Thursday Betwixt – Modern Challenges in Shamanic Journeying (Part 2)

Last week, we discussed self-doubt and failure of imagine as culprits limiting the experience of shamanic journeying. This week, we continue in Part 2 of that dialogue, with:

Over-rationalization.  One of the most valuable skills of the modern mind is the ability to rationalize observations, information, experience.  In truth, there is great need for rationale in spirit travel, as it provides us the necessary anchor to know when we are pushing beyond our boundaries, to know when we’re venturing too far into our unknown and need to retreat.  Reason, and to a degree ego, foster our sense of control, mitigates negotiation and compromise, and governs self-importance. Each of these attributes bring stability to ecstatic trance, though when over-developed cause it to stall.

Soul Intent ArtsConfronted with students who over-rationalize their journey experiences, questions that most frequently arise are, “Is it real?”  “Am I making it up?” “What if I only see what I want to see?”  These are all very logical and responsible inquiries that I encourage as healthy self-checks.  Assessment of the journey experience allows us to derive meaning from our observations, as well as our feelings about them.  The ability to hold our impressions in this way can shed greater light in how they facilitate meeting our intention for the journey.

However, when the scrutiny doesn’t stop at gentle prodding and progresses to over-rationalization of trance, the intended soul work can’t be completed.  To those who become stunted in a loop of recursive logic, I pose these questions: “How do you determine what is real?” “Are you making this up compared to what?” “What do you want to see?”

Most of us, upon deep examination, have few criteria for what we determine is real; thus, we conclude how little value such a measure has, not just in ecstasy, but perhaps throughout life.  Likewise, ascertaining that what we make up has as much value as something we don’t make up, or as what something someone else makes up, releases self-judgment regarding the observation.  For those who don’t have clarity on their expectations of journeying, I have them think of something they want to occur in the trance.  When I facilitate them to engage with the desired occurrence, without fail the interaction and dialogue is unexpected.  It becomes the difference between plotting a course and being led.

The core of over-rationalizing ecstatic trance events lies in realizing that what we have often asserted as beliefs are most often assumptions.  Journeying challenges assumptions we have made about how we perceive reality and ourselves in it.  When soulful interaction holds meaning for us, it becomes intuition. When we feel that personal truth, it is real.

Unwanted outcome.  As inebriating as the distance created by over-analyzing whether we created a journey experience is the shock of realizing we didn’t.  Entering into the finer workings of ecstatic trance plays havoc with our habit of setting expectations. Whether we mean to or through no conscious effort of our own, when we attune to the mastery of soul travel, we bring with us certain expectations of the flight and its results.  That said, sometimes we see things we aren’t prepared to see.  Such revelations can blind-side so thoroughly that we are left questioning the role of journeying, if not shamanism, in our lives.

Most of us expect that trip to be smooth and captivating, validating in some way.  While the journey experience is intensely riveting, on occasion it’s profound through sobering, if not staggering revelations.  Harkening to our cultural lack of an animistic worldview, often fledgling journeys give a first glimpse into how that hunger has shaped our spiritual lives.  An otherwise blissful experience of homecoming into the spiritual manifestation of ourselves, into acceptance and full realization of self, can be extremely stressful, certainly traumatic.  As well, some students new to the practice embark on journeying and are met with known wounds that need deeper tending, or discover hurts they hadn’t sourced, prior.  A joyful meeting with a deceased loved one can change perception of life in such a way that while the journey was lovely, how one returns to carry that experience forward can create an emotional dilemma.  Others meet a facet of self demanding radical change in waking life, adamant expression in an unsupportive community.  While each of these possibilities offers vast opportunity for healing and growth, they present intense spiritual crises that must be resolved to master shamanic journeying.

Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism by S. Kelley HarrellFor these unwanted outcomes, grounding around the journey experience is required.  Ideally, discussion about the ley of the soulscape and all that it may serve up is discussed prior to experiential exploration.  As well, skills in mindfulness and emotional release are identified, honed.  Support systems are mapped and engaged.  With this mundane awareness, in the event of finding unwanted outcomes, a plan can be laid to foster and midwife those experiences and feelings to assimilate into wisdom.

For students who encounter unwanted outcomes in journey, I facilitate them back into trance right away.  Such crises become initiations, that unaddressed create spiritual post-traumatic stress, or soul loss.  The sooner they can be confronted and healed, the more solidly journey can be approached again.

Considering the challenges of shamanic journeying for modern seekers, while the mechanics of shamanic journeying can be learned in a weekend class, developing the compass for how to do so cannot.  Mastery of ecstatic trance isn’t just about refining the ability to journey, but to know what to do with the spoils of spirit travel.  My best advice to modern shamanic students is find a mentor who can give context, thus support the ongoing destination, as well as practice, practice, practice.

These are a few challenges we may encounter in ecstatic journeying. Available now for pre-order on Amazon and other stores, Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism covers several more concerns about shamanic journeying, and how to resolve them.