El Tatio geyser field, Chile. Photo: Black Book Travel
I CAN ACTUALLY PINPOINT the time that I experienced my first profound shift in consciousness. I was years into a “career” at a national corporation in my mid-20s; the traditional narrative of the wife, kids, and house lay out in front of me, unquestioned. I was reading Daniel Quinn’s Ismael, which introduced me to the notion that life as we know it doesn’t need to be the way it is. That there are many different ways our civilization could have turned out. I had always taken for granted that the world was the way it was because it had to be that way. This was the seed that eventually led me to quit my secure job and do some traveling and living abroad.
The idea that there are numerous ways one can live a life strengthened as I witnessed different cultures — people who were living a vastly different lifestyle than what I had presumed to be “normal.” When I finally settled again in my current hometown of Nelson, BC, I underwent some very big shifts in my life. I started down a path that led me to where I am now: At 37 years old, I am only starting to learn my true essence — to, as my interview subject says below, shed my old story and the attachments to my wounds.
As a co-founder of Black Book Travel, Jon Rasmussen is a full-time Shaman, Advisor, and author of self-help books, CDs, and DVDs. He has studied and practiced numerous personal growth and health traditions globally for over 30 years and conducts sessions with individuals, couples, groups, and organizations, where he combines mastery in shamanism, coaching, sociology, and psychology to create deep and lasting results.
Over the last decade, Jon has been leading individuals and groups on tours to unique and sacred lands to connect with local shamans and ceremony.
CA: Can you tell me what Black Book Travel is all about?
JR: The idea behind it is that over a number of years I built a pretty big clientele in my shamanic work. Most of my [shamanic] training was in Peru. I recognized that there were a bunch of clients that wanted to have an experience with me in Peru, with my teachers there. They weren’t necessarily wanting to be shamans, that wasn’t their calling, but wanted that deeper experience. We did our first trip last year.
The idea was to have a couple of days on the luxury side of things…certainly you can do any of these trips in a rough fashion. Most of my clients enjoyed the comforts in life but at the same time wanted to really have that deep experience like they do in the sessions with me. It just got my partner Peter and I thinking that this is actually something that we could offer not only in Peru, but other places in the world where people can travel and make these deeper connections — to be able to travel with someone like myself who also has the ability to connect the clients on a deeper level.
You can go to places and people say “yeah, we’re a shaman and come here with me and do this” and you don’t really know what you’re getting into. If you’re obviously not from the area, if you’re not part of that tribe and you don’t have a previous understanding or connection of what they do, it’s very difficult to really get into it and to have them accept you. Part of what we are trying to do is bridge that gap and allow people, from primarily the West, to have a real, authentic experience of something…to improve their lives.
Obviously, people can travel independently to these places; I was wondering what you offered that the independent traveler couldn’t do for him/herself. I guess you’ve already answered that by saying that you have the knowledge and connections and are able to connect with locals.
Yeah, and provide the context ahead of time. As a trained shaman who has been working deeply at this for many years now, I can help them understand what is really going on on a level that the local medicine people understand…so there is this real experience and connection with it. The local medicine people are going to appreciate it greatly, to have someone coach the people ahead of time for what they are about to step into. To have experiences with me to some degree, and the work that I do, is also kind of helpful.
Where did your interest in this spiritual side of travel come in? Is it something that you picked up during your travels, something that you found?
I began to get very interested in the spiritual side of things at an early age. What I was able to do was travel, explore, and look for the things that I had read about. I read this stuff that sort of made sense out of my own life, and then as I traveled around the world I got to piece it all together. And of course see that there are different parts of the world where this hasn’t been so lost, or at least not to the degree that it’s been lost in our modern Western culture.
You don’t really need to travel; you can certainly find the depth of your soul and spirit in your own backyard or in someone nearby who happens to be connected in that way or is training as a shaman or anything else of the sort. There’s a lot out there in terms of energy and sacred sights and space that are very conducive to doing this kind of inner exploration and spiritual work. They go together well in that way, just if you like to learn and expand by nature then of course travel is the thing…experiencing different cultures and experiencing different ways of looking at the world.
Shamanism is that. It’s going in and experiencing the world of the spirit and soul and deep unconscious…and there’s the physical sense of getting out there and exploring and expanding. It’s really the same thing: one’s external and one’s internal, so they make a beautiful combination.
What kinds of travelers are you finding that are coming to you for these experiences? What are they looking for?
There’s definitely the traveler who is interested in expanding their own awareness and perspective. People are wanting to travel not just to say “okay, I’ve been there done that,” or “isn’t that beautiful or isn’t that interesting”…you can do that by watching TV now, right? What people are really wanting is an internal experience or transformation of sorts. So, without having to follow this myth that the only way you can do it is to bust your ass, you know, to hike a week up 30,000 feet and sit in a cave.
That’s not necessary, you can travel in a way that is comfortable that doesn’t challenge us necessarily physically, but at the same time offers us a tremendous potential for personal growth, in terms of engaging on a deep level while we’re there. Not just traveling and watching what the natives can do but actually participating in a way that causes a deep inner transformation.
I don’t know if you feel the same as I do or the same as other people that I’ve talked to, but there seems to be a general consensus that there is a spiritual awakening amongst people nowadays. Do you think that’s true and do you think that this is more so with travelers nowadays, as opposed to travelers a couple decades ago or further?
Yeah, actually, in my own observations working deeply with people and doing this work that I do, that kind of goes into the deepest levels that you can go into a person, you know, in the most intimate way. Not only in this life but even beyond it. I’ve noticed a shift. So yes, experientially just with the people who sit down with me I’ve begun to see a greater awakening.
I’ve begun to see many more people who are “mainstream” who are indeed doing the same thing and recognizing and seeing that there are certain ways that aren’t working, or certain aspects of themselves or their lives that aren’t working and they’re trying to shift it.
Would you say it’s a return to some balance?
Yes, indeed. It’s a return to balance, but most people look at balance as a 50/50 proposition. I think it’s a return to a sustainable way of living and worldview that is weighted more towards nature and the feminine. It’s just a different way to look at things in terms of masculine and feminine in our world. It’s more like an 80/20 balance than 50/50. It’s more like 80% heart and soul and body and feminine and nature, and 20% this sort of rational, logical, masculine approach, which is the thing that has gotten us in trouble in the last several thousand years. So, yes it’s a return to a natural balance.
I like that. Could you give an example of an experience you offer?
I’ll give an example of the trip that I do in Peru. It’s kind of geared towards the metaphysical; it’s geared towards the way we approach the journey of healing or the coming back into the power of being. We start in the jungle…the jungle gets you back into that original core, garden, feminine experience. There we have the option of doing an ayahuasca ceremony with someone that I have carefully — for many many years — worked with, a very powerful healer. And there it’s an opportunity to really shed a lot of our old story, a lot of our attachments to our wounds. Most people that come out of that completely reset, in a way, their internal clock and their internal story.
Then we begin to make our way up to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley and do some beautiful ceremony with teachers that give a very powerful form of prayer. Here the client may begin to tap into some vision and awareness of what they would prefer to be experiencing in their lives and in the world. Each of these places, it’s not just “wow, it’s the condor,” it’s “wow, how do I bring that condor medicine in and take them home, and how do I actually apply them?”
It’s not just a trip for that 10 or 11 days, it’s a trip that will give you something to take with you and use the rest of your life. It’s a journey…it doesn’t necessarily apply that you will have healing … it’s all the same physically. Otherwise, you can take ayahuasca in the jungle and say, “wow, that was cool and I saw lights and that was a neat experience” and come back home and say “yeah, I’ve done that and that experience was really cool.” But then the question is: How are your relationships, how’s your health, is your life different for it?
And that requires guidance?
That’s where being with someone like myself who takes what you’ve experienced and encourages you to see how it can be utilized in your day to day life. And give it some boost.
Do you keep in touch with any past clients?
I do. In fact it’s really amazing, this trip that we took [to Peru], for example, these were all clients of mine that didn’t know each other but the minute they met they became fast friends. Fourteen people from all walks of life, mostly from the Western world. They developed very deep friendships throughout the trip and since then they have already gotten together for a reunion. Not only am I staying in touch in terms of any kind of further work they may want to do, but they also seem to really stay in touch with each other.
Do they talk about the kind of growth they’ve had and what kind of affect that’s had on their life?
We did a testimonial video that you can find on the site.
Are there any last things you’d like to mention?
What makes us unique and why we’re called Black Book Travel is that connecting with the local medicine people, local shamans…we know they are going to offer their unique and deep experience. They’re people that we’ve had experience with.
This post was produced in partnership with our friends at Black Book Travel. To learn more about the services they provide, visit their website.