Symbols in the Shamanic Journey

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Symbols

Why do journey’s get communicated in stories and symbols?

Anyone who has done a few shamanic journeys knows that questions are very rarely answered with yes or no answers.  You may also visit a shaman and find that the information they give you is frustrating, or doesn’t seem to be clear.  The information that comes on a shamanic journey is almost always trying to convey something deeper than what can be put into words.  Words can be rather limited in what they can convey.  And yes or no answers do not often convey much depth of understanding or truth.

If you take a moment to think about word meaning, you can see what I mean. For instance what does it mean when someone says they are sad? How much is it? How strong? Is it light or heavy? Is it passing through in the moment? A person would have to use a bunch of words if they wanted to convey exactly in which way they are feeling sad.

Many of the words we use have this limitation. And the purpose of a journey is not just to answer a question. There’s a deeper reality to any question you pose. Why you are having trouble finding a job right now? What do you need in order to move forward? Even questions of 'should I or should I not do this thing' are tied to more than one aspect of your life, your being and your history.

So when you get an answer it is in the form of a story or a metaphor or even a sensation or smell. It is meant to convey something. The stories and metaphors are usually not literal. When you ask a question in a journey, the purpose of the answer is not only to give you a deeper understanding, but it is also meant to shift you into a new direction. Sometimes, you get an answer that makes no sense to you and one day what it means becomes clear. Sometimes, the answer may never be clear to you.

The answer may not need to be clear.

That is because a journey answer is meant to speak to you on many levels. Some of these are levels that you may not be conscious of. Your subconscious is aware of a bunch of stuff that you never think out loud. For instance, many of us have had that moment where we said “I knew there was something wrong with that person.” Maybe it was a boy friend or girl friend, neighbor or business associate. I’m not talking about instances of hindsight. But times were you realize only after the fact that you KNEW all along that there was something wrong with that person that you kept telling yourself you could trust. The way I think of it is that you did know, but you didn’t know “out loud.” You weren’t fully conscious of knowing, and therefore your knowing was more like a whisper.

So when you get a symbol (this includes a story, sensation, or a metaphor) it speaks to this deeper part of yourself. This part of you knows what the symbol means in a quiet way. Once that part of you receives the information, shifts can occur at this deeper level. You didn’t know that the lion answered your question, but you begin to start considering bold ways to approach your problem. The rain and the somber field you saw in your journey did not seem related to the question, but a few days or week down the road a forgotten memory comes back to you and gives you information on why you’re stuck right now. The field and the rain conveyed a feeling, and the deeper part of yourself found the related memory and brought it back into your awareness.

Shamanic answers are meant to penetrate your being and to be penetrated by you as you work to understand them. In the process you may or may not be able to see how changes are occurring in your life. Some people keep a journal of their journeys and then go back later to reread them later. I have heard people talk about something they journeyed on becoming clear later, or being able to see that each journey plugged into a greater picture conveyed over time. There’s no telling what a journey answer’s ultimate purpose is.

Even a yes or no answer is likely deeper than you think. I used to journey and ask questions like. “Are you really sure I should be a healer?” I would get the answer. “No.” And in the pause I’d feel insecure, and think ‘That can’t be right.’ Then the second part of the answer would come “I KNOW you should be a healer.” I tended to get this answer most often when I already knew the answer to my question and was only asking out of insecurity. This particular way of answering my question evoked my own knowing, my true knowledge of the answer.

A symbol, a story, a scent or a feeling in a journey is meant to cut through, reach into and beyond our every day understanding. Answers are not meant to be as easy as a grab and go sandwich or to address what is purely mental as say understanding how gravity works. The spirits or images that come to answer your questions have a farther reaching goal than you getting a factual piece of information.

Somehow, the answers fit into the totality of your life and your needs; what could be healed for you and what you have the possibility to create. Perhaps in the end people who stay with shamanic journeying are those who are looking for deeper changes. It’s perfectly ok if this doesn’t suit what you want or need, but it might be worth giving it a try. The efficacy of shamanic work is only ever judged on the results, and sometimes the results of journeys can only be seen or understood over time.

 

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Lauren Torres - Lansing, IL
Copyright © 2008 [Lauren Torres]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 07/16/13