|In the shamanic world view, everything is alive, and all beings are in relationship with one another. All are sustained through reciprocity, which extends among various dimensions of reality. Maintaining balance in the universe is a continual dance among the elemental forces of nature, and with the spirit helpers on the earth, throughout the universe, and in what is often called nonordinary reality. Michael Harner refers to shamanism as the “most widespread and ancient … system of mind-body healing known to humanity”. The methods and beliefs have great similarity everywhere in the world.
To move among various realities, or worlds, and to negotiate within them, the shamanic practitioner develops relationships with spirit helpers; the primary guardian spirit often takes the form of a power animal, with whom the shaman develops a deep and long-lasting connection. Relationships with other spirit helpers are often developed; they may serve for a particular goal, or their presence may come and go. Shamanic power is developed over time - by practice, by journeying, and by learning from spirit helpers or the experience of being on other planes of existence.
With experience, the inter-weaving of these realities becomes more graspable – although wonder at the complexity of connections extending through time and space reveal deeper and deeper levels of mystery, never to be completely fathomed and to leave us in a state of awe.
The repeated rhythm of a drum or rattle, a dance, or a chant are important tools for shamanic journeying. The repeated rhythm may “carry” the shaman on the journey, and also help in his/her return to ordinary reality. A chant may serve as a highway, connecting the traveler to a plant spirit, or other helper spirit. All of these tools help to maintain the focus of connection to the spirit helper and to the destination.
Stones may be tools or guides for a particular kind of journey; particular formations of stone or the land, mountains, rivers, or other water sources, may provide specific guidance or teaching, or serve as a place where a particular kind of work can be done (e.g., purification, connecting with power or with the ancestors). Plant medicines may be used.
Dreams, both individual and communal, have powerful potential to guide direction and to reveal knowledge that helps personal transformation and clarifies understanding of oneself, others, and complex situations.
The information or understanding may be used for physical or spiritual healing, to help an individual or to address an imbalance on the land – perhaps some residue of an injustice such as a massacre, the violation of the land from mining, or other disregard for the integrity of some form of life.