ANCIENT HEALING TRADITIONS AND INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE
While on a return flight from an expedition to study with Andean shamans of Peru, the passengers were informed that
our flight was being diverted to a wilderness landing strip in the Amazon jungle. It was an unexpected, but necessary
landing on a dusty runway, where I saw the result of the deforestation of the Amazonian Rain forest. There was no
airport, only a landing strip, where three people were waiting to catch a flight to Lima. The airplane door opened and
an intense, humid heat wave, entered the plane as the three people came aboard.
I was sitting in the first row seat and one of the men took the empty seat beside me. A conversation quickly began,
my being interested in this unexpected landing to pick-up three obviously important people. The man was a native of
the Amazonian village, where the trees had been harvested and intense heat and dust was the result. He had been
invited to study in France and was returning to the jungle to engage in important research on the destruction of the
Rain Forest and its inhabitants. They worked in searching for evidence of species lost and possible new species to be
discovered. To his delight, they had discovered a new bird species. He showed me a picture of a little bird with
amazing, vibrant colors.
In the heat of the afternoon he and his crew would educate the local tribe on what was happening to the delicate
balance of their environment by the deforestation of the rain forest trees. He told me that his people, having lived in
the lush environment of the jungle that gave them their food, their medicine, and their beauty, seemed inconceivable to
them that it could be destroyed forever. The jungle had been there, growing and producing for all of their known
history. With this view, they had unwittingly helped the logging companies destroy acres upon acres of forest, animal
and plant species, many never to be discovered, many that might have held the very medicines needed to cure
illnesses now and in the future.
It was only a half-hour until we landed at Lima airport, where I was nearly late to catch my flight home. While on the
long flight back to Wisconsin, USA, I kept hearing the man's words, kept seeing the image of the Amazon from out my
airplane window, and felt the heat and humidity of the jungle. I kept seeing the picture of that little, intensely colorful
bird. I was hooked! A trip to the Amazon was a must. I wanted to engage with the medicine men and women,
shamanic healers, to learn of their healing traditions. Upon my third trip to a remote village in the Amazon, I met Amy
Greeson, a registered pharmacist from North Carolina.
Over the last thirty years, we both experienced the power of shaman healers who have a perspective on healing that is
not available to our contemporary medical modalities. I am amazed at the depth of their healing medicine, integrating
mind, body, soul, spirit in ways we do not engage in our contemporary therapies. These indigenous healers cannot
understand how our healing methods can treat the mind, body, soul and spirit separately, for their way is of healing the
whole being; "inner"-mind,body,soul, "outer" - relationships, energy fields, Spirit. That can only happen with the
assistance of our Earth Spirit Helpers united with our Spirit Helpers from beyond the hold of time, and our
Creator/Great Spirit/the Mystery. I therefore transitioned my psychotherapy practice to a shamanic approach. I
integrate contemporary knowledge of diagnosis, treatment and prescriptions with spiritual, ceremonial, and views of
life and death that I have learned from indigenous healers and mystics.
My friend Amy Greeson founded Healing Seekers and Global Healing Visions. She gives voice to modern visionaries of
a new, improved approach to western medicine. It was because of our work that Amy Greeson called to interview me
for her one hour international radio program, Global Healing Visions.
Healing Seekers is a multimedia project that explores remote regions of the world in search of plants, living organisms
and therapies that represent centuries-old medical traditions. The multimedia project promotes awareness about the
origins of medicines, recognizes ancient medical traditions, and highlights the importance of preserving environments
where these organisms originate, so that new cures can be discovered and lives saved. Amy is giving voice for these
cultures and environments through filming documentaries, while they are on their expeditions.
Amy has been a pharmacist for many years and during that time she has watched thousands of individuals experience
and interact with our medical system. "Our present day therapies primarily focus on alleviation of symptoms, and
have neglected the deeper search of tackling the source of the condition and disease." In Amy's professional career
she has "watched as spiritual, emotional and physical healings have become further disconnected. Although our
technologically advanced medicine is vital and has made tremendous strides in many area, it still cannot cure the
common cold, nor many of the mental and spiritual conditions that plague our society."
What indigenous knowledge has provided our current medical treatments is priceless. Who would have imagined that
the poison used on the tip of an Amazonian blowgun would lead to the very medication which made it possible to
perform heart surgery? Without this indigenous knowledge, many treatments would most certainly remain
undiscovered. We must acknowledge their significance int his world and the vital role that they play in the world's
health care. When we finally understand that the path to ultimate healing and health care lies in the integration of
mind, body, soul, spirit and teamwork of shamans, ceremonial healers are important in our contemporary teamwork for
healing. Let us listen to the voices of the indigenous shamans throughout the world. Their knowledge and voice is a
vital addition to our health care.
Lee Hilfiker, M.Ed., PD, Professional Counselor, Shamana
Amy Greeson interviews Lee Hilfiker - About Lee