Shaman and Owl
It would be easy to never notice the antique sage colored home on Route 1 between the donut drive-thru and an old garage. It stands as a reminder of the dirt road that once connected these northern seaside towns from Boston to Maine.
The front door is never used and guests are welcomed through the side door into the warm kitchen anchored by a farmer's table. A New Englander. That's what the real estate agents may call this type of house.
With my back to the door and the refrigerator just to my left, I've sat with this Shaman for some of the most critical head-cracking moments. Those are the times when I willingly invite another person to shake my soul and clear my canvas of beliefs.
To the left of the refrigerator there is an entry way to the healing room. The wide wood planks draped with a handwoven rug creak as I step toward a couch that has held me like Alice in her teacup. If I look around the walls there are pictures of wolves and hanging feathers and bones and drums and colorful paintings that all seem to huddle around Marc in familiar ritual of support.
This is the room where I took my first shamanic journey. On a futon mat against the wood floor - Marc sat to my left. From my angle I could see the window that faced a road and hear cars blindly passing at 50 mph.
Inside we were still but traveling at a different speed. The speed of time and memory and collective intelligence. We travelled to the lower earth...an idyllic place humans can only quietly visit where the life of all other nature prevails. It's lower only the way the heart is lower than the brain. It is rich and subtle and it's the fairytale dreamed over and over by children of every culture. It's the place where waterfalls talk to the squirrels.
To get to lower earth on a journey - the old word for it is imagination. The new word hasn't arrived for me yet. Perhaps it never wants to have a word - but it's an unquestioning commitment to slithering out of the limits of daily structure and commute to this wise, awaiting place.
Marc, my shaman, journeyed with me. At times I'm sure he journeyed for me, placing me at the location I had no idea how to get to. But there I was resting on a canvas mat in a trance while also standing on a green blanket of grass. No horizon or signposts. In this half-waking dream - I was free and vacant all at once.
Forgetting I wasn't alone, Marc's voice to my left startled me even more when he spoke with a broken accent I'd never noticed.
"Grandfather asks me to find out why you're not having children."
"Who is Grandfather?" I found my voice back from my dream to ask. It was such a jolting comment. It's my business and therefore my burden. Why would he ask this? Who is asking this?
"A spirit guide, my dear, who's wondering about your choices."
Now here's the thing about this dreamlike trance state journey Marc had me on: my answers surprised myself. Genuinely, I could not have known my answers here because I would have been more couched and more clever and probably more thoughtful on the matter of my childless life up to this moment.
Instead I heard myself say:
"I have my children."
"Oh really," the playful shaman engaged me "where are they?"
"Not born, but safe and loved."
"So you just imagine them to exist but not here?"
"They are safe" I whisper confidently.
"So you don't have any children because the children you have are safe."
"Yes." I was calmed and delighted by this wise perspective I hadn't before acknowledged. In a flash, I could see how this shamanic journey was oddly creating a comfortable framework to heal my life. I hadn't given much thought to why I didn't crave children like my other peers. I was married and settled and the timing could have been right. But it wasn't and would never be. Now I knew why.
"Yes, that's it" I repeated as my lungs rested into relief.
"Grandfather tells me to say you are arrogant. That is arrogant to think your fear is keeping your children safe."
It was arresting to be called arrogant but I was too relaxed to fight. He was right. It was fear - what's wrong with that?
"I have a right to not have children." I argued to this Grandfather Spirit with my eyes still closed.
"That is a delusion born from your fears - you are not protecting anyone - you are just choosing to not live your life. What is this fear?"
"I was scared all the time as a child. I can't defend this world as a safe place"
The shaman surprised me with a little laughter "Ha!" What's so funny? I'm on the verge of tears - arguing over a lifetime belief from a promise I made to not subject an offspring to the horror of impending wars, broken limbs and absolutely everything in between. This is my gig and I'm playing it this way.
And then he asked me to breathe. Pushing the heel of his hand to my solar plexus- I had no choice but to exhale. Then a deep inhale. I felt exhausted by this brief argument about fear and children and childhood. I wanted to just fall asleep. Marc instructed my breathing....the journey had not begun yet.
"Where are you?" Marc wakes me up.
My eyes jump open "I was flying with an owl."
"Yes, I know - you are with owl now. See the world through the owl's eyes."
"How?" I closed my eyes again.
"Where are you now?"
"It seems I'm in my yard but I'm looking down at the snow- it's a crunchy snow. Not good for snowmen"
"How old were you when you lived here - in this yard you're in"
"It's my yard now, where I live now. I'm looking at the back of my house."
"Good, good, good" I heard the accent again "what else do you see?"
"It's night and the windows glow warm with light - it feels welcoming like I want to come in from the cold"
"What are your owl eyes showing you?"
"That this my house and it's warm and safe."