IN A RECENT SHAMANIC JOURNEY, I set my intent to meet a new power animal. I was rather bemused when the power animal that came forward was a kangaroo. All the more so because it wanted me to dance it and I wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of bouncing up and down. My shamanic training includes dancing power animals, yet I tend to disregard that that method of achieving an altered state in favor of lying quietly and listening to a drum. But, according to this new guide, I was missing the full experience.

The gifts from my shamanic practice have been among the most precious in my life. First and foremost, it provided me with direct contact with my spirit guides and helpers in a manner I could understand. A loving brush on the shoulder or a series of synchronicities are wonderful in their own right, but I wanted to be able to talk to the guides along my spiritual path. Shamanism gave me a direct, intimate and immediate connection to my spirit guides. Also, shamanic journeying provided me with immediate access to receiving healing and energy.

I turn on my drumming CD, ask my spirit helpers to aid me in replenishing my energy, and move into shamanic reality. My guides and helpers have chosen a variety of ways to assist me in restoring my energy to an abundant and balanced state, including bathing in a waterfall, dancing in a circle around me, pulling out harmful energy or just holding me while I rest. Time can stretch in shamanic reality, so a fifteen-minute journey can feel like hours of rest and rejuvenation. Beyond that there is ancestral healing, soul retrieval, past life work, shadow work, to name a few, each providing it’s own profound healing experience.

Given how significant a role my spirit helpers have played in my personal healing and growth, I agreed to give dancing an honest try. Indeed, the frequency with which dancing a power animal is used by shamanic practitioners throughout the world is indicative of how powerful a ritual this is. One dances in time to a drum or rattle, often played at a slower rate than is used for journeying. As one moves in time, eventually he or she is guided or prompted to move in a manner that expresses the energy of the power animal. This shifts the practitioner into an altered state, allows them to fully access the life force and energies that a given power animal offers, and deepens the relationship with the power animal. By dancing the energy of different power animals, the energy becomes familiar and can be accessed and recognized in shamanic reality as well as everyday life.

But for me, the need to dance power animals went beyond that. In addition to showing me how I might dance the energy of a kangaroo that did not include a human pogo stick imitation, the kangaroo pointed out that this is an aspect of my spiritual growth that could use more attention. While I integrate my spiritual tools and gifts very well into my mental/emotional aspects, I tend not to blend the spiritual with the physical. While my spirituality was a large factor in deciding to make exercise a regular part of my life, it remained a means to an end, not something I did for its own sake. By failing to integrate the physical with the spiritual, my body remained somewhat disowned and uncelebrated.

When I danced the kangaroo, I felt the energy rush through my body. Fatigue fell away as these vital life essences coursed through my body. There was the instant when I fell into the experience, setting aside thoughts of looking foolish and undignified. My consciousness shifted out of my head, stilling my inner monologue, until I was completely present in my body and in the moment. I wasn’t just accessing the primal power of the kangaroo, I was accessing my own personal primal power, going back to a time before I decided to live more in my head than my body.

The ritual of dancing a power animal is one that can be used without formal shamanic training. Use a rattle or a drum to maintain a monotonous beat, consider a connection with an animal you feel most drawn to, set your intent to dance that animal, then give yourself up to the experience. This physical/spiritual connection can be accessed in many other ways- Tai Chi for instance. But at least for me, no matter how often I journey or how effortlessly I move healing energy, my spiritual practice will be incomplete without some form of spiritual movement.

©2004, Katie Weatherup. All rights reserved.