Somebody recently asked me about the process for Shamanic Journeying. And I realize because it’s called Shamanic Journeying it sounds pretty far out there. But it’s not as crazy as it may sound. It’s been around for a very long time; it predates organized religion. This is my attempt to demystify the process and any static around what it is.
Shamanic Journeying is an ancient form of divination that anyone can do. By divination, I mean a practice that allows you to engage with the divine in order to receive messages, power or medicine. You might be familiar with other divination practices like the Tarot or Runes, or reading tea leaves or a pendulum.
Shamanic Journeying belongs with these disciplines, except that in those aforementioned practices you stay firmly planted here in physical reality and call the spirits to you. When you take a journey you are intentionally choosing to enter spirit worlds and visit the spirits where they live. And through your relationship with these helping and healing spirits you gain access to the wisdom, the power and the medicine that you seek.
I guess I should take a moment here and clarify that when I say helping and healing spirits I am not talking about ghosts. I say spirit to refer to any being you might encounter in these spiritual worlds who has a cohesive identity and ability to engage with you. This can be the spirit of your great-great-great-grandmother. It could also be the spirit of a tree, or an animal, or even the wind herself. Generally, you don’t choose who appears but rather allow the spirits to present you the most aligned helper at any given time. (That having been said, after taking hundreds of journeys, I have learned when certain questions or situations merit seeking out specific helping and healing spirits with whom I have relationship. And sometimes, yes, a helping spirit happens to be a dead person, maybe even one I knew– but that’s rather unusual.)
If it seems like I’m spending a long time on this issue, it’s because helping spirits are the heart of Shamanic practice. Only through our mentorship with these beings of unconditional and infinite wisdom can we bring about any substantial Shamanic magic. Power belongs to the beings of these invisible spiritual worlds and through our tending to these relationships we can husband some of their power. I like to remind people that if a helping spirit isn’t a part of your journey, it’s technically not a journey. And it is also useful to clarify, that the power is always on loan to the practitioner and the spirits can recall it at any time.
Ok, so the process, come on Brandon, get going here already.
It’s really simple. You turn down the lights. You get comfortable. Lying down works. So does sitting.
Then you set your intention. Your reason for your journey.
You can journey on a question as well. That’s where things get really interesting. You can literally ask ANYTHING. But you only get one question per journey. That having been said, you can take twenty journeys in a day if you want. The better your question is, the more powerful the journey. Shamanism is literally based on this practice: crafting really good questions, journeying on them, acting on them, rinse, repeat, etc.
In addition to your intention/question, you will need to select an axis mundi– which is fancy latin for the sacred space that connects earth and sky. Simply put, it’s your starting place. If you’re traveling way out into spiritual worlds, you need a strong center to come back to. So you choose one.
Think of a place in nature that means something to you. A place where the veil feels thin. Or even just your childhood backyard. You will want to be able to visualize it very clearly. This will be your axis mundi. And this will be where you begin and end your journeys from here on out. Don’t keep shopping for starting places once you’ve found one that works– it’ll just distract you. How do you know it works? Well did you get to the Upper or Lower World? If so, it worked! (I will explain the Upper and Lower Worlds in like one minute, I promise.)
Alright, so here we are, sitting or lying in the dark. You have a question/intention and you have your starting place. Then I begin to play the drum. The drum is what drives the journey. It has been well proven that listening to a monotonous drumbeat (4-7 beats per second) shifts our brainwaves from Alpha to Theta.* This is the brainwave realm of altered states. The Theta state is where we experience drowsiness. We might consider it the gateway between waking and sleeping. It is also the state where meditation exists.
A Shamanic Journey is an altered state. Much like falling into a daze while scrolling your phone. Or when you zone out the window and all of sudden it’s lunchtime. The drum aids the process. While Journeying you might become overwhelmed, lost or confused and the drum is there to give you something to hang on to.
Here’s where I will briefly discuss the Upper and Lower Worlds. Please know that these two spiritual worlds have nothing to do with the constructs of Heaven and Hell. With all due respect, the Lower and Upper Worlds are far more expansive and complex than those two “places”. Also, it should be said that these two worlds are Spiritual Worlds, meaning, there is no pain, there is no suffering. They are enlightened places with benevolent beings. Is is ALWAYS safe to travel to either of them.
Now, the Lower World is generally a place you go for your own personal healing (but not always!). It can appear as a natural wonderland or the moons of Jupiter, mystical waterfalls or a vast un-ending desert. Both of these worlds are pliable like dreamworlds, they shift, like the weather. But you will begin to map these worlds with consistency the more you journey.
The Upper World is generally where we travel for more than our own persona healing (but again, not always! You’ll find there’s very rarely an “always” in Shamanism). This is a world where many spiritual teachers can be found. This is also where one might contact ascended masters, angelic or alien even mythological or inter-dimensional beings. Some have described this world with crystal towers and layers of clouds, others have found it more natural in appearance– most describe a combination of both. These worlds are vast and then contain many, many “layers”. And while there are many commonalities, your FIRST-HAND experience these worlds is the most important thing.
Ok, getting back to the process, so to begin, you visualize yourself in your starting place. And the drumming has already begun. You see yourself and feel yourself in this natural setting that you chose, that means something to you. And in it you find your opening to the Upper or Lower World. For the Upper World one would use a mountain, a very tall tree, a rainbow, a sunbeam, maybe layers of clouds, a tornado– anything that can get you up, way up, through a barrier and into that realm. For the Lower World you would want a cave that you cannot see the back of or a hole that you cannot see the bottom of. You could also use the roots of a tree and slide down. You could always use a body of water or even a drainpipe. The key is to get into the long dark tunnel that takes you all the way down. As you travel down through the Earth you look for light that signifies the opening to that realm.
(I’m using a lot of visual language to describe the journey but it’s not always “visual” for people. I hear in my journeys more than I see. Others feel their way through or their sense of smell features heavily. Journeys use all of us, including our bodies. How your body feels during a journey can shed as much insight as what you see. Your body is a psychic instrument, so much more so than your mind.)
What happens once the drum starts is up to you and the invisible world. The secret is to stay task focused and allow your mind to partner with you. You might feel like you’re making it up. That’s ok. Eventually your mind will realize even if it’s making up seventy-percent of it, there’s a good portion that comes in, seemingly out of nowhere. The more you practice it, the more you learn how to surrender to the discipline.
At some point the drumbeat changes significantly and that is designed to call you back. You thank any and all energies (ie. your helping and healing spirits) that you were engaged with during the journey and then you retrace your steps all the way back to your starting place. You thank the starting place as well. And that’s the official end of the journey. But as soon as you come back you write EVERYTHING down. Because Journeys are the sisters of dreams, and like a dream, they fade fast. Your task after having this experience is to spend the next few days (or weeks or years) interpreting your journey, as if it were a poem you loved or a painting that spoke to your soul. That’s literally the WHOLE process.
Of course it was foolish of me to think I could “quickly” explain anything in Shamanic Practice because we are complex beings– and I’m an air sign. But to distill it down anymore would lose the essence of the practice. And the essence of the practice has survived for so long, I feel it must be honored properly. Hopefully this gives you a really good idea of what you could expect if you attend a Journey Circle or book a private Shamanic Journeying session with me.
I’ll leave you with this. Simply put, we don’t have to wait for the vision to come to us, through Shamanic Journeying, we can travel to the vision and bring it back.
If you are interested in learning this skill from me, please know I lead a group class which I call the Journey Circle on the first Friday of every month (from 845-10 PM) at the Heartbeat House in Atwater Village, Los Angeles. Otherwise, you can book a one-on-one session with me HERE.
*If you are a nerd like me and are curious to see some studies down on Drumming, Trance States and all that jazz, check this out. https://openaccesspub.org/jsdr/article/671