“I can’t wait to read your book!”
Aww, gee whiz, folks!
And trust me, I can’t wait either. But there’s this little hiccup called the writing process and apparently I’m about to embark on the editing phase.
So hang in there.
In the meantime, here’s a teeny bit of my coming of age memoir. It’s the unlikely, true tale of my transformation from an All-American, middle-class overachiever from Pittsburgh who aspires to be “just like everyone else” to a Shaman Girl who follows my own heart – which leads me to surprising places. I’m hoping you’ll find it hilarious and heart-touching, as I fall down a spiritual rabbit hole, struggle to embrace my inner shaman, and suffer major whiplash from navigating the everyday alongside the extraordinary.
This book is more than my journey to accept my most precious, secret, and vulnerable self – it’s about you, and you, and you. It’s an invitation to become more spiritual and spunky, to live juicy and merge the messy to the magic in everyday life with Shaman Girl soul sisters by our sides.
Read on girlfriends…
Mio does not surprise easily, but his astonished pleasure is evident as he looks around the room. Yes Doc pulled off a miracle. There are over 30 of us who have said yes, to what we are not exactly sure, but we have taken the leap of faith and will be spending countless hours sitting in our chairs together at Dreaming. While Dreaming will not officially start for another few months, we are here at Mio’s ranch on the eve of a new millennium to sample what we are in for. There is quite a buzz in the air, between the anticipation of Y2K and what that might unleash, along with the energy coalescing for Dreaming.
I look around the room myself to see who has agreed to this journey with me: Tita, Manny, Temple, Don Don, Lini, Military Man, Airman. I also take in who has not: La Dona, Willow, Pink, Cloud. My heart feels heavy at the schism. I want everyone to come, play, and embark on this new phase together. But to each their own. We respect each person’s individual and unique path. Even though it sucks.
Mio is laying down the foundation of Dreaming. Commitment. No excuses. No stories. No parasites. All of this sounds doable in theory. Then we attempt our first sitting in our chairs.
We are to sit like the Egyptian statues. Feet on the floor, back straight, arms resting on our thighs. We are not to move a muscle. Not one. Not for an itch. Not if Mio tries to tickle us with a peacock feather. Not for bugs. Not out of boredom. We are not to open our eyes. Well, maybe we could peek or move if there is a legitimate raging fire in the room. But our mind would probably be playing a trick on us, so best not to move in that situation either. So we sit. We still our bodies in order to hear our mind more clearly, to open a pathway for emotion, to remember our divinity.
All this talk of sitting makes me jumpy. I take a deep breath and remind myself why I am here. I want to know the truth of who I am. I want to embody myself as light, love, spirit. I desperately want to let go of who I think I should be. I want happiness. Peace. Passion. Purpose. Success. I don’t know if any of this is possible, but I am willing to sit still to find out. A small sacrifice to pay, right? I hope?
I hardly recognize myself. Who is this crazy lady who signed up for this weirdness? I used to be an All-American overachiever, with aspirations for a nice, normal life. Now I am sitting on the outer edges of the known universe with a bunch of equally unique souls, exploring shaman time and space. I have to regularly fight the urge to run. I’m here only because the call from deep within me is demanding that I be here, now, about to sit still. Besides, how much harm can be done sitting in a chair quietly?
We begin. We will start for a petty hour. Eventually we will sit in stillness, in silence, or what may appear to be stillness and silence on the outside, while within we are raging, for hours and hours on end. After some squiggling to find what I hope is the exact right sweet spot, the first two or three minutes are pleasurable. It’s a relief to just sit and be still. Then the torture begins.
I need to scratch my nose in the worst way, but I do not. The itch grows stronger the more I focus on it. I have to use every ounce of my will not to move my hand. Then I remember that I am supposedly in control of my attention, so I focus on my breath instead. This works for about 30 seconds before the itch has grown to monstrous proportions. What will happen if I scratch it? Will I get kicked out? Will Mio even see? I am obsessed with this itch. It is killing me.
Not to mention my back. A stabbing, searing pain right behind my heart. Does it count as moving if I stretch my spine? Sit up straighter or slump slightly? How has anyone ever meditated through this excruciating back pain? Then I forgot about my back and am back to the itch.
Now the itch is moving, travelling up and down the length of my nose. I am convinced that it’s a bug. There’s a bug crawling all over my face! I am utterly convinced. Of the bug. Of the need to scratch. Then another voice chimes in. Really? You can’t even sit here for 5 minutes and you’ve signed up for 3 years of this? Ha! You are going DOWN.
This gets my attention. The Big Meany voice cackles. It proceeds to tell me why I am a spiritual wannabe, a failure, a pretender. How I’m not good enough to even attempt Dreaming. Who did I think I was? Pretty stupid for signing up for this nonsense. Who would voluntarily do this anyway? It drones on and on.
The itch and the back pain become inconsequential in that face of the Big Meany. It’s much more torturous to hear this voice in my head than it is to feel some paltry itchiness or a little achy discomfort. I could solve an itch with a few quick up and down motions with my fingernails or a good chiropractor. The Big Meany however, is not going to disappear quite so fast.
And then… awareness.
The Big Meany is why I’m here. I am here to hear the Big Meany. To sit with her and accept that she’s part of me. To love her to death. To see what exists beyond her trifling smallness.
For a few glorious moments, I am calm. Expanded. In bliss.
And then the itch starts all over again. And did I mention my back pain yet?
Thankfully I make it through the first of what will literally and cumulatively be months of sitting and Dreaming. It is miraculous and mostly I’m grateful that it’s over.
Hours later we’ve moved on to another exercise. This time we are invited to lay on our backs on the ground, with our arms crossed and folded around our necks, so our hands rest on our shoulders, imitating the burial position of the ancient Egyptians pharaohs. Ah, much better. My body feels a power and ancient memory in this position.
As the hours until the new millennium are counting down, Mio instructs to go inside another person’s dream, to experience the world the way they do. Be the person, be inside their body and mind. But DO NOT touch anything within them. Be respectful. Do not try to rearrange their beliefs or their dream. Just observe. Be compassionate. If we are successful, we will understand the power of Dreaming. Not just in the ability to perform this feat, but in being able to step outside of our beliefs that we hold so dear and see how another person dreams in a completely different way. Mio will hold the space for us to journey.
We can create a portal to enter Dreaming by envisioning an Egyptian eye hovering in front of us. If we stare into the eye and let go, we will slip into the Dreaming space. Go! And remember, DO NOT TOUCH.
I lay with my eyes closed for a long, long while. This is crazy. I’m suppose to go inside of someone else’s head and body? I don’t know how to do that. I don’t even think it’s possible. And what if I can’t get back? What if I mess up and accidently rearrange something within them? I feel like I’ve entered a weird science fiction movie and I’m not sure if I’m on the side of good or evil.
Finally, grudgingly, I decide to try. It’s better than do nothing, laying here for hours. Mio said to picture an eye. An Egyptian eye. In my mind’s eye? In front of my third eye? I catch a glimpse of one. Its glimmer hooks my attention. Where have I seen or done this before?
Yes! The eye that kept hovering in front of me while the Ewoks were in Egypt. And um, freaky? I have already dreamt this way, without instruction. Maybe there was something to this?
I wrinkle my brow and try to focus on the eye. It is elusive. The harder I try to concentrate in a crunchy, constricted way, the more it fades away. I’m like a dog chasing its tail. I can almost grab it, but then it whiplashes me around in another circle.
Mercifully, I surrender. I give up. I don’t care. Okay, fine, I do care. But this is not working. I relax a tiny bit and breathe. And the eye appears.
I am sucked through it with a magnetic force. Like a small pebble caught in the drag of the tide going out. I am disoriented. Racing through what feels like tunnels in time and space. Trying to remember what I have been assigned to do. Find someone. Go inside their dream. I am flipping through an energetic Rolodex. Not of people I know, but of random strangers that seem to be presenting themselves to me. No, no, no. Flip, flip, flip. Then yes. Him.
I find myself sitting outside, in the cold, in front of a church in a city. I am poorly dressed in many layers. Dirty faded gloves, with the fingertips cut off, cover my hands. I sit slumped over, alone.
Then it dawns on me, I am looking out the eyes of a homeless man.
For a moment, I recoil. Really? I’m dreaming a homeless man? I start to have an emotional reaction then catch myself. Do not touch. Shhh. Just observe.
And then I realize. I am not imagining this man. I am this man. I know my/his entire life story. I was quite successful once. I wore suits and a gold watch. I had a lovely wife and two children. But I started drinking more and more. I got angry when my wife pleaded with me to stop. I cut myself off from my children when I could no longer bear the scorn in their eyes. I started making bad business decisions. I lost my home, my wife, my business, my children, my pride. I ended up living in my car, then on the streets.
For years, I ached. I could not believe my own stupidity. I could not believe what I lost, what I gave up, all over a bottle. I became invisible to the world. People would avert their eyes, cross the street to avoid me. I wanted to shout out, “I’m not just a homeless bum! I had a house once too you know. I had a beautiful wife. I had a life. I was successful! This could happen to you too.” But I didn’t. I didn’t want to appear any crazier than I already felt.
And here I am, on the steps of this church, on what is about to be a new year, a new century, a new millennium. I watch all the people scurrying by in a hurry to be with family or friends before the church’s bell chimes in midnight. I hadn’t thought about my wife or children in years. I had almost put them out of my mind forever. But on this eve of a new cycle, I wonder about my son and daughter who would no longer be children anymore. Did they have a wife and husband? Children of their own? Did they remember me?
A single tear trickled down my cheek, leaving a streak through the grime.
And then I felt it. Forgiveness. For myself and my ridiculous decisions. For all the years I had wallowed in pity. For all the pain I had caused my loved ones. The feeling bloomed in my heart for several seconds, then faded away. The church’s bells started tolling. Dong, Dong. Dong. Dong….
Snap! I was jolted out of this dream. Wait! I wanted to know what would happen next. What did the future hold? Would the forgiveness change the course of his life? But I was not strong enough, or did not have the tools to stay in this dream or journey on to the future. My eyes pop open.
I am back in my own body. Breathing rapidly. My heart is pounding. The room is completely still and dark as everyone else is still locked in their dreams. All the calm, heavy, inert bodies lying around me help me calm myself and ground back into this time and place. I stare at the ceiling. Eyes unblinking. I cannot move my arms. I’m not sure if they’ve fallen asleep or I’m still in some Dreaming state.
My entire body feels paralyzed. Like I’m made of stone. As soon as I calm down a little more, and my breathing slows, I feel both supremely relaxed and deeply tired. I do not feel like me. I have been emptied out. There is a hollow nothingness inside that is utterly thrilling and unfamiliar.
I lie and wait.
I do not know how long I’ve been gone. And even though my mind would looooovve to let me have all its opinions about what just happened, I know my experience was real. I can feel it in every cell of my body.
Dreaming. This is some powerful shit. And although I don’t know it now, I will be dreaming my way through the first decade of the new millennium. I have entered into the dreamtime, on my way to becoming Shaman Girl.