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Further Steps Course

The Totem Pole


Totem Pole

Dates: July 1 – September 23
The Totem Pole (Tree of Life) course consists of 12 pre-recorded modules (each consisting of a theory recording and a practice recording, with extra bonus material as needed), and 8 two-hour long live sessions.

  • Explore the shamanic teachings about the human energy body.
  • Understand the properties of each chakra (energy centre), starting below the feet, and working up through the body.
  • Journey to discover animals, colours, shapes, plants, and stones associated with each chakra for healing and deeper connection
  • Build your personal inner ‘totem pole’ through this process.
  • Explore the relationship between the human energy system, mental and emotional issues, and the physical body.
  • Understand the connections between physical dis-eases and their underlying energetic, emotional, mental, and spiritual issues.
  • Develop a deeply grounded and physical, somatic connection with your shamanic experiences and practices.
  • Learn the indigenous, animist five-element system, of ether, air, fire, water, and earth.
  • Exploring the role of food, herbal medicines, and flower and gem essences in energy healing.
  • … and much more


Totem Pole energy

Any system that works with energy in depth needs an understanding of the energy systems of the human body. Consequently, understanding the different energy bodies (spirit, soul, mental, emotional, and physical) and their interconnectedness is a key building block of shamanic practice. This knowledge includes the various energy centres within the body (chakras), their formation, properties, relationships with one another, and their influence our mental and emotional states. These energy centres also serve as blueprints for the physical body too, and so imbalances in them can lead to physical disease.

Totem Pole Chakras

In teaching, I prefer to maintain a non-prescriptive approach when it comes to the chakras. Many books and teachings tend to be overly specific, associating each chakra with a particular gemstone, plant, or animal. Such rigid categorization can limit understanding and personal exploration, however. Instead, as a teacher, my aim is to provide enough information and practical ideas to help people get started, while encouraging them to then rely on their own exploration and experiences. This approach values direct personal experience and empowers individuals to find what resonates with them and helps them in healing their own specific chakra imbalances.

Totem Pole

On the course, we gradually ascend through the energy centres, exploring each in turn, finding helpful Animal, Plant, and Stone teachers, and more, along the way. We start deep in the Earth and continue up to Sky, connecting the three realms together – Lower, middle and Upper – and bringing all this into a richly-embodied and physically-connected experience. In doing this, we build our inner totem pole. Our unique “tree of life”, with deep roots, a strong trunk, and branches connected with the sky.


In animist teaching, the 5 elements are fundamental aspects of the universe and shape and influence all existence. The Earth element represents stability and physicality, Air symbolizes movement and communication, Fire embodies transformation and energy, Water signifies fluidity and emotions, and Ether represents the intangible and transcendent aspects of existence. Together, these elements form a holistic understanding of the natural world and the human experience.

The Tree of Life course offers a different perspective on the 5 elements compared to the Medicine Wheel course. Both courses incorporate the 5 elements, but they approach them in different ways. The Medicine Wheel course focuses on understanding the elements in relation to the broader cycles of nature, while the Tree of Life course delves into their embodiment within the human energy system. Taken together, these courses provide a truly comprehensive understanding of the human energy system.

If you have already completed the Medicine Wheel course, there may be some points that serve as revision, but the Tree of Life course offers a distinct viewpoint and covers additional material not included in the Medicine Wheel course. It provides a different take on the 5 elements.

... AND HOW TOTEM POLE can help us connect
with our shamanic practice in a PROFOUNDLY embodied way.


(May be subject to change!)


• An overview of the Tree of Life. The chakras and energy bodies.
• Why we get ill - a look at different models, and how shamanism fits in.
• Reclaiming the healthy roots of the Indigenous energy model.


The bridge between our physical existence and the Lower-World and Mother Earth
• Explore the Earth Star Chakra and its relationship with nature.
• Reflect on our interaction with nature in our daily lives.
• The issue of killing and eating, and other consumption.

Session 3: SOUL CHAKRA

Deepening our Connection to Nature
• What is Soul and the practice of finding it.
• Practice techniques for nurturing and strengthening our connection to our Soul.

Session 4: FOOT CHAKRA

The Gateway to the Lower-World
• Understand the significance of the Foot Chakra as the interface between the Lower-World and the human body.
• Working with body symptoms.


Base, Sacral, Umbilical, Heart and Throat Chakra
• Explore the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, and ether) and their connection to specific chakras.
• Study how each element relates to the physical, emotional, and mental aspects of our well-being, exploring the relationship between mental imbalances, emotional issues, and the physical body.
• Practical shamanic approaches to heal imbalances, including journeying to find Animal, Plant, Stone, Colour, Shape and more for each of them

Session 10: BROW CHAKRA

Opening to the Upper-World
• Understand the Brow Chakra and its role in accessing the Upper-World.
• The difference between the realms.
• The difference between Soul and Spirit

Session 11: CROWN and SOUL CHAKRA

The Upper-World aspect of Self
• Investigate the Crown and Soul Chakras' significance in deepening our connection to the Spirit.
• Integrate practices for connecting to the Upper-World for participants not familiar with the Upper-Wrold work.


The bridge between our physical existence and the realm of Spirit.
• Tapping into healthy detachment, gaining perspective
• Nurturing the witness aspect of ourselves.

Between sessions, participants will have the option of joining private peer-led online groups, to offer each other encouragement and support, ask questions, and share ideas and experiences. Participants also can submit questions.  

Shamanic healing is a form of energy medicine. 
It’s not a physical thing like surgery or osteopathy. Any system that works with energy has got to have some understanding of the energy systems of the human body. So a big part of shamanic healing work is understanding the spiritual bodies – the soul body, the mental body, the emotional body, and the physical body and how all these things fit together and relate. And so this particular aspect of shamanism is one of the foundations of shamanic practice really. 

Energy centres in our body. 
It’s a huge body of knowledge and it’s partly based on understanding that there are different energy centres in the body. So it’s about understanding how these are formed, what they are, what their properties are, how they relate to each other, and what each one of these goes on to form and create and how this goes on to relate to the mental and emotional bodies. And literally is the blueprint for creating the physical body and all the different organs and systems and so on. And then obviously how to work with them, what to do with this knowledge. There’s a, there’s a whole series of practices and techniques as well that go along with the knowledge.

Energy centres in our body form what looks like a trunk of a tree.
So we have these energy centers in our body from a shamanic perspective. They sort of run through the body. They form like almost what looks like a trunk of a tree. And then each one has kind of what look like branches or roots depending where it is coming off them. And these literally extend down below the physical body into the earth itself and even further down into the Lower-World and then or above the top of the physical body into sky and then also into the Upper-World. From a shamanic point of view, this energy body we have is also rooted in the Upper-World and the Lower-World as well and so it does look like a bit like a tree with its roots down its trunk and its branches. So you’ll sometimes see it called the Tree of Life.

If you think about these centers in the body, each one can be represented sometimes in animal form or something, so it can look like a totem pole. The thing with the totem pole is it’s really specific cultural reference. I mean that really largely comes from native North American cultures. I’m not of that heritage so I’m not qualified or claiming to be able to teach that aspect of it or that particular application of it. Sometimes I use the term Totem Pole just because that’s kind of what people understand by it and it’s kind of what will bring people in. But my preferred term really is the Tree of Life, because it’s not a culturally specific thing. The knowledge itself is cross-cultural. It’s not from a particular culture.

In shamanism and animism there are lots of different ideas about pretty much everything and this includes lineages and their importance. There are different ideas about how to practice shamanism, even what shamanism is or isn’t or what qualifies as shamanism. Hmm. There’s endless debates about the divide in line between shamanism and aniimsm, about how old shamanism and is and so on. Everybody has their own thoughts and ideas on this and I do too. 

Does it grow good corn?
There’s a saying in shamanism, does it grow corn? Meaning does it work? And my approaches is not only does it grow corn, does it grow good corn? Does this work well? Animism is very ancient. All hunter-gatherer cultures practice it. That’s all our ancestors before we started adopting agriculture and what’s sometimes called the Fall. From what we know about these cultures through recent contact with them, because there were hunter-gatherer cultures until fairly recently. But also from what we know through anthropology and all sorts of things, they were pretty practical people and pretty flexible and adaptable too. I mean to be honest, if you live in a small band of only 20 to a hundred people, to survive, you’re gonna have to just be pretty practical and not hung up on dogma and stuff. He also didn’t have writing of course. I mean once we invent writing then things can become much more fixed. I mean look at the argument still about various interpretations of the Bible, written 2000 years ago!


Animism is not of any particular culture, it’s universal!
So from what I can see, lineages, traditions, the attachment to doing things in a very fixed and prescribed way, the annoyance with people who don’t do things in that way, all that stuff, that’s just stuff that starts to emerge quite recently in human history, really. Before agriculture and the Fall, all our ancestors were animists. That’s 95 to 99% of the generations of your ancestors. Animist doesn’t belong to a particular culture and so it’s not of a particular lineage or tradition. It’s just something that’s completely or was completely natural to us. It’s our birthright, it’s the way we should be. So like it or not, and some people in the shaman community really don’t like it, shamanism is vast and broad and there are a thousand, 10,000 different ways of doing it. I don’t think it’s my job to tell anybody how to do it. I can just offer – this works for me, try this. And I don’t think it’s anybody else’s job to tell other people or police people’s practice either. So whilst I respect other people who are really into lineages and traditions and things, it’s just not my path. And I think, all paths of the good if the grow good shamanic corn.

Early life.
I had lots of interesting experiences as a child in terms of sort of energy things happening in my body. My dad wasn’t into any of this stuff at all, but he had spent some time in India during the war, so he had this book on kundalini meditations in his library and I found it at the age of eight and started to have some very interesting energy experiences. 

In my twenties, I was trying all sorts of paths out like people often do in their twenties. And I did study different energy systems through astrology and western hermetic and our chemical medicine. I looked at  traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine and various other things. So I kind of had an understanding of energy models, but it was kind of quite conceptual, heady. 

Discovering polarity therapy.
And then I started studying polarity therapy, which was put together by a guy who was an osteopath and a chiropractor. But he got into ayurvedic medicine and invented his own system. And it, it was a hands-on approach but based on a very detailed understanding of the human energy body, of the chakra system or the energy centres in the body. The guy who was teaching me was really, really adamant that this energy model we were learning was from India, from the vedic tradition. That just wasn’t what I was experiencing. Cause I was also into shamanism at the time and I just thought, wow, this is much older. And when I was doing the techniques and things I used to look up and they’d be like my hunter-gatherer shamanic guide, saying sort of: “Oh he’s remembering”, you know, telling me little adjustments to make and things. And I kept trying to talk to my teacher about this and he was absolutely not having it at all. One day I was talking to one of the other students, uh, about this and she was Mexican and I’d studied with Mexican shamans and she said: “Ah, thank God, that’s exactly what I’m experiencing too.” There were quite precise things like we were learning different vowel sounds for different energy centers in the body and being taught, this was from India and then this woman said they’re exactly the same as she’ve been taught by Mexican shamans in northwest Mexico. 

Universal underlying principles.
It became really clear to me that this is very old. That was really a trigger to what became a lifelong quest really to study different energy systems around the world. And the more I did it, and then talked to my shamanic guides about it and journeyed on it, the more I started to really understand and the more it I start stripping away some of the more current layers that have been put on this. This is really old stuff, although different cultures in the worlds will obviously have interpreted it differently and implemented it differently. The fundamental underly principles of it are not only really really ancient, they’re also pretty much universal from what I can see.


So I started trying to piece it all together and in doing that, it’s impossible to not put a slant on it. You have to, it’s like painting. You can be trying to paint some sort of great archetypal thing, but you’re inevitably gonna interpret it some way. So I’m not claiming this is some kind of pure thing. What I tried to do though is to keep it as close to the underlying principles as possible so that people can make it their own essentially.

Most people understanding of them is either gonna be through yoga, kundalini or tantra stuff or through certain new age stuff, which sort of popularized them. So most people do tend to think of them as something that originated in India. It means wheel – it’s a thing that spins in our body. In terms of doing the left brain research, but also in terms of my own journeying and talking to my guides, you find these all over the world. They are particular centers of energy in the body, each one having its own particular qualities. And from each of these, a whole pile of other stuff is created – particular mental qualities, emotional qualities, the blueprints to form particular kinds of organ and tissue and so on. Five of them in particular relate to the five elements of air, fire, water and ether. So imbalances in those fundamentals of energy patterns then can have ripple effect out into mental, emotional and physical patterns as well.

Like I was saying earlier, personally, I like to try to keep a fairly non-prescriptive approach. Books or teachings on the chakras can get very prescriptive. So this chakra, it’s this particular gemstone or this particular plant or this particular animal and so on. And some it’s a bit like the medicine wheel teaching as well. East is this particular animal and West is this particular animal. For me, shamanism is based on much deeper core principles. 

What our animist ancestors always did was to take this core knowledge and these core practices and then apply them in a very pragmatic way to the times and the environment they lived in.
It’s a very practical form of spirituality. So the problem is, as we start to lose our way as a species and start to kind of write things down and get increasingly dogmatic, things become much more prescriptive. So somebody writes down: “This chakra is this gemstone” and people kind of go: “Oh right, so this chakra is that gemstone” and it becomes kind of fixed. And it’s usually one person’s idea, it’s also from a particular culture. 

My approach to shamanism is always trying to teach the principles and let people find out for themselves, really let them personalize it. My job as I see it as a teacher is to try to give people enough information to get started, to give them some practical ideas about how they can explore this for themselves. And then the rest my hope is, will become based on their own personal experience. It’s one of the things I love about this approach is it is based on direct personal experience. I’m just here to give some ideas to try out, basically.


So rather than saying this chakra relates to this particular animal on the course, what we’ll do is we’ll go through each chakra in term, I’ll be giving enough information, the basic principles of that chakra. Like this chaise is related to the water element and so on and so on. So rather than, than tell them it’s this particular animal, what animal is going to be the best water animal for them? What’s the particular water animal they need to help with their water imbalances? What’s the particular air animal that’s gonna help with their particular brand of emotional air issues and so on and so on. And so the same with plants and same with stones and so on. We start off some basic principles, but then people will very much be able to personalize it according to their own experiences and teaching from their own guides rather than from me, which is always how it should be.

Rising rooted.
We start right at the bottom, like the way a tree grows, first roots and with the energy centers that connect us to the Earth and to the Lower-World, there are actually lower down even than our physical body and we establish really strong roots. And then each session we will gradually move up the energy centers session by session. So we then literally build our own inner totem pole if you like, grow our own inner tree of life, finding the appropriate animal, plant, stone, and so on, until we build up and actually then out the top of the body to connect with sky and for students that know how to do it, with the Upper-World as well.


And so what people get is a very embodied thing that also really roots them in the Lower-World and also anchors them firmly in the upper world like a tree. Strong trunks, strong branches reaching up to sky.

It becomes like shamanism embodied.
I think probably one of the biggest things specifically this course does, in terms of the feedback I get from students, is it does really somehow make the shamanic work far less disembodied, far less ethereal and vague and abstract and it turns it instead into something very visceral, very connected to the body, kind of real in that sense.

An extraordinary body of knowledge.
It helps people understand from a shamanic perspective the connections between their physical body, maybe physical symptoms they have, how that relates much more precisely to the mental emotional issues they have and the connection with Soul and Spirit and so on. And there’s lots of really practical applications of this stuff. Shamanism is very pragmatic and practical and it opens up huge doors with the shamanic practice and journeying and you can also relate it to meditation practices you might already have and we will be learning actual meditation specifically to do with this as well. 

But down to really practical things like um, the application of particular herbs diet. So as well as anybody who just wants to deepen their shamanic practice or anybody that that is interested in the energy model. Anybody that’s also got any prior knowledge of things like kundalini, tantra, reiki or even herbalism and so on, you will be able to really take this knowledge and apply it to the stuff you already know, which will add a whole set of shamanic dimension to your other stuff as well.

Yes, short answer.
If you think about a piece of cloth material, there’s two kinds of threads – the warp and the weft. The medicine wheel is the warp and the tree of life is the weft. They both incorporate as part of them the five elements, but they are looking at them in different ways. 

The medicine wheel or the cycles of life tends to understand the elements in relation to the greater cycles in nature and the tree of life really roots them in the body. And the two together form the complete understanding of the human energy system. They are the two essential parts of a much bigger hole really. So although if you’ve done them medicine wheel, well there will be a small amount of certain points that would be revision – and useful revisions – I mean, you know, I’m constantly still learning more about the five element system. The Tree of Life will give you a very different take on the five elements and also includes a huge amount of other stuff too that isn’t on the medicine wheel.

Absolutely not. You can absolutely come to this uh, with no prior knowledge whatsoever. If you have already got that stuff, honestly I can guarantee that you will find a whole load of unique, additional knowledge and information insights. But you absolutely don’t need anything at all. Some people might think of the chakra as a bit, I don’t know, new agey or flaky or something. That’s, that’s kind of really unfortunate because what we’re looking at here is a really fundamental building block of shamanism that’s very, very ancient really as well. There’s nothing, nothing new agey or flaky about this. It’s the opposite. It’s very, very embodied and practical.

The course is listed in our Further-Steps section. However, this is only because it is a longer course. You do not need to have done a Next-Steps course before doing this course! Due to the grounded and step-by-step nature of the Tree of Life, it is a great course to go onto even if you have only done a First-Steps course so far. In addition, if you are a more experienced practitioner, you will find a huge amount of new information on the course that will greatly enhance your existing practice. If you are new to the energy model, it will give you a clear, detailed, and eye-opening introduction to it. Likewise, if you are already familiar with things like yoga, the chakras, tantra, kundalini, and even things like herbal medicine of flower essences, the course can add a whole new shamanic dimension to what you already know.

So there’s 12 theory sessions.
They’ll be released on a roughly weekly basis and they’re pre-recorded so you can do those in your own time pace.

There’s also eight live sessions.
They’re focused not on the teaching anymore. We’ve just recently changed this. So they’re really about sharing experiences of journeys. Students really do tell us they get so much out of sharing their journeys and listening to other people’s journeys and just that human contact and discussing things. The live sessions are very much focused on the experiential side of the work and also on the human interaction and community and tribe. With the pre-recorded theory sessions, people will be doing them at different paces. So when it comes to the live sessions, people will journey up to where they are. It doesn’t matter where people are at different stages doing different kinds of journeys. You can still share them and listen to them.

And then there’s also a website forum, a place to ask questions and discuss stuff and there’s a huge amount of learning goes on on those. I’ll do a sort of extra bonus recording to answer any questions and stuff. And there’s loads of handouts and other resources and things.

shamanic courses online
  • Zoom Online Sessions With Founder of Therapeutic Shamanism, Paul Francis.
  • Live Shamanic Journeying
  • Study in the Comfort of Your Own Home.
shamanism courses
  • Detailed Course Notes.
  • Video Recording of Every Class.
  • Submit Your Questions for the Next Session and Discuss with Peers.
  • Learn at Your Own Pace.
  • Meet Like Minded People.
  • Connect Between Sessions on Website Forum and (optional Signal group).
  • Deepen the Connection in Break-Out Rooms During Live Sessions.

The course starts on July 1st, 2023, and consists of:

12 pre-recorded theory and practice modules
with accompanying handouts, journey suggestions, and other resources, released on or before:
July 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, Aug 5, 12, 19, 26, Sept 9, 16, 23.

8 live experiential and community sessions
These are two hours long and start at 2pm (UK time):
July 8, 15, 29, Aug 5, 19, 26, Sept 16, 23.

A website forum and (an optional) Signal group,
where students can ask questions, discuss topics, share experiences and additional resources, and get support, encouragement, and a sense of community.

Free bonus videos,
where I will answer students’ questions and offer additional teaching.

We are always trying to find new ways of accommodating our growing international community. Although live sessions are highly valued by the students who attend them, the majority of our students now do the courses mainly (or even, solely) via the recordings. To address this trend, we have restructured the courses into smaller and more manageable modules, to help more students fit the courses into their lives, and in particular, to accommodate any time zone issues.

Instead of the current 4-hour combined theory and experiential sessions:

1. The theory presentations will no longer be live, but available as pre-recorded videos (still released on a week-by-week basis). This means you can listen to them in your own time, and whilst painting your nails if you wish, rather than having to sit still and stare at a screen.

2. In addition, I will do pre-recorded bonus sessions as needed, in response to the questions and discussions on the forums.

3. The live sessions will instead be focused on the experiential, community and human-connection aspects of the courses. In the old format, these sessions were usually about 1 hour and 20 minutes long. This course is a 12-week course, so that would have been a total of 16 hours. Now, rather than 12 short sessions, we will do 8 two-hour sessions (the same number of total hours, just divided up differently). This changes the balance to give us more time for community discussion and interaction (the aspect of the live sessions people tell us they value the most), and more ways to be responsive and flexible in terms of a group’s needs and wishes. Whilst is still means the live sessions are only 2 hours long rather than 4, as in the old system, hopefully making them much easier for more people to attend.

Really, the changes are a win-win for everyone, and the response to them so far has been fantastic!



To attend the Totem Pole (Tree of life) course, you need to have completed one of the college’s online First Steps coursesThe Totem Pole (Tree of life) course consists of 12 pre-recorded theory sessions and 8 two-hour long live sessions.

Theory pre-recorded sessions will be released on or before the following dates: 
July 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, Aug 5, 12, 19, 26, Sept 9, 16, 23 

The live (experiential/community) sessions:
July 8, 15, 29, Aug 5, 19, 26, Sept 16, 23. 
They will be 2 hours long, and start at 2pm (UK time).

The closing date for enrolment is Saturday 1st of July. The course is highly unlikely to be repeated until 2026 at the earliest, so please do take this opportunity to book (remember, once booked, you can always work through the recordings at your own pace, and with no time limits).

Payment by installments. We are committed to keeping our courses as affordable as we can, and this course is way cheaper than almost any comparable one. Because it is a longer course though, we do appreciate it is a bigger initial layout than you are used to from us. So please remember that PayPal offers the option of spreading the payment over 3 monthly installments. There is no fee at all for this, nor any interest incurred.

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