I picked up a lot of expressions during my two years in Ireland, but by far my favourite is this one: telling somebody when they’ve lost the plot. It’s the Celtic and British equivalent of letting someone know that they’ve gone on such a tangent and are now so far removed from reality, that they’re essentially completely bonkers. You’d be surprised at just how satisfying it is to say to, well, anyone.
The reason I’m bringing it up is that I found myself uttering it to myself tonight on my way home, and I have a feeling that you will be tempted to mention it to me, too, after reading today’s post. And we’ll probably both be right.
If you have no idea what a shamanic journey circle is, then you are in the vast majority. I stumbled upon the concept while I was browsing through local MeetUp groups, and it fascinated me so much, that I felt compelled to join the club immediately. By the way, I’m planning on using MeetUp as an escape clause to justify any strange things that I do from this point on, almost like my very own ‘Blame Canada‘ anthem from South Park.
To prepare for my inaugural Shamanic Journey Circle, I actually bought and read an entire book that was recommended by our hostess, called “Shamanic Journeying: A Beginner’s Guide“. At less than a hundred pages, it was the perfect size for reading while standing on my Ultra Vibe machine, shaking my booty ten minutes at a time.
The basic concept behind it is that we are surrounded by spirit guides in a parallel universe, where time is not exactly linear. These spirits typically take the form of power animals and human teachers, and are almost always available to consult on any questions we may be struggling with in our everyday physical reality.
There are three other worlds to which we can journey, in a more or less trance-like state, where we can meet them for a little heart to heart:
- The Lower (or Under) World, which is reportedly the easiest to reach, by visualizing something like traveling down a hole, a la Alice in Wonderland;
- The Upper World, which can perhaps be reached by picturing yourself soaring from a mountain top, or going up in an elevator; and
- The Middle World, which is the spiritual dimension of the one we usually inhabit, but which is also the one that tends to freak people out the most, since you can start seeing the spirits in everything, including plants, rocks and trees.
The basic cosmology of the three worlds is common throughout almost all ancient cultures. Luckily, spirit guides have no trouble traversing between the Lower and Upper Worlds, so no worries about finding your peeps in whichever realm you manage to attain.
The harsh reality, though, is that we are so accustomed to being visually entertained that we may find it hard to communicate with our other senses. This may, in fact, prevent us from successfully journeying altogether, as, generally speaking, your strongest sense (typically visual) in your conscious life can become your weakest sense on a shamanic trip.
Okay, so enough on the theory. Here’s what happened when I met up with the group earlier this evening. First of all, I was surprised to find about 30 people attended the circle, the majority being female. There was an ‘altar’ of sorts in the middle, where people were encouraged to place a personal object or photograph around a burning candle. I brought my little inukshuk, and was pleased to learn that it was a very appropriate choice (although I got the impression there really were no wrong ones). There were about 5 of us who were complete newbies to the practice, which helped me to relax.
Our leader started off with ‘village’ announcements, followed by introductions and a recap on the journeying process. Her best piece of advice was to tell us to simply go with whatever is happening, and see where it takes us. If we get distracted, we should just breathe deeply and focus on our heartbeat to bring us back. We needed to picture ourselves at our point of departure, have a clear intention of where we were going, and have a single open-ended question in mind, preferably starting with who, what, where, or how. Upon meeting and confirming the identity of our helping spirit, us first-timers were encouraged to ask, ‘What message do you have for me tonight’?.
We first prepared the room with an invocation to get us all into an altered state (chemical-free, in case you were wondering). This involved attuning ourselves to the rattles we were holding so that we were aware when they wanted us to shake them, and vocalizing any type of power song or humming that came into our heads, because apparently, spirits like noise. Irish people, with their propensity to break out into song and tell stories at the drop of a hat, would be awesome at this.
Then, it was time for our first journey. We laid down on our mats, like the spokes of a wheel inside the circle. A typical journey lasts about 15 minutes, and is guided by four different sets of drumbeats. I’ll be honest with you, it was tough, even for me, to let my mind wander beyond the room. But eventually, stuff started flying into my head that completely surprised me, which was, in a word, odd. After the drumbeats summoned us back into the room, we were given a chance to write down in our journals everything we remembered, and what we thought it all meant. Similar to a dream, it faded rather quickly. Some people then shared their experiences, and I was comforted to learn that others had also struggled to get started.
We then embarked on our second, and final, journey of the evening. We were encouraged to ask for a healing tonight that was in our best interest. This time, I opted to venture towards the Lower World, and found it much easier to attain than the Upper World. All I can say is, holy crap! It was not at all what I had expected, and Pixar’s got nothing on the crazy imagery that trampled through my head.
So there you have it. I definitely met some interesting characters tonight, both of the physical and other worldly varieties. Who knows, I may even try it again someday, just to freak myself out a little more.
I’m also thinking of making a posting on Craigslist, looking for the plot, because clearly, I’ve lost it. In case you find it and want to send it my way, the one I am looking for is cute, multi-coloured, unpredictable, and answers to the name of ‘reality check’. Approach it with caution, as it has been known to bite on occasion.