Sandra Ingerman is a world-renowned teacher of shamanism who has been working in the United States and abroad for more than 30 years. She is the leading practitioner in the West of soul retrieval — a shamanic healing modality — and her book on the subject, Soul Retrieval: Mending the Fragmented Self, has been translated into 10 languages beyond English. She is also the author of 10 other books on shamanism and spirituality, as well as seven audio programs produced by Sounds True. Her newest book, The Book of Ceremony: Shamanic Wisdom for Invoking the Sacred in Everyday Life, will be released by Sounds True in October 2018.

A licensed marriage and family therapist, Ingerman is also a board-certified expert on traumatic stress. She was awarded the 2007 Peace Award from the Global Foundation for Integrative Medicine and named one of the Top 10 Spiritual Leaders of 2013 by Spirituality and Health magazine. She is devoted to teaching people how we can work together as a global community to bring about positive change for the planet. — Leslee Goodman

The MOON: What is soul retrieval and why should anyone need it?

Ingerman: Soul retrieval is a healing method that comes out of tens of thousands of years of shamanic tradition, which is a universal practice all over the world. Shamans are healers, but they focus on the spiritual cause of illness, rather than only the physical and emotional symptoms, as we in the western world do. But to get a complete viewpoint of health, we have to look at what’s going on in body, mind, and spirit. A shaman is assisted in her work by compassionate spirits from transcendent realms who have a different perspective of what’s going on in the human condition than we can see with our ordinary eyes.

One of the classic spiritual diagnoses of illness from a shamanic point of view is what we call soul loss. The definition of soul that I’m using is that soul is our essence; our life force; that part of ourselves that keeps us alive. In shamanism, it’s understood that whenever somebody suffers a trauma, whether it’s emotional or physical, a piece of our soul, our essence, can leave our body in order to survive the experience. Psychology refers to this as dissociation, but never talks about whatdissociates, or where dissociated parts go. In shamanism, we understand that actually a part our soul has left our body to feel safe, and that there are other realms, or dimensions, that the soul can travel to. The shaman’s job then becomes one of traveling to into unseen realms to find the soul and bring it back.

In the western world, the types of events that could cause soul loss are any kind of abuse. Emotional, physical, or sexual abuse are all classic causes of soul loss. Other traumas include accidents, illness, surgery, abandonment, the death of a loved one, an ugly divorce; anything that’s such a shock that part of the soul dissociates because staying present in the body is too painful. If I’m about to be in a head-on collision, for example, the very last place I want to be at the moment of impact is in my body. My psyche could not endure that kind of pain.

So we have this brilliant self-protection mechanism where a piece of our soul leaves our body in order to survive the experience. From a shamanic point of view, however, that part of our self usually doesn’t return on its own, and so a shaman will undertake the task of finding and retrieving the pieces of soul that left and restoring them to the person who lost them.

The symptoms that might indicate someone has experienced soul loss are dissociation, not feeling really present or in your body, feeling like you’re observing life rather than fully engaging in it; turning to drugs, alcohol or any kind of addiction, including work, sleep, food, relationships, or materialism. We could diagnose collective soul loss in the western world from our propensity to focus so obsessively on filling ourselves with what we can gather in the outside world, instead of feeling whole inside ourselves. Chronic depression, chronic suicidal tendencies, or a chronic physical illness would also be said to be signs of soul loss.

The MOON: Why would just a piece of one’s soul leave? If it’s too painful to stay in the body, why wouldn’t the entire soul leave?

Ingerman: If your entire soul leaves, you die. Obviously, that happens. Somebody in a coma has a little bit more of their soul in the unseen realms than here in their physical body; they’re literally between life and death. And again, a shaman could perform a soul retrieval in that case, but if a person’s whole soul actually goes over, they die. That’s what will happen to all of us, eventually.

The MOON: You mention the trauma of abuse, and we typically think of the harm it does to the victims. However, can’t inflicting abuse on another also cause soul loss? In Ken Burns’ fabulous documentary series, Vietnam, a number of soldiers describe how their infliction of pain and suffering on others caused soul loss. They didn’t use that term, but they describe being changed in ways that fit your symptoms. One man, who had to kill an enemy soldier in hand-to-hand combat in an underground tunnel, said that neither of the men came out of that tunnel alive.

Ingerman: Any traumatic experience can cause soul loss. The horror of war — even for a “victor” — can cause soul loss.

The MOON: So that would be another consequence of the violence in our culture — even when we inflict the violence on others, it’s robbing us of soul.

Ingerman: If you look at the behavior of human beings, right now, you’ll realize that humanity has experienced massive soul loss. What human being who was actually fully present in their body, who had a spiritual life, would say that money is more important than destroying our environment? Would say that money is more important than destroying an entire species? Yet that’s what we’re seeing on a mass scale; the sixth mass extinction. It doesn’t seem to matter to us what we do to the environment. We act as if it’s here for us to take. That is not the behavior of a healthy and well-balanced person. It’s the behavior of somebody who’s very dissociated, who’s not in their body, who is incapable of seeing his or her connections to life. If you’re fully in your body, you are very conscious of your behavior, of how you treat yourself and others, including the planet, which is our home. But what we’re seeing in our culture right now is very mentally unbalanced behavior.

The MOON: And yet we often see this behavior justified by people who consider themselves spiritual; evangelical; fundamentalists. They’d emphatically deny that they’ve lost soul.

Ingerman: People who are dissociated often don’t know they’re dissociated. People who have soul loss often don’t know they have soul loss. Yet it’s very interesting that there’s a huge resurgence of the practice of shamanism occurring simultaneously.

Remember, too, that shamans worked in local communities, where everyone was trained from birth in how to be a responsible community member. That included living a life of honor and respect for others and for nature; giving gratitude daily for life; and honoring the gifts and strengths that they — and their neighbors — were bringing to the community. The community was actually seen as one organism, and everyone was a valued part of that organism.

If somebody fell ill, they or a family member would seek out the help of a shaman for healing — which was not just for the individual, but for the entire community. There was a lot of attention paid to the health of the community, or the community could die. They didn’t have the modern technology to keep life going as we can in the West. However, one of the consequences is that people no longer grow up embedded in and responsible to a community.

Nevertheless, all over the world, people are being drawn back to a shamanic worldview. It appeals to them. They long for it. There’s an understanding in shamanism that we’re all connected — that the Earth is one organism and that we’re part of it, like bear is a part; as butterfly is a part. We’re not in control of it. But shamans don’t impose this understanding on people from different religious beliefs. It’s not really possible for that to be effective, anyway, because shamanism is a local practice. It’s practiced within a community.

In today’s world we have a global spiritual community that stays connected through the internet, social media, and online courses. It’s community by voluntary association, and that’s important because we cannot reach out and force shamanic healing on those who don’t consider themselves part of a shamanic community.

The MOON: You mentioned trauma as the most common way that people lose a bit of their soul, but in your book you also point out that many of us routinely give away our power, which can cause soul loss, as well. At first, we might think we have to because we’re powerless children, but then it becomes a habit. Would you care to comment on that?

Ingerman: Let’s say a very young child grows up in a household where one of their beloved parents is depressed. The child may give up a piece of herself to try to cheer up that parent, probably unconsciously. This happens in our culture with women, in particular. It’s not necessarily explicit. Parents don’t sit their daughters down and say, “If you love your husband and children you’ll give up your soul,” but children are very psychically sensitive and, watching the behavior in their family system, they might come to the conclusion that love means to give up a piece of yourself to another.

And so begins a habitual, unhealthy behavior of giving away parts of our self to make somebody else feel better, or to make somebody else feel loved, or in the hope of being loved ourselves. This is unhealthy because when you give up a piece of yourself to another, you’re actually giving up a piece of your own vitality, which opens you to becoming physically or emotionally ill on some level. At the same time, we’re giving people a part of ourselves that they can’t use. Nobody can use your soul. They can only use their own. So we end up burdening other people with unusable energy, instead of freeing them to be the creative beings that they want to be.

We must also mention soul stealing. Again, typically this behavior is done unconsciously and is learned behavior. We see soul stealing when someone is jealous of another, cannot forgive another, or feels that they will have more power, energy, happiness, or health if they take a piece of another’s soul.

When we teach people how to release soul parts of others we heal not only this generation. We also heal our ancestral line, as well as future generations, as we become more aware of the need to stop giving up our soul or stealing soul parts of others.

The MOON: Are there steps a shaman, or a community of shamans, can take to bring healing or harmony to a world of fellow beings who are suffering from soul loss but don’t understand their dissociation?

Ingerman: Well, first of all, from a shamanic point of view, a recipient needs to step forward and ask for help. Shamans don’t work on behalf of people who haven’t asked for it.

Second, shamanic healing is not a miraculous cure that requires nothing from the recipient. When a shaman performs a soul retrieval, or an extraction, or some other healing modality, the presenting problem may be cured, but then it’s up to the recipient to reflect on their life, their behavior, and to start living differently. Are they treating everything in life with love and respect? Are they speaking the truth? What is required to improve their relationships? What changes do they need to make so that this will be a long-term healing?

Again, in a shamanic culture, everyone was trained in these life skills and could both support and hold each other accountable. The shaman performed the healing, and the community members understood the personal work required to once again become a fully functioning member of the community and take part in a long-term healing. So even if a thousand shamans performed a soul retrieval for all of humanity, what good would it do without the continued reflection, participation, and conscious behavior changes within billions of people to sustain it? The biggest error that is happening with the resurgence of shamanism today is if people see it as a one-time miraculous cure that somebody does for you.

Healing is not passive; it’s active. People have to be willing to do their personal work. In a shamanic culture, that would include looking at the vocabulary you’re using every day because words are seen as having a tremendous amount of power. They’re incantations. Every time you say a word aloud, it goes out into the universe and manifests as form. Creation stories from all over the world talk about creation happening through the power of spoken word, but many of us have forgotten that we have that same power with the words we use. In shamanism, it’s understood that “thoughts are things” and that, if we don’t work to transform our negative emotions, we can send psychic darts and arrows to others by all the negative thoughts we keep having. Shamans also teach that it is our imaginations that manifest the world we’re living in; we’re dreamers and we’re dreaming this world into being. In shamanic cultures, people are taught to use their imaginations in a disciplined way to manifest a good dream for oneself and for the community. These are all inherent practices that people have to wake up to in order for a shamanic healing to take effect.

The MOON: Although we cannot do shamanic work on behalf of a person who has not asked for it, is there work we can do in the spiritual realm on behalf of the planet, or on behalf of healing in general, or on behalf of awakening? Just as other traditions pray for desired outcomes, can shamans not pray, or perform ceremonies, for the healing of the Earth and of humanity?

Ingerman: Again, from a shamanic point of view, the key to changing the world is changing yourself. Yes, there are ceremonies that shamans perform to create harmony between the people and the environment. They might include ceremonies asking for rain or to help with a challenging situation. Shamans perform ceremonies for healing. But at the same time, it is truly understood that our outer world changes as we change our inner world. And there is a clear focus in shamanism on the need to create harmony in oneself.

It does not matter what spiritual path you choose to engage in. All spiritual paths lead to the same place. People need to choose the path and the practices that speak to them. The point is that shamanism recognizes the outer world as a reflection of our inner state of consciousness. Until we change our inner state, we won’t see a change in the outer world. And conversely, when enough of us do change our inner state of consciousness — whatever path we take to do so — the outer world will reflect that.

By “inner state of consciousness,” I’m referring to working with our emotions in a responsible way; looking at our thought patterns and where they’re leading us; looking at our daydreams and what sort of reality they’re creating; being impeccable with our words and our actions. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to reflect on our habitual daydreams to see what’s manifesting in our personal lives and the world. Individually and collectively, we’re dreaming the world into being, and at the moment that world is pretty toxic — not just energetically, but physically, as well. To change the world, however, we change ourselves. When we change the dreamer, we change the dream. As more people wake up and change their behavior, then the world around us reflects those changes.

The true work of the highest level of shamanism is to do your own inner work and change the seeds that you’re planting in your own inner garden. What you plant in your inner garden changes what manifests for yourself and also for the world. It really is a very disciplined practice that brings you within to do your inner work. Of course, in the western world, we see everything as outer. We believe physical reality is fundamental. So we’re constantly asking, “What do we do? What do we do?” That’s like trying to change a river at its mouth. In shamanism, the spiritual realm is fundamental; so we try to change the river at its source. The question shamans ask is “Who are you?” not in an absolute or ideal sense, but “who are you showing up as in your life and in the world?” To answer that question, consider what is being reflected back to you of your own shadow states and the issues you need to work through. When you start paying attention to who you are, it will affect what you do; what you bring to life. So the key to changing the world is changing yourself.

The MOON: But it’s not that we just gaze at our navel, and then the world changes.

Ingerman: Right [laughter]. Yeah. A different interior world prompts different behavior, which then creates a different outer world. The metaphor I like to use is that of a garden. We each have an inner garden, which we plant with our thoughts and words. From every thought and word that we speak and water, a plant will grow. Of course, not all thoughts and words are fed, so they don’t all germinate and grow, but if you look at what is growing in your garden, you’ll know what seeds you must have planted.

I also teach people how to protect themselves from the energetic toxicity of others, because it’s crazy the amount of it that is being broadcast right now. If we’re not aware of what we’re exposing ourselves to and protect ourselves, we can absorb an immense amount of toxic energy and then don’t realize why we’re not feeling well.

As I said, from an energetic and shamanic point of view, thoughts are things. They manifest in the physical realm. So, with every hateful thought we have, we’re actually sending a psychic arrow out into the universe. From the animosity of discourse evident in broadcast and social media right now you can see there’s a fairly intense psychic warfare being waged, in addition to physical warfare. For one thing, we need to become more energetically aware of what’s coming our way, and we need to know that we never have to receive an energy we don’t want. We can send it back with love. It’s not enough just send it back, because that too is psychic warfare. So you have to forgive the energy, and send it back with love. You don’t even have to know where it came from; just send it back with love.

I also teach people that it’s really important to learn how to express our feelings about what’s happening in the world, which, for many of us, is not good. So let’s explore it. Let’s not deny it. Let’s embrace the shadow that’s evident in what’s happening. Personally, if I’m thinking about how much I hate what’s happening in the world, or how a political leader is behaving, or what a friend has posted to social media, the first thing I do is acknowledge how I’m feeling. Then I ask that the energy I’m feeling behind my thoughts and emotions be transformed into an energy of love that feeds me and all of life. It’s not really an affirmation; it’s an intention to transform the negative into something positive. We have to learn how to express and release our toxic emotions, but not send them out into the world. That’s a very vital teaching throughout shamanism.

For more reminders, put inspirational words on your desk so that you can remember how you want to show up in the world right now. I have many words, including “radiance,” “love,” “appreciation,” “light,” and “luminescence,” on Post-Its all over my desk, along with pictures of nature and loved ones. That’s the energy I want to be feeding myself and life right now. Another reminder: before you take a drink of water, bless it. Then when you drink the water, you’re absorbing positive energy, which also goes into all the waters of the world that we talk about wanting to protect. In your own situation, notice the things that trigger you and then create little reminders to be conscious of how you want to express yourself. Again, we don’t want to deny what we’re feeling, but we want to transform it before we send the energy back out. That’s doing your spiritual work, remembering that what we feed grows.

Many people are feeling very sensitive right now. One of the methods of protection I learned from a shaman in California was to see myself inside of a translucent, blue egg. Within that egg, other people’s energy cannot reach me or harm me in any way. In shamanism, it’s believed that we all have helping, compassionate spirits. People who actively practice shamanism can call on their helping spirits and ask them to fill them with power. Some of the sickest people I’ve worked with in my practice are psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors, and others in helping professions who haven’t been taught how to protect themselves from absorbing others’ energy. I’ve taught them how to call on their helping spirits to fill themselves with power before they go into a session, or to see themselves surrounded by a blue egg or other protection, so that they don’t absorb the trauma their clients may release.

Beyond our skin and our brains, we are beings of spiritual light: we’re body, mind, and spirit. The creative force of the universe is divine light, which is what animates us, too. When you go back to the teachings of Jesus, you can see their grounding in shamanism. Jesus taught very core shamanic teachings about filling the body with light; letting your light shine before men; and so on. When light is flowing through you, when you’re radiating light, nothing can harm you; you’re a being of light. As we develop ourselves as beings of spiritual light, then we become immune to toxic energies. Light drives out darkness. We can strengthen this aspect of ourselves by focusing on it: when we drink water, eat our food, and breathe the air, we can consciously see ourselves as absorbing light. We also strengthen our light through gratitude practices: thanking the elements of Earth, air, water, and sunlight for the life they give us. Perceiving what we take in as energies of love and light helps us to transform some of the negative energy around us, as well.

We can put on some spiritual music and imagine going inside of ourselves and experiencing ourselves like a star in the night sky. Stars don’t effort in radiating light and they don’t direct where they send their light. They just radiate. It is so powerful to experience your own spiritual light like that of a star, the sun, or a flame and then absorb that energy into your cells. It is quite healing. Then you can imagine letting that light flow through you within and throughout the Earth.

The MOON: Jesus’ personal example appeared to end badly for a while there.

Ingerman: From a shamanic or alchemical point of view, the crucifixion of Jesus is a very apt shamanic and spiritual metaphor. The egoic man must die in order for the divine self to be born. The crucifixion itself is a classic shamanic initiation, variations of which everybody goes through at different points of their life. When we change jobs, move, end a relationship, lose a loved one, heal from an illness, these are all examples of an initiation. Every change in life marks the death of an old way of life. There is the big death we experience when our life ends. Then there are the little deaths we experience during each change we go through in life.

The whole world is undergoing a classic shamanic initiation right now, where all the unhealthy behaviors are starting to dissolve the planet. Through initiation we are sculpted into more evolved beings. As our ego and personality are sculpted, our spirit shines through and we have more capacity to shine our light in the world, which is the highest form of healing ourselves and the planet. It may feel as if we’re being crucified, but the breakdown that we’re feeling is to let the ego know that it is not in control here and that it’s time to develop our spiritual muscles. Our spiritual muscles know how to carry us through anything that is going on. They can take us through the pain of labor and delivery so that rebirth can occur: the birth of a more evolved human being. The process of initiation entails disintegration, illumination, remembering, reconstruction, and re-emergence.

One time I was going through such a challenging emotional situation, I was paralyzed by my grief and could not even leave my house. I performed a shamanic journey to one of my helping compassionate spirits. I asked her for guidance. She responded by saying “You are going through an initiation.” I responded that I did not feel I would live through it. She then looked right into my eyes and said, “If you thought you were going to live through this it would not be an initiation.”

The MOON: As you say that, I’m thinking of the Thai boys and their coach, who were just rescued safely from the flooded cave. I read that the coach taught them how to meditate together in the womblike, total darkness of the cave to remain calm and conserve their energy. They were meditating when the rescuers found them. And then they were led through the long, narrow “rebirth” canal…safe. That’s pretty powerful symbolism.

Ingerman: The example of what the Thai boys experienced is a classic shamanic initiation. These boys learned a powerful lesson of how our inner spirit will carry us through physical and emotional challenges.

One thing to understand about the rebirth that occurs after an initiation is that we do not have the capacity from a rational point of view to predict when the rebirth will occur. We don’t know the timing of the rebirth of our global initiation. Will it happen in our lifetime? Not knowing the answer to that is the difficult part of teaching shamanism in the western world, where everyone is focused on immediate results. “I meditated for an hour and nothing changed.” [laughter]. “I did a shamanic journey and my life is still the same.” The outcome of any shamanic initiation actually belongs to the realm of our soul and spirit, and we don’t know when the result of all the positive work that we’re doing will show itself on a larger world scale. We can see more results in our own life as we continue our spiritual work, but as far as taking on the entire planet right now, the timing and the outcome of that is not in our hands.

The MOON: I hate that.

Ingerman: I know. [laughter].

The MOON: Please tell us about your new book and how it complements this time we’re living in.

Ingerman: My new book is called The Book of Ceremony: Shamanic Wisdom for Invoking the Sacred in Everyday Life. There is no separation between the profane and the sacred in shamanism. Everything in life is sacred. Ceremony reminds us of that. Ceremony has been performed in shamanic cultures around the world for, again, tens of thousands of years. The power of ceremony is that it takes us beyond our ego and into a spiritual state where our own divine spirit starts to communicate with the creative forces of the universe, the Divine Light, God, Goddess, Creator, Source, whatever you want to call it. We enter into a powerful partnership between our own inner spirit and the spirit of creation to work in harmony to manifest our desired outcomes. Shamans have always performed ceremonies to create harmony between humans and the elements. There are also releasing ceremonies that we all can do.

Let’s say something is really bothering you about the state of the world. You can blow that energy into a rock and ask that the energies be transformed into love and light and bury it into the Earth. We don’t want to add more toxic energy to the Earth, so make sure to transmute the energy through your intention. Or you can build a little ship out of sticks and grass — natural materials — and send it off into the water, again, imagining release from whatever you’re seeking to let go: self-sabotaging thoughts; someone you might need to forgive; worry or fear of any kind. Send it off into the water, asking that the energy be transformed into love and light. Another simple one is blowing bubbles into the air and releasing your self-defeatist thoughts, or anything that is anchoring you to an unhealthy state of consciousness. As you blow the bubbles into the air, ask that they be transmuted into love and light. Or, give anything you wish to transform to fire — blowing the energy into a stick that you then burn, for example.

You can also do ceremonies to symbolically set your intention for an outcome you want to manifest for yourself or the world. You can bless your house, so that you’re living in an environment that reflects back your gratitude, beauty, intentions as well as the beauty and light of your soul. You can blow a dream into a rock and bury it; or into bubbles and release them; or into a stick and burn it; or into an object that you release into the water. These are just very basic examples. You can create your own unique ceremonies, as well. Intention is the key ingredient; intention is a crucial element in performing any kind of ceremony, as setting an intention creates change. Set the intention for whatever you’re planting so that you consciously cultivate it in your outer world, just as you do in your inner garden. When you’re conscious of the energy you feed into the growing of food or flowers, then you’re nurturing the energy that you feed yourself when you consume the food or enjoy the beauty of the flowers. Speaking the words of your intentions aloud helps to amplify them, so speak them boldly, with authority. We live in a creative universe that responds to the energy of our vibrations.

Ceremony has been used to heal, for rites of passage going from childhood to puberty and puberty into adulthood, to sanctify marriages, to honor the dead and help them have a good transition to the other side. Ceremonies are acts of conscious intention to bring to us the best that life has to offer by really calling upon the power of our soul to aid in manifesting our highest dreams. At the same time, they remind us to give up control of the outcome and the timing, understanding that ceremonies start an organic process that does not produce a quick meal, but a slow-cooked feast that presents itself with incredible beauty over time.

The MOON: Many of the descriptions of the journeys you undertake for soul retrieval describe a particular place: the Upper World, the Lower World, the Land of the Dead. When I’ve journeyed, my experiences have been interior. However, your shamanic colleague Hank Wesselman describes his journeys as taking place outside of his body. His cat sees him flying up into the sky. Wild animals see him. Fellow shamanic practitioners see him. Will you describe what journeying is like for you and how you perceive the existence of these other worlds and dimensions?

Ingerman: Shamans actually take their bodies with them when they journey. When you go into a shamanic culture, you see shamans dancing and singing and chanting their journeys out loud, sharing the paths that they’re walking down, going into an unseen territory in the non-ordinary realm and smelling the air and the flowers and hearing sounds of nature, absorbing the power of the sun, tasting the air. As shamanism is being taught in the West, journeying is an out-of-body experience where some part of you — your spirit — travels. But in classical shamanic cultures, the shaman’s soul is actually going with them into these non-ordinary realms. Again, we’re not taking our ego, our personality with us. We do lots of preparation work to lift out of our humanness and to quiet our mind and our personality and ego and get into a spiritual state of consciousness where our soul walks into these parallel dimensions that are part of the reality of life and actually have full-bodied experiences. And so when I teach people shamanic journeying, I try to get them to drum and rattle and sing and chant and to use their psychic unseen senses to see, hear, feel, taste, and smell completely as they move through these non-ordinary realms to experience the beauty, to receive guidance, and to receive healing energies to spin and weave and to bring back into this ordinary reality.

For years now with clients, I’ve worked in a more engaged physical way. I sit next to my client, drum, rattle, and sing. I bring myself fully into the non-ordinary realms as I have described. In order to keep shamanism relevant in today’s world we must continue to evolve our work to keep it fresh and learning the most powerful ways to bridge the ancient healing practices of shamanism with the modern day world.

The MOON: West African shaman Malidoma Somé describes physical experiences as well. In one, the boys who are being initiated jump through a hoop and physically enter another dimension. And some of them don’t make it back out into this one.

Ingerman: Again, that goes back to what I was talking about of shamanic initiation. We cannot succeed at initiation with our mind. When you’re doing a fire walk, you can’t think about walking through fire. If you think about walking through fire, you’re going to get burned. However, if your spirit wakes up, your spirit will carry you through. Your spirit will carry you through any initiation, no matter how horrible it is. So, in shamanic cultures, there were initiations that were physically dangerous, like fire-walking and others. Only those who were spiritually strong enough survived those kinds of initiations, because that was what the community needed, very spiritually strong people. If you look at what’s happening in the world right now, and I’m not trying to say this in a way that sounds judgmental or inhumane, it really is the spiritually strong who won’t be taken down because their spiritual muscles are strong enough to carry them through. Without that, we can’t power through the challenges that are happening right now. To make matters worse, we’re not going through our current global initiation in a ceremony being overseen by elders. We’re just all going through it on our own, unless you’re fortunate enough to have elders nearby to help wake up your spiritual muscles to carry you through the challenges of our times.

The MOON: So what should we do?

Ingerman: We should focus on our spiritual practices and keep holding to the intention to go beyond our ego and personality to find our inner strength. The core shamanic practices that have been taught through thousands of years can help. They can connect you to your own spiritual guidance that will help you wake up the power of your own spirit. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world are gaining that kind of strength; however, it doesn’t have to come from shamanism. What I always tell people is, “Find a spiritual practice that calls to you.” They all take you to the same place. Don’t keep searching for which practice has more power. Find a practice that you feel good about committing to daily, because you have to become the work. Doing a spiritual practice in the morning and then going out into the day spewing rage or intolerance, is not what I mean by building spiritual muscles. Spiritual muscles are built with discipline, with consciousness of the energies you’re feeding, with performing your ceremonies, and cultivating who you are beyond your ego and personality. All spiritual practices will teach you how to do that, but you have to commit to living the work and not separating your spiritual practice from your daily life.



Leslee Goodman

I’m the publisher/editor of The MOON magazine (, a monthly journal of personal and universal reflections. The MOON shines in the dark!