Interview by Sarah Clark, LAc.
Justin Levy is a shamanic healer and acupuncturist at Kwan Yin Healing Arts. I had a chance to sit down and talk with him recently about his own initiation into shamanic healing, the deep healing power of clearing energetic blocks, and the grace spirit brings to his patients. Here is what he had to say:
Sarah: Tell me about your experience with meditation and sacred dance and how that led you to become a healer?
Justin: What happened was, when I was 18, I started going to raves, and I started dancing. I started to feel this energy kind of take me over when I was dancing. And I would start to feel all these channels in my body open up. Then I would start to move and I would feel channels in my body opening up. When the energy moved to my abdomen, it would feel really blocked, and I couldn’t get my abdomen to open up. I’d try to dance it out and move it out, and it was very, very difficult. So I would do that for a while, and then I would just be exhausted. I would go sit, and I would just breathe, trying different things, working with the energy by using my breath. And this was at raves in these dirty warehouses. I would just sit and do some meditation. And it was just kind of happening spontaneously. I didn’t have any foundation or structure for understanding any of this. I grew up in a fundamentalist church. So at first, I thought that I was possessed by the devil, because it was the only frame of reference I had.
What happened was, I was starting to have understandings about myself– frequently it was simple things that were new to me at the time– like taking responsibility for my own feelings and attitude. This was something that seems obvious now, but at the time it was a whole new way of looking at things! At a certain point, I remembered that when I was about five my dad and my aunt took me to see this guru who would give initiations. The only thing I remembered about it was that it was a weird place with weird people. But then, when I was 18 and trying to figure out what was happening for me, I started to read all the materials from the guru, and they were explaining what was going on. They said, “If you’re initiated by this guru, all these things can happen.” So, I thought, oh, this is crazy but it seemed to explain everything. So, then I dove into that world full-on.
So then I went to visit the community. The guru who I had met had died, and there was someone else leading the group. And he was supposed to be this perfected being. And then I found out that there was all sorts of gossip and intrigue and manipulation and deceit going on behind the scenes. And, I thought, what’s going on? This is ridiculous. This is supposed to be founded by a perfect being, and there’s all this nonsense happening? It was a mess. So then I didn’t know what to believe, because everything that I thought I’d found was gone.
So, years passed, and I abandoned that path. But then I started doing bodywork, focusing on my physical body. So I would just do this physical work on people to open up the same channels that I’d experienced opening up when I danced. And then I met my next teacher that I work with, and he started opening me up more and more. He took me to the next place–looking at what energy means in terms of karma and working with spirits and energies. He opened up that next doorway for me. And I started to understand that all the patterns that were in my old guru were patterns that are or potentially could be patterns in me, and those patterns have a clear physical manifestation as a blocked energetic channel.
There’s one clear channel inside all of us that runs from the perineum to the top of the head. What happens is–through karma, trauma, emotion, pain–that channel gets blocked as things come up the channel and then our physical body (especially the spine) becomes twisted. And that twist, that blockage, it eventually manifests in the physical world as sickness in our body. It starts on the energetic plane, but as that blockage gets more and more solid, the dysfunction comes on the physical level. So the abdominal and spinal work that I do helps with those blocks.
When I work with patients, I go into a trance, and it’s the spirit that takes over–just like when I was dancing. There’s a vibration that comes. And then the vibration comes in me, through me, and then into the patient I’m working with–depending on how open and receptive they are at working with that. And then once the vibration is inside them it starts moving through the channels. The channels start opening. And that’s the process.
Sarah: Can you be more specific about what someone might experience in a session with you?
Justin: For people that are resonant with this work, one of the first things that happens is tingling in the hands and feet, and–strangely–numbness around the mouth. And sometimes there is shaking and sweating. And they have a sensation of energy moving through the body
But there can be some roadblocks. When the energy starts to move, a lot of people freak out because they’re not in control anymore. So, if you have a control thing, it’s going to trigger that. Some people just don’t feel anything. They’re not resonant with it, or it’s not the right time. Or they just don’t want to go in to look at some of those things.
Sarah: So, what complaints do people come in to see you with?
Justin: It’s all over the map. Sometimes someone is aware of an entity attached to them. So they want to know why that’s happening. Why is that entity attached to them? They’re aware that that entity is siphoning off their energy. Sometimes it’s just “Oh, I feel a blockage in my life that’s keeping me stuck.” Sometimes it’s physical pain or discomfort. Sometimes the patient just wants to experience the work I do. So, who comes through my door can be all over the map.
Sarah: What kinds of changes do you see with this medicine?
Justin: I have been working with this medicine for years. And I can say, in my life, it’s helped me be clear about what I want from life. It’s helped me clear many blockages that I’ve had in life. With patients, it’s really kind of unlimited. It just depends on who is coming in. Sometimes what you come in for isn’t what ends up getting healed. I have a patient who came in because she was trying to get pregnant. She had a lot of issues with her family. And every time we work, her ancestors come in, and they start doing all this work on her. And now she has this deeper connection with her ancestors, and they are kind of in charge and running things.
Digestive issues are some of the things that frequently get cleared up. But it’s bigger than that. And I don’t have control over what gets healed and what doesn’t or what the time frame is.
Sarah: Because you’re allowing yourself to be a channel.
Justin: Yes, and I’m not really in control of what happens in that.
Sarah: When do you turn to acupuncture or massage in your practice?
Justin: Acupuncture fits in if someone is agitated when they come in. I do needles to help them enter a more receptive state and open up mentally, physically and emotionally before I start. And then the work I do is kind of like a massage. It’s using my hands, my feet sometimes, my elbows.
Sarah: How would you describe the way you work with spirits?
Justin: There are different realms that go beyond and are interwoven with this physical realm. There are these realms where all these other beings live. And they’re doing their work, just like the plants and animals. And some of them come and assist us in this kind of work. There are people who are super advanced, like John of God. That guy’s doing crazy stuff. But there are beings that are there to help us. There are beings that are there to harm us. And really they’re all just reflections or parts of ourselves.
A lot of times what happens is that people get stuck in a certain pattern or rhythm. They’re sometimes involved with a spirit or entity that’s feeding that pattern. The big example of that, I think, is alcohol. Many people don’t want to drink but they feel compelled to and they can’t stop it and sometimes they end up down this path where they just completely destroy themselves–and it feels like they have no choice. Another name for liquor is “spirits” because the old mentality was that you were possessed by this other thing that was taking you over. People who are alcoholics, who are really drunk, it’s frequently as if it’s not them anymore. Because they’re entering into this relationship with this spirit. They give up control. This other thing takes over.
We can all enter into relationship with spirits. Someone like John of God, he’s working with spirits doing these surgeries, allowing the spirits to come in through him to heal people. But the spirits are also healing him. It’s the same thing for me, when I work with these energies, they’re doing their work through me. I’m allowing them to work through me. And then they’re actually progressing in their realms too. It’s an interesting give and take.
Sarah: How do you communicate with the spirits that want to come in?
Justin: I worked for years to develop that with my teacher. When I first started working, I didn’t know who they were or what they wanted. So, you have to spend a few years, in general, working to understand what you’re working with. Any energy or entity that’s inside you is just a reflection of some part of yourself. So, the person who is an alcoholic has entered into some kind of contract with that energy– frequently because there’s some kind of trauma and they want to numb out in response to it. So they enter into a relationship with this spirit and they just kind of check out. So, everything that comes in—negative or positive–you’re in relationship to it. If there’s something inside of you, or me, it’s because I’ve entered into a relationship with that, and then I have to examine where in myself I’m in conflict– meaning where am I checked out, what am I trying to escape, what am i trying to numb. And then once that’s healed, there’s just no room for that energy. Things can try to get in but there’s no connection, no place for them to stay.
Sarah: So, do you feel free to talk with your patients about where they can take responsibility?
Justin: In the beginning sometimes I don’t, but as treatment progresses, yes, because everything is about taking responsibility. We’re all subject to (sometimes horrific) external circumstances, but my internal world is 100% my responsibility and there’s no one else I can make responsible for it. Most people want to blame their childhood, society, culture. And I know people in this world have been through tremendous trauma. But ultimately if I want to change any of those things, I have to change them in myself. And if I feel the problem is something external to me, then I’ve missed the point.
Sarah: And in essence blame is a spirit also that can take over the body.
Sarah: So, how do you work with patients with major trauma, patients with PTSD, for example? How do you work with them without retraumatizing?
Justin: First, I have to say that for people with serious situations, I always have a naturopath or someone else highly trained to work with. There’s all sorts of things with diet, hormone levels, blood chemistry, and underlying toxicity that I’m not trained in with which NDs can help tremendously.
But for my work, it’s all about going into where the trauma is held, wherever the patient has buried and disconnected from their suffering. That’s what usually happens with trauma– someone has a traumatic incident happen to them and they don’t have a healthy way to process it. So they find a way to dissociate. But what happens is the imprint of that trauma is still there and actually creates an imprint in the physical body, and until its resolved it will continue to cause problems and in fact grow worse. So many people have traumas that aren’t healed. So, this work is actually very simple. You go into where the trauma is held, and then the spirit takes over. But it requires a lot of trust and an ability to let go, which can be very very difficult especially for someone working through trauma. When there is a lot of trauma (especially from childhood) trust can be very very difficult (which is completely understandable).
Sarah: So, the idea is that in going in there’s an opportunity to completely resolve the trauma in a way that they haven’t previously been able to.
Justin: The only way through is in. But the magic comes with the spirit. Once you go into it and surrender to the process, the spirit actually transforms it. And that thing that was your enemy becomes a source of power and strength.
Sarah: Can you elaborate on what you mean by spirit? There are so many different conceptions of spirit.
Justin: There are two main components to spirit. The feminine principle is energy, which is any kind of energy you can think of. There’s energy people use throughout the day, there’s the energy I use in my practice and cultivate daily, there’s energy that practitioners of qi gong and tai qi use. But in order to harness that feminine energy you have to master the masculine component. The masculine component is the single point of focus, the steady mind. So, if your mind is unsteady, and you’re working with powerful energy, the energy can start going crazy and spinning out of control. This is what mania is. And this is what I had a lot when I was younger when I started working with this energy and I had no one I could trust to guide me. But if your mind is still and focused, you can direct that energy clearly. I feel that people that are just meditating and not working with energy are only working with half of their potential. Just as energy workers who don’t work on steadying their mind can become unbalanced.
One of the things that I really got from my old guru is that there’s work that we have to do on ourselves. Frequently it’s through diet and meditation, healing our relationships with ourselves and other people. Everyone is unique in what they require. For some, going to a class is what is necessary. But I think there’s a voice inside that’s guiding us all the time. So, it’s about getting in touch with that and listening to that and actually following it.
And the other part is, this stuff is going to work on its own timeline. And in my guru’s tradition they say that’s the grace of God. Some things are beyond our knowledge and beyond our control. So, we can do all this stuff that we want to do, and it’s going to help. But the spirit taking you over–that’s grace.