Shamanic Doulahood: Integrating the Terminal Client’s Spirituality

May 3, 2021

An abstract very bright painitng of various intertwined figures ascending.
Reading Time: 5 minutes

The world is becoming much more familiar with shamanism thanks to its interest in plant medicine and connection with nature.

The shaman, as some may know, did and does much more than serve ayahuasca. There is a strong similarity in the physiological, bio-chemical knowledge and use of it when it comes to various other traditional paths like that of traditional Chinese medicine or the food/plant/herb knowledge and use of the Ayurvedic. However, a shaman/chaman/curandero heals with even more elements in the mix.

Just like in the astrological/astronomy knowledge left behind, many old shamanic, as well as Hindi and Asian techniques have been proven to be beneficial and accurate in their goal or purpose by science.

Shamanism was and is one of the last worldwide bonds of sorts—pagan, yes, the plants and animals all have an essence of source or a great spirit and there are other worlds and dimensions that can be not only seen but experienced and traveled through and to for healing, and other things.

The shamanic existed on all the continents and all had a very deep reverence, acceptance and honoring of death or the great transition.

In some tribes, just like in other earlier world traditions, it was customary to have an end-of-life attendant sit with, hold space with, serve—someone who had an illness and/or was close to death.

The Buddhists had and some still practice the clearing of regrets, clearing karma as well as confession practices when a monk prepares to die (belief being along the lines of, “you must own what you did in order to liberate yourself from it”).

The death doula is something relatively new in terms of the labeling of it.

For simplicity’s sake I will add this very practical description by Wikipedia (death midwife) and then I will touch upon the reality:

Death is a situation that no one can completely prepare for. Additionally, many people don’t have much experience with people close to them dying. Because of this, when it comes to the time to deal with dying there are a lot of questions and uncertainty. Pain management is only one part of end of life care; another part, of equal or greater importance at the end of their life, is the psychological aspects, including the management of close relationships. A doula’s support can relieve stress and burdensome tasks from the family in order to provide care for the dying individual but also gives the individual psychological and emotional support in the process.

We hold space, serve, educate. Being that Pachamama (Mother Earth) is my #1 love, I also educate about “green funerals” which are more eco-friendly ways to not only honor life and death but also the planet. We also can provide such offerings as home funeral preparation/education and assistance.

Above all this is an egoless path because one may not always be the best person for the job, and one must have respect for self and the travelers that come to us; it is about serving them and their end of days, not about hustling better prices.

In my case it is more about inner peace, dignity and honoring that traveler as he or she transitions into another stage.

When a person comes to someone like me you would think they simply believe in the shamanic, but it’s not something that you follow like a religion and hasn’t really been that well known here in the West long enough for that to happen.

Most of the time it is people who want to feel supported by what they already know is there but perhaps in need of confirmation, or people who are ready to clear karmic ties, clear regrets, clear guilt and leave this plane in peace, squared off and happy.

It is normally very amazing souls that come to me.

An abstract very bright painitng of various intertwined figures ascending.

Untitled by Anita Wexler

One such brave soul was a terminally ill (melanoma cancer) patient who spent the time he could going deeper in his meditation practice, who took up caring for shelves of succulents and upping his game in plant-speak (feeling the energy of the plants, speaking with them, receiving their life and knowledge). He did breathwork and we did various shamanic journeys for past life clearing and pain.

What he got out of it was a profound acceptance, honoring all he had done and been (life itself), an acceptance of where he had possibly been in the entirety of his life (incorporating past life journeys for ancestral, cultural karmic clearing), owning the mind, developing relationships with his animal spirits, guardians, and ancestors; his angels as well, since we honored his beliefs.

He was able to cross over and transition without any desire to look back. He was able to accept his healing. His healing of the human condition, for him it was always about following his own drum and flow.

Working with him also allowed me to work in his belief system which was deeply rooted in Latin American Catholicism.

We can not assume nor generalize in this work. Not all who are dying feel the same. Some feel ecstatic before coming to me. Some are free and simply want to live their best lives with the time they have, but have a need for support and celebration of their journey at the same time. Not all in pain or dying are in the same space.

In this I must follow their belief system. But we must also know that although culturally there are differences at times in the practice of a religion, they share one important thing: belief in a higher power.

They believe in a divine power and an “anima,” a soul.

The religion contained many things to be fearful of guilty about as it was passed on to him; however, Christ’s words never advocated living a life of guilt and shame for his father. He never advocated women being second-class citizens or judging the value of a man based on his alms to the church. He never advocated suffering.

His was a message of redemption, of forgiveness, of power to and within all men and women. His was a message of faith, of love. His was message of ecstasy.

That is the vibration we went to together.

The true vibration of something—which is beyond the laws, emotions and manipulation of the desires of man—just is.

I work with whatever that person’s beliefs are because those are the ones through which they can find redemption. They’re also the very same ones that will give them that very redemption once they resist no more and let it in, let it flow, let it go.

In the shamanic we believe in other worlds and that plants are beings as well as in our guardians and we use the power of the shamanic journey to open up not only the mind but the heart and soul as well.

We also use the journey and shamanic breath to experience that connection people already have with their deities and higher selves.

People that come to me are willing to receive the support and they are not ignorant as to their condition; they’re at a point of awareness, of the fact that this is their life and they want to have a say in the biggest, most courageous step they are to make.

They also want to “live” their last days and have a say about how they wish to do so.

My elderly mother is here so I too must live and honor her days here as well.

Bows and love and respect to all paths.

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