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The indigenous people around the globe are the "keepers" of the Earth in the sense that they have preserved some of the most ancient secrets regarding our sustainable relationship to the natural world. With the advancement of human civilization many of us have disregarded or forgotten this wisdom and we have even considered it sorcery, quackery, or infantile.
In our highly technological world where we seem to have uncovered some of nature's deepest secrets, it is easy to forget that there are still many unknowns out there. In fact, what we still do not know about our world and the universe constitutes the great mystery of the unexplored "abyss" before us.
With the help of their sacred medicines, this is an abyss that many indigenous elders enter but without the "lenses" of scientific inquiry. Consequently, it is impossible for them to describe what they "see" through the language of science.
Even with all the progress we have made regarding our understanding of the DNA molecule, for example, it is a fact that we have barely started to scratch the surface since only a tiny percentage of the DNA in cells (about 2 %) seems necessary to build our organism. The purpose of rest of the material remains a mystery.
It is the job of science to continue the search for the answers to the great enigmas that still evade us, but, from the other end, indigenous people have been on the same quest since the beginning of time. Perhaps what the indigenous people see as "spirits," "gods," and "goddesses," is what in the west we understand as symbolic representations of unknown "factors." These are factors that in our time a few have been revealed through scientific inquiry.
The fact remains, however, that there are still many unknowns and it is quite possible that some of them will always remain as "spiritual" manifestations simply because we might never develop the scientific tools or the intelligence to uncover them. Or perhaps the unknown is infinite, and therefore, always receding from our complete intellectual grasp as we continue to unveil its secrets.
Some of the "spirits" that the indigenous people "see," particularly the medicine man and woman, are the type that causes disease, pain, and suffering ("bad spirits"). Like modern medicine, their medicine is based largely on the curative properties found in plants, foods, positive thinking, imagery, change in behaviors, rest, and even through the so called "placebo effect."
A place where both aboriginal and modern medicine are finding a firm common ground is the recognition of the self-healing capacity of the body. It is here, I believe, that aboriginal medicine has made one of its greatest contributions to the process of treating physiological and psychological illnesses—by creating the right conditions for the body to cure itself.
We know, through current research, that people recover much faster from the ailments they suffer when the environment around them is filled with the right conditions for healing—conditions that soothe the senses, install a sense of hope, and provide emotional warmth, acceptance, and validation—a "holding environment" of caring.
With their rituals, chants, drumming, and healing ceremonies, the medicine man and woman enter the realm of the unknown to create a type of "psychic womb" (the ancestral "home" of humanity) where the body feels nurtured and ready to be healed. In many instances, this healing happens thanks to unknown factors ("good spirits") found in our bodies that sometimes bring forth miraculous cures.
In my practice I offer the opportunity to engage some of these rituals that can create a healing environment for the body and the mind to regain health and balance again.