Are you on The Shaman Path?
by N J Howell
Holding the Pipe
When the Student is Ready....
This is part of a series on my personal experiences with Shamanistic Initiation. Read introduction: a shamanistic experience. As noted on the first part of this spiritual article, I am not representing anything here but my personal experience. I am not a recognized shaman or a teacher of traditional shamanistic journeying. I have great respect for those who stand in the path as way-showers and teachers but the bulk of my shamanistic experiences have not come through that traditional way.
I am recalling a few of the most profound Shamanic Initiation experiences I've had in my life, during integrative breathwork sessions. At the time these experiences happened, I had no idea what they meant or might meant in my life. They were so dramatic and, frankly, traumatic, that I knew they had to be spiritually significant but it was a decade later before I came across any information about the shamanic nature of them.
The first experience I want to talk about involves decapitation. In the breathwork session, which was filled with tremendous, vivid journeying, I suddenly found myself lying on something similar to what I've seen in western movies. I don't know the name for it but when someone got injured, they would rig up this bed to pull along behind the horses.
It looked like one of those wooden pallets only laying flat on the ground. I was surrounded by obviously Native American people. Just as I registered my surroundings, I noticed that these Native Americans were peeling the skin off my entire body, from head to toe. I could see the bloody, musculature underneath the skin as they peeled it away, but felt no pain.
When I was completely peeled of skin, they cut my head off. I got up, without my head or skin, and walked around. I could not see but I could see from somewhere else, if that makes sense. I didn't have eyes but I had other seeing that helped me not bump into things.
Another experience that has stayed with me ever since also happened in an integrative breathwork session. I held my hands out and Eagles came and pecked into both palms. Again, I saw blood and strings of skin and tissue as the Eagles pecked and pulled, opening both palms. Then, I saw a rainbow of colors streaming from each wounded palm. After emerging from that breathwork session, in particular, I knew that I was supposed to be a healer.
Those Shamanic Journeys started me on a path back in the early 90's. I worked full time as a healing facilitator for about 7 years before having another Sacred Initiation that knocked my entire foundation out from under me. I've yet to fully recover from that one. Holding the Pipe
Chopping wood and carrying water Hands down, the most challenging part of this type of Shamanic Journey for me, personally, is coming back to normal reality. The intensity, purity and energetic wholeness in those moments of transformation were so supernaturally potent that, each time, I thought my struggle was over. The human struggle. It wasn't over. In fact, most of the time things got worse on a human, waking world level.
Nothing in my life worked.
I didn't know how to "be" in the world for a long time after these experiences. I still struggle. I've had many Shamanic Journeys ... that doesn't mean I'm a Shaman. It means I, for whatever reason, have had a lot of contact with Shamanic Realms. I'm still such a baby in that world.
Physical Symptoms of Shamanic Journeying
Spiritual Health Disclaimer: Shamanism is, perhaps, not well-suited to the spiritual tourist. Yet, it serves it's purpose should one seek out the shamanistic experience or teacher with ego-based motivations. The very path of the shaman is one that necessarily involves destruction of the ego-bound restrictions and limitations of form. It can be a fiery transmutation and I personally would let it find me when the time is right.