By mid-October, 2006, I was a shaman with one bad case of ADD.
I knew I couldn't completely turn things off, but I was wondering if the Universe couldn't just turn things down a wee bit. Sheesh.
Way too many things were competing for my attention. There was the Raven. Plus a dead great-grandmother and a dead grandmother (not to mention occasional appearances from a dead grandfather). There was Dragon, Shadow, and Little Will. Plus, a veritable petting zoo of critters were bringing me messages: jaguars, turtles, frogs, wolves, owls, horses, oh my. Even the rocks were talking to me.
"Listen to the signs," someone who thought they were being helpful told me.
Easy for them to say. You try listening when everyone on your shaman bus is talking at once!
"Walk through the doors that are opening," another helpful, irritating soul chimed in.
I did a lot of walking.
I walked through doors opened by books. Over the span of about six weeks, I read: Jack Kornfield's A Path with Heart; Rudolf Steiner's How to Know Higher Worlds; St Teresa of Avila’s The Interior Castle; Pema Chodron's Comfortable with Uncertainty; Caitlin Matthews's Singing the Soul Back Home; Carolyn Myss's Anatomy of the Spirt; Gurmukh's The 8 Essential Human Talents; Anodea Judith's Wheels of Life; and Gregg Lovoy's Callings.
I walked through doors opened by suggestions. "You really should study Reiki," someone said. So I became a Reiki master (or is that "Master"?). “You really should meet my psychic,” a Boston friend said. So we met. “You really should explore your musical side,” came another idea. So I did. I bought a drum, a guitar, a bunch of Apple music programs. Even a didgeridoo!
I walked through more doors than are at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. And I left with just about the same feeling: a bright, immediate rush...and then nothing.
Oh, sure. Some things connected with me. I was moved by the experience of witnessing Sister Teresa's mystical awakening. I nodded my head at the simplicity of Gurmukh and Judith's words. Reiki influenced the development of my own shamanic practice. And music will always be the wave I ride into higher planes (though not by strumming a guitar or spit-blowing into a didgeridoo!).
But, most of what I experienced? It was one big Chinese take-out dinner. For an ADD shaman. Which is not the combination platter I sought.
A lot of that was because most of what I read--and most of what is still out there--is way, way, way too rigid. Too mind-full. Too ego-centric. Carolyn Myss pronounces that there are seven stages of power and healing. Gurmukh says there are eight human talents. Most memorably, that psychic in Boston explained that the afterlife was a big office full of file cabinets. Each of us has our own drawer. If we are particularly evolved--but only IF!--we have an entire file cabinet (he, of course, had a file cabinet).
I don't know about you, but I think Mama Nature and Papa Universe hear such ridiculousness and just laugh. Seven this. Eight that. File cabinets?!?! My, my, my, what the ego constructs to make one feel worthy. Ha!
Better yet, in a scene straight out of L. Ron Hubbard, to enter all of these doors, you have to pay to play. Hmmm....
By my birthday in 2006, I was pretty much at my wit's end. My consulting business was going full force...and competing mightily with both a cacophony of signs and a plethora of doors. Further, Kalin and I returned from a most splendid adventure to New Mexico’s mountains to find that a fire in the front of our brownstone had flooded our downstairs and my political mentor, Gerry Studds, had died.
Like I said, fried. With ADD. Not pretty.
About a week after returning home to fire, floods and death, I took our dog, Tyra Banks, for her early morning walk. Somewhere on Appleton Street, between Clarendon and Berkeley, my grandmother appeared to me. Dressed in her finest, flowing chiffon, Gran was standing in front of a crossroads, facing me.
To her left was a cluttered path, writhing in dense underbrush, cascading, entwined vines and looming, thick trees. It was a path that could never be cleared. It was the path I was on.
To her right was a pitch-black dark path. As Gran pointed to it, a single, distant flash of lightening illuminated it. It was clear. It was the path I was to take (though I must admit, that lightening did make me feel a bit like Brad and Janet in Rocky Horror Picture Show!).
When I went home, I wrote these words:
"Where does it lead? I do not know."
"How long will it take? I do not know."
What will I have to give up? I do not know."
"OK,” I said out loud, “I'm in."
A few days later, I told all of this to Jill. She nodded, paused for what seemed like an incredibly long time and said, simply, "I think it's time you meet Charles."
I just love working with Mama Nature (I'm sorry, but I can't call her "Mother Nature"...it conjures up too many images of those campy 1970's Chiffon margarine commercials!). Mama is compassionate. She is wise. And she has an awesome sense of humor. Every now and then, you get to experience all those qualities at once.
Like this past Tuesday.
A client came to me still riding the high from a visit to Short Mountain, a Radical Faerie space in Tennessee. When he sat down, Matthew was full of wonderful tales of his three-day adventure. In particular, he wanted to visit a snake that someone had told him had been inserted into his field just below his right shoulder. But he also wanted to talk about dancing a naraya, about reclaiming his power, about a most decidedly not-short mountain of things.
"Why don't we start by grounding you," I suggested.
Matthew agreed, albeit with a little reluctance, and came into the room to lay down. Almost immediately, I began to see roots. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of roots coming out of every chakra, every layer of his auric field. Winding this way and that they were reaching down into the center of Earth where they were met, collectively, by Mama Nature's glowing embrace.
Now, this was all very interesting because, usually, you ground via a single chord at the base of your spine as well as through the soles of your feet. This wasn't usual grounding. This was grounding on steroids! But, Mama had a beautiful smile on her face, so I smiled down to her and reminded myself how much we can limit ourselves if we let "usual" get in the way of "true". Like I said, Mama's wise.
I asked Matthew how he was doing. "Not well," came the reply. And he wasn't. Doing well. His jaw was clenched, his face tightened and his hands were in fists.
"What are you feeling," I asked him. "Like a tornado about to crash to the ground," came the reply.
"Let yourself crash," I said.
"OK," he barely whispered.
I then sat down and watched the most beautiful show for the next 30 minutes as Mama Universe sent up her maternal love, her eternal compassion, her grounded ecstasy through the roots that were coming out of Matthew. Roots that had appeared to help him reconnect with his true roots. The roots of earth, water, fire and air that every living being shares. At one point, I even saw some past life figure jump up and dart away as a mass of roots became untangled with Mama's clean, grounded energy. I don't know if the figure was running away or running free, but I do know that Matthew let out a laugh just as it happened.
When it was all over and the roots began to fade, Mama Nature emerged and enveloped Matthew in a wonderful hug. Ah, yes, Mama's compassion. As she, too, faded, Matthew opened his eyes. "What happened?"
"Tornado you crashed so that grounded you could rise," I said.
Matthew and I then talked for a few minutes about how tornadoes have awesome energy, but it's energy that is completely unfocused. Highly destructive. Plus, it picks up the energy of who knows what as it bounces along. It can be a great high, but it's hardly sustainable. Grounded energy, on the other hand, connects you with the Source of all being. But the source of the sharing is, well, Source, not your next-door neighbor, ex-lover, or the texting driver who cut you off on your way to work this morning.
As Matthew sat in the chair, tying his shoes, I said "Before you leave, let's balance and adjust your chakras." He sat back and I began with his first chakra, balancing it and then closing it to 35%. Then on to his second chakra (25%) and his third (45%). As I moved up to his fourth, Mama Nature showed back up and gently nudged me out of the way. "I can take it from here," she said.
I fell back laughing.
"You're all set, Matthew," I said. "Mama's got you."
As he walked out onto my stoop and down the street, I chuckled at Mama's humor. Her compassion. Her wisdom. There are a lot of folks who run around saying they're healers. They're not. None of us are. We are simply vessels. Vessels through which Mama Nature, Popa Universe and others do their work. Sometimes they need us. Other times, they don't.
A few Saturdays ago, during our Midsummer Mardi Gras celebration here in New Orleans, I was wearing my pink unicorn puppet hat (yup!) and chatting with a friend dressed as a seafaring space alien (again, yup!). We were catching up on various aspects of our lives when, from out of nowhere, he put his arm around my shoulder and said, in his most compassionate seafaring, space alien voice, "You know, most people are making fun of you for saying you're a shaman. But, I think it's pretty cool. I mean, you're crazy, but you're cool."
I just laughed, toasted him with my Tang and Sailor Jerry's rum cocktail (double yup!), and thought to myself, "My, my, my, how things have changed." You see, it wasn't that long ago that his words would have devastated me.
Not long ago at all. Like five years ago. Even one.
Why? Because it’s not that easy to come out as a shaman.
Which, when I first started coming out, really caught me by surprise.
You see, this wasn’t my first time to the coming out rodeo. I had been there before in the late 80’s and early 90’s when I came out as a gay man. And, to a person, my friends and family were enormously—and immediately—supportive. Oh, sure, some were surprised and a few were worried, but all were happy that I was living an honest, open life.
Flash-forward about 20 years later and, after months of ravens rising, spirit guides cycling, dead great-grandmas appearing and dragons diving, I was ready to tell those exact same friends (plus a few new ones) that I was a shaman.
A few were enormously—and immediately—supportive. Four to be exact: Meghan, Kevin, Rich and Harry. Our conversations are some of the most precious memories of my life. I’ll never forget Meghan’s sister-like concern, Kevin’s immediate promise that “I still love you sweetie dahling!”, Rich’s free-wheeling debate about free will, and Harry’s one question: “Honey, but are you still going to be fun?”
I’ll also never forget that those four were the only friends who were supportive. Everyone else just stared blankly, immediately changed the conversation or, in the case of my college mentor, responded by saying “Well, you’ve either gone insane or joined a cult.”
I was crushed and angry. Both built steadily over the years when I’d see these friends again and I would get the same blank stares or changed conversations whenever I said the word “shaman.”
Now, in addition to being crushed and angry, these continued responses also made me curious.
Why it is easier to come out in this country as a gay man than as a spirit-filled one?
Why is one declaration of truth met with open arms and the other with averted eyes? From people who themselves have had to come out.
To paraphrase Orwell, are some truths more equal than others?
Why do the progressives who embrace gays (and lesbians…and bisexuals…and transgenders) have no room in their big tent for folks who are spirit-filled?
Is it because so many people equate spirit with religion and their childhoods were filled with painful religious experiences?
Is it because the journey of spiritual exploration is a mysterious one and we live in a society whose arrogance has tricked us into believing that there is an answer? For everything.
Or, is it because spiritual exploration also is filled with vast uncertainties. You don’t know what you’ll find, when you’ll find it, or what it will do to you when you do. How does that jive with our plan-obsessed world?
I asked these questions for over five years.
Then, to borrow a line from Rilke, I simply decided to “love the questions” and leave them be.
And when I did, something wonderful happened.
I realized that the questions didn’t matter. Not the answers, either. Because, you see, by the very act of wondering why people responded as they did, I was feeding the oh-so-shadow flames of acceptance.
I was looking for folks to validate the fact that I was a shaman.
And that is an arrogant, destructive and extremely insecure game to play.
Who cares how folks feel about me being a shaman (just as who cares whether folks like it or not that I’m gay…or that beans make me clear-the-house gassy)?
Who cares what other people think of me? Or of you? Do you really think we’re here to win a popularity contest (or, heaven help us, accrue the most friends on Facebook)?
No. We’re here to live our truth. In our way. For our Souls.
That’s where love begins. It is how compassion grows. And it’s the only stairway to ecstasy.
So, what do you say? Let’s open some doors. You wear what you want, I’ll wear what I want. You be who want, I’ll be who I want. Let’s just live. Our truth! Because, sweetie darlings, in the words of Auntie Mame, "A truthful life is a banquet. And most poor suckers are starving to death!"
This post is dedicated with eternal gratitude to Meghan Finegan, Kevin Tuerff, Rich Carson and Harry Collings.
“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 some
where 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.
This past Saturday night, while protesting for the rights of unicorns, elves and whinebots
to be part of the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus
(hey, I live in New Orleans), a wookie came up to me (ditto) and asked what ever happened to Claude, the motorcycle-riding spirit guide I introduced last month
Truth is, I forgot I had started the Claude story, which isn't very respectful to a spirit guide (hog-riding or otherwise). So, herewith, is the rest of the story
When last we left Claude and me, it was the summer of 2006 and we were cycling through the forest of my energetic cords and contracts
. After a couple of months of making our way through the density of attachments and agreements I didn't even know I had, I began to see the light at the end of the, well, forest. Which felt awesome.
Until one day, as I sat on the back of his bike, holding onto his red-plaid shirted, burly self, Claude came to a gradual stop. He got off the bike. Reached down and lifted up the floor of the forest like it was the astro-turf from some country boy's El Camino. In doing so, he revealed a set of dusty, old, uneven stone stairs. Like the kind that used to lead down into my Aunt Etta's cellar in Bristol, TX. Except, these stairs led straight down into total darkness. Now back on the bike, Claude slowly pulled the throttle back and headed for the stairs. And the darkness. Gradually, gradually, we made our way down each stair. A thump as the front tire hit, then a thump as the back tire did. Descending. Down, down. Away from the forest. Down, down. Away from the light. Thump. Thump. And thump-thump (the first two "thumps" were the tires, the second two, my heart!).
After what seemed like a very long time, we came to a stop. Still on the bike, Claude reached up to turn on a cobwebby gas light, sending I'm not sure what scurrying off to the four corners. In front of us and a bit to the right was a door. A very old door with layer upon layer of faded paint in various stages of chipping off. It was the kind of door that some enterprising interior decorator would call "distressed"...and sell for about $5,000.
It wasn't a big door. It wasn't an impressive door. It was a quiet door. Long ago forgotten.
I slipped off the back of Claude's bike and, following the nod of his head, walked up to the door. Gently, I ran my hand across its surface. Flecks of paint lodged in my fingernails, sprinkled onto my pants, and fell to the floor. Slowly, I looked at my nails, my pants, the floor. The flecks were vibrating ever so slightly, their colors coming into focus.
I knew these paint chips. They were my darkest emotions. And they were painted on that door, one layer over the other and the other and the other. Again and again.
Shame, fear, insecurity, jealousy, doubt. On top of shame, fear, insecurity, jealousy, doubt. On top of...again and again. And again. There were so many layers that, over the years, they had sealed the door shut.
Which made sense. Because the door I was looking at was the Door to my Shadow.
Let's pause here for a bit of a primer on the human shadow. You see, it was Carl Jung who first put forth the notion that all of us are born "whole". That is, all the elements of our core Truth--our Soul Truth--are fully present. And available. When we're born.
We stay that way until we hit 6 or 7. Then....well, then, societal conditioning starts kicking in. And with conditioning comes judgement. By our families, our peers, our communities and, I've found, mostly, our selves. We respond to that conditioning, that judgement, by chipping away all those parts of our Truth that might be considered inappropriate by ourselves or others. Those pieces are called, quite appropriately, the Shadow. They may not always be seen, but they are always there.
Robert Bly says we put those pieces in a bag and drag them around with us for the rest of our lives.
Moving back to our story, I found, in the early months of my journey, that my Shadow dwelled in the cellar of my subconscious. Behind a locked door. Behind a door sealed shut by layers upon layers of those dark emotions all of us use to coat over repressed truths.
That door had been locked and sealed for about 40 years and, quite possibly, it would have remained so for 40 more. Had a raven
not risen from my floor. A great-grandmother
not joined me for dinner. And a spirit guide not shown up on his motorcycle.
But Claude did. Take me there. Down the steps into the cellar of my subconscious. Over to the Door of my Shadow.
And, then, he did. Leave me there.
Yup, that's right. As I stood in the cobwebby light of my subconscious, taking it all in...the door, the lock, the coats of painted on emotions...I heard Claude pull back on the throttle again. This time not so gently. I turned just as he disappeared up the steps. Out of the darkness and into the, now very distant, light.
I never saw Claude again. Which made sense. Because his work was done.
But, mine was just beginning: I had to open that door.
Often on this journey, I have found that, when the Universe wants to tell you something, she does so in the simplest, most subtle, of ways. She'll gently hang a delicate angel cloud over a neighborhood that needs healing. She'll circle a crow overhead when the mystics are calling you. Or she'll use the simple transition from Warrior I to Warrior II to open your heart consciousness. In those moments, she wants to see if you're paying attention. It’s a reminder to be quietly ever-alert, senses gently receiving, on this wondrous journey we call life.
And then. Then
there are moments when Mama Universe likes to be a bit dramatic. To remind you that there ain't a drag queen alive who can match her flamboyance. Or a drug you can take that trumps her "holy sh&t, this is friggin awesome" magic. I had one of those moments a few weeks ago. It was with a client. A stuck
client. The nature of the "stuckness" doesn't matter (feel free to insert your own sticky stuff here). What did
matter was that the client was stuck in a vicious circle.
She'd come see me, full of self-doubt, weighted down by heavy shadows and decades of societal conditioning. We'd clear her, recharge her, fluff up her field and then she'd re-enter her world. Unstuck. To create. Fabulous, wondrous things.
Until she’d get stuck. Again. And come back. Again.
By the time she and her stuckness reappeared on my stoop a few weeks ago, both of us had the drill down pretty good. As always, I started the session by using Tom Kenyon
's “Manna” to heal and nourish my client's system. "Manna" to me is a bit like bathing in a wonderful spring. First, you let the water brush the dirt off. Then, you just keep splashing the cleanness onto and from you. It’s a great reminder of the cleansing, healing, nurturing powers of feminine energy. It’s a wonderful way to begin any session and it’s how I start every day.
Once “Manna” was finished, we began “Ascent” to run energy at a higher consciousness and move beyond a few of the veils of illusion we sometimes mistake for reality. We travelled for a few minutes until I noticed a butterfly emerge from my client’s third chakra. Then another from her second. And another from the upper right corners of her auric field. And another. And another.
I raised my hands and stepped back, sensing that a door had been opened and my job now was simply to hold it open so that Mama Universe could step in. Which she did, bringing with her first 100’s and then 1000’s of butterflies.
It got to the point where all I could see were butterflies, emerging, dancing and flying away from the form that, just a few minutes earlier, had been my client. Lighting a
path towards a
freedom as they travelled.
And then they were gone. All of them. I looked down and, for a split second, so was my client. There was nothing but an empty space where her human form had been.
Gradually, she began to re-emerge. Her body was completely relaxed. And radiant. A peaceful smile illuminated her face. A liberated smile. A knowing smile.
Knowing. That a door had opened. A door of transformation. A door where Mama Universe had said, “ Won’t you please come in?”
And my client had said, “Yes!”
Today marks the third anniversary of my father's death. This morning, as 11:13 am (the time of his death) neared, I began to sit with memories of my Dad.
I saw him, propped up in bed, wearing white boxers and a white sleeveless undershirt, eating his nightly cheese sandwich while a cigarette burned in the ashtray. I smelled Dad's unique scent, a one-of-a-kind blend of Aramis and cigarettes. And I heard his voice, leaving the same voice mail he always left for me: "Hello, Willo. This is your old Dad calling. I just wanted to see what you've been up to." Sitting with all these pieces of Dad, I felt sad. Profoundly sad. Which surprised me. And overwhelmed me. So much so that I laid down on the old brown leather couch that's in my study and closed my eyes.
As I did, Dad appeared before me (or, rather, I appeared before him). We were outside, the sun was beating down, and I was watching my father play touch football with a bunch of faceless spirits. In that game, in that space, in that light, Dad seemed awash in the joy and peace that so stubbornly eluded him for much of his life. Which, in turn, brought peace and joy to his son.
It also brought understanding of why I had been so sad only moments earlier. In calling up memories of my Dad, I had gone to where he no longer was: the past. I had brought forward that which was dead and the rotting sight, sound and smell of it had brought a certain sadness. The sadness of being where you are not meant to be.
All that had changed by surrendering to the moment of the anniversary. The moment of the now. The second I did, I found my father. As he is now. Well, almost. Because, you see, as this understanding of surrender gently washed over me, I looked across the field to see Dad open a door. It was a door into the sun's light. As it opened, Dad turned to look at me. The rays washed all around him and the unique being I knew as my father gradually disappeared into the oneness of the light.
It was 11:13.
I got up from the couch and walked outside, barefoot. Planting my feet in the bare dirt, I lifted my arms and raised my eyes to look into that place where my father is. Now and always. The light.
The wind swirled around me and the sun overtook me as I closed my eyes and gave thanks for my father, thanks for the light. I opened them just as a single blue butterfly passed by, heading over my backyard fence and disappearing across the horizon. A symbol of transformation for a sun, a son....and a father.
Our journeys are filled with unexpected moments of profound grace, mesmerizing beauty, and innocent wonder. Moments when the Universe says, “Yes, now!” As it did yesterday.
Actually, it was a shared moment on a shared journey I am taking with a student. The Universe connected us six months ago. When we started our work, he had no memory of his childhood. In the moments since, I've held space as he follows the Lakota tradition of unbraiding and rebraiding lives. and moment's…lived. Some fully, some not.
As we began yesterday’s session, the student talked about some writing he had done the night before. He had sketched out a number of new characters and mentioned that a few of them almost felt channeled. He showed me what he had written. A headwind of energy vibrated off the page, especially around one character. "Be careful with channeling," I told him. "It's not always clean energy and it always has an agenda." I explained that, though I knew how, I hadn't really channeled in a long time. "The spirits and I chat all of the time, but that's 'with' me, not 'through' me," I went on. "It's just not my thing." (To which a spirit on that page chuckled and whispered,"Oh really?")
I went on to check my student's chakras, do a bit of balancing, and open his heart. Inside he was calm, but all around swirled a rapidly intensifying energy. I started getting flashes of battle, of galloping horses, of suns beating down and winds rising up.
"Are you ok?" I asked. "Yeah, really," he replied in the most relaxed of ways. "I just feel peaceful."
And with that, the battle, the horses, the suns, and the winds all turned and swirled into me, manifesting into a 19th century captain who had once travelled the plains of a very young—and very unsettled—land. The Captain looked at my student with fierce, pleading eyes. Touching the hair on my student's arm and, as he did, we were transported to those plains. The Captain and my student were riding side-by-side. Galloping. Behind was a sea of blind followers. Galloping.
The captain explained that, once upon a time, my student had turned right when he had wanted the followers to turn left. “Release them so they can turn left,” he said. “They weren’t supposed to go right. They weren’t, they’re not, ready.” Moving across the field at lightening speed, my student turned left. As the blind followed suit, the field warped, the winds shifted, my student disappeared and the Captain left my body.
“Well, ok then,” I said as we suddenly were back in the present (swearing that I could taste particles of dust between my teeth!). Removing my hand from his arm, I shared with my student what I had experienced. Not just the battle scene, but also the sense that, in that past life, my student had grown weary of trying to lead. He had questioned the battle and, so, had turned right to ride the winds into the sun. First, disappearing. Then, merging completely. The followers, of course, had followed. But that wasn't their path, their journey. So their minds just held them. Stuck. Until, by illuminating a different direction, my student freed them.
“I also had the most beautiful image of you leaving your home that final morning. Surveying the rooms, the wife, the daughter, the steps up. And the one out,” I told him. “And, then, wearing a uniform, but carrying nothing, you went. Out. Never to return.”
With that, I gave him a hug. And, with that, I became that wife. Years and lives of healing, of love, of closure flooded me. Released me.
I looked down and the wife was holding the daughter’s hand. “Bend down and kiss the top of my head,” I said. As my student did, I experienced the calm, the sensation of knowing that everything’s going to be ok, that only a father’s touch can give. And the daughter faded away, leaving me to gently fall back into my body. My chair.
“What happened?” the student asked.
“You left without giving your wife and daughter a chance to say good-bye,” I responded. “Which means you left unfinished business. Incomplete circles. There was no grief, no anger, no wondering even. Just incomplete. The incomplete, the unfinished, came to you through your writing last night. Because it was time.”
My student looked at me.
I went on. “Now, they’ve said good-bye. You’ve released an enormous piece of karma. And they’ve released themselves. To continue their journey as you continue yours.”
My student looked at me. At peace.
By July of 2006, I was ready to get down to business with this shaman thing. Jill Leigh
told me that the first order of business ought to be a good scrubbing of cords and contracts.
"Huh and huh?" you say. Hold on. It's easy.
Cords are energetic relationships we have with someone else. They get their name because they show up like umbilical cords between people. Some cords are conscious; most are not. Some relate to this life; others do not. When there is a deep, deep relationship between you and another being, it's called a contract, probably from past lives (Ever have an instant attraction to someone (or revulsion)? That's a contract talking!). Both cords and contracts stunt our growth by siphoning off energy to feed someone else. And who wants that? I don't. Ergo the scrubbing.
Now, I knew that, great trainer and healer she was, Jill wasn't about to do the scrubbing for me. But I also knew I wasn't about to do it alone. So I asked the Universe for assistance.
And it sent me Claude. A motorcycle-riding spirit guide. Who wore a red-plaid shirt, dark jeans, darker boots and gloves. And a black helmet (yes, safety-first, even in the spirit world!). Claude was a cross between Dennis Hopper's character in Easy Rider
and Santa Claus. He never said a word to me, but he was exactly who I needed.
Every day, for about six weeks, Claude would motor down from the 3rd (or 4th) dimension, through my crown and park his bike in front of my 6th chakra. I'd hop on the back and off we would go, down the winding roads that led to the mysterious forest of cords and contracts that surrounded my energetic field. At first, the ride was easy. The forest was dense in overgrowth of dead and dying cords and contracts that already had served their purpose to me...and to whomever held them. We cleared them like you clear an overgrown yard (or block) down here in New Orleans.
Then, things got trickier. Then we got to the clingy cords and thick contracts that weren't serving my highest purpose but were very much still serving a purpose to the being on the other end. Like the cord my dead grandmother grasped to keep from going through the veil. Or the contracts--the cabinets and cabinets full of contracts--that allowed energies from past lives to continue to manipulate me in this one.
These cords and contracts were none too eager to leave my little energetic gravy train and so they hid whenever they heard the roar of Claude's motor approach. But, here's the deal. Claude was wiser than them. He knew all the secret nooks, hidden crannies and dark corners where recalcitrant energy liked to hide. He also was faster than them.
Claude would sense the hiding energy and we'd be off, the beam from his headlight searching up, down, all around. And, pretty much every time, we'd find what we were looking for.
Claude's light would illuminate the cord or contract. I'd cut and clear, just like Jill taught me. I say most of the time because the two fundamental truths about cords and contracts are this: One, because they have been accumulating across lifetimes, you can't possibly cut or clear them all. Two, you can only cut or clear those that you're ready
to cut or clear. And that's not always as clear cut a case as you think. You see, you may be ready to clear a contract with an ex-lover on the conscious level, but what about the subconscious level? What shadow buttons does your ex push--and continue to push? Until you figure that out--and accept it, love it--you're not ready to cut. Even if you try.
All of this was ok with me because, in the summer of 2006, there was plenty I was
ready to cut and clear. About 3 U-Hauls worth (or was it 4?)! And, by mid-August or so, I was feeling great...and scrubbed. I loved hanging around Claude. And I was beginning to see the light shine through the forest.
But light wasn't what Claude had in mind. Like I said, we had a job to do. One was done, now it was time for number two. Which was far less fun and far more dark.
I had to invade my own privacy. And that trip was just about to begin.