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.