Posts Tagged ‘ceremony’

Death Ceremony

March 28, 2011

He wasn’t leaving. Always a man who lived by his own rules and always a warrior, he had been thumbing his nose at death for almost four years. It seemed that he was not about to change his modus operandi now, even though he was nearing the end of the dying process.

But he was more shell than human at this point and all I could do was attend to his needs . . . and love him. I had promised no ambulances and no hospitals, and I had, thus far, fulfilled that promise. He was at home, where he wanted to be, and I was happy for both of us that he was. And now it was a death watch.

I’d called my sister in Illinois two days earlier saying, “I give up. Come on out.” She had offered to come to help and was able to do so because the month of December was a slow time for her business as a lobbyist. Until then, I’d managed to carry on with a little help from hospice and a little help from Antonio, the shaman I had once been apprenticed to, who also happened to be a nurse. But after calling hospice for help on Christmas night and after finally surrendering to having a hospital bed—something Howard had refused but which could not be avoided now that he was barely conscious—I surrendered a bit further and asked my sister for help. I was pretty sure she had no idea what she was in for, even though I’d warned her. She was on her way and would arrive within hours.

Antonio had awakened that morning thinking, I have to go to Melanie’s house. There was a sense of urgency to it. He packed up his shamanic tools of the trade, called me to make sure it was okay for him to come, and drove over. His wife Helena was with him and it was a relief to see both of them.

During the long days and nights of what I knew would be Howard’s final moments on Earth, I’d just kept doing what needed to be done, seldom thinking about the fact that I was managing alone. Hospice had been coming every few days for the past month and I was extremely thankful for that, but apart from those visits, I’d been managing on my own. Except for the emergencies. I’d called Antonio more than once when Howard had gotten himself into a fix he couldn’t get himself out of because he kept insisting on doing things he could no longer do, like walk from one room to another.

Now, just having their calm strength with me, I realized that I was more than just a little frayed around the edges. I was beginning to unravel a bit. It hadn’t occurred to me to do shamanic ceremony because Howard shared neither my beliefs nor practices when it came to shamanism. But Antonio had come to do ceremony and not only did it feel fitting and respectful of Howard in that moment, I slowly grasped the fact that my spirit was calling out to me to do ceremony.

Because of Antonio’s support during emergencies, Howard had become comfortable with his presence. In fact, he had come to trust Antonio’s professional assistance more than anyone else’s. But he wasn’t used to having Helena see him so vulnerable and even though he was only marginally conscious, I wanted to honor that, so I asked Helena to wait in the living room while Antonio went in to see Howard. Antonio set up a small altar on the guest room bed that had been abandoned for the past couple of days because Howard had been moved to a hospital bed. I asked him not to use smudge—something that would ordinarily be a part of any ceremony either of us did—because Howard had never been fond of it. So Antonio moved the energy around my husband using only his intent and his feather fan.

Standing at the doorway, I watched as Antonio went to Howard, bent over him, and spoke words that only another man—and only another warrior—could say with any authority. He told Howard that there was a time for fighting and a time to put down one’s arms. He said that Howard could stop fighting now and come to rest. There would be new causes to take up on the other side. I came closer, but Antonio asked for some time alone with Howard and I deferred to him.

I joined Helena in the living room, saw Howard’s Native American flute on the bookshelf, and decided, rather spontaneously, to give it to Helena. Helena played the Native American flute and was, in fact, the only person close to me who did. She was the appropriate person to have it and I knew that Howard would approve. For some reason, it seemed important for her to have it now, not after Howard was gone, so I presented it to her.

And then I realized that Helena was meant to take part in the ceremony. When I returned to the bedroom, I discovered that Antonio had come to the same conclusion at the same time. We called Helena to join us. No ceremony had been planned and there was no real discussion now about what we would do—apart from my new staff playing a role.

I had given Antonio the staff almost two years earlier because I had been told, in meditation, that this was to be the staff I would use in my sixties and that I should give it to Antonio to paint or carve. Time had passed and I had feared I would never see the staff again. Unbeknownst to me, Antonio had, of late, felt compelled to finish the work on it. Only now did he understand why. He’d brought it with him and handed it to me saying that I was to use it for the first time in this ceremony for Howard. I’d had little time to even examine it, but could see that he had painted three small dragons on it, had embedded some stones in the wood, and had decorated it with feathers. It was a beautiful and suitable tool.

I brought the staff with me into the room and felt called to stand at Howard’s head. I set the staff against the wall behind me and could feel it grounding my energy. Antonio stood at Howard’s feet and Helena was to his left. She began to play the flute softly as I bent over my husband, placing one hand on his third eye and the other on his crown chakra. I closed my eyes and . . .

I was immediately in an altered state of consciousness. I found myself on a path, walking with Howard. “You have to go into the light,” I said to him, “and I can’t go with you.” He said nothing as we continued down the path. Then, in front of us, I saw it. Light. A wall of light. A portal comprised of pure, bright light. I pointed to it and told him, “There. There’s the light. That is where you must go.” We came to a stop in front of the light portal and he turned to me. I looked up at him and encouraged him to step into the light, and as I did, he transformed into the man I had known twenty-five years earlier. He was vital and full of life. He swept me up, embraced me, kissed me soundly, and put me back down. “I’m sorry, I can’t go with you,” I said and turned to walk away.

He kept his eyes on me, instead of on the wall of light, and I didn’t get far before stopping because I realized that we still had many, many cords between us, connecting us. They all collapsed in my arms the moment I touched one. An armful of energy, no longer linking us. I tossed them to the side of the path on my left, lifted a hand over them, and watched them burst into flames. Howard looked from me to the burning cords and back again.

With love for him spilling from me—but purer and clearer than it had ever been, now that the cords were gone—I returned his gaze and said, “Don’t they make a beautiful fire?” And with those words came a rush of compassion. For him. For me. For everyone who had ever lived. For everyone who had ever loved.

I turned from him, not wanting to, but knowing that we now had separate paths. I walked back down the path and found myself back in my body. I opened my eyes, looked up at Antonio and Helena, and looked back down at my husband. The self that had walked that path with Howard had known what the self back in the room had not: Howard wasn’t going to leave until I personally walked him to the light . . . and left him there. It had never occurred to me that this would the case. My husband was strong and independent. He didn’t need me to help him leave this life . . . or, perhaps, he did.

Later, after I told Antonio and Helena what I had experienced, Helena gave her own accounting of events.

“After so many years, I’ve come to realize that when you guys [shamans] are doing ceremony, I need to pay careful attention. There’s no telling what might happen. So I watched Antonio, I watched you, and I watched Howard. At one point, when you were bent over him with your eyes closed, his feet began to move. Not just restless moving. They were moving . . . as if he were walking.”

Of course. He’d been with me, walking down that path.

Copyright 2011 by Melanie Mulhall

Solar Disc Activation, Part III

February 8, 2011
We streamed down the hillside from both temples in a continuous flow of pilgrims, like a moving rivulet of energy, love surging and pulsing toward its destiny—the joining of the divine masculine and divine feminine.

At the meeting place, the pilgrims from the Pachamama and Pachatata temples merged into one large group of joyful beings who had each reactivated their Inner Sun. We were all shy smiles and unabashed glee. It would have been paradoxical at any other place or at any other time, but it made complete sense in this place, at this time.

Most of us were uncertain about what would happen next and what did happen next left some of us humbled and surprised. We were joined at the meeting site by our Amantani Island host families. They arrived burdened with large packs on their backs containing pots of food, dishes, and eating utensils. They had trudged up the trail with our lunch. Just hiking up the trail was exertion for many of the pilgrims; these natives hiked up the trail with the equivalent of a restaurant meal on their backs. And they weren’t even out of breath.

We each found our host family and surrendered to being treated like visiting royalty instead of the simple pilgrims we were. Perhaps they knew what we were feeling inside but could not articulate—that what we had just done had not only awakened something within ourselves, but had caused a stirring within and across the planet that could not be denied and would not be ignored. It had been our valentine to Mother Earth and Father Sun.

Lunch was followed by performance. It appeared that our host families not only had the stamina to bring pots, pans, dishes, cutlery, and food up the hill, they could follow that up with dancing. The host families grouped themselves according to village and the men and women from each village danced together. I had drifted to the back of the crowd, but matriarch Sebastiani found me and dragged me to the front. She wanted me to have a good view of the performance and over the past twenty-four hours, I had come to understand that she embodied both drill sergeant and goddess of compassion. It did not even occur to me to fight her wishes. There was a hint of competition to the dancing, as if each village was intent on showing up the others. But it was all contained within a composite sense of joy.

Dancers. Photo courtesy of Lisa Niederman

When the performance was over, Jorge Luis came over to me and, with no lead-in and no explanation, told me what was going to happen next and what he wanted me to do. It seemed he wanted my participation during a part of the ceremony to symbolically join the divine masculine and the divine feminine. He was clearly in the thick of orchestrating the final details before the ceremony. He gave me my instructions and was gone. It all happened so quickly, I had no time to question anything he was saying. I just registered it and waited for the ceremony to begin.

Jorge, representing the divine feminine, was dressed in white. A woman, representing the divine masculine, was also dressed in white. They met in the center of the circle, joined hands, and in that moment, became the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine. One of the Peruvian shamans came forward to begin a small circle around the two. Then another Peruvian shaman came forward to take his place. Then another.

It registered in me that this was what Jorge Luis had been instructing me on. I was to be one of those coming forward to create that circle around the Divine Couple. Well . . . was that what he had instructed me to do? Surely he hadn’t meant me to join the Peruvian elders. Had he? Not me. Was that what he had meant?

There are moments in which my shortcomings and frailties as a human being crystallize and become very, very clear to me. This was one of those moments. Every doubt in me surfaced. My sense of unworthiness erupted. My ego was jerking me around like an electrical current making a loose wire dance. Some part of me knew that I was to step forward and join the circle of shamans; another part of me was certain that I would make a fool of myself if I did.

The Amazon shaman who had blessed me in fire ceremony, don Jesus, was in the small circle of shamans. My eyes met his, questioning. He nodded and in one burst of trust, I joined the circle. From that point on, I was in an altered state. I am not sure what happened. Another person joined the circle. The woman representing the Divine Masculine asked us to speak in one voice, “I am the center of the heart of the Solar Disc.” But the only reason I know this happened is that it has been recorded on video. At some point, those of us in the small circle—several Peruvian shamans, one young man of unknown origin, and me—joined hands and danced, first in one direction, then in the opposite direction. At some point after that, the ceremony was over and we were hugging one another saying, “Good times to you.”

My heart was full and its contents spilled out, everywhere, covering everyone.

Even me.

 

Lounging shaman. Photo courtesy of Lisa Niederman

Copyright 2011 by Melanie Mulhall

The Preparations

April 4, 2010

What requires serious preparation but no expectations? It could be a kōan, couldn’t it? Once I had accepted the invitation to take part in the Solar Disc activation ceremony at Lake Titicaca in Peru, I knew that I would need to prepare for the trip and I also knew that it was foolish to have expectations about what would happen on the trip. 

How did I plan to prepare? There would be physical preparations. We would be staying near Puno, Peru at an elevation of close to 12,500 ft. and would be a thousand feet higher than that when we activated the Solar Disc on Amantani Island. I lived in Colorado and had climbed fourteeners—what we Coloradans affectionately call our fourteen thousand foot mountains. I had serious respect for elevation. I knew I needed to be in shape for the trip. Fortunately, I already did a bit of cardio and lifted weights at the gym. I was clear that I needed to continue that regimen. 

Near the Aramu Muru Doorway

As important, there would be mental, emotional, and spiritual preparations. I knew, instinctively, that anyone called to participate in this important ceremony would likely have the challenge of their unintegrated “stuff” coming up while at the gathering. I would be no exception. Had I done shadow work? Had I explored my weaknesses and what pushed my buttons? Had I worked on my interior landscape and exterior expression? Yes. Repeatedly. In fact, as an ongoing part of my life for many years. But I wasn’t foolish enough to think that I had no toxins eating away at my internal environment and I continued to be as tenacious as Erin Brockovich on PG&E when it came to my own internal clearing. Well, okay, maybe I cut myself a little more slack that Erin did PG&E. But I still tripped on my own ego often enough to know that I could use a little more grace and balance on the inside. 

In short, not only was I no Ascended Master (the obvious proof being that I was enfleshed in a human body), but any poll of my friends would reveal remarkably consistent reports of my displaying at least half of the Seven Deadly Sins over the course of our relationship. If I was to stay in service and not spiral down into my own undigested stuff, I needed to attend to my mental, emotional, and spiritual health over the next six months or so. 

Yes, I committed to the trip more than six months before the event. I was that sure I needed to be there. And I was grateful to have the time to prepare. So I continued my cardio and weight resistance training, got enough sleep, mostly ate well, meditated, did various forms of clearing (including hucha clearing), challenged my thinking, and caught myself when my emotions were dredging up something important from the past. Lest you envision me living the life of a monk or, worse, being in some New Age, self-deluded fantasy that I was on the fast track to nirvana, I assure you neither was the case. I meditated except when I didn’t and when I did meditate, it was for thirty minutes if I was lucky, not three hours. When I caught myself spiraling down into dysfunctional thinking or emotions, it was, as often as not, after I had already been rolling around in that muck for at least a little while or, worse, after I’d already made an ass out of myself. I was just a pilgrim going down the road. 

But I was a pilgrim going down the road (still am) and was (am) nothing if not persistent. So I stuck with it. 

In early January, I was pulled, as if by the force of gravity, to work with the Weather Spirits. I didn’t just commune with the essences of Cold, Rain, and Wind, I communed with the Grandfather Cold who was wrapping my own home in sub-zero temperatures right then, the Brother Rain impacting parts of the country as I connected with him in meditation, and the Grandmother Wind who rattled my windows or ripped apart some distant landscape in that moment. Communing with the Weather Spirits was as natural for me as having a heartfelt discussion with anyone in human form.

And why not? I had been fascinated with the weather my entire life. Perhaps it was because my mother had grown up on a farm. Farmers study the weather like stockbrokers study tickertape. Perhaps it was also because the natural world had been, for my father, the equivalent of a cathedral. An appreciation for the weather was in my DNA. And I grew to understand the Weather Spirits profoundly during these meditations with them. I came to understand that while it is foolhardy to think we can control or manipulate the weather (either through scientific means or metaphysical ones), it is wise to approach the Weather Spirits with respect and a genuine desire for understanding. I came to love them all.    

I was not only drawn to the weather, I was pulled to the Forces of Nature, in general. I spoke with Pachamama. I met with the Apu of Longs Peak (who came to me in a beautiful feminine form), and I sought to understand the primal power of Earthquake. I had no idea why I was suddenly compelled to commune with the Weather Spirits and Forces of Nature, but when the Haiti earthquake hit in January, followed by the catastrophic flooding of Peru, my work with nature seemed to make sense as just part of my preparation for the trip. 

We had been scheduled to make a side trip to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. Those plans were washed away in the floods. I was happy to have harbored no real expectations about the trip. And I continued to prepare.

Copyright 2010 by Melanie Mulhall