In shamanic practice it is believed that part
of the soul is free to leave the body. This free soul is believed to
leave the body regularly during dreaming. It is thought that part of
the soul will leave the body to protect the soul from trauma,
see soul retrieval. When a shaman is
initiated onto the shamanic path, they usually learn how to send their soul
forth intentionally, on the soul flight which is commonly called a journey.
In early shamanic societies, many shamans were initiated because of having a
near death experience. Death being an experience when all of your soul
leaves the body, the near death experience is thought to teach an individual to travel with
When a person journeys the soul leaves the
body, and may travel to a spiritual aspect of places on the earth, or may go
within the earth, or above it. In certain societies there are
destinations that are peculiar to the culture. There are also
destinations, that appear to be the same for many different cultures despite the
separation of these cultures by nature and geographic location. The map
of these common destinations is referred to as a cosmology. Terms such as
upper, lower and middle world are used to divide the cosmology, but more will
be added to this site about these terms in the future.
How Does one Journey?
The journey occurs by shifting awareness or
consciousness in order to allow part of your soul to leave the body. The
drum or rattle is frequently used. The slow repetitive rhythm shifts the
individuals "rhythm" so that he or she can journey. Just the way a
soothing song can help an somone achieve a calmer state. The rhythm of
the drum puts you in the right state to journey. The drum beat used is
very close to the frequency that is measured from the earth, and has proved
effective for the majority of people.
The journey is then achieved by a person's
intent. The person intends to leave and so she does. How you get the
soul to leave is tough to describe. Try to describe walking and it is
difficult to put into words how you get your legs to move. The same is
true with journeying.
What is the Journey For?
Journeying like meditation is a tool for
spiritual growth. It is also a tool that can be used for healing,
obtaining information, and working through psychological issues.
When someone goes on a journey they are able to
communicate on a spiritual level. So they can go and visit guardian
spirits, they can go and visit spirits of the land. A journeyer can use
a journey to examine the health of their body or another's body. They
can also discover things about the world.
For instance a journeyer might have an
experience of being a fish in a stream, or running like a deer over the land.
The journey differs from a dream because the individual is able to direct the
journey and because he or she learns unexpected things. For instance
in a dream, running like a deer you may experience speed. But
in a journey you will feel how the muscles of the deer's legs feel
as it runs. Running as a zebra you may realize with surprise how much of
the animals power is coming from the it's back legs. In the real
world an experience brings unexpected things, you learn something you didn't
know before. Journeying is much like experiences in the real world
because of these types of unexpected discoveries.
Psychologically some people use the journey to
work through emotional issues. They may confront a deceased or living
relative about past abuse. The journey provides a safe environment to
express anger, or to work through grief.
The journey provides a tool for spiritual
growth because the individual can seek out evolved spiritual teachers.
The messages given often have an unexpected depth of meaning. Journeyers
often report that their journeys "add up" to a deeper spiritual teaching
because one journey has built on another. Sometimes, going back to read
a journal of your journeys you see that your were walking a path of deep
Destination and Purpose
The places one will journey to will vary.
Some will be much like the geography seen on earth, mountain, trees,
valleys... Some places are airy like the sky, or feel very energetic, or
peaceful. A journey destination can be anything because the geography is not
bound by rules of gravity but the rules of energy. The purposes, and tasks of the shaman
or shamanic journeyer will sometimes determine what places will be visited.
Purposes can include healing oneself or another, spiritual growth, enjoyment, connection
with guardian spirits, learning, religious growth and many other things
because journeying is a diverse tool.
Some people may journey into smaller dimensions
such as between the molecules of water or into the cells of the body.
Some explore very little of the cosmology only going to one or two specific
places. Another journeyer may visit many different places, or travel
very large distances. When the journeyer becomes skilled and starts
taking very long journeys there can be a risk of not returning. This
risk is mitigated by doing such lengthy or long distance journeys with a
partner, who knows a key word which will call the journeyer back. This
is not usually an issue for the beginning journeyer, and generally comes with
certain advanced work.
What does the Journeyer experience?
The way each journeyer experiences the places
they visit is different. One journeyer may see really well on a journey
or another may not see but hear.
The journeyer will often experience both the
room that they are in, and the place they visiting in the journey.
Their soul is in two places at once. The degree to which the journeyer
will experience what is happening in the room depends on the person.
Journeyers will often minimize this by placing a scarf over their eyes.
Although some people have no problem phasing out their awareness of the room, or
have very little awareness of it.
Some people will experience leaving their body, and the places that their soul goes and visits in full blown
technicolor with sounds, smells and the sense of touch. Some people
will not experience a journey with all their senses. In cases where the
journeyer experiences nothing visual they may have more of a knowing of where
they are and the people and the animals they may encounter on the way. This type of sense can be compared to how it feels when you know someone has
entered the room behind you, before you turn to look at them. If touch
predominates the individual may feel the grass on her feet, the wind on his
The senses that are predominant in an
individual's daily life may not be those which are strongest when journeying.
In some cases it can be difficult for the journeyer to accept what they are
experiencing is real or valid because it does not have a visual component, or
because it is different to the sensory way they experience their daily life.
In all cases with shamanism, the effectiveness of any journeyer or shaman is
measured by results.
After observing the effect and effectiveness of the
information they receive, a journeyer will often see unexpectedly powerful
results over time, and in some cases immediately. A shaman healer is not
considered a healer unless her or his healing brings results. Also, the
way she or he experiences his or her journeys is not normally related to
ability as a healer. Some very powerful healers may only experience
sound for instance, that does not mean they are less powerful than someone who
has "technicolor" journeys. Nor is the information the
non-shaman receives on a journey less powerful because it was received through
sound or touch.
Trust and the Critical Mind
It is usually the person who cannot shut off
their critical mind that has the most trouble journeying. This is
because it grounds you in your body and makes it difficult to allow the soul
to leave. It is usually most effective to suspend the critical voice
while on the journey , wait and let it criticize and analyze after returning from the
journey. The initial senses of the new journeyer can sometimes be
delicate, and only become strong over time if they are allowed in/are not
crushed by the critical mind. From modern shamanic writing, a surprising percentage shamanic authors seem to have started out critical and skeptical, Carlos Castenada
first book and books of John Perkins show examples of this. A skeptical
mind is not a problem, as long as it doesn't interfere with you ability to
free the soul for journeying.
In all shamanic work the mind must be open to
the possibility. There is no reason to toss skepticism to the wind, but
no shamanic activity can occur without your permission. Closing your
mind to the possibility, is like closing a door. You deny yourself
permission to have the experience. You also effectively deny permission
for the shaman to perform healing work, and no ethical shaman can
violate that barrier. It is one of most primary things that a shaman is
taught, that he or she cannot impose his will over that of another.
Can I Journey?
Amazingly enough, journeying seems to be a
skill that people posses innately. As if it is something we already know
how to do, but just need reminding of. When teaching there is not much
to say in terms of directions or how to's. Sometimes the less said the
better, so that the directions don't interfere with your inner knowing
of how to do it.
Some people struggle with journeying, but
teaching organizations report that the majority of first time participants can
journey in their first workshop. You don't have to be a shaman to
journey. Many people within the United States,
and other countries learn to journey because it is a spiritual and exploration
tool which can help them with personal and spiritual growth. They don't
use it to heal, or do any of the tasks of the shaman but use it as their own
personal tool. It may not be a tool for everyone, but its important to
note that it can be used by anyone who feels it would be
For those who may be interested in learning to
journey, a workshop is a good way to learn. There are specific things
that should be taught to a journeyer and it is best to be taught by a
reputable teaching organization who knows to cover the basics. It also
seems to be easier to learn the technique with a group of people. The
effectiveness of shamanic work, and apparently journeying seems to be
magnified when performed in community. A nation wide and international
organization is the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, which you can find on the
National List on the Shamanic Teacher Links
page of this website. That organization teaches introductory shamanism
around the country and may offer a class in your area. There are also
other organizations listed as well, that are equally well known. This
site makes no recommendations as to the quality of shamanic organizations, so use
your own discretion in choosing one.
Read more on Journeying:
Symbols In the Shamanic
Talking to the