It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, in my mid 20’s, that I read about Shamanic Journeying. I was in a very hard place in my life, and the idea that all of these spirits and animals and helpers were just a meditation away really appealed to me. I jumped into it without much research but with exorbitant amounts of enthusiasm. I quickly found that I had this idea in my head of how it was going to go, and no matter how much I tried to relax, how much I tried to will the journey to unfold, nothing happened.
In a typical Shamanic Journey, the practitioner will either drum or listen to a recording of a drum beating repetitively at 3 or 4 beats per second. This is enough to induce a trance state where the traveller visits the inner planes of consciousness. According to shamanic cosmology, these inner planes are split into three, called the Lower World, the Middle World, and the Upper World. The Lower World is the usual entrance for beginners and is populated with animal guides. The Upper World is a place shamans go to seek information and to speak with mostly human guides. The Middle World is less of a place for beginners, where, like in our ordinary reality, the inhabitants have the ability to confuse or confound or disrupt us.
I gave up on journeying for a short while. I figured I just couldn’t attain the trance state needed. I believed that if I closed my eyes I would see the three worlds open up around me, vibrant and alive. This, however, is not the way it works for everyone. After taking a break for a few months, I read more about journeying and decided to try it again. I found the drumming audio track, stretched out on my bed, and waited. Michael Harner suggests that you use the image of a place in the world that you’ve seen yourself to get into the Upper or Lower world. Examples of these are caves or trees. I live in a city though, and the place I chose was a sloppy hole in the mud where construction workers were fixing the shoulder of the road. I concentrated on this sucking mud, let it suck me down, and suddenly I found myself walking down a stone staircase with tight walls on each side. Some people can even take an elevator to the Lower World! I followed my staircase straight down until I came into the bottom of a shallow cave. Walking to the mouth of it, a large forest confronted me, and that was where I met my first animal guide.
I had given up initially because I was expecting all of this to happen outside of myself. I expected to close my eyes and see a movie, be transported into another reality. But that’s not quite how it works. Some people see things clearly when they are in the Upper or Lower worlds. Some people only get hints, glimpses, and some people just know what they are experiencing, as a kind of clairsentience.
Since I discovered how to make Journeying work for me, I have met more guides, both animal and spirit, and they have helped me work through problems I would never have found the conclusions to on my own. Or could I have, if the argument can be made that it existed in my own brain all along? I believe, at least with the help of my guides, that I have assistance and guidance deep within me that would be un-tappable without the help of Journeying.
All of the sudden, I was connected. It was like through discovering my spirit guides, I had discovered a part of myself that no one could hurt. I had my own personal best friends, and all I needed to do to find them was meditate and drum. I still remember the morning I was afraid to go to an acting class because I felt less than prepared, and Yuri, my lion guide, showed up to tell me that I had much more bravery inside me than I realized and that he would be there with me, lending me his strength.
I don’t fear what’s to come anymore. Meeting my guides has given me the assurance that someone’s watching. And as I blossomed into the Shamanic world, I went through a similar blossoming in my own physical world. I was suddenly able to face my situations with confidence and peace.