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Letting Go

A Guide to Shamanism (Sandra Ingerman)

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Interview with Sandra Ingerman on the spiritual journey that led her to Shamanism. Sandra talks about the benefits of Shamanic journeys and some shadow sides. She shares her own experience of dealing with depression and a physical injury.

Shamanic Journey – Where you should journey?

What is Shamanism?

“Shamanism is the most ancient spiritual practice known to humankind. We know from the archaeological evidence the practice dates back at least 40,000 years. Some anthropologists believe that the practice dates back over 100,000 years.

The word “shaman” comes from the Tungus tribe in Siberia and it means spiritual healer or one who sees in the dark. Shamanism has been practiced in Siberia, Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, Greenland, and native North and South America.” Source:  Sandra, (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2015.

Shamanism in the West takes on many different meanings. It can be a journeying practice learned from a book or teacher to visit spirit guides or it could involve going to a Shamanic practitioner for healing.

Traditionally, Shamanism is a healing modality that indigenous people used for treating both physical and mental illness. Shamans believe that most of the issues a client is experiencing can be resolved by working with their spirit. In order to relieve a client of their issue, the healing practitioner, referred to as a Shaman, enters a different realm of reality called the non-ordinary reality. The Shaman uses a variety of methods to move the brain into this altered state of consciousness including music, drumming, and dancing. While in this state, the Shaman journeys to the upper, middle, and lower worlds to collect information from compassionate helping spirits.

In the West, pioneers like Michael Harner, the founder of the Institute of Shamanic Studies initiated the Shamanistic practice. Sandra Ingerman was trained by Harner and is now one of the preeminent teachers of Shamanism in the West today.



Sandra Ingerman YouTube- What are benefits and warnings about shamanism?

  • 19:19 What is the “shadow side“ of interest in Shamanism? Sandra explains how today’s culture has a fixation on understanding the methods of healing, which is inhibiting our natural intuitive power to perform the practice and receive the wisdom of our own inner voice.
  • 24:42 How Shamanic journey helps us own our power and why it’s important
  • 26:54 When will the positive transformational changes occur on the planet?

Who is a Shaman?


A Shaman is a healing practitioner with the ability to journey to other realities and communicate with compassion spirits for healing and divination (predict future). In indigenous cultures, Shamans are first initiated and then selected by their tribe. In the West, you can find healers who use Shamanic-based practices learned from teachers like Sandra Ingerman (, or teacher list at Institute for Shamanic Studies (

Check out the video below and the interview with Phil Borges from National Geographic to find out the induction process used for Dali Lama’s Oracle of Tibet.

Sandra shares her own experience with Shamanism and her belief that being a Shaman is something that is ordained as part of one’s destiny.

“A shaman is a man or woman who uses the ability to see “with the strong eye” or “with the heart” to travel into hidden realms. The shaman interacts directly with the spirits to address the spiritual aspect of illness and perform soul retrievals, retrieve lost power, as well as remove spiritual blockages.  The shaman also divines information for the community. Shamans have and still act as healers, doctors, priests and priestesses, psychotherapists, mystics, and storytellers”. Sandra, (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2015.

Sandra Ingerman YouTube- Is my destiny to be a shaman?

  • 1:26 How was Sandra introduced to Shamanism?
  • 6:40 What is Shamanism? Who are Shamans and what do they do?
  • 13:38 What is required to become a Shaman in an indigenous tribe?
  • 16:26 How does one know if their destiny is to be a Shaman?

What is a Shamanic Journey?

During a Shamanic journey, the Shaman travels to several worlds (lower, middle, and upper) to meet a compassionate spirit. One of the common questions asked is if the lower world represents Hell and the upper world Heaven. In Shamanism, both the upper and lower worlds are filled with compassionate spirits. They are only differentiated to represent the various entry points into these worlds. In the case of the lower world, one would use an access point through an opening in the earth like down a tunnel or through hole in the ground. In the case of the upper world, your access point would be upward through channels such as a rainbow or a tree.

“One of the major ceremonies a shaman performs is called a shamanic journey. A shaman is a man or woman who goes into an altered state of consciousness and travels outside of time into the hidden realms that many term non-ordinary. I see non-ordinary reality as a parallel universe to ours. The Australian aborigines call non-ordinary the Dreamtime. It is also referred to as the Other World in Celtic traditions.

In these hidden realities there are helping spirits, compassionate spirits who offer their guidance and also their healing help on behalf of all life on earth”. Sandra, (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2015.

In Shamanic healing, when a client has lost their personal power, the Shaman engages in practices to retrieve it by way of a power animal or by using part of the client’s soul (soul retrieval). Other common practices include extraction or removal of a localized illness or pain. A host of other Shamanic healings is offered but each curative is unique to the client that visits.

Sandra Ingerman YouTube-

How does one do a shamanic journey?

The Institute of Shamanic Studies recommends a more structured approach to journeying based on Micheal Harner’s visits to different indigenous groups. Harner observed that “90% of the world, the altered states of consciousness used in shamanism are attained through consciousness-changing techniques involving a monotonous percussion sound, most typically done with a drum, but also with sticks, rattles, and other instruments”. Other cultures use psychedelic drugs to change their state of consciousness. (see ayahuasca -  )

“Typically shamans use some form of percussion, especially drumming or rattling, to go into an altered state that allows the free soul of the shaman to journey into the invisible worlds. In Australia you also see shamans use the didgeridoo and/or click sticks. Some traditions use sticks or bells.  The Sami people of Lapland and Norway also use monotonous chanting called “joiking”. Sandra, (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2015.

Researcher Melinda Maxfield, who studied the Shamanic State of Consciousness, found that these altered states are achieved when the steady rhythmic beat of a drum is struck four and one half times per second. Accordingly, 4.5 beats per second will trigger the trance-like state of theta brain wave activity.

If you are new to this practice,  consider using this traditional approach as a start – Listen to a CD or MP3 of drumming ( to flow into a trans and eliminate distractions by covering your eyes and shutting out light. If this approach doesn’t work for you or you just want to try something less involved, simply breathe deeply and relax.

Based on my conversation with Shamanic teacher Llyn Roberts, this is the method she used in several journeys she offered through radio programs. There are also many other types of journeys one can take and many spirits you can visit. Sandra Ingerman’s book “ Walking in Light” offers more than 20 different journeys you can take depending on the questions you are seeking. Her advice is to experiment and keep the process fresh.

“Because the practice of shamanism is a system of direct revelation, all shamans describe their experiences differently. There is no right way to experience a shamanic journey. In our culture we try to conform to the right way to experience a shamanic journey. This takes away the meaning and the passion for the word. To keep the work spiritually inspired and fresh, you must remember that everyone who practices shamanic journeying as different ways of experiencing the helping spirits and the non-ordinary realms. Also, please have different ways of entering into the non-ordinary realms. Experiment and find the method that works for you”. Ingerman, S. (n.d.). Walking in light: The everyday empowerment of a shamanic life (p. 11).

What spirits are we communicating with when journeying?

Within the upper and lower world, you will find both human and animal spirits. If you want specifics on what people observe when visiting these worlds, make sure to get Michael Harner’s book “Cave and Cosmo’s”, which is filled with vivid stories on what some of his student’s experienced and who they have met in there worlds.  The two approaches that I’m familiar with are being open and seeing what teacher emerges for the question you want clarity on.  Another approach offered in Sandra Ingerman’s book “Walking in Light” is to ask for a specific person or entity (e.g.- Buddha, Jesus, Arch Angel Michael, etc).

The two most common types of spirits who work in partnership with the shaman are power animals also called guardian spirits as well as there are teachers in human form.

Shamanic cultures believe that when we are born the spirit of at least two power animals volunteer to remain with us to keep us healthy emotionally and physically and also protect us from harm. These animals are akin to the Christian belief in guardian angels.

The other form of helping spirit that shamans work with is a teacher in human form. These typically were the gods and goddesses of the culture, religious figures, and ancestors who wished to help.

These helping spirits work with the shaman to bring healing to individuals, the community, and the environment. The helping spirits are also consulted with when information is needed.” Sandra,(n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2015.

If you choose to travel to the middle world, then you can choose who you want to communicate with.  In the coursework I took, you ask for permission and then merge, or just simply observe and communicate with the beings around you. For example, during a recent training I journeyed in the middle world to Mount Shasta, the clouds, the wind, a specific part on land (power spot), and a deer. To experience what it may be like to shapeshift, check out the interview with Llyn Roberts that includes a meditation at the end:

Your experience within these realms and the way you communicate with the spirits will be completely different from the next person. Some people see images, hear sounds, feel things and even smell things. The bottom line is that there is not just one right way. The only cautionary tale is if you find a spirit that is abusive, negative, or a downer. Then you should turn around and restart your journey. I’ve been told to also turn around if a power animal shows you its teeth. In both of these cases, you may have inadvertently took a wrong turn, gotten lost on route and met a wayward unhelpful hitchhiker. Any spirit you communicate with in the Upper and Lower realm will be compassionate.

Shamanism: Using a journey to overcome feelings of hopelessness

Shamanism offers a healing modality that helps us both seek clarity to questions and helps when we are experiencing challenging emotions, like having a sense of helplessness or hopelessness.

Sandra Ingerman wrote “Walking in Light” to offer a whole book of tools to help regain balance and clarity during challenging times we often experience in life. The book shares several methods to transmute and transform the energy behind your thoughts and emotions, in addition to offering several journeys to perform an inner contemplation. Here are just a few tips from Sandra’s book (Ingerman, S. (n.d.). Walking in light: The everyday empowerment of a shamanic life (p. 144):

  • Recall your core intentions: When you feel triggered, take a step back and start tuning into the energy behind your emotion. Sandra suggests that we fully express those feelings and then state an intention to transform the energy behind it. Fill it with love and light so that you can fill your inner landscape with love and kindness. Check out the meditation at 46:23 Transfiguration Meditation
  • Make a decree: Making a decree can add power and life to an intention. Sandra has developed her own set of wording that she uses when she gets triggered, which is “This is how I’m feeling right now, I have a right to what I’m feeling. Thank you for transmuting and transforming the energy behind my emotion to love and light that radiates into the world”.
  • Breathing: Taking deep breaths allow us to take a time out and stop the constant cycle of thoughts. Focus on your heart as a means to shift you out of a reactive state.
  • Impose something you love on the situation: If you are challenged with a person, imagine a loved ones face imposed upon the face of the person you are having a problem with.
  • Redirect your senses: Carry a small bottle of your favorite scent and focus your energy on smelling the beauty of the fragrance. Sandra suggests simply taking a sip of water will help change things up.
  • Turn to words that inspire you: Look at affirmations or quotes to get inspired.
  • Recall what you are grateful for. Check out this video with Brother David for details.

RESOURCES: Things to try when you feel hopeless or helpless

Sandra Ingerman YouTube- How can journeying help when you are feeling down?

  • 27:12 How can Shamanism help when you are feeling helpless or hopeless?
  • 28:49 Shamanic’s POV on despair – Is it a crisis of spirit?
  • 29:55 How can the Shamanic Journey help during a period of despair?
  • 30:56 How does the mind affect our ability to heal? Why we need to fake it until we make it?
  • 35:20 Why our thoughts can build new neural pathways
  • 38:47 Sandra explains her work with alternative healing modalities and explains why we need to be patient and not give up if healing doesn’t happen immediately. Things happen on an invisible level and the new foundation for health is being woven. It’s about having faith and being patient. The healing is happening in the appropriate time.

Shamanism- Finding the light within


One of the chapters in “Walking in Light” offered an approach to healing that I’ve found is becoming more prevalent with some of the pioneers in the healing arena. This approach focuses on using light and love as a healing agent versus using our conscious mind to fix a problem. Shining light on the problem will cause it to dissipate. While our minds want to be consciously aware of when the healing occurs, there is a joy in just letting go and letting the light heal us without really knowing what has happened or why.

Here are a few passages from Sandra’s book, “Walking in the Light” that explains her thoughts. If you want to try the meditation, check out the video links below:

“I do believe that working with light will be how we heal in the future. In my practice, I still perform soul retrievals, power animal retrievals, extraction of illness, and depossession work. Clients who come to see me still believe that this work is needed for their ultimate healing. But I also have evolved my work and bridge my transfiguration work into my shamanic healing practice. I also teach my clients how to experience their inner light and encourage them to create regular meditation practice to soak in this light.“  Ingerman, S. (n.d.). Walking in light: The everyday empowerment of a shamanic life (p. 189).

“Light transforms and light heals.  As we learn how to be a vessel of light and unconditional love, the world around us heals.  It is important to continue your practice of experiencing yourself as Source.  The more you experience your divine nature and light, the more you heal and become stronger and more potent healing presence in the world. Remember that light is always flowing through you. You can create healing in the world by being a strong presence where you radiate light. This light flowing through you empower you in your daily life”.  Ingerman, S. (n.d.). Walking in light: The everyday empowerment of a shamanic life (p. 183).

“As we radiate light effortlessly, as shamans and healers have done since the beginning of time, we have the power to transform illness, trauma, and environmental pollution. It is who we become that changes the world, not what we do.  Obviously there are actions needed to live in harmony with the web of life.  We need to change how we caretake the Earth. We need to wake up and live a shamanic way of life.  And at the same time our natural, most basic presence can be a true healing force. When in the presence of a great shaman, teacher, or spiritual healer, there is radiance emanating through her that also shines though her eyes. This presence heals everyone around her through a state of being rather than through the need to perform a healing technique”. Ingerman, S. (n.d.). Walking in light: The everyday empowerment of a shamanic life (p. 185)

Sandra Ingerman YouTube – Transfiguration Light Meditation.

  • 43:41 Why Sandra considers the transfiguration light work she discovered as the ultimate healing
  • 46:23 Transfiguration Meditation