It’s hard to find a good definition of shamanism that doesn’t resort to words like “animistic” or “altered states of consciousness.” So here’s my own explanation:
Shamanism is based on the belief that there are multiple dimensions to reality. There’s the reality we perceive day to day, and then there are the invisible dimensions. We may not know exactly what they consist of, but we all have had experiences of hard-to-explain phenomena. Perhaps it was a strong premonition, a feeling of being tapped on the shoulder, an event we called "coincidence" but which felt like something deeper. For shamans, the invisible dimensions are resources or potential healing energies that are called, for lack of a better term, Spirits. Some shamans work with spirit animals; others with spirits of ancestors, or spirits of the natural world, or what Western thinkers call "archetypes." Whatever way they conceive of Spirit, the connection to these energies is the basis of a rich and sustained sense of wholeness. So shamanism is a process of establishing that connection and then letting the connection be a source of healing and change.
Shamanism has been around a long, long time---some say since the beginning of human society---and evidence of it has been found around the globe. This isn't a "New Age" invention, but an ancient (and in many cultures still vital) practice. I studied with a Mayan shaman named
Manuel Flores, and his mother, Paulina Betanco. They taught me
to trust my connection to Spirit, and once I was able to tap into those remarkable energies, they showed me how to use it to help others.
Mary Kay (MK) LeFevour