Many years ago, while I was growing a successful consulting and process faciilitation business, I attended a free seminar with some friends. I had no idea what I was getting into or the impact this event would have on the rest of my life. The seminar was held in a typical conference room in a local hotel. The presenter was scheduled to engage us in self-exploration using neurolinguistics techniques. It was all Greek to me, and I wasn't particularly interested in the seminar; it was more an excuse to be out of the office, out of the house, playing with friends. As the seminar was drawing to a close, the presenter talked about a research project he was working on trying to "model" the process that shamans used in their healing ceremonies. They were trymg to identify patterns and steps that might be similar to those that a psychotherapist might use with a client. He was sponsoring a particular shaman for a series of workshops to be held later in the year. He invited anyone who wanted to stay and watch a video of the shaman he was attempting to model. All I knew about shamans was that they were spiritual healers in indigenous peoples' cultures.
I watched the video, totally immersed in the skill of the shaman to hold the group's attention, his body language, the inflection and tone of his voice and the obvious joy he had in engaging with the group with whom he was working, I took the information for the upcoming workshop.
When I got home I read the description of the workshop to be given. It was focused on healing families. OMG, I had been looking far and wide for solutions to the challenging relationship I had with my two teenage children. Serendipity. I signed us up the following day and scheduled vacation time for the week-long program, bought plane tickets and told my kids we were headed west for a unique vacation and experience.
The seminar was held in the desert mountains of Utah; precurser to glamping, we slept in large communal tents, used portapoties, ate simple meat and potatoe meals cooked by an outfitter. The workshop group consisted of 35 people, a mixture of families and individuals.
This is all context for one experience of several on this trip and others that deepened my sense of self and others and eventually led to my absolute knowing that I am and never was in control. I merely had choices to make. Who I would become depended on each of those choices and who I am becoming depends on the choices I make.
In the ancient Incan spiritual traditions, all matter consists of energy and is described as filaments that connect it to universal energy. So it is with stones, the healing stones of the Q'ero, direct descendants of the Inca in the Peruvian mountains, and particular forte of the shaman guiding the workshop. After a few stories from the shaman about the Q'ero beliefs, traditions, and healing practices, we meditated for about 15 minutes and then were asked to participate in our very first piece of work we would do with the shaman. We were asked to search for healing stones that would call to us and connect with our own sentient energy. After hours of searching, and questioning my sanity, I looked slightly off my path of travel and noticed a particular stone. I picked it up and turned it over. It was a perfect miniature of a woman's uterus. I somehow knew my search was over.
All stones collected were arranged on a shaman's "mesa," a hand woven native small blanket, much like an alter for shamans. I placed my stone on the mesa and we sat silently while the shaman examined and commented on each one. When he got to my stone he picked it up and asked to whom the stone was connected. I responded with some hesitancy, fearing I had done something wrong. He came over to me and gave me an embrace. He thanked me for my presence stating that I was the universal mother and was blessed with an extraordinary gift of healing from the mothers womb.
Needless to say I was speechless. I had never considered myself to be particularly spiritual and had left the confines of formal religion early in my teens. I didn't know what to make of all this. I had no idea what my children were thinking or feeling about this proclimation or about the shaman's comments about thier own healing stones. Many years later, I found out that the whole experience had a profound impact on them. But that's their story which they will one day tell, or not.
We were asked to use our stones to "comb" the filiments of the person next to us. Meaning we were going to clean the energy of the other person by using our stone, combing from the top of the head, down the torso, front and back, and each limb, then releasing the energy into mother earth. I can tell you I was more than a little hesitant. I'd never been a very touchy feely kind of person and doing this exercise with a stranger was a little daunting. I drew in a deep breath and began the work. It was as if the stone had a life of its own, it guided me where to comb, how hard to comb, and where to comb next. By the time I was done, my heart was broken wide open. I felt so connected to the other person, so open and grateful for the existance of this other person that I was in an altered state of euphoria. It was as if I had been given a new insight into the preciousness of the human experience and unconditional regard for the essence of being human.
This experience set the stage for the remainder of this particular period of time in the presence of the shaman, and for the many years of sharing the path of life in his shadow.
I am forever grateful for the happenstance of going to the free seminar, the serendipity of the topic for the workshop with the shaman, and for having made a choice to take a step into the unknown and a world out of my control. I didn't plan it, all the pieces just seemed to fit and I chose to follow the path forward. Kind of what I imagine getting stoned is all about.