Many ancient cultures, including that of Native Americans, engaged in shamanic rituals to elicit spirit help. Shamans would often seek wisdom from animal spirit guides. Such healing rituals can have a strong, positive impact on the mind and human spirit.
In the scientific sense, exercises such as this allow our subconscious to sneak messages past our cognitive, conscious mind that would normally be censored out. Let’s face it, our ego does not like to die. It wants to rule us with logic, reason and a whole bunch of stories while ignoring any messages from our nervous system or higher self. Going into a dream state and letting our imagination take over gives us an opportunity to decipher the metaphors and symbols locked within our subconscious.
As part of Martha Beck’s Life Coach Training program, I have access to ongoing calls led by certified coaches who have varying niches and ways of providing coaching. Sarah Seidelmann, author of What the Walrus Knows: An Eccentric’s Field Guide to Working with Beasties, led a coaching call focused on taking participants through a shamanic journey to meet their spirit guide and receive wisdom. I was fascinated by the topic and couldn’t wait to join and learn more.
Before the ritual started, Seidelmann laid the foundation for how we should venture out into our visualization exercise, including advising us to find a dark, quiet space:
She would play a drum beat (which she performed) that would help bring us to a calming, meditative state. She told us to picture in our minds one of the most beautiful places we have ever been to and bring our awareness to that location. Once there, we would find a way to venture to an underworld where we would find another space that we have never seen or been in before. There we will be met with a spirit animal guide, which we will ask our question(s) of. The spirit guide may give us a gift, a symbol or token representing the answer we are seeking. When she plays a different drum beat, that is our signal to wrap up the conversation and head back to where we started.
I closed the window drapes and laid down, then Seidelmann’s drum beat began. I pictured myself overlooking the Napili Kai bay in Maui at sunset. I walked barefoot into the water and swam out to the reef, where I dove down and saw an eel’s hole in a large, red coral bunch. I shrunk down in size and dove into the hole, which turned out to be more like a water slide zipping left and right and around in loops before it spit me out into a dark cave-like space. I felt cold, wet sand beneath me and stood up as my eyes tried to focus in the dark. The air tasted salty yet musty. My eyes adjusted quickly and I noticed there was a wall of black lava rock behind me and in front of me was a wall of water leading into the depths of the ocean.
As I stared at the sea just a few feet away from me, both in front and above, like I was in a bubble. Fish swam past and I noticed a large hermit crab the size of a watermelon.
“Are you my spirit guide?” I asked.
He scuffled away. Then I asked a large manta ray, who ignored me and swam past. I asked a stingray, who scuffled into the sand covering himself to hide. I even asked a whale thinking he MUST be my guide because I love whales so much. Again, he slowly and gracefully kept on his way.
Finally a seal swam up and stared right at me. When our eyes met, he nodded for me to follow him and zipped away.
I reached out to touch the wall of water and was sucked in and somehow attached to the seal who whooshed and whizzed in a bunch of directions before he dropped me at a barren, empty circular ring of rock formations. I stood in the middle on the sand alone. The seal was gone and there were no fish…just dark, midnight blue water.
Slowly out of the shadows, I saw a hammerhead shark flick his tail back and forth as he moved closer and closer to me. Once he reached the rocks, he began circling around me.
“Are you my spirit guide?” I asked.
He nodded his nose up and down and continued his circle.
I heard his voice in my head like he was asking me telepathically, “What do you want to know?”
“I simply wanted to meet you and be in your presence,” I responded.
He paused like he was surprised by my answer, then kept circling. As he did, he turned into a black tipped reef shark. I reached out to touch him, and he leaned into my hand allowing it to run along his body like a cat does.
My mind went to past SCUBA diving experiences and I became nervous. Not out of fear, but more a respect for the ocean, its depths, pressure and pure wildness. When I’m diving, I need to be present and always aware of my surroundings.
I notice that I think the thought, “It’s a gift to visit this underwater world, but I don’t belong here. I’m not a fish, I don’t have gills, I can’t breathe under water.”
Suddenly the reef shark turned into a great white and he swam straight up to my face with our noses only a foot apart. Face to face, I heard the answer, “You belong here because you are here. You have the tools to get and be here.”
I struggled with feeling both fear and sending him love, compassion and kindness. (The same feeling I hope I have if I ever encounter one in the wild.) We floated there for a moment in mutual fascination and curiosity.
Then I heard the drumbeat change, that was my signal that it was time to go home. As the shark swam away, the seal popped back up in front of me. He led me swiftly in a swirling swim back to the original cave I shot into. I couldn’t fight my way back up the slippery slide. The seal nodded to a ladder that I hadn’t seen until now on the side of the lava. I climbed my way back up and into the corral reef. As I pushed through some seaweed, I was back in Napili Kai bay and swam to the surface. It was now daytime. Much time had passed.
I haven’t decoded any deep layers of the message quite yet. On the surface, it feels fairly in line with coaching philosophy in that whatever should be, is. Whatever shouldn’t be, isn’t. Questioning reality means you lose every time. To say I don’t belong somewhere that I am is silly because I’m there.