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Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 8

The Reluctant Shaman

Healing Spirits




Spring vacation went quietly without event. I spent the time with my children and working on some art projects that were interesting me. The intensity and craziness of the world of the Hetakas seemed far away. Aside from their exercises that I did almost every day as part of my normal routine, I thought very little else about the old shamans and the unusual experiences I had had with them.

I was finding the latest exercise they had given me on the observation of a rock very appealing. I didn’t know why but it gave me a sense of consistency and stability. I felt I was coming to know that rock very well.

I would sit myself down in a secluded place and use the gifts of the directions to find and hold my center for as long as I could. I’d stare at the rock for a time then look away and try to remember what I had seen.

Usually it was daytime and I was in the sunlight. Sometimes I would take it out late at night after the kids were in bed. And once I took it outside under the full Moon. There was something about the rock that was always unchanged. The surface design appeared different with the alteration of the light, almost as if it was showing me another aspect of itself with each new environment. But there was something about it that was always the same.

My ability to concentrate and visualize was improving little by little. I noticed the difference in all the exercises and in my art work for my classes. I was finding that I could build pictures in my mind and hold them with increasing clarity and ease. I didn’t really understand why the Hetakas felt this was so important, but it was fun and satisfying and I trusted their instructions.
The evening before our next meeting I was walking in the field below my apartment as the Sun was setting. The sky was lightly streaked with clouds that were turning incredible shades of pinks, reds, purples, and for a moment, clear across the southern horizon, a band of earthy green. I couldn’t recall ever having seen that color in the sky before. I wondered if I would remember it well enough to paint it.

Suddenly, out of the south, racing across the grasses came a concentrated wind. It pounded against me. The pressure in my ears changed. It blew so hard I couldn’t hold my footing and fell. Even on the ground it was relentless. I looked around at the bushes nearby and I quivered all over. They were unmoved. They were staying perfectly still. The wind was on only me. I had to fight my fear and struggle to keep clarity.
Then down underneath the fright was a familiar feeling. I turned my face into the flurry.
Something inside me knew it was all right and the fear melted aside. It was my old friend the wind keeper. It had been awhile since I had seen her last. Her power and vastness always startled me and caught me off guard.

I realized that she was trying to tell me something and I couldn’t understand her. I tried to make my body stop shaking by breathing deeply. And I waited.

But still I couldn’t understand. There was only a feeling of anticipation, as though something exciting was about to happen.

I kept trying until I knew she was going to leave. I thanked her and watched her move off through the bushes to the west. The sky had lost its brilliance and was settling into darkness. A few stars were coming out between the clouds.

I sat there feeling the dirt with my hands, watching the last of the ants disappear into a small hole a few inches away. My mind began to wander over many different things the Hetakas had said to me. As I ran the soil through my fingers I thought of the time Chea held out a handful of sand and told me to remember the feeling of the cave. I had forgotten about that little quest she had given me until now. The Song of the cave was so familiar. The identity of its maker was almost solid enough for me to grab hold of. Soon I would have it.

When it got too cold to stay outside I returned to the apartment to clean up the dinner dishes and put the kids to bed. I was filled with a warmth of being in love. The sunset was my lover, and the soil and the wind. I carried that sensation all through the night and into my dreams.

The next day I got to the Hetaka’s home as scheduled. It was Saturday morning and I had the whole day free to spend with them. We talked about the unusually overcast weather and how my children were doing in school. I told them about a man I had just met and was thinking about dating. They were interested in him and wanted to see him. So I said I would arrange it as soon as possible.

The wrenching feelings of guilt about breaking my promise were beginning to mellow into new perspectives and the Hetakas didn’t mention the subject. We made coffee from the African beans I had brought them and sat down in the last rays of the fleeting sunlight before it disappeared completely behind the dark ominous clouds.

“I sure like the rock I found on the beach,” I said. “I’m getting better at remembering how it looks. That exercise is great, it has a really neat feeling. You know, I can picture my art work better now too. I can change things around in my mind and examine whether I like it or not, before I ever touch the piece. It’s saving me hours of time. But making the pictures in my mind just feels so good. It feels so satisfying. I know you’re having me do it for more than that, though. So what is it? In terms of your traditions, I mean, why am I really doing it?”

They smiled and teased me about making huge elaborate sculptures in my mind. Domano said that my head would get so full and heavy with them that it would start pulling me over and I’d have to scoot it around in a Wheelbarrow.

Chea sat back on her bench against the wall and laughed. “It pleases us that you are doing so well with this rock. Using the mind is supposed to feel good - when you know how to use it and not stress it. It’s like exercise. You need to exercise your mind. Both the logical side and the side that has no words, what is called the mind of the heart. It feels good, like stretching and building the muscles. That is what you are doing.

“To be a kala keh nah seh you have to build and strengthen both parts of your mind. It has to be kept active and alert. A kala keh nah seh always has to keep building it as long as they live.”

“I see,” I said. “Sometimes when I’m doing it, I lose all my other thoughts. The thoughts that are words just drift away, and I’m left with my mind filled with the image and the feeling of the rock.”

“Yes.” She pulled her feet up under her and sat cross legged. “Good. Memorizing the feeling of it too is how the mind of the heart works. You are exercising this when you remember the feeling as well as the image. Good.”

Domano and Chea looked at each other for a long moment. The room seemed to get tense. I felt a buzzing on the top of my head and my stomach rolled. It reminded me of other times when I’d been with them just as they were about to teach something extraordinary. I wondered what they were up to. Fear began to literally climb up my legs and into my belly.

Chea turned to look at me. “We are going to teach you about the oldest sacrament. It takes a long time to learn this way. But it is worth it. Through the eons the ones who walk the spiral path have always met in a hidden way, an uncorrupted way, with the other forms we share this world with. We will teach you this. It is the developing and honoring of the sacred links of life between all beings.

“The walker always strives to be pure in heart, humble and worthy. You have been given and can use the gifts of the directions. You are learning the truth of your masks, and can see the narrowness of your path. And you understand, now, when you feel your Song or experience your center that it is a prayer to Creation, the Great Mystery. You know in your heart how hard it is to catch the nature of honesty and commitment. Now you will learn the use and meaning of your senses.”

The fear eased away but the tingling was still there. I stretched the tension out of my neck and shoulders. This new step sounded intriguing - secret liaisons with other beings. I felt a little like I was in an adventure movie. I wondered what it meant to meet in the way they had described: the oldest sacrament. I knew very little about the white world’s traditions of sacrament or even what the word really meant. It sounded mysterious, ancient.

Domano grinned at me, “Our teachers sent us off to learn about the secrets of each of our senses, one at a time. We will do the same for you, but to teach you, sometimes, is a different thing than the way we were taught. Our cultures are so apart from each other. The way we are shown what the world is when we are young, your people compared to our people, is so different. Our people are not taught to be numb and blind to the world. Your people teach you to close off your senses and feelings to protect yourselves, so your world cannot hurt you.”

“But what does that have to do with hidden meetings?” I interrupted. “What does that mean, a ‘sacrament’?” I went to take another drink of coffee but my cup was empty.

“The senses are the first steps,” he answered. “You have to learn how to pay attention. How to watch for what the world is telling you, both the bodies and the spirit. This information is what you must rely on, not the superstitions of your culture. Then you will be prepared to make these links with your neighbors, your relatives. You will be able to make the contact you seek and understand what these different folks are about and what they are telling you.

“Sacrament is the opened sharing of your Songs with each other. Intimate. Bonding. Sometimes even merging. This is a sacred thing. Learning is shared. Medicine is shared. Gifts given. Oaths are even traded. They have so much they want to give to us. This is very sacred. And one never comes to it without great care.”

“Is it dangerous?” I had to swallow to clear my throat. The buzzing was spreading now into my elbows and knees. I tried to hold the fear down.

Chea leaned forward, “Of course. Where do you think you are? The wonderful land of Oz? Any time you are working with medicines and the spirit people there is danger there. Remember the wind keeper?”

My stomach flinched and the buzzing increased. I thought back on the time I was on the mountain top in ceremony seeking to meet the wind keeper. The power of that being was unspeakable. She could have crushed me at any time if I had done things incorrectly, without the proper respect. I remembered the terror I felt in the pursuit and also the incredible joy when I was able to succeed at contacting her.

“Is this different than seeking a wind keeper?” I asked. “Wasn’t that a meeting like you describe?”

“Yes,” Chea answered. “They were interested in you. Your nature is suited well to seeking the wind keepers. They came to you to help shake you loose of your culture. The bonding succeeded, but the training of your culture is so deep and so thorough, it keeps you almost as blind and deaf as before in spite of the bonding. Do you see?”

“But why?” I asked.

“Because your culture’s grip is that complete and strong on your people, on you.”

I remembered the wind keeper coming to me in the meadow below my home the night before. Chea was right. I knew the wind keeper was telling me something important but all I could understand was a feeling of anticipation. Now, reflecting on it, I think she was telling me this training was coming.

I was excited that I could even perceive what I had, but very frustrated that it was so piecemeal. I wondered if I would ever be able to learn all of what the Hetakas offered, if my cultural handicap would always prevent me.

Chea seemed to understand and tried to explain further. “In order to make contact with different kinds of beings we have to be sensitive in different ways. We have to be strong within ourselves in different ways. Each person’s abilities are different from each other. And these beings we seek are all different from each other. Some are easier for one Human and not for another. There is no prescription. Each person’s path is special. This is your path. There are no foot prints to step in but yours.”

Domano pulled a little tie out of his pocket and wrapped his hair back out of his face in a pony tail. “This questing,” he said. “This contacting, is very sacred to the native peoples. You must be walking your life with equity, honesty and respect. You must prepare yourself like this, in these ways of being, and be strong in your own Song.”

“Your commitment to honor the nations you seek,” Chea picked up on his words as though she was finishing his thought, “and the entire globe that you share with them must be complete. The preparing could take a long time.”
Domano added, “And these are the things that are done. For everyone, it takes great persistence. Nothing in the world of the spiral path is instant. There are no fast service drive up windows here. No express lanes.” We all laughed.

The smile still warming her face, Chea turned her eyes to me, “And it is dangerous, yes, if you don’t follow the strict tradition of respect and equity. If you seek without honor. If you try to shortcut. It is damn dangerous. You could get hurt. Die. Or worst of all, those you love could get hurt.”

Now even the bottoms of my feet tingled. “Why are you having me do these new things? I don’t think I’m ready for this. I can barely use the gifts all at once. I don’t hold my center but for a few moments at a time. I’m not ready for this. It scares me. It really scares me.”

“No,” Chea answered. “You are not ready for the questing. But you are ready to learn how and why to quest. It is more than just learning a technique. It is learning a whole way of life. Be thankful that you have the good sense to be frightened. It will keep you alert and honest. It will keep things in perspective for you.” She smiled like the Cheshire cat.

The fear kept creeping up and down my legs to my stomach. I struggled to stay logical and calm and asked slowly, “Is the training dangerous?”

Chea’s expression softened. She chuckled a little and answered, “Not unless you are a complete idiot. Training teaches you how to watch, listen and feel. How to understand what the physical is telling you, and what the spirit, the medicine, is telling you. Many things are picked up by our senses that we usually ignore. It’s a habit. To ignore it. Your culture is particularly good at it.” That seemed funny to me and I laughed nervously. I was afraid my laughter was going to be out of place but they laughed with me.

Domano jumped up and walked toward me, “Let’s go downtown.” He said. “We can take the bus down at the Boardwalk. You need to move your body. It will help the fear leave to move yourself around, walk. We can show you what we are talking about out there much better. This will be fun.” He clapped his hands together and looked at me with a side glance. The mischief bounced off his eye with the glint of the light. “You will see. Come. Where’s my shoes? Let’s go raise some hell.”

We laughed and scuffled around to get ready to go. I was still nervous. I could feel the fear poised somewhere out of my sight just waiting for an excuse to assault and devour me. Domano looked like he was up to his old tricks and was about to do something that would tease and embarrass me. On the one hand I really didn’t want to be embarrassed publicly again, but on the other, I had come to love his antics and wouldn’t miss them for anything. I made sure I went out the door last so I could keep a watch on them and at least for a few moments be forewarned of any tricks.

The clouds parted enough to let the sunlight through for a while. We were walking fast, straight into the crisp breeze as it came off the ocean. The air felt like life itself as I was breathing it in. Domano was right. The quick movement of my muscles seemed to shake out the last remnants of fear. It was wonderful to be out in the weather and walking again between my two old friends.

The bus was at the stop when we arrived. We took a seat near the back. Chea was next to the window and I was next to her. Domano sat sideways in front of us, with his feet on the seat. The rear half of the coach was empty except for three teenage girls in the last seat. Domano looked around, pointing with his chin, “What do your senses tell you about this place?”

I looked covertly through the bus. There were two old women with canes next to the driver and half a dozen college students, all self absorbed, scattered through the front. The floor was dirty with ridges of sand and leaves that the wind had carried in. Advertisements covered the walls above the windows. They were selling radio programming, a boxing match, chewing gum, and a local ballet school. It was stuffy but not warm. The old women were talking to the driver and the girls in the back giggled over a rock and roll deejay on a portable radio. I described my observations in great detail and my teachers attentively listened to every word.

“You have not described your sense of touch,” Domano said without expression.

“What?” I asked.

“You have not described your sense of touch.” His response was unchanged.
I was sure I had covered all the senses with care. Now I was confused about what I had actually said or not said.

Chea added, “You left out your taste too. And didn’t get too far with your smelling either.”

I looked at them both and laughed nervously. I assumed they were right as they had always been, and turned my concentration toward what my skin was feeling. There was an entire world of sensation there I had totally missed. It was hard for me to believe I could have left out so much, but there it was.

“Today you can blame your culture for that,” Domano laughed. “But not after today. Then you have no excuses.”

We laughed and I asked, “What did I do?”
They laughed at me. Domano tapped my leg, “This is what your culture has done to you. You can’t even see the difference. First the church and now the state too. They have robbed you of your senses. Your people have been taught with great cunning, for centuries now, to deny and ignore what your body’s are telling you.

“Our senses are a way our Song reaches out to find other Songs and messages. They tell us what is going on. This is how they interact in the world of livingness. If you are not paying attention to your senses then those people can do whatever they want to you and you don’t even notice. They take your power away. They take your world away. They lock you in a world that they control. Do you see?”

“Uh...” I didn’t agree with him at all. I wanted to say something but I found myself unable to contradict him and just babbled something noncommittal instead. “You’ll have to explain that. I don’t follow you.”

“Yes you do,” Chea said. “It’s OK, though. ‘Cause now you have to change it for yourself.”
“Just to be Human: this is a sacred task,” Domano rubbed his chest. “To feel through your senses: is a sacred task. Look around you here. These people, they use most of their energies to stop the world from touching them in any way.”
He flashed his eyes over at the students in the front. I could see his point but I couldn’t believe the condition was as severe as he was saying.
“Watch them,” he said. “Look how they are very busy shutting out all the smells they can. They don’t want to know about the smell of the people sitting nearby. Or the smell of the city. They are careful not to look around at everything that is here. They pretend they don’t hear the sounds that are here.
“Look at how you answered what your senses observed. You didn’t say a thing about what your skin and muscles felt. These people here would all answer the same. For most of your people, they hide from the sense of touch the most.”

“What’s so special about touch?” I asked.

“We are Humans,” Domano said. “We live in this world as the animals do. Without our senses we would not be able to know the physical world we are in. When we lose smelling or tasting, hearing, sight, we have lost a piece of the world around us. In the jungle it means you cannot protect yourself as well or do your jobs. It can even mean your death. If you lose your ability to feel in the skin and muscles, you will die, and soon.”
I had never considered the role or importance of the senses before. I couldn’t comprehend why they put so much emphasis on them. I looked back and forth between them for a clue as to what was really going on, and Chea added, “When a child is taught to ignore, degrade and deny their senses from the time they come to this Earth, there is a great injury. A great hole is made. An emptiness. As this child grows to be an adult, instead of filling the hole with the senses, they turn away even more, because there is so much pain that surrounds the senses. Especially touch. Your people deny touch to each other. You even turn your attention away from all the different touch you feel through the whole day.”

“You don’t believe us?” Domano asked. “Just take smelling. Look at the way your people act about smelling. Go ahead. Smell what is on this bus. Find your center and turn all your attention to what you smell.”

“Oh, come on,” I objected. I really didn’t want to smell what might be there - body odors, bad breath, the mess they stepped in and got all over the bottom of their shoes. It sounded like a revolting and unnecessary thing to do. “I get your point. Looking for the unpleasant seems kind of odd, don’t you think?” Just the prospect of smelling everything made the odors on the bus stand out. The girls in the back had on a disgusting amount of a sickly sweet perfume and someone near the front had been eating garlic. I started to breathe through my mouth so I wouldn’t have to endure those odors.

Domano thought that was funny. “Look how you hide from feeling the smell. I make my point. Right there at your open mouth. What is it you feel inside right now? What is this stress? Where does it come from? Hmmm? Look at all the thoughts and feelings you have about smelling this place your body is in. Why do you do this? Why is smelling the surrounding so hard and uncomfortable for you?”

“I would prefer to choose the things I want to smell,” I answered. “That’s all. I don’t want them shoved down my nose, thank you.” I was beginning to feel invaded, as though those people on the bus were assaulting me. I didn’t want to share their space or know anything about their worlds and their problems. And I certainly didn’t want them in the middle of mine. It wasn’t that this environment or they themselves felt dangerous, it was rather that their odors felt somehow unclean, unsafe to bring into my body. To smell them seemed almost an intimate thing. I didn’t want to have that degree of intimacy with strangers in an unkept public place, and especially not to have it forced on me.

I looked out the window. The clouds covered the Sun. It seemed oppressively dark outside. The midtown stop was coming up. I pointed to the street and we stood up to make our way to the door.

I was looking forward to a fresh breeze. As the door opened and I felt the rush of wind on my face I took a deep breath. Instead of clear unscented air it was full of the exhaust from the buses all stopped together in a row. Now I was becoming angry.

“Ah,” Domano pulled his shoulders back and filled his lungs. “Yes. The American way of fresh air.” And he slapped his chest as though he were very satisfied. “Ah!” Everyone near the door laughed.

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