One Spirit Medicine | Omega

Ready to feel better—the shamanic way? Medical anthropologist Alberto Villoldo shares insights into the benefits of One Spirit Medicine, a health-care system that identifies just one ailment and uses just one cure. 

Today our minds, our emotions, our relationships, and our bodies are out of kilter. We know it, but we tend to ignore it until something goes very wrong—a scary diagnosis, a broken relationship, the death of a loved one, or simply an inability to function harmoniously in everyday life. When things are a little bad, we read a self-help book or go to a workshop. When they're really bad, we bring in experts to fix the problem—oncologists to address cancer, neurologists to repair the brain, psychologists to help us find peace and understand our family of origin.

To truly heal we need to return to the original recipe for wellness discovered by shamans—traditional healers—millennia ago: One Spirit Medicine.

In the West we have a disease-care system, and medicine recognizes thousands of ailments and myriad remedies. One Spirit Medicine, on the other hand, is a health-care system that identifies only one ailment and one cure. The ailment is alienation from our feelings, from our bodies, from the earth, and from spirit. The cure is the experience of primeval oneness with all, which restores inner harmony and facilitates recovery from all maladies, regardless of origin.

We all want our health span—the length of time we're in optimal health—to equal our life span. One Spirit Medicine is designed to ensure us optimal wellness by addressing the root cause of physical, mental, and emotional suffering rather than just treating the symptoms. The words health and healing come from the Old English haelen, the root of whole and holy. As your whole system comes into balance, your food will stop poisoning you, your body will begin to repair and heal naturally, your relationships will cease to be emotional battlegrounds, and your sense of separation from nature and spirit will dissolve.

At the heart of One Spirit Medicine is an age-old practice called the vision quest, a carefully choreographed encounter with nature and the invisible world. Through fasting and meditation, a vision quest awakens the body's self-repair and regeneration systems and reconnects you to spirit and your own deepest purpose. In the traditional cultures where I trained as a shaman, it is customary to seek vision in the wilderness. But the experience of One Spirit Medicine can take place anywhere—even in your garden or a big city park.

In rare instances, the encounter with spirit is spontaneous, a bolt from the blue. But for most of us, receiving One Spirit Medicine is a process that requires careful preparation over time. Otherwise, the experience will most likely be fleeting— a sudden flash of insight or revelation, maybe a good story to tell over dinner with friends, but nothing lasting that will transform your life. Laying the groundwork for transformation requires both physical and spiritual action.

In order to benefit from One Spirit Medicine, we need to prime the brain. Today’s overcaffeinated, staccato, I-want-it-now lifestyle keeps us in a constant state of stress. We need to be weaned off the stress hormones that promote a fight-or-flight mind-set and stat producing the brain chemicals that create health, serenity, and joy.

The process begins with detoxification—ridding the brain of deadly toxins and reducing the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. The superfoods then repair the region in the brain responsible for learning, and help the pineal gland manufacture DMT, or dimethyltryptamine, a psychedelic compound that has been referred to as “the spirit molecule.” DMT allows us to experience a state of oneness.

To experience One Spirit Medicine, you don’t need to shake a rattle or beat a drum as shamans of old did, though doing so may help prepare your mind in the same way that putting on a costume and makeup helps an actor get into character. What you will need to do is quiet your too-busy mind, distracted by the ruckus of civilization, and return it to the wild. By returning to the wild, I don’t mean going to Yosemite Park or the Canadian Rockies, but returning to your wild, undomesticated self—to who you are stripped of the trappings and roles and expectations, emails and To Do lists, the authentic you at your core. You will meet your infinite nature in the stillness of your inner world.

Whether you’re suffering from a lifestyle-related disease, or you’re physically, mentally, or emotionally drained by the demands of your life, One Spirit Medicine can help you feel better and develop a renewed sense of purpose. If you’re willing to repair the alchemical laboratory inside your brain, you can fix health problems before they manifest in your body and experience wellness at every level of your being.

The message of One Spirit Medicine is that you don’t need to track down a shaman to find spirit, or look outside yourself to find health. You only have to look within. That’s where you will receive One Spirit Medicine.

Adapted from One Spirit Medicine by Alberto Villoldo. Copyright © Alberto Villoldo. Used with permission.

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