Transformative journeys: retrieving, releasing, healing, developing
Psycho-spiritual work between the worlds
Awakening The Shamanic Force Within
Now that you know how to journey and have connected to your spirit allies, you can begin to use journeying for your own healing, development and further connection to the spirit worlds. Journeying has many uses besides those already outlined in the last chapter. In fact, there are no limits to journeys that will assist your development, connect you with spiritual forces and help you to become whole.
As a general rule of thumb, journeys of a psychological nature lead to the lower world. Journeys that are undertaken to connect with higher spirit realms or ask for guidance from those realms usually lead to the upper world. Those to do with nature spirits and essences are middle-world journeys. In this chapter we will journey to the lower and upper worlds.
Here are some examples of intents you can formulate, stating the worlds and the helping forces you want around you:
· Advice: ’I am going to journey to the upper world to get advice about [insert appropriately]. I ask my power animal and spirit guides/teachers to help me.’
· Finding the root cause: ’I am going to journey to the lower world find the cause of my [for example, self-sabotage, depressive tendencies, anxiety, low confidence] and what would help me to overcome it/them.’
· Retrieving for development: ’I am going to journey to the lower world to retrieve whatever I need right now in my development.’
· Retrieving specific parts: ’I am going to journey to the lower world to retrieve [for example, my creative part, my playful inner child, my aliveness, my passion, the power of my anger or whatever I feel I have split off along the way].’
· Letting something go/releasing: ’I am going to journey to find out what I need to let go of to achieve [for example, more wholeness, peace, my potential].’
· Learning: ’I am going to journey to the upper world to learn about [my essence, my place of oneness, my task].’
· Teacher and teachings: ’I am going to journey to find a teacher who can teach me about [insert appropriately].’
Transformative journeys: retrieving, releasing, healing, developing
In preparation for every journey:
· Define your intent clearly. If you are not sure which world to access, state both worlds and trust that you will end up in the right one.
· Open sacred space by calling in spirit.
· Always ask your spirit allies to help and accompany you on your journey.
· Use the format provided on pages 63—64 and the drumming download.
The four transformative journeys below will give you some insight into what you might encounter when you journey, but rest assured there is no ’right’ or ’wrong’. As long as you open sacred space, state and hold a clear intent, ask for help from your spirit allies and let the journey unfold, you can trust that it will be beneficial for you.
A journey of retrieval
All journeys of retrieval start in the lower world. We usually retrieve parts that we have split off on the way, such as our creativity, our playfulness, our anger, various inner child parts, our ability to make decisions or our confidence.
Here is an example of a journey that was rather complex and needed integration work afterwards (I will come back to this in the next chapter). I made this journey at the beginning of my shamanic work and have repeated it, with the same intent, a few times since. I would advise you to use this fairly neutral intent for your first journey. I will describe my journey in detail.
’I am going to journey to the lower world to retrieve something that I need right now for my development and to step into my power. I ask my spirit allies to help me and be with me.’
I am travelling down through my tree. At my place of power, my bear awaits me. She seems to be in a hurry, pulling me towards a mountain. At the mountain, we pass through an opening and crawl down a long passage. As it gets darker and colder, I begin to feel rather anxious. Situated at the centre of the mountain is a lake, which we need to cross. When I begin to step into it, the water sucks me down and, for whatever reason, I am unable to swim. There is no path around the lake. After waiting for some time, I state my intent again and ask for help. My bear suddenly grabs me, puts me on her back and swims with me across the lake. On the other side there is another passage. This time it is not only steep but also very slippery. I slide at great speed through the mud and arrive in an even darker space. I am on my own.
Sitting there in the mud, rather at a loss, I state my intent again and ask to be shown what I need to retrieve right now. Out of nowhere a jaguar appears, pushing me threateningly towards a chamber that I haven’t been aware of until now. Way at the back sits a small girl, covering her eyes with her hands.
I walk towards her, but the closer I get the more she backs away from me, almost melting into the wall. This goes on for quite a while. I feel an overwhelming sense of sadness and loss when looking at the child, but can’t reach her. I have no doubt that she represents a part of me, and as I slowly move closer I suddenly know that she left me during an accident. I remember my fear, the scream of my mother and the terror in my father’s eyes when he saw me running across the road. I can hear the car’s brakes screeching. This child is my courage, my fearlessness and my daredevil part, which has been hiding in this dark chamber deep in the mountain.
To cut a long journey short, the bear and I slowly and lovingly persuade the little girl to come with us. She is carried by my bear all the way back to my power place, where I hold her, talk to her, cry with her and finally laugh with her at the mimicry of my bear. I integrate her into my heart via a melting exercise.
A journey of releasing
Another journey I want to describe to you is one of letting something go. This can of course be something quite small, such as a habit, or it can be something substantial, such as certain people, anger you are holding on to or a part of you that is standing in your way without you consciously knowing it. Whatever it is, it is beneficial to do a journey because the journey itself will release it energetically and give you information about ways to release it in this material reality.
This example is from one of my students, Anne, who was journeying to release what was stopping her from entering fully into a relationship with a man. The journey took an unexpected turn and is interesting in its content as well as its outcome.
’I am journeying to the lower or upper world to find out what is stopping me from entering into the relationship I want and release it if necessary. I ask my power animals, guides and ancestral spirits to be with me and help me.’
Anne went down into her power place and from there she entered a stream, guided by a heron, one of her power animals. She tried to move forwards in the stream, but couldn’t. Instead, she was pushed backwards. She tried to get out of the stream, but the current was too strong.
After what seemed a long time, she stated her intent again. A few minutes passed and suddenly she found herself in a cave, which she called ’the cave of the ancestors’. There she was told by a group of female ancestors that she needed to heal the wound in her womb, which was not hers but the wound of the female line she came from. Anne asked her ancestor how she could do this and was told that they would help her, which they did, right there and then, by filling the wound with different colours and herbs.
When it was done, they told Anne that she needed to ’let go of control’. She asked how she could do this and was told to ’dance herself free’. The ancestral women floated away and Anne found herself back in the stream. This time, she was facing the right way and swam back easily.
This is the journey of a client of mine, Stephen, who had experienced anxiety attacks and headaches over some months, which sometimes led to brief blackouts. The anxiety attacks, which were connected to him being a first-time father and feeling ill-equipped to take the responsibility for a family, had ceased over our time together, but the headaches didn’t shift. He had undergone medical examinations, including a brain scan, which showed no physical cause, had been taking medication and had tried various complementary treatments without success. I introduced him to journeying more as a last resort and in the hope of getting some valuable information than in the expectation of a cure.
’I am journeying to the lower, upper or middle world to find out about my headaches and to receive the healing I need.’
Stephen’s journey took a long time to unfold. When he had travelled to different worlds without getting anywhere with his search, I asked him to repeat the intent and sincerely ask again for spirit’s help and guidance.
Finally a guide appeared and told him to look for his father, which fitted with his overall theme within the therapeutic process but was somehow strange because his father was still alive. The guide suggested that he travel back in time and Stephen found himself in a small dwelling isolated in the mountains of Nepal, where he, his brother and his parents lived. He whispered repeatedly, ’My father is dying because my brother and I need meat to survive.’ Deep distress could be seen on his face.
The unfolding story was very touching. His father had sustained considerable injuries whilst hunting in icy conditions, which was usually avoided but had become necessary because the family was starving. Stephen described his mother’s distress, his guilt and his fear of what would happen when the family was without a father.
At one point I urged him to ask his guide how this connected to his headaches. After a long silence he said, ’The guide and my father put their hands on my head and my father said, “Never be afraid to do what needs to be done for your children. They are the blessings of a man’s life. Without you and your brother, my life wouldn’t have been worth living. You are my blessing.”’ Stephen was in tears watching his father’s soul depart from the body and then, fairly suddenly, found himself back in my consulting room.
Stephen’s headaches never returned after this journey. I don’t know what exactly produced this miraculous cure. Was it the healing touch of the guide and father, or Stephen’s new-found understanding that children were a blessing rather than a worry, or a past-life experience processed to an adaptive conclusion? What I do know, from experience, is that such unexpected and miraculous healing can occur and that rather than asking unanswerable questions, in shamanism we express gratitude for them.
Journeys of spirit connection, learning and developing
We journey to the upper world to learn, seek advice or connect. Journeys of learning or advice may be to learn about ’one-ness’, ’my connection to spirit’, ’my essence’, ’my tasks in life’ and more. Or we can journey with the intent of meeting a teacher and receiving advice, perhaps about a task or about the next step to take in our development. The journey that follows is one I took with the intent of seeking advice about my spiritual task.
’I am going to journey to the upper world to seek advice about my spiritual task in life. I ask my spirit allies and other helping spirits to accompany me.’
I journey upwards through the branches of my tree into the sky. Nothing happens for quite a while until I reach a rather thick layer of dense cloud, which it takes some effort to push through. I feel that I am getting lost. Nothing is in sight but hazy mists and swirling colours.
At last I reach a plateau on which my female spirit guide awaits me. I bow my head in greeting. She smiles gently at me and points upwards. We fly further up until we reach another plateau on which a circle of women seems to be waiting. I find myself in the middle of the circle. The women all chant, their eyes closed. I can see a flow of energy circling from one woman to another. My ’seeing’ is getting stronger, but nothing is said. The women just keep chanting, moving their bodies gently.
After some time I become aware that the energy is now also extending from the women towards the centre of the circle, where I am sitting. One by one the women send out a stream of energy towards me until I turn into a rainbow-coloured being of great radiance. I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and bliss streaming through me, knowing that this is the ’shining of my wholeness’. This radiant rainbow-coloured being is me.
Next the rainbow colours turn into pure white light. I suddenly know that I am being shown my essence — that the colours of the rainbow are the visible layers of my underlying essence, which is pure white and indescribable.
Not a word is spoken until the end of the journey. Then, before the vision fades away, one of the women stands up. She is translucent in appearance, with white eyes and white hair. Her message is simple: ’Shine in all your colours and all will be well.’