Posts Tagged ‘shamanism’

Staying on the Old Road, Part 1

April 28, 2013

If you should not leave the old road for a new one, does that mean you need to spend years in therapy rehashing your past? And do we really spend the first half of our lives becoming dysfunctional? What do I mean when I use the word “dysfunctional” anyway?

The three blog posts on not leaving the old road for a new one elicited comments and questions, some on the blog, others on my Facebook page (to which I copy my blogs), and still others in e-mails and conversations. One reader asked if “dysfunctional” was the correct word to use. She suggested that you live your life and realize at some point that it isn’t working quite the way you planned. You may even feel as if your life is falling apart. You build a road with the wrong materials, keep adding to it with the wrong materials, and even go back and repair potholes with the wrong materials.

Are “the wrong materials” the equivalent of “dysfunctional”? Well, I believe we build the road with the materials we have on hand. And those materials on hand include everything that has gone into making us who we are. We develop strategies to help us navigate our way through life. And some of those strategies become barriers between the persona we create for ourselves and our authentic selves. And that, in my vernacular, is dysfunctional.

If our future becomes our past unless we do something other than keep repeating it, why aren’t a few years in therapy a good idea? They may be for you. My attitude is this: whatever works. But my preferences are clear, based on how I’ve lived my own life. I’m educated in the field of psychology. I have respect for it. I even worked as a therapist for a while during and after graduate school. But I found my way to shamanism and stayed there because I found it a more useful approach . . . for me.

The work of becoming a shaman is very much about working your way back to your authentic self by staying on the road you arrived at to “here” rather than simply leaving the old road for a new one. It is the work of courageously facing yourself as you are, accepting it, healing whatever needs to be healed within you, and making a choice to live a life of integrity—and by “integrity” I mean the kind of completeness you achieve with harmony of mind, body, spirit, and emotions. As it happens, that kind of harmony seems to support “integrity” as most people think of it—a fundamental incorruptibleness.

We so effectively keep ourselves wrapped in the comfortable cloak of our persona that it takes serious excavation to face ourselves as we are. And if you go looking for something buried somewhere other than where you buried it, what do you suppose your chances of finding it are? Exactly. So you stay on the old road.

I’m not going to delve into shamanic practices like recapitulation here. At least, not yet. It’s helpful, I think, to take a look at how we construct a road that takes us away from our authentic selves in the first place. And to do that, I’m going to borrow a concept from Buddhism as I, a non-Buddhist, have come to understand it: the cocoon.

To be continued.

Copyright 2013 by Melanie Mulhall

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How Others Responded, Part 2

July 22, 2012

“Counseling wisdom is that it takes five years for life to start feeling normal again after the loss of a spouse,” a woman I knew said.

How do you respond to a statement like that? My husband had been gone for more than fourteen months at the time. Her statement was not unlike a curse. It came hurtling across the internet and into my email inbox as a prison sentence she seemed bent on imposing: three years and ten months more before you will be okay.

But I already felt okay. I’d experienced an energetic shift at the anniversary of Howard’s death. There were still moments of sadness (as there always are in life), but I was back. The concept of “normal” seemed ridiculous to me, not simply because I’d never aligned with statistics for the “normal” person, but because what normal is changes with major life events. Including the death of a spouse.

Actually, there was something more to her pronouncement than a sentence. It felt like a judgment, a way of saying, “Don’t try to fool yourself. You’re in denial and you’re suppressing grief if you think you’re okay. I’m a member of the psychology community. I know better than you.”

Of course, I’m overeducated in the field of psychology, with two degrees in it. Psychological generalizations and labels had been among the things that had disenchanted me with psychology. Too much of the field seemed divorced from the “psyche” in psychology—the soul of it. When I became a shaman, I realized that while I couldn’t deny the impact of psychology on my thinking and life, it was shamanism that spoke to the soul-based way I lived.

That woman’s reaction was a bit more blatant that others after my husband’s death, but it was one of the classic reactions I got: Know that you will be devastated for a long time. In fact, you may never get over it. There were four other reactions: Discomfort over the death; heartfelt sympathy for my loss; surprise that I wasn’t over it yet; and, genuine acceptance of however I was dealing with it. It was a relief to be with people who were grounded in that last response and could radiate it. These four basic reactions remained the fundamental reactions I got from people throughout the first eighteen months after my husband’s death.

Many people expressed heartfelt sympathy when they first heard of Howard’s death, and they expressed it again when they were face-to-face with me. A few people avoided me. A few rallied to support me. But over time, it seemed to me that the fundamental mindset that a person had about life and death came oozing out when I responded to their question, “How are you doing?” Some people seemed permanently fixated on the pain of loss. The woman who pronounced that it would be five years before I felt normal again appeared to me to be one of those. Others projected a kind of fearlessness about life, an understanding that tragedy happens, but life wins out for the survivors of death—if they let it. Maybe because I fall into that latter category, I appreciated that reaction from others most.

It wasn’t that this latter group pushed me to be perfectly fine when I wasn’t. On the contrary, as a whole, they were better at assessing exactly how I was feeling and accepting it more than others. More than anything, they didn’t lay a judgment on me about how I “should” be responding to the death. Their response to my response allowed me to relax into exactly who I was when I was with them.

If there is something to be learned from all of this, for me, it is that we cannot really make assumptions about how anyone will handle the death of a spouse. And the person who has experienced the death cannot make assumptions about how others will respond to them, as survivor, or to the fact of the death.

So what can any of us do for another when they lose a loved one? We can bother to pay attention to how they are and what they need—reading it in what they say, what they don’t say, and what they project—instead of making assumptions. And we can send them waves of love, from our heart to theirs. Does anything else really matter, anyway?

Copyright 2012 by Melanie Mulhall

Cheating Death One More Time

November 18, 2011

If Howard wanted to be the inconspicuous recipient of a blood transfusion, collapsing at the hospital entrance was not the way to do it. The medical staff crowded around him like a pack of vampires on a warm body. I could do little to help. He was already annoyed with himself and with them. I did not want to say or do anything to make matters worse. I stood back while they attended to him, wondering what the split in their attention was between fulfilling the Hippocratic Oath versus mitigating hospital liability.

He was taken to the emergency room, as opposed to the ambulatory care unit where he was to receive his transfusion. We were in for a long day. There is irony in coupling the word “emergency” with that particular unit in a hospital because there seems to be little urgency to the treatment received there. But on this day, the emergency room was bustling. On our way to the hospital, we had passed a serious looking accident, not half a mile from the medical center. If you’re going to have an accident, being close to a hospital is genius. By the time Howard was ensconced in a treatment room, the human wreckage had arrived at the hospital.

Still, they were living up to my expectations, at least as far as my husband was concerned. He was not a priority and we were mostly left alone for long periods of time. Ultimately, the medical staff wanted to admit him and keep him tucked away in a room at least overnight, thereby providing me with an opportunity to demonstrate that I could be trusted on the “no ambulances, no hospitals” pledge. He and I were a united front: no admission.

Hours—and endless frustration—later, he was placed in a private room in the ambulatory care unit and they were beginning preparations for his transfusion. Even as an outpatient, he was going to be there all night. The transfusion would take that long, not only because they were going to give him four units of blood, but because he had to be given saline infusions after each unit of blood. This would, of course, put a demand on his already overworked urinary track. Fortunately, there was a bathroom right outside his room. Unfortunately, he was hooked up to a monitor because of the earlier incident. In theory, that meant he would need to buzz an attendant every time he needed to go to the bathroom. In practice, I knew he would simply rip the sensors off, thereby setting off alarms, and struggle unassisted to the bathroom.

It didn’t take him long to prove me right. It was not only going to be a long night for Howard, but also for the ambulatory care unit staff. After helping him order some food, I made my escape. My presence all night would be of no help, and I was not keen to be an observer to the paces he was going to put the staff through. It had been morning when we made our way to the cancer clinic and it was now past sundown.

In a moment of stress induced practicality, it occurred to me that I should make a stop at Gretchen Minney’s house on the way home. She had some of my canning jars and I needed to collect them. I called to see if she was home. She was. I told her I would swing by to get the jars on my way home from the hospital. Hospital—the magic word. That was all I needed to say. By the time I reached her house, she had a plate of hors d’oeuvres and a bottle of champagne waiting for me, along with an open heart and a willing ear.

Every once in a while, a friend not only proves herself, but demonstrates her keen understanding of your precise needs. Even the best of friends do not often manage that, but this was one of those moments. It had taken me ten minutes or so to get from the hospital to her house, yet all was waiting for me when I arrived.

Awards are given for all manner of heroic acts, but never for an act like this. How would it be submitted? How could it be described? I couldn’t say that she had saved my life. Technically, she did not save my life that night. But I would argue that a glass of champagne, some nibbles, and the simple act of bearing witness to a story of crisis are highly underrated as life saving measures.

I was gravely worried and with good reason. When I brought my husband home the next morning, he went to bed immediately and slept most of the day. The following day, which happened to be the day before Thanksgiving, he was no better. In the past, transfusions had perked him up and brought color back to him. This transfusion had done neither.

That night, he was uncomfortable to the point of admitting it. His entire body was rebelling and in pain. Breathing was especially painful. He had been prescribed Ambien to help him sleep and oxycodone for pain, but had taken little of either. Now he asked me to bring him both. My husband, the stoic, was moaning and I found it unsettling. I couldn’t imagine how bad it had to be for him to be moaning. This was the man whose pain measurement was based on the level of pain provided by a gunshot wound. I gave him the requested medications, climbed into bed with him, and held him. After an hour, he felt no better and he looked scared.

I knew I needed to act and I knew whatever actions I took would be further demonstration—or the lack of it—that I could be trusted to follow his wishes. I asked if he wanted an ambulance. He was adamant that he did not. I had to honor that, but I also had to do something. I told him I was going to call Antonio. He fought against it, wanting no one to come, but it was either an ambulance or Antonio.

Antonio, the shaman to whom I had been apprenticed, was not only a shaman, but a nurse. He had urged me, over the last few months, to call him—night or day—if I needed his help with Howard. It was after 11:00 p.m. and I was ready to take him up on his offer. I called to find that he was still awake. I explained the situation and I think he must have been getting his clothes on, preparing to leave, before he hung up. I knew, from years of driving between my house and his, that it was a thirty-five minute drive. He arrived a good ten minutes earlier than it should have taken him. He had clearly ignored the posted speed limits all along the way.

I crept into Howard’s room to tell him that Antonio was with me. Howard was delirious and nearly incoherent. He muttered, “No, no. I’m asleep. I’m asleep,” thinking, in his confusion, that I had called an ambulance. I explained that it was Antonio, no one else, and that he had come to see if he could help.

I had never witnessed Antonio’s work as a nurse and was stunned by his ability to gain Howard’s compliance and trust with little more than a few well chosen, calm words. Well . . . that and summoning up the kind of energetic power few but those of us who practice shamanism can muster. He took Howard’s vitals. Blood pressure: 60/40. Pulse: forty beets per minute. Respirations: almost undetectable.

Antonio met me outside the room and told me it was unlikely Howard would make it through the night. In fact, he thought Howard would pass very soon. We sat, side by side, on the cedar chest at the foot of my bed in the master bedroom. And we waited. I had some Jameson’s I’d bought to make hot toddies with and I got each of us a slug of it. He might not have needed it, but I did. Years of treatment and months of declining health had skidded, abruptly, to a stop early Thanksgiving morning.

But after an hour, Howard was still among the living. Weak vitals, but still alive. Antonio went home, expecting that the next call from me would be the call to say that Howard had passed. He had no sooner left than the moaning began again. I called his cell and asked what to do. He suggested I give Howard another small bit of medication.

Sunrise found me exhausted and anxious . . . and my husband still alive. Thanksgiving Day. It was not clear to me if I should be grateful that Howard was still alive—my immediate instinct—or sorry he hadn’t passed during the night. And there was no way to know if he would make it through Thanksgiving Day.

What I did was so predictably Melanie-in-survival-mode that I saw it for what it was, even then. While Howard remained semi-conscious, at most, I made stuffing, baked the twenty-two pound turkey, and otherwise carried on as if there would be someone other than me to eat Thanksgiving dinner. And I gave thanks for everything good and true in the world.

Copyright 2011 by Melanie Mulhall

Choices

May 30, 2011

My husband’s faith in allopathic medicine was approximately as robust as my disdain of it. I’d had a handful of horrific experiences with doctors and I’d had good experiences with alternative practices. Coupled with my shamanic worldview, that made a holistic way of looking at well-being natural for me.

I had long been passionate about wellness, favoring it over going to seed, becoming ill, and needing remedial measures. Maintaining wellness was, in my mind, necessary for the full contact living I preferred. That meant getting enough sleep, eating well, meditating, working out regularly, and otherwise doing whatever it took to give me abundant energy, vigor, and a strong immune system so I could take on everything life had to offer.

Wellness practices were, at best, an afterthought for Howard. He ate well to the extent that he was eating what I cooked for him and, fortunately, he loved my cooking. But left to his own devices . . . well, if good nutrition was in the mix, it was only there by accident.

We had very different ways of looking at wellness. I was proactive and enthusiastic about it. He was reactive and laid-back. A brilliant thinker, he just brought his body along for the ride. And I was willing to go along for the ride because I loved him.

He stayed in his head and out of his body and it never seemed to occur to him that the prostate cancer might return and metastasize. When he was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1992, he had placed his faith in the urologist. It was his body and his choice. When the prostate cancer returned and metastasized, he again put his faith in what doctors had to say. Again, it was his choice. My job was to support his choices.

More than once during his illness, friends and acquaintances asked whether I was employing energy medicine techniques with him. The assumption always seemed to be that I would pull some tools out of my bag and work on him—with or without his knowledge. It was a poor assumption. I had been impeccable about receiving permission before doing any kind of energy work on anyone and was not about to change my approach with him. But I never actually sought permission because I was told by guidance during meditation to stay out it. And it was given to me as bluntly as that. Stay out of it. I could give him my support and I could direct the energy of love towards him. That was it. No energy healing techniques. No pressing him to try alternative healing modalities. Support and love. Period. I chose to accept that guidance.

It must be said that I can be opinionated and downright pushy on important matters. Most of my controlling behavior had always been directed at myself, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t be forceful in fiddling with the lives of those I loved. In this instance, though, I was strangely at peace with the admonition to stay out of it. I sensed that this was an unfolding of events agreed to before we’d ever met, before we’d even entered our human bodies. I didn’t like the diagnosis but I somehow knew that this was Howard’s heroic journey, and while I was lucky enough to be his companion along the way, he was the one choosing the path and he was the one choosing whenever there was a fork in the road.

So Howard began treatment. His doctors threw hormone therapy and chemotherapy at the cancer. They checked his PSA on a regular basis and periodically did bone scans, CT scans, and other tests to see what was happening with the disease. For years, bone scans had shown nothing, despite troubling PSA seven or eight years following his prostatectomy. He’d been put on hormone therapy to address those concerns.

When cancer did show up in the bones, it was in his spine, ribs, arms, legs, and skull—typical for metastasized prostate cancer, as I eventually came to understand from my research, but alarming when nothing has shown up in scans until cancer shows up everywhere in the bones.

That bone scan was the only one that ever definitively showed cancer in the bones. The doctors had trouble finding anything in scans from that point on. But when prostate cancer metastasizes to the bones, it forms osteoblasts, which essentially harden the bone. That seemed to make it more difficult to see in a scan. The PSA was, for a long time, the one test that gave some indication of whether the treatment de jour was working. And when one treatment failed to lower the PSA from bouncing-off-the-wall-alarming to just alarming or stopped impacting it much at all, another chemical cocktail was introduced.

Between early 2007 and late 2010, Howard burned through every kind of treatment his doctors at the urology center could throw at the cancer. And then he was referred to an oncologist at a cancer treatment center. They threw more drugs at the cancer, ultimately gaining Howard’s agreement to try experimental drugs.

Through all of this, he maintained good humor. Through most of it, he seemed to believe that allopathic medicine would hold the cancer at bay. I wasn’t so sure. I did a fair amount of research online. Nothing suggested that any treatment was curative. At best, the cancer could be held at bay a little longer. But the word palliative was used over and over. The treatment of metastatic prostate cancer was, essentially, palliative in nature and nothing from Lupron to Casodex to docetaxel to Zometa was going to save him. He chose to believe—until the last weeks of his life—that he was going to beat the cancer and eventually die of something else.

I chose not to tell him what I’d learned in my research.

Copyright 2011 by Melanie Mulhall

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

The Sun Shines On

February 28, 2011

“How do you feel?” Jorge Luis Delgado asked me as we sat together on the bus that would take us back to the hotel.

It had been a long day. The Solar Disc Activation ceremonies were over. We had made our good-byes to our host families, boarded our boats, spent the next three or four hours in happy chatter as we sailed back to shore, and made a memorable stop at one of the floating islands. Now we were headed back to the hotel for dinner and celebration.

“You know,” I replied, “I guess I must be tired, but mostly what I feel is . . . just . . . good.”

It was all I could say, really. There weren’t words for how I felt, which seemed almost ridiculous for a woman who is a professional writer and editor. But there it was. No words. Only delicious peace and internal glow.

“Do you know why that is?” he asked.

“I’m not sure,” I said.

“When we work with our hearts open, we do not get so fatigued,” he replied.

I knew he was right. His words washed over me and settled into my bones as truth. I thought about the shamanic work I did with clients. I often did journey work with clients on Friday evenings, after having gotten up at 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. We wouldn’t finish until 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. sometimes, yet I would come away from the work high as a kite. I’d always found it curious, but I’d never tried to explain it to myself, other than assuming it was the result of doing the work and seeing its impact on the client. But he was right. I was not only fully present with my client during the work on such nights, my heart was always wide open.

The same was true for the shamanic clearing work on houses and the spiritual coaching. As I reflected on his words, I saw that it was also true with the writing coaching, editing, and other work I did. When my heart was open, the work didn’t deplete me. Yes, body and mind needed some rest at the end of a long day, but it was more like adding juice to a battery that still had plenty of charge to it than trying to recharge a dead battery.

I recalled my days in corporate America. I’d held management positions that required ten to twelve hour days, demanded broad expertise, and provided endless helpings of stress. I was good at what I did and I always strived to serve the greater good. But it depleted me and I was never at my best when overwhelmed by stress. I’ve no doubt that more than one person who reported to me in those days would be able to attest to my being a pretty demanding boss.

When I left the corporate world, I realized—not immediately, but after a time—that no amount of money and no promotion would have provided what I sought and staying in that world would likely have eventually killed me. It had never been an environment in which I could work with an open heart, at least not for long. In fact, the more open my heart had become in that world, the more problematic that world was for me and the more problematic I was for whomever I reported to.

One of the most telling experiences I had in the corporate world happened months before I left the last company I would work at for any length of time. It was 7:00 p.m. or so. Everyone had left but the President, the Vice-President of Client Services, and me. The V-P of Client Services and I were sitting in the lobby, talking through some issue. The President came out and joined in the discussion. At some point, one of them presented a scenario and asked me what I would think about it if it was offered up. My heart bypassing my brain, I told the truth, instead of what was politically correct.

“I guess I’d ask what love would have me do next,” I replied.

The V-P of Client Services, a good friend as well trusted colleague, looked at me quizzically for a moment and then said, “Oh, I get it. It’s like, ‘What would Jesus do?’”

The President? He looked from one to the other of us and said nothing. But the look on his face said it all. We were nuts as far as he was concerned. I might as well have suggested that we consult the tarot or pull in an astrologer or even call up Warren Buffet for advice. My spontaneous comment was way too heart-centered. I couldn’t be trusted.

Of course, he already suspected that of me. I was gone after a time and my colleague was gone a while later. We weren’t calculating enough and we couldn’t be trusted to sacrifice people—including ourselves—for the sake of his agenda. We were toast.

Sitting next to Jorge Luis Delgado on a bus driving from Puno, Peru to our hotel in Chucuito, I realized that I wouldn’t have changed anything in my life. Everything had led me to a life and a body of work that allowed and even required an open heart. In that moment, sitting next to Jorge Luis, I was in a state of grace and no words were needed between us. We sat in peaceful silence. The sun had set . . . but it was still shining within.

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

Amantani Island

October 24, 2010
The Aramu Muru Doorway might have wanted us to stay a bit longer. At least that would be one explanation for what happened when we left the site to re-board our bus: the bus got stuck in the mud as the driver swung it around to pick us up. We trudged to the bus and the men in the group gathered to manhandle the bus into submission. They ignored the advice of the female engineer in the group and just resorted to brute force. It didn’t work. Another bus was called to collect us and after a brief delay, we were on our way to
the pier to board a boat for Amantani Island.
 
A Slight Delay

Amantani Island is an island of less than six square miles on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. It is inhabited by less than 4000 Aymara people who speak Quechua and, some of them, a little Spanish. No English speakers here. There are half a dozen villages on its terraced hills and we were all going to be assigned to families to stay with for the night. We were told that the homes were simple adobe structures with no running water and little or no electricity. We would have beds and access to an outhouse. Our host families would feed us and we would have a little time to interact with them.

Approaching Amantani Island

The Solar Disc Activation ceremony would take place on the island, at two temples situated at its highest points. These temples, the Pachatata (Father) and Pachamama (Mother Earth) temples, were ancient places, each cared for by a guardian who kept them under lock and key, usually only opened for a ceremony each January 20, the annual feast day for the island. That they would be opened for the Solar Disc Activation ceremony was an usual and very special honor.

Our bus ride to the pier was long enough for me to observe and even chat with (through a translator) some of the Peruvian shamans who were participating in the ceremonies. To my surprise, I discovered that Q’ero shamans—or some of them—have cell phones these days. One of the men reached below his poncho and pulled out a cell phone to take a call as we bumped along on the road. I couldn’t quite reconcile the simplicity of these shamans with the complexity of having a cell phone. Where did he get it? Could he actually get a signal in the mountains where he lived? Was it even his phone, or one borrowed for the trip? I didn’t ask any of these questions, I just observed in stunned silence. 

A shaman from one of the floating reed islands, Romualdo Coila Coila, sat next to me on the drive. Romualdo handed me a business card that presented him as a Maestro Curandero. Nestor Caceres Escalante (a fellow traveler and a man of interest, himself) told me that Romualdo did ceremony to Pachamama, soul retrieval, coca leaf ceremony, and a variety of other shamanic activities. When I told Romualdo that I, too, do soul retrieval and a variety of other shamanic activities, he smiled and shook my hand. With Nestor’s help as translator, we chatted briefly about our work. Don Romualdo carried himself with a certain nobility and held a tightly packed internal power that could be felt as I sat next to him. He was a rugged looking man whose eyes and being emanated compassion.

And as I talked to him, I felt pulled to gift him with something I’d brought along that was stuffed in my pack—a round piece of malachite with a small hole in the middle that held a cord so it could be worn around the neck. I couldn’t reach get to it while on the bus, but I asked Nestor to tell him I had something for him that I would present later.

At the pier, we piled onto multiple boats for the rather long ride to Amantani Island. We all seemed to still be buzzing internally from our experiences at the Aramu Muru Doorway and that buzz was coupled with anticipation about the island and the ceremonies to come. 

Once on Amantani Island, I was able to retrieve the malachite necklace and as we walked toward the place where we would be doing ceremony, I stopped long enough to present it to Romualdo, who accepted it simply and with dignity. Later, I would see him pull it out from beneath his robe and show it to someone. It made me smile and I was glad to have been drawn to give him that token, small acknowledgment that it was.

Romualdo (in the black hat) Preparing for Ceremony

We gathered on a beach and Romualdo, accompanied by some of the Q’ero shamans, set about preparing his mesa for a despacho ceremony. This was to be a water ceremony and we would be making offerings to Lake Titicaca as a part of that ceremony. As Romulado set out his power objects, Jorge Luis Delgado spoke to us of water and spirit. He pointed out that water is alive and that whatever is alive can be communicated with. He said that water holds memory, listens, teaches, and shows us the way. “But what is the way?” he asked. “Just flow,” he said, answering his own question. 

If water represents the emotional body, then allowing ourselves to flow might be wise advice from Lake Titicaca. Jorge Luis made the provocative statement that the emotional body sometimes “covers the new codes.” The implication seemed to be that allowing ourselves to flow—as water does, effortlessly—might help us wash away resistance and release those new codes, or at least allow them to express themselves within us. 

Jorge Luis Speaks of Water and Spirit

“How do we connect with our own spirit?” Jorge asked. The real magic, he insisted, was our intent. As with other despacho ceremonies, we would be placing our intent into the coca leaves by breathing the intent into them. The ceremony would end with our taking our coca leaves to the lake in offering to her. 

Despacho

As we had done with air ceremony, we removed our shoes. Much to my chagrin, I was again wearing hose. I might have learned from air ceremony, but the hose were just too much a part of my personal ceremony for getting myself together that I hadn’t given it much thought that morning. Once again I was going to challenge a perfectly good pair of hose–this time by tromping over the rocky shore to Lake Titicaca. 

Romualdo conducted beautiful ceremony and, at the end, we each silently took our coca leaves to Lake Titicaca and made offering. It was a tricky scramble over rocks and the occasional broken glass on the beach, but we managed with as much composure as we could muster, teetering along. Once back in the circle, a young woman who had heard the story of the miracle of the pantyhose (which I had shared with a select few), teased me about my hosed feet. Surely, she proposed, I wouldn’t have gotten away without tears and runs this time. I looked at one foot and then the other. Then I lifted me feet so that she (sitting on the opposite side of the circle) could see. No runs. No tears. No holes.

 Copyright 2010 by Melanie Mulhall

 

Sami, Hucha, and Clearing

January 20, 2010

Jorge Luis Delgado is a practical man. He is a chacaruna, a bridge builder, in many senses of the word. Does he bridge the worlds of ordinary and nonordinary reality? Yes, of course. Is he a bridge between Father Sun and Mother Earth? Again, yes. But he is also a bridge to healing for those experiencing disharmony and a bridge to understanding for those who sense that something is afoot on planet Earth, but cannot quite put their finger on it.

As a shaman, I sense and explain the world around me as energy. In the Incan tradition of Jorge Luis Delgado, the life force energy that animates everything is called kawsay (COW-sigh) and it has two forms: sami (SAHM-ee) and hucha (WHO-cha). Sami is considered “light” energy, while hucha is considered “heavy” energy. It would be a mistake to translate that as “good” energy and “bad” energy and Jorge is very clear about this. Hucha is simply heavy, dense energy. Humans (but not plants or other animals) create and accumulate hucha in our energy bodies, called poq’po (POKE-po) in Quechua and hucha is problematic because it is incompatible with the optimal functioning of the energy body. 

A part of Jorge’s work, and that of other chacarunas, is to move hucha so that it can be cleared from the energy body. But his work also consists of educating people on the nature of both sami and hucha and how to foster the former, avoid the latter, and clear hucha when it accumulates. 

From my own perspective as a shaman and energy “reader,” I can say that as long as we are in human form (at least in the present version of human form we are experiencing at the moment), we will accumulate hucha. We are humans—not Ascended Masters—and while we are both thoroughly human and completely divine, enfleshment in human form carries with it some obstacles and those obstacles impact our vulnerability to hucha

Jorge would say that while we are children of the sun, we don’t shine like Father Sun because we are carrying hucha, accumulated during this age of darkness and more specifically, accumulated from early childhood on. This heavy energy affects the ego but it is not who we are. Within Incan cosmology, it can be said that we each have an “inner sun” that is, in essence, our inner integrity, our love—or what I would consider (with apologies to don Jorge if my assessment is off) our enduring spirit, that which connects us with and is a part of the divine Oneness. The inner sun endures. It is who we are. It is Truth and, as Jorge says, “Truth is forever, while the lies disappear after a time.” 

Our movement into the cycle of light will help with that. But we needn’t wait. We can clear hucha now, on an ongoing basis as we accumulate it. One can, of course, go to a chacaruna (like Jorge) who will help you clear your hucha. I have observed don Jorge performing a healing and if you have the opportunity to receive one, you will likely find it extremely helpful. But not everyone in the U.S. has the opportunity to work with a Peruvian chacaruna. Heck, few do!

Some of the shamanic work I do with people clears hucha, as can Reiki and other forms of energy healing. Jorge teaches a simple way of clearing hucha, one he developed. Stand with your arms outstretched to your sides (facing East if you wish). Then place your right hand over your heart (heart chakra) and your left hand over your solar plexus (solar plexus chakra). As you do this, know that your right hand is taking in love and sending it down to the solar plexus, helping to clear the heavy energy there. Now sweep your left hand down and away from your body, releasing the the hucha down to Mother Earth, who will transform it into sami and make good use of it. 

That’s it. It is a simple but powerful method of self care. Can you remove hucha in another? Jorge counsels against this. Instead, if you wish to help another, plant a seed of light within them. That will help get things moving so that they can release their own dark energy. Good advice for all of us, but particularly for those who are tempted to try to “save” others from themselves. In fact, Jorge does not talk about “removing” hucha in others during his healing sessions. Rather, he speaks of “moving” energy. 

But what of sami and of facilitating the movement into the light cycle? That will be the topic of the next post.

Copyright 2010 by Melanie Mulhall

Meeting Jorge

November 29, 2009

If you ask Jorge Luis Delgado what is life is about, he will likely answer, without hesitation, “Love, service, and wisdom,” or munay, llancay, and yachay in the Quechua language. 

In North America, Jorge would be called a shaman. But Jorge is Peruvian of Incan ancestry, born and raised near Lake Titicaca.  He refers to himself a chacaruna, a “bridge person.” A bridge person is one who helps others navigate from one state of consciousness to another (an apt description of what shamans around the world do). The bridge that Jorge provides has been forged by years of service, a loving and humble heart, and wisdom that comes from communion and respect for both Mother Earth and Father Sun. And those journeying across that bridge come to a state of consciousness in which they recognize that they are, and always have been, enlightened—they just have been resistant to embrace it. 

I first heard of Jorge when a close friend of mine met him while on a tour of Machu Picchu. There seem to be shamans behind every bush in South America and I am always a bit skeptical when Americans return from trips to the southern hemisphere with stories about the power people they have met there. It isn’t that I doubt that there are powerful shamans in South America. There are. My skepticism is of the same variety as that I have when people tell me they have crowded into a sweat lodge with forty other people to participate in ceremony led by someone whose background they have only sketchy information about. It’s the same skepticism I have of those who call themselves shamans but cannot quite explain their path to the work, apart from a couple of classes in shamanism and a interior pull. There are many seekers of mystical experience and, it seems, just as many purveyors of that experience who are selling mysticism as if the experience could be pasteurized and bottled for easy consumption. Motor oil passed off as snake oil passed off as enlightenment. Altered states for those who want to be able to TiVo it. 

So I didn’t really give the fact that my friend had spent time with a Peruvian shaman much thought—until she called one day to tell me that the same shaman was hosting a gathering of elders at Lake Titicaca to activate the Solar Disc in the lake, and that those who wanted to lend their energy to the process were being invited to join in. I knew at once that I was supposed to be there. 

It was the same kind of knowing I’d had many years ago when I asked a shaman if I could work one-on-one with him and he replied with a question, “Journey work, or do you want to be an apprentice?” At the time, I had no conscious thought of becoming apprenticed to a shaman, but my brain was bypassed by the part of me that knew it was time to step into my destiny and I answered, without thought, “Apprentice.”

Now I had the same kind of visceral knowing about Lake Titicaca and the activation of the Solar Disc. It was as if I’d finally received an invitation sent out before I’d ever stepped into this body in this life—and I’d sent myself that invitation, as part of an agreement made between many souls to be at an appointed place at an appointed time. Somehow, the fact that I have a husband with cancer and limited income were irrelevant. I’d agreed to be there long ago and I was going to fulfill that promise.           

The name Jorge Luis Delgado came into focus the instant I answered that invitation saying, “I’ll be there.” 

As luck would have it, Jorge was going to be in the United States some months after I made that commitment and I set about to help my friend (and others) publicize this first visit to and workshop in Denver. I wanted to meet the man whose interior ley lines seemed to be intersecting and activating my own. 

What I encountered in that meeting was a man of humility and humor, of wisdom and wit. A practical man, Jorge seems to see love as a verb and practices the active side of love without stress or pressure . . . but also with the unsettling ability to see right into the core of a person. The man is no tourist shaman. He’s the real deal.

There is a great deal to say about Jorge, the Incan cosmology, and the new Pachacuti—the return of the light—and it cannot all be said in one blog post. But Mother Earth and Father Sun have been waiting patiently for the end of the age of darkness, so I’m hoping my readers can apply just a bit of patience, too, for the next post.

 Copyright 2009 by Melanie Mulhall