Adventures of the Spirit

As the second anniversary of Spirituality Services at Canyon Ranch in Lenox approaches, we asked licensed therapist and spirituality services provider Janet Doucette, M.A., L.M.H.C., to tell us more about these intriguing services, which include Shamanic Journey and Soul Coaching. We focused on the popular Shamanic Journey service, in which the guest embarks on an inner exploration of spirit and meaning, guided with skill and sensitivity by one of our experts.

Q. What can guests expect from a Shamanic Journey?

A. Journeys take place in a specially designed room in the Health & Healing department. First, we’ll talk a bit about your intentions and about what will happen. Then I’ll invite you to lie on a comfortable bed, where you’ll be covered by a light blanket. It will be dark, and I’ll use whatever combination of drumming and vibrational tools that I feel are best, plus guided imagery and music, to help you access the non-ordinary world and receive the guidance or healing you need at this time.

Q. Did you have any idea that something called “Shamanic Journey” would be such a favorite with guests?

A. Actually, we wondered whether many of our guests – high-powered, Eastern-Seaboard people, by and large – would have an interest in this type of experience. We shouldn’t have doubted. Most of the folks who book Shamanic Journey have heard good things about it from fellow guests, or from their Program Advisor, and they’re very excited about doing it. Some of our guests do it every time they visit, or even multiple times during a single stay. I’ve had a number of guests tell me that they’ve deliberately scheduled it at the end of their time here, as the capstone of their stay.

Q. Why do you think it’s been such a hit?

A. For a couple of reasons. First, our culture cuts us off from direct experience of the spirit, from the non-ordinary or invisible world, and while many of us feel a hunger for the sacred, we don’t know how to access it on our own. Shamanic – or Spirit – Journey reconnects people with that forgotten knowledge and teaches them how to access it. And it does this in a very reassuring environment. People have to feel safe, that they’re in good hands to try something unfamiliar, and they know that anyone who works for Canyon Ranch is trustworthy and has the right credentials.

Q. Is this something Canyon Ranch invented?

A. Heavens, no. The journey of the spirit – “walking the path of the heart” – is one of the most ancient and widely used forms of healing in the world. Every culture has used it, but in the West the spiritual dimension has gotten buried under layers and layers of other things. We associate direct spiritual practices such as spirit journeying with indigenous cultures not because the sacred dimension is exclusively “theirs,” but because they remember how to access it.

Q. Does a person need any special gifts or attitude for this journey?

A. Absolutely anyone who’s interested can benefit from this. One thing that is very helpful is a lack of preconceptions, and a willingness to go wherever the experience takes you.

Q. What are the benefits?

A. Every person’s journey is unique, but most people emerge with a sense of being recognized, of being known as they really are – and that can be extremely profound. The experience is often very sensory, very vivid. People feel, see and hear a different reality. I had one guest ask me afterward, “How did you make me smell my grandmother’s perfume?” Needless to say, it wasn’t anything I did.

Q. How do people know whether this will be right for them?

A. That’s a good question! We also offer more structured services for going within, such as Lifemapping, in the Life Management department, and Soul Coaching. They may be more useful for guests who are unsure whether they’re ready for out-and-out spiritual adventuring. I ask people, “Are you comfortable with the Zipline? Can you trust that you’re safely tethered and jump into thin air?” If so, they can do this.