What is Intent?

Intent is the willful focus of attention upon a specific purpose or direction. Intent is what we carry with us on our journey between worlds. It’s a beacon, a reminder, a guide to keep us on point.

In shamanic practice, intent is an essential part of your work. If you approach a task with curiosity or just a strong interest, it’s likely that you’ll get lost in distractions if you go anywhere at all. Before you begin, you must have a clear understanding of what it is you wish to accomplish.

If you’re seeking answers, have a specific question. Don’t just have the words in your head. Make it a strong desire to find the exact answer to the question. If you’re going ask for help from your guide or other spirit, know exactly what it is you want them to do.

Unless you spend a lot of time tuned into the spirit layer, your brain is going to be struggling to make sense of what it’s seeing, hearing, feeling, etc. That means your normal analytical thoughts, your logical mind, may take a back seat because it simply hasn’t come to terms with the spirit sense and has nothing to offer.

So you will likely rely on the more primal areas of your mind to keep your goal in front of you. The primal mind is driven by desire. Intent is how you “load your mission” into this part of your mind.

Intent is a practiced skill. In order to better prepare yourself for journeys, you should exercise purposed intent more regularly in your life. Consider actions before taking them. Visualize what you want to accomplish before beginning the process of making it happen.

For example, if you are hungry you may typically go to the fridge, open it up and look at what is there. You are unsure of what you want to eat, you only have the vague feeling that you are hungry. Instead, make that decision before going. Do you want to make a sandwich? Do you want some fruit? Perhaps a bowl of chicken soup? Make all the decisions first, then go to it. Your intent is set and you do not have to rely on any other choices to make that happen.

In the spirit world, making choices on the fly may not be as easy as they are in the familiar world. Intent is the solution.

Urban Shamanic Lifestyle: Use the Elements

One does not have to be a healer or guide for their community to incorporate a modern urban shamanic spiritual practice into their life. This series of posts details ways we can apply modern shamanic spirituality to our lives right now.

When it is said that we are connected to the planet, that’s a slight understatement. That’s like saying we are connected to our hands. Our entire physical body is part of the planet. As such, the elements offered here are useful to us in therapeutic ways. Here are some ways to use the elements to help your mind and spirit:


When you need a quick reset, splash some cold water on your face. This has actual physiological effects on your body and can calm you.

In the shower, stand under the water, with your hands covering your ears so that you only hear the sound of the water hitting your skull. Imagine you are in your own private paradise, standing under your very special waterfall. This particular water is washing away your stress and negative energy. Emerge revitalized.


Find a patch of dirt or grass, either in a park or your own yard. Take off your shoes and connect skin to ground. Alternatively, you can sit and touch the ground with your hands. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes anytime you feel clouded and out of control. Try not to think about anything. Just feel the sensation of your bare skin next to the bare earth.


Another way to find balance is through conscious breathing. Close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths through your nose. Feel the air as it passes into your body through your nostrils. Feel it expanding your lungs. Hold it and think about your stressful feeling. Not the things that are stressing you, just your feeling of stress. Imagine it is dark smoke and as you exhale, you expel it from your body.


This is for letting go of something negative. Write down in words on a piece of paper what it is that you want to release. Or you can draw a picture of it. Express how it makes you feel. Use an open flame to burn the paper. You can use an outdoor fire-pit, or a fireplace. I have a special ceramic bowl in my back yard that I bring a ceremonial candle to when I need to release something. I set the paper on fire with the candle and let it burn in the bowl.

Never burn anything (other than the fuel) except the small note in the fire. It should have a singular purpose. When you are done, safely extinguish the flames.

Urban Shamanic Lifestyle: Mindfulness

One does not have to be a healer or guide for their community to incorporate a modern urban shamanic spiritual practice into their life. This series of posts details ways we can apply modern shamanic spirituality to our lives right now.

Living in modern society, we have almost constant opportunities for distractions: 24/7 news cycles, on-demand media streaming, non-stop social network updates, etc. It’s very easy to become obsessed with global events. We have dozens of social causes fighting for our attention: human rights, racism, corporate greed, animal cruelty, global warming, war, politics, pollution, violence, crime, genders, free speech…the list can go on and on.

However all of these demands on our attention take away from the time we have to focus on our own lives. We cannot be eternal activists or we will become fatigued and burn ourselves out. Then we are of no value to any cause.

Find time for the moment.

Being mindful is consciously living in the present. It is being aware of the stimulus around you as well as your own thoughts. It means being an observer: of not only your surroundings but also your self.

Here are some suggestions for practicing mindfulness in your daily life:

  • Twice a day, set aside 15 minutes to devote to being mindful. If you are able, set a timer so you don’t have to be distracted with how much time has elapsed.
  • Close your eyes and listen. Don’t think about what you hear, just listen to the sounds.
  • Listen to your thoughts. Don’t analyze them. Don’t make judgments about them. Just listen.
  • Pay attention to other senses. Do you smell anything? Just experience the smell. Don’t think about what it is or where it comes from. Just experience it. Is the wind blowing or the sun shining on your skin? Feel it. Experience it.
  • Pay attention to your breathing. Don’t try to control it. This is not meditation or a breathing exercise. Just be mindful. Breathe naturally but observe it.
  • Open your eyes and look around you. Don’t focus on thinking about what you see. Instead think about the properties of what you see. Color? Motion? Size? Solid or liquid? Notice the small details of the world around you.

You can do this anywhere you will be safe and uninterrupted for 15 minutes. I like to be outdoors in the morning after sunrise and in the evening after sunset. However any place is fine as long as it is safe and you are able to be in the moment for the allotted time.

Reconnecting with the world.

This gives us a time to be grounded, to be part of where we are. We don’t have to give up our social obligations. We can still fight for our favorite causes. Just don’t lose sight that your purpose is to experience the world.

This includes the space around you. The habit of becoming familiar with your own present will allow you to become more comfortable with being in it.



Urban Shamanic Lifestyle: Integration

One does not have to be a healer or guide for their community to incorporate a modern urban shamanic spiritual practice into their life. This series of posts details ways we can apply modern shamanic spirituality to our lives right now.

In a paradox of sorts, our modern world is providing more and more methods for us to connect with each other while at the same time leaving more and more people feeling isolated. Western culture is very focused on the self. We elevate individuals to celebrity status. We focus on our individual knowledge, skills and appearance then measure our self-worth by those attributes.


This will likely be the most difficult lifestyle change for someone living in modern Western society. We are part of a culture that increasingly worships personal identity. We seek to express our individual styles through choices in our clothing, hair color, musical tastes, etc. Recently this has expanded into sexual identities so that we are offended if other people do not adhere to the sets of pronouns we want others to use in reference to us. These are all choices we make to differentiate ourselves. While self-expression is certainly a positive thing, there is a difference between doing what we like because we like it and doing things because we want others to see and react to us.

Shamanism is a spiritual recognition of how connected we are, not separate. Integration means we recognize and accept that we are not different from each other.  Sure, we learn different things and enjoy different things. We love each other in different ways and we communicate in different ways. These are all superficial things. We all have a brain, and a heart and blood and bones. We all eat food, and drink water. We all breathe air. We are all, here in our reality, humans. In the greater sense, we are all spiritual beings that connect us to everything. But let’s start small and work our way up to that.

Integration means spending less time being concerned about how we are different from others, and more time looking beneath the outer shell. Each person is part of the whole. We are all cast members of a huge production. We are here to learn from each other and to enjoy each other.

How do you practice human integration?

  • Every person you meet, the moment you meet them, your first thoughts should be to recognize the common connections. Why are you meeting them? What brings you to the same location? What shared activity or interest has led you to interact? Your initial communications should focus on the these commonalities.
  • Forget the western attitude of “selling yourself”. Don’t concern yourself with how they are perceiving you. You do not control their thoughts. You only control yours. Trying to purposefully influence someone is inherently restrictive.
  • In the self-focused lifestyle, we tend to overshare. We want people to know what we think is important for them to know about us. Instead, wait for others to ask us for what they want to know.
  • When asking others about themselves, be open. For example, “Do you like K-pop?” is a limited question that doesn’t encourage sharing. Instead ask, “What kind of music do you like?” If they mention something you also like, you have another connection. If they mention an artist or style you don’t know, explore that and see if there could be another connection.
  • Do not make negative judgments. You may not be physically attracted to someone but that should not be a negative judgment. It doesn’t mean you are not connected to that person on many other levels.
  • Always focus on those positive connections with everyone. We compartmentalize people based on just about everything we can: physical attributes, style, political beliefs, religious beliefs, social status, gender identity, and so on. Stop. I see people who publicly proclaim things like, “If you are a Trump supporter, I don’t want to talk to you,” or “I avoid people with green hair and facial piercings, they are weird.” If you do that, you are only limiting yourself. Stop dividing yourself from others.
  • Offer to help people. If someone near you drops some things, stop and help them pick it up. In a society, people help each other. If you see someone struggling, stop and give them a hand. If they tell you, “No thanks, I’ve got it” nod, smile and let them continue on their own. Sometimes people need to struggle to accomplish things. But more often, people are just afraid to ask for help in the first place.
  • Remember people based on the connections you have discovered, not the differences you have cataloged.
  • Treat everyone respectfully. Even if they do not treat you with respect. If you retaliate, then you are the one who has devolved.
  • You are not better than anyone else. Everyone has value, including you. See yourself, your core person without all the external trappings, within everyone you meet.
  • Stop looking for ways to stand out, to be different. This doesn’t mean you need to give up your personal identity. Integration is simply about outwardly focusing on common traits, not differences.

These are practical applications for the shamanic spiritual concept of unity. In every case, we are more similar to each other than we are different. Unity is the foundation for a shamanic lifestyle. Recognizing and embracing our connections with everyone will not only liberate us from a huge amount of negativity, but will also reduce our spiritual fragmentation.

Concerning Evil

I was asked, “How do you deal with evil spirits?”

Short answer? I don’t.

Good and evil are concepts created within our human existence. Evil describes a person or act that is culturally abhorrent, immoral and malevolent. People can do evil things. But this is a subjective property that only exists within our frame of reference.

Soldiers may travel from one country to another for the purpose of “restoring order and bringing a “better” way of life for the people, which usually involves imposing their way of life on the people.

Back in the soldier’s home country, they are celebrated as heroes. They are doing good things by spreading the ideals of their people. However, in the receiving country many might view the soldiers as invaders, forcing their ideologies upon weaker people who cannot defend against a powerful enemy. They may look upon the soldiers as evil.

So which is it? Good soldiers or evil soldiers? It depends on your point of view.

When I first began working with spirits, there was fear. Fear comes from the unknown. I was afraid that some would do harm to me. Why did I think this? Because that is the way of this world. Every unknown entity could be a predator. It is a primal instinct that our advanced society has done little to eradicate.

But we do know better. I’m reminded by the scene in Empire Strikes Back where Luke sees a cave and gets a feeling that something is not right. Yoda tells him it is a domain of evil. Luke asks him, “What’s in there?” Yoda tells him, “Only what you take with you.

We bring our baggage with us when we journey. If we have fear, we will find things to be afraid of. If we believe we will encounter malevolence and harm, that is what we will find. How we experience the spirit realm is still molded by the physical mind, because it is through this that our interpretations are formed.

In the Stephen Mitchell translation of the Daodejing are some insights that echo this:

There is no greater illusion than fear,
no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself,
no greater misfortune than having an enemy.

Whoever can see through all fear
will always be safe.

This idea had a definite impact upon me back in the mid-nineties when I was struggling with my own fears. I began to question why would spirits want to do me harm? What is their motivation? I understand human motives like greed and jealousy as reasons other people would do me harm, but I knew nothing about what drives the actions of spirits.

Then I asked myself, other than my fear, what evidence do I have that spirits want to harm me? Of course, I had none. While that was comforting to realize, it still didn’t erase my fear. Fear is overcome through experience and knowledge. It took time, and experience working with spirits to fully understand that malevolence is something I bring with me to the spirit world, not something that I encounter while there.

My personal experience with spirits now is that I do not encounter evil. I do not project this upon them and I do not perceive them as evil or malevolent.

Will others encounter evil and malevolent spirits? Absolutely, just like Luke encountered Darth Vader in the cave. What we bring with us is real to us. Belief is a very strong tool, but it can also be a prison. It not only shapes us, but also how we see the worlds around us.