Blog: The Shamanic Journey: Companions on the Path
By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.
I have often been asked why, after having studied so many spiritual traditions, I have found shamanic practice to be one of the spiritual paths that is so helpful. For me, as for many people I have spoken with, it is a joy to find a path that leads directly into the heart of nature and provides a vehicle for establishing a nourishing and dynamic relationship with it. The shamanic journey opens a world of possibility to understand the intelligence of the natural world better. In his book Animal Speak, Ted Andrews describes the way these possibilities opened for him. And in their book Awakening to the Spirit World, Sandra Ingerman and Hank Wesselman describe the way the world of the unseen aspects of nature emerges through shamanic practice.
But there is another aspect of shamanic practice that can be profoundly meaningful: the relationship that develops between the journeyer and the guides — the aspects of nature that emerge from the processes of the journey to offer teaching, guidance, and wisdom. (I have previously written in greater detail about the processes of the journey within the context of Applied Shamanic practice.) The experience of being joined on the path of ever-expanding self-understanding by a constant companion who is as consistent as the earth herself in providing nurturing and sustenance provides important stability. The other aspect of these guides is that they present themselves in ways that are perfectly attuned to the place where the journeyer resides on the path of spiritual realization.
Having taught hundreds of people to journey over the years, I have been struck by the consistency of this attunement in the way that the guides have presented themselves. For beginners, guides often present themselves in forms that provide easily accessible understandings. For seekers who have been on a spiritual quest for some time, the guides may present themselves in more nuanced ways. For those who have hidden or misunderstood forms of resistance to the processes of spiritual evolution, the guides provide almost immediate clarity about the nature of the resistance in the way they manifest to the journeyer.
That consistency remains as the relationship between the journeyer and the guide deepens. The guides are always compassionate, present, and insightful, even when the journeyer does not fully understand what is being offered at first. When delivering hard lessons or difficult to accept teachings, the guides are patient and persistent. Even when the journeyer lets go of the journey practice for extended periods of time, the guides are there upon their return ready to continue on the path with them.
This companionship is especially significant because the spiritual seeker must often set off on a path that is unfamiliar or unknown in order to find the answers to such questions as the nature of faith, the nature of God or the universe, or the nature of each person’s true path through life. Many earnest people who truly want to understand the world of the unseen and the path to spirit freeze in the face of the prospect of a path that appears lonely or separate. Or they may allow themselves to be drawn in by spiritual hucksters who promise deliverance from the unknown, or orthodox paths that promise security, but limit the possibility of personal inquiry.
Almost every spiritual or religious path offers compassionate and meaningful ways of navigating the mystery of life. Many people find the solutions in their chosen tradition satisfying and comforting. This is, of course, wonderful and important. For those who require a more personalized exploration of this mystery, the journey can provide a path to realization, and an understanding of the transcendent that is inclusive and allows for individualized instruction and choice. The journey can also provide inspiration and help personalize spiritual inquiry for people who are on more orthodox paths. I am looking forward to introducing a new group of students to this path in the Shamanic Journey workshop on September 16 and 17 at the Sacred Stream Center.
Editors’ Note: Join Isa for The Shamanic Journey workshop this September!