Updated: Mar 24
Rachel Mann, Ph.D. is Shamanic Healer and Wisdom Teacher.
Q. Can you please introduce yourself, your modality, and the words commonly used to describe your work?
A. Yes, I'm Rachel Mann, Ph.D. I'm a Shamanic healer, mentor, and spiritual teacher. I call myself these days a shamanic healer, mentor, and teacher. I help people turn a possibility into a probability. In particular, I work with people who feel they have some kind of purpose in the world. They may not know what that purpose is, or they may have a longing to manifest something that they know is their purpose, but they feel blocked.
I use shamanic energy medicine and the many modalities I am trained in. My spiritual path has taken me through Buddhism, Native American spirituality, and western shamanism, and I've integrated this into a whole spiritual path and the spiritual way I call Awakened Heart Shamanism. I work with people to effect profound transformation so that they can move forward in their lives.
Q. What are your thoughts on the popular cultural shift towards embracing complementary and alternative therapies?
A. I started my journey to becoming a shamanic healer 25 years ago. Probably I would say in the early 90s when I met my Cherokee teacher, the Venerable Dhyani Ywahoo, up in Vermont. Back then, of course, being a white person interested in Native American spirituality was pretty edgy. Even I struggled with why it was that I was attracted to the Native American path given that I, as far as I know, have no Native American ancestry or background. After meeting her, I did a lot of deep soul searching to answer my questions about why I was pulled to this path. Part of the whole backstory to what led me to her was growing up with a very narcissistic, abusive, controlling mother and my healing journey that I started in earnest in my early 20s. Then in 2007, I decided to quit my tenured job at the University of Virginia. It was a radical decision. I immediately went to study with Alberto Villoldo, in the Four Winds Healing Light Body School. One of the things that was amazing to me was that I was in a room with 150 people who were doctors, lawyers, accountants, academics, psychiatrists, MDs, homemakers, and suburban folks raising children. I mean those we would consider just “ordinary people.”
Then, starting in 2011, I started a shamanic healing practice up in Northern Virginia at Sacred Circle Bookstore. I was there for nine years. Many clients worked in the corporate world, were in the military or government contractors. They were psychologists and lawyers, and other mainstream professions. Some came who had suffered traumatic experiences such as being present during mass shootings or other events--as well as who had more personal traumas in their past. There are many, many people out there who you might not consider “woo-woo” or interested in this kind of thing. And yet there is a growing openness to alternative and complementary medicine--even shamanic healing. People want deep healing and they are seeking it out in modalities that long were considered fringy.
Q. Can you explain how you identify shamanism? What does it mean to you when you say that you're a shaman?
A. I'm going to give you a kind of heady professorial answer because I have a Ph.D. with a minor in anthropology and a major in folklore. The history of shamanism, the word “shaman,” was coined by a man named Mr. Mircea Eliade, a Romanian historian of religion, fiction writer, philosopher, and professor at the University of Chicago. He wrote a book published in the 50s called Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy. He was describing people in cultures who, as he said, are intermediaries between the people and beings in the heavenly realms. He borrowed the word, “shaman” from a Siberian, tungus-speaking people. Historians, scholars of religious studies, anthropologists, archaeologists, and so on, took this word and ran with it. And they then applied it to describe anybody who held any kind of healing role in indigenous culture. They would often call native cultures, “shamanic” cultures, because they, in their terminology, were “animists.” They believed that they “worshipped” the animals, trees, sun, and so on.
Finally in the 70s and 80s anthropologists, like the famous western shamans, Alberto Villoldo and Michael Harner, met medicine people in places like the Amazon and other native peoples. They were given ayahuasca and other plant medicine and had an incredible transformation of consciousness. Their eyes were opened up to the depth and the power of these people’s deep spirituality and the fact that Mother Earth is entirely conscious and aware. They experienced directly how interconnected all of us are in this powerful energy matrix on every level.
So for me, shamanism is a very grounded understanding that Mother Earth is alive and awake and aware and that we can connect to her consciousness and the consciousness of all the beings that we share the Earth with. They are friends--sisters and brothers-- and they have incredible power, transformational and healing energy, which is available to us through that connection. There are multidimensional levels of reality. We can, through meditation and journeying and vision work, connect to guides and guardians and teachers and animal allies, sometimes called power animals, so they can help us come into alignment with our true and authentic self. They can support us with stepping into our true power and courage so that we can live life in the fullest possible way. I think shamanism in the Western world has evolved into a profound and rich spiritual practice. In my way of practicing shamanism, it is also a path to awakening illumination and even enlightenment, where we recognize ourselves as body-mind, emotions, soul, and spirit walking in this physical reality and that we have a mission to hold a vibrational resonance of love and compassion and peace to help the world heal.
Q. What are some common misconceptions or misunderstandings about your modality or your practice?
A. Well, I think that people joke about white folks calling themselves “shamans” or practicing a spirituality influenced by Native American wisdom lineages. The common stereotype is that we're granola types, dancing in the woods naked. That we're crazy. Historically when anthropologists and ethnographers went out to find the medicine people in indigenous societies around the world, they often described the shaman as “mentally ill.” Occasionally, when I meet someone in a social gathering, and they ask me, “What do you do for a living?” I say, I'm a shamanic healer, and spiritual teacher and they're like, ooooh….and the conversation stops. Over the years, I have met many clients and students who talked about the fact that they grew up in very conservative Christian families and communities and were told that people doing what I do are like witches, working with the devil. I think there is a big misunderstanding about the western shamanic movement that is related, as well, to the misinformation and misunderstanding even of indigenous, native spirituality. There is a general lack of understanding about the beauty, depth, and wisdom of these paths.
Q. What does it look like when a client comes to you?
A. I have three answers to that question. If somebody comes to me just for a shamanic energy healing session, what we do is talk. I find out what is of concern to them. In that conversation, I'm feeling the energies in their story, and tracking from the surface story down to whatever it is underneath that is causing the problems. I then can extract the wounds that are deep within the psyche and the energy body of that person. I literally remove the issue.
Q. What does that look like?
A. I use 12-sided Vogel crystals that are very, very clear, and very pure, which have extractive properties. So with a clear intention, for what needs to be healed, I journey to the client's Lower World, or subconscious, into what is called the “chamber of wounds” and find the wound. I then use the crystal, usually at the solar plexus, to extract it. The crystal literally sucks it out into itself. You can find childhood wounds and wounds of all human beings there, as well as from past lives. You have to think of people like holographic beings. Before going to the chamber of wounds, I remove any crystallized, liquid, and other heavy energies from the Light Body and connect in. After the wound extraction, I do soul and gift retrieval. I can also do entity and liquid extractions.
Q. What's that?
A. If somebody comes to me and they have a huge amount of grief there are ways of working with a crystal that allow me to pull that liquid energy out so they move through the grief more quickly. Obstructions in the energy body appear as liquids as crystals as objects of shape as stones and rocks. I also have a 3-month, 1-1 Shamanic Mentoring Program. Through 9 sessions, I work with a client on every level of their being--body, mind/emotions, soul, and spirit using many powerful shamanic practices. I have many tools in what I call my Medicine Basket of Love from Awakened Heart Shamanism which I do not have time to use in single shamanic energy. In addition to what I do in a shamanic healing session (soul and gift retrieval, wound extraction, liquid, and entity extraction), I can bring to the client’s self-discovery and transformation process powerful meditations, shamanic journeying, vision-making, dream-keeping, mindfulness of emotions and mind, sacred drama, earth-art, and others. Clients in the Mentoring Program also get 2-3 shamanic energy healings as part of the work. Every session is an hour and a half. Usually, clients come to me in transitions in their lives. They have retired, are empty-nesters, or have lost a job, or simply realized they need to finally do what they are passionate about. Or they want to finally find the love they have been longing for or create financial abundance doing what they love. Many of them feel they want to align their spirituality more into their daily lives and in their service and work with others. They want to help people. They want to know their true purpose and make sure that they fulfill it before they die. In the first session, we set the intention for the work and then dive in using the tools of Awakened Heart Shamanism. We discover negative beliefs, old traumas, and blocks--from their own past, or inherited from their family or ancestors, or even from other lives--which are holding them back from living their dream--their beautiful life, as I call it. We work together in a very focused, concentrated way to bring them profound transformation. While they are in the program, they also have access to and work with hours of teachings, guided meditations, shamanic journey, activities for self-reflection in my online course, Unlock Possibility into Probability. Clients report great changes in their inner life, new-found freedom from old patterns that have haunted them for years. They also develop the courage and confidence to dream their new, beautiful life into being! For folks who don’t want to make this kind of financial and time commitment, I offer an 8-week course called Harness your Beautiful Life and Highest Destiny in Times of Transition and Uncertainty. Through 8 2-hour Zoom calls with me and the class, and the teachings, shamanic practices, and activities in the online course, we work together to form a clear vision for your life and using the tools of Awakened Heart Shamanism, effect a profound transformation. People experience amazing and sometimes crazy synchronicities and shifts in their life as a result! They have found love, new jobs, and other opportunities! They also grow in faith and confidence in themselves. I love teaching this class! Through my Institute for Awakened Heart Shamanism, I also give teachings, both online and in-person on this powerful spiritual pathway. For folks who want to start exploring shamanism, there are online courses that give them some basic teachings and where they can learn basic meditation, ceremonies, and other practices for cleansing and clearing the heavy energies they are carrying and for raising up their vibration. For folks who want to go very deep, I offer a 10-month program called the 6 Pathways of the Awakened Heart Mesa Tradition in which they are initiated into and build their own mesa, or medicine bundle. There, I take them into the deep, rich practices I carry. This work is profoundly transformational and empowering.
Q. Tell me more about us being a holographic image?
A. Everything exists as pure raw energy. Right? It's just that the physical domain vibrates at a lower level and much more slowly. At birth, when we come into this time-space continuum, we often lose our awareness of our other dimensional realities. Some come in with an awareness of them, such as children who remember they've lived other lifetimes. Or Yogananda, from the time he was born, knew he was a spirit. And when he experienced the physical world he described it as watching a movie. The soul holds all of the experiences of all life. That is our highest self.
Q. The “higher self,” Tell me about it.
A. I consider it the individualized presence that is seeking experience and evolution through multiple lifetimes and in multiple forms in multiple dimensions. When I talk about the holographic nature of reality--in the physical sciences, we speak in terms of the quantum field and we exist in physical reality. Still, we also exist in many possible and probable selves, and we also exist in multiple lifetimes. And that here in the physical realm, we experience time as past, present, and future. But in fact, there is no past present or future everything is happening at once.
Q. What is your Ph.D. in?
A. Well on my “sheepskin,” as our degrees are referred to in Academic, my Master's degree is in Soviet Studies, and I have a Ph.D. in Slavic languages and literature, with a minor in anthropology. I majored in folklore. It's a bit of a story, but there is a link between that unusual degree and what I do now, but I can talk about that later.
Q. Can you talk more about soul retrieval?
A. Sometimes part of the self or soul, in essence, goes underground. If a parent is severely physically or sexually abusing a child, the part of that child that trusts life and trusts authority will dissociate and disappear. That's a straightforward description of a lost part of the self. Another example, in childhood, let's say you have intuitive psychic gifts. But everybody around you tells you that it's not real, it's just your imagination, or even that you're crazy. That intuitive psychic, more deeply knowing part of self, disappears and goes underground. That would be an example. There can be soul loss such as in this and other lifetimes which then gets carried forward. The soul is essentially seeking wholeness. If there's any injury to someone in a lifetime, that disconnects them from that wholeness called soul loss.
Most of the time, we can feel the piece that is missing. I have a friend who was born into a white middle-class American family who told me that when she was a kid, she was continually looking out the window into the woods looking for her “Indian people.” And then later in life, she learned that she had probably had a grandmother or a great grandmother who was Lakota. And so that's a kind of soul loss that we can carry forward. A Lakota woman who was taken away from her Lakota family. There was a loss of soul by an ancestor. Several generations later, her descendant experienced this feeling that she was an Indian, but she didn't know where it came from. She just had a feeling that she needed to look for her “Indian people.” A soul loss in my is an example: I have lived many lifetimes as a warrior, fighting in wars. I was a French crusader in the Middle Ages, who went to the Middle East. to fight the so-called infidels. At the end of his life, he had an awakening of consciousness when he was dying on the field of battle. He had believed that he was doing the work of his Lord Christ. And then, lying there in the field of battle, when he saw the people he had murdered, he no longer believed that. This was a soul loss that impacted me in this life. I came into contact with him and helped him heal. So we can also, through the holographic matrix of reality, heal ourselves and other lifetimes, heal our ancestors, and so on.
My mother, for instance, was quite psychic. She saw ghosts and spirits, and she heard things. She even told me at one point before she died that she had blocked out her psychic abilities because the things that she saw into the future were usually traumatic events. Then she confided in me a few years before she died that she'd gone to a woman who channeled some higher entity. That entity said to her, you're a gifted healer, why have you wasted your gifts? So there was a lot of soul loss in my maternal line. Being a healer and the intuitive, psychic part of my journey was to own the fact that I inherited those same gifts from her and my maternal line on her side. Being able to step fully into being a healer and using my healing gifts for others' good was really a redemption of her and is raising up the maternal line.
Q. What was the Alberto Villoldo school like?
A. For me, it was incredibly fun. There were lots of parts of it that were also incredibly challenging. I remember when I left, I was at the airport after having just completed the West Lodge. The medicine wheel is all about death. Dying to the ego-self, and also facing our potential physical death and, and I just remember kind of walking around the airport and feeling like I was a corpse. It was a little disconcerting. In shamanism, there's a lot of understanding that you get initiated into the medicine. And that initiation can be through life’s challenges and trauma, by the spirits, or you can go and study with a teacher and study hard for many years and be initiated. Of course, now in the western world, these initiations are happening online.
We learned the basic practice of opening sacred space and calling the four directions in, working with the Earth and sky. We did meditation and breathwork. Alberto learned from the medicine people of the Amazon in the Andes and Central and South America. He traveled to Brazil in the early years. He adapted the mesa tradition, which is common to the indigenous peoples of the Andes, particularly the Q’ero people. Then we worked with 12 stones, and you're sent to do these deep ceremonies and transformational practices, some of them connecting with the Earth. Others are journeying, self-reflection, and doing energy healing work on each other, with each of these individual stones representing different dimensions of that particular direction.
And then those stones cook on the Earth and in that process, Mother Earth and all the ancestors, mulch and transform the energy. Then they become part of your medicine bundle, your mesa. Eventually, after four of these classes, you're carrying this mesa with 13 stones in it. The 13th is gifted to you by your teacher. In my case, the stone was gifted to me by Alberto. Among native cultures, the initiations for the shamans were often quite brutal like having their skin scraped off. Going into deep fasts, deep privations of various kinds, but, in the western world, I think that the nature of consciousness is that many of us who have deep trauma in our history--that in itself is the initiation, right? That suffering, the path of suffering, is an initiation. And for many of us who feel the call to being a healer, we have walked a path of deep trauma and suffering, and we're called to heal ourselves. And that's part of the initiation.
Q. How do your gifts work?
A. All of us have different ways of knowing and perceiving subtle things that aren't overt in the physical dimension. I talked about feeling, seeing, sensing, hearing, knowing, - my particular gift is empathy. We can step up into another person's reality, and know it, feel it, sense it. So for me, empathy is the gateway; that empathy is the gateway. And then, as I connect with a client, I see things with my inner sight. I sometimes see things with my outer sight, generally just impressions. Sometimes I hear words,