Have you ever found yourself drifting off into a daydream and starting to see images slowly filtering into your consciousness? Were they a rerun of a long-forgotten life event that has suddenly come up for review? Or perhaps you can’t identify even one thing that you are looking at. Where has your mind gone?
I think the first time this subject confronted me was in the Spirit Horse Camp in North Wales back in 2000. The group leader was rattling while we were in the bear trance posture, and I shape-shifted into a huge black bear. I thought to look down at my hands and was astonished to see that my fingers had been replaced by long black claws. I wanted to swipe at something! The vision and feeling were very clear, yet I was aware I was in a darkened kiva in the UK. How could I still be in my body and yet be seeing myself as a bear?
For much of my life, I’ve engaged in all sorts of methods to achieve altered states of consciousness. This includes hypnosis, sonic driving (drumming and rattling), visionary substances, shamanic journeying, and more. Some experiences didn’t seem to produce clear results or ones that made sense, while others were like being in a 3D Technicolor version of an alternate life.
Sure, we can discuss the chemical and neurological reactions in the brain and body when we ingest something like LSD or mushrooms. But how can altered brain chemicals alone explain visits with departed loved ones, remote viewing, traveling to other worlds or incredible physical healing?
Being a shamanic practitioner, I’m often asked where we “go” in these journeys. My answer is that I don’t believe we go anywhere at all.
The Appliance of Science
In order to explain my point of view, I’ll mention how I experience the universe. Perhaps you’ve heard that what appears to us as solid, physical objects is actually made up of nothing more than energy. If you study particle physics or yoga you can get an understanding of how this could be a possibility. As you drill down through molecules, atoms and particles eventually you’ll arrive at the infinite, universal field of pure energy.
Without channeling my inner scientific geek too much, let’s just accept that this might be true. For me, this is a great way to then be able to explain things like our different energy bodies, parallel universes, and things like ghosts and advanced master spirits.
With a couple of science degrees under my belt, I have a pretty good understanding of the electromagnetic spectrum. Everything vibrates at different frequencies, some of which the human physical body cannot perceive. Have you ever heard or felt a really low sort of rumbling? In wave form on a graph, that’d look like a stretched-out letter S lying on its side.
Or how about a skull-piercing, high-pitched whistle? On a graph, its wave form would likely look like a zipper with the waves jammed right up next to each other. Simply put, this means that these two sounds are operating at different places on the spectrum.
What if there are other things that exist beyond where we can see and hear? There are sounds and light that are outside of our human perception but can still affect a physical body such as ultra-violet light or a dog whistle.
So taking this idea even further, what if outside the energy bands that we consider to encompass the known universe, there are still more bands with seemingly unperceivable “life?”
From a shamanic point of view, these bands are populated with all sorts of beings, from low-level entities you wouldn’t want anything to do with all the way up to the wondrous angelic realms. There are some great descriptions of these worlds in the Carlos Castaneda books, particularly where they talk about the Eagle’s emanations.
A Small Turn of the Dial
Think of all this like the old dials on analog radios. Each small turn takes you to a particular place: a new channel offering a program that’s different from the one you just left. We turn the knob until we find our favorite station or music that we like, and we leave it there.
That chosen station represents where we go during a trance. We don’t actually move our physical body somewhere else, but through the altered state we start turning the knob until we find a station that we can perceive. We can use our energy bodies to perceive those other worlds and move around in them.
Someone who starts their journey with intent will usually end up where they wish. For instance, if I am taking a classic shamanic journey to the Lower World to meet with my animal guides, this specific intent along with drumming or rattling will take me there. However, if I am taking a substance or trancing without intent, I may see a series of unrelated or unrecognizable things.
One example I can give of this is watching what I call the jungle TV after an ayahuasca ceremony has been closed. I will go back to my hut, crawl under the mosquito net, and more visions will start seeping in. Time and again, I lie there thinking, “What on earth am I looking at? I don’t recognize a thing!”
But what if I’m not looking at anything earthly? During one particularly fascinating night, I asked yet again to understand what I was looking at. I received a question as the answer: “What makes you think you are looking at anything on earth?” I think that made me sit up straight as the dominoes fell. Of course, I didn’t recognize anything because it wasn’t anywhere that I’d seen before. Once I let go of the need to classify and make sense of what I saw in my visions, I was able to just explore and feel into those strange new scenes.
In conclusion, we exist in a spectrum of different realities. Most people can recognize ordinary reality, which is the one we perceive as this physical world through our five senses.
Perhaps not so familiar is non-ordinary reality, those otherworldly dimensions that we access with our spirit bodies. Somewhere in between is the bridge between these worlds. This bridge can be crossed in many ways: through practices such as meditation, martial arts, visionary substances, bodily traumas, illnesses, and much more. For some, learning how to enter into these otherworldly states comes effortlessly, while for others it may take years of discipline and practice.
Those of us who have experienced non-ordinary reality have an insatiable curiosity about what lies beyond the physical realm. Should you be one of us, may you find your own bridge between the worlds in a way that’s right for you. You don’t have to go anywhere. The door is closer than you think!