“It’s time,” my grandfather, dead for 30-odd years, told me one day as I meditated on opening my Shadow Door.

“What do I do?” I asked.

“Lie down.  Don’t move.”

Living or dead, I loved my grandfather.  And, living or dead, I trusted him.  Completely.

So, with a deep, full inhale, I got up from my Target meditation table, put on a shamanic drumming tape, and lay down with my feet barely touching the altar.  

Almost instantly, I found myself floating on the same bamboo raft my yoga instructor had us call up during shavasana. My feet dangled lazily off the end as a gentle current carried me across the clear, grey water.  Every now and then a twig would bob up or a leaf would fall down. 

I just let them be.  "Don't move," Grandaddy had said.  

After a few minutes, darkness started rolling over the scene like an ominous, all consuming fog.  Before long, everything was pitch-black.  The air, the water, the raft.  Me. 

Tiki lamps rose up at the four corners of my raft.  I could feel their heat on my toes, my shoulders, the crown of my head. 

An intense drumming commenced.  It wasn’t the recording now playing on my tape.  It was alive.  And it was coming from somewhere else.  From everywhere else.  It got louder. And louder.  And louder.  Until it literally hurt my ears (though, of course, if anyone had looked in the room at that moment they would have heard only the gentle sounds of the tape). 

Voices started emerging between the beats.  Wails, really.  Terrifying, pained wails.    They started circling me.  Clawing at me.  Tearing me open so that, soon, the voices and the drumbeats were seeping inside my very being.  I was pulsating with their energy.  Drumbeat.  Wail.  Drumbeat. Wail. Drumbeat.  Wail.  Over and over again.

“Don’t move,” Grandaddy had said. 

So I didn’t.   Except for my white-knuckled fingers which now were clutching the raft.  

"Madness,” I thought.  "This is what it must be like to go mad.”

I screamed.  Loudly. On any other day, at any other moment, I would have worried what the neighbors might think.   But on that day, in that moment, I didn't care.    I wanted someone ---someone from this world--to come and shake me back into normalcy.  

What I got instead was a large ball of fire.  Roaring straight toward me.  I tried to scream again, but nothing came out.  I was too consumed with fear.

So, I just stared, unblinking, at the rapidly approaching ball of fire.  Ten feet.  Nine feet.  Eight.  Coming right at me. 

“Fuck” was about all I could think.

Seven feet.  Six.  Five.  Four.  And, then.  Then.

Then, at no more than three feet above me, Dragon roared through the fire of his own breath, stared at me for a split-second and whirled around. 

Trading Grandaddy’s advice for my own survival, I reached up and grabbed Dragon’s tail as it passed over me. 

We shot straight up with such force that the voices and drumbeats tumbled out of me.  After a minute or two I felt back to normal (well, if your definition of normal includes riding a Dragon’s tail!). 

“Whew,” I said out loud.

“Don’t move,” Dragon turned to say.  Before I could assure him that I had no intention of moving, he nosedived back towards the water.  Back towards the terror I had escaped only moments before.


We tore into that water with such intensity that it was a few moments before I realized the impact had thrown me off of Dragon’s tail. 

I was all alone. And I knew exactly where I was.

You see, that wasn’t a raft I had been floating on.  That was my Shadow Door.  And I hadn’t opened the Door.  Dragon had crashed me right through it.  Leaving me to be consumed by the avalanche of watery emotions long sealed behind it. 

And as the dark wails, the intense fires and the steady drumbeats of those emotions consumed me, I knew what my Shadow wanted to do.  It wanted to kill me.  To break me.  To destroy me. 

Which I wasn’t about to let happen (yet).

So, I made for the surface.  And I swam as hard and fast as I could for the distant shoreline.  I swam past the shattered door, away from the wails of fear, the drumbeats of shame, the fires of rage.  I swam to the known safety of my room, my altar, my reality.

And I made it.  But, when I did, I couldn’t help but turn back to look at that which I had escaped.  And I couldn’t help but know I’d be back. 

I was a happy camper after finding my Shadow Door.  For six months, I had been a bit adrift.  Sure, I had been learning things here and there.

I learned I was clairsentient.  I learned I could run energy. I learned that spirit guides rode motorcycles.  Sometimes.  

But to what end?  Where was it all leading?   I had not a clue.

Until I found my Shadow Door.  My closed Shadow Door.  

And I knew.  I knew "it all" was leading to that door.  I knew the "end" was to open it.

Knowing this, I did what used to come oh-so-naturally to me.  I made a plan.  A very Type-A plan to open my Shadow Door.  Or, rather, a plan to prepare myself to open my Shadow Door.  Because, face it, you don't just trundle down the steps into the cellar of your subconscious and start fiddling with the lock(s) on your Shadow Door, do you?  No!  You have to be prepared!  And what are we Type-A's all taught that "prepared" means?  Why, it means leaving nothing to chance (funny thing conditioning, huh?).  Thus, my plan wasn't only a Type A plan.  It was a belt and suspenders plan.

And it was beautiful.  Really quite impressive.  It had anything you could possibly need to prepare to open your Shadow Door.  

It had an altar.  My first.  With a few very deliberate things placed in very deliberate ways.   On a table I bought just for the occasion.  From Target.  For $15.  

It had music.  Which was a no-brainer, because everything in my life includes music.  In this case, the soundtrack was Sigur Ros's album Takk.

It had prayers.  Prayers to the Shadow. Prayers that I said at precisely the same time for precisely the same number of minutes.  Every day.   Prayers that summoned my inner Diana Ross to tell the Door, the Shadow, "I'm Coming...."

It had a spirit guide.  A new one (now that Claude was gone).  His name was St. Germain.  In the years since he first appeared beside my desk, I have learned that St. Germain is a spiritual master of Theosophical teachings.  I have learned that he shares his name with an elderberry liqueur that tastes really awesome atop an unspeakably dry gin martini.  But, back then, I just knew that, like Claude, St. Germain was silent.  That he had piercing, intense eyes (think Vincent Price, a nice Vincent Price!).  And that he liked the color purple.  A lot.

It had offerings.  I can't remember where, but I had read somewhere that Shamans made offerings to their ancestors on special occasions.  Opening your Shadow Door sure seemed like a special occasion.  So I made offerings to the only ancestors I could think of:  my grandmother, my grandfather and, of course, my great-grandmother Lily who had been the one to tell me I was a shaman in the first place.  Every morning, after my husband left for work, I'd make an offering of marshmallow cream to my grandmother, Le Sueur peas to my grandfather and, because I didn't really know what she liked, strawberries to Lily.   I made these offerings in the flower bed that bordered the patio of my garden-level townhouse in Boston.  Which meant that, when it came to my plan to prepare....

It also had rats.   Big rats. City rats. City rats that were oh-so-grateful to find the garden of some fool who put out marshmallow cream, Le Sueur peas, and strawberries as an offering to his dead ancestors.  Every day.  For weeks. 

Now, I had never seen these rats (though I did wonder why my Scottie, Tyra Banks, had suddenly become so transfixed by the garden).  Until one day, Jill Leigh and I were sitting on the downstairs couch in session.  Jill was just about to teach me a really cool merging meditation (merging and Shadow Doors go together, dontcha know!). My eyes were closed, my feet flat, my body relaxed as Jill soothingly started explaining how the meditation worked.  

"We're going to go up to the eleventh chakra," Jill explained. "And then we're going to....Chrrrriiiiiiist!  You have rats, RATS!!!" 

Well, that made me open my eyes.  And turn my head to face the garden where, sure enough, there was a rather plump little rat scurrying across the patio.  With marshmallow cream on his whiskers (and I'm sure Lesuer peas between his teeth).

"Oh yeah," I said matter-of-factly.  "I'm leaving offerings to my ancestors."

"Are you insane?" was all Jill could stammer out.  

As Jill tried to calm her hyperventilation, I explained the whole rationale behind my offerings.  Finally, after asking that we switch places on the couch so she could face the kitchen and not the garden, Jill said, "Look honey, it's the intent behind the offering that counts, not necessarily the offering itself.  Your ancestors are spirits.  They'll get it.  Plus, do you really think your grandmother wants some rat running off with her marshmallow cream?"

Jill had a point.  Actually, several.

So, for a few days, I started placing the offerings on my altar at night.  But then I realized this might encourage the rats to take the party inside (which would cause my husband to put me outside).  So, by the end of the week, I had nixed the "food as offering" thing altogether.

I started writing messages to my ancestors instead.  Messages that I'd roll-up and leave on my Target altar.  Messages that asked for a sign as to when I was ready.  Ready to open my Shadow Door. 

Weeks later, it was my grandfather who replied.  With the same two words I had heard six months earlier:  "It's time."

And there wasn't a belt or a suspender that could save me.