Shape Shifting is one of those energy practices that it is less difficult to accomplish than say, getting rid of our self-importance. Therein, lay the danger. There's danger in this, only because of our "Hollywood Merchant Mindset" where it is too easy for us, in this modern world, to get hooked by the results, without fully polishing the process that got us to those results in the first place. We so often get locked into focusing on "the goodies" without fully developing our abilities in relationship to the keys that unlocked the doors those goodies were hiding behind. And then once behind those doors, we get stuck, unable to either go forward to where we want to be, or to go back to where we were. Stuck. Especially in the beginning, this phenomenon happens for apprentices.
For instance, many people manifest money in their lives, and nearly the instant they do that, almost immediately forget how they did it; through their prosperity mindset, or their literal energy of abundance. And then they go around from guru to guru, spending extraordinary amounts of money, trying to "figure out" again and again, "how to do it." When they already know! The same is true in shamanism. Participants manifest all manner of extraordinary skills and abilities, producing astounding results, and then almost immediately get hooked by the results, forgetting that it is necessary to devote all of their energy to the process in order to increase their proficiency. And in turn, they forget, or were never reminded, that it is also necessary to be non-attached to any results.
In the beginning, to increase our proficiency may not seem so critical, particularly because attaining the use of certain dramatic skills is less difficult than so many other, more subtle, and yet infinitely more powerful, shamanistic skills. But when you are shape shifting, and desire to control your behavior because you are being hunted by a hunter with an ordinary reality .308 rifle, in the ordinary reality world, to focus on the process that both got you there and will get you safely back again, instantly seems like a good idea, that's for certain! The desire here is to give advance coaching on process over product every single time, in order to best insure your safety, and your success. And the invitation is that that process over product non-attachment to results, focus, would remain constant in any area of your life you can manifest results in, from panthers to paychecks.
Even shamans in Ecuador who were shape shifting into panthers stopped that practice when so many of them were getting killed by hunters whose numbers were rapidly increasing per square acre of land there because of deforestation. Some practices are safe to delve into for the purposes of introducing an apprentice into experiences of non-ordinary reality, but are not safe to continue to practice "for fun." After all, we delve into risking our lives every time we get into the car, or cross the street, do we not? We do. And yet we don't spend entire days running back and forth across the street. We only do so, when it's necessary to get to the other side. The same is true in shamanism, and in particular, shape shifting. And, with so many young people focusing on drugs as an avenue to break through into non-ordinary reality experiences, it's even more critical to caution against those acts which have no intrinsic value to energy work. Recreational use of drugs is completely an aside to true energy work, as much as healing herbs and power plants are an integral part of it.
The question that is often asked is "well, what happens when I shape shift? Where's my body?" The answer to that question would depend upon who you are, and what degree of proficiency you have. For some, this would be dream time, when their body is asleep, dreaming lucid dreams of their totem animal. For others, it can be true physical shape shifting time, when they indeed do in fact, and in reality--non-ordinary reality--shift into an animal shape with all of their energy, including the energy they were using to maintain their human body.
There will be those who will refuse to believe that this can actually happen with a human energy envelope, and that is as it should be. Nobody believes everything, and certainly everybody does not believe the same thing. If everybody believed the same thing, then everyone would be able to do the same things, and that this is not the case in the human experience is an obvious observation. Beliefs notwithstanding, the ultimate intention of A Course In Shamanism is to train ourselves to shift into the most profound and powerful shape possible for a human being to take on, and that is one of unlimited unconditional love. We do this, because from that space of inclusion, the maximum number of possibilities for skills and awareness come into play. That's when our clean and cleared energy envelopes then become like blank slates where all manner of manifestations, skills, and abilities can show up upon. This is the condition in A Course In Shamanism that we call: awe. Therefore, to live as much of our time on planet Earth generating as much awe as it is for any one of us humanly possible to do, is the goal, and the experiences of experiences.
If you think about it, you could do well for yourself to ask the question "what shapes do I most desire to shift into today?" The shapes our lives take on can be ones of anger and hate, or ones of love and inner peace. The key to our satisfaction, is to be the one most influential factor in the generation, and then the maintenance of, any of the shapes we desire to shift into. Birds and panthers may be neat, but unconditional love that goes far beyond reason in effect and power, is a much more desirable goal for humans being, at least, for those who do A Course In Shamanism it is. Ultimately, and in the interim, this is the invitation and the goal of all the work that we do. Unconditional love is like a blank screen where we can, like artists of our humanity, draw in any shape we desire our lives to take on whatsoever, animal, human, and non-human shapes in fact. What power, we have. May you be so blessed in activating all that you have been given, and then even more.