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Insights at the Edge
Tami Simon's in-depth audio podcast interviews with leading spiritual teachers and luminaries.
Listen in as they explore their latest challenges and breakthroughs—the leading edge of their work.
Walking in Light
Sandra Ingerman is a licensed psychotherapist and shamanic practitioner who teaches workshops around the world on shamanism and environmental sustainability. With Sounds True, Sandra has written the book Walking in Light: The Everyday Empowerment of a Shamanic Life. In this episode, Sandra and Tami speak about spiritual light and a practice called “transfiguration,” in which one transforms into a radiant being. They also talk about working with ceremonies—in particular ceremonies that can be used when we feel blocked or stuck in life. Finally, they discussed the evolution of what shamanism can offer contemporary society—not just as a set of techniques and practices, but as a way of life. (64 minutes)
Tami Simon: You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today, my guest is Sandra Ingerman. Sandra is a licensed psychotherapist and shamanic practitioner who teaches workshops around the world on shamanism and environmental sustainability. With Sounds True, Sandra has written a new book called Walking in Light: The Everyday Empowerment of a Shamanic Life, where she offers a complete guide for living in a shamanic way—empowered by purpose, focus, and a deep connection to the spiritual dimensions.
In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Sandra and I spoke about spiritual light and a practice which she calls “transfiguration,” in which we turn ourselves into a radiant being of light. We also talked about working with ceremonies—in particular, ceremonies we can use when we feel blocked or stuck in our life. Finally, we talked about the evolution of shamanism in the world today, and what shamanism offers us—not just as a set of techniques and practices, but as a way of life. Here’s my conversation with Sandra Ingerman:
Sandy, in your new book, Walking in Light, you write that you don’t choose to be a shaman, but instead you are chosen by the helping spirits to be a shaman. I’m curious—in your life, how were you chosen?
Sandra Ingerman: Well, it’s always an interesting question to ponder on—how one is actually chosen by the spirits. From a classical shamanic point of view, oftentimes when a person has a near-death experience or a life-threatening illness or something extremely traumatic that happens in their life, it shows a calling to a shamanic path.
When I was about seven years old, I was hit by lightning in Brooklyn, New York—of all places. A freak rod of lightning came through the window of our house and threw me up against the wall. From a classical shamanic point of view, being hit by lightning is typically a sign of a shaman in the making. I have students who lost children or suffered very traumatic experiences in their life. It was the initiation into becoming a shamanic healer.
So, in my own life, first I was hit by lightning when I was seven. Then, I drowned in Mazatlan when I was about 19 years old and had a real classic near-death experience. [This was] where I experienced myself going down a tunnel and coming out into the light, sitting in this amazing garden on a stone bench, listening to music that I’ve never heard in this lifetime, and don’t expect to since. Then, I drove my car off a cliff accidentally when I was in my 20s.
So, I’ve had these experiences where I’ve gone over to what we would call “the other side”—back to Source, back to a state of oneness—and came back. I was not personally aware of coming back with shamanic healing gifts or any kind of psychic gifts. But from a classical shamanic point of view, when a person comes back from these near-death experiences or these deep initiation experiences, it’s oftentimes what brings a person into having their own psychic gifts emerge from them. [This is] where they can now be in service to others, to the community, and to the planet.
TS: Was there something specific that happened in one of these near-death experiences where you felt like you were given your marching orders, so to speak? Or your instructions for how you were to teach?
SI: I think throughout my teens, being an explorer in the 1960s, I definitely got my marching orders. But as a kid, I was so in love with life and I was so in love with nature—again, even though I grew up in New York. I couldn’t believe how beautiful the Earth was, [as well as] the plants and the trees. I wanted to try everything. Life just seemed so incredibly precious to me.
I remember when I was really young, sitting on the couch in my living room [and] saying to myself that somehow or [another], human beings got the mission—or what life was about—wrong. We’re really here to experience the preciousness of life and the beauty of being on this planet Earth. What a gift it is to be born here!
I remember saying the words out loud: “I am going to devote the rest of my life to learning how to live a life filled with joy and remembering the preciousness of life—and teaching other people how to do the same.”
So, there was something going on in my life, and I’m not exactly sure what it was because I was always such a creative being. I love to write. I love to draw. I had visions of a good life and what was possible, and had a tremendous amount of compassion for the suffering that I saw around me. When I was a little kid, people would stop me on the street and start to tell me their problems. From the age of seven on, I worked in my father’s store and helped out at the cash register, putting products in bags for people to take home. People would come in, and they just would come in again and again, [sharing] their problems with me.
So, I think it was just part of a destiny of being compassionate—a compassionate listener—and really getting to experience fully the issues and the problems and the challenges that people were facing in life, [as well as] a deep desire of my soul—for my soul’s calling—to want to help people remember why they’re here, and how to help them to move through some of their challenges. So, that deep calling stayed with me throughout my entire life. I’ve always been working in service to help people either heal from traumas that were going on in life or to help to teach people shamanic practices that not only help to heal and improve their health and well-being, but to open the door to lead people into—there’s a whole aspect of life that many of us are just not experiencing in our time because we’re so lost in this collective trance, staying in the status quo, and so much despair that comes from people not living a life that they feel passionate about or that’s filled with meaning.
So, it’s been a real deep desire and a soul-calling on my part to help people look at how to tap into their own creative potential to improve the quality of their own life.
TS: So, Sandy, I want to talk some about the title of your new book, Walking in Light, and this emphasis on “light.” I don’t know if it’s from your near-death experiences, but tell me what light means to you—why it’s so important—and what this phrase “walking in light” means.
SI: Well, shamanism is all about feeling connected to nature. In nature, we experience the dark and the light. We experience all the cycles. The sun goes up, the sun goes down. The moon moves from being new to being full. We go through seasons in life.
So, there’s a real paradox between experiencing our sense of oneness and connection with Source, the divine, and divine light, which is what my near-death experiences brought me to. [In] one of my near-death experiences, I went to a being that I call “God,” and I experienced a luminous light that I can’t even describe. Just a feeling of peace and unconditional love that was beyond personality. It was being held in love—not because of who I was, but just because God is love.
There’s that paradox of: here we are as human beings, and we go through very challenging times. The light takes us to the bliss of consciousness. The darkness that we go through takes us to the depths of consciousness. This is all part [of] being a human being in a world of duality.
But, as I said earlier, I feel that—in the collective trance that we live in—oftentimes we stay in the darkness. We think that life is about just surviving. We forget that we came here to thrive and to have these life experiences that challenge us to grow. Yes, we’re going to go through many challenges that force our growth. But everything in nature grows. As soon as something in nature stops growing, it dies.
So, it’s not about denying the challenges and the dark states that are part of life. But, I think it’s time for people to also wake up to [the] whole other perception of life. When we look through the eyes of spirit—which is so much part of what I write about in Walking in Light—instead of through the eyes of ego, we see that there’s a beauty to life. There’s always new growth. We did come here to love, be loved, and to experience joy. Part of that, of course, is the challenges.
But to be able to move to a place where we can shift our perception and to experience the beauty and the joys of life is so much of the process that I feel passionate about leading people through. So, Walking in Light is a metaphor to really describe that process of, “Let’s go for it. We’re here. Life is precious.” Let’s experience the joys of life and learn how to face our challenges, and know that we have the tools to wake up each day [while knowing] that we’re going to be given whatever we need to go through whatever we have to go through—but to focus on the goodness of life and to learn how to see through the eyes of spirit, and to see the beauty that life has to offer.
TS: One of the practices that you teach in Walking in Light is the practice of transfiguration. I’m curious if you could explain that practice to our listeners, and how it relates to this idea of seeing with the eyes of light—seeing through the eyes of light.
SI: I have my BA in marine biology. One of my interests has always been how we can reverse environmental pollution. So, back in the late 1990s, I started writing about that and focusing on that particular subject.
After coming back from leading a group in Egypt, I had a dream where the Egyptian god Anubis came to me in a dream. He introduced himself to me as a gatekeeper. He said, “The missing piece of your work with reversing environmental pollution is transfiguration.” Then the dream was over. That was it. It was a powerful auditory message.
I woke up and I didn’t know what transfiguration meant. So, I actually went to Webster’s and I looked it up. In Webster’s, it said transfiguration was shape-shifting. I felt very confused by that answer, because practicing shamanism, I had always heard about shamans shape-shifting into wolves and ravens. But I couldn’t make that connection between what shape-shifting [had to do] with healing and reversing environmental pollution.
One of my clients at the time was my next-door neighbor, who was dying. She was a fundamentalist Christian. She would come over, and we would spend hours together. I taught her how to journey, and she had these profound journeys to Jesus. One day, she was lying on my floor and we were just chatting away. I told her about this dream that I had. She sat up. She was so excited and she became so animated.
She started telling me about the stories of Jesus transfiguring into a luminous light or greater light than anybody had seen. When he touched anybody, or if anybody touched his robe, they received a miraculous healing.
So, all of a sudden, the light went off in me. I understood that light heals. That’s what Anubis was trying to explain to me. We can transform illness—whether it’s in the environment or in others—working with spiritual light.
So, I started researching all the shamanic literature. I started going to different spiritual texts from all different traditions, whether it was the Bible, the Cabbala, the Taoist texts, some of the Vedic texts. I kept seeing over and over again how spiritual masters, healers, and shamans—their presence would shift into one of light. And in that presence, others would heal.
It inspired me to start to do a whole range of journeys and experiments. I started experimenting with people in my workshops, where we would go through the process of what I would term “transfiguration.” We would experience who we are beyond our skin. Who we are beyond our skin is spiritual light—we’re body, mind, and spirit. That spiritual light is that reflection of Source, the creator. When we experience our light and let it radiate—not try to force it, but radiate like a star in the night sky. A star doesn’t try to shine. It doesn’t try to send its light anywhere. It just shines and lights up the Earth and millions of miles, and brings beauty to the Earth.
So, we started to set up experiments. I worked with a physicist and a chemist, where we would take de-ionized water—water that had nothing in it that it would react to—and we would put a pollutant—ammonium hydroxide, which is a common pollutant in the environment. We would put the water in the middle of the circle. I would not have people send any healing [or] focus on the water at all. We would just journey within ourselves and experience our light, [letting] it radiate with the principle [that] the outer world will reflect back to us our inner state.
We had some really amazing results. I did this experiment in shamanic workshops all over the world, and we always experienced a change in the water coming back towards neutral. Then, over the years, we started working with substances and a special camera where we could take pictures of the field of substances, [as well as] people in the middle of our circle. We started to notice that people in our circle were having these incredible healings from emotional and physical illnesses that we were going through.
So, a focus of my work has been to help people—number one—experience who they are beyond their skin and to go on a shamanic journey into their inner world, and to experience their own inner sunlight or their own inner starlight, [letting] that radiate to allow their cells to absorb that light. That creates healing right there in itself. Then, how we can work with clients in our own shamanic practice—to be a healing presence, so that we’re helping people to heal through our presence and being a light in the world—and how to join together in community to work on the challenges that we’re going through in our environment and also in the world.
So, I address all three of those levels of working with transfiguration in Walking in Light.
TS: You know, it’s interesting—often, when people think of changing something in the outer world or even healing another person, it’s about having an effect on this “other.” But you’re really talking about changing one’s own vibration—transfiguring into light oneself. And then this healing effect will just happen?
SI: Well, that’s what we’ve seen in our workshops. I’ve been doing experiments since 2000. I think everybody has a piece of the puzzle. Every person who is born on this planet has a piece of the puzzle of a gift and a contribution that they have to share with being a positive change-maker on the planet today.
What my own helping spirits have asked me—my piece. It’s not the only piece. It goes along with all the brilliant teachings that so many are bringing forth today. [My piece] is that it’s more of the feminine principle of who we become. Yes, we have to take actions. Yes, we have to change our behavior towards ourselves, how we treat others, [and] all of life, the environment, and the Earth. But to add to that, we oftentimes get so overly focused on doing that we forget that it’s also who we are that ends up creating change.
So, one of the examples that I love to give—and I gave it in Walking in Light—is being in a grocery store once while I was on vacation. I was not feeling well. There was a long line at the grocery store. The person who was checking everybody out—she was beaming. I mean, just beaming. Every person—when it was their turn to check out and go through the line—she would have this conversation with them and start laughing and just brightened everybody up. She ended up brightening up our whole entire line. Everybody started talking and laughing with each other.
This is a very simple example, but it has huge ramifications. So many people do spiritual practices to try and change what’s happening in the world. But we forget about working on ourselves so that we start to become a healing presence and we brighten up people.
I remember being at the post office. This man was looking very upset by something he read in the mail. So, I started this conversation with him. When he left the post office, he looked me straight in the eye and he said to me, “Thank you for brightening up my day.”
It’s these little acts that have an exponential effect. What we’ve shown with using pH strips, pH meters, and a camera called a GDV camera—a gas-discharge visualization camera that was developed by a Russian scientist, Konstantin Korotkov—is we have shown that you can take water that is polluted and not send any healing to it, but to be a light. That water will reflect back your state of light.
I had a student who took a group to a polluted pond. She had a city worker who was willing to test the water before and after this group went to the pond and worked on the pond. When I say “worked on the pond,” they transfigured and just experienced themselves being light and radiating light. Some of the algae problems—the overgrowth of algae that was happening in this pond—started to clear up.
So, I think that we limit ourselves in our culture, where we focus so much on the dynamic energy—which is, of course, important. But we have to balance that with the feminine principle of becoming and that state of being as a healing force, [as well as] bridging that into all the brilliant work that’s going on in the world right now to help people, other nature beings, and all of life on the planet too. So, it’s about bridging those two principles into being.
TS: Let’s say someone’s listening, Sandy, and they’re excited about what you’re saying. They’re like, “Yes, I want to transfigure into light and be more light in my life. How do I do that?”
SI: Well, it’s really simple. When I first started teaching transfiguration, I have to say I made it as complicated as one could make. Then, as I started presenting at conferences and teaching transfiguration, sometimes as a presenter I would be given 10 minutes to work with an audience of many hundreds of people—to get them to transfigure—I realized that I was overcomplicating the process.
So, after teaching this now for over 15 years, I really give a very simple, very powerful practice that we can all do: either putting on a shamanic drumming CD or even putting on a really nice piece of mind-expansive music, a spiritual piece of music that you really love, and just lying down. [Go] inside yourself—[imagine] going inside yourself—and experiencing your own inner star. Experience a star inside of you. Just let that starlight grow.
Remember that it’s really important to absorb and soak in that light like a dry sponge being put in water. It soaks in that water. Or a flower that’s been in the rain too long, and the sun comes out. That plant soaks in the sunlight.
A very important part of the healing process—what I found is having people be able to absorb that light that’s shining within. That’s where the healing comes in.
So, I recommend that people do this for a few minutes to 15 minutes a day, or a few times a week, to really experience the benefits of the work. Keep it simple, not complicated.
Just set your intention to go within, experience—I give the metaphor of [experiencing] a star within you, but you can also experience the sun within you shining or the light of a flame. Just [allow] that light to grow. Absorb it into your own self, and then radiate it out into your communities and into the world.
TS: Now, one more question here about light and healing. In the book, you make a very strong statement. You write that, “Working with light will be how we heal in the future.” I was curious what you meant by that. Are you thinking that we are going to have some type of light-emitting instruments that we’re going to use? What do you mean [by], “Working with light will be how we heal in the future?”
SI: We actually have—in different forms of healing right now—using infrared light, using different sounds, are actually being integrated into different forms of healing right now and into medicine right now.
So, one of the beauties about shamanism is that because you’re journeying outside of time, you can journey into the past or you can journey into the future. One of the journeys that I’ve been teaching in my workshops around the world since 2000 is to have people journey to descendants way in the future—kind of after we’ve worked out some of the challenges that we’re experiencing now—and to ask them how they use light and sound as their main form of healing.
It’s really been quite extraordinary for me to go to different countries in the world and to listen to the similarities that come up in people’s journeys around how this whole aspect of being a presence of light—being able to radiate that, and people working in community in that particular way—is a way of the future. It’s important to remember that our descendants are dependent on us getting it now, so that we leave them a good world. So, they’re very generous with their teachings because they really want to help us be able to evolve as human beings and to take better care of this planet and ourselves so that we leave a better Earth for them.
Learning how to integrate this practice of working with light is something that people around the world have seen in their journeys as being a primary way of working in the future. So, I based that statement on the wealth of information that has been coming through in journeys about how people will start to understand that our perception does create our reality. We do have the potential to be a stronger presence of light and to be able to transform our outer world around us by being a presence of light.
TS: Well, I’m happy to know that in journeys all over the world—when people journey to their descendants—that we have descendants! I notice I feel really happy about that.
SI: It’s really been interesting to listen to these journeys of people talking about how simple life becomes. It’s not as complicated as it is right now. People live closer to nature and live a very joyful existence.
Oftentimes, when people talk to descendants and talk about healing illness, they go, “Well, we don’t really deal with that anymore. But if somebody does become ill, this is how we work with.” It’s worked with on a community basis. The whole community gets together—which was part of what happened in traditional shamanism in former times and still happens today in native cultures, where it’s not a private healing but more the community gets together to help a person remember their gift and the strength. [It] helps to heal, because every person has such an important role in the community. The health and well-being of the entire community is dependent on the health of each individual.
So, that was true—and is still true today—in indigenous cultures, and is also true in the future times. Yes, things look pretty bright from the journeys. People have reported that life is very different than [how we] know it now.
TS: I notice when I hear you talk about these reports that people have from their journeys to the descendants, it sounds a little like sci-fi to me.
TS: I don’t know how seriously to take it. Like, really?
SI: Right. Well, you know, the thing about shamanism is shamanism is a practice of direct revelation. So, in a shamanic culture—if you go into a traditional shamanic culture and you share a journey about descendants, nobody in that community would say, “Really?” Everybody would say how beautiful that is, because that’s the piece of the puzzle that people are sharing.
So, my question would be to you and to anybody listening to this [who is] saying, “Well, this is a little bit to sci-fi or too airy-fairy for me. A little bit too out there for me,” is: in our imagination, we’re constantly putting forth different ideas. So much of us in the world that we live in today—in the collective that we’re in today—we’re always focusing on the negative, what isn’t working, and how bad things are. [There is] a state of hopelessness of, “Have we crossed the line? Have we gone too far? Is there a way to turn this around?”
What we feed grows. That’s part of nature. You can’t deny that in nature, what you feed grows. As a world community, we have to question [whether we are] feeding a collective nightmare because so many of the imaginary thoughts that we keep feeding the world with of, “Things have gone too far. Is it possible to turn around what’s happening?”
Is there a positive benefit to starting to imagine a good world, and starting to feed that vision? And starting to align our thoughts with a positive vision? And surrendering the outcome at the same time, because we don’t know what the future holds, because the future is created by the present? Would it be healthy—would it be beneficial—to hold a positive vision?
So, when people have shamanic journeys into the future, where we do see a positive future, it brings forth an energy of hope. It brings forth an energy of excitement [about] what could be, and it starts to stimulate people’s feeling inside—which is so important right now—of, “Yes. I can be part of a larger change. I can do something right now to be a positive change-maker in the world instead of feeding a pessimistic vision.”
So, I don’t know if these journeys are completely sci-fi. Personally, I think they’re beautiful and I don’t judge them, because they came through as very strong messages from the spiritual world. I also think that it’s really beautiful for us to come together and not deny that we have to take more responsibility of how we take care of ourselves, other life, and the planet. At the same time, to hold a positive vision for a beautiful future for not just ourselves, but for our descendants, for all of life, and for the Earth.
TS: So, Sandy, one of the tools you introduce in Walking in Light is working with ceremony. As I’m listening to you, I’m curious if you might have a ceremony that you could suggest to someone who’s listening to this and just still feels a little grumpy. Like, “I hear everything Sandy’s saying. I want to walk in light. I want this star to come and radiate through all my cells. But the truth is I’m working with some hard stuff, and I’m not quite with her even though I want to be. Could I do a ceremony? And what ceremony would I do?”
SI: Yes. I love ceremony. The power of ceremonies in shamanism is that ceremonies create change. So, one of the topics that I address in Walking in Light is performing ceremonies to let go of our blocking beliefs and our attitudes that are stopping us from being able to hold a positive vision, believing in ourselves, and believing in our own creative potential.
So, working with an element that you feel attracted to. Let’s say that you’re listening to this podcast and you say, “Well, this is impossible. What she’s saying is impossible. I don’t believe that this could ever happen.” You could take that belief and go out into the earth and dig a little hole. You can take an object from nature such as a stick and blow that belief—that it’s impossible to have a positive vision, to keep a positive vision for the world, and for us to have a creative future—and then bury that stick that holds the belief in the earth [while] giving thanks to the earth for transforming that belief into light and love.
You could go to a toy store and get some bubbles. This is one of my favorite ceremonies. Blow bubbles into the air of a blocking belief. “This is impossible. It could never work. I don’t believe it.” [Blow] that belief into the air, letting the air transmute it into an energy of love and light that can be shared.
You could build a little ship out of natural leaves and sticks, and let it go into water where you live—if you have a lake or if you live near the ocean or a river.
My favorite ceremonies are fire ceremonies, but not everybody’s attracted to working with the element of fire. The natural behavior of fire is to transmute and to transform. So, you can build a little fire in a fireplace, write down on a piece of paper everything that you don’t like about what I said—or believe what I said—and put it into the fire.
Or I talk about in Walking in Light of creating a little ceremonial bowl where you can burn little pieces of paper that have blocking beliefs or attitudes that you need to let go of. You can even do that on a daily basis, if you want. This is your little offering bowl, where every time a limiting belief or attitude comes up, you can write it down and burn it in the fire. You can imagine yourself sending that belief to a flame and letting the flame transmute and transform the energy behind your belief.
It’s not about denying what’s going on in the world. But, it’s about holding the question of, “What if it’s possible to create positive change?” and to use the elements in a ceremonial way of letting go of those beliefs that you might have gotten from society or your family or growing up in this culture that says to you, “It’s impossible.” Whatever that belief or attitude is, allowing yourself to open the door to at least the possibility that positive change can happen.
TS: So, let’s say somebody’s dealing with a really, deeply entrenched belief like, “I’ll never have love in my life,” or, “I’ll never have a meaningful career.” Something like that. It’s a really painful pattern that they’ve been dealing with for a really long time. Is it enough to just write that down and burn it in an offering bowl? Do I need to do more than that? Invoke some positive possibility? What do you think?
SI: Well, in Walking in Light, I wrote a couple of chapters. I wrote them back to back intentionally. I wrote one chapter on how to use your imagination—because, from a shamanic point of view, we’re always dreaming our life and the world we live in into being.
How we do that is through our imagination—through our thoughts that we think throughout the day [and] through the words that we use. Like the words, “I can never have love in my life.” Those are very powerful words. You plant them in the ground and you keep feeding them with your thoughts and your imagination. They’re going to grow into a plant of, “You’re never going to have love in your life.” It’s basic nature.
So, in Walking in Light, I have a chapter on ways to use your imagination to bring forth your full sensory awareness so that you experience the love that you do want to live in your life. But then the chapter that goes along with it is: if you keep imagining yourself having love in your life, but inside you don’t believe that you can have it [or] you deserve it, whatever you’ve been telling yourself throughout your entire life—or whatever seed got planted into you by a parental figure or an authority figure in your life—is that thought keeps looping and accompanying your dreaming work. You’re basically going to manifest that blocking belief.
So, I think it’s really essential that anybody who does any kind of visioning work to create love—or a better future and present—for themselves and for the planet, that at the same time you have to keep performing ceremonies. And not one time—you have to keep doing them again and again to extract that plant from your inner garden. Doing the work on seeing yourself as a landscaper of an inner garden, you want to water and nurture the seeds that you do want to see grow. You have to keep doing your work to remove the plants that you don’t want to continue to see grow.
Then, I also suggest a variety of journeys that you can do that could help you go a little bit deeper into looking at where [this belief is] coming from, and what some other ways of healing these beliefs [are]. I find ceremony to be extremely important, but there are also exploratory journeys and experiences that people can perform to help to deepen the healing work—to remove what’s blocking one from being able to use their full creative potential.
TS: Do you have a go-to ceremony, if you will, that you do every day, Sandy?
SI: Well, I love doing fire ceremonies. But, living in the desert, it gets a little challenging for me. So, I do work with shell and burning some sage. I will put a little piece of paper that has a blocking belief in there and let that burn up.
My biggest ceremony that creates change—and I do this every single day, 365 days a year. I don’t care how depressed I am or how I feel, or what my attitude is about life. Every single day, I wake up and I give gratitude—number one—for my own life and acknowledge that life is precious. No matter how I’m feeling, that life is precious. I give thanks to my ancestors for giving me life. I give thanks to earth, air, water, fire, and the sun for sustaining me and the rest of life. I give thanks to my helping spirits [and] to the spirits of the land where I live.
This is a ceremony that I do every day because what happens when we start our day from a place of gratitude [is] it allows our day to unfold in a way that helps us to open to the beauty of life instead of waking up in the morning, being grumpy, and going, “Oh my God, another day. These are all the things I’m going to have to face today,” but starting the day with gratitude.
So, for me, personally, this is the most healing, powerful ceremony that I do. I’ve done it for many, many, many years and I do not miss a day—again—no matter how I’m feeling.
TS: You know, Sandy, we included your work—an interview with you—in an anthology that Sounds True is publishing in 2015 called Darkness Before Dawn: Redefining the Journey through Depression. You talked some about how depression is something that you’ve worked with your whole life. In listening to you describe waking up every day and being grateful for the preciousness of life, I think to myself, “Yes. Maybe someone who doesn’t suffer from depression could do that.”
But here you’re doing it no matter how you feel. I imagine there are some mornings [where] you may wake up feeling really rotten and unmotivated. How do you it? How do you express gratitude when you feel like S-H-I-T?
SI: Depression is a very big issue for me. It has been something that I’ve dealt with for a good part of my life. I have learned through my shamanic practice that life—no matter how I’m feeling—is a gift. If I don’t want to be here, life will find a way to take me out of being here—if I really want to focus on that.
So, probably the most healing action that I’ve taken in my life that helps me to ride the waves of my depression—because I do go through long periods. I could go through months where I’m in a very dark place. As I shared in the new anthology that’s coming out, the way that I have learned how to surf those waves and to work them through—because the only way out is through—the way that I get through is to give gratitude for my life on a daily basis, no matter how I’m feeling.
It doesn’t mean that I always feel it. But by starting my day giving thanks for my life, it has completely changed the cycles of my depression to a place where I can easily manage them and can function really well through life. I cannot say that that was true earlier on in my life. It was really about learning how to be grateful for my life. [That] was one of the most powerful tools that helped me to learn how to surf the waves of depression and the darkness.
TS: OK, Sandy, there’s just one last thing that I want to talk with you about today, which is [how] the subtitle of your book, Walking in Light, is The Everyday Empowerment of a Shamanic Life. I’m curious to know: when you think of shamanism as really being relevant and important, not just today, but in the years to come—for our descendants—what aspects of shamanism do you think are perhaps irrelevant? That we can let go of? That we don’t need to worry about from the past? And which aspects do you think, “Oh, these really matter. We need to keep these intact as we look at shamanism today and in the future?”
SI: I think shamanism in the past—for one thing, shamanism has always evolved, because we’re not practicing shamanism—nobody’s been practicing shamanism for a very long time how shamanism was practiced tens of thousands of years ago. But one of the aspects of shamanism [that] has been there is the [idea of] one shaman or a couple of shamans in the community.
That is a very important aspect. There are times when we need to seek out a shamanic healer or shamanic practitioner to help us to work through a pain, illness, [or] trauma that’s happening in our life. But, why that subtitle is so important to me—and the point that I’m trying to make—is that shamanism is not just a series of techniques and methods. I think that understanding—it’s time for that to go.
Shamanism is a way of life. Everybody who lived in a shamanic community—from a very young age—was taught and encouraged to bring forth an inherent gift that they were born with to contribute to the health and well-being of the community. In shamanic communities, this wasn’t just for the shaman—it was for everybody who lived in the community. [They] understood the power of our words to create, that thoughts are things, and that thoughts actually manifest as something into the world. So, people were taught how to align their thoughts and words to create a positive vision for themselves, for the community, and for the planet—[as well as] how to let go of the blocking beliefs—as we’ve talked about. [They also learned] how to maintain the state of awe, wonder, and gratitude; and to learn how to bless others with our words; and project our light into the world.
This was something that everybody in the community learned from a very young age—how to live a life filled with harmony and also how to respect nature. Everything in nature is alive, has a spirit, and is part of a web of life. Everything is important to that web of life. The whole entire web is dependent on the health and well-being of every life-form that exists on the planet.
So, these are core teachings that come from shamanic cultures that are so important in the times that we live in. So, yes, not everybody is born to be a shaman. But we are all born to live a shamanic way of life—and to be able to learn how to empower our own life [as well as] how to be able to fuel a positive vision for all of life and the planet itself.
So, the hierarchical part of shamanism—that somebody has more power than another person, or that shamanism is a series of methods [where] you learn this particular technique and healing happens—I think that is a part that is starting to lose its power in our time. The evolution of consciousness right now is asking us to move more into a place of cooperation and collaboration—and for us all to work together to not just improve our own lives, but to seek how to be in service to others and the planet itself.
That’s the part of shamanism that I do believe is going to keep being an important part of our culture and into future times. It’s a part of the work that I feel very passionate about sharing because—as we look at how to live a shamanic way of life and to bring some of these practices into our moment-to-moment life—I have seen extraordinary change in thousands of people, including myself.
TS: Sandy, I feel moved to ask you a favor. Which is: if we could end our conversation today with you offering a blessing of some kind to our listeners. A blessing, really, about walking in light.
SI: OK. So, I will close my eyes. I ask everybody to close your eyes and to take a deep breath. Just put your hands on your heart and breathe through your heart. Just entertain the possibility—no matter how you’re feeling—that it’s such a gift to live on this incredible planet. Think about your favorite color, your favorite plant—what it looks like—and your favorite fragrance from nature; your favorite sounds from nature; your favorite taste—something natural that grows out of the ground.
Just really allow yourself to use all of your senses—to experience the beauty of life. [Together,] let’s experience the love for life and feel the Earth holding us. We’re a bridge between the sky and Earth, through our heart.
I share blessings from the helping spirits and the power of the universe that you can go inside. Always remember that you are spiritual light and one with Source. You came here to be loved and to share love—to be a vessel of love. I bless all of you, and hope that you can find spiritual practices where you can feel yourself being held in the loving arms of the universe.
I end with: May you walk in light.
TS: My gratitude to Sandra Ingerman. Thank you so much.
We’ve been talking about her new book, Walking in Light: The Everyday Empowerment of a Shamanic Life. With Sounds True, Sandra has also created the audio series Shamanic Visioning: Connecting with Spirit to Transform Your Inner and Outer Worlds, as well as a book-CD on Shamanic Journeying: A Beginner’s Guide. She’s written a book with Hank Wesselman called Awakening to the Spirit World.
Sandy, I always love talking with you. You’re such an inspiring and deep figure. Thank you so much.
SI: Thanks, Tami. I really appreciate all that you’re doing in the world to help everybody improve the quality of life and be in service to all in the web of life right now. So, thank you.
TS: SoundsTrue.com. Many voices, one journey. Thanks for listening.