As days go by, the way of the shaman is becoming more and more axiomatic. If you feel that one day your path might include a shamanic journey, consider these steps.
The most important thing one needs to take into consideration before attempting any shamanic venture is this: preparation. Because of the potential benefits, it could offer, a spiritual quest is not something you should take lightly. Take your time to carefully plan out your experience. Get into a mindset that makes you receptive to the knowledge that will be imparted to you. Set and setting matter.
Find a place you feel comfortable. Get acquainted with your surroundings. Understand your place in nature and understand nature’s place in you. If you become more connected with the world that generates the spirit world, your shamanic journey will have a greater chance of becoming a revelatory experience.
If you can, try and establish a peaceful place where you can start your journey. If you have pets, it would be best if you could isolate yourself for a few hours. As cute and lovable as they are, pets can become disturbing and ultimately prevent you from reaching the state you’re after.
Another important aspect when aiming for an authentic shamanic journey is food, or better said its absence. Shaman practitioners agree that you should only consume a frugal meal before starting your trip. A full stomach won’t necessarily hinder your experience, but shamans always travel empty. They know best. Please note that different diets produce different results, so it is best to experiment and discover what works best for yourself.
Alcohol and tobacco are disruptive to most novices attempting shamanic practices. If you’re looking for a clearer, more rounded experience, you should avoid them for at least 24 hours prior to initiating the journey. And you should know that certain medications can prevent the trip from happening at all.
Physical activity or meditation are great catalysts for the shamanic trip and could certainly be used to start the experience. Any activity that shifts your attention towards your own body can help you settle down, calm your thoughts, focus your mental energy and ultimately open your heart.
The next important (although not required) step is the drumming. You will need a very monotonous rhythm, bland enough not to arouse your senses yet deep enough to engage your subconscious mind. Your conscious, rational mind needs to become bored while the profoundly-rooted, largely untameable subconsciousness roams free and explores the spiritual realm. The drumming lights the path to the spirit world.
The time of the day when you decide to start your journey can impact the outcome of your spiritual expedition. Most journeys are attempted early in the morning but some shamans prefer the evening. As always, experimenting with different options is recommended.
Many shamans favor light visualization as a great way to enter the state. You can visualize yourself and a ball of light that you nurture and grow until it inundates your surroundings and you end up breathing light in and out.
For your first shamanic journey, you will need to find a comfortable position that you can maintain for at least fifteen minutes. Although uncommon, you could do it lying down but most practitioners choose a seated position that is slightly reclined. Ritualistic dancing can also be used as a launchpad for your extracorporeal pilgrimage.
It helps to be in a proper mindset when you start. Focus your thoughts on revealing your intention if you have one. Is your journey a quest to find something or is the journey its own purpose? Are you looking to discover something about yourself or do you simply need to relax? If you have questions that need meaningful answers, be sure to prepare those questions in advance. Answers can come even without asking questions first but usually, one generates the other.
For their first shamanic trip, many beginners choose to go searching for their power animal. Acting as a spiritual guide and mentor, a power animal is an influential ally and a source of inner strength. Don’t be picky or impatient; the spirit animal chooses you and not the other way around.
Arrival into the spirit world can happen fast or it can take a while. Be mindful that your shamanic quest is your own and the uniqueness of your trip is what gives it meaning. You are purposefully sending your consciousness into the spirit world and you might not always get to choose the road it takes.
The shamanic trip unfolds as it does, for reasons that might remain undisclosed to your curiosity. But no matter the outcome, the catalyst of your trip is said curiosity. Let your mind wander and inspect the forms that are revealed. The shamanic odyssey is a crossing between worlds when your mind is simultaneously aware of both the spiritual and the physical realm. Experienced shamans can go on journeys that last for days on end. Your first trip will most likely take around ten to twenty minutes but that’s more than enough for a premier attempt.
The end of the journey draws near when the drumming intensifies. This signals the sightseer that it’s time to return to the physical world. Toward the end of your trip, take a moment to prepare your return and remember to show gratitude to the spirits that acted as your guides. Shift your focus toward the road back. It is good to retrace your steps and exit the way you came in but again, that’s not a requirement.
Returning from a shamanic journey is similar to waking up from a dream; you might feel a bit disoriented. This is completely normal so you should take your time to readjust to the reality you briefly left. Gently open your eyes while wiggling your fingers or toes. Some even choose to say their own name out loud a couple of times.
Just as with dreams, the memory of the event is fresh in your mind so it would be a good idea if you wrote down what you recall seeing. Try and include all facets of the experience in a journal: smells, colors, sounds, overwhelming feelings or realizations. Drawing maps or painting your experience are also good ways to cement what you have absorbed.
Your first shamanic journey has the potential to open up a whole new world to your senses and consciousness. It may offer immediate answers and realizations or it might take a while. That is why it’s important to keep paying attention to the signs you encounter, especially if synchronicity is involved. Learn the right lessons and they will stay with you for the rest of your life.
- Michael Harner
- Edition no. Anniversary (01/01/1990)
- Paperback: 208 pages