Blog: Journey On It: Finding Our Way Home
By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.
Editors’ Note: The shamanic journey is a method of accessing inner wisdom through a meditative state. It is derived from a practice done by the healers, or shamans, of indigenous shamanic cultures. It is performed to gain insight and effect healing, and has been a common practice of many indigenous cultures for thousands of years. Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D. is an early pioneer of adapting the shamanic journey to a therapeutic practice.
The Journey is a process of going inward that helps us discover who we are and what our relationship is to the world around us. Seekers trying to understand the mystery of their experience can be found in every culture that has existed on the planet. Different societies have different names for these seekers – medicine men, medicine women, the ones who cure, the ones who know. Cultures with these kinds of references for their seekers tend to be cultures that exist closer to the earth.
In cultures whose traditions are closely tied to the natural rhythms and processes of the Earth, the Earth itself is the place where all inquiry begins and ends. In order to know when to plant successful crops, its rhythms must be measured. In order to measure its rhythms, seekers have looked skyward to measure the Earth’s rhythms against the patterns of the sky.
In order to hold this knowledge, the stories of the Earth’s rhythms must be recorded and told. The Earth is the teacher, and we are its students. When we listen to the Earth, its wisdom opens to us just as it has for millennia. The problem for modern people is that we have forgotten about the Earth. We have forgotten that we are held by the Earth from the moment we take our first breath until we take our last. We have forgotten that the Earth teaches us through the rhythms of our biology, and through the longings of our hearts.
If we look more closely at this forgetting, we find that we are actually in the midst of a crisis of disconnection. We are at once disconnected from our external experience and our internal experience, and we are profoundly disconnected from the Earth.
In order to address this crisis, we must first recognize that the crisis exists, and then must understand the effect this disconnection has on us. We must learn to recognize our symptoms of depression, illness, and anxiety as signposts that point to the existence of disconnection, and we must understand what effect this disconnection has upon us. If we learn to listen in this way, and if we remember that our first teacher is the Earth, we can find our way back to ourselves.
Joseph Campbell describes a process of healing this kind of disconnection. He calls it the “Hero’s Journey.” On this journey, the hero meets obstacles and moves through events that seem impossible to face, and as these challenges are met, the hero comes into connect with the wisdom of the inner self. In the same way, the shamanic journey offers us a way to know ourselves, and the obstacles within us, and provides a method for overcoming these obstacles. In this way, the journey gives us opportunities for learning, growing, and expanding our ability to stand strongly within ourselves. I recommend reading Joseph Campbell for inspiration. A good place to start is with The Power of Myth and Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation.
In my counseling practice, I have developed a method of working with the journey to help clients address hard to access issues that takes the traditional way of working with the shamanic journey to a new level. The work of the journey brings us face to face with our inner obstacles. As we meet these obstacles, we are challenged to look deeply at how they have gotten there and what keeps them in place. By working with the journey, the individual is able to explore patterns of behavior that have caused them to be stuck in their lives and provides a means for transforming those issues.