Shamanic Journeying Sample Session

      You must be the change you want to see in the world.


                                       - Mahatma Ghandi

38 year old let's call her Ellen is a new mother and training director at a large community mental health center treating clients who are experiencing or have suffered various kinds of child and adolescent abuse. She was my very first client right after I opened my private practice. A PhD student at the time, she looked the part of the sensitive, parentified, shell-shocked oldest adult child who barely survived her substance abusing and very loud and chaotic household. Her symptoms of depression and anxiety significantly reduced after about 2 years of seeing me, and she graduated and quickly moved up the ranks at the community mental health agency where she is now.  

She returned to see me after about a ten year break, married and still struggling with low-grade depression, self-doubt, and feeling frustrated at her colleagues, partner, her overbearing mother and MIA (still substance abusing) father. She was terrified of having children, but also wanted to explore this option deeply. A promotion and very difficult birth about a year into our second phase of working together helped her to drop into her body and self like never before, requiring her to make her needs a priority.


Even so, she couldn't shake feeling victimized and frustrated by the short-comings of others. She usually explored in session how to confront and articulate her vision and wishes in the most optimal way, but she still felt burdened by always having to be the bridge maker. It was hard for her to see her contributions and insights as a gift and an interpersonal asset.   

I had my once a month session with Ellen last Monday, the day after I sent out my newsletter. As usual, she complained a bit about an impulsive co-worker who lacked forethought and strategy while trying to pilot a new training program in several counties, and about another one who was invested in powerlessness and failure. Instead of brainstorming how to best address her concerns with them, she requested to do something out of character.   

She said, "I've been thinking and I realize that I don't know what I want."

Me: "As in right now or how to deal with your colleagues?"

Ellen: "No, as in ever. My whole life I've been putting out fires and attending to every one else's needs. I get rewarded for it. It makes me the good daughter but that is not the same as meeting my own needs.  I need to first know what I want to even meet my needs."  

I didn't ask what suddenly had her wonder about all this, but I could tell that she wanted to tune into her soul's deep yearning which had been the message in my newsletter. She was a dedicated meditator but it always had some kind of structure and purpose, even if it was just to empty her mind and reduce stress (ego-mind can seep into trance states and agendas. One clever client even fired a spirit guide she didn't "like"). I sensed years ago that starting off with a completely blank slate, which I often do with other clients, could have overwhelmed her. She needed to direct and control the journey at her pace. I was delighted that she felt inspired to be more courageous and had decided on her own that she was ready to enter the vulnerable space of a completely open-ended journey.  

The shamanic journey:  It took all of fifteen minutes for her to enter an inner scape with giant redwood trees and notice an eagle guide flying above. Her guide led her to a stream. There were rocks and colored crystals underneath the water. She intuited that the stream wanted her to live with more ease. The rocks and crystals had hard edges that pertained to a fear of rocking the boat and speaking her truth (as she would get yelled at). She's been too focused on smoothing them out and fit the perfect mold (the silenced good daughter), believing that this would lead to success and achievement (she focused her energy on academics to escape). Rather than rehearsing conflict resolution strategies, she was shifting from the inside out and releasing the energy of her old self into the stream and aligning with the energy of her raw, new self, which felt energizing rather than imposed. She was excited to explore on her own what the stream, buried gems, redwood trees and eagle, all powerful guides, further had to teach her.   

Ellen is a successful woman, some would even say that she is thriving according to traditional standards. However, this 1 degree shift in consciousness and intention is game changing in helping her discover her fullest potential. She is ready to relinquish ego-mind control in her meditations and possibly her life. I can't wait to see what will emerge out of her soul's sanctuary, and where she will take this in regard to her career and her relationships with her colleagues and partner. Practicing to remain open to mysterious guidance and creative solutions is the secret to cultivating her peak potential and potent impact, and will help her to joyfully co-create her life as if it were an art project.


Example 2, using the shamanic journey from the start: When this particular client first saw me almost two years ago, he was struggling with so much rage, depression, and anxiety, his fiancé considered ending the relationship. He has in the meantime gotten married to her (it was the happiest day of his life) and they are currently traveling in India. He joked with me that he will try to bring back some "baggage" because he's doing so great, there is hardly anything to talk about during our occasional tune-ups, other than his wonderful progress (which is totally fine, powerful, healing, and needed too!). This summary of the most intense transformative work over a span of two months involved shamanic journeying from the start and in every subsequent session, accurately portraying the creative ingenuity and healing power of spirit guidesHow Shamanic Journeying Can Transform You and Modern Society.

The Seed and

the Sun

As you sit here alone
in dark rich soil 

and hear feasting and joy 
above the ground

Know that you are the seed

that was at the heart and core 
of the plumb and ripe harvest 
just the year before. 

How fast or slow you'll climb,

the size or color of your leaves,
whether sturdy tree or vine,
your fruit salty, sour, bitter, or sweet

Is irrelevant to who you
already are and will become.
Trust me to hold and nourish you 
during the next four seasons

And thirteen full moons, 
as you swell, burst, sprout,
 root, bud, bloom, and once again,
spread abundance around.


              - Loraine Van Tuyl