My Scientist Story: From Academic Research to Shamanism

From Science to Shamanism: My Story

From Science to Shamanism: My Story

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been training to be a scientist.

As a little girl, 5 or 6 years old, I was completing home-grown science experiments with my dad and my siblings – we would make our own crystals, learn how to change the color of flowers, and investigate the properties of oil and water.

We didn’t go to summer camp much as kids, because our mother stayed at home, but when we did, we went to day camps to learn about different whale species. Or camps to learn about physiological body processes. Or camps to learn about human anatomy with organs. Or camps to learn to identify plants in nature. If it was an educational camp, and our family could afford it, we went.

From before I learned to speak, or walk, or to communicate on my own, I was learning how to be a scientist in all terms of the word.

Our father, deceased now, was and is a genius. And what he wanted for us as his children, was to understand the world through his eyes – to see the entire landscape as elements of science. Down to the smallest molecule or living creature, we were masters of our environment. Scientists in our own backyard.

In the summers, he taught us about plant propagation as a fruiting plant hobbyist. He taught us about growth hormones and how to graft trees. He taught us about soil types, insects, and growing climates. At 7 years old, we were learning the techniques of adult commercial plant propagators.

His knowledge for scientific information was vast and seemingly endless. In my eyes, he knew everything. A materials science engineer by training, he continued to subscribe to scientific journal articles well after his schooling was complete, just for fun. As I got older, he began to share those articles with me.

I was, in true essence, Daddy’s little girl. I looked up to him and I wanted to be a scientist too, just like my dad.

With each new thing I learned at home, or at school, each new scientific concept, my father would find a way to turn it into an experiment – something that we could do at home, to put those tricky concepts into real world concepts. Right in front of our eyes.

I was born a scientist.

Just like my father, my desire to understand the natural world, to understand cause and effect, to understand, in simpler terms, what one small act, behavior, or addition of a molecule could do to the world around it.

Outside of the classroom, the opportunity to be a scientist is all around us. Anytime you’ve tried something new, just to see what happened, that’s science. And if you failed at it and tried again, that’s also science.

That’s cause and effect.

Academic science, is just taking this same concept to a larger, more controlled scale. Trying something new and seeing what happens, with a large sample size, controlling for additional variables, ensuring that the one thing you’re studying is actually causing what you observe. Trying the same thing, over and over again, to see if the same results are yielded each time.

As I grew older, my father and I connected at the level of science. We bonded over science museums, educational television shows, journal articles and chemistry homework. We shared an interest in understanding cause and effect, in every avenue. We were fascinated – and our fascination was not just limited to one field, but many. Chemistry, Biology, Psychology, Neuroscience, and Geology, to name a few areas.

On the weekends, my father taught me more than what my high school teachers ever could. He had a unique gift, one that he has passed down to my sister and I. His gift was describing science in terms that a 5 year old could understand. Or a 12 year old, or a 22 year old, or an 85 year old. My father had the ability to explain anything at your level – to teach you specifically in the way you would understand in that moment. And this gift, is the reason that I excelled at science.

Without question, the reason that I became a skilled scientist, is because my father taught and believed in me.

From Science to Shamanism: My Story

From Science to Shamanism: My Story

Through elementary school, middle school, high school, college, and post graduate years – I worked to excel in science, with my father standing behind me the entire time, cheering me on.

There is one thing, though. My father had a another gift, the gift of mediumship. He kept this one a secret and shared it with no one except my sister, Amanda, who is also a medium. And in an effort to make his mediumship abilities go away and disappear, he drank. He drank a lot.

My father, the lawyer scientist, never accepted his gifts of mediumship, and eventually, they became his downfall.

When my sister and I were away at college, in our final years, he died as a result of his drinking.

And I resolved to make him proud.

From Science to Shamanism: My Story

From Science to Shamanism: My Story

I graduated college that year with a strong research background – I worked two jobs as an undergraduate, while also engaged in research in physiological biology and animal behavior. I worked as a real scientist, in real academic laboratories, for my entire 4 years of college. My undergraduate work was even published as a result, in a real, scientific journal.

Not sure where I wanted to go next, I continued working as a scientist. This time, as a Research Associate and Lab Manager in a Visual Neuroscience Lab – my role involved investigating the neural basis of sensory perception through conducting visual behavior experiments using rodents as a model system, work which also resulted in publication.

Soon after, I was recruited by several labs on the UCSD campus, and other campuses nationally. With in depth training and endless hours of hard work, sometimes working 12-16 hour days, I ended up with extremely specialized skills integral to the field of visual neuroscience. With no advanced degree beyond a B.S., I became an expert in my field.

Coincidentally, it was in one of those labs that I first learned about the concept of universal consciousness.

Of Synchronicity.

Over dinner one night, I found myself in the company of some of the top bioengineering researchers in the country, discussing ways to make synchronicity possible for everyone – by using techniques of EEG recording and tiny, temporary, electronic tattoos.

That’s right, my first glimpse into spirituality occurred in a lab that was trying to make concepts of spirituality possible through science – and applying them to make advancements in medical patient monitoring, among other things.

I moved on from these labs – I decided that I didn’t want to be a Lab Manager forever, and I applied to Ph.D. programs across the country, in the field of Animal Behavior and Behavioral Psychology. I was accepted, and I moved across the country to start my formal path as a true scientist. The last step, I thought, to achieving my goal of tenured research scientist and making my father proud.

By the time I arrived to start the Ph.D. program, I was 7 months pregnant and my twin sister, Amanda, was on her path to becoming a professional medium.

I suddenly became aware that my life was changing, big time.

  • I just moved across the country to start a Ph.D. program.
  • I would be a mother for the first time in 2 short months.
  • My sister was now a practicing medium.

And I, was starting to question my life’s purpose, too.


My Scientist Story: From Academic Scientist to Shamanism. By Sarah Petruno, Shamana

Was I meant to be a scientist at all? Sure, I was good at it, but was this what I wanted for myself? Or was it my dad’s dream that I was fulfilling?

I didn’t know. So I just kept going.

My daughter was born, my sister’s medium business was built, and I continued my academic research as planned.

On campus, I was a female scientist, kicking ass and taking names. I just had a baby, and I returned to work a mere 2 weeks after she was born. No maternity leave for this serious scientist.

I was acing my graduate classes and had a solid research plan, I was on track to present my Master’s Thesis in time for my defense – WITH significant data and significant results, a rarity in the department. AND I did it all with a newborn baby.

Female Scientist and Mother. I was living proof that women could do it all.

Or was I?

Shortly after her birth, I internally decided that I didn’t want the path of traditional scientist at all, and instead, I decided I wanted to pursue the path of Shaman – an inherited family gift, passed down through several generations on my father’s side.

There were moments of doubt – what would my peers think? What would everyone I ever knew and worked for think? When I googled myself, my shaman website pages were coming up in the first page of search results, right alongside links to my publications.

Everyone would know, if I did this. I would lose credibility, I thought.

Until I had a realization. I’m not leaving science. Not at all. Academic science, sure. Perhaps I’m leaving the world of huge sample sizes, p values and published academic journal articles.

But I’m not leaving the world of cause and effect. Science in it’s purest form.

As a Shaman, I have the opportunity to be a scientist in it’s purest form.

I exact cause and effect in each and every one of my healings.

I work within Energetic and Spiritual Realms the provide healing – healing that often manifests on physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels.

Working with each individual, we instigate a healing, a cause – and see the effects of that healing ripple throughout their lives.

No individual is the same, so there’s are no truly huge sample sizes – but is there really in any area of science? It’s called individual variability and depending on the experimental design, it’s often consider a confound, a problem with the experiment.

In a way, the only true path to getting results – is by making an impact on each individual in the experiment. Within each individual, observing cause and effect on an individual basis, then summing up all the experiences for an overall report of success, or non-success.

Instead of walking away from science, as I once thought, I’m going off the grid. Away from academia and the traditional laboratory, and I’m returning to science in it’s purest form, as an individual scientist, exacting change in a system, and waiting to see the effects of that action.

For me, that system, is the Human Spirit.

And my scientist father? What does he think?

He’s proud.  Proud of all that I’ve accomplished and continue to accomplish., in a way he could never have been when we was alive.

From a little girl placing crystal buds in a glass jar and waiting for the bloom, to an adult Shamana, planting seeds of change in each and every one of my clients – and waiting to see the bloom.

I’m a scientist, it’s at the heart of what I do.

With love on your journey,

LAST UPDATED: June 2, 2014

My Scientist Story: From Academic Scientist to Shamanism. By Sarah Petruno, Shamana