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Published: Jun.21.2012

Medical Materialism: Exploring the Allopathic Paradigm through Shamanic Practices

Shawn Tassone (sponsored by Larry Dossey)

This talk compares the training of allopathic physicians through calling, medical school, residency, and practice, to that of an indigenous shaman in training. The different stages of training will be compared and presented as a platform to show many similarities and one glaring difference. Indigenous shamanic healers practice healing in the community where they trained where the allopath has no overall sense of community. In order to highlight this comparison, medical students at the University of Arizona in an Integrative Medicine rotation were evaluated after being exposed to Huichol healing traditions in the high desert of Sedona, Arizona.

Seventy-two hours of working with healing and fire ceremonies, smudging, and open dialogue with ancestors, brought students closer to their reasons for entering medical practice. Students claimed the exposure to these indigenous ceremonies and spending increased time with their colleagues in this setting instilled them with a sense of increased community and they felt more energized about the sacred calling to heal. The students also felt more connected to their bodies and their senses of hearing and touch were subjectively elevated. In conclusion, exposure to indigenous methods of healing might bring the allopath back to their calling to enter medicine and allow them increased connection to the community of patients they treat.

The call to heal comes from the familial bonds of the shaman-physician, healing vocation, or from wounds of the past. In any case, it is the spiritual glue that provides physicians with the ability to become healers. The continuation of spirituality in medicine is a critical conduit to healing the physician. Inner healing of the physician is an important aspect of bridging the gap towards healing the community. Shamanic practice is a potential first step in bridging the gap between the wounded healer and the disembodied local and global communities.