This morning was one of those moments.
It began around 7:15. While waiting for coffee at my corner store, this 20-something kid and I started talking about the weekend. He had come to town to see Andrew Bird play. And, so, as happens a lot in New Orleans, we started talking about music, about people, about the city and about how it all comes together here in a hard to describe, but impossible to resist way. Walking out together, he asked what I did. I told him that, like most New Orleanians I know, I did a number of things but, to me, it all came down to being a shaman.
He told me that he’d never heard of shamans until two weeks ago when a friend of his tried to do some shamanic work on him. I say “tried” because, as the kid told it, after about 15 minutes, his heart started racing and his body started sweating. “You’re blocking me,” his friend told him, stopping the session.
Damned jigsaw puzzles.
Ditching my intent to return home with my coffee and write a completely different shaman’s journey post, I told the kid “Well, then. No time like the present. Let’s give it another go.”
Three minutes later, he was in my house, flat on his back, eyes closed.
A few minutes after that—with an ample assist from Tina Turner and her Buddhist recording “Purity of Mind” and a “shhh, not now” to his second chakra—his eyes were closed and there wasn’t a bead of sweat to be found. “Wow, I’m relaxed,” he mumbled.
I told him that I sensed he was holding something back and, since the seeds of most of what we adults hold back are planted between the time we're 5-8, I asked him to talk about his childhood. "I played outside a lot. There was this one tree I used to climb up every morning to watch the sunrise." I chuckled because, as you may or may not recall, I had a horizon tree in my childhood, too. Perhaps we all did, in one form or the other!
The young man and I travelled to that tree. He climbed up, catching the morning sun mid-rise. And started crying. Wonderful rivers of snot-flowing, face streaking tears. I gave him a hug and held him.
"Do you know why you're crying?"
"No, I just feel so sad and such discontent.” I asked him where and he said “my chest and feet.”
After a minute or two, he told me that he was climbing down from the tree.
"I see a crushed diamond and a snake," he said. "It's staring at me."
"Sit with the snake," I said, putting my hand around his shoulder. "It won't hurt you."
"It's turning away."
"Follow it. It's ok."
"Wait, now there are rabbits. Rabbits everywhere. And they're eating."
"Where's the snake," I asked.
"Huh, I don't know" ("Not ready," the snake whispered to me). "Now I see a girl with her back to me. She's running."
He did. To the edge of a cliff. Where they jumped. Into an ocean that gradually became black as night.
"This feels great. I love the ocean," he said, followed by "But now I'm back on the shore."
"Let the water carry you back out."
"OK, it is, but now I'm sinking."
"OK.” And, then, he opened his eyes. 33 minutes after we had started.
"Do you spend much time outside? Do you go to the ocean? Read poetry?"
"I like all of those things, but do none of them,” the young man said. “I’m an accountant. I live in Atlanta and live in a house with a bunch of guys.”
“Well now,” I said. “You have an invitation. From your inner feminine. To lighten up, loosen up…and get up. To go outside that which you know.”
We then talked about the possibilities of what he had experienced. It didn’t take long because, as I said, Mama Universe was in a very forthright mood this morning. Perhaps she sneaked in a double latte while the kid and I were buying our coffees.
“You came down from the tree, a place of joy and innocence, to see the diamond as shattered truth, pulverized power,” I said. You felt sadness in your heart but you also felt discontent in your feet, a separation from Earth. From nature.”
“Next you encountered snake, looking directly at you. Snake is a symbol of transformation. Of transmuting poison from something that brings death to something that offers life. But you weren’t ready. You surrounded yourself with rabbits, which symbolize…wait for it: fear. But, then. Then, something you are ready for appeared: the girl. She started running and you followed her. Why? Because she’s you. That feminine part of yourself that you’ve locked up and hidden away. Maybe so you could be an accountant. Maybe so you could make your parents proud. Maybe so you could make yourself successful. As the snake said, you’re not ready to find out why, yet. But the invitation is there to follow your inner feminine. Over the cliff of certainty and into the most uncertain waters of mystery, of surrender. Sink into those. And feel the hard edges of your current choices and life start to soften.”
He blinked about three times. Wondering, perhaps, how, in less than an hour, a coffee run had turned into an encounter with his inner feminine. “How do I do that?”
“Go outside. Alone. For three days. Do you know anywhere where you can do that,” I asked.
“I know exactly where I can do that.”
Slapping his hands to his legs, he said, suddenly, “I’ve got to go and get on the road. I have a long drive.”
“Yes,” I said. “I believe you do.”
“Thanks for the lift,” Mama Universe added.
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