Our psychological and spiritual roots go back to cultures steeped in shamanic tradition. Shamanism embraces and draws on the universal spiritual wisdom inherent in all indigenous tribes. The practice of shamanic “journeying” involves entering an altered state of consciousness to tap inner resources and apply healing energy. It is a method by which we, as human beings, are able to strengthen this natural connection to wisdom and bestow healing on ourselves and our communities. The goal is to generate internal and external harmony with all of creation. Carl Jung dipped into shamanic territory when he described how nature provides countless mothering archetypes that nourish and soothe us—including animals, real or imagined.
Some people interested in journeying attend formal trainings; some go to a shaman; and some have spontaneous encounters with power animals or sprit beings in dreams or in ordinary reality. Consider the experience of a frequent hiker who rested under his favorite tree. Much to his surprise, one day a wolf appeared and looked him in the eyes—the man intuitively knew he had met an “animal friend.” The wolf then sat at a distance as the man reflected on the disarray of his marriage—as though a light bulb had turned on above his head, he realized he no longer wanted to ignore this difficult situation. In that moment he decided to consider the request his wife had made that they go to marriage counseling. He also knew that wolves mate for life, that they are very intelligent and friendly, and when they show up, it is time to breathe new life into rituals. From his encounter, this man intuitively discerned he must explore greater empathy and self-control. He needed to learn from his mistakes, while cultivating nurturance and equanimity. This was the perfect antidote to his troubled marriage.
As a self-empowering tool, journeying indeed resonates with the notion of individual responsibility, as well as personal participation in the healing process. Fortunately, The Foundation for Shamanic Studies engages in numerous ongoing research endeavors that demonstrate and advance the healing efficacy of shamanic altered states of consciousness. Perhaps you have had such experiences and not realized their meaning and value; or perhaps you want to explore the shamanic realm in a structured way by attending trainings. In either case, you will reap great benefit from doing so. Comments about such experiences are most welcome and appreciated!