Here I was, a Caucasian female from the most northern part of the Midwest, born into a well off and supportive family, given all the advantages to jump into the conventional way of American life, and I had chosen the path of shamanism. Actually, it chose me. It started to slowly slink into my life like a jaguar stealthily approaching its prey right when I began my meditation practice. A couple months into my practice, the enormous beast that now dictates my every step gobbled me up whole, riding the waves of emotional extremes and touching every space in between, living a painfully blissful life full of gratitude.
In the beginning, I was stepping into the void to embark on a journey that I knew I was meant to do, and yet I had no elders or mentors to guide me. How was I to know or learn anything? Naturally, I began searching; I became a professional seeker. With more passion than I ever had in institutional schooling, I was devouring books, attending workshops, and experimenting with all kinds of medicines. It was not long before I became restless, and in my naïve mind, I thought that I would only ever learn real shamanism and a true spiritual way of life by learning from authentic indigenous people. I was craving the credibility of sitting with masters of the ancient wisdoms, because I did not see then that the truest of practices comes from within, from your personal devotion and connection to spirit.
It’s the beginner’s mind full of childlike curiosity that keeps us humble and fuels our evolution. However, I have also discovered that seeking too far outside of our own inner wisdom can cause a willingness to give away one’s own power. At the start, I could not comprehend that the true teacher would appear the moment I stopped seeking. So I am sharing a story of falling into the illusion that we have to be with certain teachers of particular backgrounds and in certain “power spots” to receive the appropriate energy transmissions to become shamans, medicine women, and other labels of the spiritual walk. I would like to acknowledge that this can be advantageous as well as dangerous. Shamanism and life seem like one large paradox.
Let me make clear, I completely respect the traditions and ceremonies of the indigenous cultures, and I think it is important to learn as much as we can from each other, because the importance of ancient wisdom is integral to our process as human beings. Their connection to the unseen realms is magnificent and their sacred rituals and ceremonies pay respect to those who came before and those who have yet to come. These critical elements, missing from our modern day world, are crucial to our awakening. And yet, I believe there is still a darkness that needs to be illuminated, a darkness that I experienced first hand, a power struggle that crossed boundaries forever breaking trust and changing my path.
This story is for the safety and awareness of other women out there stepping into their true calling. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, women are still seen as a threat to men in this ‘line of work.’ There are some who are out there trying to keep us from fully claiming our femininity so they can harness our power. This story is also for people to understand that there are wounds still open on any path. True masters are the ones who guide and empower us to follow our personal connection to the divine, and they may not appear as we had expected.
Finally a real shaman discovered me! I had put in years of personal practice, morning rituals, and ceremonies, and finally someone with authenticity was paying attention to me. A small Q’ero shaman picked me out in the darkness of a ceremonial circle at a festival in Ecuador where I was invited to teach shamanic journeying. Even though our language barrier was great, I was able to understand that he wanted me to come and see him the next day, because he had information to share with me.
First thing after breakfast the next day, I went and met the shaman in the daylight. We sat together with his brother and translator; they all were involved in holding the sacred Q’ero ceremonies at the festival. He began to explain that he could see my path in this life, and that they could facilitate certain energy transmissions and ceremonies to help me to accept this path. He called me a medicine woman, a ‘maestra.’ This greatly affected me and hit a deep chord within my soul, as it was something I’d felt for a long time. I was instantly sucked in. While in Ecuador, there were small red flags and gut feelings that I should have listened to, but I was wrapped up in the romanticism of it all. I was going to have my mentor! My own Don Juan! He was making promises of teaching me all the energy transmissions and all the ceremonies so I could be a keeper of the Q’ero wisdom. He also showed special attention to me and blessed one of my workshops offering words of wisdom and support for my work. It was surreal. It also gave me an excuse to come back to South America.
A few months later, I was off to Peru. A friend was meeting me, and together we were going to work with our Q’ero shaman. The first five days were magical; we visited ancient sites including Machu Picchu, received Karpays (energy transmissions), and participated in Despacho (offering) ceremonies. We spent hours meditating on the Incas’ sacred land, in canyons, on mountains, and by rivers. At night, my friend and I would discuss our experiences as we lingered over Peruvian cuisine in the bustling city of Cusco. Everything was perfect; love and gratitude filled every bit of my being. The world seemed light and expansive, welcoming and friendly, and like this all was being divinely directed. However, I was soon on my own with the shaman, as my friend had to go back to work. And I would quickly realize that the shaman had more in store for me than I was willing to look at. And with his action, the world would wind up looking drastically different to me.
The sixth day into my trip, I was invited to the family home. The Q’ero shaman came to pick me up at my hostel and we traveled to the home together. Upon arriving, no one else was there, and I learned no one else was coming. We were on top of this hillside, alone, and the sun was setting. I felt uneasy, but we began to do another Despacho ceremony. We sat outside in the tall grass of the front yard, surrounded by bees and butterflies, as dogs barked in the distance. The shaman called in the spirits as I prayed into my coca leaves smeared in alpaca fat and flower petals. It truly was a beautiful scene and my gratitude for my experience was overwhelming. After all our colorful offerings were prayed into and wrapped up, we built a fire and the Despacho bundle was offered to the flames.
I watched the bundle as the papers and prayers burned, bubbled, and melted together, then surrendering to the fire, it all turned into ash and smoke releasing back to the earth and out into the great mystery. The shaman sat uncomfortably close, but I figured that this was all right, since we’d spent so much time together. Yet, my gut was telling me otherwise. Before I knew it his arms were around me, and I figured the nice thing to do was hug him back. Yet through all my red flags, queasy belly, and my uncomfortable giggling, I ignored my intuition in the pursuit of learning and missed his mission.
Suddenly, his tongue was down my throat. His arms were so tight around me that I could not pull away, and for an infinite moment, I was stuck in the dirtiest of feelings. After a small struggle I was able to pull away and when I did, I yelled, “NO!” crossing my arms in front of me in a big X. He seemed to understand, but he tried again and I had to push him away once more. We sat in silence in front of the fire. The air completely changed. I wanted to go home. I wanted to stop seeking. I felt ashamed. I felt confused. I wanted to hide. I felt I had brought this upon myself. Why had I drawn this situation in? Had any of it been real? Had any of it been authentic? I had no way of getting out, unless I wanted to grab my backpack and start running down a hill into a part of Cusco which I was completely unfamiliar with. So I uncomfortably waited, and kept telling the shaman how tired I was. We still had two more days together, but the next day we would be accompanied by the shaman’s cousin, so I agreed to meet them in the morning. Finally a taxi came; the biggest relief was that we were not alone anymore. I said an awkward goodbye and crawled into the taxi alone.
Having the shaman’s cousin there was a breath of fresh air and he could speak English. We performed another Karpay and Despacho at a sacred site, and then the cousin informed me that the shaman wanted to do a private healing with me later that afternoon, just the two of us. Upon hearing this, my entire body froze. All my guides were screaming at me to run and get out. I did not want to be alone with the shaman again and I definitely did not want him to perform any healings on me, as his intentions were unclear. The shaman said he would be back in 3 hours. They dropped me off at my hostel, and as soon as I shut the door, I heard my mother’s voice in my left ear say, “Get out of there!”
I had my stuff packed in under an hour, and checked out of the hostel. I told the man at the front desk what had happened, and he responded as if that behavior happened all the time; it was expected and normal. I was completely disgusted, and began to see that this was not only my story, but the story of many other women as well. I then, coincidentally, received an email from a woman who had previously worked with this shaman, and he had done this kind of thing to at least five other women while we were at the festival in Ecuador.
Now my perception of the world turned dark. I felt paranoid. I felt angry. I hurried around the streets of Cusco looking for another place where I would feel safe to stay for the night; I did not want the shaman to be able to find me at all. I was now closed off and retracted into my shell. I was hoping I could disappear. Fear of being seen by the shaman filled every bit of my being. Ultimately, I decided to spend some extra cash and stay one night in an upscale hotel that had great security.
As I locked up my hotel room door, I locked out the energy of the shaman and the city of Cusco. Still, the trauma played over and over in my head, and the sickening feeling in my gut was making my last day in Peru seem too long and my decision to have traveled there a mistake. I let all the emotions bubble up and run their course, and finally after feeling all the victimizing and hurtful emotions, I was left with simply a light sadness.
In my first Karpay with the Q’eros, we had been instructed to go meditate on the highest hilltop until the shamans came to retrieve us. I had sat on a rock and closed my eyes; the sun shone down from straight above, the wind swirled, and insects hummed and buzzed. I was still and content, feeling peace within me and around me when suddenly I clearly heard, “Stop seeking.” It startled me for a moment, but I brought my attention back to my breath. Then I heard it again, and I had to break my meditative mind. This voice I had heard before. It was both inside me and outside of me, and it sounded like me but it was not entirely my voice. In my gut, I knew it was God, or whatever you want to call it.
Sometimes I refer to it as Spirit or my higher self – it’s all the same. As I recalled this experience in the hotel room, it all started to come together. I began to feel that as horrible as it was to go through what I did, where an elder had broken my trust and put me in an uncomfortable and inappropriate situation, I was still learning great lessons. The voice within is the most important; I can be my greatest teacher.
I learned that my higher self divinely guided me to come on this journey to learn that every single situation I put myself in is to make me become the student in that moment, so to later enrich the master self, creating this beautifully balanced and intertwined dance between student and master. Illumination stemmed from the wonderment of the childlike mind and blossoming from the guidance of the teacher. There was no more need to seek; I had finally found my master.
Upon returning to the States, I did more practices on building a deeper relationship to my personal power. I have become much stronger, but it’s tough! It’s hard work, to do it on your own, and I’m not suggesting that we always do. However, to become a master, to become your best teacher, it takes your will to participate. By participating in your self-discovery, you gain an infinite amount of empowerment and humbleness. This is crucial to everyone’s path.
I usually try to never say never, but here it goes: Never give your power away, never believe that someone knows the answers over you, and never let someone tell you your story. And for the women out there who have been assaulted by men in superior positions, I feel you. I know my situation could have potentially been much worse, and I know that there must be women out there who have been attacked more brutally than I was.
This kind of behavior has to STOP! It is up to us to make these stories known. We must share our wounds in order for others to be awakened and healed. Allow for your master to step into the light and share what your heart has to say in whatever medium you choose to express yourself. These men are suffering from a deep dis-ease, and they can only be healed when we no longer accept their drama. This story, this pattern, ends now.
Image by Pedro Szekely, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.