The old tribal healers that we knew have all died. Without leaving any apprentices that have attained the depth, the mastery in the ways as we had experienced them in the past.
It's a winter's dark new moon night in the Sonoran desert, somewhat south of a place named Nothing, Arizona (appropriate to the void replacing pretense with life’s true story). As usual around midnight I wake to walk dark under the stars. Dark walking, no artificial light, allows unfabricated expansion into night's mystery. This night wondering how to tell this tale.
The last of the ancient lineage healers I worked with had all left body some ten years ago. Though as a visceral fact at times they continue to visit with me so you could say we've been together well over twenty years now.
But then just yesterday, climbing the hills through tall cactus stands of saguaro, I realized that the last two deaths I attended had been seemingly without my teachers hovering about holding my hand. Could be the time has come to let loose and fly. My lineage from the high Andes above Lake Titicaca, were the Kallawayas of various villages near Charazani, Boliva. Quechua/Spanish speaking now, they are descendants of the ancient civilization of Tiwanacu, building in megalithic glory more than ten thousand years ago.
In the early 1990’s I began more than a dozen years based in Peru and Bolivia. The last years of service there, up to 2019, I returned yearly but for only a month or two. The magic began right away upon my arrival with various invitations into the village or far out-back homes of the then few traditional healers remaining. And in each place they asked that we bring people to them, wanting to share their spirit ways. In a few years the invitations and contacts had spread to include twelve diverse locations with practicing healers. And basically without advertising there came to be each year ten to fifteen groups that we guided, our passengers coming from over sixty countrys. Attesting to the truth of the shamanic ways being opened to share.
The process of business grew to include many Bolivian and Peruvian associates eventually a couple as full partners. And in several places we were able to hire delightfully way too many native helpers. From children to run errands, youth to guide, to grandparents telling stories. Buying native grown foods and paying them to cook and serve. Native dwellings were built or rented for our travelers to stay in. More than half the profits were returned in community projects and needs. Wages and payments comfortably above average. Business was good and worthy and many hundreds of people benefited.
We had witnessed physical ailments cured that modern medicine hadn’t been able to. We experienced the shamans ability to see into problems of the psyche blocking life giving flows of love, relationships, learning, work, finances, home and such. Through arrangements in spirit the patterns were seen changed to the positive right away.
But then during our decades with them those last few worthy healers all died. Now from the villages that we had worked with, and their connected web of the many more villages in the lands surrounding, the people have been for some years reporting that there are no healers among them that have risen through the traditional time taking and exacting process. None that the people report as having the high spirit connection and the depth of life changing healing as those before. None that the villagers go to for healing.
This is not to say we know how it is everywhere else. But this is the report I've been getting from the simple earth people, indigenous to their culture and place, that have been looking to find true healers to help them again.
Meanwhile there are many practicing the shamanic ceremonies for visiting travelers (as we were) or traveling out of country. And I dare trust many are working with good heart, intentions, and sucess. But native village approved and sought for? Not that we are hearing. Again to say we don't know how it is everywhere else, and I dare hope there still are places where at the home level of simple earth people there continues the clear and full spirit power of unbroken and ancient shamanic lineages.
Through the ages past most often it had been that those born gifted with strong spirit connections would be noticed during childhood and a natural bond would develop with the current healing master. The student would perhaps accompany the healer for decades, twenty to forty years of apprenticeship study was possible.
Then would come a strong sign. Most of the healers I have lived with were struck by lightning. One of our family's grandfathers was struck three times in the heart. A blue light came down off the mountain and entered woman we worked with by Lake Titicaca. The first shaman I met of my lineage didn’t fare so well. When we first met he purposely shook my hand with a lightning twisted arm.
But then after all that the aspiring healer would still have to gain village approval. True healings would have to prove them. Tell you what, a charlatan was not going to pull anything over the experienced village elders or likely anyone else within the collective of tribal tradition. Nor were inflated egos tolerated.
Something I noticed about a number of the old ones capable in profound healing was how quiet and honestly humble they were. Most of them weren't to be called any special honoring name, such as Don or Dona so-and-so. An Amazon Shipibo shaman I visited for a buncha' years we called Carlitos in sweet endearment. Maria at Lake Titicaca was simply Maria. My main teacher of the Kallawayas I came to lovingly call Papa Pablo.
Even old Mariano who lived in the peaks of Ausangate, the highest and powerful mountain above Cusco. He was an altomsayoc, among the highest capacity of Andean healers. I was taken to meet him with a couple Qero shamans decades ago (before shamanic fame hit that community). Even with the Qeros and I in awe of the obvious immense spirit presence with him Mariano was beloved grandfather. Though folks did call him Don Mariano, with me for the years I could be with him he was abuelo/grandfather. On that first visit Mariano told me I always welcome and please return. On returning he gifted me his coca bag. Old Mariano warned me just before he died not carry on in ceremony with some of the inflated egos that would follow his departure. Sure enough after he died there were those going around charging big money for ceremony but while not healing.
Previously, in the high peaks near Machu Picchu, my first Andean grandfather abuelo Sinchi, another altomsayoc, also gave me his coca bag. The bags were made of an alpaca fetus and a condor chick (found dead and utilized for ceremony). Coca is our prayer way to connect with Grandmother-Pachamama. And somehow those altomsayocs saw that they wanted this gringo to carry on the Mother connected prayer.
Visting the Andean shamans usually took a few days of high altitude trekking to ancient family compounds.
The people there were wearing mostly the homespun wool of their alpacas. The men in thick and long-durable white wool pants, the women in many layers of thick brown wool skirts that they have brightly hemmed. Over their sweaters, brilliant orange and white ponchos on the men, the women draping intricately patterned blanket shawls of the same colors over their shoulders, pinning them in the front. Their white hats were of crude felt; low round tops and flat brimmed. All wore sandals made of used tire rubber no matter how cold it got.
Their traditional low walled homes are built of stacked stone with mud chinking in some, but not all, of the gaps between the rocks. The overhanging roofs, beamed with naturally crooked poles, are piled thick with yellowed grass that soften the over all appearance into something that looks like a livable haystack; definitely the dwellings of earth people. We would all sleep on the dirt floor, our beds were alpaca blankets on alpaca hides.
When first brought to meet Grandfather Sinchi, as usual we piled together on the floor for the night. Just before daybreak the family and I were together in one shared dream in which we were seated around Grandfather as he instructed us. Then we all awoke at the same moment with Grandfather saying that I am one of them, one of the family. Grandfather went to the door and greeted our Divine Mother and Father, the mountain spirits and then, well connected, he turned and one by one he bid good morning to all of us. So commenced a ceremonial party that lasted all day and well into the night celebrating our newfound relation. In the process my life was greatly enriched in the gaining of my first Andean goddaughter.
A few years later Grandfather Shinchi in solstice prayers performed a ceremony of sharing with me his heart. As I was leaving he cried, and he died very soon after. These awesome characters were lovingly approachable grandfathers; none pompous.
Part of their honest humility was in knowing that the life changing help and healing came through our spirit family and life itself making the necessary energy pattern rearrangements that would work so well. While the shamans are those born gifted with two-way spirit communication and able to report what was going on, more of the go-fer in betweens. Soul and spirit family made the agreements, not so much the shamans.
Along with Divine Mother and Father there is extended spirit family. Ancestors, animal and plant guides, consciousness of landscapes and sites, nature spirits; ancient cultures around the world have always known them. Like caring elder siblings they are really quite capable and willing to be of help. Though their powers can induce awe we don't worship them, but we sure do love them. They can be really good friends and we get together often. Usually there is one or a few with whom we are most connected like a best friend. To actually and fluently converse with this family is an ability of the healers.
Outside of this direct experience of our greater spirit family the Kallawayas were not offering any teachings. Like everyone else around them they were subsistence farmers going about their daily life as simple earth people. For the very few born with the spirit connection to become apprentices the learning came from years of proximity with the elder healer and cautious practice in the psychic ability to read coca leaves.
Typically Andean healers will pray with coca leaves and casting (gently dropping) them they fall in various patterns. The falling leaves overlapping or forming a cross, touching or separate, greenside or pale-side up, odd leaf shapes and more are the ‘letters’ of leaf reading. For example, when I first met previously mentioned Qero shamans they decided on a coca casting ceremony to check me out. When the leaves were cast from the Qero shaman's hand quite improbably they all fell together in a straight line positive sides showing up. Both shamans showed surprise, quickly the leaves were gathered up and cast again. And again the leaves fell straight line positive sides. The Qero's, a bit shocked, then told me they needed to take to meet the old man of the mountain, Mariano. Starting that whole loving relationship.
The experienced healer will be triggered by the leaves and, at times, will read psychically into astonishingly detailed and insightful nuances of the patient’s life. Healers will be instructed as to where there are imbalances and perhaps their sources. When the spirit informed diagnosis was understood a focusing ceremonial offering enacted the energy pattern changes being made.
The Andean offerings were usually small plates on which we piled the goodies to be given. Among the Kallawaya we used flat sea shells. A nest of cotton would be the base, then came coca leaves we had prayed with. Over this came various foods, flowers and other small items corresponding to the things of our life that we were showing gratitude for. A magic of material and spirit correspondence being built. Traditionally corn beer was offered, now wine or other alcohol is sprinkled or poured as offering. Each healer had their own various ways and items to be given. In the end the nests were burned in offering to Mother. All along much prayer and communion.
In the Amazon with the Shipibo’s the connection was usually made in the moment during ayahuasca ceremony. Psychic/spirit spontaneity directing inter dimensional singing. Song sound moved fantastic flows, feeling/visual experiences next step dimensional beyond our normal band of sense receptivity. Singing that is rote repetition, not within spirit trance does not come close to the journey carrying capacity we experienced with those old shamans. That singing along with the plant powers re-patterned body and psyche.
With the various shaman cultures experienced there was not the need of weeks suffering special diets nor solemn religious posturing. If the changes sought were true within spirit we pretty much walked up and in love simply received. Even the ceremonies were fairly informal. Dogs may run through, children piping in, participants could move about. At times we were encouraged to talk and laugh, celebrating our blessings. I had also experienced this in late night underground Hopi kivas where the women were quite capable of sharing a chat, a critic or easy flow laugh between profound ceremonies. And, oh!, try a three day peyote/tequila/venison ceremony with the Huichol up on their Mexico mesas. Celebration with a purpose! With my Kallawaya teachers it could be coca/alcohol/tobacco, deep prayer and easy comradery through the night, divinely altered! Thus when we do find ourselves in reverence, without the suppression of contrived structure, we are available to natural awe, centered and attentive, and in the truth of inherent awareness that is spirit.
The shamans were sure of the outcome and not in need to imitate spirituality by being uptight (no need to clench anus sphincters to appease some pissy god ;). The Ese-Eha of the Tambopata River, Peru, told us that their grandparents talked of the long ago days when the ayahuasca healing ceremonies were an enjoyed party like celebration. Ah the good old days... Perhaps this was something more widespread before the christian church brought them the idea of suffering to be spiritual.
Born into the church of my preacher father I received my first life support and imprinting in that white republican christian community. We were instructed that rest of the world is wrong and going to hell. From the beginning of my childhood indoctrination I was given the fear that one step wrong of the many church rules and an angry god would burn me forever in the same hell that the rest of the world deserved.
Entering society through school I found friends, people I readily liked among those that church called the damned. In accordance with bible instruction to not spoil the child by 'sparing the rod' I got belt beatings for spending too much time with non-church children. Creating painful confusion around a "loving god" and my dad and how to interact with the world at large. As I grew independent in my teens and rejected the church so too they rejected me. Leaving me with a deep core idea that I am a social reject and god damned; that everybody and everything agrees that I just shouldn’t exist. Pretty hard to carry on with anything like a normal life so crippled inside. But given the trueness of spirit that has come to guide, to be the life of me, I am now vastly grateful that the normal life was not available.
By grace and thank good goddess, eventually nature and a core true self came to have their way with me. Very young I began leaving the house and climbing the nearby mountains. Carrying on through my youth with forest and rivers because what I saw and felt there is a world of miraculous rightness. Thus after high school I went to live deep in the Northern Canadian Rockies. Enjoying to remain in the wilderness months at a time, setting a course that remains my way today.
One Rocky Mountain night my frustration with the god I was taught of came to a head. Climbing a hill I shook my fists to the sky yelling “Alright if you are real let me know now or just fuck you forever.” I raged, ranted and cried through the night. Then at daybreak, totally unexpected, from behind Spirit Mother slipped her loving arms around me. Giving a completely physical touch with that magnetic agreement that flows through emotional core, you know, that feeling we call love. Even today, with tears in my eyes, I tell you this is the clearest experience I've yet felt in this life.
In time this loving relationship with this feminine spirit I call Grandmother opened me to receiving full support from true masculinity, or Grandfather. I won’t even begin guessing our origins, roles or final forms. It is enormously sufficient for now to simply feel our kinship and acceptance. And in this current realm of consciousness I am grateful to have the approachable experience of loving grandparents.
With them I celebrate each day along with a great community of spirit family that I came to see and interact with in the wild lands. Thus when I arrived in the Andes and Amazon the people there recognized me as also one of nature’s children, one of the family. And they having suffered centuries of abuse our wounds recognized each other. They utterly took me in.
There our beloved shamans were joyfully showing me very much the opposite of christian condemnation (good goddess, I love those folks with my life). You can imagine how deeply touched I have been to find sweetly humble teachers in gentle spirituality. There is plenty enough pain to go around simply from existing, no need to add it our spirit connection.
Now when I pray it is more like being home, with many a 'I love you too'. Grandmother has me sit beside her in a feeling of equality, and yeah, that stuff moves me to joy tears. And all my beloved buddies, the spirits of the lands, so willing to help, to be here with me. Not at all like desperately beseeching some god way out there. Our love is intimately inner, as a matter of ordinary fact and of course. What I call prayer is simply saying hello and feeling into the greater picture. Seldom do I ask anything, but when I do ask for directions it is clear that the consciousness replying is different than my normal ego voices. With answers different to or beyond what I may have thought. I hope for you, dear reader, such visceral/spirit experience.
When first I began regularly visiting the Kallawayas the only regular public transportation that would climb into the mountains of their villages was a once-a-week open-back farm truck. Today the mountains are called the Apollobambas, a Spanish twisted version of what may have been Apubambas, meaning the home of the mountain spirits. Rather than wait for that one of the day week I would just wave down a ride from any truck heading in the right direction.
Each distance would have a fixed rate of a few Bolivianos we would pay at the end, if the truck made all the way. The large truck beds would fill with local produce, usually potatoes, wool, and charky (alpaca jerky); the people and their personals would top the pile. Having no other way to get around sometimes the people would cram themselves and their goods into every available centimeter; some of those hard jarring people jammed rides would have to be suffered without even the space to create a comfortable seat. In the people jams I found that if I moved even just a little, to relieve muscles tired of holding one position, the person next to me would flow into the opening and the space was no longer available. I had to learn to hold my space, it is not necessarily an aggressive practice; just one to save yourself from unnecessary cramped agony. Sometimes even sitting was not an option and many of us would ride together standing. The nights were freezing with the wind pouring through the open back, along with the dust and diesel smoke.
The journey from La Paz about due north to Charazani, the main town of the Kallawaya area, could take thirteen hours if all went well. However the tires were often
old and there were many flats to be changed or even repaired on the roadside. Rains often brought down rock and mudslides that we would have to get out and work to clear and then push the truck
through. Sometimes parts of the road would wash out, leaving a hole that dropped off the mountain. Precarious temporary bridges would be built of stacked stones just wide enough for the truck tires
to be narrowly supported above some steep mountain abyss. One of the few things we didn’t suffer was boredom.
If the rides I caught were turning away from my route to Charazani I would need to climb down and wait for the next vehicle going in my general direction with space available. The climbing-down process took banging on the side of the truck and yelling ‘baja, baja’ (down). The driver may or may not be able hear the requests above the truck’s roar and rattle. If the requested stop was being passed many more of us would enthusiastically join in the yelling and banging, the wide smiles this brought on made it clear that this was a part of the entertainment. Often there would be families jumping out in some highland wilds with not a building or path in sight; still today there are millions of Andean homes and villages tucked away beyond the roads, meaning tens of millions of indigenous Andeans living traditional-simple, off the grid as its said our electric culture.
The views from the open backs of the trucks were spectacular and I often stuck my head up over the sidewalls, braving the frigid winds to enjoy the mountains we wound through. The Bolivian Andes there reaching above sea level 7,000 meters - 21,000 feet. Truly, for the most part I really enjoyed the journeys, the adventure, the awesome Andes and the earthy native people.
Often it took me two days just to get to Puma Sani (place of the Puma) the 5,000 meter above sea level pass above Charazani, then another day's trek to one of my godchildren’s family homes. The various rides would get me to the Puma Sani pass late at night as they continued north towards the world bio-preserve at Ulla Ulla; so in the frigged night I would get out to wait for light. Higher above the sea than any point in the lower continental States, the wind at the top was often blowing hard and cold so I would drop downhill a little seeking less wind and a semi-flat spot to lay down my bed. It also helped to walk a while to work off the chill from the hours of sitting in the drafts in the back of the truck. My prior years of months-long Canadian Rockies winter camps served me well in knowing that cold can be made less of a hardship merely by being happy. I really appreciated where I was. The cold ignoring attitude was sustaining while got myself tucked cozy into the sleeping bag I carried. It is most often my habit to awaken well before dawn but there I would wait with ice covering my bed until first light to begin making my way down. Besides waiting out the cold I wanted the light so I could see the awesome mountains I was blessed to be in. The pass and valley, dropping toward the Amazon rainforest below, frame a view of Mount Acamani, home of the Kallawaya main magic power supply. Mallku (respected great spirit) Acamani glowing in morning’s first light is food for the soul. A child in awe and in high spirits I would make my descents. Then when down in the village of Charazani, the warm greetings from friends in the plaza, the salsa in Sophia's tiny home restaurant and the nearby hot springs serve well to thaw the frozen traveler.
One time I had made the Charazani journey and then beyond to the home of the Kallawaya Juan de Dios. As I walked up the door opened and Juan pulled me in. There the offering was all laid out and ready to go in specific detail, because in a dream he had already seen what was troubling me and exactly when I would arrive. That magician was well plugged in.
The first time I met Juan de Dios the family of one of my Goddaughters had told him about me. They were concerned about a longterm dis-ease I had suffered called 'soltero', meaning that I was still not married, which is a very strange state of being in this culture. Juan said yes, that he could see into me and that," I was not letting the feminine into the center of my heart". It was true that for some time I had been avoiding the trouble I had often found in relationships. I was quite amazed to hear such talk from a seemingly simple mountain man in the way outback Bolivia. Juan claimed that they could fix the problem and fix it they did!
Suddenly I was being hit up for a lot of dates and/or marriage! This opened the way for me to explore, in rapid succession, many of the fear-based patterns that had been blocking me, multitudinous synchronicities testifying to the power of the magic. And then suddenly in several villages all those elder healers we worked with began telling me the 'one' is coming.
One day in Machu Picchu, once again totally unexpected, a gal I had just met, the one, slipped up from behind and wrapped her loving arms around me. We knew from that one hug! Four days later with my heart and spirit screaming at me to jump I proposed and we married right away. Another one of the clearest experiences I've yet felt in this life.
While I'm on about Juan, a friend came to see him who was using a blood thinner that would in time kill him. The ceremony was performed and when my friend got home his two doctors were surprised to see him healed and took him off the killer medicine. While Juan himself died right after my last visit, his family continued to see him with me. At times I feel him hold my hand and he sometimes speaks.
After six years of visiting with them, Papa Pablo and Tio Pinto (like saying dad and uncle), the last two Kallawayas we were working with suddenly both began telling me that the mountain spirits were saying that I could be initiated into the lineage. For a few years more I declined and delayed, “I'm gringo (though of some Peruvian decent), a wanderer, not one of the native villagers” I said.
Well, the Kallawayas and spirits were insistent. Along with a number of occasions with the condors during ceremony lovingly getting in my face, seriously, often just a few meters away! The last time I questioned the calling as I stood on a mountain ridge, wondering if Juan de Dios was really holding my hand, again a condor came. She circled me three times at eye level, just a few meters away, so close as to make point driven eye contact. The last time around she opened her beak wide in a silent scream, wind whipped feathers whistling and I in tears. 'Come on Alan, wake up'! I had been coming around all these years just because I enjoyed hanging around these guys, I did not feel at all worthy or capable of sharing the lineage. My childhood core wounds still instisted I shouldn’t exist (those patterns needed to remain within to drive deep transformation years later). Still while admitting to being quite lost in the mystery, as in 'why me', an inner strength was growing to knowing this intiation was to be true. I eventually agreed.
Papa Pablo took me to Cota Cota, a ceremony site in the mountains that had been in use many thousands of years and had me create the offering. Cota means lake in the ancient language of Aymara. Papa Pablo had told me that was long ago it was a village with lakes on both sides. It now lays in ruins on a knife edged mountain ridge, high and dry. Glacier born steams cascade past both sides of the ridge hundreds of meters below. How long ago were there lakes up to these heights? How long ago were these lakes peopled? What cataclysms so changed the land? How many millennia have the magicians been coming here to pray? Is this place then a connection with the highly advanced world culture that was destroyed by the ending of the last ice or crustal shift (we have cultural evidence of more than 15,000 years)? Now Cota Cota calls me, what source is this that now taps me? Why this gringo?
Meanwhile Papa Pablo, in depth communion with a large clan gathering of spirits, received unanimous agreement with my initiation. The old lineage was placed in me. Not long after that Papa and Tio, the last of the healer Kallawayas we knew of died. Though my families there sought through the area for others none were then found.
The depth of love I have for this ancient process brought me first to know that I would not move into any fabrication with it. No putting on 'wannabe' pretending to be a healer, even with my years of learning leading to initiation. My connection with an extensive spirit family is true and sweet but not in the depth of communication as the old ones that we had experienced before. So, carefully I have waited years, watching for the truth of the way to show itself.
Woven through these decades were also nearly twenty years visiting various shamans in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. Experiences with their ayahuasca continue to open wondrous inner and inter dimensional inspirations. At times the effect was so strong that, with eyes open, all I could see were patterns such as we find at in the beautiful Shipibo art. Mama Ayahuasca would call me and I would get up and walk off into the jungle. The shamans in depth connection and wisdom would smile and just say there he goes again. I could not see trees nor trail, what I saw was the exquisite energy patterns perfectly interfaced through all, the trees, me, and everything. I would be walked through the forest in easy agreement. At times I would get in my tiny log dugout canoe and paddle into strong current rivers, paddling through the patterns of the living Amazon in stupendous harmony (an experiential skill continuing useful as desert questing now opens to the web of all). Those are fun, but oh the sweetness ayahuasca would impart in provivding greater loving clarity indearing my relationships. Those too are some truly worthy patterns.
Ayahuasca has also provided incremental, each time just over the next limit, experiences of discomforting not-fun dissolving of what I had thought to be self. I get immersed in oceanic vast energies, brimming and chaotic, such as the idea of the quantum field. The idea of a 'me' gets energy overwhelmed, being dissolved while feeling something like falling backwards, nowhere to land. The terror felt is that there is to be nothing left of a 'me', annihilation like truly facing death. I've gone through this a number of times until, while still uncomfortable, I'm somewhat used to it. Now the process sometimes sneaks up in my 'ordinary' of mundane days and throws me over backwards. But now it has gotten to be something like a roller coaster thrill (it's a known Zen thing ;). Then in each fall there comes a moment of clear consciousness, calm and peace-full. Stripped to a basic being of awareness. Experiencing such clarity has been highly motivating to continue in the process.
Knowing this stripping away has been a natural when then came the calling to attend to the dying. I have twice experienced near death. The first time, dropping mysteriously ill in the mountains, aching and groaning a death song, my heart drumming dark until it and breathing had stopped. I woke in the morning to a peace that passes understanding. The second time having trained in deep yogic breathing for some years, one night practicing at my teacher's alter I seemingly stopped breathing, and was in 'stillness' for two hours. Relaxed and comfortable while time was experienced as just a moment. Both times resulting in wondrous clarity, peace and life-loving as profound awareness.
Thus now I can be present in depth understanding during some people’s discomfort, the dark-hard moments that can be a part of dying, as well as the grace laced glory in letting go. Some deeply worthy shamanic sharing. And there is where my Kallawaya teachers began showing up again. At times the spirit family of the one dying will get together with my spirit family and the death room will fill with wondrous great grace. So have come the years of hospice care. To which I am still available and called on at times. But then life and death called me to return to the wilderness to carry on with my own inner homework.
While the ceremonies shared with the traditional elders were often a delight my own path did need to take some dark turns. Many experiences with death were making it clear that the ego defense patterns that for so long had desperately tried to be a 'me' were to be surrendered. These defenses were true needs at points in the past, but where I continued to cling to them grew increasingly uncomfortable. Then circumstances of relationship and cultural support dropped away (marriage lovingly ended and work naturally dissolving away). The timing was right to be opened into an even deeper process of individuation. Without the persona pretenses we think offer inclusion there is first a frightening feeling of cosmic vulnerability. At a primal animal level leaving the herd is really, really scary. It also came time to pull from the shadows my christian childhood core belief that I was a family and community reject, and god damned; that I just shouldn’t exist. These inner agonies had to be met as they stood in the way of fully opening to life’s loving flow. A process I took to many dire desert quests.
All this to say that for a few years things grew much darker than usual. I fell mentally ill, some form of full psyche dis-ease. Often suicide looked like the best
way forward. So time and time again I just fuken surrendered and planned to die.
...well...due to the trueness of the questing these dark turns in the path were actually what shamanism, sufi, zen and many others have called dying before you die. Like the caterpillar in cocoon dissolving into mush to become butterfly. And what I learned of dissolving with mama-ayahuasca is that letting go can then let it be, the core awareness-being remains true. And with the Kallawayas and others I had come to know experientially of a certainty we are not alone. Spirit family held me lovingly through the process. Our bonding now existing existential in life core places.
At the bottom of each suicidal surrender was experienced a next foundation grounding in the dark. The horrific process of letting go would then quell the need to end
the pain; for a while...
With sufficient practice of letting go of the futile illusion of a separate self the desert questing then began opening experiences of inter-connectedness. Opening, little bits at a time, to the web of all. That placement the Amazon ayahuasca patterns had been sharing, now experienced as life saving. And such relief! Not needing to be the center of this suffering little story. In fact much of the suffering that had been felt has been that of life in general. And as a consequence also opening me authentically to the vast joy within the web of life!
Being well practiced in crawling though my own dark has made me a knowledgeable and compassionate companion as I meet folks in their various hard times. Now there is natural getting myself out of the way enough for our spirits to get together, opening into some seriously beneficial spaces, such is this shamanic sharing.
This last bunch of years I’ve returned to live again my wilderness wandering ways in North America. Sharing the travels with a beloved Medicine Bear Bundle, some of the items carried with her have been prayed with more than 5,000 years! Moving seasonal nomadic, Mama Bear and I camp the western wilds from the southern Sonoran deserts to Montana's northern Rockies. Enjoying the time to pray the old ways, keeping up with some of the spirit touch in the vast lands. And allowing the rightness of the lands to have their way with this nature's child. Connecting, feeling, loving, with Grandmother, connecting through earth; and with Grandfather, opening to sky. Joining in prayer with the many spirits of the lands.
Sweetly along the way hundreds of animals and birds have come to be, out of the norm, in-my-face close, joining in life’s celebration and dropping messages to encourage the path nature has been offering.
Living this wild way since leaving my family home, the weeks and months that I've pilgrimage camped alone have totaled well more than ten years by now. This is one of the reasons why after I'd been a few years with the Andean mountain spirits they got together with the spirits of my northern Rockies and declared that the pilgrimage had remained true. The Kallawaya Papa Pablo told me that the beloved spirits of many land places were saying that I could be brought into the shaman's lineage. But at such a time, this time of endings. Perhaps then nature herself is then forming the next beginnings (and still we wait to see where all this is going). Whew, though that's a thought just when we appear to be at the edge of global cataclysmic climate change. Ah, just now while writing this five vultures arrived in the near sky with some sort of agreement.
My deep immersion in the natural world has opened me to eco-grief, there is an enormity of killing and suffering happening right now throughout earth's many creatures. Waves of feeling sometimes wash over me and I stand with earth and cry. Earth has lost 50% of her wildlife in just the last 40 years, and since 1970 there is 50% less life in the seas. Billions of kilos of torturing toxins are being spread each year. Earth is losing species to extinction at a rate of over two per hour, twenty-four hours a day, every day and night, and the rate is increasing. Right now we are tumbling into the next mass extinction! This is an enormous event that most people don't know, don't yet feel. And while for most of us this is still subliminal, there is a mounting collective feeling of future fear in the face of upcoming life threatening extreme weather changes. Now is a good time to deepen our connection with our sustaining earth Grandmother, to better move with her when she goes to whatever next will be.
Through ages past is has been the shaman's role to warn and guide those that would listen. There are many old culture histories of those that survived following the spirit guides. We'll see...
Dedicating time now to be immersed in nature is pretty much a right way. Looking for and enhancing those things that are truly important in life. The spirit strengthening in awe of the beauty and correctness in nature. The love connecting family, friends, community. Our inner bonding in being the prayer. Things such as these will be found remaining as so much else will be let go of at death's door.
Circumstances have greatly changed. The environments and forces that created the tribes are not the same as today’s. As a source of our sanity some ancient ways may remain the same a while longer; but clinging past a healthy ending can devolve into mere fetish worship. To be the new growth we must step beyond our history. Some of us within shamanism have already grieved for the old that has died (and continue to cry!). And while we have confidence in miraculous life and spirit bringing the next ways.
Humanity evolves, matures, and if we survive there is a great potential of expanding into a glorious global unity. The past great upheavals have proven evolution as providing what is awesomely correct and next. Some of us have begun experiencing the time for the ending of much that was previous to make way for new beginnings.
If there is anything I can share with you, good reader, if you find it true to you, conscious communion with nature can be an excellent way to true self. Perhaps you would find this not to be a 'you' that your childhood culture would demand. Not a 'you' hiding behind defenses built of pain. But the being you are as Life tells the story is loving right here, right now, naturally.
Actually ask ... and listen ...
we are not alone