A Course Taught by Spirit: Sample Journey

Gaia Shamanism Journey Two: Whale and Aloha

We stepped into a colorful, blooming garden. No guide came for us, so we walked downhill to the meeting place of the three streams and sat down on giant, moss covered rocks.

Here we sat at night listening to the hoot of the owl, the sound of the streams, the song of the frogs, and as we grew still quieter we even “heard” the silent presence of bear and cougar in our midst.

After some time, we decided to follow the stream on an adventure. Sound was our chief guide in the darkness, but this wasn’t always easy; the creek went underground in places. To follow our guide at such moments we had to listen to the silent song of the creek by going beyond our ordinary senses to connect with the intuitive “flow” beneath the surface of things.

We weren’t sure we were doing it right. As we walked along, listening, we found that the creek changed form often, sometimes leading us to larger waterways like a reservoir or river, other times leading us to places with almost no discernible water—all as we followed the meandering path of the creek.

Throughout the journey, we practiced listening with our whole beings, until at last, we found ourselves at the ocean, greeted by the roar of the surf. We made it.  Our efforts to follow the intuitive flow of guidance were proven by our arrival at “Source,” here represented by the ocean.

Standing on the beach together, I sense the presence of a whale somewhat near to us in the vast waters of the ocean. We swim out to the whale and grab ahold of her so she can take us for a ride into the depths. Far below the surface, with the whale Stella as our guide, we are given an experience of the song of the whale along with an introduction to the jarring, intrusive noises made by nearby ships.

Immersed in the symphony of the depths, listening to the songs of whales near and far, we resolve to “listen” to avoid adding still more noise to this vast soundscape of beauty. Whales navigate by sound, as when we followed the singing creek.

Sound in many spiritual traditions is said to be the creative source of life, be it “the Word” of Christianity or the cosmic sound of the OM chanted in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Similarly, the drumbeat is used in shamanism to enable one to take a journey beneath the surface noise of the mind and follow the life “stream” back to its origin in Source.

The whale in the ocean is a picture of the soul at home in the vast waters of spirit. And the relationship of our souls to Source can either be one of collaboration in song or one of antagonism with noise. The song of the whale is both beautiful and purposeful, allowing whales to communicate with one another over long distances, mate, as well as navigate in the dark depths of oceanic oneness.

That we resolve to “listen” and not make “noise” suggests that while our conscious minds make noise and are designed to travel on the surface of life, like ships in the ocean, we can choose to follow the sparkling life stream winding through the terrain of our lives into the dark and silent depths of the heart—a realm virtually unknown by the mind.

To listen solely to the chatter of the mind is to remain on the surface of life, immersed in noise, unable to create anything that doesn’t add more noise to the collective environment. Whales beach themselves due to the sound interference of ships, much as souls find themselves separated from the native environment of spirit, hung up on sand bars of man-made noise, chatter, and diversion.

Spirit’s wisdom is upside down and backwards from the reigning viewpoint of the world: you go inward and downward, not up and out, in order to reach the heights and become as light. That our guide was named Stella, meaning “star,” implies that spiritual greatness is a function of learning to sing and move from the vast watery depths of the heart.

Diving beneath ordinary consciousness to return fed and refreshed to the surface of daily life confers benefits to the individual: “I feel more peaceful and my b.s. detector is a lot stronger” said one participant in our weekly journey circle. Adopting a regular shamanic practice helps to stir up the waters of consciousness, bringing new perspective and fresh insight to life, but might this practice help the collective, too?

The example of the whale suggests so. Here’s a wonderful four-minute video on the ecological benefits the whale confers to the whole of the ocean in her repeated journeys down to the depths and back up to the water’s surface:


You listen to noise, you can only create more noise. If you stay confined in the mind, you remain on the surface of things, never really mixing up the waters of consciousness, never creating anything truly new to feed life at its source.

At best, awash in endless chatter, we go in circles. At worst, we get so disoriented by the noise of mind and world that we run aground, which is pretty much describes where we are now as a collective.

Like the whale, it is our nature to dive beneath the surface concerns and noise of the world. But we come from a long line of souls beached on the sands of time, and so have forgotten how to access our origins in the waters of eternity.

Estranged from our soul’s natural habitat in the oceanic depths, exposed to the sun of ordinary consciousness for far too long, we have grown weak and no longer believe that once we knew how to swim, that once we knew how to find our way in the darkness through song.


Stella got as close to the beach as she safely could to drop us off, then slipped back into the deep. Then a woman with long black hair and dark eyes approached us on the seashore. She introduced herself as Aloha.

When we began walking down the beach with our new guide, a strange thing happened: we were walking along on a path of footprints, but when I turned to look behind us, there wasn’t a print to be seen. Strange occurrences like these in a shamanic journey—or on the journey of life itself—signal the presence of an important message, a Zen koan to be meditated upon until wisdom can break through our surface consciousness.

Time is shown to be quite elastic in the shamanic state, and primordial sound, as heard in the roar of the ocean or in the hum of the beehive, is explicitly linked with eternity in the scriptures of the world religions. The Hindu Mandukya Upanishad begins:

Om!—This syllable is this whole world.

Its further explanation is –

The past, the present, the future –everything is just the word Om.

And whatever else transcends that threefold time—that, too, is just the word Om.

But what is going on here with these footprints? As with all symbolic interpretation, there is no single answer. This much I do know: to walk on the seashore is to inhabit a liminal landscape where the two worlds meet—the dark eternal waters of soul and bright sands of the world of time.

I came across a saying by an artist I know on Facebook while I was contemplating these footprints. When asked by others where she gets her creative inspiration she replies, “I just remember the future.” Think about that: the force of new life can break through to this world when we “remember” the future.

The prints before us seem to indicate that others are walking the path ahead of us, sometime in the future. This might explain why the prints behind us were disappearing when viewed from the perspective of the present: these prints don’t yet exist.

Though many people are practicing a form of shamanism in this non-indigenous culture of ours, there are no footprints of tradition, no ancestral pathways for non-native peoples to follow. And as the imagery of this journeys shows, even as we walk forward, we are not yet laying down a path for those who come after us.

Could it be that we are in the position of becoming our own spiritual ancestors? Could it be that we are charged with growing into star-like beings of such love, joy, and wisdom that we ourselves help to light the way in increasingly dark times?

Could these footsteps be a path walked by us in the future, proof that the time is coming when we remember how to listen, swim, and sing well enough as souls that we manage to leave an impression behind in the world, thereby creating a path forward for ourselves and others?

If so, our experiments in shamanic journeying as a group is an important first step. What Aloha says next supports this idea: “You have embarked on quite the curriculum. You have chosen to participate in a class taught by spirit,” referring to the decision to use the journeys from each circle as the teaching material of each class.

Then one in our group asked Aloha, “What are we trying to learn here, walking this path?

Aloha replied, “How to walk in this world with full awareness of Spirit.” The integration of spirit and matter is a journey undertaken by walking together on the shoreline between worlds. By sharing the stories of our lives before journeying, visiting the unseen world together, and then returning to share those experiences with one another, we are engaged in the shamanic healing work of stitching a torn reality back together into a conscious and coherent whole.

The active dis-integration of economies, governments, and the natural world that we are now witnessing is a call for radical, to-the-root change that goes much deeper than talk, reform, or even the best technological innovations that our minds have to offer.

It is time to embark on a curriculum of the depths with spirit as our guide. It is time to bring down the walls erected by our minds between the seen and unseen worlds, between the mind and heart, between our species and the earth. It is time to learn to dive deep beneath surface appearances and the noise of this society if ever we hope to stir the waters of new life and heal the false divisions within and outside ourselves.