Today I celebrate the 17th anniversary of my first shamanic journey on November 11, 1994. It was the day I became a warrior of a different kind. I’ll recount the events that led to that pivotal moment.
In 1992, at age 42, I had a heart attack after which I shed my sedentary lifestyle, regained my health and counted myself among the lucky. Mom died in spring of 1993 and that set me on a course of intense curiosity about life, death and the whole damn thing. My work allowed me to read for four hours a shift during which time I devoured over four hundred books on topics ranging from nanotechnology to philosophy to ecology to near death experiences to Way of The Shaman, a little book written by anthropologist Michael Harner that I read in October 1994. That was the book that changed everything.
I suddenly recognized a new and significant part of myself in the arcane information Way of the Shaman conveyed. It felt familiar, necessary, useful. I immediately saw myself as a modern man exploring the spirit world using a technique that’s probably 100,000 years old. I had found My Way.
At the time, Harner’s Foundation for Shamanic Studies offered a cassette tape of solid drumming at the right number of beats per minute to induce non-ordinary reality and give access to the spirit world. I found the cassette at Prairie Sky Books on Westminster. I would wear out this cassette and go back a year later for a new copy.
I kept a handwritten journal of all my early shamanic journeys, which was extremely useful in learning the new spiritual territories that had opened up to me. By journeying I gained experience in non-ordinary reality; the Upper and Lower Worlds became familiar to me; my power animals and spirit helpers appeared and offered their help. The journals are fascinating to read now since it is clear how accurately the spirits predicted my future, the people I would meet and lose, the way everything would proceed. My first two journals contain vivid accounts of over 150 journeys in the initial two years of my shamanic practice.
To give you a brief peek into a shaman’s journey, I am sharing you my journal entry written right after my first journey on November 11, 1994.
First time shamanic journey to a non-ordinary reality. Traversing the tunnel was rapid and effortless arriving in a beautiful natural setting. When my eyes became accustomed to the light, I saw a small stream about a foot wide and a foot deep set at the bottom of a canyon. I followed the stream to a mound some distance upstream that appeared to be the source of the stream, perhaps an artesian well. When I arrived at the small mound I found it to be a huge eyeball, three feet across, that was crying and making the stream with its tears. This seemed perfectly normal.
What looked like a large house cat came walking toward me from some brush. It was a tiger cub and its mother was close behind. We greeted each other. The tiger said her name was Beba and the cub had no name this time but would the next time we meet.
I asked her if she was my power animal and if we could meet here. She said this was likely but I wouldn’t recognize her at first. As we talked I played with the cub which soon tired and began to suckle Beba who lay on her side. I sat next to this huge purring tiger, caressed her, smelled her wild scent and felt her trembling power just under the fur.
The three of us sat in the hot sun and enjoyed the silence. I tasted salt, my tears. I cried because I felt, in my soul, for the first time the truth of unity, the oneness, the sighing insignificance of the world and all its amazing qualities and I wept there in non-ordinary reality next to a tiger and her sleeping cub.
Quickly I learned to remember most details of my journeys by intending to remember them. Of all the places I have visited on shamanic journeys, about half of them were at the same stream from my first journey. It became a familiar peaceful place to meet and get to know my new spirit friends.
Beba, though a tiger, was not my power animal but Tiger was, whom I formally acquired two or three journeys later. Tiger from that day on has given me the gift of joy, the gift of be happy. The eyeball: literal Cry Me a River? Never did unravel that one. The feeling of unity would grew stronger in me as my shamanic practice and connection to Nature mysticism deepened.
I no longer keep journals of my experiences because I have adapted to being in a world where spirits communicate and cavort with me. My journeys are very focused on specific intents now. I know the terrain. I am more relaxed about it, a better listener and get practical results and/or sound advice from almost every spirit source that I contact.
After 17 years of regular practice, I still feel shamanism found me and that I didn’t find it. It always feels like coming home. I am an incredibly lucky man for which I am grateful every day.