A Course Taught by Spirit: Shamanic Journey Circles in June

Last month, I taught a course in shamanism. And as is so often the case when dealing with the realm of the spiritual, my plans came completely undone with the first class.

I wrote a piece that centered on the spiritual lessons of the honeybees before we met for our weekly online video conference.

Five minutes into our first class, I realized that the prepared materials were extraneous to the matter at hand: getting to know one another, talking a bit about our lives to set the group journey intention, and sharing the experience of going on the journey together afterwards.

And after our first group journey, I was convinced that the best way for me to “teach” was to write a journey interpretation from the class. The material was that good, the guidance tailor-made for our lives.  A spirit guide in our second group journey congratulated us: “You have embarked on quite the curriculum. You have chosen to participate in a course taught by spirit.”

That first class “taught by spirit” focused on the purpose of our journeying together:

“While the city as a place of refuge was a mirage, the dust storm and the advancing storm clouds were real. I suggested that we get to shelter and frog took us to a cave in a rock wall. As we sat inside and the rain, hail, and lightening commenced, it dawned on me that the answer to the problem of our times, represented by this parched and dry land, was provided by the storm.

…The cave itself bears noting. That I suggest we take shelter in the cave seems a strange reversal of roles with our guide. But the decision to “take shelter” in the ancient and ancestral practice of shamanism as the storm advances is our choice to make. We are always left free by spirit to choose our course in life.

Our human guide, Sandra, pointed out that as we three sat together…we enjoyed community in this liminal and sacred space. By meeting and sharing this forgotten spiritual practice, we are helped—and help—far more than we know.

Here is our “safe haven” from the storm. Here, the creations of a new order are incubated and birthed. Here, together, we can better persist in our efforts and have fun while doing so. This, it seems, is the purpose of meeting together: to journey for guidance and begin creating a new dream for the world in the midst of the storm.”

Because that class was so much fun, Gaia Shamanism is facilitating two group journey experiences in June:

Introduction to Shamanic Journeying:  An Online Experiential Class

$40 for four 90-minute online classes in June.

Day and time to be arranged based on participant schedules.

Introduction to shamanism materials included.

To register email Anna at aalkin07@gmail.com.

A Course Taught by Spirit:  An Online Shamanic Journey Series 

$30 for four 90-minute online classes in June.

Fridays from 9-10:30 AM PDT June 9, June 16, June 23, and June 30.

You will receive journey interpretations from the class each week.  Here’s a sample from the last class.

To register, email Anna at aalkin07@gmail.com.

Message from the Earth Day Journey Circle


Photo credit rebrennan.com

Gaia Shamanism held our first online journey circle in honor of Gaia for Earth Day.

The intentions of the circle participants included:

“What can I do? How can I help the earth?”

“Is there something more I can do?”

“How can we prepare our children for the future? What tools can we give them? How do we make change?”

“What I’m doing seems so small.”

And another in our circle spoke of a great sadness and her practice of Ho’oponopono to heal the earth, praying the mantra “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.”

After sharing our intentions, we signed off to take a 15 minute journey for guidance from Gaia for Gaia.

******

My journey for the group for Earth Day was as follows:

The journey circle entered my sacred garden and we sat on the ground in a circle. It was night. We sat silently together, waiting, but no guides came for us. After some time, we walked out of the fenced confines of the garden, downhill along the main path, and seated ourselves in a new circle on giant moss-covered rocks at the heart of this land where three winter streams meet.

Here we stayed holding silent vigil throughout the night while the sounds of coyotes, dogs, and owls echoed throughout the valley. Symbolically speaking, journey circles are a means by which we can step out from our protective frameworks and fences of ordinary “daytime” consciousness to commune with the symphony of life that ever-surrounds us, but to which we are habitually closed off and “asleep.”

It felt vulnerable to be sitting out in the open under the night sky in the circle, but it also felt true, powerful, and full of magic. For a change, this shamanic journey circle placed the dark and wordless wisdom of the earth at the center of our consciousness instead of endlessly spinning around the thoughts, words, and chatter of our species.

Simply put, shamanism is an opportunity to experience Gaia’s wisdom in a new way through an ancient and largely forgotten spiritual way. From Sandra Ingerman, one of the preeminent authors and teachers of shamanism:

“Shamanism is the most ancient spiritual practice known to humankind. We know from the archeological evidence the practice dates back at least 40,000 years. Some anthropologists believe the practice dates back over 100,000 years.

The word ‘shaman’ comes from the Tungus tribe in Siberia and it means spiritual healer or one who sees in the dark. Shamanism has been practiced in Siberia, Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, Greenland, and native North and South America.

A shaman is [one] who uses the ability to see ‘with the strong eye’ or ‘with the heart’ to travel into hidden realms.

The wisdom of the earth is as night to the intellect, signifying that it is of a greater order and hails from a deeper source than that which is constructed by the human mind.

These images underscore why the practice of shamanism can be of help in these times. Shamanism allows us to make use of the rational mind in recording and interpreting our experiences in the unseen world, but the imagery of this journey suggests that the mind is itself powerless to guide us out of the prison of ordinary consciousness. This why “no guide” came to lead us out of the fenced-in garden.

Much as we aren’t going to solve the ecological crisis with the same mindset that helped to create it, these times call upon us to quit the safe and familiar cages of the intellect and journey “downward” into the dark and vulnerable realms of the heart. Here, we can commune with the song of the earth and her creatures, and find fresh guidance for our lives.

******

At dawn, we heard the sound of a crow cawing at us. Our guide had arrived. We followed crow on foot, journeying all day across fields and roads, until we arrived at Haceta Head lighthouse on the Oregon coast.

Again, it was night. We each took our places around the lighthouse at points equidistant from one another, creating another circle. We stayed awake—silent, still, listening—through the night, facing inward toward the lighthouse.

The imagery of the lighthouse is one worthy of reflection. As you know, lighthouses are navigational aids for ships at sea and also serve as warnings of danger ahead. That we faced inward toward the light suggests that the practice of journeying can help a people “at sea” to keep their bearings in dark and stormy times. The lunar light of inner consciousness, by which the shaman sees, can help us to avoid crashing into the hidden dangers of the visible world.

With sunrise, crow flew upland, above and behind the lighthouse, taking us through forests until we ended up on top of a rocky sea cliff looking down at the ocean below. Then a strange thing happened: as we stood out on the cliff, each of us standing apart and forming another circle, I saw what appeared to be the massive stones of Stonehenge where each member of the group stood. Then I saw the people again. Then the massive stones again. Then the people.

This continued until I realized that we, ourselves, are as sacred stones, holding vigil, staying awake, rock-like and unmoving, each holding her own space, yet doing so together. This was nothing less than an image of our outsized, ancient, weather-beaten, and determined souls standing vigil in this time of climate change and colony collapse.

Our guide crow then shape-shifted into the form of a woman who called herself Raven. When she drew close to each of us in turn, our intentions and emotions welled up inside, bringing each of us to tears.

Raven explained: “When I am close, your wound opens. This is true north for you, your guidance for safe passage through dark seas. Use your concerns, your sadness, your love of the natural world, your yearnings to guide you.” She then kissed each of us gently upon the cheek.

“Be rooted and fiercely awake in your connection to the earth. The answer is not to do more. Know your ground. Hold it. Be true to it.”

“Yours is not a path embraced by the larger culture. That comes later. Do not look to others to affirm your value or your methods. Be willing to stand firm, stand apart, and sound your tone loud and clear out into the world. Connect to the earth with reverence and attention each day.”

******

Ravens and crows are birds of carrion and they were a common sight on the battlefields of old. At present, we live on a bloody battlefield where two-thirds of the planet’s wild animal population is predicted to die by the year 2020. Pause a moment to let that sink in.

With crow and raven as our guides, we are called to feed on the carnage of these times and use this senseless slaughter as fuel for a true revolution in human consciousness with regard to our relationship to the earth and her creatures, our own species included.

How to do this? Here I take the liberty of weaving together the messages from the journeys of those of us in the circle:

Pay attention to the elements and use the raw material of your life to awaken. Feel the sun on your face, listen to the wind, give thanks for the support of the earth, pray for the water as you drink.

We may not be rooted in an indigenous tradition, but the winds still blow and though we inhabit a harsh and rocky landscape, it is wild and beautiful and we belong to it.

Should we awaken, as individuals and as a people, the carnage of our times will have served a purpose. Sacrifice means “to make sacred.” It is up to us to make sure that the sacrifice of the animals and of the environment are not in vain. Honoring these lives begins with each of us.

To awaken means learning how to show up for relationship to the earth and to life itself. To awaken means learning to live from the heart. The depth of our sorrow is equal to the depth of the love we feel for the earth and this love will enable us to endure the pain of our grief.

Wounds are the result of initiation. As our physical senses come from wounds or holes in our bodies (sight, smell, hearing, taste) so, too, the emotional wounds of living in this world can teach us to see with the eye of the heart and navigate well in dark and stormy seas.

******

Stonehenge is a mystery to us, not unlike Life itself. The consciousness of those who built and used this sacred place is so alien to our own that we have scarcely scratched the surface of the intent underlying this ancient circle of stones.

With the help of ground-penetrating radar, however, we have discovered that Stonehenge is not only what we see above the ground. Far more of this healing land of stone is now to be found underground —an apt metaphor for the purpose, power, and mystery of the soul.

This underground Source of ancient wisdom awaits our rediscovery still, even as storm clouds gather on the horizon of this age. Everything we need for the future is already given, already present, and as close to us as the ground beneath our feet.

We are not as small and insignificant as we believe, but to awaken, to hold our ground, to join the symphony of life requires that we gather in circles of intention and explore the underground realms of feeling, spirit, and soul. In the words of one in our Earth Day circle: “[O]nly because we were journeying together and I had that strength of our circle to hold me, to contain this intense sorrow, [could I] experience it without collapsing….”

Stonehenge gives us a beautiful image of great souls standing together while also standing apart, united in purpose to foster an experience of the sacred while also standing distinct in position and gifts, each one connected to the unseen power of Source beneath the surface of the visible world.

Sounding our unique and pure tone, learning to live in pitch-perfect alignment with our immense and soulful selves, standing unmoved by weather or praise or the mindset of our times—all of this is captured by the standing rocks of Stonehenge.

All are equal in the circle of life. All are needed that the symphony of life might ring out across the land with fullness and healing power once again.

From Wikipedia

“Researchers from the Royal College of Art in London have discovered that some of the monument’s stones possess “unusual acoustic properties”—when they are struck they respond with a “loud clanging noise”.

According to Paul Devereux, editor of the journal Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture, this idea could explain why certain bluestones were hauled nearly 200 miles (320 km)—a major technical accomplishment at the time.

In certain ancient cultures rocks that ring out, known as lithophones, were believed to contain mystic or healing powers, and Stonehenge has a history of association with rituals.

The presence of these “ringing rocks” seems to support the hypothesis that Stonehenge was a “place for healing”, as has been pointed out by Bournemouth University archaeologist Timothy Darvill, who consulted with the researchers. Some of the stones of Stonehenge were brought from near a town in Wales called Maenclochog, a name which means “ringing rock.”

******

Join Gaia Shamanism for the next free online journey circle for Gaia on the full moon, Wednesday, May 10, 6 PM PDT.

For those who have never journeyed before, you might want to check out this blog post. All levels of experience are invited to attend, but do let me know in advance if this is a first for you.

Email me at aalkin07 at gmail dot com to RSVP.

Making Decisions with Shamanic Guidance

Just a week ago, I was confronted with a choice: begin my new class on shamanism or postpone?

March brought more migraines at unpredictable times for me, and postponing until May seemed advisable. Yet, I felt I could pull it off and really wanted to try.

It’s impossible to think our way into our deepest, most congruent answers to the questions that life presents us. After all, there’s a hell of a lot more to us than the mind alone. But what’s the alternative?

Shamanic journeying is a practice that can help us consider our choices in a more holistic light. My purpose in sharing the journey below is to illustrate how shamanism can give us more than advice, but instead deliver a felt experience of the choices before us.

This added dimension of information can make all the difference in what choices we make and why. Here’s the journey:

I asked my shaman guide, Chief, to “show me” the choice before me. He obliged. We walked together until we reached a fork in the road: one path went upward and to the left, another went flat and straight to the right.

At first glance, the flat path looked boring and monotonous to me, but I decided to check it out first. As I walked along on a broad path, I found that there was water flowing to my right and tall grasses waving to my left. The scene felt quite lovely and unexpectedly beautiful.

There were fresh breezes blowing, I could hear tree frogs singing, birds calling, and the sky was just starting to turn a light pink tinged with purple. Perhaps most noticeable, however, was the expansion in my field of vision: I could see to the far horizon as well as everything on the periphery, even as I looked forward. I felt my heart singing, open, and expansive. Not bad.

So back to check out the left side, a white rocky path that wound up and through the land, with many trees and views to see along the climb. It was considerably hotter here and I had to stop and catch my breath more often, but it felt familiar to me, more like “home,” and reminded me of where I grew up in Texas.

Because of the surprising twists and turns in the terrain, I had to keep my eyes more tightly focused on the path before me and so was less able to see the broader view. At the end of the climb, though, there was a beautiful vista. Each pathway had its relative merits. I asked Chief of the winding upward path: “Is this the pathway that represents going forward with teaching now?” and he nodded yes. As always with spirit, the choice was mine to make.

I went back to the first road, the flat road, just to feel it again. I noticed there were people coming to meet me on the pathway. It felt less familiar to me, but I could breathe easier and more fully here. “I choose this path,” I told Chief, and I was surprised to see that tears filled his eyes. He hugged me and said “I am proud of you. You are truly coming into your power.”

Then he gave me a shell necklace, a necklace with a beautiful history for me already, and put it on me. In the context of the class I’ve been putting together, I remembered suddenly that this is a symbol of pilgrimage. Early pilgrims wore seashell necklaces to tell other passersby that they were on a journey to the holy land. It helped to guarantee safe passage for strangers in strange lands.

“The journey is more important than the destination,” Chief said. “In fact, the journey is the destination. You are learning to live this in your life.”

Hone your journeying skills with me. Coming in May:

Learn more about the online class.

Engage in weekly online journey circles.

I hope you can join us!

Announcing Online Class “Steal Away Home: A Spiritual Journey of Beauty, Resistance, and Freedom”

A series of 6 weekly online classes offered in May 2017

As sunlight is only half of nature’s daily gift to the planet, so too lives lived only in the light are lives half-lived. These times are dark—and full of promise.

This moment is very much in keeping with our collective yearning and prayer for greater freedom and joy. The time is ripe. Now is our chance to make a break for it and steal away home.

This is where the practice of lunar shamanism and the untamed wisdom of the spirit world comes in. We need folks who are ready to tear up their maps, jump into the unknown, and learn whatever they can outside of the narrow vision of “reality” that we have inherited.

As shamanic practitioners on the lunar path, my task and yours is to burn down the house that imprisons and blinds and binds us.

The lunar path is almost universally misunderstood and feared, a pathway long reviled and demonized. There is much unlearning to do.

As a consequence, a lot of the material in this class seeks to flip the images, create cracks in the foundation of our fearful and superstitious mental constructs, and point us toward practices and experiments in cultivating greater inner freedom.

Much as peasants and slaves once met at night after a long day’s work to sing, dance, and connect to spirit, so too our work will be hidden, done in the available scraps of time, an underground effort to steal away home even as we go on with the business of daily life in the world.

Liberation is a step-by-step process. There are no quick fixes or gimmicks. The way home can be hard to find after years of overgrowth and neglect, but no matter. The sooner one sets off, the sooner one arrives.

It helps to have a guide to point out signposts along the way, lest you grow discouraged and turn back. It helps to have others accompany you on the path until you begin to blaze your own.

And because our destination is shaped by the journey, it is vital to have fun on the way.

To learn more, including how to join us for the FREE first class, click here.

Message for the Second Week of Trump’s Presidency

Yesterday, we held our first journey circle at our house. Each person was free to journey for his or her own intention. I chose to journey for the group on the question of what we are to do as we enter week two of the Trump Administration. And, as it turned out, three others in the circle either saw many of the same things I did or added details that were important to the overall message.

The journey was set in Washington DC and we as a group were wandering around, circling the Capitol, parading in front of the White House, wondering what to do. After some time walking about, searching, we felt hungry and wanted something to eat, but all that was available on the national mall were hot dog carts and we felt sick to our stomachs with the mere thought of eating at one.

After the march in DC with its sea of pink pussy hats, the interpretation of the meaning of these “hot dogs” is pretty obvious. Though hungry, we abstained from eating what’s being dished up for the people in our nation’s capitol.

The overall message brought to us by our guide in the journey was that big change is upon us, patriarchy is failing and falling, and being in the dark about what to do is appropriate. One person in the circle saw a white snake, and another in the circle offered that animals can become white after generations have been born and raised in the dark, as in caves.

White animals are popping up suddenly in the journeys I have been doing for my US clients since the inauguration as well, the color indicating that these guides carry the energy of spirit into our world, not because they are white, mind you, but because they are not at all blending into the surrounding environment.

They are of another order entirely and their protection comes not from being still, blending in, or acting as prey would. Their protection lay in being on the side of Life.

These white spirit animals are being dispatched at a moment when the underbelly of white supremacy has come out into the light again and given quarter in the heart of our democratic system. Now is the time to cash in on whatever privilege we enjoy and use it to betray the betrayers. Now is the time to stand up, stand out, and be counted.

We find ourselves in the dark cave–both a womb and tomb–at this moment in time. The darkness that one of my friends experienced throughout her journey is a darkness that initiates us into a new learning: one of humility, one of feeling our way along in the dark, one of finding our way not chiefly with the mind, but instead with gut instinct and heart.

The earth is the drum upon which we walk, our hearts the true drumbeat. We are to walk in such a way that we sound out a rhythm steady and strong, not pushed around by the fearful and frantic tone set by Washington. When we find ourselves scattered or confused, we are to stop a moment, tune in to our heartbeat and breath, and begin to march again from the rhythm at our center.

We are to be led through the dark of these times by our heart’s questions and deepest longings. This time is the seed-planting stage, a pressing down from above into earth, into darkness, into unknowing, into reality, into action. We are the seeds of the new order.

We are to practice not reacting with fear to the shock and awe barrage of heavy artillery from the top, but to march instead to the beat of our hearts, to be mindful of our every step upon the earth, to remember that it is we who in our numbers rightfully set the tone for this planet. We can choose to scurry about as prey, or we can pray by sending a baseline rhythm of love and life out into the world from our centers.

We are on the side of Life, so we win in the end. The death we are experiencing now is an organic process. We are to remember that while the breaking apart of these marble artifices will leave their mark on soft flesh and dark earth, this is the breaking apart that accompanies the growth of a new seed, a collective seed. This is a good thing, albeit a painful process. What we’ve had on the planet up until now, folks, this ain’t living.

We are in the “death throes” of the old order, and this frantic flailing about is going to cause a lot of damage. Our job is to help contain the damage, to practice solidarity with all peoples and the planet, and to turn up the heat up with our resistance. It is up to us to see that this collective soup gets cooked into something that will feed us all–body, mind, and soul.

Stop eating hot dogs as you watch the circus act unfolding in Washington DC. Turn off the TV, step away from social media. Feed yourself some real soul food: take a walk, go to a rally, help someone in need. And for Gaia’s sake, do have fun doing it.

Tandem Journeys: Jumping into the Unseen Together

The idea of going on tandem journeys was inspired by the practice of going on tandem jumps when learning to skydive. While you won’t convince me to skydive anytime soon, I have found that jumping into unseen realms together is a hell of a lot of fun and assists the novice journeyer in several ways.

Tandem journeys help to demonstrate how you connect to Spirit (e.g. feeling, seeing, hearing, moving), give emphasis to particular aspects of the journey I undertake on your behalf, and can support you in deepening your shamanic practice with a more vivid experience of the spirit world.

Journeying at the same time with the same intention together can also help to demonstrate that the spirit world is an actual place.

It is not unusual to see the same places or things when journeying together, to receive complementary pieces of the same story, or to have feelings that track the narrative arc of the journey that I undertake on your behalf.

Tandem journeys are a compelling way of arriving at a felt sense of the reality of the unseen realms and can give us a taste of the miraculous nature of this life where far more is going on than meets the eye.

I make beginning instruction and opportunities in tandem shamanic journeying available in shamanic spiritual guidance sessions and in journey circles we host here in Eugene. Make an appointment or contact me for more information.

Learning to journey

There are many ways of learning how to journey; each pathway has its relative merits and drawbacks.

Online courses are convenient but lack a face-to-face connection. Books are inexpensive. Local classes connect you to others in your local community, but can be more expensive or offered on days or times that are inconvenient.

At the end of the day, it is most important to choose an approach that works best for your personality and within the constraints of your life.

Each Shamanic Spiritual Guidance session, conducted in person or via Skype, includes beginning instruction in shamanism and tailor-made guidance to help you deepen your practice.

An inexpensive and good introduction to shamanism and its practice is Sandra Ingerman’s Awakening to the Spirit World: The Shamanic Path of Direct Revelation

To journey for yourself you will need:

• A quiet, private environment;

• Bandanna or eye mask to cover your eyes, allowing you to “see” any inner images better;

• Recording of a drumbeat or a drum/rattle sounded at the correct frequency;

• An intention for your journey.

The shamanic drumbeat recording that I use is Shamanic Drumming by Michael Drake available on iTunes for $9.99

A 9 minute recording of Shamanic Drumming is available for free on You Tube.

If you find that recordings of a drumbeat don’t really work for you, try shaking a rattle, sounding a drum, or dancing to the beat. Many folks are aided by adding movement to the practice of shamanic journeying.

Another way of deepening your journey practice is journeying with others, particularly more adept practitioners.

Creating Sacred Space

The intention-setting process for the shamanic spiritual guidance session can be a regular practice for your life journey as well.

Carrying questions in your heart with awareness creates a sacred space within you. Bringing your thoughts and attention inward as you chew on your questions about life re-collects and focuses your life energy.

No longer scattered, but instead held with purpose and intention, your thoughts create a sacred space within. The purpose of ceremony and ritual is to facilitate this state of gathered inwardness, but you can dispense with the intermediaries altogether and instead walk about the world in a state of ceremony.

It does help, however, to create a sacred space outside of yourself as a reminder that life is indeed a sacred journey and to prompt you to practice a few moments of gathered attention.

Not much space is needed for your altar: a windowsill, a place on a bookshelf, or a spot outside that you pass by often will do. Clearing a space and leaving it empty, or only putting one thing there like a cloth, an empty bowl, a candle, or a picture is a good start. The point is to signal the subconscious that you are making room for the sacred. The less clutter the better.

Now, with your sacred spot created, keep your eyes open for things you might want to add to your altar.

This is a powerful practice in the days leading up to your shamanic journey and the days immediately following, but it is also a lovely spiritual discipline to maintain over time. It helps you to stay present and on the look-out for gifts of beauty and meaning on your life’s path each day.

Topics for a Shamanic Spiritual Guidance Session

Often, but not always, people seek a shamanic spiritual guidance session because there is something unresolved in their life.

Topics for journeys can include:

• Questions about life purpose and direction.

• Difficult relationships with family, mate, classmates or co-workers, yourself, and/or God.

• The meaning and soulful lessons hidden within illness, a tragic event, job loss, disturbing and/or recurrent dreams.

• Creating an authentic life, cultivating more joy, finding right livelihood, sustaining activism over the long-haul, or deepening your intuitive gifts and innate connection to Spirit.

Setting your intention

Intention is everything, for what you look for in the journey of life determines what you will find.

Shamanic spiritual guidance addresses questions about real problems and offers practical advice, but shamanic journeys also nudge us out of the mind’s singular focus on problems into a broader perspective—that of the soul.

The soul prioritizes growth, choice, and experience over getting things “right.” Looking and even feeling good are less important to the soul than progressing to a life of greater internal freedom and meaning.

Shamanic journeys tend to address the big picture aspects of what you are experiencing, give next steps or homework for developing a capacity for expanded awareness, and nudge you to self-understanding and acceptance.

It helps to be forthright about what questions you hold for shamanic journeys as well as a tool for personal development. It helps to carry the questions of your heart with awareness.

The more clarity you have about your intentions, the more clearly the imagery and symbolism of the shamanic spiritual guidance session–and life’s journey itself–can speak to you.

You might think about the things you most want guidance on before going to sleep at night and then write down your intentions and any insights upon awakening. Or you might create or do something— doodle, wash dishes, play music, chop wood, weed the garden—while reflecting on your life.

However you deepen awareness and recollect yourself after a busy day, do that. And if you find getting clarity about your deepest questions difficult, do note that as something for the shamanic spiritual guidance session to address.