“In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions…”

Via Waylon Lewis
on Jul 26, 2012
get elephant's newsletter

The four universal healing salves.

In many shamanic societies, if you came to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions.

When did you stop dancing?

When did you stop singing?

When did you stop being enchanted by stories?

When did you stop finding comfort in the sweet territory of silence?

Where we have stopped dancing, singing, being enchanted by stories, or finding comfort in silence is where we have experienced the loss of soul.

Dancing, singing, storytelling, and silence are the four universal healing salves.

~ The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Healer, Teacher and Visionary


For more.

& One more Relephant bonus:

Do You Have Situational Depression? ~ Felicia Bender



Facebook is in talks with major corporate media about pulling their content into FB, leaving other sites to wither or pay up if we want to connect with you, our readers. Want to stay connected before the curtain drops? Get our curated, quality newsletters below!


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | facebook.com/elephantjournal | twitter.com/elephantjournal | facebook.com/waylonhlewis | twitter.com/waylonlewis | Google+ For more: publisherelephantjournalcom


58 Responses to ““In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions…””

  1. Harleigh Quinn says:

    No, they're really not.
    They are temporary distractions, something the ego can latch onto……temporarily.
    The base problem still remains.

  2. mike says:

    Perhaps you are right on 1 out of 4 (stories), but for the rest…particularly the last, I think you are quite confused.

  3. guest says:

    genuine dancing and singing is very good for the spirit and body. I definitely do agree with this from a lot of things that I've read of various cultures as well as my own personal experiences. Silence is definitely my own personal test and I'm not a big fan of stories but I do like film a lot. I have noticed there are certain days I can't connect with music or feel like dancing at all and other days I just light up and connect with the same piece of music and it's amazing to know how different I can feel on different days with music. I also love the moment when I feel inspired to sing a great song. I can feel it in my heart chakra/chest and leaves me in a great mood.

  4. […] singing, storytelling, and silence are the four universal healing salves. ~ Gabrielle Roth "In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened… I am inspired by this perspective of healing depression and dispiritedness — such a contrast to […]

  5. Suzqboyle says:

    Singing, dancing and listening to stories won't fix all of your problems..but you will have a renewed spirit with which to deal with your problems.

  6. Colin says:

    Yes they are healing thats for sure and if you don't find them to be so, you ain't singing, dancing and story telling with all your heart!

  7. Lily says:

    What was the recommended treatment/solution?

  8. stormbringer77 says:

    I stopped dancing when I hurt my back. I stopped singing when I heard me doing that(ew!). I can't stop being enchanted by stories. Look at my stack of books,magazines & video games!. And I love the sound of silence (except the one by S. & G.) because then I don't have to hear everybody bitching.

  9. yogasamurai says:

    For someone who might actually be deeply depressed, this strikes me as borderline malpractice. :o) Another random "magical thinking" riff in place of therapeutic healing. We could probably all make our own random list and come up with different elements that suit us:

    Connecting with nature, including animals
    Community engagement
    Intimate conversation over meals with friends
    Taking care of children

    Etc. etc. etc.

    I wonder what the actual source is for this latest bit of EJ "lyrical prose"? When someone makes the "authoritative" statement of the kind the author makes, shouldn't it actually be sourced perhaps?

  10. Taking care of children a healing salve? Eh, I don't think so. Maybe just playing with them. But I agree with you on the other points. :)

  11. donald says:

    wow! this seems like a lighthearted metaphorical little ditty to help us remember the joy in life…i'm surprised at the near angst its generating in some of the replies…i'd say – dance, sing and lighten the hell up….jus sayin…

    to the author – thanx for this gentle sunday morning reminder

  12. Dace says:

    Why did you stop laughing?

  13. Maryanne says:

    This so speaks to spirit, not ego. Thank you.

  14. hazel says:

    Oh I think definitely Dancing with abandon singing at the top of your voice and telling stories to share compassion wisdom and understanding so you feel your not alone, not the only person that's gone through whatever is making you sad and silence ahhh I think they are all good they all sooth the soul.

  15. flibbertigibbet says:

    Buncha fluffy garbage. I gotta be honest…I dance for a living, I sing often cuz Im usually surrounded by music, I cherish the silence at home and I love listening to ppls stories.. yet I am still perpetually depressed and diheartened …what then?

  16. chad says:

    Uh, what shamanic societies are we talking about? Are there any of these left? I agree with the fellow above who asked for sources. Shouldn't make sweeping statements without backup.

  17. yoga bear says:

    sometimes I read the articles and I am so full of excitement and interest. There are times (this being one) when I think what a pile of shit! It is when I think that, I realize that I need to be open to all possibilities(thank you, yoga!)

  18. […] And in a stoic background corner of my brain, plays the familiar refrain: Where have all the empaths gone? […]

  19. […] brought the healing power of ecstatic movement back into our collective understanding. She worked tirelessly, through her […]

  20. Anna says:

    Just to be clear, this quote is from Angeles Arrien, social athropologist, from her introduction to Gabrielle Roth's book, Maps to Ecstasy. I often see it attributed to Roth and go a little OCD. Arrien is a captivating author and teacher in her own right. If you like Roth's written work, you may like Arrien's.

  21. Anna says:

    Judy, I thank you for your remarks. You are correct in your assessment of the tone of my comment. Clarification and accuracy, in my world, are not criticism, blame or judgement. Tone is tricky to assess in writing, so I may be wrong in assessing yours as kind, thoughtful and compassionate; though I think not. I enjoyed reading your articulate contribution to this discussion.

  22. Judy says:

    Hi Anna! Well, I try. I can see the point of people who might be struggling with serious depression issues that it is no solution and horribly frustrating for someone to say "put on some music and dance!" But I don't think that's what this piece is about. It's more of a diagnostic tool for when you might need to make changes. And for those who aren't seriously ill, but who just are kind of tired and have the blues, who are dispirited or disheartened by the state of the world, being reminded to refresh ourselves with an appreciation of the wonderful art our fellow humans have left for us, seems like a good deed to me. Yes, there are other things, like nature and laughter and babies. I'm even for watching puppy videos on youtube, or goofy comedies with friends — and maybe everything can be stretched into enchantment (videos) or silence (nature) — whatever awakens one's love of life and gratitude, so that the energy and motivation is there to help others. I would say that someone who feels hostile at this reminder of good things must really be hurting somehow–maybe just from a bad day, maybe because it reminds them of something else they did not settle somewhere else, or maybe they really do need to seek professional help for themselves. It doesn't hurt to just go be assessed and I hope anyone in that situation can find a caring and competent medical professional who they can trust. I did, and am so grateful to her.

    Also, there was a really nice article elsewhere on there today, about desire — it really did a good job addressing some of the issues raised (weeks ago!) by others here. I don't know if they will see this, but just in case.

  23. peacedeer says:

    This isn't a treatment recommendation but a diagnostic tool. Look back to when you stopped dancing to see where you experienced soul loss in your life. Singing and dancing may be part of the healing but not all of it. This gives you a way to look back at what caused you to become disconnected from joy. I love Angeles Arrien's work, and this quote is from her book, The Four Fold Way. It is a good basic look at indigenous wisdom and your own life.

  24. Iris says:

    i think we need to remember that originally dancing singing and being in silence, were in themselves ritualistic. no you're not gonna feel better about yourself in the long run if you're dancing drunk in the street, next day not remembering what happened. but if you dance or sing from your soul and call upon the Universe and your helpers, then and only then are you merely not singinf or dancing but flowing together with the power and peace that permeates everything around you, including you. so INTENTION counts.

  25. Joe Sparks says:

    Theoretically, It is impossible to be discouraged about something that has not happened. All of these feelings are about what happened when we were young. To sing, to dance, to tell stories, to speak are contradictions to the past hurts. Everything is a decision. You can decide to be happy.

  26. Diana says:

    This is a lovely metaphorical piece that expresses the simple ways of being connected to all that is, no need to over think it.
    Dance= move with the source
    Sing=resonate with the sound of the source
    Enchanted by stories=feel the universal oneness of all experiences as your own
    Silence=surrender to the deepest place within and without, as the same.

  27. DeltaBrain says:

    I think often the depressed person is the first to ask these questions. My guess is if the shaman is any good then there must be some follow-up questions. It's like asking a deaf person when they stopped hearing – they may remember & long to hear again but that alone doesn't bring back the sound of your voice.

  28. aussieJules says:

    A lot of peopleare dispirited because they arr living a script that is notthem. Maybe they are scientistsbecause they were Good ay math. Orthey earn big money and work long hours because that's what everyone. Seems to define as winning. Basically we are alienated from ourselves. Comfort and money and shopping soothes the pain but does not remove it.

    A more spiritual outlook, saying F### you to other peoples expectations or guilt trips, realising that most in the modern world are basically insane. And going ones own way, following ones own star be it being a wandering shaman or a billionaire, is the only remedy.

  29. ginger says:

    Instead of pondering, conduct a study…try all four, then take note of how you feel. Discover how easily and naturally you become full of energy, enthusiasm, confidence, inspired ideasand how. Go dancing whether it’s aerobic dancing at the gymn, or dancing with friends at a club…just do it! Feel the music, let yourself go, work up a sweat. Sing…sing loud…sing like no one can hear you, breathe deeply and let your rejoicing voice flow through your body out from deep within your heart. Practice silence…away from electronics…away from social activities where you have to be “present”. Go out in the world and become an observer. Ride a bike and feel the sun on your face and the breeze through your hair, lay on a beach or a poolside deck, or in grass in a field or local park, or your own backyard looking up at the clouds. Listen to the sounds of waves and feel the sand between your toes, appreciate the majesty of nature, breathe in fresh air, float in water, go for a walk downtown and windowshop, cheerfully greeting strangers, go for a hike on a trail in the woods and take a camera or a journal to write in, plant a garden, play a musical instrument, paddle a canoe…let your senses explore and your spirit be free and then tell the stories…hear others tell their stories…tell of your discoveries, your adventures, your interests…tell stories of love. Now, after you’ve experimented with each, how do you feel?, what are your thoughts about? Do you still sense ego?, or do you find the voices of judgment have ceased? Enjoy your journey.

  30. Tiger says:

    Unclutter your own mind of negatives lead a simplest life possible leave your impression foot prints

  31. art says:

    What so-called "shamanic societies" are we talking about here? I hear the lighten up dance, sing, & laugh riff but really this is the problem with so many "New-Age" prescriptions to life's difficulties. There is a complete lack of cultural context ie. actual practices and their use by traditional shamans which will likely be misappropriated & assimilated into some subcultural milieu as a "universal truth" by someone in an authoritative way. This can actually be very misleading and cause more confusion in peoples lives.

  32. Amy says:

    Good Lord people, lighten up!

  33. Matthew says:

    I am very talented in visual art, and have been very abused. Upon going to college to study art I abandoned it for vocal training, singing, acting, dance classes. I was not good at it at all but the abuse killed my soul, I needed it. Eventually I became a good singer, a greater actor, a competent dancer, and could enjoy silence. Now I am returning to visual art. But I need to heal before I could pursue where I am really gifted.

Leave a Reply