What is a shamanic journey?

I talk about journeying a lot, but I realize the wording may sound a little bizarre. If you've ever wondered what a shamanic journey is, you're not alone. The concept was new to me, too, but it can be a deeply healing personal ritual to add to your practice.

To explain it simply, the shamanic journey is a blend of visualization and meditation following loose instruction while listening to a drumbeat. Judy Hall calls it a practice that is similar to astral travel or out of body experiences, where the spirit leaves the body to visit a spirit realm.

Like all divinations, it requires practice. Many people assume that you either have spiritual abilities - clairvoyance, clairaudience, mediumship, etc - but in truth, we all possess these qualities; some of us have just been trained more thoroughly than others. All spiritual potential can be strengthened, and journeying is no different.

The shamanic journey is not something that is instantly accessed with perfect precision. It takes time to get good at it. A lot of people are hard on themselves or have high expectations and they can stumble when they enter non-ordinary reality in the journey world.


You can't run a marathon without training yourself for the event, first.


However, I find that those who meditate frequently, have a more impactful experience with their journey right away. They have already begun training their minds without necessarily realizing it can apply to journeying. The drumming that happens with journeying helps to stimulate a relaxed brainwave, creating a more receptive state to access spirit. This drumming encouragement paired with strengthened visualization and meditation techniques breeds a strong journeyer.
 

To begin, they journeyer lays on the floor or in a way that is comfortable, (some people sit) while shielding her eyes to help prevent distraction - especially for beginners. It's important to eliminate as much potential distraction as you can. You do not want to be interrupted! In fact, if you have already entered non-ordinary reality and you are interrupted, this could result in some soul loss. Yikes!

The practitioner guiding the journey will begin rattling or banging a drum in a set rhythmic pattern. (A journeyer can drum herself, or to take this practice into an even more modern lens; listen to a recorded drumming, or have someone drum for her) Depending on where the journeyer is journeying to in her non-ordinary reality, she will visualize herself leaving a specific departure site and either travel downward to the animal kingdom, or upward to the teacher's kingdom. As she travels, she repeats her intention three times to help keep her focus. And if at any time in the journey she becomes forgetful, she may repeat her intention to refocus herself.

She will have one specific departure site to access her lower world, and a separate departure site to access her upper world. These departure sites will never change. The lower world departure site will provide an access point to travel downward (say, traveling through the earth by the roots of a tree; swimming to the bottom of a lake, etc), and the upper world departure site will provide an access point to travel upward (rising on a cloud of smoke, climbing up a tall tree, etc).

These departure sites need to actually exist in ordinary reality. It needs to be a real place you have been to or visited.
 

For example, my lower world departure site is on a big rock from my childhood lake, Bird Lake. This big rock dipped into the water and always had tons of vibrant hummingbirds flitting about. So when I'm lying comfortably and listening to the rhythmic drum, I visualize myself sitting on top of the rock, the water splayed out in front of me with hummingbirds vibrating around me. Then, I dive downward through the water, repeating my intention for the particular journey as I swim. I swim downward to enter the lower world. There is always a sense of bursting through an invisible layer, before I tumble onto the grassy floor of my lower world.


After a set amount of time exploring the upper or lower world, the drumming will change, offering a callback for the journeyer to finish her conversation and exploration, and retrace her steps back to her departure site. This is an important process to reenter ordinary reality.
 

WHY DO I JOURNEY?

Journeying is a way to connect and communicate with spirit. In ancient cultures, the shaman wasn't some fluffy magical role. It was incredibly practical. When the tribe needed to move south for the winter, the shaman may have journeyed to spirit to find which way was practical to travel through. His findings could be verified. If he said, "Spirit tells me the river will flood; we should avoid it," and the tribe travels there anyway - and it does floods - his insight becomes more valuable.

In our personal life, we can learn to journey to help us make practical decisions too, or to seek out a companion that understands us better than ourselves, offering us deep personal insight into who we are. We can journey to receive a healing, to find something, to meet ancestors (who always have a keen interest in their family lines) and more. Ultimately, I believe this is a practice that encourages us to learn to trust.

When we do journey and meet spirit, it's important to listen to what they say respectfully. If a guide offers advice and you ignore it, that spirit may not be willing to appear and offer insight again. Spirit speaks clearly and concisely, and always has a personality.
 

THINGS YOU CAN ASK SPIRIT:

What questions: "What do I need to know right now?"
How questions: "How do I move forward in my career?"
Why questions: "Why am I struggling to lose weight?"
Who questions: "Who can help me improve my studies?"
Where questions: "Where should I go to relax?"

Do not ask when questions. Non-ordinary reality does not measure time the way we do, and your answer may not be clear. Always consciously know what you are asking and be clear about it.
 

WHAT IS NON-ORDINARY REALITY?

We operate in ordinary reality. We have created a way to measure time, and we often identify with time quite aggressively. We make plans for next week. We schedule our bills to come out on the 15th. We plan a hot trip for next year...

But non-ordinary reality is a unique landscape where time doesn't exist. Your spiritual team that dwells there doesn't experience time the way we do, and it's important to keep that in mind when we visit or seek advice or insight. We can not travel to the upper or lower world, meet a guide and ask, "When will I get married?"

"When questions" are not understood in non-ordinary reality and can have wonky results. As with any spiritual work, I always say we should eliminate when from our queries, because we always have the freedom of choice, and our paths can constantly change depending on our choices. So asking when questions won't garner accurate results.

When we journey, we are traveling to non-ordinary reality to connect with spirit. As we continue to journey, the landscape in our non-ordinary reality grows and sprawls, symbolizing our expanding spiritual awareness. At this time, we may meet more guides and teachers, and receive even deeper personal wisdom and insight.
 

When developing my Crystal Readings, I journeyed to an upper world teacher named Cara with bright green eyes and long dark hair. She was sitting at a long wooden table in the middle of a dark forest. Cara helped teach me the rules for reading my crystals, and what each crystal meant. I travelled to the upper world with the intention of meeting a teacher to help me create and design a divination method that I would be strong at. She is my primary guide when practicing divination.