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A Shamanic Journey with Practitioner Ashley Tomasino
This week for the Vibrational Science Guest Healers Series, I took the opportunity to interview Shamanic practitioner and Peruvian Acupuncturist Ashley Tomasino. Based out of Southern California, Ashley focuses on the integration and bridging of shamanic techniques with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in her healing practice.
Today we delve into what a modern shamanic practice involves, including the use of shamanic herbs and medicines such as the powerful medicinal plant- ayahuasca. Ashley also shares with us a range of shamanic applications involving energy cleansing, altered states, sound healing and some helpful home remedies.
MK- Before we delve into what you do and how you approach healing in your own life and in that of your clients, can you share with us a bit about what exactly shamanic healing entails, as well as Chinese medicine?
AT- Absolutely. When people think about shamanic healing they might have an idea about an indigenous healer with robes, a drum and dancing around a fire. I sometimes think of that too, but in my experience I find that shamanism is actually the practice of, in modern culture today, practitioners who reach an altered state of consciousness which they then ground in reality. They help people to perceive life by communicating with spirits to help them (the clients) to see from a different perspective.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses acupuncture, herbs and different types of massage like Tui Na to help move the energy and heal the body from within. Both of these practices incorporate shamanic practices themselves because they work with the elements of nature like fire, water, air, earth and wood.
MK- Is there a definition for shamanic healing?
AT- There are many different definitions. I would say a shamanic healing is where a person reaches a deep state of healing by reaching an altered state of consciousness. This could be done for example by a drum eliciting an altered state of consciousness, the feeling of getting high (through meditation or with assistance from herbs etc.), or anything like hearing a song that elicits a neurological response.
MK- Is it fair to say that a shamanic healer alters their own state of consciousness and brings their client or the person they are working with into the fold whereas with TCM it’s usually using an external technique instead? For example, through the utilization of herbs or needles to get the client’s energy moving?
AT- I would say that is correct. Though with TCM you are involved with their process too, but we use needles and things, whereas with shamanic healing you might use ayahuasca or plant medicines.
MK- Plant medicines…and the practitioner would go on that journey with the client?
MK- So if I go for an acupuncture treatment, I don’t expect the practitioner to needle themselves, but if I go and see a shamanic practitioner, they are going to take the plant medicines with me?
MK- That’s really interesting… What does integration mean practically to you? How do you use both of these modalities together?
AT- What I often do is use the diagnoses that I have learned from my training in TCM to help me better understand what is going on energetically with the client. So the other day I had a client come in with low back pain. Within my scope of practice right now I have my drum, I can do massage and I can do shamanic work. So I did a journey (an intuitive diagnosis) and based on what I know with Chinese medicine, one thing that came to mind- that my guides had told me and what my intuition was telling me- was that it was probably what is called her ‘Ming-Men Fire.’
This is the fire in the kidneys which gives you the zest for life, the passion, the life and the warmth in your kidneys that helps you to move throughout life. So then I journeyed further with it, started to drum (and go into an altered state) with this information.
Really, the two medicines brought together allow me to have a stronger diagnosis and understand the client in a holistic way. So I have a better perspective and it just helps to affirm one thing or another. If I have a sense in the shamanic world of what is going on, the TCM helps me to affirm it with the diagnostic skills I have learned.
MK- How did your interest in natural medicine arise and specifically your interest in these two modalities?
AT- Well, it was what I needed. These two medicines were the only medicines that could address the root of the pain that I was experiencing. I had suffered an incredible loss of my best friend when I was 17. It was very sudden and shocking and after 5 years I was still calling her phone, thinking she was alive and being totally out of my mind about it… I went to a semi-professional soccer try-out game and I blew out my knee on the 5 year anniversary of her death.
I happened to be in Chinese Medicine school at the time, which I had gone into after originally trying out Chiropractic school; but I felt that Chiropractic didn’t answer the questions that Chinese Medicine could.
(Back to the story…)
So I blew out my knee on the 5 year anniversary of her death and ended up going to school afterward and having a complete mental breakdown (that same day.) I was in the middle of the hallway in fetal position and the woman who came to get me brought me into her office, laid me down on her table and put her hands underneath my head. She went on to tell me everything about my friend that had passed- what had happened and why it had happened. Then she looked at me and told me I should take her intro to Shamanic Journeying class. And it changed my life forever.
I took her class and started to really understand what was going on with me and that my experience wasn’t necessarily a mental breakdown, it was a shamanic initiation. It totally changed my life and so I have been dedicating my practice to the kind of healing I received.
MK- After the Shamanic Journeying class, what was next in order to become a full-on shamanic practitioner?
AT- Well, a lot of integration from that experience had to happen and then I ended up moving out to California, so after the class it still took me time to grieve. And finally I realized I had to do something about it because it was driving me nuts!
Some of my friends had actually just returned from Peru and the moment they got off the plane, they contacted me and told me I had to go to Iquitos and work with ayahuasca.
I had told myself I wanted to be a real, legit shamanic practitioner, so I went to Peru and long story short- ended up working with Ricardo Amaringo in Iquitos- and started to do a lot of deep work with ayahuasca.
MK- And can you share with us what ayahuasca is?
AT- Ayahuasca is a psychoactive tea, basically a brew with a mix of the ayahuasca vine and the chacruna leaf and you drink it in a ceremonial setting. It helps to bring on visions, purge and have deep psychedelic experiences.
MK- After taking ayahuasca how did you feel?
AT- Hm. Well, I’ve had almost 300 ceremonies so…
MK- I’m asking because ayahuasca is starting to become a little trendy. You hear about it more often nowadays- such and such a celebrity took ayahuasca to get off of heroine, this person did ayahuasca and it helped them with something else, and then you hear the horror stories- how someone took it and it was a nightmare for them.
So it’s a hallucinogenic plant and when you first did it, what did you feel?
AT- My very first time- I remember I had a very large cup… I did not know what I was doing. I had asked for a really big dose which kind of sent me spinning. I saw a lot of dark images, I saw a lot of things that were very difficult to see that were actually real within me. A lot of guilt and fear. I felt things- it was very intense and many years ago.
So I would say- the first time I did it, it was slightly traumatizing because I went to Peru not really knowing what ayahuasca was. I just wanted to go and meet some shamans…I didn’t know I would be drinking anything.
MK- So what made you want to do it again? If it was so traumatizing, what was the benefit?
AT- I had this intuitive knowing that I needed to keep going and I knew that it was good for me because after the first time I felt lighter and started to feel more clear. I also remember having a lot more peace within my body. I just knew I had to stay- I had about 3 weeks left, this connection with the shaman there, and I felt very safe. I was just very determined to heal myself. So I continued with it and I’m glad I did.
MK- I tried ayahuasca and it was like a very deep form of meditation accompanied by demonstrative visuals. I’m sure of course that it is different for different people, but with me I would get a ‘download’ of wisdom or intuition and then I would literally see a visual, or you could say a hallucination, of exactly what that wisdom was describing. So one time the voice told me ‘whatever you focus on, energy is drawn to because your focus is a spotlight’ and then the next moment I was focusing on this pen in my hand. (I had been journaling- this was during the beginning of the ceremony before it really started to climax and I could still write.) And I kid you not, energy was flying around the room and my pen was like a magnet- energy was flying towards my pen because that is what I was focusing on.
So that was my experience with ayahuasca- it was very much like an intense meditation where my intuition was very loud. You know that little voice that guides you and gives you those great ideas, those epiphanies? It was just much louder than usual and it was accompanied by a visual that would more or less prove the point. It was a fascinating experience…and pretty fun for me. But then again, I didn’t take a very heavy dose.
AT- Yeah, that sounds like an amazing experience. There is so much wisdom to be gained from having a relationship with this plant. It’s amazing because the plant itself is self aware. You’re ingesting something that has consciousness. That alone will help to change your consciousness. How many times do we drink or eat something that is basically dead food? It’s processed, it’s unhealthy and then we wonder why we are getting sick.
Ayahuasca really helps us to come back into this state of knowing and presence. That isn’t to say that we should use it for simply meditation alone. You can of course, but really it’s an amazing teacher for the purposes like the one you described.
MK- Can you give us a few scenarios of clients you have worked with and some of the results you have seen? What kind of people do you treat?
AT- My practice is very unique and I treat lots of different kinds of people. Some people come to me because they want to be practitioners, so I have them involved in an apprenticeship that might begin where I do healing work on them and then I train them to work on themselves.
Other people come to me and they have something going on- this one lady came in and said she was having trouble with her husband. I did some drumming work and saw she had some old belief systems that were implanted in her heart chakra, so I worked on singing to that area, cleared it out and afterwards she felt completely different. She was totally lighter.
MK- Can you talk about the drumming? Is that sound healing?
AT- Yes vibrational healing, sound healing. The drum is a huge part of my practice, one of the main tools that I use.
MK- Do you think it’s the vibration plus the intention you are using with the drum? Is that the magic?
AT- Definitely, if I have a client that comes in and they are dealing with depression. I will drum, channel, focus and bring every part of me into a state of joy; and with the drum show them what it feels like and then pull them up with my energy… with Source energy.
MK- I remember when we first met a few years ago, you were telling me how you were doing shamanic cleansings on people’s homes… are you still doing that? Can you share with us what a shamanic home cleansing entails?
AT- Sure, although I’m not doing that so much anymore- but it’s a service that is really beneficial for people. Probably more than they realize. I started doing it when I had a client tell me he thought that his ex-wife was somehow effecting his current relationship. During this conversation I was drumming and my guides began showing me the exact layout of his house…
MK- Sorry, when you say guides…?
AT- So when I do shamanic work, I have guides that basically tell me what to do, what to look at and they show me things.
MK- And guides are separate from your intuition? Or are they one and the same?
AT- One and the same (for all practical purposes.)
(Back to the story…)
AT- So my guides showed me the layout of his house and they showed me him laying in his bed with his current wife while they were talking about the ex-wife and the energy of the ex-wife was literally in between the two of them!
I came out of the journey and told him what his house looked like, what was going on and even what the conversation was between him and his wife about the ex-wife and he was appalled… because he didn’t know how I could know. Then as an aside, I told him that I do house clearing.
So he called me up, we scheduled an appointment, I came to his house and sure enough it was exactly what I saw earlier during the journey. I have my own techniques which I used to clear out the energy from the ex-wife and the relationship between my client and his current wife totally improved. They ended up getting married. It was a crucial part of their evolution as a couple… getting that energy out of their space.
Think about it- have you ever lived with an ex-boyfriend and thought I can’t get over him? It’s probably because some of his energy is still in your house. So what do you do? You can sage it all you want, but sometimes it takes a bit more than that. Sometimes it takes talking to the spirit. Because even though we are in this present moment there are also other times existing simultaneously.
MK- I guess I am just trying to understand this concept… How can someone’s energy be left behind? I think most people who are listening, myself included, can relate to feeling energy. For example, you walk into a room with certain kinds of vibes, certain kinds of people and you can feel it in the air. Even if you can’t describe it or haven’t heard of any science, research or reports about it, it’s something you can feel. But how is it somebody can leave their energy in a room 6 months later?
AT- I kind of think of it like those ghost busting movies where a spirit doesn’t realize that they are dead and they still linger around the old house. Maybe the ex-boyfriend is still alive, but there is an aspect of his psyche or psychic energy that is still around that doesn’t want to let go- and maybe he purposely left his sweater in your closet! And then you wonder to yourself why you still feel his energy…
It’s the same thing with other relationships, maybe you break up with a best friend and they said something to you while you were breaking up. That energy may still need to be cleared.
MK- Can people do this for themselves? Is there a home remedy or something for this?
AT- Anyone can do these couple things. 1- Light a white candle. Have this nice experience in the house. Start changing the experiences that you have in the house. Choose to use your house as a sacred space rather than a place to dump things. You can use sage. Sage has been scientifically proven to kill microbes in the air for over 24 hours and it feels good and smells good. Make sure you take out the trash. Simple little things like vacuuming helps.
MK- This is kind of overflowing into Feng Shui and I say this because I just did an episode on using Feng Shui to uplift your state of mind and mood. I personally used this method (Feng Shui) last year and it made a huge difference. I did a deep clean on my house, threw out a bunch of stuff, sold stuff, bought new stuff, re-arranged my room and I tell you the difference was night and day (in terms of the energy in my space and how I felt.)
AT- Yeah it makes a big difference. It’s like brushing your teeth- you want to clean out your closet. Your home is a reflection of your inner state. If your room is a mess, probably somewhere inside your subconscious- it’s a mess.
Some other little things you can do- leaving little notes around the house. ‘I love myself’ or ‘You’re awesome!’ Things like that bring the vibes up. That being said it really depends on what is going on. If someone died in the house, I’m probably not going to suggest the same things than if someone just had a party and they want to clear the energy from that. It’s a totally different thing like using these diagnostic skills to determine what’s the problem and what’s the solution.
So shamanic healing is not so woo-woo, it’s quite practical too.
MK- Definitely. What’s next for you Ashley?
AT- Next for me? I’ve got workshops and retreats in the works. I’m taking some people to Peru with me in September and I’ve got some retreats to Switzerland and Columbia coming up. I’m going to be publishing a book called ‘The Introduction to Shamanic Journeying’ and that’s hopefully going to be done in the next couple of months. I’m looking at a lot of growth in all of these different areas.
MK- Awesome. Well how can folks get in touch with you?
AT- I can be reached through my website www.ashleytomasino.com and on Facebook. My email address is on my website.
MK- Well thanks so much for joining us Ashley! And thanks to all of you for tuning in.
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Till next time,