Shamanic journeying can be a powerful tool in the healing process.
I was given the gift of Shamanic journeying by my friend Reverend Maria Theresa Larsen. If you had asked me 10 years ago if I believed in Shamanic journeying as a healing tool I would have scoffed. I was very tied to Western thinking and would have discounted shamanic healing as ‘New Age’ foo-foo. As I have gotten older and explored different options, my opinions on this have changed. I’m at least open to the possibility that shamanic healing can help me.
Maria Theresa advised me to gather items for my altar and to read the prep work she sent me so I would better understand what would be happening in my shamanic journeying. I brought a small stuffed-animal goldfish, a model train car, an angel figurine, a small metal Eiffel Tower, a plastic giraffe, a seashell, a painted stone, a wooden frog, malachite elephant, ceramic bison and Day of the Dead candleholder. She set out her ceremonial Native American drums.
We found a spot in a secluded Mission Bay park on the sand. Maria Theresa drew a circle around us, and then instructed me to gently sweep the sand, clearing it of any man-made debris. We then sat on a Mexican blanket across from each other and she laid down a woven Oaxacan altar cloth. She told me to set up my altar and then we would begin the shamanic journeying. Maria Theresa told me that she had never had anyone set up their own altar before, but that she had been led to have me do my own. She also said she had never seen such a ‘happy’ altar.
Maria Theresa burned sage in an abalone shell and cleared our circle. She told me that I did not need to worry about people watching us, that the process of the shamanic ceremony would create a metaphysical bubble surrounding us and keeping us safe. People might walk by us but they will ignore us as if we didn’t exist. I felt a bit awkward but I figured I didn’t know anyone, so didn’t need to care what they thought of us.
The intent of this shamanic journeying was to find my totem animal so I could start journeying on my own. But that’s not what happened. Instead as I explained to Maria Theresa what each item on my altar, represented, I was kicked back into childhood pain. I found myself telling her about the anger I held and how I am tired of telling this story and want to move on.
We then began drumming. I wasn’t sure if I would slip into any kind of altered state. I began tapping on the drum, feeling the vibration in the drum transmit into my body. I started slowly, but almost immediately I started drumming faster and stronger, and I got sucked down into a space where I was suddenly looking at my parents.
My mother had the Cleo stuffed animal she had made for me, and I could feel the love she had for me pouring out of her. My father was next to her, handing me a violin he bought me and telling me he loved me. Both of them were smiling as I had never seen them smile in my life and they looked 20 years younger. I think I was seeing them as they were when they first met.
I started crying, and told them I loved them and that I did truly forgive them. I felt wrapped in a loving embrace and I told them goodbye. I stopped drumming and as I came out of my trance, Maria Theresa sang something in a Native American dialect, then blew on my heart and waited for me to come back to the present.
We talked for a bit about being tired of telling the story and my being ready to move forward in my life and tell a new story. We spoke of healing and how shamanic journeying can help in the healing process. Maria Theresa then said we would open the circle and come back to the ‘real world’. She said a prayer and then we stepped out of the circle.
I was bombarded by the noise as soon as I crossed the line in the sand. A car alarm blared, seagulls cried out, a family no more than 25 feet from us noisily celebrated and picnicked. I could hear the rush of cars on the nearby bridge, and hear people playing in the water. I had heard none of this inside the circle. It had been completely quiet and peaceful. Wow. If I had no experienced it I wouldn’t have believed it. We really had existed inside our own sacred, safe space.
I am writing this two days after the event. I am feeling calm and happy, and have found myself better able to let go of the anger I feel when I think of my parents. I don’t want to have that pain anymore, and I now have a tool to help me rewire my thoughts. When I feel anger I can go back to the peace I felt, remember the love I felt, and move forward with my life.
Shamanic journeying is truly a powerful tool in the emotional healing process.