Shamanism is based on the principle that innate wisdom and guidance may be accessed through the inner senses in ecstatic trance. Basically, shamanic journeying is a way of communicating with your inner or spirit self and retrieving information. Your inner self is in constant communication with all aspects of your environment, seen and unseen. You need only journey within to find answers to your questions.
Drumming is a simple and effective way to induce this ecstatic trance state. When a drum is played at an even tempo of three to four beats per second for at least fifteen minutes, most novices report that they can journey successfully even on their first attempt. Transported by the driving beat of the drum; the shamanic traveler journeys to the inner planes of consciousness and back. You should always journey with a purpose, question or intention. Some of the top reasons people take a shamanic journey include....
1. To reconnect with your inner or spirit self: Shamanic journeying heightens the ability of perception and enables you to see into the deeper realms of the self. The moment you bond with your spirit is the moment your heart opens. The first time you glimpse your spirit self, you gasp and cry. You know who you are. That is the moment you begin to heal. Journey work reconnects us to our core, enhancing our sense of empowerment and stimulating our creative expression.
2. To gain insight into an issue that you want to know more about: You can take concerns into a shamanic journey in order to access personal revelation. Shamanic journey drumming stills the incessant chatter of the mind, allowing the journeyer to view life and life's problems from a detached, spiritual perspective, not easily achieved in a state of ordinary consciousness.
3. To clarify life purpose: When we are unaware of our soul's true purpose or simply not aligned in our actions, we often experience a malaise of the spirit. We can engage the blueprint of our soul path through the vehicle of journeying. Shamanic journeying is a time-tested medium for individual self-realization. We can journey within to access wisdom and energies that can help awaken our soul calling and restore us to wholeness. Journey work reconnects us with our deepest core values and our highest vision of who we are and why we are here. It heightens our sense of mission and purpose, empowering our personal evolution.
4. To access a higher power: Shamanism provides a secular approach to accessing a higher power. Shamanic methodology directly supports the introduction of spiritual factors found significant in the healing process. According to the American Journal of Public Health, "Shamanic activities bring people efficiently and directly into immediate encounters with spiritual forces, focusing the client on the whole body and integrating healing at physical and spiritual levels. This process allows them to connect with the power of the universe, to externalize their own knowledge, and to internalize their answers; it also enhances their sense of empowerment and responsibility. These experiences are healing, bringing the restorative powers of nature to clinical settings."
5. To access personal help and healing: A shamanic journey can shed light on a health issue and provide clues as to what is needed for full healing to take place. Journey work is also an effective way to stimulate the release of suppressed feelings and emotional trauma in order to heal. Recent research reviews indicate that shamanic journeying reduces stress, accelerates physical healing, boosts the immune system and produces feelings of well-being, emotional release, and reintegration of self.
6. To reconnect with benevolent ancestors: Your ancestors and the collective spiritual power of all those who went before you reside in the spirit world. When your own time comes to pass on, you will become part of this vast collective unconscious. If you embark on a journey with the intention of connecting with those who have passed, they may come to meet you. Keep in mind that spirits choose to come into relationship with the person seeking. You can seek ancestral spirits, but the spirits must choose.
7. To develop relationships with the helping spirits who dwell in the three inner planes of consciousness -- the Upper, Middle, and Lower Worlds: Shamanism is a sacred call to build relationship with the caretakers in the unseen world who want to support the earth and her inhabitants at this time. These helping spirits might be the spirits of nature, animals, plants, the elements, or ancestors. The reason for developing personal relationships with spirit helpers is to gain wisdom, healing techniques, and other vital information that can benefit the community. Similar to the way friendships develop gradually, our relationships with spirits grow and deepen based on repeated interaction and building trust over time.
8. To explore the Middle World, which is the spirit counterpart of the material realm and the inner region that is most like outer reality: Nicholas Black Elk, Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux, spoke of the realm "where there is nothing but the spirits of all things." In this parallel world exist the spirits that are the essence of everything in the material world. The Middle World is so truly parallel to the world in which we live that we can journey across it and visit all the places, people, and things we know in ordinary reality. Spirit journeys in the middle world provide a means of travel and communication without cars, planes, or telephones. It is a means of exploring territory to find the location of healing herbs or game or to establish communication links over great distances.
9. To traverse the Lower World: A spirit journey to the Lower World is generally undertaken to seek the help and guidance of an animal spirit, to recover lost power, or to find and return a sick person's wandering spirit. The Lower World is the realm of animal spirits and the dead; the place to which human spirits travel upon physical death. This underworld is not Hell as defined by the agricultural religious traditions such as Christianity. It is the place of tests and challenges, but also the realm where guardian animals or power animals are acquired. You can journey into this realm on behalf of another; however a "personal journey" will typically be the most powerful. That said, perhaps the most compelling reason to journey is...
10. To find ways to restore balance in the world: As anthropologist and author Felicitas Goodman points out, "One of the most pervasive traditions of shamanic cultures is the insight that there exists a patterned cosmological order, which can be disturbed by human activity." When harmony between the human realm and the original intended pattern is disturbed, the shaman makes a spirit journey to the Upper World to bring back the balance. Shamans also go there to acquire archetypal knowledge, to bring a vision into being, or to influence events in the material world. By interacting with the archetypes, the shaman interacts with their counterparts in the outer world.
Try a Shamanic Journey
To enter a trance state and support your journey, click here to listen to a track from my CD "Shamanic Journey Drumming." Reflect for a moment on the purpose of your journey, and then close your eyes. Focus your attention on the sound of the drum and feel yourself being carried away by the sound. If for any reason you want to return, just retrace your steps back. You will hear a call back signal near the end of the video, followed by a short period of slow heartbeat drumming to assist you in refocusing your awareness back to your physical body. Sit quietly for a few moments, and then open your eyes.
After the journey, you must then interpret the meaning of your trance experience. In some cases, your journey experiences will be clear and easy to understand. At other times, your journey may be dreamlike and full of symbolism. Interpret such journeys as you would any dream. Look for possible associations related to each symbol or image. The key is to observe whatever happens without trying to analyze the experience. Like developing any skill, journeying takes practice. Nothing may happen on your first journeys. You may only experience darkness. When this happens, simply try again at a different time. To learn more, read my article Shamanic Journeying. Step-by-step instructions for making shamanic journeys are also explained in my book, The Shamanic Drum: A Guide to Sacred Drumming.