After the Journey

Originally posted in Sacred Hoop,  Issue 84, 2013,

When I first discovered there were classes that taught shamanic techniques, those collections of techniques were put forward as ‘shamanism.’ I, of course, eventually discovered the hard way that they were not the whole picture.

What is even harder is that many teachers and reviews of real psychics are still presenting journeying and shamanism in that synonymous way – as if the ability to slide into trance makes one a shaman. Many present the technique of shamanic journeying as the feature that distinguishes shamanism from other intuitive or psychic arts.  Journeying certainly is part of what makes shamanism unique, though it’s not all that does. Going into trance doesn’t make you a shaman, it makes you human. 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. It’s not a special skill reserved for certain people.

However, for your own journeys, and especially if you want to journey for others, without honing those skills, dipping into journeying can make a life mess or a spiritual crisis bigger than what brought you to learn the technique to start with.

To that end, a lot of people come to me after a weekend crash-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 that often occurs after learning to journey – which can span ecstasy to horror, and depression to joy – the thing I hear most is how people can’t hold the experience; can’t recreate it the way they felt it in those early soul adventures.

The very first introductions we make, actively engaging the unseen, often blow our socks off. Most definitely they alter our sense of self and life. Even people who consider their initial soul travels to be unsuccessful – in regards to their meeting of spirit helpers – recognise the innate power of the altered state they have accessed.  In fact, often those with least expectations often seem to be the
most deeply affected. All to often though, eventually the colour fade, the messages from the spirits become obscure, and sometimes communication stops altogether and the spirits don’t even show
up. Why?

Part of that can be chalked up to dynamics. There’s something magickal about a group’s combined sacred space, particularly when it’s created with the intention to facilitate and support shamanic

Creating space in isolation doesn’t always get the same results, the culprit often being not properly observing ritual for your journeys. But if journeys are done with focus – and with the intention of asking the spirits you work with to help you hold the space – then working on your own can be even more personal, more transcendent than when done in a group setting.

The key thing to know about feeling unable to sustain the thrilling, vivid journeys of fledgling soul travel is… no one can recreate it that way, unless they manifest throughout the rest of their lives,
what each journey has taught them. In essence, journeys can become rote, because shamanism isn’t just journeying.

That lack is not a personal fault; it’s a deep component of our individualistic culture. We, as a culture, aren’t steeped in honouring the unseen, through ordinary commonplace gestures. Our standard mode of operation in life is ‘one or the other’ – ‘here or there.’ We, as individuals in our dualistic cultural view, often have never learned to recognise the non dualistic quality of holding both views at once.

Even those of us on religious paths, generally aren’t that thorough in holding on to spiritual tenets through the day when we’re not in earshot of the congregation. Most of us in Western culture are
not known for walking our talk.  Without consistent observation of the unseen when we’re not actually in trance, it’s hard to sustain exhilarating journeys into the spirit worlds. Journeying is all or nothing, in that to continue having life-altering experiences in trance, we have to manifest what we glean in those trance states within our day-to-day lives.

What we do here, in our ordinary lives, directly impacts what we can achieve in the spirit world (and vice versa). It’s all connected. When we water our house plants, we have to consider our
relationship to them, how our care affects them. When we walk through a space, we have to realise 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 our spirit helpers and totems need reciprocity as much as the other relationships in our lives do. Also, shamanic journeying isn’t just about the formation of relationships with the spiritual allies we encounter in the journey state, it’s more about 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 – either in the ordinary world or the spirit world – but planted, things grow everywhere.