Over the course of living and working for five years in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia and Peru I became interested in shamanism as a spiritual practice. No, I don't think of myself as a shaman although I do know quite a few. I am however a practitioner of core shamanism as a daily spiritual practice. A practitioner is simply someone who practices something. I practice core shamanism.
Core shamanism isn't a religion, its more of a way of seeing the world and our place in it, and of interacting with the normally unseen world of spirits. Because it is not a religion you can practice it if you like, no matter what religion calls to your heart.
Practitioners of core shamanism often refer to non-ordinary reality. We recognize, as do quantum and theoretical physicists, that there is more to this world than what we can sense with our five senses. Non-ordinary reality is the place, a unseen dimension if you will, where nature spirits, the spirits of the land and animals, reside. It is also the dimension where we find our deceased ancestors, spirit guides, totem animals, angels, gods and goddesses . . . whatever fits into your belief system.
From my perspective, just because I can't see something doesn't necessarily mean that it doesn't exist. By the same token, just because I can see or feel something it doesn't mean that my perception of the object is reality. For example, take the table that is probably in front of you. It looks solid. You can feel it and it supports objects. But the apparently solid table is, just like you and me, made up of whirling fields of energy in which there is more empty space than physical atoms. Thus, I have learned to be quite open about what I accept as "reality".
One of the practices of core shamanism, given that non-ordinary reality exists, is to visit it. In core shamanism we use practices to alter our consciousness (spirit, soul) and travel into non-ordinary reality and have direct experiences with our ancestors, friends, guides, guardians, and instructors who reside there. You may have grown up believing that you have a guardian angel. If so, then why not make friends with that being and interact directly with it (him or her)?
The process of sending your consciousness into non-ordinary reality is called a shamanic journey. Although some traditions use plant spirits (for example the spirit of Peyote) to assist in making the journey, most non-native shamanic practitioners like me use deep meditative states assisted with drumming. A rapid, constant drum beat seems to facilitate the shift from perceiving ordinary reality to perceiving non-ordinary reality.
Sandra Ingerman's book, Shamanic Journeying: A Beginner's Guide is a good place to start. It comes with a drumming CD so you can close your eyes and listen to the drum beat and not have to worry about drumming yourself. Katie Weatherup has written a very accessible introduction to shamanism, Practical Shamanism, A Guide for Walking in Both Worlds .
Step outside your box and discover that there is more to "reality" than you ever imagined. We all live inside a three-dimensional box. Guess what? There is "stuff" outside that box and you can discover it for yourself.
More to come . . .
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 modern druidism and contemporary shamanism.