Deborah Hanekamp, aka Mama Medicine, is one of the most sought-after healers for the whos-who of New York City. She facilitates healing medicine readings from her space in Soho, delivers self-love ritual bath recipes, and spent eight years in the Amazon learning the wisdom of ayahuasca. I spoke to her about healing, finding serenity, and her impressive wellness routine.
COOLS: Tell me about your path to becoming a healer:
Mama Medicine: I have always been able to see auras around people, so I am able to see a lot about someone when I first meet them. That helps me know how to talk to people. This was combined with having a really tumultuous upbringing; I do think [that] when you are exposed to more of the shadow side of the world, it starts to make reading people not just a gift, but more of a necessity. And that was a key part of my early life.
When I graduated high school I wasn’t interested in college, I just wanted to deep dive into my spiritual self. The first thing for me was getting obsessed with yoga, and stopping eating meat was another spiritual decision. I then got really into zen meditation. I ended up going back and forth to Thailand for five years and studying Reiki, sound healing, and crystal healing with a really beautiful healer.
In New York, I was teaching yoga, private yoga lessons, and subsidizing my income with being a bartender and waitressing. I then started incorporating spiritual practices into my yoga teachings, like burning sage at the beginning and end. It became something that people really loved and that eventually grew into launching my own yoga studio when I was 24. I had that for five years, and at that time I met a shaman from Peru who said I was a shaman and I needed to come study with him.
COOLS: And then you lived in the Amazon rainforest for eight years?
MM: I started going back and forth to Peru and learning a lot of what he had to offer, which was more learning from sound but specifically from the voice, and singing these medicine songs. A lot of plant spirit healing and this deep connection to nature started grounding all of these practices. At this point, I had a decade of learning deep spirituality and I started thinking about what I love and how I can connect with someone.
I’ve drunk ayahuasca close to a thousand times. It’s a very interesting world. Part of my training was spending a month in the Amazon, fasting, and drinking a tea of the spirit, and drinking ayahuasca. That was an eight-year apprenticeship, and at the end, you go into the jungle to begin the grueling process of making your own ayahuasca.
COOLS: How did you come to be MM?
MM: The [ayahuasca] tradition that I learned was very strict. Like, don’t even think of leading an ayahuasca ceremony until you’ve had eight years, and only after eight years can you begin to think about it. Ayahuasca has been such a massive help for me to heal and recover from my past; but at the end of my apprenticeship, I was having clarity that didn’t feel like it was mine. I don’t want to give people something from outside of themselves in order for them to heal. I want people to recognize that they can be their own healer. And I want to set an example of that. So, medicine readings were born from that realization. I don’t want to give anything that I can’t authentically offer, and nothing from outside of themselves.
So when you come to a medicine reading we sit and talk about you; what’s happening in your life, what do you need to call in and clear out, and then I read your aura, and in relation to that, what are your hidden talents and gifts or things that could be blocking you. And then I do a whole healing ceremony and I still use the songs from the apprenticeship that I learned – one song takes a year to learn. After I give a ritual bath and homework to help you become your own healer.
COOLS: You’re known for your ritual baths; what do those entail?
MM: I love that they are becoming a thing! Basically, it’s a bath as we are all familiar with, but with intention behind it. Everyone knows water cleanses your body, but also submerging ourselves in water cleanses our spirit and releases our emotions. And then add salt, because salt neutralizes energy. I always put crystals inside the bath, because crystals pull the love and support from the earth, so it’s putting a very grounding and nurturing energy to bathe in. If you want to, you can put a focus and intention into the water to bathe in. Essential oils, flower petals or other plants bring another healing dimension to the bath. For example, put cinnamon sticks into the bath if you need more power. Once a week for 20 minutes. You can also do a foot bath or create the bath in a pot and dump it over you in the shower if you don’t have a working tub. This is a really approachable and applicable way to become your own healer.
COOLS: How do you personally find serenity?
MM: I feel like [serenity] is integrity. And really honoring where I am every day. In order for me to facilitate this work from a really clear place, I need to have a lot of discipline from my personal practice. On a normal day, I wake at 5AM and meditate for an hour, and then do an hour of yoga before I head into work. But if I need to sleep in, I need to honor that is where I am that day. The inner peace is not stressing out and knowing the meditation is within me.
During the day, I practice time blocking. If I’m sitting here with you, that’s the only thing I am doing. I don’t need my phone, and I have time blocked later to check my emails. There is a big energetic do not disturb sign.
COOLS: What does a healer’s routine look like?
MM: The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is facial gua sha and oil pulling. I feel like that sets me up then for a clear meditation practice. In terms of beauty, meditation is one of the most powerful things to keep everything in balance. Stress ages us, and meditation puts us more into our beta brainwaves, which is where the face will be more relaxed. If you start your day in that beta place, you will slow down the aging process.
At night, the first thing I do when I get home is change my clothes and wash my face. A lot of times, I’ll do a vitamin C mask, baths once a week, and I’ll lay on my Bio-Mat for 20 minutes or so. It’s deeply, deeply relaxing. All of the tension from your shoulders will completely disappear.
COOLS: What does beauty mean to you?
COOLS: Latest beauty find?
MM: I just got turned onto body brushing for the face. Just that gentle swiping for lymph nodes on the face, you have to be super light and gentle. My favorite products are from Mojave Desert Skin Shield. And then I get my vitamins in liquids, that helps the body absorb vitamins better, and I actually put vitamin C directly on my face to balance out sun damage.
COOLS: One piece of advice that you find yourself giving the most?
MM: Live your truth. We make up so many excuses as to why we don’t.
COOLS: The one thing you would bring to a desert island, or Amazonian jungle?