Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Shamanic meditation, tour-guided or open-ended

A Carrion Crow just after take-off from a fenc...Image via Wikipedia

"Shamanic Meditations - Guided Journeys for Insight, Vision, and Healing" by Sandra Ingerman

"Dreamtime Return" by Steve Roach

I received a review copy of Sandra Ingerman's "Shamanic Meditations" weeks ago, and now, finally, I am writing my opinions about it.

The "Shamanic Mediations" CD set consists of introductory lectures on Ingerman's interpretation of contemporary shamanism as a spiritual path to healing and beyond, for self and the world, and several guided shamanic exercises. Her approach is similar to Michael Harner's Foundation for Shamanic Studies interpretations on most key points, around the topics she covers in this set, though she has expanded and diverged from the FSS in other books and presentations.

There are seven script-guided shamanic experiences, journeys or meditations, counting the final "Word blessings" track.

Talking, talking along with drumming (or other percussion) and drumming or rattling periods (for listeners to experience the step by step instructions) alternate during the guided shamanic exercises. Ingerman speaks slowly, distinctly and evenly enough while presenting the material, but I found the sound of her voice more distracting than trance-enhancing, though I cannot explain why.

The percussion periods are interrupted after a minimum of moments for spirit-world interaction. It is helpful to learn to shamanize during shorter whiles, though. Being able to access and embody spirit presence quickly amid everyday situations or crises allows modern shamans to begin transformations for the better immediately from within.

The first CD ends with lower and upper world journeys. The middleworld journey on the second CD is followed by a shamanic initiation into oneness, then spirit-eyes world observing is followed by grounding. I liked the spirit-eyes and grounding tracks better than the oneness initiation.

I couldn't imagine the oneness initiation track serving as a sufficient shamanic initiation, though it begin or add to an introduction to someone's quest for initiatory experience(s). Initiatory challenges or ordeals, small to huge (momentary to years-long), can be sought in life's wildernesses (even in cities), but often intrude spontaneously, shockingly and ineffably "upon same-old-same-old" routines.

And, the "oneness" being sought through this meditation was more like the dissolving-ego, world-transcending (eastern) type rather than the ego-spiritualizing, world-transforming (western) type I have grokked and lived through. Eastern and western spiritual ways can intersect, pass through or include one another, of course, and there need not be any arguing about which is better.

The spirit-eyes and grounding tracks were simply more do-able and fun for me. The journeys to the three realms were similar to what I experienced in FSS, or FSS-influenced, workshops, except for the ongoing guiding and shorter percussion periods.

Adapting or veering away from FSS methods, because I lived and practiced my particular (peculiar?) shamanic ways (using my own words to describe the experiences)  for years before I encountered any modern western shamanism teachers or organizations, I have used guided imagery combined with customized hypnosis inductions and scripts successfully to lead various kinds of shamanic meditations. But no two of these have ever been alike and this isn't the usual way I practice or teach.

Recording a series of guided shamanic experiences for wide distribution is a challenge I haven't (yet?) felt ready or eager for.

Usually, for journeywork, after an intention-focusing period, I offer several guiding suggestions ahead of an uninterrupted 15-30 minute period of drumming and/or rattling with bells (or another droning or singing sonic driver).

I think Ingerman's "Shamanic Meditations" can help many open shamanic ways and continue to be guided by spirit and spirits from there, developing individualized methods. The exercises Ingerman presents on this set cover a lot of otherworld territory. 

But some might find themselves revving up into beta-wave mode (rather than drifting towards shamanic states of consciousness) during Ingerman's contemporary shamanism discourses, then distracted by her frequent directions and suggestions throughout the guided (shamanic-style) meditations.

What sounds do I prefer as a carrier for shamanic meditation (including journeying but encompassing many other connecting techniques)?

The two CD set "Dreamtime Return" by Steve Roach has been a favorite brainwave shifting background for my own formal shamanic experiencing sessions since 1988 (when it was released). I play one or the other CD for longer journeys or go in and out of 15-30 minute journeys naturally, without a call-back signal. I drum or rattle and dance or sing to it, or not.

These sound-scapes were inspired by traditional Aboriginal chants and percussion on Roach's first trip to Northern Australia. I can listen this double album's variegated electronic mural for hours, without listening actively or ever quite getting used to it.

For visitors who come here to journey, or connect directly with spirit and spirits by some other method, such as art-play or dance, I often play one of the "Dreamtime Return" CDs quietly in the background (in repeat mode), and drum over it, with or without rattle or bells, for definite periods of trance work.

I have found other shamanic journey albums useful, but I will save mentioning those for another day's blogging.

Most often, I enter shamanic states of consciousness on purpose to ordinary-reality sounds and other sensory input, traveling or floating upon and within whatever vibrations are happening around me in the present moment, always a blend of chaos and repetition.

When my environment seems too chaotic for shamanic purposes, I tap with a finger to add more repetition. Overload can be an effective trance inducer for me, also.

When I find the sights, sounds and smells of the situation at hand annoying or disturbing, I can usually dance or sing into shamanic experience through or on those emotional energy waves, another (open-ended) way of shamanic shifting myself and my reality.

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