Vera Lucia de Souza Moura, MD, is a Brazilian psychiatrist/psychoanalyst with two decades of clinical practice in Brazil prior to immigrating to the United States in the 1990’s. In the United States she worked for ten years at the University of Michigan School of Medicine, and then joined the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Medicine, as a research instructor and, more recently, as an adjunct instructor. She completed the Mind-Body Skills Group training of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, and since 2001 has facilitated Mind-Body Skills Groups for health care professionals, health professional students, women with a history of abuse, and healthy people as well as those with chronic diseases. Over the years, Vera has studied ancient healing methods derived from indigenous cultures such as Andean (Kichwa), African, Afro-Brazilian, and Native American. She completed Michael Harner’s three year program in advanced shamanism, and served as an apprentice of a Kichwa Taita Iachak (shaman) from the Andes of Ecuador for ten years. In September 2012 she completed her master’s degree in Mind-Body Medicine at Saybrook University in California. In her private practice she facilitates mind-body skills groups, offers counseling in mind-body medicine and shamanic healing, as well as health and wellness coaching, to individual, clients, and groups.
Vera is herself a shamanic healer, with a special interest in Jaguar Medicine (JM). She and a fellow shamanic healer developed and led a JM seminar series in North Carolina from early 2011 to early 2012. For her masters’ thesis for Saybrook University’s School of Mind-Body Medicine, Vera conducted a research investigation of the effects of these seminars. She recruited five participants to serve as research subjects , to investigate personal transformations that ensued from the Jaguar Medicine experience.
According to Vera ,the fundamental principle of Jaguar Medicine is that humans can learn to walk “a path of impeccability, courage, compassion, and mystery, with stillness and trust in one’s life process even when facing tumultuous situations.” The JM seminars used a combination of meditative practices including those of deep connection with the spirits of the natural world, stories, dreams, and shamanic healing methods. As one of many modalities of shamanic healing, JM can be defined as a powerful intervention for treating illnesses and promoting transformative healing experiences and spiritual development.
Vera completed the above-mentioned qualitative retrospective study, utilizing semi-structured interviews, and a qualitative analysis of the participants’ experiences. She developed five case narratives and then carried out a cross-case thematic analysis of the collected data. Her results describe the transformative healing experiences reported by five North Americans who had participated in her JM seminar.
The cross-case thematic analysis provided a rich and detailed interpretation of her data. The thematic structure of the JM experience, as conveyed in themes shared by all or most participants indicated the following results:
“The first set of themes involved the participants’ shared characteristics as they joined JM, and their shared perceptions of JM. All but one participant in the JM seminar reported an early life history of suffering, leaving a lingering sense of emotional pain and distress. They all reported histories of persistent and diverse spiritual searching, experiences, and awakenings, providing a rich background for their JM experiences. Each participant experienced JM in individualized ways, yet several described some personal and meaningful perception of the Jaguar. Several spoke of JM as a spiritual journey. The participants experienced a number of key principles in JM as components in their personal experience in and through the seminar. They reported powerful experiences through cultivating stillness. The concept of walking in mystery was an element for all, experiencing everyday events as possessing powerful dimensions beyond the commonplace. Trust was also highlighted by the participants as a central element of JM: trust in the unfolding of spontaneous events, trust in others, and trust in one’s own experience. The remaining themes involved the participants’ experiences of healing and transformation through JM. Participants expressed a new sense of connectedness, including connectedness to oneself, to others, to nature, to community, and to a universal consciousness. Participants also gave a new place in their experiencing to dreams and story. Dreamwork as a process, and council-dreaming, a communal sharing and unfolding of dream experiences, were central activities in the JM seminar. Participants described powerful experiences of personal healing and transformation; healing not only of themselves and their emotional wounds, but a healing that affected those in the JM community, who shared their healing experiences with one another. Each participant felt personally transformed by the JM healing process. All but one participant described the JM experience in culminating in new directions, new roles, and new challenges for their lives.” (Vera Moura, 2012)
This is the first study that examines JM as a transformative healing method. Central to this study was an effort to understand the experiential processes through which the seminar impacted the experience and the lives of the participants.