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Cobalt Blue: A Novel

A novel for courageous readers and seekers, COBALT BLUE is a turbulent, gorgeous ride into sacred sex..

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Shamanism, Ecstatic Journeying, Sky-Walking

Some years ago I had the privilege of studying shamanism with my friend Kelley Harrell, author of the intriguing new book, Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism: A Beginner’s Map Charting an Ancient Path.  

A shaman, I should probably explain, is someone who uses altered states of consciousness to interact with the spirit realms, often to channel these energies into this world for healing purposes. “…Even in woo-woo circles,” Kelley writes, “shamanism is the fringe of the fringe.”

Kelley’ experience of other realms started when she was very young.  In her early childhood, she “saw spirits of both the deceased and the living…had prophetic dreams…could sense and sometimes see life force….” She began to explore her abilities when she was seventeen. 

What we did in the shamanism classes was experienced through deep meditation and focus on entering a spirit realm.

On one of my trips to what she refers to as The Upper World, I found myself riding a motorcycle across the tops of clouds behind an attractive guy who was a character in my novel Cobalt Blue, a man who died in a motorcycle accident in the course of the story. 

A convoluted situation— and yet I felt a certain sexy note to the experience in my imaginal trip into a spirit world: the motorcycle, the man, the over-the-moon feel of the ride.

The entire experience, sexy note and all, had a surprising element of ecstasy. “Ecstasy” (ekstasis) literally translates to ‘standing outside oneself.’ It’s a state of rapt joy that throws one’s sensibility out of the ordinary.

Ecstasy can describe both spiritual and erotic experience, one as easily as the other.  Both are, in the same sense, transporting. The ability to stand outside one’s self and one’s usual perceptions and limits is key to intimacy with both the spirit world, however one conceives it, and with another person.

In Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism Kelley notes the need for “skywalkers” to surrender to their imaginations, which could also be thought of as standing outside oneself. Having studied with her and experienced this to some extent myself, I found several quotes from her book especially poignant:

“Shamanic journeying, also called ecstatic journeying, is the trance state we enter to visit the spirit world.”

“To a shaman, everything has the potential to be ecstatic.” Sex is “a ready-made vehicle for humans to experience ecstasy….”

“The heart is not in the earthly realm (lower chakras) or the spiritual one (upper chakras)–it’s between them. Through the challenges of the heart chakra  we learn to bridge our physical being with our spiritual awareness…When we don’t learn this natural awareness of ourselves, we become adults who can’t own our own ecstasy.”

In addition to her books, Kelley Harrell writes weekly for The Huffington Post. Her Teen Spirit Guide to Modern Shamanism is a good book on the subject for adults as well as teens, and not simply for those who have spent years knowing they are “different in a way that defied vocabulary.” This is clear and useful instruction for any would-be sky-walker who wants to expand his or her worlds.

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  • October 22, 2014 at 4:10 pm Reply

    Thank you!

    • Peggy Payne
      October 22, 2014 at 4:32 pm Reply

      I sure wish the comment function had been on yesterday, Kelley!

  • Kevin Thomas
    October 22, 2014 at 7:55 pm Reply

    It’s taken time, but I’m now understanding my path is leading to shamanism. My journeys are moving from extreme lucid dreaming, in which I’ve finally come to understand my night shift dream job of helping souls transition, to being sought in daily life to provide spiritual counseling in matters I would have ever imagined.
    Thank you for sharing this information.

    • Peggy Payne
      October 22, 2014 at 9:10 pm Reply

      Fascinating, Kevin. I’m (very slowly) at work on a biography of a woman who felt her role in life was the same as your dream job. Doesn’t sound entirely easy.

  • Ismail K
    October 23, 2014 at 1:56 pm Reply

    I am a Muslim Sufi follower of Rumi and other great sufi saints. Anyone interested in spiritual experiences and human spirituality should study sufism. Sufi knowledge is the most comprehensive of spirituality as sufis originate from Shamanism, Christinaity, Budhism and many others; sufism is the Truth all reached eventually. I advice people to start reading Rumi for Sufism.

    • Peggy Payne
      October 23, 2014 at 3:15 pm Reply

      Thanks, Ismail. I suspect lots of folks here are fans of Rumi, whether or not they know much about Sufism. I only have 2 associations myself: the wonderful dancers I saw at Duke Univ. here a few years back and the fact that Sufism is known as the mystical expression of Islam.

  • October 23, 2014 at 1:59 pm Reply

    Hi Peggy,
    I have been a fan of your writing for quite some time. I ‘ve now just ordered Kelly’s book and look forward to reading it. Goodness this quote really spoke to me “To a shaman, everything has the potential to be ecstatic.” Sex is “a ready-made vehicle for humans to experience ecstasy….” its like duh, right?
    I am interested in the way religion has done such a “number” on women’s sexuality and am writing a book on the mixed messages daughters have gotten from their mothers including mixed messages about their own sexual power.

    • Peggy Payne
      October 23, 2014 at 11:33 pm Reply

      I think Southern women may have gotten a heavier dose of the double standard, Katherine. Do you have thoughts about that? Your book sounds intriguing. I don’t think religion is the only contributor to the problem, though. It seems pretty pervasive. I appreciate your interest in both my book and Kelley’s.

  • October 28, 2014 at 11:34 am Reply


    Thank you for bringing your article and this book to my attention. It is a fascinating topic I haven’t explored since my college days…and yet, it stays in the back of my mind as a really important path. Thanks again – now, I’m going to get both yours and Kelly’s books!! -Betsy

    • Peggy Payne
      October 28, 2014 at 6:23 pm Reply

      You hint at some very interesting college days, Betsy! Thanks!

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