This is a short overview of shamanic journeying, and though it does not contain the details one would need to actually journey, it will provide a sense of what the general process looks like. Shamanic spirituality is a birthright of every human being, and the ability to have a shamanic journey already rests inside you. It is important, however, to find personal guidance and mentoring when heading out to do shamanic work of any kind, particularly journeying, for there is the potential for many wrong turns, and missteps in this work can be serious.
In ‘classic’ shamanic language, journeying is referred to as ‘riding the drum-horse’ – meaning that the sound of the drum (or rattle) provides a kind of vehicle upon which we can journey to non-ordinary reality with the shamanic trance (ecstasy). Without a ‘live drummer,’ a drumming CD is recommended, which can be set to play for a specific length of time, depending on the purpose and expected duration of a particular journey’s intention. There are a number of such CD’s on the market, with a wide variety of sounds and combinations of instruments. There is no standard, for each person may find one or another production has greater personal appeal, comfort, and effectiveness. I personally favor a live drummer with a natural skin drum.
As I said above, do not head off and try journeying on your own. I have seen too many who have, and have found themselves into trouble (usually having to do with ‘middle world’ phenomena) by doing so, or who then unwittingly ‘practiced’ bad habits and as a consequence, find it hard to journey as well as they could. Locate a teacher who puts safety, ethics, and basic journey protocols first, and who can follow up by monitoring your progress through your experiences and provide you with careful feedback that will sharpen your abilities.
Shamanic practice is not esoteric information, but responsibility among teachers requires our persistent admonitions about following strict protocols and awareness. To fail to provide this kind of close guidance is a disservice to both the healing art and to those who would seek to learn it.
Do not use the following as a protocol to follow. The primary concern I have in putting anything like this up on the internet is that someone will try to use it as a protocol (thinking they have enough information), and then get themselves into serious problems accordingly. In order to provide a protocol to actually journey, we would need a couple of course lessons and many steps, far more than what is possible or appropriate here. This is strictly meant to be an overview to provide you with a sense of what you would be looking at if you were to actually learn to do a shamanic journey The following overview does not include 90 percent of what you need to know, but it hopefully will provide you with enough information about the general process so that you can make wise decisions about following up in training.
Preparations of the Sacred Space
When taking a shamanic journey, it is very important to establish a sacred space in which to work, and before anything else, prepare yourself and your environment.
Once you start preparing yourself, privacy needs to be assured so that your ritual space will not be interrupted. Impinging ordinary reality stimuli easily breaks our non-ordinary consciousness and proves disruptive, interfering with the process. Sound, movement, smell and sight from ordinary reality stimuli can all can signal a rapid awareness by the brain and cause it to lapse from its non-ordinary focus, if even momentarily, while it automatically investigates for ordinary reality threats or interests.
It is recommended to lie down and not move. Though a shamanic state of consciousness and sleep are very different, there is much that is similar in between the two, and the all-too-familiar pairing of lying down still with eyes closed in the darkness can lull one into sleep.
Preparations for Journeying
One then prepares further to make a shamanic journey by having a clear intention of where he or she is going (such as to the upper world or lower world) and what is to be done there. Having a clear intention before journeying can be compared to setting an intention to drive to the store to pick up some milk, versus just getting in the car. In the latter case, one might notice and decide to follow all sorts of side-roads that are great to explore, but which wouldn’t bring back a carton of milk. Or, one might just sit there, perhaps turn on the engine, but not even leave the parking space! Having a clear intention, including both direction and goal, is crucial when given the vast latitude and potential that will quickly appear as we head into non-ordinary reality. Even if one’s ‘goal’ is to head to the upper or lower worlds with a general intention to let the spirit teachers and power animals there show us something we need to see, teach us something we need to know, or in other ways work with us in the manner they best see fit, this is still a pre-established clear intention for the journey before embarking.
Ways that go ‘up’ are followed if one is journeying to the upper world, and ways that go ‘down,’ if the lower world is the destination. Do not attempt to go ‘sideways’. We decide on our path prior to embarking. For your initial journeys, you might first choose for yourself a place to begin from places that you already know in ordinary reality, at least that you know well enough to serve as starting point for your initial path up or down. It needs to be a place that you can bring clearly to mind, filling in the details with memory or imagination as you go along.
We set out on our way, persistently going up if that is our direction, or down as the case may be, but always we keep going. Perhaps a ladder descends from the sky; perhaps an eagle swoops down and grasps you in its careful talons to assist you; perhaps a stairway appears that leads into the clouds; perhaps you ‘shape shift’ and sprout wings, becoming an eagle yourself… It is entirely up to you and your journey. The point is, if heading up to the upper world, keep going up!
Whether your shamanic journey goes up, or down, you will eventually discover something that you must push through, or somehow give a little extra effort to, in order to get to the other side. This is the portal to the upper or lower world.
There are countless things to experience and discover when in non-ordinary reality. Thus, it is the intention of our journey that keeps us focused. This way, with all that is available, we persist in accomplishing what it is that we set out to do without getting sidetracked.
The Call Back
Whatever the intention of our shamanic journey to the upper or lower worlds, when we hear the ‘call back, we respond. You first return to the portal where you entered the upper or lower world and then proceed back to ordinary reality the same route that you went.
After the Journey
After the Call Back is complete and you are fully ‘back’, there is generally a period of quiet. Journeyers often pull out a notebook and write down experiences during their journey, as it is fresh and more easily recalled. This is important to chronicle right after a shamanic journey, as our experiences may easily dissipate into less clarity or detail with even the passage of a little time. Our journeys carry important information, some of which may not always be clear to us at first blush. However, when we reread our notes, and combine this information with our other life and shamanic journey experiences, even that which was at first unclear will begin to make sense.
Again, this is just an overview sketch of a process that actually involves far more complexity and preparations. If you are interested in more deeply exploring the shamanic journey, I strongly encourage you to find an instructor who can give you the instructions you need to actually do a journey and guide you on your way. No matter where you learn, if you get solid teaching in journeying, this is an extraordinary path. Of course, we recommend you learn from us because we provide a comprehensive, grounded, ethical and interactive education. However, what is important is that you have heard the call.
Now, follow your heart.
Picture taken from here