Spirit walking is the most universal aspect of what is called shamanic practice. As explained in the Introduction, it is the ability to meet with and communicate with helpful spirits in the spirit world and receive helpful guidance and, sometimes, healing. I’ll discuss the spirit world in more detail in a later blog.

First, let’s briefly discuss shamanism. The term shaman is like a large umbrella which covers a large variety of beliefs and activities which are usually related to specific cultures. Basic to all these beliefs is the understanding that it is possible, and desirable, to contact helpful spirits. In her book titled Awakening to the Spirit World, Sandra Ingerman writes (page ix) “… shamanism teaches that there are doorways into other realms of reality where helping spirits reside who can share guidance, insight and healing, not just for ourselves but also for the world in which we live.”

Shamanic practices have been around since prehistoric times. In the same book, co-author Dr. Hank Wesselman cites a paper (page xvii) published in the American journal Science which states that “ … the shaman’s path may date back to at least 77,000 years ago.” While this date is questioned by some archeologists, most would agree that shamanism has existed for at least 40,000 to 50,000 years. In fact, it still exists across each of our continents today, especially where indigenous peoples reside.

What is the experience like? Each journey is different for each individual. Some people don’t see or hear or feel anything; they just acquire a knowledge and know in their hearts that this knowledge is true. Others have auditory, sensory or visual experiences. These experiences may need interpretation. For example, a visual experience may involve examples or metaphors which need to be analyzed for complete understanding.

Most people have had dreams that seem lifelike. I’ll use my own experience as an example. Many realistic dreams occurred after my wife, Marilyn, died of cancer in 1998. In the first one, early October, I saw her and held her in my arms and she said to me, “I am only here in spirit.” The dream was sad and I cried. But after a while I found I kept having more dreams of her, not reliving past events from our lives, but talking to each other and keeping each other company. I still dream of her occasionally but not as frequently as back then and I do believe she is communicating with me.

Dreams like that are similar to spirit walking. I’ll give another personal example. When I was seven I got a bike for my birthday. I found it was difficult for me to ride without my big brother or father helping me get on. During the night after my birthday I dreamed of a solution which worked. By putting my right foot over the horn box and pushing up with my left foot, I was able to get the bike upright. Then I pushed forward and down with my right. I got the bike going forward and was able to ride by myself. The dream provided the solution to my problem. True, it’s possible this was just my brain working on the problem, but the experience is similar to what happens in spirit walking.

What does a person have do to journey into the spirit world consciously, with intention? You will read about that in my next blog.