A successful and healthy veterinary practice using an indigenous healers’ approach
How integrating the idea of Shamanism into veterinary practice addresses the emotional and spiritual aspects of healing.
Most of us will agree that the word “stress” has acquired new meanings that go far beyond what it meant even ten years ago. In veterinary medicine, stress has a major impact, and compassion fatigue and burnout continue to make headlines. Stress is known to lead to a number of chronic illnesses in people. Of course, animals can be affected by stress too, and not just due to their own issues. Because we are so strongly connected to our animals, they can become overwhelmed and even ill because of our stress. Handling this in a positive way is part of the focus of our practice.
Addressing emotional-spiritual health
The emotional-spiritual aspect of health is often neglected, and may cause frustration for both clients and doctors, especially when improvement does not occur as quickly as expected. In our practice — which is made up in large part of animals with chronic illnesses such as cancer, arthritis, skin issues and allergies of all types – clients come from all over the state. Understandably, they are eager for their companion animals to be healed, but we often see them expressing anger or a lack of understanding regarding the emotional-spiritual components of disease. They don’t yet understand that disease is not just a physical manifestation of symptoms, and that there may be other underlying issues.
Our interconnectedness with the wholeness of life is sometimes easy for us to forget in our busy lives. It seems esoteric, but our connection to plants and animals, and to nature, is inherently part of us as a human species. It is in our DNA.
Our ancestors did not separate themselves from this wisdom; in fact, the ancient practice of Shamanism, which crossed many cultures, honored this belief system. So how can the idea of Shamanism be integrated into veterinary practice, as a way to address the emotional and spiritual components of healing? Let’s take a closer look at the principles of this ancient practice, and how some are still relevant today.
Principles of Shamanism
Shamanism in indigenous cultures around the world dates back at least 5,000 years, and is universal in its principles. According to Sandra Ingerman, a biologist, shamanic practitioner and teacher, all shamanic practices have several beliefs in common:
- Everything is alive and has spirit.
- Humans can talk to and communicate with the spirit in all things.
- Shamans are able to communicate with plants and animals in diverse ways, which taught early humans about healing and medicine.
- There is a relationship between humans and the spirit of all beings.
How does this inform the healing treatments of our primarily dog and cat patients?
Animals communicate all the time, with each other, the world, their guardians and with us as healers. Creating a space that emotionally supports and honors an animal’s message is very important, and when clients embrace this, we help them create a space for healing in their own lives, as well as that of their dogs or cats. How does this translate into practice?
Incorporating Shamanism into the exam room
At our hospital, we create a sacred space to give clients and patients a place to breathe, relax and feel safe. Our exam rooms are adorned with photographs and talismans from our ancestral lineages, both Native American and Celtic. Representations of power animals and helping spirits hang on walls. Clients can rest on a carpeted area with their animals, or on cushions and comfortable furniture in all the exam rooms. Gentle music, soothing colors and essential oil diffusers help set the tone for a healing atmosphere.
Using energy work to address emotional healing
In addition to creating healing surroundings, we use energy work, including acupuncture, laser, Healing Touch for Animals™, and Reiki, and/or remedies such as herbs, flower essences, homeopathy and essential oils, to match the energy of the patient. If an animal’s energy is severely depleted, careful steps are taken to not overwhelm his system. Initially, only one or two modalities will be chosen until improvement is seen.
A great deal of trust is involved in this approach, and guardians come to understand and build on that relationship of trust — even if the healing is an honoring of the end of life.
Relationship between pet health and client life changes
When educating our clients about this approach, we teach them to recognize their own part in it, and to view their situation with compassion. The ability to recognize the prevailing energy in our fellow humans, and connect with them as we share a space, is critical. This allows the process of healing to begin.
Incorporating some of the principles of indigenous healing into veterinary practice helps open the door to the connection between physical, emotional and spiritual health.
7 things you can do every day for health and well-being
By improving your own health and well-being, you can offer the best to your patients. Here are some tips:
- Set boundaries. Take a one- to two-hour lunch and don’t eat at your desk. Take the time to nurture yourself.
- Be in nature. Go outside and breathe, feel the grass, listen to the blowing leaves.
- Take even a few minutes to close your eyes, breathe deeply, still your thoughts or just notice them like clouds floating by, with no attachment.
- Call in your helping spirits, your power animals, your angels, etc. Create a connection to the vast knowledge that is available to us all the time.
- Be grateful. Give thanks for the ability to help others.
- Forgive yourself for past mistakes.
- Listen to your inner voice. We all know how intuition has guided our actions for the better.
Polizzi N. The Sacred Science, An Ancient Healing Path for the Modern World, 2018.
Ingerman S. Awakening to the Spirit World: The Shamanic Path of Direct Revelation,