HOW TO JOURNEY
WHAT IS A SHAMANIC JOURNEY CIRCLE?
A shamanic journey circle is a sacred space for people to come together in a group to go on a shamanic journey. Often times journeying together in a group is more powerful than journeying on your own. The best way to learn about shamanism is to learn how to journey yourself. Journeying is an amazing tool that can help anyone who is deeply committed to doing their own personal transformational work. Everyone can learn how to journey!
WHAT DOES THE SHAMANIC WORLD LOOK LIKE?
In Shamanism, there are three worlds: the Lower World, the Middle World and the Upper World. We often imagine the World Tree touching all three worlds; with its roots in the Lower World, its trunk in the Middle World and its branches in the Upper World.
THE LOWER WORLD
The lower world can be found by traveling DOWN. Before your journey, imagine a hole in the ground – root of a tree, well for water, gopher hole, golf hole, water source, tunnel, cave, elevator. Begin by going down the hole and then imagine yourself quickly coming out into the lower world. The lower world is a great first journey and it is where we meet our power animals for the first time. The lower world often looks like this world, but as it is a journey, you can imagine any landscape possible. All beings in the lower world are compassionate by nature.
THE MIDDLE WORLD
The middle world can be found by imagining you are in a beautiful field somewhere on Earth and starting your journey from this point. Middle world journeys are great to learn information and connect with the spirit of trees, plants, crystals, rocks and ancestors. If you are thinking about traveling to a new country, you can travel there in the middle world first before you physically arrive. Middle world journeys are also great to help you find something that has been lost.
THE UPPER WORLD
The upper world can be found by traveling UP. You might ride up in a cloud, climb up a beanstalk, get in a hot air balloon, or grow a pair of wings to get to the upper world. The important thing is you want to travel up. You’ll feel a sense of passing through a barrier that separates the middle and upper worlds. The upper worlds are generally home to angels, ascended masters, other light beings and possibly birds. You might find crystal palaces in the sky or have an adventure jumping around on clouds. There are only compassionate helping spirits in the upper world.
WHAT IS A POWER ANIMAL OR ALLY?
Animals play an important role in shamanism, acting as guides in the form of power animals. A power animal or ally is a compassionate helping spirit that has come to you at this time in your life to offer you healing, guidance and wisdom. A power animal is an archetype of energy. If you meet a power animal, you might want to bring more of the energetic qualities of the animal into your life. Perhaps you need more compassion, freedom, strength, power, forgiveness, love or adventure in your life. It is believed that your power animal chooses you, so whatever power animal you meet on your journey is perfect for you at this time. A power animal can be anything – tiger, eagle, mouse, butterfly, dragon or unicorn. All animals have powerful “medicine” and teachings for you. One animal is not better or worse than any other animal. Every animal has something to teach us and shows up in our lives at the perfect time.
WHAT DOES JOURNEYING LOOK OR FEEL LIKE?
Generally people receive information in four different ways: visual, audio, kinesthetic or knowing. Visual learners might experience journeying like a dream, with lots of colors and pictures similar to their dreams at night. Audio learners might not see anything, but they might hear sounds in their journey. Kinesthetic learners might not see or hear anything, but instead they feel everything in their body – they feel a tiger walk, feel a snake shed its skin or even smell some food cooking. People who have a sense of knowing might just receive the information in a holistic and balanced way through their body and receive the information intuitively. Often we can experience a combination of these four qualities on a journey. Each journey can be different, so again be open to your experience and try not to have any expectations.
CAN EVERYONE JOURNEY?
Yes! Sometimes it takes a few times to be able to do a shamanic journey, but everyone can learn how to journey! Everything takes practice, so if you don’t find a power animal on your first journey, try again! Remember that this is a very new skill and it takes time for people to get used to navigating this new world. Once learned, journeying is a wonderful tool to help you in your life. Sometimes it’s easier to journey for someone else as there isn’t the same amount of pressure as there is journeying for yourself. Have an open mind when journeying, especially for the first time, and you’ll be surprised at how powerful and healing journey work can be. Be patient, curious and playful. Have fun!
WHAT IF I’M MAKING IT UP?
It doesn’t matter if you’re making it up! There’s a reason why you imagined that particular image, instead of a million other possible images. Why did that image or sensation come to you at that particular time? As children we are very good at using our imaginations and don’t worry if we are “making it up.” As adults, we have forgotten how to stretch and expand our imaginations. Shamanic journeywork is a wonderful way to begin to trust your intuition and to open your imagination to create worlds that you have forgotten about. Don’t worry because you can’t do it wrong! All you have to do is set an intention for the journey and then open your mind and heart to see what magic awaits you on your journey. When we wake up from a dream at night we never ask if we dreamed wrong. The same thing applies to shamanic journey work. Have fun!
HOW DO I MEET A POWER ANIMAL OR ALLY?
If your intention for the journey is to meet a power animal or ally, be open to whatever appears in your journey as it is all a part of your experience. When you meet an animal or a helping spirit, ask them “Are you my power animal?” three times. You’ll get a clear answer. Sometimes the animal will just disappear or run away. If that happens, say your intention again and be open to the next part of your journey. We only meet a power animal or ally when we are ready, so even if you don’t meet an animal or ally, it’s perfect. You might meet a power animal on your next journey. Sometimes you’ll meet an animal or guide that is not your power animal, but they just appear in your journey so they can guide you to your power animal. If you meet a power animal on your journey and the answer is “yes” see if it feels right to you. You’ll have a clear knowing if this is your power animal. Often times the animal or ally we meet is not a complete surprise, as we might have had a connection with them since we were a child. Every animal or ally you meet on a journey is perfect. Remember that you cannot do a journey “wrong.”
WHAT DO I DO WHEN I MEET A POWER ANIMAL OR ALLY?
Once you’ve met a power animal or ally, it’s a good idea to ask “how” and “what” questions, to help you gain greater clarity and understanding in your life. Try not to ask “when” questions as time works differently in the spirit world. You can ask questions like “What message do you have for me right now?”, “How would this job be beneficial for me?”, “What is the next thing that I should focus on in my life?”, “How can I heal this negative pattern in my life?” “What can I do to bring more healing into my life?”, etc. You are asking your guides for their perspective. Be open to the information you receive, but always listen to your heart because you are truly your best guide. You can also ask power animals to take you on an adventure – you can fly in the air with wings, swim (and breathe!) under water with fish, or even dance in the clouds. You can also merge with your power animal to feel their power. Grow wings and visit castles in the sky, become an animal running in the forest or even have fins and swim to underwater cities. Let your imagination take you to worlds that you have never even dreamed that were possible. There are no rules! This is your journey so make it the best adventure you’ve ever had!
HOW DO I JOURNEY?
Each journey lasts between 10-15 minutes and we’ll have time for two different journeys in the shamanic journey circle. You’ll lay down or sit up comfortably (so you don’t fall asleep!) and wear an eye covering so that you can enter a trance state more easily. The drumming has a monotonous steady beat, usually 4-6 beats a second, which brings our brainwaves into a meditative, or theta, state. With your eyes closed, repeat your intention several times and begin your journey to either the Lower, Middle or Upper World. If you get distracted and can’t focus during the journey, take a deep breath, bring your awareness back to the drumbeat and repeat the intention again in your heart. Relax and open up your imagination and enjoy the journey! Remember that you can’t journey wrong! If you are really tired or hungry, you might want to try journeying at another time.
HOW DO I COME BACK FROM A SHAMANIC JOURNEY?
After a period of steady drumming of about 10-15 minutes, the drumbeat will change. You’ll hear a series of seven beats repeated four times. This is called the “callback.” When you hear the callback, it’s your signal to stop wherever you are in your journey, thank your power animal or ally and turn around. The drumbeat will then become very fast and this is the time for you to return back home, coming back the same way that you entered the journey (hole in the ground, cloud in the sky, or beautiful and peaceful meadow.) At the end of the journey, slowly begin to move your fingers and toes and take a few deep breaths to slowly come back fully into your body. When you are ready, open your eyes.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE JOURNEY?
After the journey, you’ll have a few moments to spend in silence. This is a great opportunity to write about your experience in your journal so you won’t forget anything. Write down any information that you learned and medicine or healing that you received. If you don’t want to write anything down, you may walk quietly around the room or just spend a few moments reflecting on your journey. It’s important to honor your experience as something very sacred. Each experience is profound and can deeply change your life. If you met a new power animal or ally, honor your new connection with this helping spirit. It’s important to really feel this new connection in your heart and in your body. It’s always a good idea to see what this power animal or ally means to you personally before you read about this new guide in a book or on the internet. After the silent integration time, we will be able to share about our experience together in small groups.
HOW CAN I HONOR MY POWER ANIMAL?
Once you’ve met a power animal or ally, it’s a good idea to journey to them at least once a month. Your first journey is the beginning of a new friendship and it’s a good idea to keep nurturing this relationship throughout your life. A good way to honor a new connection with a power animal is to learn all about it that you can. Keep a small picture or totem of your animal in your space. Power animals can stay with us for our whole lives, or only for part of our journey. Often times, we have more than one power animal. Your relationship with each power animal is completely unique and will offer you many different gifts. The next time you meet your power animal, bring a gift as a way to honor them. Always remember to thank your guide for being a part of your life.
WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE?
Here are some wonderful resources to learn more about shamanism:
“The Way of the Shaman” by Michael Harner
“Shaman, Healer Sage” by Alberto Villoldo
“Shamanic Journeying: A Beginner’s Guide” by Sandra Ingerman (with drumming cd)
“Animal Speak” by Ted Andrews
The Foundation for Shamanic Studies - shamanism.org