Stumbling into Shamanism
(Introduction to my forthcoming book)
My story is one of how I stumbled upon an entranceway to a vast new world. I found a place where the foundation of well being is based upon ancestral lineage, sacredness, fire ceremonies, mythic maps, and a medicine wheel dictated and generated by the four directions of the wind. Most notable is the way in which this world embraces a communion with and reverance for the earth’s rhythms with a devotion to honoring it, and of late, saving it.
What I hope to share in a way that will shed light for others, is my process of integrating this experience with the knowledge I’ve gained over the six decades of being alive. How I learned to weave the wounds of the missteps and abuses of my life, into the medicine of discovery of deeper meaning and purpose. By commenting on the process and chronicling a journey that is as relatable as it is mysterious, I hope to shine a light on the riches of these ancient Shamanic ways. My intent is to tell of a healing practice and way of life that I see as a formidable force, one that ultimately calls to be understood and welcomed.
My adventure in the Andes in southern Chilé began in the early Spring of 2018 when I attended an introductory workshop with Dr. Alberto Villaldo, the medical anthropologist whose books cover a lifetime of shamanic studies. I was always curious to know more about shamanism and had a couple of books in my library I toyed with reading over the years. While purusing the Kripalu catalogue, a yoga and health center in Lenox Massachusetts, “Techniques for Shamanic Ecstasy” jumped out at me as a provocative and interesting title for a workshop, and I signed up for the weekend.
At Kripalu where I have often come to restore, learn and grow, I was struck by Dr. Villaldo’s mission of bringing more healers into the world. I’ve always felt that I had an innate ability to understand and effect healing for myself as well as others from time to time. However I was reluctant to consider myself a healer in any form. I had read the suggested book, Villaldo’s latest at the time, One Spirit Medicine. Although it was dense with foreign concepts and the science of nutrition, I was taken by the prospect of a new way of looking at healing our relatively toxic modern bodies, in the context of becoming more receptive to expanding consciousness. I’ve always believed that the typical American diet was in desperate need of transformation, but I had never considered the fact that our diet is actually destroying our ability for higher intelligence. Hence the subject he is so passionate about, the neuroscience of enlightenment, in effect illuminates his theory on how to turn back on the switch for our longevity and repair systems. I was also drawn in by considering the degree to which my decades of meditation and yoga practices could be illuminated as a resource
When Dr. Villaldo offered at the formal end of the workshop to speak with any interested in further study, I moved over with a group of many from the group of about 80 captive participants as a whole, to check it out. I looked over the literature and offerings of his light body school and zeroed in on the last course of the year, offered in November in Chile. Los Lobos Lodge was described as a health spa and shamanic monastery offering a unique opportunity to receive training at the founder’s own sanctuary nestled in a coastal mountain range adjoining a World Biosphere Preserve.
I had a month to make a commitment in order to save a significant sum on the tuition for the course. So I set out to put my ears to the ground and listen for the drumming of my heart to align with the pulse of the earth. To slow down and go deeper within the source of my own listening. The more I reflected on what promised to be a colorful journey, rich in myth, lineage and animal spirits, the more I felt called to embark upon this road of healing to help me embrace my own sacred life map for this next chapter of my life.
The prospect of an immersion of health and spirit of such depth is one that appealed to the part of me that felt and still feels as if it’s been effaced, since I discovered my marriage did not honor my highest self. Having chosen a solo journey over an increasingly disempowering and painful marriage, I was seeking a container to help me align my purpose and next steps. When I reflected on how the heart is considered the great drummer of the body, I focused more than usual on its rhythm, and realized I was longing for a place for my heart to rest, cleanse and heal on a deeper level than previously imagined. Most appealing was the luxurious aspect of immersion in a beautiful safe exotic protected place from where I could do whatever work was up for me. The final decision to jump in and register and gather points for airline tickets, was made when in a guided meditation I felt my heart reach for the earth at the same time the earth reached up for my heart, the grounding of clarity I craved.