Shamanism, Symbiosis, and Transgenerational Illness: Taking our medical decision-making into a whole new realm

Shamanism, Symbiosis, and Transgenerational Illness: Taking our medical decision-making into a whole new realm

Whenever I read or hear about dealing with serious illness, there is the exhortation for us to become the directors of our own health team, including all the various doctors, nurses, care-givers, associated practitioners, and supporters who are involved in our journey back to health. With all the wisdom, information, and recommendations laid out before us, we are the ultimate decision-makers in how we wish to proceed. In this respect, and in its purest form, all healing becomes a self-healing, self-directed process.

Over the past year, I have become fascinated with the myriad of inter-related aspects of physical health and healing. It seems we are rediscovering what shamans – and humanity – have known intuitively for thousands of years about the nature of health and well-being, and in more and more studies, science is bearing this out. What this means for us as individuals is that our base of knowledge and options for personal wellness are expanding at a rapid rate. Here are a few

of the bits and pieces I have been learning.


We know our healthy bodies maintain a state of homeostasis, or dynamic balance. When our hormones, enzymes, nutrient levels, etc. fall out of balance, internal mechanisms for regulation, feedback, or replacement of the function kick in the best they can to help bring us back to balance. Did you know these feedback and modification loops extend outside our bodies and even connect us with organisms of different species? For example, when a baby nurses at its mother’s breast, the biochemical makeup of the infant’s saliva is transmitted back into the mother’s body, and the composition of the breast milk changes to provide the baby with specific antibodies and other constituents it needs for its on-going health. We also live in a symbiotic relationship with bacteria and viruses in and on our bodies which play vital roles in our immune system and keeping us healthy. To go one step further, when we consider microbial transmission pathways between our bodies and the earth, it is easy to imagine how living close to nature and eating foods from our land can have a vital impact on our health. More and more examples are cropping up of biochemical communication between organisms within an ecosystem – and that includes us!

Body and Soul

Science is now confirming that our physical health is deeply intertwined with the health of our soul. When our lives have meaning, personal value, love, joy, and a sense of safety, our physical bodies tend to thrive, too. Every cell in our body has a sensor in the cell membrane that tells it whether its surroundings are toxic or safe. If the cell is safe, it goes into abundant growth mode, but if there is toxicity, it hunkers down to protect itself in survival mode and no growth happens. These signals affect our bodies on a macro scale by influencing our stress response, adrenal function, metabolic systems, and more. But – and this is a big “but” – parts of our brain have the ability to override these responses and change our physical state of well-being, particularly with stress-induced illness. When we consider how much of our stress is tied up in our beliefs, the potential for this realm of physical healing is tremendous.

Transgenerational Healing

Finally, consider the idea of transgenerational illness – illness based in the experiences and beliefs of our ancestors. This is probably most familiar to us as “family patterns.” Say, for example, our grandfather had cancer, our father had cancer, and now we have cancer (and no one is surprised). It is a pattern in our family, an expectation, a belief. The biological basis for a predisposition to a number of physical conditions has been found in the human genetic code, but not all predispositions develop into illness. Why or why not? The most exciting new development in genetics is the discovery that learned experiences in a parent’s lifetime can also be passed to the children (and future generations) through the genetic code. Mouse studies have shown that if parents were taught to associate apple blossoms with electric shocks, the children and grandchildren who were born much later instinctively shied away from apple blossoms, too. Does this mean that if our grandmother had severe springtime allergies, for example, we might have them too, even when there is no pollen in the air? It very well might! Illnesses which do not come directly from our own personal experience, inherited or not, have the potential for being cured by changing beliefs. I am not saying this is easy; I am saying it may be possible.

Just these three examples open up new pathways for health, cure, or living well with a disease condition. It is within our control as individuals to live in closer harmony with our own backyard, to pay attention to the health of our soul, and to cultivate awareness of illness and beliefs we carry from prior generations which may bear little or no relation to our personal and present lives. In other words, our toolbox is getting larger, and I have a sense this is just the tip of the iceberg.

As always, I suspect the best results come from a combination of approaches to wellness and cure. Several years ago, I met a friend who had been cured of severe migraines through the use of acupuncture and Chinese medicine. She tried this approach twice, with the two attempts separated by a few years. The first time it failed, but the second time it worked. When I asked her what the difference was between the two tries, she replied, “In between, I healed my relationship with my family.” Often, it seems, we have to heal the underlying trauma or illness of our soul before the physical illness can successfully be addressed. Equally often, it seems, the shock of a physical illness provides us with an opening to heal the sadness of our lives, and so the two go hand-in-hand.

As director of your own wellness, it appears your list of options and your team may be getting larger. We live in exciting times! May you travel well.