medicine has moved away from this model toward the pathology of life omitting the source of health which is vital energy manifesting as pleasure, joy and love. Life quite simply is directly related to how energy flows or is blocked from flowing – in effect, the human struggle.
The Onanya work directly with energy; identifying where there are blockages, if there is excess energy and where energy is lacking. They diagnose where negative, dense energies exist trapped in the system and work, guided by the plant spirits, to cleanse and purify the body of these energies. Negative energy is not native to our bodies and it controls the way we think, the way we perceive and the way we experience our life. It blocks the flow of positive energy affecting our ability to truly connect not only with ourselves but with others, holding us back from reaching our true potential and living life to the fullest. By working with ayahausca, the master plants and the Onanya help us to purge these negative energies in our body; we are then guided towards internal integration, self-awareness and self-direction. We are able to build right relationships with people around us and are able to listen more with our hearts, as opposed to our minds.
The main approach of the Onanya to remove negative energies is via energy medicine that comes in the form of song – ikaros. Sound is a form of energy frequency (vibration) through which communication and healing can take place. Everything in physical existence has a molecular structure that vibrates, and through this vibration a resonance can be heard. Pythagoras, who was the father of the musical scale, “recognized that music was an expression of harmonia, the divine principle that brings order to chaos and discord.”
Traditionally, sound has been used for healing in many cultures. Throughout the indigenous tribes of South America, plant songs are an integral part of the healing process. The Onanya explain that all plants have their own songs and these songs, the ikaros, are taught to the healer during “dietas” – extended periods of time in isolation adhering to strict dietary conditions carried out in order to receive the healing energy and teachings of the plants. Each different master / teacher plant possesses a song that is given to the apprentice. The apprentice carries out numerous dietas whilst in training, typically for a minimum of 4 years and then continuing to diet plants throughout their life as an Onanya. These healing ikaros – puro sonido (pure sound) from the plants - form the backbone of the energy work during ceremonies.
The ikaros work in combination and cooperation with ayahausca to purge the negative energies as well as filling the body with plant medicine. The ikaros that are given over the duration of a workshop become like allies, working closely with each participant for a much longer period of time in order to bring about gradual transformation. They can be considered as “seeds of change” that are sown into the system of each participant who comes to the Temple, which then over time grow into trees; supporting us, laying roots into the ground, branching our lives outwards to unify and connect to the sacredness of everything around us.
Plants are the most accessible avenue to healing available to us on the planet. The Onanya are able to communicate and work closely with the sentient, conscious, intelligent spirits of plants in order to carry out profound healing. Because of the vibratory quality of light and sound and the high level of intelligence of plants, their ability to communicate and heal is superior to that of any other life-form including humans. The practice of Plant Spirit Healing is not only for people who are interested in, attracted to, or who have knowledge of plants, it is for everyone and it is the Onanya who can guide us on how to re-connect with the plants and re-learn the heritage of wisdom that is carried by the plant kingdom. Plant spirits’ abilities to maintain balance and harmony, within and without, is a gift that anyone can benefit from and will ultimately benefit us all.
Working with Energy Patterns from the Plants
Often illness (whether it is physical, emotional, mental or spiritual issues) is seen by the healers as harmful designs / patterns on the bodies of the guests that they have either picked up externally or generated internally. The Onanya (Shipibo shaman) work to pull off the bad patterns, brushing and blowing them away from the body of the patient. The Onanya use healing odors (colognes made from various medicinal plants), mapacho (native tobacco which is used to clean negative energies and transmit positive energies) and place the intricate geometric patterns of the ikaros onto their patients. Due to the nature of the work, multiple treatments are needed before a cure can be completed.
Before healing, a patient’s energy body often appears to be covered with chaotic patterns although after several treatments, the messy patterns are cleaned and replaced with new designs from the plants. Order and harmony is brought to the energetic system. When a patient is cured, the energetic body of the patient is covered with the designs that you see in Shipibo textiles. At the end of a course of treatment (ie a workshop), the Onanya then cover the patient’s body with different ikaros called arkana’s. Arkana means protection and they are used to seal the other healing designs that have been laid into the energy body providing a protection coating – a form of spiritual armor to protect against further negative energies being picked up externally.
In mareacion (the effect of Ayahausca) the Onanya see the brightly colored geometric designs in the air. Their visions are completely inundated with these designs which float around the healing space and into the mouths of the Onanya. As soon as they connect, the Onanya become channels for the plant spirits to transmit their ikaros into the patients. Different parts of the ikaros relate to different elements of the designs. The ikaros are also said to have different fragrances associated with them and Onanya (and some patients) will smell flowers during a healing ceremony.
Shipibo patterns come from seeing the sacred healing energies that come from the plants. They can be seen as the codes of the ikaros that express their healing energies and are seen by the Onanya in their visions. The patterns on their art are external two dimensional manifestations of these energies. The Onanya weave these geometric designs into the bodies of their patients in order to bring order and harmony and to reconfigure their patients’ energy bodies. The patterns correlate to a variety of different senses. The Onanya "see the songs" and "hear the designs" at the same time in a phenomenon known as synesthesia - the blending of the senses. These design energies come from the plants singing in ceremony and from their dietas. The plant doctors’ ikaros work through the Onanya penetrating the patient’s energy body to heal and protect it.