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Visualization (also known as shamanic journeying) – why it’s not just in your head

April 14, 2016

If you’ve heard about (or done!) a shamanic journey, then you have some experience with visualization. If not, let me tell you a little about it. Either way, I’m sure you have had some doubts about what’s “real”….

When you are doing a shamanic journey, or any kind of visualization, the purpose is to create a series of images in your mind. If this is a guided experience, then you are responding to what the person leading the journey is telling you. So when you hear “imagine a wide open field”, that’s what you do (or try to do). For some people, this is really easy, and with the smallest of prompts, off they go into a detailed sequence of events. People who do a lot of meditating, or those who are really into expressive arts (artists, writers, composers, actors) are often very good at this, probably because they use this kind of method in producing their work.

When you just can’t seem to visualize

For others, it’s just not that easy. Take me, for example. Coming from a strong science background I used to feel that I couldn’t visualize my way in (or out!) of a box. And that wasn’t the worst of it. Even when I was able to come up with a mental representation of the scene I was being guided to imagine, that pesky little voice inside my head would insist that it was “all make believe” – literally “all in my head”. This really gets in the way of visualizing, since most of your mental energy is taken up by trying to prove why it’s all just pretend. Talk about losing the flow!

What’s real, anyway?

So is it all really just a pretend story? Is there any real evidence that we are connecting with spirit or “something else” when we get messages from a shamanic journey? Jung described the collective unconscious as the way in which all human memory is shared (including ancestral memory over time), through the ability of each person’s own unconscious mind to tap into the greater “memory bank” of humankind. This is no small thing. And it’s obvious all the time in little ways.

Think about it – everyone you know has had the experience of meeting someone who is immediately a turn-off, even before a word has been spoken. Or the experience of walking into a room and feeling that something was “off”. Described in the 1960’s and 1970’s as “vibes”, people use intuition or some other subtle sense to pick up on the energy of a situation. Instinct, “gut feelings”, thinking and saying the same things at the same time as someone else (remember saying “jinx”?), synchronicity – all of these influence behavior and don’t have a “logical” explanation. And yet we often regret when we don’t listen to those internal nudges.

It’s all about perspective

Everyone sees the world through their personal perspective, even though we have created language as a means of trying to communicate a shared reality. However, the abstract is abstract. This means that as humans we work to develop a structure of understanding for things that defy quantitative measurement (because they are abstract!) It doesn’t matter if you are creating an image, or accessing an image, since either way you are participating in the image-making. We use symbolic representation to help us to understand what is going on around us, whether it is “in” our mind or happening “outside” the mind in the world.

Bottom-line?

When you are participating in a visualization or a shamanic journey, your mind is creating a framework of understanding for you, based on your personal perspective and way of looking at the world. And since we now know that there really is “energy” emitted by us all the time, and that our energy is influenced by those around us, it’s not hard to tie this to Jung’s collective unconscious. Which is how your visualization helps to energetically heal your own body. Or how your shamanic journey is able to produce a series of images that symbolically represent the information you most need to move forward to your best life.

There’s good evidence that it’s not “all in our head”, even as we use our head to create doubt. Perhaps if we were to recognize the voice of fear and uncertainty behind the disbelief, we might be able to welcome the visualized images as the good news that they are – we don’t have to be afraid; we are all connected; we are all perfectly imperfect; and there really are guideposts to help us on our own healing journey.

Dr. Hallett is a board-certified clinical psychologist and shaman. She uses empirically-based psychological principles combined with shamanic energy healing. Find her at www.wisdomhealing.org, facebook, instagram.

Image source: Creative commons / Unsplash: Oscar Keys

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