Don’t Marry the Shaman, Be One!
Updated: Aug 30, 2021
If you are seeking a reconnection to your roots, spirituality, faith, direction, or are either subconsciously FOMOing or consciously running away from something, you could listen to the advice of loved ones and make small, palatable changes, like:
- get a new job,
- get a new partner,
- get a pet
or the sage recommendation:
- DON’T GO TO THE JUNGLE AND DO DRUGS!!!
Oooooor, you could do the opposite, the extreme, and within a few months of being laid off from your new job at a global resources company terribly hit by a market downturn (later to be reported as “twice the magnitude of the average of the past four recessions to hit”[i]), embark on a grand South American trip of undetermined length ( but with a budget for at least a year).
You could then buy a one-way ticket to, say randomly, Peru and start to follow your rough itinerary and plan (which of course had a ton of flexibility penciled into it to allow amendments if you liked a place – stay, or didn’t – move on). You could follow this faithfully for approximately 2 months and then you could then never leave Peru, due to glaringly obvious and scary-as-sh*t-but-following-anyway signs that all came in rapido succession to you in: Nazca, in Colca Canyon, in Cusco, and for good measure and emphasis if you were still asleep, at Lake Titicaca. These metaphysical and definitely metaphorical signs which were ironically not the byproducts of any substance consumption, made clear sense at the time as some yet-unknown-to-you-but-great-divine plan. They would culminate in the pièce de résistance of being robbed and having your passport stolen on the eve of your visa expiry date as you were buying tickets to Bolivia for a weekend hop to reenter Peru with some fresh tourist visa time.
Oh, and the lead up to the Bolivia trip could have been because 2 weeks earlier you happened to have a conversation about spiritualism with a stranger in your hostel that you met after just 4 hours of arriving in Cusco. This conversation only included you because you had been eavesdropping on it for quite some time and finally, in your overly-friendly Canadian manner, you elbowed your way into it. Less than 24 hours later, having been offered a job and immediately hired, you were lying flat on your back in a sacred temple in the High Andean mountains amidst Inca and Pre-Inca ruins looking at sacred geometry spiral in and out of the purple sky while you also climbed out hell mouths atop of spinal cord staircases that had erupted directly from the earth.
You would then wind up running a Traditional Peruvian Medicinal Healing Centre, and embarking on a 2-year treatment of ceremonies with Ayahuasca and Wachuma (San Pedro) that totaled somewhere in the hundreds (you stopped counting after around 120). Blame it on the signs, blame it on the cactus, blame it on the boogie, but you would wind up, to the shock and dismay of your family, marrying a Fucking Peruvian shaman!
Actually the shaman was not really a shaman, but after a life of “working with the medicine” to your naïve eyes, you would apply the deductive principle of “walk like a shaman, talk like a shaman, drink magic potions in the heart of the Amazon jungle like a shaman.” Also, you justified that doing “drugs” in the jungle wasn’t a decision you had rushed into because:
1. Traditional plant medicine administered in the correct set and setting is not drug consumption nor is it recreational. It’s not like you’d go to a bar, order a mojito and a shot of Ayahuasca for instance.
2. You did this on your honeymoon, after getting engaged after a whole 9 weeks of dating and a 5-month long engagement, and after multiple conversations over 2 months with your loved ones that went something like this:
“So, I’m staying in Peru to work at a Health Centre”
(One week later on another call back home):
“you know that Health Center I talked about …
it’s actually a Traditional Peruvian Health Center”
(The following week):
“so that Traditional Peruvian Health Centre I mentioned ...
It’s actually a Plant Medicine Center
(Hardly any more time passes before you say on your next call):
“I met someone”
“so that person I met, we’re getting serious, and by the way, they own the previously-mentioned Centre I’m working at”
“the paperwork finally was approved; the wedding is next week”
(Some time after that):
“I’m going to the jungle for a month to do plant medicine, there’s no reception, electricity or internet.”
(Barely 9 months since the wedding announcement will be the call about the upcoming divorce followed by):
“Yeah, in the separation … I get the dog.”
The irony is that you knew nothing about plant medicines until a Czech Republic yoga instructor mentioned it to you while volunteering at a Hare Krishna ashram north of Lima 2 weeks after arriving in Peru. After years of self-work, talk-based therapy, a lot of drama and embarrassing sub-human reactive behavior, you were searching for something to help and your conscious brain had zero clue your subconscious had been orchestrating some destiny-type-sh*t and leading you somewhere on a continent upside down and 4000 meters skyward of where you were born so you could sh*t your pants, scar your ego and start to learn to self-heal. Your awake brain only heard from the lady from Prague:
“it’s a vine. It works on your subconscious.
It’s an ancient healing medicine administered by indigenous tribes.
It’s a purgative. It is expensive to do it right.”
You will be super lucky that is the only information you received before the debriefing one hour before your first Ayahuasca ceremony. If you had defaulted to your overly-analytical temperament and dove into any of the research, you would have in fact not taken it, and yours would have been a very different story indeed. But as the Indigenous Shipibo tribespeople have been known to say about La Madre (Mother Ayahuasca):
“She knows exactly how to find you, in the exact and perfect time and place, to help you on your journey. When she calls you, it is time, you must listen.”
Nazca may have been the place that started to crack you open and change everything. You may have been so scared by the fissures that you subsequently attended a Spanish bible-study group without really understanding Spanish. (Fear and lack of faith are pretty much universal in any language).
Arequipa may have been where you heard something (hopefully it was your faith) echo back “YES” to you at the apex of the great canyon twice as deep as the Grand Canyon.
Lake Titicaca, where you were robbed, may have been where Peru made it so obvious that she didn’t want you to leave - she did after all take your passport.
But it was in alpaca country where Cusco wove all your disparate parts together into a cohesive, loving whole. It was Cusco. Cusco, she knew when you did not. She held you when you fought. She warmed you and comforted you when your stripped-down vulnerability left you freezing and isolated.
You may gather by now that this is a very highly specific series of events – way too specific to be mere fiction. You would of course be absolutely right, because you are one smart cookie. And, as cliché as it sounds, especially to those who have lived in Peru, coming to the Andes, marrying then divorcing a local, and getting all woo-woo outta the deal is sometimes exactly what it takes for you to understand that Peru had its sights set on you for a while. Not only are there easier ways to get a dog, but your spiritual awakening wasn’t the result of marrying a shaman - it was in discovering you were one all along.
The good news, dear reader, is that you don’t need to leave, to run away from or chase after anything; to go anywhere to find yourself is silly because you are not lost. You won’t find in someone else what you think you lack in yourself. So, stop looking for your missing parts in someone else; they don’t have them. Their hands are already full holding up a mirror in which you can see that you are whole - if you are brave look past the grime and cracks.
What does being your own shaman mean?
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