A few months back I really pissed off my Shaman.
I do not recommend doing this.
Pissing off a Shaman is like being in a very, very dark room, with a tiny, shitty flashlight, and then discovering you’ve stepped on the panther’s tale.
Shamans are pure vessels, so when they are angry they are exclusively angry – with an unsettling focus and ferocity. They don’t conceal expressing their emotions the way many of us do, they just let it all out. And then moments later -whoosh- it’s gone. Shamans release emotions freely; the vessel they embody is pure specifically because it remains a clean, clear channel.
Consider a young child: when they are sad, they are profoundly sad, but when the feeling passes, they are fully and completely happy again even if they still have tears in their eyes. This doesn’t mean in the slightest that Shamans are childish, but rather that they are completely present to every emotion and feeling available in the human experience.
Something I’m asked time and again is: would it not be limiting, difficult or overwhelming to be a Shaman?
Does the ability to see and perceive more than the average person begin to interfere with living a normal life?
It’s a vital question, and one which I think is explained through the following tale.
Previous to pissing my rather powerful Shaman off, I had arranged a rather sentimental gift for her. Our ‘teacher plant’ is San Pedro, one of the master plants that Shamans use as a part of their toolkit, and I had asked a dear friend and talented artist to illustrate the San Pedro cactus in full bloom. It was only a very lucky happenstance that I had organised all of this prior to our disagreement. Always better to rock up with one’s tail between the legs if you can also offer a gift, no?
One night a few weeks later, I arrived as part of a group on her doorstep. Later that evening we would embark on a San Pedro ceremony. Ten souls in all, we carried with us all sorts of gear for our 24-hour journey: sleeping bags, a change of clothes, notebooks and pens for dedicating the experience to memory. Also stashed in my bag was her gift, the canvas delicately rolled inside of a nondescript cardboard tube.
I was sure she must have known it was there in my bag. She had to have seen it already, if not physically, then at least energetically. I wasn’t upset as much as I was deflated by the thought of a potentially nonplussed reaction since I had put considerable effort into the creation of this particular gift. Focused on the matter at hand, namely, to gullet a bit of hallucinogenic cactus juice, I shelved my thoughts on the matter and walked into the ceremony room, leaving the gift in my bag.
Several hours later we broke to top-up our bodies with some much needed grub. Eating a light meal about halfway through the ceremony helps aid the body in coming down from the medicine and provides more sustenance for continuing onwards. This particular ceremony was a bit of a slog, so we mostly sat in silence, making our way through bananas and vegetable soup.
After everyone but the Shaman and I had gone back inside to the ceremony room, I nipped off to grab her gift. The moment felt right, as a looming fear of being labelled a teacher’s pet pervaded my thoughts and I knew that there wouldn’t be much opportunity for a private audience the next morning.
She was completely taken aback that I had a gift for her. And very touched that the gift was so personal and thoughtful.
I was easily the more surprised of the two of us. Hadn’t she seen the gift already? Didn’t she already know my every move?
How could it be possible that I surprised a Shaman?
I told her how happy I was that it had remained a surprise, and how I feared that my gift had already been rendered meaningless by her superhuman capabilities.
My confession made her laugh uproariously. Through squinted eyes she asked, “What did you think? That I try to know everything all the time? That I would see you and think, oh, there’s that gift Lee has for me, and in exactly 2.5 hours she’ll give it to me?” She fell back into laughter again once she saw the expression crawling across my face (N.B. it’s not easy to hide how you feel when you’re working with San Pedro).
I had assumed more or less exactly that. I already knew that her dedication to me as her student sometimes demanded astral travels to check on me. She casts an eye over my energy body to make sure I’m coping well and not taking too much energy on from my clients. Even my husband has woken up in the night to see her apparition standing next to our bed. I have understood slowly over time the extent of her powers: her ability to know and see things beyond this realm, piercing through the film that separates us from the supernatural.
Importantly, none of these things stop her from leading a ‘normal’ life.
A strong spiritual practice should make you happier in your body, in this realm, in this moment. Many spiritual practices, and entirely too many spiritual seekers, attempt to escape reality. Spirituality can become a method of bypass, exposing a hidden desire to escape from suffering.
Shamans, however, experience life more acutely because of their path whilst still remain essentially human. The aim of a Shaman’s work is never to become superhuman. More powerful perhaps, but never less in touch with mankind.
Strength is not measured by one’s ability to sidestep the usual pains of a human existence. It is an aggregate score calculated from the number of times you walk directly into pain, feel it, and prevail. Resilience, not avoidance, demonstrates strength.
So if you want, you can surprise a Shaman. They’re humans too.
Just skip that part about pissing them off.
Image: Guy Bourdin
Have you had any experiences with a Shaman you want to share? How do you feel your spiritual practice informs your ability to ‘be’ in the world and experience life? I’d love to hear about it below in the comments.