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I was a little shocked when the shamana asked one of our photo workshop attendees in Ecuador to take off ALL her clothes.  But when I heard she was bringing an egg and cigarette into the room, I understood. The indigenous people of the Andes believe that the world is beyond three dimensional and that those that can sense these additional dimensions are gifted shamans, and healers.  They’re sort of like medicine men.  (Most are men, in fact, though this particular shaman was a woman.) Shamans apply their inherent knowledge of balance and harmony to a person’s body.  Followers believe that illness is caused by disturbances in your aura which manifest into bodily symptoms we associate with being sick.  The shaman’s job is to come in and equalize that disturbance, thus cleansing you of your ailments. Six out of our 15 workshop attendees on this last trip signed up to be “cleansed” by a native shamana (female shaman).  And they all loved it.  I mean, really loved it. The process involves sweeping your aura with burning sage. This draws out any negative energy trapped inside your body. Then the shaman traps the negative energy in an egg by rolling it across your body.  (All while you’re standing there without clothes, mind you.) Water is an important part of the cleansing process, too.  You’re washed with it and sprayed with it regularly.  She even spits it on you. And, finally, tobacco smoke – which is blown across your newly cleansed body — is used to carry your prayers to the spiritual world. I didn’t have this done. My enthusiastic attendees lost me at the part where they explained how she would blow cigarette smoke on me and spit on me. Having smoke blown in my face would likely give me a headache, I thought.  But the attendees that had it done argued that wasn’t the case. “It’s nothing like that,” they said.  “And what follows is a warm bath in rose petals and the best message we’ve ever had.” I honestly thought they were crazy until our very own Shelly Perry signed up for the treatment. Shelly, who you know as our resident photo expert and author of our weekly photo tips, came with us on this trip, not as an instructor, but as an attendee.  And she’s got to be one of the shyest people I know. I was sure she was going to come back with scared eyes, cursing me for letting her go.  But to my surprise, she liked it, too. Maybe there really is something to this treatment. It’s been said to cure even physical ailments like scars and warts. I think I’ll try it when we go back. I put up a few more pictures of attendees “in the field” in Ecuador.  And a few from the woodworking village, here: http://www.thephotographerslife.com/ecuador_photo_expedition . When we left, the staff gathered at the end of the street to wave goodbye as our bus drove off.  I wasn’t the only one that got a little teary-eyed.  The men claim it was dirt in their eyes.  But the staff was so great there (and we spent so much time with them), we were all sad to leave. — Lori Lori Allen Director, AWAI Travel Division [Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]

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