In his book The Spirit of Shamanism, Roger N. Walsh, M.D., PhD. defines Shamanism as follows: "Shamanism can be defined as a family of traditions whose Practitioners focus on voluntarily entering altered states of consciousness in which they experience themselves or their spirit[s], traveling to other realms at will, and interacting with other entities in order to serve their community." There are many important phrases or key terms included in this definition. The first of which is "traditions." Traditions according to the dictionary are beliefs that are handed down [to the next generation] because of their effectiveness.In the shamanic context, these beliefs are being applied to spiritual healing, which may have an impact on the emotional/mental and physical aspects [bodies] of the individual as well. The shamanic traditions are not surprisingly different from culture to culture setting. This leads to the speculation that these traditions have an original source.
The shamanic journey is the most common practice of the traditions.The journey is usually induced by rhythmic drumming or other percussion sound, a rattle for example. The uses of the shamanic journey are many: such as diagnosing or treating illness, for acquisition of power through the interaction with spirits, i.e., power animals, spiritual teachers and angels. It is vital that the shaman maintain a relationship with their spiritual helpers as to receive instruction and information to help the patient.
The next key word in the definition is "voluntarily." The shaman must have mastered the experience of contacting spiritual entities to receive information that will be helpful to their patient and themselves, whatever the situation may be. A major skill that is acquired in the training process is spirit vision. This skill involves the development of a capability to organize, understand and communicate with the visionary data one is presented with while in an altered state of consciousness.
Shamans are committed to the art of healing to the people of the community. The practice of these healing traditions is often referred to as energy medicine. The goal of energy medicine is to provide a healing to the recipient. The format of a healing is the ceremony where the shaman applies his or her healing protocols which have passed down from the practitioner's teacher, from generation to generation therefore establishing the traditions. The knowledge is ancient but it is always growing or evolving. Thus, the shamans of today practice energy medicine traditions that have evolved in their effectiveness and practicality.
Shamanism is an ongoing expanding body of energy medicine rooted in tradition. The shaman applies the energy medicine protocols for the healing of the people he or she serves.