Tag: ecstatic journeying

Teen Spirit Wise Voice: Beyond Soul Flight – The Path Of Modern Shamanism

I recently had the honor of writing for TarotWikipedia, on life as a modern shaman.

Talking Stick, Tribe of the Modern Mystic, Soul Intent ArtsTo many who find the modern shamanic path, the summation of that work is learning to journey. Sometimes called skywalking, starwalking, or soul flight, journeying is the term most often applied to ecstatic trance. It is the cognisant dreaming state of willing an aspect of the soul to travel out of the body, into a destination in the spirit realm, for benefit of self, other, or community. That’s a mouthful, yes, and it’s intense travel.

Many learn to journey by taking classes taught by someone who has mastered the technique. It’s actually not hard to find classes on ecstatic trance all over the world now, often flavored with many cultural influences. Certainly many books and websites outline various approaches to spirit travel. This jaunt into the unseen is not just an exercise in experiencing the self out of form, but an opportunity to map the Dreaming, to greet spirit guides and totems, to heal, to bless. The act of shamanic journeying, itself, becomes a relationship one has with All Things.

I teach ecstatic journeying, and have since 2000. I’ve mastered the technique of journeying, despite that it dips and dodges, shows me new faces and territories, then swings out and loops back to familiar climes and allies. The thing that I work on to this day is rooting into everyday life what my shamanic journeys teach me. This is the part that can’t be taught in a weekend class, or perhaps even through years of classes. This grounding is the part that can only be learned by doing it, everyday, all day, through every aspect of life.

To be honest, it’s challenging. If shamanism was merely venturing into the unformed to gain insight, to learn, to expand, that would be awesome. Everyone would do it. But everyone doesn’t do it, and that’s not all it is. In reality, treating it as merely an escapist distraction or personal exercise can stir deep crisis. Going through the paces of a journey is only half the story. Slicing through to the meaning of that story, and applying its healing and wisdom to the rest of everyday life is another thing, entirely. The meaning of that story can only emerge in the mundane, and it isn’t terribly likely that richness is going to be fully evident right away. The experience of journeying evolves over time, not with the mastery of a technique, or becoming adept at following an etheric protocol. The whole experience evolves by growing with it, and it only evolves by going forward and living it.

Learning to journey isn’t a technique, it’s a lifestyle change. I tell this to students who take my classes; I’ve said it repeatedly in the many articles and essays I’ve written on modern shamanism. Ecstatic journeying changes our lives. It rearranges our synapses and priorities, and allows us direct contact with the spiritual manifestation of all that our imaginations can perceive. When we journey, we return changed in ways that can’t be planned for, and most certainly can’t be ignored. That attention must be given in sharing, doing, being, creating the world of imagination–where we live.

Originally published at TarotWikipedia.


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.

Thursday Betwixt – Modern Challenges in Shamanic Journeying (Part 1)

S. Kelley Harrell - Soul Intent ArtsIn the first phase of the Thursday Betwixt Series we’ve discussed diverse possibilities in allies available to support the modern shamanic path, and to a great degree that of animism. Moving into phase two, I’d like to talk about how we do what we do on those paths. As this topic is a bit in-depth, it will span two posts.

A definitive technique of shamanism is ecstatic trance. It’s regarded as the pièce de résistance in modern shamanic education, often to its own detriment. For those unsure, journeying is the term most often used to describe the process of shamans engaging the spirit world.  Referred to as ecstatic journeying or shamanic journeying, starwalking, skywalking, the process encompasses setting an intention, then traversing the layers of the spirit realm with one’s spirit guides for healing or insight retrieval.  Often paced with drumming or other rhythmic induction, specific tempos induce a theta, or light dreaming, brain state.

Sometimes confused with pathworking and guided visualization, in which participants are guided in what to see and do, journeying involves a more organic approach. When learning to journey, a general framework is followed to access the ecstatic state, though what occurs once in the spirit realm is entirely unique. The particular framework is based in a specific cultural or philosophical approach (cosmology). Upon mastery of theta trance, the framework used can be as personal as what occurs in the journey, itself, if a framework is necessary at all.

For most eager shamanic students, journeying is vivid, lush. Deep emotions stir and challenge how we hold our changed psychology in waking reality. For many, those first flights out fulfill a deep longing to connect, or reconnect as it were, with the unseen, that other belief systems or practices don’t provide. In those early stages, journeying seems to provide answers to everything, and for that reason it can be addicting, even escapist if not done with care.

However, for some students of the mystical, accessing trance states poses particular challenges.  Where the will may be strong to learn ecstatic practices, the mind sometimes prohibits allowing them.  As westerners who are mostly not raised in an animistic life view, our decision to release the veil and immerse into seamless awareness can challenge our experience of form. How we respond to that challenge determines the value that we place on journeying.

Over the course of deepening my relationship to the practice of ecstatic trance, I’ve encountered several factors that confound modern soul travelers.  As a teacher of ecstatic technique, I’ve observed that most modern studies teach how to journey, though omit what to do with what comes from it, how to process the life changes it inspires.

Generally speaking, for all shadow strata travelers, the three things most required for successful shamanic journey are intention, cosmology, and ritual. Without those is little sense of why journeying, how to stay with it, and what to do with the information gained upon return.

And yes, I teach classes on all of the above if you want to learn more.

Below are four challenges we encounter most often in journeying. Sometimes only one of the following creates stumbles, though some students experience a combination:

Self-doubt.  Many of us were not fostered to have faith in our own experiences, those of tactile five-sense origin, or ones of a more metaphoric, figurative significance.  Culturally, we have been conditioned to distrust our imaginations as contributors of meaningful data; thus, some people struggle to accept trance experiences as relevant.  They can’t get past questioning whether they saw or heard what they did. Unable to accept their own observations, the journey experience cannot unfold; thus, intentions for soul healing cannot be fulfilled. A complicating factor in self-doubt is that most often the students who experience it never expected to. With that realization, an element of shame becomes involved.

Resolution of self-doubt in journeying usually relies on altering factors in the perception of self in formed reality, so that relaxation into the trance experience and affirmation of it can occur.  Common proclamations of self-doubt that I hear regarding journeying are, “Nothing happened,” or “I think I saw/heard/felt something, but I’m not sure.”  Most often when I work back through the journey experience with students who express doubt as such, what I find isn’t that ‘nothing happened.’  Rather something did happen, but it was dismissed due to a lack of faith in personal perception.

To release self-doubt, I support students in accepting their every intuitive impression.  I challenge them to accept every perception as fact, no matter how surreal or far-fetched.  If the sky is suddenly purple with yellow polka dots, I encourage them to accept that for that moment, it was exactly as it appeared. If a second later, the same sky is cerulean blue with fluffy white clouds, honor it as such, and move on.  No analysis required, just honor the observation and move on.  Through encouraging them to realize that both perceptions are true and unrelated to each other, the need to compare or judge either perception is relinquished.

Intuition requires confidence.  When the need to judge observation is released, journeying can be accepted as another way to experience awareness.  In blessing all observations, the emphasis isn’t on accepting all data as fact, but on processing all perception as real.  The empowerment of accepting all of our experiences as real opens pathways in journeying we would otherwise never find.

Failure of imagination.  Often, limitations in journeying are the result of limited awareness.  What we can’t conceive, can’t be.  To draw on a contemporary energy medicine teaching, life force follows awareness.  What we put our attention on leads us forward. It allows us to fulfill our intention for journeying.  However, some people don’t have strong creative problem solving skills, a requirement for meeting ecstatic intentions successfully.  They may be entirely confident in their observations, but they don’t know what to do with them, how to move them forward in a way that fulfills the intention.  Sometimes called ‘negotiation’ by traditional shamans, unleashing boundless imagination not only ensures meeting obligations in the journey space, but solidifies the personal experience of it.  Imagination is needed in journeying not just for navigation, but for interaction with the spirits of the worlds, themselves.

The common model followed as the journey map for most modern seekers is that of a triple cosmology including the Upper, Lower, and Middle worlds.  There are countless other cosmologies.  Those raised in shamanic cultures are likely to find their way around these worlds more easily than those just honoring a cosmology for the sake of learning to journey.  For that reason, upon arrival in the spirit realms we quickly find a lack of sign posts to point us along, or the legend we discover is unlike what was expected.  The road just ends.  In some cases, a spirit animal, or totem, may not be as forthcoming with information we need.  How, then, can the journey proceed?

Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism by S. Kelley HarrellWhen students feel constricted in their imaginations, I direct them to call in their five-year-old superhero personas.  Many adults are uncomfortable reaching back into the limitless imaginations of their youth, seeing that untamed logic as archaic, erratic, invaluable. The truth is, that wild mind can solve anything, because it knows no bounds.  This primal youth knows how to ask for directions from a bird. It understands that when the road dead-ends, it’s okay to weave between the grasses.  It rests comfortably jumping off a cliff to soar higher.

When we can realize that every facet of the spirit world is alive and responsive, we begin crafting our unique dialogue.  Yes, the ability to intuitively read and navigate the events and symbols of the spirit realm meets our needs for the journey, though it also sets the stage for how future journeys unfold.  Ecstatic trance is a dialogue that builds with every adventure.  Forming this fluid relationship with the mechanism of journeying is the core of the ecstatic practice.  This merging of the imagination with the spirit world teaches us how to decipher personal signals.  It enables us to form relationships with guides, scapes, elements, forces, absolutely everything in the journey space.  These relationships are what shape the shaman.

Next week, Part 2 will further discuss challenges in journeying, and ways to overcome them.

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. 

Read Part Two of Modern Challenges of Shamanic Journeying.

Thursday Betwixt – After the Journey

Herbert's Soul by Joe Poole @ flickr“Then he began to think of all the things Christopher Robin would want to tell him when he came back from wherever he was going to, and how muddling it would be for a Bear of Very Little Brain to try and get them right in his mind. ‘So, perhaps,’ he said sadly to himself, ‘Christopher Robin won’t tell me anymore,’ and he wondered if being a faithful Knight meant that you just went on being faithful without being told things” ~A. A. Milne, The Wonderful World of Pooh

I’ve been re-thinking the format of my blog, and in doing so would like to create a more open dialogue around modern shamanism and animism.

“That’s not so different from what you’ve been doing,” you say.

Well, yes, but after spending some time clarifying what I need to do on my personal path and in my work, I realize this blog isn’t doing enough. I’m still open to the reader Q&A format, so feel free to shoot me inquiries. The thing is,  it’s hard to ask a question when you don’t know the subject well. While we have come a long way, culturally, in the twenty-five years of my study of shamanism, we still don’t talk about the lifestyle around a shamanistic or animistic lifestyle, which frankly, has a lot to do with the problems that arise when learning to journey. To identify my entries on this theme, I will be posting them under the category “Thursday Betwixt,” dedicated space in my blog to address a topic with a foot in both worlds.

And before you say it, I know I’ve always said there’s no veil. There’s no line that says here’s Here, and———-there’s conveniently, separately located There, the official Other Side. Nonetheless, the need to articulate how that between experience feels and works in daily life requires some kind of identifier, and I’m not going to reinvent the conceptual wheel. Rather, I’ll just go with what we’ve got.

So here’s where this new direction starts: life after shamanic journeying. When I first discovered there were classes that taught shamanic techniques, that collection of techniques was put forward as shamanism. Well, they’re not =) What is even harder to process is that many are still presenting journeying and shamanism in that synonymous way–as if the ability to slide into trance makes one a shaman. Without celebration of our natural inclination toward trance states. Without discussion of what to do with the information stirred by the mere process of journeying. Without discussion of how life after that point changes–even if you have no plans to become a shaman.  Without plans for how to carry the ecstatic experience into daily life–back to the foot in both worlds thing. Without provisions for how to recreate that ecstasy on your own.

Many present the technique of journeying as the feature distinguishing shamanism from other intuitive/psychic arts. It is. But that’s not all. I’ve said from day one of deciding–and it is a decision–to be a modern shaman, that anyone can see. We’re all seers, all intuitive. Going into trance doesn’t make you a shaman, it makes you human. It’s not a special skill reserved for certain people. But knowing what to do with intuition, how to respond to it, how to incorporate its wisdom into everyday life is a very special skill, that can–and should–be learned, for your own journeys, and especially if you want to work with others. Otherwise, dipping into journeying can make a huge mess, a spiritual crisis bigger than what brought you to learning the technique to start with.

To that end, a lot of people come to me, after a crash weekend course in journeying, needing to sort it all out, because that’s the part that can’t be taught in two days. Apart from the emotional fallout–which spans absolute ecstasy to horror, depression to joy, and everything between–that often occurs after learning to journey, the thing I hear most is how they can’t hold the ecstatic experience. They can’t recreate it the way they felt it in those early soul adventures.

The very first introductions we make, actively engaging the unseen, blow our socks off. Most definitely they alter our sense of self and Life, on a dime.  Even people who consider their initial soul travels “unsuccessful,” with regard to meeting allies recognize the innate power of the altered state.  In fact, often those with least expectation are the most deeply affected. Without fail, though, eventually the colors fade, the messages obscure. Sometimes communication stops short, and guides don’t even show up. Why?

Sure,  part of that can be chalked up to dynamics. There’s something magickal about group sacred space, particularly when it’s created with the intention to facilitate and support shamanic journeying. Creating space in isolation doesn’t always get the same results, though if done with the intention of bringing in the totems in your familiar to help you hold the space, it can be even more personal, more transcendent.  Another culprit is not observing ritual for journeying. The key thing to know about not being able to sustain the thrilling, vivid journeys of fledgling soul travel is… no one can recreate it that way, without manifesting through the rest of life what each journey teaches.  Journeys become rote because shamanism isn’t just journeying.

It’s not a personal fault; it’s a deep component of our individualistic culture. We aren’t steeped in honoring the unseen through ordinary, commonplace gestures. Our standard mode of operation is one or the other–Here or There. We don’t recognize both at once. Even those of us on religious paths generally aren’t that thorough in bringing those spiritual tenets through all the days we’re not in earshot of the congregation. We are not known for walking our talk.

Without consistent observation of the unseen  when we’re not in trance, it’s really hard to sustain exhilarating journeys into the Dreamtime. Journeying is all or nothing, in that to continue having life-altering experiences in trance, you have to manifest what you glean in them, in day-to-day life. What we do Here, directly impacts what we can achieve There. It’s all connected. When we water our houseplants, we have to consider our relationship to them, how our care affects them. When we walk through a space, we have to realize we aren’t just moving through it, but are engaging with it.  When we encounter conflict, we mustn’t just rush to heal it, but consider its role in our story.

As seekers on a shamanistic path it’s not just suggested that we root into the unseen as deeply as possible, it’s expected. We don’t just roll up on the Other Side to learn things and heal ourselves or others. Relationships with Guides and totems need reciprocity as much as other relationships in our lives. Also, shamanic journeying isn’t just the formation of relationships to the spiritual allies you encounter in that state, it’s a relationship to journeying, itself.

Journeying is a lifestyle change. It gives you the seeds to grow what you need in your life. Unplanted, nothing can grow, Here or There. Planted, you grow everywhere.

Why Journeying Isn’t Shamanism

About Soul Intent Arts - Intertribal Shamanism“Journeying” is the term most often used to describe the process shamans go through to engage the spirit world. The word was associated with shamanic ecstatic trance by Michael Harner in the 1980s, which for those keeping ancient score, wasn’t that long ago. My emphasis on that recentness is that what has caught the attention of those attracted to shamanism in the modern context often isn’t actually shamanism. It’s a fabricated semblance of that spiritual experience distilled to a set of techniques appropriate for western people not to hurt themselves and others (again, Harner). It’s important to understand that journeying isn’t the summation of shamanism, or the role of shaman. In fact, many cultures and traditions don’t “journey” at all. Nonetheless, various techniques of ecstatic trance abound, though the purpose of this post is to unpack the notion of “journeying.”

Seriously. Read on.

Some call it ecstatic journeying or shamanic journeying, starwalking, skywalking. it is all a form of intended ecstatic trance. “Can’t everyone do that?” you ask.

We’re all wired for the capability, though no, we can’t all readily access that wiring, and even those who can’t don’t automatically understand what to do with it. Ecstatic trance requires training to do effectively and well. That training includes learning to set an intention, then traverse the layers of the spirit realm with one’s spirit guides for healing or insight retrieval, with the intention encompassing the duty to bring that wisdom back and make it active in the world. That part is often skipped, as if “journeying” is just the trip out of body. Not so. Effective shamanic trance includes doing something useful with that information, for the betterment of community.

Logistically how do you do it? It’s often done with drumming or other rhythmic induction, specific tempos induce a theta, or light dreaming, brain state. If you’re not sure what those things are or how to use them, this is when you find a mentor. Again, wired, but not active.

Journeying is often confused with pathworking, in which participants are guided in what to see and do. When learning to journey, a general framework is followed to access the ecstatic state, though what occurs once in the spirit realm is entirely organic. Upon mastery of theta trance, the framework used can be as unique as what occurs in the journey, itself, if a framework is necessary at all. As well, it’s associated with meditation and astral projection. Meditation can be any of a gajillion techniques geared for mindfulness–all of which are beneficial to effective trance work. They, however, are not the sum of shamanic trance. Likewise, astral projection is travel outside the body. It doesn’t encompass relationships to a specific destination, flanked with specific spirit allies who assist on that trek, or guidance in what to do once you get there. In short, pathworking, meditation, and astral projection aren’t equivalent to shamanic ecstatic trance.

In the beginning, for most eager shamanic students, journeying is vivid, lush. Deep emotions stir and challenge how we hold our changed psychology in waking reality. For many, those first flights out fulfill a deep longing to connect, or reconnect as it were, with the unseen, that other belief systems or practices don’t provide. In those early stages, journeying seems to provide answers to everything, and for that reason it can be addicting, even escapist if not done with care.

Inevitably, though, the journeying process begs to deepen or to expand in some way that challenges the shamanist. Perhaps getting into trance becomes more difficult. The devices that facilitated it at first no longer smooth the path. The sensual experience internalizes. We begin to see that the spirit realms aren’t wonderland, serving up what we want to see, comfort, companionship. Its messages become less clear. Guides are absent or not as forthcoming. What happened? Why would a process that so fulfilled and provided stop working?

Traditionally, in indigenous and ancient cultures, shamans were chosen by heredity or transformation of a trauma (also called a shamanic death), while some were self-appointed. How they are revealed isn’t as significant as noting how shamans developed and were supported by their communities. Most modern students of shamanism come to it out of personal need, be that trauma or a sense of needing “more.” However, we are not a shamanic culture. We haven’t been surrounded from birth in an animistic life view that fosters our connection with the spirit world in and out of trance. As a result, we leave shamanic circles and classes to return to a mundane that doesn’t support our experiences. We don’t have the network of support to help us sustain the miracle of the ecstatic state beyond the journey. Thus, the journey process, itself, becomes strained. It becomes isolating.

That lack of network also tends to create the pattern of journeying only when something is wrong, when we feel a lack in our lives, or on behalf of others.  Shamanic trance isn’t self-help. in fact, shamanism isn’t self-help. In its full manifestation, shamanism is acting as the bridge between worlds, to bring healing to seen and unseen beings. Anyone who remains stuck in shamanic function as a mode of self-help is not a shaman. This is a modern misunderstanding of the role of shaman as distinct from the trance practice, and is largely the result of the renewal of shamanism happening alongside Reiki, tapping, and various other actual DIY modalities. When shamanism is considered DIY and self-help, a constant pattern of taking is established, creating an imbalance in how we relate to the spirit realm. When we take too much from the spirit realm, it becomes ill, unable to assist us. For this reason, balance must be observed in the role of shaman. We must see ourselves as facilitators of healing in all worlds, not just the one of humans.

Likewise, learning this method of soul travel and how to apply it well takes practice, time, and diligence. Without making it a daily practice as part of our personal spiritual discipline, we can’t evolve to be truly proficient at journeying, and we can’t begin creating ourselves as an animistic culture. We can’t become solid anchors engaging in waking what the spirit realm guides in trance. We aren’t proficient at manifesting that teaching if we don’t have solid roots in mindfulness, emotional maturity, and knowing our own boundaries and skills. These we learn from a teacher, a mentor, someone who actually does this work every day. This is why shamanisn can’t be learned from a book or in a weekend class. It’s not a technique, not a method; it’s a way of being.

Should journeying lose its initial luster, instead of forcing it to suit expectation and demands, dig deeper into formed being. Find a mentor and community who can support soul travels. Connect with the the spirits of immediate surroundings — familiar space, daily relationships, Nature. The more grounded we can be in the awareness that unseen reality is with us all the time, not just in trance, the more we lace spiritual interconnection through everything we do, the more readily trance comes.

Normalization of the journey experience isn’t failure. It’s natural, it’s progress, integration. The act of journeying is a relationship, not just the connections we make from it. At some point, it is right for the experience of trance to integrate, for us to become the embodiment of the community, connections, and wisdom we gain from it. Yet at the same time, we must hold our journey experiences loosely. Let the process unfold as it desires. Along the path of ecstatic journeying, we learn to trust the inner compass, not just to show direction, but when to be directionless, when to become the direction.

Granny and the Skywalker

I have been on a journey since my Grandmother passed away in August of 2007. There are moments where I have felt crazy, but I know that she is with me and wants me to do something. What that is and ‘why me’ are constant questions. I also see other relatives that have passed on in my dreams. They talk to me, but I can never remember what was said when I awaken. Any idea why my dreams are so lucid, or what Granny wants? Thanks, MM!

Thanks for your note, MM. Sometimes those out of form see things about us that we don’t, intuitively, and your grandmother and thought that showing you something about yourself, rather than just telling, would have more impact. Apparently it did. Your grandmother said that she was lingering help you realize your powerfully innate skill for moving between worlds. She saw this light in you from her vantage point on ‘the other side,’ though she always knew you saw the world differently–a detail that may indicate that she was a lucid dreamer, too. The relatives you’ve seen off and on have truly been visiting you in dreams. For some the skill of ‘starwalking,’ or ‘skywalking,’ as it’s sometimes called, first presents itself through the frequency of spirit visitors in waking, or an odd sense of knowing. For you it has revealed itself in lucid dreaming. Cultivate this skill, and you can program specific dreams that allow you to be more active in your awareness and resolve conflicts. Spirit communication is easily done via dreaming. You can even “bring things back” from dreams, which is an ancient approach to Law of Attraction and manifestation. Dreaming isn’t just a passive adventure, but a valuable tool in empowering the connection between your unconscious and conscious being.

The facet of your grandmother that I met with moved on well. However, you can still meet with her anytime. Cognisant dreaming occurs in the REM level of sleep, or during the theta brainwave state, which can also be achieved when you are awake. If you want to learn more about lucid dreaming, there are some wonderful books on the subject, and about dreamwalking in general. One that I really like is Don Juan and the Art of Sexual Energy: The Rainbow Serpent of the Toltecs by Merilyn Tunneshende. Don Juan and the Art of Sexual Energy: The Rainbow Serpent of the Toltecs by Merilyn Tunneshende A more thorough mastery of theta, itself, is learning ecstatic, or shamanic journey, in which you train the mind to reach theta then will an aspect of yourself out to engage with the spirit world. This approach should be learned from someone who has already mastered this skill. I don’t advocate learning it from a book. Many find learning lucid dreaming challenging, though you have an advantage there. Furthering your dreaming ability would give your more options, though the skill of shamanic journey has an added bonus, in that your dreamstate becomes more easily navigable as you find comfort moving about the spirit realm. However you proceed, MM, I wish you wild star travels, and see you out there!

Catching Dreams, Decoding Paths

Kelley, I had a devastating breakup with my partner. The last 10 months have been the worst of my life; however, I am healing and things are going better. I would like to relax and open up, but I have some anxiety because I have had sleep paralysis episodes since I was a child and find them frightening. Any advice on how to move forward? Thank you, Shelley

Thanks for your note, Shelley. Sleep paralysis in child intuitives is very common, particularly for those of us who grew up without tribal support or insightful education of what they are. As a child, you had intense shifts of consciousness in your sleep, the sort of experience in which just as you were about to unravel something significant, just as you were about to grasp some deeper understanding, just as your higher consciousness was about to push some wisdom down to your Earthly consciousness, you would begin to wake. The unfamiliar sensations and shifting of your life force as this was happening, your brain processed as panic and fear. However, as an adult your spiritual quest has shown you that it doesn’t have to be this way. You now know that you can allow higher insight from yourself and guides, and such a delivery doesn’t have to be traumatic.

My suggestion is that you learn ecstatic, or shamanic, journeying. My sense is that you are a natural star

Dream Catcher, artist unknown

Dream Catcher, artist unknown

traveler, but you need to learn the mechanism of how to do it thoroughly and safely. I’ve taught these classes for several years, and one thing that is a pleasant side effect of them is that your lucid dreamstate becomes far more negotiable and navigable. The more you study techniques to move into a theta brainwave (cognisant dreaming) willfully, the less you are afraid. Learning to approach trance from a shamanic perspective will enable this ease, as well as teach you boundaries in interspiritual communication. I expect that when you learn ecstatic trance techniques, you will eventually (or perhaps spontaneously) learn to widen that gap of consciousness in your lucid dreaming state, and you will get the significant information, the symbols, the next step in the direction your soul is leading you.

If you’re near NC, I am teaching an intro to journeying class in the next couple of months. I’d love to meet you! Blessed travels, Shelley!