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Shamanic meditation – Psychopomping & other non-ordinary adventures

“Shamanic meditation, often described as ‘Shamanic journeying’ occurs mainly in the dream state, which is to say the psychic and subtle levels of mind. You might think of shamanic meditation as a type of ‘conscious dreaming’ done whilst meditating”

Dear Integral Meditators, 

This week’s article focuses upon Shamanic meditation. The first section is a ‘learning piece’, with the second part being a personal reflection of my experience in the field. If you are interested in this form of meditation then do consider coming along on the weekend of the 25th/26th for the Shamanic meditation workshop retreat

Finally, a reminder of the seasonal class this coming Tuesday & Wednesday, Deepavali -connecting to your inner light.

In the spirit of journeying,

Shamanic meditation – Psychopomping & other non-ordinary adventures
Three levels of reality, three levels of meditation
The great wisdom traditions often divide reality into three basic domains, or levels of consciousness:
The waking state, characterised by the senses and our gross (as in dense) physical environment.
The dream state, characterised by images thoughts and subtle worlds on the level of mind. The lower level of the dream state might be described as the ‘psychic’ realm, the higher and more refined level as the ‘subtle’ realm. The dream world and the world of mind of course also occur in the waking state, but the waking state is characterised by the occurrence of sensory awareness, and the dreamworld is characterised by the temporary cessation of sensory awareness, in the dream-world we inhabit exclusively the worlds of mind.
The dreamless, deep sleep state, characterised by the cessation of both mental and physical forms, and the appearance of a very subtle, almost infinite formless state of consciousness.
Each of these three levels of reality is has its own world and worlds.
Shamanic meditation: Working in the ‘dream-world’
Shamanic meditation, often described as ‘Shamanic journeying’ occurs mainly in the dream state, which is to say the psychic and subtle levels of mind. You might think of shamanic meditation as a type of ‘conscious dreaming’ done whilst meditating.
Initially we can practice shamanic meditation to acclimatise to the domain of reality reality that it focuses on. However, part of the point of practising is that we then start to be able to access these states of ‘non-ordinary/dreaming’ reality consciously and at will, even when not in formal meditation. This basically means that we integrate shamanic practice informally into our daily waking life.
Foundational elements of shamanic journeying, its purpose and function
Traditionally, Shamanic meditation has five main elements
1. The Underworld Journey – Connecting with Ancestral and Underworld guides
2. The Overworld Journey – Connecting with Spiritual and Overworld guides
3. Soul Retrieval – Recovery from soul loss
4. Meeting and connecting with one’s guardian spirit, or performing guardian spirit retrieval.
5. Non-benevolent spirit extraction or removal
6. To act as a Psychopomp, or guide for the dead and/or lost souls.
To practice Shamanic meditation would then mean that each of the above capabilities gradually becomes a part of what you ‘do’ in everyday reality, informally, in the same way that you would go to work, do the shopping, put the kids to bed and so forth…
Everyday Psycho-pomping – The Spanish soldier
This story is a simple example of what I mean. As mentioned above, one of the activities of a Shaman traditionally is acting as a Psychopomp, or guide for the dead and/or lost souls. I had some awareness of this before I started doing shamanic meditation, as I had already been a meditator for a while. But once I started Shamanic meditation as a discipline I noticed that increasingly often I would be contacted by deceased or lost souls who needed a bit of a hand transitioning to the next world, they were ‘stuck’ so to speak. Generally, before bed they will let me know that they are around and seeking assistance, and then when I go to bed, I will then expect them to come to me sometime in the night, and we can do what needs to be done. This happens quite regularly, and it is just a part of my daily life activity.
One time when on holiday a village in the mountains of Asturias, Spain, my family and I walked down from our Air B&B to a quiet restaurant with some older villagers inside. We sat outside on a bench that clearly was not used very much, and where there was an old cat to keep us company. After a pleasant meal we walked back to our accommodation, and went to bed fairly soon after.
I couldn’t sleep in the bed I was in with my partner, so I went into a spare bedroom at the top of the stairs. Lying down there I then went into a light reverie, where I saw what looked like an old soldier walking up the street to our house. Understanding what was about to follow, I prepared myself to meet him, and he duly came in the house and walked up the stairs. It was a little comedic, because I didn’t speak Spanish, and he didn’t speak English! But suffice to say he had been killed in the Spanish civil war, and had been in the village since (his favorite bench being the one we had sat on for dinner), and having seen me he saw (and felt ready) for the opportunity to move on. I then helped guide him ‘into the light’ so to speak, and then went to sleep.
That is an example of one of many, it was interesting because it was one that my partner and daughter also ‘felt’ something around, and so for me it was a little bit of a shared experience that we could talk about, rather than one I just do and keep to myself.
Related articleMindfulness, Meditation & Non-Ordinary Reality
Article content © Toby Ouvry & Integral Meditation Asia 2023. you are welcome to share, but please cite the source, thanks! Contact 

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Meditating with Animals and Starlight – Shamanic Journeying

Meditating with animals and animal spirits is one of the main practices found in ancient shamanic traditions worldwide. The ancient shamans were really the pioneers of the first meditation techniques and these techniques (which are mainly the technique of “inner world journeying”) are deeply embedded within the psyche of human beings, including you and me. The result of this is that most people who actually try shamanic meditation techniques actually find that they are able to gain some success quite quickly. Michael Harner, one of the pioneers of modern proto-shamanism reports that fully 85% of people participating in his shamanic journeying workshops are able to gain tangible results and experiences from their first attempts at journeying meditation.

As mentioned above, the main meditation “technique” found in shamanism is the “inner world journey” where contact with animal and ancestral spirits is sought for the purposes of gaining guidance, wisdom and healing. When meditating with animals and animal guides the sequence of the meditations would tend to go something like this:

  1. The shaman (or you and I if we are choosing to meditate in this way) goes on a journey, either within his imagination, or actually physically into a landscape to meet his or her animal guide
  2. Once the specific animal has been contacted, the shaman requests to be taught or shown the wisdom or healing method that the animal has to impart to him.  There then follows a communion between human and animal, trust is hopefully gained and the relationship proceeds. It should be noted that the animal chooses the shaman, not vice-versa. If you are met by an ant or a rat when you wanted a lion you cannot do a trade in! Experience will show you that in reality the animal that comes is invariably the best one for you and for the job at hand!
  3. A series of meditations can then be embarked upon where the mediator then goes on journeys and receives teachings, techniques and insights from the animal. Initially the meditator travels WITH the animal, but over time s/he may feel as if he is merging with the animal’s body and actually BECOMING the animal for periods of time.
  4. Over time a stable working relationship is established with the animal spirit which is mutually enriching for both parties, and the wisdom and abilities of the animal are imparted to the meditator.

What “abilities” and wisdom do you get from an animal guide?

The way in which animal guides impart wisdom is non-intellectual, experiential and mainly done through images. To take an example, if your guide is a spider, and in meditation you experience what it is like to have eight sensitive legs picking up information from all directions around you then this will give you a heightened awareness of your inner sense of touch which you can apply to appropriate life situations and challenges.

Starlight meditation with a pigeon

One animal that I have developed a relationship with since the beginning of 2010 is the pink necked green pigeon a number of which hang out in the park near my office. My animal journeying-type meditations are mostly spontaneous these days, done whilst napping or just sitting having a quiet moment. Animal journeying really just becomes an integral part of life once you have been doing it a while. So anyway, here is the last journey that I experienced with the above mentioned green pigeon, maybe a week or two ago:

I am having a ten minute meditation break in my office. My mind becomes quiet and tranquil. Quite suddenly I feel myself to be sitting in the next door park, staring up at a tree, where the green pigeon is sitting looking at me. After an initial contact we fly up into the sky going high above the cloudline.

With the clouds below us and the blue sky above, I become aware of rays of starlight flowing down from the heavens, bathing our bodies in white light. The rest of the meditation is then spent simply enjoying the starlight, absorbing it and being it. We then fly back down to the park, the vision breaks apart and I am sitting in my office meditating. I say thankyou to the green pigeon and get on with my day!

For many people the idea of meditating in this way may seem a bit far-fetched. However there is HUGE value for urbanized humans to do this type of meditation, as it re-connects us to a truly living relationship with nature and animals. The other thing that we discover is that it is actually quite easy, it is just a matter of re-awakening our visualization and imaginative skills, and pointing them in the right direction.

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use or reproduce this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission forst. Contact