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Natural Awakenings Fairfield County & Housatonic Valley CT

Earth Medicine : Indigenous Practices Emphasize Balance

Jan 03, 2019 02:16PM ● By Gina Cronin

Indigenous wisdom brings forth the view that health comes not only from balance within the body, but balance with the planet as well. “One of the main things that I’ve learned from the Q’ero tribe in the Andes Mountains of Peru is their love and respect for Mother Earth, known as Pachamama,” says Deana Paqua, a shamanic practitioner and faculty member at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury.

She describes that one of the foundational teachings of the Andes is ayni, or sacred reciprocity. “If you ask for anything from the creator, the universe, or our ancestors, you must give something first,” Paqua describes. “When you are in a balanced state of giving and receiving with the earth as well as your community, life is more harmonious.” 

Paqua has sat in many despacho ceremonies in her visits to Peru, where the aim was to deeply express thanks while making offerings to Pachamama. This state of openness and gratitude allows one to become a vessel for grace and healing. During her healing sessions, Paqua draws from Reiki, some of the Andean healing techniques that she has been given permission to share, and wisdom from her teacher, Lama Lobsang Palden of Tibet. 

“My underlying philosophy is no matter what a client comes in with—physical pain, emotional distress, spiritual concerns—I help facilitate energy cleansing and empowerment for the client from spiritual connections with the earth, ancestors, guides and angels,” says Paqua. She may use a portable Andean altar of sacred items, known as a mesa, as well as voice, rattles, drums, stones, the burning of palo santo for cleansing, hands-on healing and more. Key advice that she follows from one of her teachers from the Andes, Don Mariano Quispe Flores, is, “heal yourself and keep your ego out of it.” 

Herman Olivera also is a shamanic practitioner and teacher in the Andean and Amazonian traditions. His mission and purpose is to demystify shamanism, making it more accessible so people can integrate it into their daily lives. 

“Shamanism isn’t a religion, and even though we work with spirit, it’s not even spirituality. It is survival. That’s all it is,” says Olivera. “One of the key ingredients to leading a balanced life is living with an attitude of gratitude; when you spend time in indigenous communities, you see that they take nothing for granted.”

He keeps his healing sessions as simple and straightforward as possible, using the power of sound with items like sticks, stones, bones, voice, chakapa (rattle made from bundled leaves) and drums to facilitate healing. He also does some body work. 

“At the end of the day, all that I’m doing is removing blockages so people can have a steady flow. I help guide the removal of stones so the river of life can flow,” says Olivera. “It is our right as spiritual beings having a human experience to heal ourselves. You don’t have to be initiated into a tribe; we’re all part of a bigger tribe, we are all healers.” 

He is extremely passionate about sharing the philosophy that this healing belongs to everyone. Many people have lost their way and don’t trust in their own intuition, Olivera continues. However, once a person is empowered with some simple practices for well-being—be it a single drum for journeying or a couple hours sitting beside the ocean—they can unlock the potential they already have within. 

“Looking back it’s very easy to see the difference between modern man and indigenous cultures, and that’s coexistence,” says Olivera. “All was one, all was connected, and day-to-day nature was the key ingredient.” 

In gaining a multicultural perspective of health, we come to embrace the natural processes and balances within ourselves and the world around us. 

Shaman the Word

Olivera and Paqua refer to themselves as shamanic practitioners, not shamans. They explain that the Western mind has come to define all spirit medicine as shamanism. Many healers will refer to themselves as shamanic practitioners to be more easily identifiable to their audience. Olivera and Paqua stress that shamanism is a term that is exclusively derived from the Tongas tribe in Siberia. It is not a term used in the Andes or the Amazon. Indigenous groups across the globe have their own unique titles with which to address their medicine men and women. These men and women often dedicate a solid 10 to 30 or more years to developing this position in their community. 

“For people of the West to visit a few times, learn some wisdom that the indigenous people were gracious enough to share, then come back and call themselves a shaman or other sacred title is just disrespectful,” says Paqua. 

“If anyone tells you they are a master, or someone hands you a business card that says they are a shaman, say thank you and walk away,” Olivera adds. He explains that it’s not a term of endearment; it’s serious work, not a title to bestow upon oneself as a practitioner.

For more information about Deana Paqua, visit

For more information about Herman Olivera, visit

Gina Cronin is a writer for Natural Awakenings Magazine. Connect with her at

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