What It’s Really Like to Be a Shaman: "I Didn’t Choose This; It Chose Me"

In our 9–5 series, we ask boss babes what a day in their work lives entails. This week, Brook Albrigo, a California-based shaman, gives us a glimpse into her world

Shaman Brook Albrigo

Brook Albrigo discovered shamanic healing—now, her livelihood—by accident

Age: 34

How did you become a shaman? It happened to me accidentally. I had broken my foot while living in New York and was in a super-stressful job. I couldn’t take painkillers because they were making me sick. Based on a friend’s recommendation, I sought out an energy healer. At that point, my life changed. I started seeing all the ways I wasn’t taking care of myself. I didn’t choose this; shamanic healing chose me.

How do you learn how to become a shaman? There are training centres, but I apprenticed with a teacher for a bit. Then I traveled and sought out my own teachers. I went to Peru, Guatemala and Mexico. I just wanted to learn as many different methods as possible. I feel like I wouldn’t have learned what I did if I went to an energy healing school. Right now, I’m also studying with a shaman out here [in Long Beach, California] named Steven Farmer. It’s important to always be learning. You’re never done!

So, what exactly is shamanic healing? You’re communicating with spirits of a different realm. With shamanic healing, we believe everything has a spirit—every plant, animal, and element. If you know how to communicate with them, you can bring messages to help the person in question heal. It’s about seeing the life in everything.

How is reiki different than shamanic healing? They’re different yet similar. With reiki, you’re working with a specific reiki energy. You’re channeling the energy. With shamanic healing, you’re working with a wider range of energy and with the spirits. I like to combine the two. I let the person’s energy guide me. It’s nice to have both in your tool belt, so to speak.

What can someone expect when they come in for a healing? I let their energy tell me what needs to happen. Normally, the person goes into a relaxed state. They can experience different sensations throughout their body. Some people feel warm or waves of energy. Others feel cold. Some people see colours or see memories come back. Sometimes they see different animals or spirits. Healing is always what it needs to be. Afterwards, I take some time to discuss what came up and give them some information to take home so they can continue to heal themselves.

What’s a typical work day like? I usually see about two to three in-person clients at the healing centre per day, and two to three distance clients who I work with over the phone or Skype. We do a consultation, then they go in a meditative state for an hour, and we discuss after. Each day is different, which the fun part of doing this. It’s important to balance this work out with self-care. I give myself 20 to 30 minutes to process the energy and meditate for a little bit.

How does a distance session work? I just pretend they’re right in front of me. I have them relax and lay down somewhere undisturbed. The sessions are shorter because there is no distraction of the physical body. A lot of people can feel me working on them.

What are some of the challenges you encounter? For me, one of the biggest challenges is the business side of it: being on the internet, having to answer emails, and marketing. It’s draining, but I have to set some time aside for it. Also, I don’t encounter this that much, but, it’s tough when I have clients who rely on me too much, as though they don’t have to make any changes in their lives [themselves]. We end up just working on the same thing over and over again. It’s not like you come see me and I’m going to solve all your problems.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about shamans? Definitely the ayahuasca thing [a herbal drink with hallucinogenic effects used in healing ceremonies]. I think it’s a tool you can use. But I think that word is associated a little too closely with shamanism. It’s really a very small part of it, and people who work with it aren’t really called shamans. They’re called curanderos or ayahuasqueros. I think ayahuasca has just gotten so popular that everyone thinks that’s what shamanism is. It’s just a small avenue. Most people working with shamanic healing are not working with ayahuasca. Another misconception is that we’re not normal everyday people. I’m super normal. I don’t live in the jungle or something. There’s a little bit of a woo-woo factor.

What qualities do you need to become a shaman? You need to be really open and prepared to face your own demons. When you’re healing other people, your own problems are going to come up. If you’re not willing to heal them or change them, it might not be the right time to do this work. You don’t get to choose what comes up for you.

What’s your favorite part of the job? Getting to see people heal. I was in their position, so I know what it feels like: That feeling of relief, or realizing that it’s not that bad. Seeing the outcome.

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