Brain Scans of Journeys

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My friend Razena posted an article on my FaceBook page about a study done in Germany and Austria. Fifteen experienced shamanic practitioners had their brains scanned while they were journeying to the spirit world. The results were published in the Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Pathology in June of 2015. Functional MRI scans revealed which areas of the brain were active during the journey.

I read that article as well as one written for non-scientists, The Neuroscience Of Trance. I noted the three major areas of activity and also researched them on Wikipedia. I wanted to see how the observed brain functions matched up with my own experiences.

There was increased activity in the posterior cingulate cortex. This part is associated with internally directed thought, first impressions, wakeful rest, and is not focused on the outside world.

The insular cortex is associated with the sources of urges and cravings, decision making, and communicates with other areas of the brain. It is part of the core control network and is suspected of helping maintain internally directed states.

The third part is the anterior cingulate cortex which acts as a core network controller also, and helps regulate the amygdala. In turn, the amygdala controls autonomic functions such as blood pressure and heart rate. The amygdala is also associated with rational functions like decision making, impulse control, empathy, and the emotions. The amygdala is important in deciding what is a threat and what is not (survival instinct).

These findings please me. The functions described are not concerned with the outside world but internally on a state of wakeful rest. They are focused on decision-making, internal brain communications, and maintaining internally directed states. There is a connection to our feelings. Note that, other than the internally directed state, the other areas of focus are areas our brains engage in during our normal, non-trance, every day experiences.

This tracks perfectly with my journeys. As I report in my soon-to-be-published book, My Journeys To The Spirit World, journeying is so real that I view it as a normal event. My first journey to the spirit world was on April 13, 2011. After describing that journey on page 6 of my book, I wrote, “Simply put, it was real. I knew it was real. I acted on this reality.”

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Anniversary

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Yesterday, April 13th, was the fourth anniversary of my introduction to the Spirit World. So I am wishing my helpful spirits, spirit guides and the Ancient One a Happy Anniversary! You have changed my life. I am grateful! Thank you!

 

Spirit Walking with My Wife

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In recent years I have come to understand that my first experiences in spirit walking were not in 2011 but began in 1998, just a month after my wife, Marilyn, died from cancer. One morning that October I dreamed I was with her. I put my arms around her to comfort her and she said, “I’m only here in spirit.” Memories of her death flooded my consciousness. I awoke to find I had wrapped my arms around the sheet and bedcovers. It was 5:30 AM. I got up and wept for the next hour. I was crying so much I couldn’t see to shave and was almost late for work.

This was the beginning of many periodic dreams about her. They were not about the past. In the dreams we were keeping each other company in the present. After a couple of months of having similar dreams, I decided to ask my kids, Paula and Mark, if they had any dream experiences. I asked Paula on the phone. She started crying, saying yes she had and they were so real; not about the past, but about keeping company with each other. Then I asked Mark and he said the same thing. Marilyn was keeping him company and giving him advice, just as she had when alive. The three of us shared our dreams were amazed.

In a dream I had Marilyn was wearing a nice blouse and skirt. She said, “That’s the nice thing about this place, if you don’t like what you’re wearing you just …” and with that she snapped her fingers and was wearing a beige pants suit with a matching blouse. In the dream she smiled like this was one of the best things in the world. Her love of clothing and concern about how she looked in the dream was exactly how she was in life. Paula had a dream where they were talking, having a cup of coffee. Marilyn said something and Paula responded. Marilyn got excited, “You can hear me? You can see me?” Mark had similar experiences. Among the three of us there were dozens of other examples. I didn’t write any of them down.

I noticed these dreams tended to occur around 5:00 or 5:30 AM, right before I normally woke up. As I have since found out, the theta level of brain activity is right between wakefulness and sleep. During spirit walking I use a rattle or drum to keep a rhythm at 4 to 7 beats per second – the same frequency as theta brain waves. Once my brainwave activity follows that beat I am able to step into the spirit world while remaining conscious of my physical surroundings. This experience is common with other spirit walkers I know.

Spirit Walking Journeys

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Are journeys to the spirit world real? Or are we imagining them? Can we prove them? What will our friends and family think if we claim to have experienced them? These are the questions I asked myself when I first got involved in spirit walking. The scariest was the last one; what will others think? Whether we want to admit it or not, the opinions of our friends and families matter. We want their respect, not their questioning looks or outright ridicule.

Recently I read an article from Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 32, 2013, pp. 117 – 126. The journal focuses on issues dealing with anthropology and the article was submitted by Bonnie Glass-Coffin, Professor of Anthropology at Utah State University and Associate Editor of the journal Anthropology of Consciousness. Her article asks the question “why do we [anthropologists] have such a hard time taking reports of unseen realms seriously …?”

In 2006, after 20 years of studying shamanic practices, Ms. Glass-Coffin had an experience that changed her outlook on such events and eventually prompted her to write the article. At that time she had been observing an all-night shamanic ceremony. Suddenly she became conscious of the plants around her. Everything from the smallest blade of grass to the largest coconut tree acknowledged and honored her presence. Those were her exact words. Amazed, she nodded to the plants and found they returned her acknowledgment.  As she states in her article, page 117, “That experience changed the way that I view anthropology …”

Ms. Glass-Coffin hesitated to write about this or discuss it with her colleagues. It is easy to imagine their responses, especially if they had not had similar experiences. Her willingness to do so now was based on the realization that she had to speak out because she wanted all anthropologists to recognize that shamanic practices are much more than the imaginings of ‘primitive peoples’. Anthropologists observe these people from a viewpoint called cultural relativism. My interpretation of that phrase is, ‘if the local people believe in it, just humor them.’

The problem with this attitude is that it reeks of the personal biases of our own culture. It assumes our version of life and science and our advances in technology are superior to those of other people. We are looking down on them. Ms. Glass-Coffin has coined a new phrase to describe it. You have heard of ethnocentric beliefs? That’s when a culture believes it is superior to others; primarily because it values it’s own beliefs and rationalizes them. The phrase she came up with is cognicentric behavior. It is when we believe our thoughts and knowledge are superior to other cultures. Our beliefs are better because they are ours.

I wonder how many anthropologists have actually tried spirit walking?

 

Spirit Walking Journey

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I wrote my first blog for Spirit Walking Journal on June 21st, 2013 during the first quarter of the Moon. I awoke at midnight that night and couldn’t get back to sleep. I tossed and turned. Finally I got up at 2:00 AM, put on my necklaces, got my rattle, put on the “Awakening …” CD and journeyed into the Lower World.

When I arrived, my power animals came out of the cave to meet me. They usually wait for me inside. They simply sat there and stared at me. I didn’t realize what they were doing until later in the journey. They were demonstrating their respect for me.

I went to the Upper World with my younger teacher and my female teacher to see the Ancient One and my healing guide. When the Ancient One saw me he raised his left hand and gave a shout. A band of unseen indigenous people started chanting “Hey-oh-ah, Hey-oh-ah, Hey-oh-ah …” this went on for a while. I understood they were welcoming me and showing their support for my blogging efforts. This welcome made me feel good but in a different way than I have felt before. I believe that we gain power and respect from the spirit world when we demonstrate our belief in it and show proper respect for it. My journey ended and I went back to bed.

Later the next day, June 22nd, I thought about the relationship that exists between us when we are in human form, and the spirits who support us. The relationship requires that we act in order to gain the support our spirit friends. Their purpose is the same as our purpose; to help make our world a better place to live. But they cannot support us unless we get into contact with them and let them show us how they can help. So our cooperation with Helpful Spirits is important; like one hand helping the other. This is significant!

If any of you who read this blog have thought about spirit walking, you may want to give it a try. I can tell you, as one who has been walking this path for two and a half years, it is real. It is a wonderful spiritual path. It is easy to learn. It has given me a personal experience I never received anywhere else. It is worthwhile! Blessings to you and your family and friends.

Next blog: A New Year’s Resolution For Everyone