Shamanism, my key to mental sanity

Hoe het Sjamanisme in mijn leven geïntroduceerd werd. Een stukje van mijn verhaal, in het Engels. Dat is nog steeds de taal waarin ik met de Spirits communiceer. Ik heb het zo van Daan van Kampenhout en mijn traditionele leraren geleerd, het Nederlands kreeg ik pas jaren later, na mijn emigratie hier naar toe, onder de knie.

Writing this blog was inspired by the documentary "CRAZYWISE" by Phil Borges and Kevin Tomlinson.

I dare to state that shamanism saved my mental sanity. By now I am living with a worldview that is strongly based on knowledge and tools from indigenous people, on their sense of being connected with everything that lives.

Burkina Faso

A few months after my 28th birthday I found myself breathing deeply, for the first time in my life the nocturnal air of Africa. I was standing on a platform on top of the stairs that lead down onto the tarmac of the airport  of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, a small country in West -Africa.

Little did I know that this visit would change my life fundamentally and irreversibly.

I was invited as one of the members of an international group of people who were invited by Sotigui Kouyaté, the head of a clan of griots and griottes,that are part of the Mandinka ethnic group. Griots and griottes  are keepers of  the oral tradition,storytellers, singers, performers, dancers and actors. We were welcomed to learn more about tribal rites of passage.

A number of westerners, including me, from a variety of countries,we were scheduled to travel around with several members of the Kouyaté family to do research for a theater project. I was an professional actress at that time, having worked in the showbusiness in Switzerland for a couple of years.

"Bruchstein" Awardwinning play (CH 1992) by Christine Rinderknecht. Left: Sabine Obermayr, right: Eric Rohner

To make a long story short: during this trip I started to have, what a professional would call, psychotic episodes. I saw things that others didn’t see, I heard strange voices in my head and I generally felt out of sorts, especially in the countryside. I remember a very strong physical sensation  of dissolving into the earth, not being able to breathe anymore, it felt like being under water, drowning in the earth. 

It seemed that I had senses, that weren’t there before I went to Africa, feeling things happening miles away, hearing rock formations talking to me in my head….

Sotigui Kouyaté (19 July 1936 – 17 April 2010)

I can assure you it felt absolutely terrifying. I lost my sense of self, my identity of who I was. On the other hand I had experiences of being part of something much larger than mankind, that infused my mind and my body with a sense of wellbeing that I hadn’t encountered before and left me totally confused.

I convinced myself there and then that these feelings and sensations were related to my extended stay in Africa.

They would vanish as soon as I was back in Switzerland, where I lived and worked at that time.

Guess what? They didn’t.

Back in Zürich

After having returned  to Zürich (Switzerland) a number of weeks later, these feelings, sensations and voices in my head still kept me awake various nights and made my daily life and functioning, the way I used to function, very difficult.

I remember one morning were I found myself sitting at the base of a big tree in a forest nearby the town center, soaked with rainwater to my skin and disoriented, gazing confused into the friendly face of a forest worker who asked me if I was alright. I answered more automatically than consciously : “Yes, of course” but obviously I wasn’t.

Fraumünster Church,Zürich

I had absolutely no recollection of how I ended up here, in this forest. I had a vague memory of incredibly complicated energetic structures and deep friendly voices in my head, that explained a whole library of knowledge to me during this night. If anyone would have asked me then : What do you remember? I would have stared at them blankly and would have answered: Nothing. 

At that point in time I was terrified, shaken to my core by the feeling of absolute powerlesness. Being in the grip of something so much bigger than me, that had taken over my consciouness. I wept for the woman, that I have been and wasn't looking forward to the person I was becoming. Losing my memory, my sense of self and not knowing, where all these weird experiences would bring me,I decided that it was time to seek out a psychiatrist.

In the years that followed this episode, the knowledge that was dropped in my head that night, started to surface at appropriate times and gave me a lot of insight about the mechanics of the universe and the interconnection of all living systems.

A few weeks later my psychiatrist told me that I should take medication to control my ongoing psychotic episodes. I was afraid of what these chemicals would do to me and my brain,and decided to look for an alternative solution.

Lucky me: Via via I came in contact with a Dutch man who was practicing Shamanism in France. After our initial contact on the phone,he told me, that he was expecting me.That his spirits had already informed him, that a Swiss lady would seek his help and  he recognized me, as this person. He invited me to participate in his upcoming workshop, where we would find the time  to consult the spirit world concerning my problems.


In the first workshop I attended he taught me several technics to regain control over what was happening to my mind. He promised me ongoing teaching and mentoring to follow my calling. “What calling”?  I asked him.

Daan van Kampenhout en Sabine Obermayr, France 1996

Shamanic illness

He explained to me that  from a shamanic point of view certain types of “mental illness” maybe nothing more than a strong calling to develop and research certain abilities that would be beneficial not only for the person who is experiencing this “illness”, but for everybody and everything this person would encounter later in life .

That this experience, this "illness" is an inherent part of the training to become a shaman, a mediator between worlds. This training would not only involve himself as a teacher, but more importantly, that there would be other teachers from unseen realms that would guide me in my search.

He would teach me how to reach out to this teachers, to learn how to integrate the messages from the other worlds and train me to balance what was going on in my life in a good, healthy way. That I would embark on a journey with him to become a shamanic practioner, he told me.

I am forever grateful to the universe that I met Daan, I profited enormously from his wisdom and mentorship. I stayed his student, co -trainer and colleague for more than fifteen years . I can truly state that he saved my mental sanity with his interventions. I was most impressed by his compassion and insight on matters what the western world calls mental disorders.

Totempoles, Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Colombia

Totempoles, Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Colombia


Understanding what actually happened to me kept me busy for years. I was reading and studying all kind of indigenous and tribal worldviews from Lakota to Sami, from real people, healers and medicine people to knowledge that was passed on to me in dreams and trance journeys.

Praying, like traditional medicine people do, accepting my “gift” of being able to communicate with everything that lives and generally embracing the idea that we all are interconnected with everything that has a spirit. That we are in constant interaction with each other and the visible and unseen world around us, all coming from a common source, the creator, confirmed a lot that I have experienced in my psychotic episodes.

Earth's magnetic field

Systemic work

During this period I came in contact with systemic constellation work mainly of the school of Bert Hellinger. Family constellations and systemic work fascinated me to a degree that I did several trainings to become a systemic facilitator, because the underlying laws of systems corresponded with many insights that I gained while practicing shamanism. I graduated in 2002 at the Bert Hellinger Institute, Groningen (The Netherlands) as a systemic facilitator for Family - and Organisational Constellations.

In family constellations you may observe that people with mental health issues are maybe unconsciously identified with a member of a former generation, an ancestor, to a degree that keeps them from living their own life. I know this maybe sounds strange, but you can witness this, when you attend constellation work.It is scientifically researched and documented by know. 

Sjamanisme en opstellingen

Shamanism and systemic work

Witnessing or participating in a family constellation will often result in insights into unconscious entanglement, has a deep healing effect on the soul and works not only for the people present, but for everybody that is connected to this particular family or system, living or dead, present or not.

What I integrated from systemic work is: seeing, acknowledging and honoring the ones that are excluded is healing in itself. Listening to traditional medicine people, like Wallace Blak Elk and Steve McCullough, I learnt that you may always pray for the wellbeing of somebody or something else.

The trip to Africa happened many many years ago, in fact it occurred in the previous century. In the meantime I am a seasoned shamanic practitioner and systemic facilitator.

I facilitate workshops and individual consulting around shamanistic and systemic issues. Feel free to contact me: 

Ik geef workshop, trainingen en individuele begeleiding, die mensen helpen om steviger in het leven te staan. Belangstelling? Neem contact met mij op:​​​


My biggest fear was the return of psychotic episodes, unbalancing my life, that I had started here, in the Netherlands.It bothered me for years. Luckily I have seen a documentary about veterans from the Vietnam war that talked about their mental problems after they had taken Lariam. A malaria medicine, widely prescribed to a lot of soldiers in a variety of wars. Prescribed as well to all the members of the traveling group, that were  in Burkina Faso with me, including myself.

I concluded after seeing this documentary that taking Lariam has contributed a lot to my mental problems in Africa and afterwards. I am not planning to take this medicine ever again.I am pretty sure, after getting all the information in de documentary, that I will never have a psychotic episode again.

Nevertheless I’m deeply grateful for all the unsettling experiences I had, they have led to a fundamental change in my worldview and a sense of wellbeing and connectedness with everything that is. It enabled me to contribute with all that I am now, to all that is, in my unique personal  way.

Humility, deep felt gratitude and compassion

I continue to pray by drumming and singing for all the people in our families, in our background, in our society,  who are forgotten, or excluded because they were insane, lunatics, weirdos, psychotic, outsiders or generally not fitting into a particular family, group, society or system. I specialized in ancestor work, reconnecting people with beneficial ancestors in their family lines and educating them about the role that (beneficial) ancestors may play in our lives.

Turtle rattle, no turtles were harmed in de process of making it.

Grateful for tribal knowledge

I love to share my knowledge with everybody who is interested in seeing the world as it is, not as we white privileged people from the western developed countries would like it to be. I am grateful, that I was given the opportunity to learn from tribal people, who were  and still are living in connection with nature and the spiritworld. Maybe we people in the western societies should listen what they have to say  to find answers for the numerous problems we encounter as a society  in the 21st century. 

Humility, deep felt gratitude and compassion are the keywords that guide me through life since then.

Writing this blog was inspired by the documentary "CRAZYWISE" by Phil Borges and Kevin Tomlinson. I recommend it to everyone, who is interested in a different approach to mental health

More info:

About the Author

Ik ben een pro actieve mensen mens gespecialiseerd in out of de box oplossingen.Door mijn achtergrond in drama, filosofie, systemisch werk en Sjamanisme neem ik grotere verbanden waar, hoor ik het ongezegde en ben ik ondertussen expert in de verruiming van waarneming.Ik stel de vragen die openen, voorbij het zichtbare. Daarmee faciliteer ik verandering in vastgelopen situaties. In de persoonlijke sfeer, in teams en voor ondernemers.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Boek nu een sessie of neem contact op

Boek een 1 op 1 sessie of een jaartraining bij Sabine.