Shamans live with a foot in two worlds, the physical one that we all know and the visionary or spirit world, the world of the imagination. Shamanism teaches how to bridge the gap between the real and the imaginary. The main tool of the shaman to this end is visualization, or simply put, their imagination.

Put the idea that imagination is useless make-believe play out of your head right now if you want to learn any more about shamanism. It is not pointless mental activity and it is most definitely not just for children. It is the link to the spirit world. If you want to use Shamanic techniques in your life, get used to the idea of using your imagination.

Children can access the spirit world easily, but learn to block this ability as they get older. This is not a bad thing. Children need to learn the difference between the real world and the imaginary, but some people learn to shut it off too well and will need to relearn what they automatically knew how to use when they were a child. But don’t worry, it’s just like riding a bike, you’ll remember very quickly.

Shamanic visualization uses all of your senses, sight, touch, hearing, smell, taste, and even the `sixth´ sense if you wish to use it. The more senses you bring into your visualizations the more powerful they will become and the easier your travels will be.

Here are some visualization exercises to try. They are in order from simple to more difficult. It will probably be most helpful if you work them in the order given (1. Your Senses, 2. A Candle, 3. The Five Senses, and 4. Outdoors). Remember after you complete an exercise feel your body, your heartbeat and where you are sitting before opening your eyes. It can be jarring to be relaxed from practicing an exercise and then suddenly being back in the physical world without a moment to adjust.

1. Your Senses

This one is fun. If you have kids feel free to bring them along.

Go outside, preferably to a park, river, ocean, or whatever you can get to, even if it´s just your yard. Exercise your senses. For instance, look at the trees, grass, plants, whatever is around. But really look. See all the different greens, the gray-greens, the yellow-greens and so on. Look at the color of the earth. See the different shades of browns and reds and yellows. Look at the texture of it. See the pebbles or bits of leaves.

Kneel down and feel the dirt and the grass. Run your hands along a tree trunk. Feel how rough or smooth it is. Really concentrate on the sensations in your fingers. Feel the air against your skin. Is it warm or cold? How warm? How cold? Can you feel the sun?

What sounds do you hear? Is there a breeze? Can you feel it or hear it rustle the leaves or the grass? Are there birds singing or insects chirping? Really hear the sounds around you.

Now what do you smell? Smell the earth, the growing things.... Really concentrate on what they smells like. Open your mouth and breathe in deeply. Can you taste the grass in the air, or a recent rain? Can you taste the cold or the heat?

Now close your eyes, feel the life around you. Feel the insects going about their business, feel the wind. Feel the trees and the grass drinking in the sun. Feel yourself, the blood in your veins, your heart beating.

You can spend as much time as you want on this exercise. It’s a good way to get reacquainted with the world around you. Of course you’ll be experiencing different things if you go to a beach instead of to a park, but the above is just a guideline. The goal is to exercise you senses and become more aware of what many of us take for granted every day (our senses and the world around us).

2. A Candle

Relax, close your eyes and visualize a candle. Make it any size and shape you want it. Put it in any holder you wish, but remember to make it solid. It should be as real as possible. Next light it however you want, with a match a ball of flame, whatever. Now concentrate on it and hold it there, real and lit, just like a real candle for awhile. Try not to let it waver (other than the flame flickering). This is to build up you visualization stamina.

Next, change the size of the flame, make it bigger or smaller. See the colors in the flame as it gets smaller. Send a breeze across it. Watch the flame dance. Is there wax trickling down the side yet? Change the color of the flame. Heck, go on and change the color of the candle itself. Change its size and even the holder. Remember to keep it real. This helps teach versatility.

Now, can you smell the candle smoke? Is it a scented candle? If so what scent? Really smell it. Now whether it was scented or not, change the smell of it. Do that a couple of time, each time really smelling the scent of the wick burning and the scented (or unscented) wax. Now mentally run your fingers around the candleholder. Do not lose the scent or the reality of the candle. How does it feel, rough, smooth, cold, warm? Now feel the candle itself, cool and smooth under your fingers. Pass your hand dear the flame. Feel the warmth of it. Keep doing this, using as many senses as possible at the same time to explore the candle. Try not to let the scent or the visual drop at any point in time while you are feeling it. This helps you learn to incorporate your senses together in a visualization.

3. The Five Senses

This is a lot like #2. You need to relax then visualize a piece of fruit or vegetable or some other piece of food as close to the natural state as possible. Imagine it as a real solid piece of ...... whatever. (I’ll use a strawberry.) Really look at it in your mind just like you really looked at the colors in #1. Touch it, feel the texture of the skin, the tiny seeds on the outside and the almost fuzzy crown of leaves at the top. Smell it, the ripe fresh picked scent of sun warmed strawberry. Now bite into it. Feel the juice hit your tongue; hear the sound as you bite it. Taste the sweetness of it. Really experience it in as many ways as possible. Smell it as you taste it, feel it in your mouth. Experience it as fully as possible.

4. Outdoors

This is an advanced visualization. If you find it difficult to hold all of the senses for this exercise, go back and practice on the others for a while longer. All it takes is patience and practice. Also remember when visualizing you should think of natural substances, colors, and scents etc.... whenever possible. They lend more power to your techniques.

Sit or lie down (although if you are tired lying down is probably not a good idea) and relax. Center yourself, feel your breathing. Close your eyes. Imagine yourself in the forest, or at the beach, or on a plain. I will use a forest for this example. There are no people around anywhere. Do not open your eyes there yet. Feel the ground beneath you. Is it grassy? Are there rocks? Smell the air. You can smell the pines, the earth and a cool crispness. It almost feels like early fall. The light breeze is cool on your skin. Can you hear it singing through the trees? Can you hear any birds or insects? Taste the pine smell and the soft earth smell. Run your hands along the ground at your sides. What do you feel? When you are feeling all of these fully, reach out your mind. (Eyes still shut.) Feel the trees around you, not with your hands, but with your mind. Feel their life. Feel the life in the wind and the rocks. Feel your life. Can you feel any birds, insects or other animals? When you are comfortable with this and are using all your senses except sight, open your eyes and look at the trees around you. See the details of color. Look around. Feel free to get up and explore. If you know (or even if you don’t know) your spirit animal you can ask it to accompany you as you wander around. It's possible that it might choose this time to introduce itself if you have not met yet. When you are done remember to thank it and bring yourself back to your body and to the present before opening your eyes to the physical world.