Probably the most common question that I am asked when I teach shamanic journey workshops (I like to call them "playshops") is "What if I am making the whole thing up?" That's a very good question. It is quite common to feel like you are creating your journey with your imagination, because you are. Well sort of.
I expect that when we journey part of our soul travels to the other world and part remains in our body. In essence, our soul bilocates. The part of our soul that has left ordinary reality is experiencing the journey first hand. What that soul part experiences is shared, much like quantum entanglement, with the soul part that remained in your body. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like soul communicates well with the rational mind. If it did then all that soul has experienced would be accessible to our minds, things like past lives, between-life experiences, all of the events that we believe we have experienced but can't remember. Anyway, our imagination is the great decoder. Our imagination interprets what the soul is feeling or experiencing into thoughts that our mind can process.
So now I hope you are asking, "Well then, are you saying that our imagination just makes the whole thing up?" Nope, that's not what I'm saying. The journey is real but our imaginations turn what the soul is experiencing into thoughts that our minds can process. How do I know?
Unless you have learned the technique of lucid dreaming, when you dream you don't have any control over where you go or what happens. It just seems that the dream happens to you. On the other hand, when you day dream you have control over both where the daydream takes you and what happens in the day dream. You might think of it this way:
No Control Complete Control
Over Destination Over Destination
DREAM ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- DAY DREAM
No Control Complete Control
Over Events Over Events
If dreaming and day dreaming are the end points on a continuum then a shamanic journey is somewhere in the middle. In a shamanic journey you do have control over the destination, at least the initial destination be it the lower world or the upper world. However, once you arrive the journey seems to happen to you and you don't have control over the events that unfold.
The best test of the reality of a shamanic journey is what it does to you. If a journey is a powerful experience and one from which you return with new insights then it probably wasn't just your imagination taking you for a ride. For example, when I journey for someone else to do a soul retrieval I often return with information about a private and traumatic experience, one that the person may have lived through years and years before, that they never told anyone about. My imagination didn't make the event up because it was a real, past experience for the other individual. Did I tap into their Akashic record, get the information from their totem animal or spirit guide? I don't really know, but what I do know is that through the shamanic journey I was able to access information and a soul fragment that helped the other person heal. My imagination helped make the experience real for my logical mind, but at the soul level the experience was already real.
Journey with joy, and use your imagination to make the experience rich,
I'm Dr. Dave, a modern druid. I lived and worked in Bolivia and Peru for over six years, where I and was trained by Andean Shamans, and today practice Druidcraft, eclectic shamanism and Ayurveda.