The Trifold Approach to Inner Journeying
My first inner journey took place at the age of 13. The experience left me with more questions than answers and at that age, without the determination or focus to seriously dedicate myself to the practice, it faded into memory. Years went by and at the age of 20, after a serious illness where I became temporarily paralyzed, I began to contemplate the mysteries of life and death more deeply. I felt shattered and vulnerable, not only physically but emotionally, mentally - spiritually. I realized that I needed a way of putting myself back together.
During my teenage years, in part spurred by the questions I was asking myself about my inner journeying experience, I'd developed an interest in spiritual and esoteric subjects. Apart from writing and drawing I had spent time reading about things like meditation, trance states, shamanic journeying, astral projection, lucid dreaming, chakras, alchemy, divination and various other things. Now with a newfound focus I decided to begin teaching myself meditation and I coupled that with experimenting more with inner journeying which I understood as being a form of shamanic journeying.
These two practices became complimentary to one another and I recognized that they had the potential to support and give energy to exploring and amalgamating my interests. By following and adapting creatively to the paths that began to unfold before me I was introduced to methods of dialoguing with archetypal figures (what I call guides) in these inner journeys. I learned that these guides were essentially autonomous but were also a part of myself. With their help I began to explore and to construct alchemical memory palaces while mapping the inner landscapes they appeared in.
In the summer of 2012, as a kind of spiritual and creative pilgrimage, I travelled to the Italian Alps to begin learning to paint from a group of four master artists practicing in the vein of art called Visionary/Fantastic Realism. During a span of three wonderful weeks, between painting, sharing stories and simply enjoying the richly creative atmosphere, I also began teaching others the particular method of inner journeying I'd developed over the past decade.
It was the first time I'd ever been around so many spiritually minded creatives at once. There was such a tangible sense of receptivity, a sweet and honest eagerness to absorb and learn. During that time I received the gift of open and honest feedback which I knew would help develop and refine the process of teaching it to others in the future and I also received a sense of fulfillment in offering my experience, knowing that each person had been given a gift which they could use to develop themselves.
I moved to Vienna, Austria the next year to continue my artistic studies, joining and helping to sustain a new academy for the arts, the Vienna Academy of Visionary Art. Since then, building upon my past experience, I've also continued to teach my inner journeying method through further one-on-one sessions, group journeys and workshops.
Step One: Meeting The Autonomous Imagination
The imagination is a creative tool with which we can explore our world and ourselves. It contains a vast potential for growth and transformation, if one is inclined to develop it and utilize it in conjunction with the inner and outer senses. Many of us are taught to believe that the imagination is unreal, a fabrication of our brains and wholly dependent on our physicality. From my experience this point of view is worth questioning. It is worth it to begin looking at the imagination in a different way.
Giving yourself permission to experiment with the imagination is the first step in learning to trust yourself and your experience. For a moment, allow the imagination to be the realm of possibility. Allow it autonomy in this. Allow it to be self-aware and self-governed. In this capacity, the imagination will have awareness and intelligence and will not be dependent on you perceiving with it to exist.
Give Yourself the Space and Time
Bring yourself to a quiet place where you know you will feel comfortable and where you won't be distracted by noise or requests for your attention. Turn off your phone ringer and ask others to respect this boundary for a set amount of time.
Prepare by setting aside a notebook and something you can use to write down your journey (typing on your computer is fine). If you are more visually inclined you may decide you want to sketch parts of what you experience, but I recommend you also write it all down as you will need to refer to it later. If you feel you want to sketch, especially if you are a beginner, just remember that you want to remain focused with your energy, so keeping things simple is beneficial. Using an audio recording device to record yourself is alright as well. If you do this you will still need to write down your journey as you will need to refer to it later. Choose the method(s) which feel most appropriate to you.
If you know how to meditate, feel free to do that silently or with soft music for a few minutes before you begin the journey while sitting or laying down, whichever feels best. If you do not know how to meditate, just relax in a comfortable position, sitting or laying down, again whichever feels best. You can do some deep breathing. Clear your mind. You want to be relaxed and collected, not sleepy. The process will require your attention and engagement.
Form an Intention
You may already know why you want to do an inner journey but you also may not. If you do not, then forming an intention will be a way of setting the boundaries that you will travel along within your imagination. By that I do not mean literal boundaries that will stop you or fence you in, I mean boundaries that will guide you to what you are seeking to discover.
An intention does not need to be verbalized to be formed. It will often be silent, a feeling like a hope or an urge. An intention can be likened to a prayer if you prefer. If you wish to verbalize your intention thats ok too, say it silently within yourself if you have the words.
Beginning the Journey
When you are ready, close your eyes. Send your intention off like a balloon toward the autonomous imagination. You're letting it go as an offering. Its for the imagination to receive, to decipher, and to decide how it will respond to it. Don't get caught up on how you want things to play out, give it up freely without attachment.
Now, using your will, follow that intention and enter into the imagination, like you are an explorer who has just arrived to a new place.
Sense whats around you - with your inner sense of seeing, begin looking directly around you. What do you see? With your inner sense of hearing listen to whats around. What do you hear? Use your inner senses to get your bearings. Trust the first impressions that come. Remember to give the imagination its autonomy, do not try to force or change it. Accept what it shows you. Do not push away the first impressions its giving to you.
Inviting a Guide
Once you've situated yourself then ask for a guide to appear. You can do this silently or verbally if you want to hear your inner voice say it. Wait until the guide appears for you. Remember to give them their autonomy. They will appear as they wish to appear in the best way for you to receive them. This could be in the form of an animal or of a human being. They might appear as something more fantastic. Just accept their appearance.
Now, do a scan of their form. From top to bottom, slowly take in the details of their appearance. For instance, if your guide appears in the form of a human being, look at their head first. Do they have hair or not? What colour is their hair if they have any? How long? In what style? Maybe they are wearing a hat or headpiece. What does that look like? Look at their face. What gender are they? What colour are their eyes? What expression do they have? Can you tell what age they appear to be? Keep moving downward slowly, taking in the details. Look at what they're wearing or if they're naked. Is there any special pattern or style to their clothing if they wear any? Do they wear any adornments? What are their adornments made of? What colour and shape are they? Notice all of this.
It may be difficult to keep your attention focused on them but keep bringing it back. They may not be so solid and you may be questioning whether they are really there or not. Right now, this is all you need to be paying attention to. Do your best to solidify them by taking in the details. If you leave them vague by only seeing one part of them then its more likely your focus will drift.
Once you have the full image of your guide in your mind's eye you can write down and record what you've seen. If you can memorize their appearance without having to record now, thats fine too. Part of inner journeying is relying on your memory. If you're recording, once you're finished just relax yourself again. Close your eyes. Go back to your position, with your guide. Ask them to show you whats next. They will know the landscape of the imagination better than you do and they know exactly where to go to play out the story connected with your initial intention.
You may also wish to speak to them along the way - all guides can be dialogued with. The dialogue can happen clearly in a few different ways depending on what you're ready for. Symbolic dialogue, where your guide responds to you with images/symbols is easier than verbal dialogue. With practice, you can listen to your guide speak. Their speech may be limited to a few words at first but eventually you can learn to focus and have longer verbal dialogues.
Exploring & Experiencing
Now that you are on your way things will begin to change and develop and no one can really say exactly what will happen in your inner journey. But, I can give you some basic examples of what might happen based on my years of experience. On your journey you may travel through every and any kind of landscape. You may go underground, into the sky, underwater, etc. You may find cities, towns, villages and lone buildings of every sort. You can go macro or micro to any degree - everything comes in a multitude of sizes, including your guides. You can travel into substances and objects that act as portals to other parts of the imagination. Basically, nothing is solid, but also, everything is solid. This is a paradox and you should get used to them in the imagination.
If you have a particularly memorable dream where you encounter someone or something you want to explore more of, you can do that in an inner journey. Many of my own guides appeared first in a dream. I've also dreamt of guides I met in an inner journey.
You may also encounter memories set in different levels of your awareness. Some of these might have been buried or forgotten and contain the potential to release old emotions linked to some kind of painful incident or trauma. The key to remaining grounded no matter what goes on for you is to stay with your guide. They will be your anchor and will keep you tethered to the boundaries of your intention. They will represent a part of the intelligence of the autonomous imagination which is containing you in your journey and thus, they will have the magical map to get you safely from point A to point B and back to point A if you wish to return to it.
You'll generally encounter multiple guides throughout the duration of your journey. Your initial guide may bring you to a second guide who will take you on from there. They may both go with you. They may interract somehow. Sometimes a particular guide may be affixed to a certain place, representing a kind of guardian or keeper of that place. The limits of what can happen are only in you - if you throw up walls against the flux of the journey then you'll encounter only walls. If you don't, if you invite the possibility that the journey can reveal to you, you'll meet agents who can take you through it. These seem to be the rules, as I've encountered them.
Remember to periodically pause and record what has gone on (in writing!). Stopping and starting the journey like a movie will not disrupt your original intention. Be descriptive and thorough and don't hold back from being creative with the way you write if you want to. If you do the entire journey without recording it until the end you will likely forget many details and the order of how things happened. The next steps in the journeying process rely on you having that information at hand to refer to.
You'll know when the overall journey has come to a close. It will feel like a natural ending. You'll just feel its over and likely the guide or guides that are present will make that clear to you.
I'll mention as well that its ok to start small. You don't have to do an overly long journey every time. It can last 5 or 10 minutes. Work up to sustaining longer journeys. When you become more comfortable with the process you can stop and start with longer periods of time between. You can also learn to journey and record it simultaneously. You can even get to the point where you can journey with tremendous focus without being in an especially reserved setting. It just takes practice and dedication.
Step Two: Naming
You've just finished the first step of your journey! Awesome! Good for you! Are you tired? Do you feel a bit drained? Bringing your imagination into focus can take more energy than you would think. But if you're going to build discipline then its essential that you press on.
So now you should have the written record of your journey in front of you. You are going to go through it and find the names of things. What I mean by names is not the literal names of things. You want to know what things represent - their meanings. If your guide is named Sarah, well, thats cute but does it tell you anything about what they represent to you? Not really. The same goes for the name of a town you might have gone to in the journey. If its just got some fantastical name, well thats great if you are writing a fictional novel or short story, but it doesn't serve to expand your knowledge of yourself.
Thats what we're going for here. You want the names of things to be meaningful representations, something that will give you insight into the deeper levels of yourself. The way you can do this is by employing your sense of inner hearing.
I'm going to break down a very short journey of my own to use as an example to help illustrate what I mean:
I am standing on the plateau near The City of Realized Potential in The Crown with The Release of Instigation (Pacifying Doubt). Before us stand the seven Chakra Guardians.
The one representing The Throat, The Transparent Communicator, speaks.
'Calm the mind which supports the theory of our existence. Follow us now.'
The seven Chakra Guardians stand in a circle holding hands. In the center of the circle a spectral coloured spherical portal forms. As I concentrate upon it I am drawn into it.
I am standing before a grand celestial palace, the largest I've ever seen. It is impossible to describe in its entirety but somehow I understand that it has been created to contain the entire chakra system at once. I ask for its name. It is called The Palace of Revelation.
As I watch it begins to morph into a transparent reflection of myself. It is me, meditating. At each of my chakras is one of the guardians, meditating within me. The Ground of Love as The Root. The Sky Factory as The Chalice. The Reflective Quality as The Solar Plexus. The Ladder Builder as The Heart. The Transparent Communicator as The Throat. The Keeper of The Gentle Ones as The Third Eye. The Creative Exceeder as The Crown.
As I see this, this image shrinks to my own size. I hear The Transparent Communicator once again.
'Join with this image, absorb into it. Allow it to become substantial and then allow it to dissolve.'
Its important to find the names of things that stand out as memorable, that are landmarks, in a journey. These can include your guides, particular places like towns or cities, forests, mountains, bodies of water, islands, down to individual objects. You can even find the name of the 'realm' which contains the particular landscape and landmarks which you're journeying through. Essentially, everything has a name, but you should limit finding out what things are named by the level of importance you feel they have. If you are not sure, then find the name anyway, it can't hurt, but generally your intuition should tell you.
In the first line of my short journey I describe standing on a plateau near a city called The City of Realized Potential. In order to find the name of it after I'd first discovered it I isolated the image of the city in my mind. I 'turned on' my sense of inner hearing and I asked for the name of the city. I heard 'The City of Realized Potential' and I wrote it down. Here the name of the realm I was in is The Crown, as in the Crown Chakra, and I was with one of my guides who is called The Release of Instigation (or Pacifying Doubt) who I'd met and found the name of in a previous journey. Sometimes guides and other landmarks in a journey can have multiple names which you might hear. Its up to you to decide to trim them down to what is essential, what sounds right and fits for you.
In this journey seven other guides were also present which I'd met individually in previous journeys so they'd already told me their names. These are The Ground of Love, The Sky Factory, The Reflective Quality, The Ladder Builder, The Transparent Communicator, The Keeper of The Gentle Ones and The Creative Exceeder. Together they form a group called The Chakra Guardians and their names describe something about their individual representation and purpose.
As you can see, there was also a very short verbal one-way dialogue with one of these guides, The Transparent Communicator, who was asking me to meditate upon the image of the Chakra Guardians meditating within me.
Go through your own journey record and isolate each landmark individually, writing down the names you hear on a separate page. Once this is done for the entire journey then it is time for the final step.
Step Three: The Distillation of Meaning
At this point its time to hear the distilled version of your journey, like the one I used as an example in the previous step. Re-read the journey to yourself placing the names you heard into it at the appropriate points. Type if out if you want to, it will help you to memorize it. Listen carefully as you describe the meanings and notice how the guides and images you encountered gain symbolic context to one another.
This distilled version of your journey is a contemplative touchstone which you can use to inspire new directions with the practice. There might be locations you wish to explore in subsequent journeys, fleshing them out further and finding parts to them you haven't seen yet. You might encounter symbolism you want to know more about. You might want to go into deeper dialogue with a guide or guides that you met and so on. Possibilities will begin to present themselves, take stock of them and begin forming intentions to journey with based off of them.
These three steps to inner journeying will help to open the gates of the practice to you. Gradually the awareness of your own inner realms and their contents will grow and you will learn to understand how they are organized and how they interconnect. You will also learn to journey with more energetic efficiency through the honing of your inner and outer senses. Take it at your own pace and remember to enjoy it!