Shamanic and Jungian techniques for healing
I recently held a retreat called Elemental Change, which was based on Carl Jung’s theory of personality archetypes of the four elements – earth, air, fire and water – and human behavior as it relates to those elements. Jung took the four elements and established a personality theory, which later became known as the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory that is widely used today.
In his research, Jung recognized that the four elements were important factors in determining a person’s personality temperament and represent a circle of human experience. Air represents intellect, our thinking domain. Water represents emotions, our feeling domain. Earth represents the material and sensory domain. Fire represents intuition, and our spirituality domain. Each element depicts reality differently.
By learning how you align with the four elements, you can learn how they affect and shape your life.
If you want to lead a healthier lifestyle and are tired of hearing same generic advice, Change the Story of Your Health Using Shamanic and Jungian Techniques for Healing, by Dr Carl Greer, offers a unique approach to self-exploration and healing. Drawing from traditional Shamanism and Jungian principles, Greer captures the essence of connecting with nature and tapping into a greater spiritual awareness. Written in an informative yet accessible way, he reveals what he has learned on his health journey in the hopes that it will inspire and motivate others.
Whether you’re looking to maintain wellness as you age, manage a chronic illness or simply improve your overall well being, this book will guide you every step of the way. As a clinical psychologist, Jungian analyst and shamanic practitioner, Greer provides a fresh perspective on Shamanism and Jung’s ancient wisdom, and gives the reader practical tools they can apply to their everyday lives.
Here’s one of my favorite sections from the book on working with the healing elements of nature:
Recognize that simply being in or near nature can bring you information about your health and be “medicine” for you in ways you might not expect—as my client, Brendan, came to see when he stood quietly and made a connection with a tree while waiting to receive health test results. As you observe a snowfall through the window of a quiet room, you might feel moved to dialogue with the experience and let it inform you about your health. You may get a message about purity, innocence, freshness, or a new beginning. You might realize you need to slow down and be less distracted. Even if you only intended to sit for a while and observe the snow falling, you might begin to realize you and your health are part of a larger whole of nature and that remembering this truth will help you experience greater wellness.
One winter evening, I took a walk and was looking at a waxing moon, which was about half full. It would appear and disappear in the sky, as the clouds passed in front of it. I paused to interact and dialogue with it to discover what it could teach me about my health story. I was reminded of how some things can be present but not visible—things that contribute to poor health and to good health. I understood that if I intend to see them, and I remain vigilant, I can catch glimpses of the invisible world and the wisdom it holds for me. Soon after this, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which was present but not visible, just like the moon behind the cloud.
Taking advantage of opportunities to reconnect with nature and its elements can give you insights and energies for healing. Even if you may have seen many snowfalls or thunderstorms in your life, you might want to pause the next time you experience one. Open yourself to what it might bring you—messages, a renewed feeling of gratitude, or something else. I also suggest that when you use expanded-awareness practices in nature, you consider beginning by opening sacred space, cleansing your energy field, and doing mindful breathing, and then closing sacred space afterward. Should you receive any messages from the snow, rain, sky, clouds, or ground, consider thanking them, as this shows respect for the wisdom of nature.
If it has been a while since you have spent time in nature, connecting to its healing powers, you might want to do the following simple expanded awareness practice, which can help you connect with the energy of the sun. Do you long to feel its rays upon your skin? In writing about an indigenous African ritual for greeting the sunrise, Carl Jung said, “The longing for light is the longing for consciousness.”
When was the last time you made a point of watching a sunrise? What are you missing by taking for granted that since the sun will rise again tomorrow, you can always catch a sunrise some other day?
The following simple expanded-awareness practice requires no preparation other than planning to find a place to greet the sun as it rises.
Expanded-Awareness Practice: Sun Greeting
Plan to awaken before dawn to watch the sunrise in a natural area where you can fully appreciate the experience with an unobstructed view. As soon as you can upon arising, go outside to greet the sun as it begins to spread light upward from the horizon, filling the sky.
Be fully present as you soak in its light and warmth. Imagine it is observing and greeting you, just as you are observing and greeting it.
Become mindful of your breathing. Then, as you face the east, salute the sun, adopting whatever posture feels right to you.
You might want to do a yoga pose such as the sun salutation, or you can simply extend your arms out to your side, with your palms up, and thrust your chest forward.
Open yourself up to the sun’s energy. Look out at the horizon or sky and then close your eyes so you can turn your face fully toward the sun. Notice the sensation of your breathing and the sensation of the sun as it strikes your skin and its light penetrates your eyelids.
Try not to consciously create thoughts about what is happening; simply be present to the experience, and continue to focus on your breath. You might open your eyes and watch the changing colors of the sky, but do not directly gaze at the sun, as this can damage your eyes.
Ask the sun, “What message do you have for me about my health?” Wait for the answer. Be open to the form of the answer. It may simply be an inner knowing, or it may be a word or an image that comes to you.
Ask the sun, “What do I need to release to help me live according to a better health story?” Ask it, too, what you need to bring in for that purpose. You might also ask, “What in me needs to be nourished so that it may grow?” Each time, wait for an answer before posing the next question.
When you sense it is the right time to end your ritual of interaction with the energy of the sun, open your eyes. Thank the sun for its messages and energy.
After you have used this practice, journal about it. Did you receive any insights that you found helpful? What was it like for you to have this experience?
Expanded-awareness practices such as this one can be used to work co-creatively with the energies in nature, accessing their healing properties. If you do not get a clear, direct answer to your inquiries about your health when you are in nature and trying to communicate with it, remain present to the experience and simply observe what you are feeling and sensing. Later, you can choose to do a dialogue and learn more.
Reprinted from Change The Story of Your Health: Using Shamanic and Jungian Techniques For Healing by Carl Greer, PhD, PsyD.