Thoughts on the stages and qualities of contemplation and, more specifically, shamanistic ‘journeying’

From the very beginning contemplation and shamanistic ‘journeying’ had qualities about it unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.  Reflecting back on it, I can see that it came gradually over a long period of time.  Bit by bit over many years things would slowly add up eventually leading to this.  It seemed to come naturally, as I did no great ‘thing’ to do it nor did I deliberately do it nor did I know what I was doing.  In fact, when it appeared I was mystified by it and wondered what it was.  Years later, I still feel that way . . . 


There is a spectrum in contemplation/’journeying’.  To me, this spectrum reflects various forms of awareness and ‘beingness’.  They are all different aspects of perceiving life.  But they are not the ‘normal’ acts of awareness.  They are more ‘concentrated’ in a way.  Because of this, they are forms of awareness that must be ‘practiced’.  That is to say, a person must ‘do’ them, which means you have stop what you’re doing and ‘do’ them.  This makes them an act a person performs.

Over the years I have found that I do all the levels of contemplation as an act in themselves.  Like colors on a spectrum, each stage has unique qualities that are separate from the stages next to it.  By this I mean that the spectrum is not a ‘progression’.   One does not ‘progress’ from one end of the spectrum to the other end.  One stage is not ‘better’ or ‘higher’ than the next stage.  Each stage is a form of contemplation and each has its unique qualities . . . there’s just different forms.

The spectrum of contemplation/’journeying’ are:

  1. Practicing the presence.
  2. Feeling the yearning. 
  3. Feeling the presence-yearning.
  4. Deep contemplation.  
  5. ‘Journeying’.


As a child I felt occasional senses of a ‘presence’ or a ‘something’.  These primarily stayed in the ‘back of my mind’.  They were often very strong and had great impact on me.  Then, one day, I felt a great powerful sense of a ‘presence’ while taking a walk through the woods.  For some reason, I began to put my whole mind on this ‘presence’, forgetting everything else.  I felt it all about me, enveloping me.  It is a wonderful feeling.  This is the state of ‘practicing the presence’.

Once I felt and acknowledged this presence I began to feel this great yearning or longing for this presence, though I had no idea what it was.  I found myself being engrossed with this ‘great yearning’, as I called it, like a great love.  There was just ‘something’ about it that I yearned for.  This is the stage of ‘feeling the yearning’.

Shortly afterwords, I sat down on a rock and closed my eyes while feeling the presence and yearning.  Naturally, I saw darkness . . . blackness.  But I felt the ‘presence’ and the ‘yearning’ for the presence.  And so, in the darkness, it became more than darkness.  The darkness, in a way, became the stage for the presence-yearning to manifest themselves out.  With my mind blank, in the darkness, all that my mind contained was the presence-yearning. 

I then allowed myself to be ‘moved’ by this ‘yearning’.  That is, I let its ‘passion’ or ‘energy’ overwhelm me.  I seemed to become the yearning, and in the yearning I seemed to become the presence.  In so doing, I lost a sense of myself, as if I became the presence-yearning.  I, in a way, ceased to be, and all that was left was the presence-yearning.  This is the stage of ‘feeling the passion-yearning’.

Over time the presence-yearning changed.  The presence-yearning began to take a quality of a something that is “there” in the darkness, a tangible thing, a solid thing.  Before, the presence-yearning was like an emotion, a sensation.  Now, it was more.  It developed a quality of “fullness”.  In other words, the passion-yearning became a ‘thing’, a something that was more than a sense, that went beyond sensation.  Once it becomes “full” it is no longer a sense, but something with ‘mass’, with ‘substance’.  Sometimes its so strong that I feel I could reach out and touch it.  This “fullness” tends to create several reactions which are critical in contemplation/’journeying’: 

  1. It becomes “real”.  It has a quality of a something-in-the-world, an actual existing entity.  By this I mean that it does not have the quality of something imagined or thought about or just a senstation or a ‘sense’.  It seems ‘there’, in-the-world, an actually-existing thing, like a stone or a tree.
  2. There is a quality of a “being”.   It often has the quality as if someone is standing there, a living entity or being:  a person, an animal, etc. 

These, really, become the base of the sense of an ‘inner world’ that is seen with ‘journeying’.  The “fullness” makes this ‘inner world’ very “real” and consisting of actual “beings”.  When things are perceived in this way I call it ‘living presences’.

In time, as I focused my mind on the ‘living presences’, there often began to develop images in the blackness.  They began as images of a ‘face’ or ‘shape’ to the ‘living presence’.  I could almost see what it looked like.  Because I’m dealing with a ‘living presences’ with ‘mass’, the images become ‘living images with mass’.  As a result, the images become ‘real’, as if I’m actually seeing a real thing.  I call these images ‘living images’

In the condition of ‘living images’ one sees the images as ‘real’ and ‘there’.  This makes it more than a ‘phantasizing’ or a ‘dreaming’.  In this stage it would probably be looked as a ‘hullucination’, of some sort, by this society.  But its not a ‘hullucination’, as a person is still ‘in control’.  Typically, a ‘hullucination’ means someone has lost control of their mind.  In the case of ‘living images’, one has not lost control. 

Whats interesting is that these images seem to originate from the fact that I ‘went into’ the ‘living presences’ which, remember, have ‘mass’ and seem ‘real’.  Normally, with something ‘real’, we look at it from a distance.  But, as I focused my mind on the ‘living presences’, I went into the ‘mass’ and as if penetrated into it.  In some ways, it would be like walking into a rock, a ‘real’ thing.  On doing this, I became swallowed up by the ‘living presence’.  It enveloped me and surrounded me.  This gave a sense of ‘separation from self’.  I felt as if my ‘inner self’ detached from my ‘outer self’ as one snaps off a snap-button. 

This ‘inner self’ as if ‘falls into’ the blackness of the ‘living presences’.  At this stage, there can be great and tremendous feelings of ‘separation’ which can be difficult and scary.  As this ‘inner self’ proceeds to ‘fall into’ the ‘living presence’ it is often as if my mind gets incredibly concentrated and focused.  Sometimes, I seem to ‘push’ myself as I am trying to force my body through the eye of a needle.  Sometimes I succeed.  Sometimes I don’t.

When the ‘inner self’ is within the ‘living presences’ I often feel as if I am in a fluid or that there is something ‘thick’ about me.  It is still black and darkness is about me.  Sometimes, at this stage, I will as if ‘float’ in the blackness.  This, really, is ‘deep contemplation’.  

But, often, at this stage, images appear out of the darkness.  Images often appear because a person can only grasp so much of the sense of the ‘living presence’, which is only a sense of a presence . . . there needs to be more of an expression:  images.  In other words, the images seem to appear as the next stage in the revealing of the ‘living presences’.   

These images are not just images, like one see’s in ones head as one daydreams.  They are images with “fullness”.  As such, they had a ‘realness’ to them and the things in it were ‘real beings’.  It gave the appearance that I was at a real place with real beings.  This is the state of ‘journeying’.

And, remember, this is done while I am ‘awake’, sitting with my eyes closed.  I was not ‘sleeping’.  Because of this, I am actually conscious and awake.  The difference is that I seemed to be in this hyper-concentrated state.  Typically, at any time, I could ‘stop’ the dream . . . and have done.  Not only that, I often could make decisions in the dream, deciding to go this way or that or react in a specific way.  I also can consciously think at times and determine what to do.  This shows that I was not ‘unconcious’ as one is in a nightly dream.  This gives it a quality as if my a part of my self is ‘somewhere else’.

This ‘going into’ the ‘living presence’ and seeing images is the basic element of ‘journeying’ and, in a way, is the source of the name. 

And so it sort of followed this path:

  • I felt a ‘sense’ of a presence.
  • I feel the presence strongly and acknowledge it.
  • I feel a yearning or longing for the presence.
  • While sitting there feeling the presence and yearning I close my eyes.
  • In the emptiness of my mind, all I feel is the presence-yearning.
  • In feeling the yearning I lose a sense of my self and the yearning to ‘takes charge’.
  • The presence-yearning turns into a “fullness” in the blackness.
  • The “fullness” creates the sense of ‘living ‘presences’.
  • Focusing my mind on the ‘living presences’ I began to ‘immerse’ myself in them.
  • There is a separation of self.
  • In so doing, this new self went ‘into’ the ‘living presences’.
  • This creates a sense of another world and images appear.
  • Moving into the images a ‘journey’ dream takes place.

Looking at all this, it seems that there are these stages:

  1. The feeling of the yearning-presence.
  2. The losing of a sense of self.
  3. The development of “fullness”, the ‘living presences’.
  4. The separation of self.
  5. The “living presences” turn into images – the ‘journey’ dream.


Some of the unique qualities found in ‘journey’ dreams are:

  • It requires a procedure to have the dream.  I have to initiate it by doing certain things.
  • Everything is primarily spontaneous.  Things just ‘happen’ in the dream.
  • I primarily ‘follow along’ with what happens.  It ‘takes the lead’, so to speak.
  • It often develops a life of its own, going its own way, and in its own direction.  This gives a lot of ‘journeying’ a quality of a ‘revealing’.
  • There is interaction with the beings and events that take place.
  • I often think on my own and can make choices.
  • I can often do things on my own and do active participation.
  • I do things I don’t understand.
  • I understand things without being told.
  • There’s a feeling of being in another ‘space’ or another ‘world’ or another place.
  • There’s a feeling of another ‘life’.
  • There’s a feeling of another ‘self’.
  • There is a great sense of realness.
  • There’s a sense of a great concentration.  I’ve often said that its like my mind is ‘concentrated on the head of a pin’.
  • There’s a sense of a great stretching of self.  I’ve often compared the feeling to forcing myself through a pinhole.
  • I feel removed or separate from myself
  • I forget where I am.  It’s as if the dream absorbs you.
  • There’s a feeling of a ‘forcing your way through’.

I’ve compared it to a ‘waking dream’ many times and have spoken of it that way too. 

I have found that the images in ‘journey’ dreams has levels.  That is to say, some are deeper than others.  I tend to believe that this is because of the fact that there are two ‘self’ working in the ‘journey’ dream:

  1. The ‘dreaming’ self.
  2. The ‘dream-creating’ self.

The ‘dreaming’ self observes the dream created by the ‘dream-creating’ self.  Both selfs as if run together, at the same time.  The more the ‘dream-creating’ self is dominant the deeper the dream.  I can often tell how deep the dream is while in the dream.  The sense that a dream isn’t ‘deep enough’ often prompts me to go deeper.  This usually entails a further separation of self.  This suggests that the ‘journey’ dream is caused by the separation of the two selfs:

the ‘dreaming’ self —— <separation> —— the ‘dream-creating’ self 

The greater the separation of selfs the more ‘deeper’ the ‘journey’ is.  When the images are ‘deep’ they seem to come as if ‘from nowhere’, and they often mystify me.  They seem to have an ‘otherworldly’ quality and something separate from myself.  This shows that the ‘dream-creating’ self has ‘gone on its own’, separate from the ‘dreaming’ self.

When the images are not ‘deep’ the separation between the selfs is not big.  Because of this, the ‘dreaming’ self and the ‘dream-creating’ self come closer together and, as a result, become more “alike”.  In fact, the may even become the same self.  This creates certain sensations in me such as:

  • I can sometimes almost feel myself ‘creating’ the image.  This is hard to describe.  It’s a feeling of watching my mind put the images together.  But, still, I am not ‘willing’ the images to be there, nor am I ‘planning’ what the image will be.  Its as if, though, that the images are more fitting to my conscious mind, following patterns of thoughts and perspectives of my conscious mind.  
  • The images seem too predictable.
  • Some images I have doubts about.
  • Some images I feel are false.
  • Some images seem to have no meaning but seem as if my mind is ‘rambling on’.
  • There is often no meaning in the dream.

There are times when these feelings has caused some speculation of the accuracy of the images in ‘journeying’, as if I often wonder if I’m just ‘creating’ them to fit some motive of mine.  I think, though, that what this shows is that when the dream becomes more superficial (less separation of selfs) the less intuition it displays

And there is the key word:  Intuition.  The power of the ‘journey’ dream is intuition. That is what we seek, that is what creates things, that is what teaches us, that is what shows us things.  It shows that this deep type of intuition requires that the two selfs be separated.  It shows that the ‘dream-creating’ self is intuitive and that the ‘dreaming’ self is not.  By separating our self into two selfs it allows the ‘dream-creating’, or intuitive mind, to display itself more strongly.  As the separation comes closer, the two selfs come together and it loses its ability of intuition.  This is why I felt that the images were ‘fake’ or ‘false’:  I felt no intuition in them.  It shows that there is a point when the images cease to be intuitive and just an illusion.

What this also shows is that the dreams, and intuition, originate from ones mind.  In actuality, our minds create the dreams.  This shows that the images found in ‘journeying’ may be greatly impacted by a persons ability to be intuitive.  Some people are more intuitive than others.  Not only that, a persons situation in life can have great impact on ones intuition of things.  The people in primitive tribes, for example, lived in the middle of nature.  As a result, they are more inclined to be ‘intuitive’ about the things going on in nature than someone in the modern world, which is why they would develop a more ‘prolific’ shamanistic tendency involving nature. 

In effect, I’m saying that shamanism is a system based on the power of intuition.

I also found that the images that appeared were often were impacted by my knowledge of things.  This was most clear in the superficial images but was seen, from time to time, in the deeper images.  In general, the deeper images, being more intuitive, reflected more images of intuition, which was stuff that often had nothing to do with anything I had knowledge of.  The superficial images reflected more my knowledge of things, often making it seem ‘predictable’. 

I also found that the intuition revealed in ‘journeying’ often needs to have some philosophy or belief system to base itself on.  That is to say, it needs some framework to build the image of intuiton.  Without this framework intuition could be somewhat hampered or hindered in its manifestation.  It seemed that the more involved my belief system the  more intuition had a way to express itself.  With an ‘accepted’ belief system certain traits and qualities could manifest themselves out more freely in known ways. 

But the separation of selfs were critical for this intuition.  Only when the selfs are separated can the intuiton of the ‘journey’ dream come about.  But, its not easy having the selfs separate.  A person has to have the ability to do this.  My feelings is that not everyone has this ability.  I think most people could never develop this tendency.  Some, might be able to learn it.  Others are born with it.

I’ve always wondered how a person can teach someone to do shamanistic ‘journeying’.  I guess all you could do is have them ‘imitate’ similar acts and see what happens.  This is something, though, that may take some time and practice to do though (as it didn’t just ‘appear’ one day in me). 

Its interesting to note that there can be great effort to keep the selfs separated.  Often, I’ve found I cannot.  Other times it takes effort.  And, at other times its easy.  There are times when I feel myself separate and its as if I’m attached to a big rubber band and I ‘spring back’ to my normal mind.  I go out and spring back, go out and spring back.  It’s sort of funny in a way.

This shows that the separation of selfs often requires a mental preparedness and readiness.  If it is not there, its not going to happen.  This is one reason why the other forms of contemplations are practiced, as if to keep the mind ‘ready’.  It shows how our outer mind has to be ‘quieted’ down and ‘composed’.  This shows how powerful the outer mind is and how suttle the intuitive mind is.  Very easily, the outer mind overcomes the intuitive self and drowns it out. 

To me, the ‘journeying’ dream has two qualities:

  1. Active.  Here, you have control and can do things.  Often, there is a sense of ‘moving in space’ when you are moving.
  2. Passive.  This is something observed, as if watching a movie.  You passively watch yourself do things.

Most dreams consist of both, to varying degrees, some more active, some more passive. 

As near as can tell, all the images in a ‘journey’ dream, itself, consists of these traits:

  • The ‘environment’.   This refers to the area round which the dream takes place.  It could be forestland, the top of the mountain, in a cave, etc.
  • The ‘me’.  This is the perception of ones self in the dream.
  • The ‘things’. This is something that is there (such as a person or being) and which a person associates with.
  • The ‘event’.  This is the ‘message’ of the dream.

‘Journey’ dreams seem to refer to the persons association with the events.  In general, ‘journeying’ dreams are not dreams of a bystander, of someone watching whats going on.  In a ‘journey’ dream the person is a central player.

Typically, there is meaning in all these manifestations of ‘journey’ dreams.   In other words, it seems that all the parts of the ‘image’ in ‘journeying’ dreams all have a meaning or somehow are involved in effecting the meaning.  There is nothing superfluous or trivial in it.  On recollection, I never recall ‘details’ about things here and about, such as how a persons hair is combed or what color of shoes their wearing.  If I did remember it then it would have meaning.  What this means is that the images we see are actually ‘partial’ – we’re only seeing the “necessaries-to-make-a-meaning”.  As a result, details are generally not seen in the images. 

The main thing rememberd is the ‘event’, the ‘message’ of the dream.  This, after all, is what everything is about.  Everything else, the ‘environment’, the ‘things’, etc. all follow the lead of the ‘event’.  In the dream the ‘event’ or ‘message’ is everything

This ‘event’ or ‘message’ generally displays itself through something like a ‘mythology’ or extensive symbology.  It seems that the deeper you go the more mythology/symbology you see.  This shows that there is a strong relationship between mythology/symbology and intuition.   This is interesting as it shows that some of the greatest and deepest intuition, which has been saught for centuries, is not found in logic or abstract thought, as modern people think, but by myth and symbols.  It is through shamanistic ‘journey’ dreams that I, myself, began to see the power of myth/symbols and understand them. 

But, to do ‘journey’ dreams you need to be able to read myth/symbols.  That is to say, you need to be able to read your own intuition.  This is not as easy as it sounds.  It requires a knowledge of oneself and the general nature of myth/symbols.  It takes a while,  I think, to read that.

Some common principles, I think, of symbols include:

  • Things are portrayed as other things that have some quality of similarity.  Its meaning may vary with context, though, making it somewhat tricky.  A fire, for example, can be a symbol for a passion or a desire but it can also mean death (destruction), depending on its context. 
  • Important qualities are exaggerated.  Something representing fear is portrayed as very large, for example.
  • Some qualities are portrayed as a generalized vague image.  For example, an awareness of people is perceived as seeing faint images of people or hearing the murmurs of a crowd. 

To me, all the beings that appear in dreams are nothing but a symbol of something else.  I may speak of them as the ‘Great Mother’ or ‘The Creator’ or as a god but they are really only symbols.  They are not ‘real’ like a rock or a tree.  But they are real, though, in the sense that they are a ‘passion’ or ‘presence’ or as a force.  This is a different type of ‘realness’ than we’re used to, a spiritual “realness”.  That makes them very real, but only as a ‘living presence’.  And so, we must understand that there are two forms of realness:

  1. Realness-as-abstract:  the Realness of Reality.
  2. Realness-as-presence:  Spiritual Realness.

Both forms of realness are ‘real’ but only in certain ways.  A ‘presence’ is just as real as this table, but they display different types of awareness of that realness  In other words, both are limited.  They both complement each other, though, and need each other. 

In ‘journeying’ the “realness-as-presence” must be experienced as real.  If it is not experienced as real then its no different than some phantasy one has.  Of course, nowadays, to say that some ‘being’ in a ‘journey’ dream is real makes people think your insane.  But the fact is that for a spirituality to be effective it must be taken as real.

It seems to me that contemplation and shamanistic ‘journeying’ is rooted in “realness-as-presence”, or spiritual realness, almost exclusivelyIn other words, “realness-as-abstract”, or realness of reality, takes a back seat.  This creates a condition of great ‘spiritual reality’, where the presences and such are VERY real.  They can become more real than reality itself.  ‘Spiritual realness’ sets up a situation where a number of things can happen:

  • A great spiritual sense can develop.
  • A great insight or intuition can come.
  • There is a sense of another ‘world’ or ‘reality’.  This is a result of the fact that the two “realities” are so different that the difference is felt.
  • A sense of madness can take place.  That is to say, there is a sense of losing touch with reality. 

All of these are associated with shamanistic ‘journeying’.  They show the power and effect the “reality-as-presence”, or spiritual reality, can take.  It also shows the difference between the two realities and how they can ‘clash’. 

In the end, though, it shows that contemplation, in general, is a means of ‘achieving the best of both worlds’, that is, of both realities, of standing with a foot in both ‘worlds’.


The images that come in contemplation/’journeying’ seem to have a number of origins:

  • Naturally appearing images.
  • Images inflluenced by ones personal experience.
  • Images influenced by ones knowledge of things and how things work.
  • Images that are ‘made up on the spot’ for some reason.
  • Frivilous images that are created almost as if to make it interesting.
  • Deceiving images that mean nothing at all (I speak of this as the ‘trickster’).

The most profound, and insightful, are the naturally appearing images.  But one needs to have experience and knowledge for the naturally appearing images to manifest themselves.  In other words, our experience and knowledge greatly impact the images we have. 

We must also remember that just because one has images doesn’t make it ‘true’ or insightful.  I have found that not all images are ‘truthful’ or insightful.  Some are.  Some aren’t.  Some are even deceiving.  Sometimes, I can tell when an image is false by intuition.  One must always be on the guard. 

Oftentimes, the question is not in having images but in interpreting them correctly and putting them in the correct context.  In many ways, this is the most important thing.  This shows two processes:

  1. Having images or insight.
  2. Putting them in the correct context.

I’ve found that some of the greatest insight from contemplation/’journeying’ do not necessarily come from having it but the reflection on it later on.  This is why its often good to reflect on the dream.  It’s not uncommon that this is where the insight is learned and discovered. 


As I said above, the ‘living images’ are when a ‘living presence’, with mass, is associated with an image, making them appear very real.  A ‘living image’ can be as real as any person or thing.  Because of this they can have greater impact, and meaning, than any idea, principle or concept.  This gives them great power and influence, far more than most people, I think, realize.  Its for this reason that I think its good to accept them.

But, in this society, it is frowned upon and condemned.  Its insanity!  Its “y0ur minding playing tricks on you”!  There are all sorts of explanations.  But, despite this, I’ve found that ‘living images’ are good . . . as long as you don’t get carried away with it.  A person can get carried away and go to extremes . . . but, then again, you can do that with anything (how many times have I seen that with intellectualism and logic!).  In reality, it’s really no different than anything else:  things must be looked at wisely and practically.

‘Living images’ seem to do a number of things:

  • The accepting of ‘living images’ makes spirituality very ‘real’.  It’s not some abstract idea. 
  • ‘Living images’ creates a “platform” of an association or relationship with spirituality.  There is ‘something’ to associate with and visualize.  

I have always felt, though, that a person must always remember that any ‘living image’ is a representation of something, a symbol.  It’s a way the ‘mind’ displays various forms of awareness and truths that it otherwise cannot do.  This makes the ‘living image’ half real, half illusion.  This is part of its power and its magic.  But its also part of its illusion. 

Typically, in a culture, there is a standard image of spiritual things that a person is taught.  This, naturally, determines its form and image.  This is a good example of how one perceives spirituality and the knowledge one has of it and how it affects the ‘images’ one has.  But, since I don’t have constant defined images to use, I have found that my images continually change over time.  Only a small number of images have remained exactly the same.  I speak of this condition of continual change in images as ‘fluidic images’.  That means that a representation, say, of a fear will one day be a dark mass envoloping me and another day a creature with huge fangs.  ‘Fluidic images’ is a good example of how the mind creates many images of the same thing

Having a culture with a ‘predefined’ image of spiritual things helps keep a constancy in ones mind but it also hides the fact of the fluid and variable qualities our minds make. 


The important thing, I’ve found, is not the images themselves but the passion behind the images, what motivates them.  It is this ‘force’ that is the cause and drive of everything.  In other words, one should look beyond the images.  Often, there is a tendency to glorify the images one has.  We as put it on a pedastal like some god. 

To me, the purpose of contemplation/’journeying’ is an expression, really, of love and a desire to grow.  The whole purpose and motive is based in a ‘yearning for life’.  Many of the ‘living images’ become something to ‘love’.  This ‘yearning’ is a ‘force’ a passion.  As such, what ones loves – life – is passion as well.  This emphasis on passion is what I call being ‘passion-centered’.  This means that everything is looked at from the point of view of expression.  Everything one does in life, and all that is important, is ‘passion’.  Not objects, not knowledge, not ‘images’.  These are all nothing but stepping stones to passion.  This means that we must be cautious to not be deceived by these things, even the products of contemplation/’journeying’.

This entry was posted in Contemplation, monastacism, shamanism, spirituality, prayer, and such, Religion and religious stuff, Shamanistic 'journey' dreams and dreaming and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s