The Shaman

The shaman put the blindfold over my eyes. Lying on my back, I was instructed to let out a slow deep breath, and then another. Silence settled in, filling every pocket of space around me and I noticed the rhythm of my heartbeat. As the shaman began to shake the rattle nearly at the same pace as the internal metronome, I felt a pinched muscle in my neck from the angle of the pillow behind my head, but thought it would be disrupting to move.

I don’t quite recall exactly how I found myself making an appointment with the shaman and showing up at her secluded home in a remote woodland canyon, but I had come to the end of a long journey and I was desperate for answers that I didn’t have the courage to speak for myself.

I was ready for death. The death of a path that I had completed and which no longer served my soul’s journey in this life. I also wanted answers—I wanted to know that there was something worth the pain and anguish that was waiting for me on the other side. I wanted to be assured that there in fact was life after this impending death.

The rattle was getting louder and accompanied by a second, followed by incoherent words and phrases that were quietly, then loudly chanted. Rather than dropping into a dream-like state as I was lightly instructed to allow, I became hyper focused on the pinch in my neck that was worsening by the second. The stabbing pain was all I could feel or think about—I wished for the session to end but it was to last for at least one hour, or maybe more.

I wanted so badly to move. Even just to shift slightly. But I was immobilized by the fear of interrupting the healer in the middle of her trance state. I wished for death rather than to speak up. I instructed myself to focus on the rhythm of the rattle and drift off, but to no avail. After an excruciating hour the shaman was finished and the rattles came to a stop, the room fell silent once again. Finally, I shifted and stretched my neck, finding immediate relief, but the horror of having wasted hundreds of dollars for an uncomfortable hour-long neck ache. As the shaman came to, I could see a bit of surprise in her face at my swift alertness and she asked about the visions I saw. I had spent the entire time focusing on and fretting about my pain that I missed the experience completely. I said I couldn’t remember. She recounted the visions that came to her during the session—something abstract about a tiger, a butterfly, and a flowing river.

My frustrations escalated as I quietly gathered my belongings and thanked her before leaving for the long drive home to the life I was trying to escape from. It was many years later that I realized that the lesson I received was profound even though I didn’t have the sort of mystical experience I was expecting. Countless times in my life I have not spoken up when put into an uncomfortable situation, more worried about the other person’s feelings than my own well-being. It cost me my entire past life, rather than a few moments of discomfort for someone else. I missed out on the experience at hand while being preoccupied and trapped in the uncomfortable situation because I couldn’t speak up. This lesson brought an awareness of my patterns of a lifetime of self-betrayal.

Is it more important to be liked so as not to disrupt the other person, or to speak your truth even if it pushes others away? Being alone isn’t all that frightening—I’ve known loneliness my whole life and haven’t died of it just yet. I’d rather form deep relationships around honesty and truth instead of superficial niceties just because that’s what “we’re supposed to do.” I have found that I’m certainly not everyone’s cup of tea and that is okay, not everyone is meant to. I do things a bit differently and I continue to walk in two very different worlds. Being a good human is more than being only good to everyone else—I have to be good and honest with myself too. However, there is always still more work to be done.

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