- Paul Lawrence
The Shamanic Practice of Grokking
So, what is grokking?
If you’d asked me a few years ago I’d have probably told you it sounded like a dubious activity involving delving into some deep, dark, and sordid places in search of something equally deep, dark, and sordid.
However, there’s nothing deep, dark, and sordid about it.
Grokking is in fact not a shamanic term at all. No culture in the past has used the word ‘grokking’ for any shamanic practice.
So, what’s with the heading of this article then?...
The term ‘grokking’ was coined by author Robert Heinlein in his book ‘Stranger in a Strange Land.’ It’s difficult to actually pin down the specific meaning of the word as it's used often in the book without being specifically defined.
However, as one reads the book, the meaning of the word, especially in the figurative sense, starts to become clearer.
Grokking is to do with experiencing what others experience, not just on a surface level but on an integrated and intuitive level. It’s to understand what others go through to such an extent that one becomes part of them or ‘one’ with them. It’s almost a process of merging and integrating with others.
The modern shamanic movement has adopted the word for a practice that's so integral to the shaman, that it didn’t need a name in the past. It was simply assumed that that's what the shaman does.
To put it plainly, grokking in the modern shamanic sense means to assume the characteristics or pattern of another energy, be it human, animal, tree, rock, or any other object or element.
Everything is Energy
Grokking is based on the principle that ‘everything is energy,’ everything is alive and has a specific vibrational frequency on a spiritual and physical level.
Energy vibrates at different frequencies which create the form and essence of what a thing is.
Grokking assumes that we can match that vibrational frequency, if not on a physical level, but definitely on a spiritual level.
To put it simply, when a Shaman starts to journey and move into other energies, assuming the vibrations and characteristics of the energy and altering their frequencies, he or she is grokking.
Grokking can be as easy as assuming the characteristics of a certain animal in order to make use of the energy to achieve something. An example is that if one is lacking courage before a job interview and wishes to have more confidence, a good idea is to grok a horse.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you to neigh and canter around the reception like a horse. That will definitely ensure you won’t get the job. However, in this situation, you would set the intention to become a proud and courageous war horse, and then close your eyes and imagine yourself becoming this horse.
But you must make it real. Feel your head elongating into the shape of the horse’s head, smell the sweat and the leather, taste the bit between your teeth and hear the gunfire. Feel the grass beneath your hoofs as you gallop. You must become the horse.
Another animal that is frequently grokked is the fox. It’s used by Shamans because it's discreet and quiet. If you're at a function and don’t want anyone to come and bother you, grok the fox and guaranteed you’ll be left alone.
There are four stages to the grokking process:
1. Copying - this is the unconscious adopting of certain patterns of behavior and certain ways of existing of the subject that one is trying to grok.
2. Imitating – this stage involves the conscious adopting of the above.
3. Role Playing – this stage involves setting the intention of feeling the way the subject feels and then playing it out as a role play.
4. Becoming – this is the final stage of grokking and the most powerful, where one loses awareness of the previous self and submerges themselves with totality in the behavior and state of existence of the subject.
When healing, a shaman will generally achieve a state between Role-Playing and Becoming…which brings us to the question…why do Shamans grok?
Like anything that a credible and authentic Shaman does, grokking is for healing. Some Shamans may use it to do other things, such as to cause harm, but we're primarily focusing on healing here.
Grokking requires the shaman to take a journey. Now there are many kinds of journeys – physical journeys, for example traveling from point A to point B. This could be a Pilgrimage, a Vision Quest, or a Medicine Walk.
Or, less physically based, a journey in no particular direction, for example walking a Medicine Wheel or a Labyrinth.
However, the less a journey has to do with going to a physical place, and the more it has to do with going within, the more spiritual it becomes. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Other journeys that go within include a Visualization Journey, a Meditation Journey, and of course, Grokking, which we're talking about now.
Energy, like everything in the universe, is subject to change. The vibrational energy of something or someone can be changed.
Let's take a scenario. A staff meeting is called, and while waiting for the ‘dreaded’ CEO in the Board Room, staff are chatty, humorous, and relaxed. However, the moment the CEO walks in, there is silence and an ominous feeling permeates the room.
A person can change the whole energy of a room just by walking in. Their energy is vibrating at a certain frequency and because of the increased stress they’re under, or the higher opinion they have of themselves and the power they hold, everyone else’s energy immediately aligns with their energy.
The rule is that a lower vibrational energy will always be raised to meet the vibrations of a higher energy. The energy that vibrates at a lower frequency becomes matter, whereas energy that vibrates at a higher frequency becomes spirit.
It must be noted though, that the vibrational level of energy is in no way linked to the level of consciousness. Meaning that you don't necessarily have a higher consciousness if you vibrate at a higher energy level.
Intention and Imagination
Imagination is extremely powerful. Everything that exists has to be imagined.
In the modern world, we're taught that imagination is a child’s tool and doesn’t have much to do with the real world and getting things done.
To the Shaman this notion is utter rubbish. The Shaman uses intention and imagination as integral tools to go on an inner journey and heal; to heal either themselves or others.
What Can be Grokked?
Absolutely anything can be grokked. Plants, animals, humans, rocks, buildings, chairs, and even thoughts, and emotions. You name it, it can be grokked. If the intention is set and the imagination is activated, anything can be grokked and the qualities of it used for healing... or harming
Grokking to Heal
Essentially, when a Shaman is using grokking to heal, he or she is tapping into the energy of whatever is being grokked, assuming the qualities and bringing them back to the person who requires healing. In this way, the person’s vibrational energy is changed.
We’ve already touched on a few examples regarding how grokking can be used to help you. However, here I will go into a more detail using other examples.
When grokking water, one is looking to heal emotions through adaptability and finding strength with gentleness.
Water helps us find the path of least resistance in a situation.
It brings cleansing and renewal after a traumatic experience.
Water can bring rejuvenation to a dry and parched inner landscape.
It holds energy very easily and its consciousness can be easily accessed.
Any kind of water can be grokked, water in a glass, in a pond, a river or waterfall. It depends on what kind of energy one is looking for.
A waterfall is for the release of negative emotions, a strong flowing river can give you the resolve to push through a challenge with gentle power as well as finding the easiest path. Listen to the water, it will reveal its consciousness to you.
A skilled Shaman will be able to grok a glass of water and then once the patient has drunk it, he'll be able to diagnose internal physical problems such as an ulcer, liver problems, etc.
One can grok the wind to stimulate flow in their lives, to find direction on a personal level.
Grok an eagle catching the thermals, rising higher and higher, soaring over the world. This can allow you to see a challenging situation from a broader perspective.
It can also allow you to ‘rise above the storm’ of the challenge, and save energy while at the same time gaining a new perspective.
By grokking the air in the room, one is able to enter the other people and feel their energies, and therefore better be able to respond to them.
Grok fire to feel and gather passion and energy for something.
The energy of fire is a combination of consuming, healing, cleansing, and releasing.
It has a strong energy of regrowth.
Grok fire after a traumatic experience when the old, stale and destructive energy needs to be renewed.
Rock has ancient energy. It has been around for a long time. It's useful to grok a stone or a rock if one is looking for wisdom, for an answer to a complex question.
Whether it be a beautiful rock formation, a boulder, or your favorite stone you picked up, grokking rock can help with grounding your thoughts when they're scattered, allowing you to gain a better perspective.
Crystals are very popular and can be found in specialty shops.
All crystals and stones have a certain energy and have been prescribed various qualities. Whether you believe them or not is up to you. That’s where the power of imagination comes in.
Grok your favorite crystals to gain the energy of the qualities they have.
Some people put the crystal in a glass of water and drink the water to assist with the grokking process. Just be careful not to swallow the crystal. You may get more than you bargained for...
For more on crystals, check out the book by Hazel Raven, Sacred Crystals: Your Guide to 50 Crystals and How to Harness their Power for Healing and Well-Being.
All plants can be grokked, and it can be a two-way process: while you are grokking the plant for its energy, you can also give energy back to help the plant grow and thrive.
Grokking plants will help you to ground yourself, to feel rooted and secure.
Grok a plant when making a big decision. It will help you to feel if you're putting your roots down in the right place.
Plants also represent the link between physical and spiritual, above and below, the roots reaching down into the earth and the branches reaching up to the sky.
A skilled Shaman will be able to take on some of the medicinal properties by grokking a plant.
It helps to grok the plant while you're using the medicinal properties of the plant for an ailment. It will enhance the healing.
We have spoken about this before. All animals have certain qualities which humans can aspire to, for example, a horse represents courage, a fox discreetness, and so on.
Have a look at the Spirit of the Animals Oracle cards by Jodie Bergsma. It contains 51 animal cards and an illustrated guide to help you discover the different animal medicines you can tap into.
Grokking can also be used to help sick, anxious, or disturbed animals, to diagnose their ailments, and alter the vibrations of their energy, thereby helping to heal or calm them.
Watch Serge Kahlil King, a great Hawaiian Shaman, talk about grokking. also known as shape-shifting.
The Process of Grokking
You've probably been asking the question ‘How do I grok?’
Let’s take things down to a practical level and explain how to do it.
Firstly identify the subject you wish to grok. Focus on it and get an image of it in your mind.
Then relax and close your eyes.
Set your intention, and bring all of your thoughts and emotions to the subject. What do you want to do i.e. what aspects of the subject are you looking for, and/or what do you want to heal?
Gather all of your energy around the subject.
Visualize your spirit body in whichever way you choose - a ball of fire, an electrically charged ball of iridescent energy, or a totem-like white dove. It's up to you.
Then visualize your spirit body merging with the subject. Remember to enter carefully and with compassion. If there is resistance don’t force it. The subject may not want to be grokked.
You will know whether permission is granted by the way it feels. If you have a negative or uncomfortable feeling, you may want to pull back and try another subject.
If it feels good, proceed and explore the qualities of the subject you wish to assume.
Imagine these qualities entering your spirit body and feel the change in your vibrational energy.
Focus on compassion and love during the process. Love for the subject, love for yourself, and very importantly, gratitude for the gift of energy that is given.
Most importantly, you must carry the INTENTION through. It'simportant to spend enough time in this state of merging in order to benefit.
Once you feel the intention has been fulfilled, slowly imagine your spirit body leaving the subject. Remember to thank the subject for what it has done for you.
Even if you have done healing, show gratitude for the opportunity to do it.
I must stress the point here that grokking, like all shamanic practices and principles, is based on solid belief – belief in the power of spirit, belief in the power of intention and imagination.
If you don’t believe in these things, you probably have read the biggest load of hogwash in this article. And I wouldn’t blame you for thinking that, given that your belief system is different.
Shamanic practice needs an open mind, one that is able to transcend the limited intellect, dogma, and policies that are perpetuated by modern science and religion.
In order to truly embrace a practice like grokking, you need to immerse yourself in your imagination, believe wholeheartedly in your intuition, and hold sacred the power of spirit.
And of course, you need to stop and smell the flowers. Give yourself time, in your hectic schedule, where you think you don’t have a minute to relax, just give yourself the time.
Find a video of a waterfall on the internet and grok it to help you release the stress and tension you’ve accumulated over the morning or the anger you feel at that colleague who said something hurtful.
Be conscious. Be conscious of how you can heal yourself.
And be imaginative.
There’s a lot of information out there that will help you with ascribing qualities to animals, elements, crystals, etc. But there’s nothing stopping you from ascribing your own qualities that you think the subject represents. Just believe it, and it will come true.
Once again I'd just like to acknowledge my teacher, Lionel Berman. Without him, I wouldn't be able to write this.
This post was originally published on July 14th, 2021, and updated on May 16th, 2022.
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