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What to look for when choosing an introduction course to shamanic practice

There are many opportunities to learn about shamanic practice. But what should you look for if you want to explore whether shamanic practice is for you?

7 things to look for when choosing an introduction to shamanism course

Shamanic practice is ultimately a path of spiritual development that also includes training in different healing methods and approaches. An introductory course will give you a flavour of both the essence of the practice and introduce you to some basic methods and possibly healing. Here are seven things to look for when deciding on which course to take.

  1. The teacher: The most important aspects of a course is its teacher. You will need to feel comfortable with them and they should have considerable experience. Look for one that has received extensive training and learning from another experienced teacher. You can learn more about what to look for in a teacher in this article.

  2. Experiential approach: Shamanic practice cannot be learned without learning from experience. While some direction and explanation will be needed, the most effective way to learn the practice is to do it, reflect on it, share the experience with others and learn from their experience, and then have time to integrate the experience. So make sure that the course you are on will be hands on and will not be filled by long and boring monologues.

  3. Covers important elements: Introduction courses will be diverse and what is offered will depend on the teacher. But there are three common elements that are common and that you will probably want to learn on an introduction course:

  4. Shamanic journeying: Contemporary training in shamanic practice will cover a wide range of core elements. Much of the practice, however, is based on the ability of a shamanic practitioner to access the deeper realms, energy, and consciousness of which we are all a part. To do this, practitioners often use some form of shamanic journeying or dreaming. The practice enables a practitioner to shift away from dominant forms of brain activity to other, less commonly applied, but natural activities such as accessing material from our subconscious of from the wider consciousness of which we are all a part. Most people find it easy and natural but may not have previously been aware of the technique because of our societal conditioning that privileges other ways of knowing and perceiving.

  5. Finding shamanic spirit guides: A second common aspect taught on introductory courses is the practice of finding one or more spirit guides. Shamanic practitioners not only work by tapping into subconscious material but also with the wider beings that are found outside of the normal reality that we perceive. This can come in many different forms. A common kind of guide are animal spirit guides. Think of the tradition in many North American indigenous people of engaging with totem animals for example. Such peoples are well versed with communicating and learning from such totems and spirit animal guides play an important part of their culture. Even though engaging with spirit guides is outside most peoples experience in the west, they do find it quite easy when they give themselves when they are taught some basic approaches. For many, finding they can perceive such guides quite naturally can be profound.

  6. Experiencing shamanic healing: A core part of shamanic practice is learning how to apply different healing methods on oneself and others. Doing so requires considerable care and training, and applying such practices is viewed in shamanism as a sacred process. Given that healing is core to shamanic practice, most introductory courses will probably give you some kind of experience of the process, such as having the teacher work with one of the course participants while also bringing in others into the process in some way.

  7. A re-requisite for more extensive training. Introductory courses are often used by teachers as a pre-requisite for longer programmes of training. Having such a pre-requisite ensures participants of longer-courses all have some basic and common level of expertise and have had sufficient exposure to shamanic practice to be able to commit to a longer programme. While most teachers provide their own introductory courses designed to lead on to more extensive training they offer, such teachers will also often allow participants onto longer courses if they have already completed something equivalent, such as including the core elements explained above. If an introductory course is already a pre-requisite for something more extensive, it probably means that it will cover enough of the right kind of material to make it transferrable to other teachers later on.

  8. Timeframe: Because learning about shamanic practice is an experiential process, it is important to find an introductory course that will give you enough time for you to get a good feel for it. A short seminar will give you something, but this is not likely to be sufficient. So, find something like an experiential weekend or equivalent that is immersive. 

  9. Online or face to face: There are now growing opportunities for learning about shamanic practice online. While they will be different to learning the practice in a face to face setting, they can also work remarkably well and can make trainings much easier to access. If it is online though, do make sure it will be still be highly experiential and give you lots of opportunity to try out practices and share your experiences with others. 

  10. Number of participants: The numbers on courses vary greatly. Some can work very well with large numbers if they are managed appropriately and are carefully delivered with support from associate teachers, and if online, have good technical support. But effective shamanic training generally needs to be experiential, so its probably best to look for a course that does not have large numbers of participants (e.g. no more than about 20).

For related information about learning shamanic practice see the articles on:

  • Choosing a shamanic teacher;

  • How to choose a longer course in shamanic practice;

  • Benefits of participating on a shamanic introduction course;

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