THE WHITE RAVEN

A Shamanic Journey to the Source of my Strength

 

Who knows?

One different exit, and my life may have taken a completely different course. When I think of how everything began, the great adventure that has become my life, still seems fantastic to me.

Every time I pass by the high wall of the psychiatric hospital, I shudder. This exit could have been mine. That white gate would then have marked the border of my universe. Instead I crossed the border to an amazing new world full of marvel and mirth.

 

An empty apartment and an empty book

Christmas. What lunacy! What is it that still draws me to these Christmas-markets? A cup of punch that warms my fingers only to burn my tongue a minute later? Looking into the bright eyes of little boys and girls who cannot wait to drown in heaps of toys that have lost their lure the very next morning? Do I really like to be pushed aside by worn out job-and-kids-mothers for who all this is serious business? Or to watch stressed out single moms destined to fail the cleverly manipulated expectations of their young ones?

It seems that Christmas actually terrorizes me half of the year. I literally shriek, when in October I see the first father Christmas climb up the facade of some faceless mall. How does a fat tummy like that allow such extravagance in the first place? I couldn’t do it, and I’m not nearly as fat! And in February, when I just thought I’d finally made it through the ‘festive season’, I pass by one of those ferociously blinking Christmas-stars still clinging to the odd grey wall of suburbia. I would confiscate those, if I was half as good at climbing facades as the fat father Christmases.

But the sad truth is: I am once again trying to escape my empty apartment. Compared to all the sparkling bling-bling around me, the rooms there seem even barer, after Richard moved out. That is my only reason for being here. While I wait for my punch to cool, I watch a couple kissing and feeding each other with an oily Bratwurst. Horrified, I discard my punch – it is much too sweet anyway – and run, only to be washed against a stand full of beautiful books. As I carefully open one of them, all I find is empty pages. What a disappointment! But then again, how well this matches all the empty glitter around me. I am about to leave, when I catch the bemused smile of the vendor of those books: a grumpy old man pretending not to be interested in selling his ware. Maybe he is as appalled by this circus as I am, but at least he has a reason to be here!

What is a diary? Nothing but a bundle of empty white pages; intimidatingly many empty white pages in this case, and artfully bound together. You cannot just scribble anything inside that crosses your mind, it seems, but only well-structured, carefully penned ideas. No place for fragments, dreams, and sentimentalities, and most certainly no place for all the self-pity I torture my friends with since Richard left. On the other hand: Paper is patient, so they say, which is quite the opposite of myself. Patience is definitely not one of my virtues. Maybe some kind of self-reflection would do me good, relieve my friends of their hard duty and perhaps even speed up the mourning-process a bit? With this in mind, I purchase one of those beautiful, hungry diary-monsters. I should start right away, before my respect grows infinitely.

(…)

Richard left on the day we had planned to get married. I was warned though: Hadn’t he postponed the wedding over again – for the most plausible reasons? Yet I felt so safe being engaged and having, the two of us, just cuddled into our newly furnished nest together. One morning at the breakfast-table, he said that he had met someone. When it does happen, it’s that simple – and that banal. And incredibly sad. First I thought he was joking. When he confirmed that he wasn’t, I was shocked. Then I began to argue, blaming him for all sorts of things, most of all for his bad timing. But could there possibly be a ‘right timing’ for such a revelation? All the time during my fit, he remained calm, almost sympathetic. I was right, and he alone was to blame. I cannot even hate him for what he did to me. I know all too well how it feels, when you stop loving someone who once meant the world to you. When you have no choice but to leave and hurt that someone to the core. But so far I had only experienced the other side, being the one who leaves, not the one who is left. I am still under shock. For the first time in my 37 years, I feel discarded, ugly and old. And I feel ashamed. Ashamed for still loving him so much, and ashamed of not having loved the others enough to spare them this experience.

Coming home from work I dread the quiet evenings. I roam the empty apartment aimless and blind like an animal in a cage. The sound of my feet echo through the de-furnished rooms that have become the ruins of my dreams. My bed still feels cold after hours of heavy duty by my electric blanket. My fridge is always full of things I used to like and now just don’t fancy, until they rot. My friends’ enthusiasm for brightening me up is slowly and understandably fading. “You have to get out. Go meet people. Dance!” they tell me. But I do! Like today on the Christmas-market. Even when I manage to convince myself and go out for a Milonga (Tango ist the only music melancholic enough for me to bear), it feels like I’m trapped in a bubble through which no happiness can perpetrate. As if the air I am breathing is heavier than outside the bubble.

A couple of days ago, on my way home from dancing, I left my hand in the door of the cab, when the driver slammed it. Two fingers were broken. It hurt beastly. Tears poured out of me like a waterfall. Since that night, I haven‘t stopped crying. I don’t care what my colleagues think, when I sit in a meeting, tears running down my face. I hardly notice, apart from the wet sweater round my neck and the mixed feelings of those next to me. What a relief! Literally liberating! Like a flood washing away my memories and cares. If anyone had foretold me the scale of the liberation yet to come, I certainly wouldn’t have believed it.

My hand is starting to heal, and my colleagues are probably right: I should take a couple of days off and leave the city. But where shall I go? A last minute package-tour with happy couples and families by the pool? No way! A single-club with ferociously animated left-overs (like myself) and desperation spreading like a virus? My idea of a nightmare! No, I want to go some place, where I can be licking my wounds in isolation, not intruding on others with my self-pity and my jealousy. Finland might be a possibility. In the loneliness of the woods and lakes, I may no longer feel like the left-over half of a couple.

 

Finland

I did it! I rented a cabin by a lake near the polar-circle. The only priority-box I ticked: “Greatest possible distance to next neighbor”. A doll-house will do, as long as it is for one single person. The smaller the better. My search produced not only the loneliest, but also the cheapest place available. Fine with me!

Sitting here by the lake, I recollect my Finland-trip so far: It started with a Tango-experience. The fins are hardly less crazy about Tango than the Argentines. In the small town of Seinajoki There’s a Tango-Festival, that is unparalleled. Once a year the whole town is converted into a dance-floor, including the surrounding swamps, which they ‘pave’ with wood. Digital StillCameraThe average Finnish Tango-nerd is way past his (or her) prime, and nothing other than Finnish is spoken; a language with no clues for other Europeans as to what it means. How absurd (and good!) for me to be here. I didn’t come here for conversation anyway. So, lacking other means of communication, I smiled until every muscle in my face hurt and forgot my sadness for the first time. Then I bought food for ten days, took a coach, then another, and again another, and got off at a village consisting only of three houses and a petrol station. A friendly old man was waiting for me at the bus stop. While he steered his car over endless dirt-roads, he recollected every name of German soccer-players he could think of. He knew quite a few. I don’t know a single one. End of conversation.

The first night is short. This is only partly due to the narrow bed and the ragged mosquito-net. It’s the light. The night is just one long, pink-colored dawn, then the sun is back, relentlessly speeding towards zenith. Since sunrise – around three in the morning – I have been sitting on the wooden bench that is positioned on the lake-terrace. The house is only a couple of yards away from the water. The lake seems huge. I can hardly make out the other side with its thickly forested shoreline. On the table in front of me is a pot of tea, fresh from the gas-cooker. The tiny cabin is facing north-east and even boasts a little sauna. To the Fins, this seems almost as important as the house itself. The forest begins right behind the cabin. Soon the sun will have reached the trees. The shadow they offer will probably be more than welcome, as the morning-sun is already hot. I came out here into the pink morning-mist, wearing thick trousers and an anorak. Since then, I have been throwing off layer after layer, until there was no more to strip. So this is where I intend to find my way back into life. But on the other hand: Without a good portion of resilience, I wouldn’t be here at all.

Digital StillCameraI have tried fishing. The sun has long left this side, so I took the boat that I found under the birch-trees and rowed out onto the lake. I found a basic fishing-rod behind the cabin next to the outhouse. And there’s an abundance of worms. For two hours I have been trying to catch a fish, but whenever I pull back the line, there’s nothing on it, not even the worm. They seem to be more clever than I thought, bastards! So while I go on feeding the fish, my diet will probably remain vegetarian. At least the sauna is easy to handle. There is plenty of wood already chopped (Thank you, old man!), so there will be a sauna-party for me tonight! I can’t wait to get into the steaming lake after the Sauna. Everything here is so wonderfully simple. No electricity, no running water. I begin to realize how much unnecessary luxury still surrounds me at home in my empty apartment. I decide to take care of that as soon as I come home. And as I write this, a butterfly settles on the opposite page of my diary. I certainly found the right place!

The silence here is breathtaking. It drowns me like a soft, warm fur-coat. No wildly chiming church-bells, no dogs, or horns, or lawn-mowers on a Saturday-morning. The only noises come from the birds and insects. I have made an arrangement with the mosquitos and the horse-flies. Digital StillCameraI asked them to spare me when I’m on my lake-terrace. And they really try, though only to attack me even more ferociously on the short path from the lake to the house. This alone should render any excursion into the woods impossible. Beyond the dirt-road, that leads to the house, the forest seems impenetrable, and those little vampires suck the last drop of blood from you. For the same reason, I refrain from collecting my drinking-water from the source, my host showed me upon my arrival. I prefer to drink directly from the lake, just leaving my mouth open, while swimming.

To my amazement, I read very little. I simply refuse to feel pressured by the amount of books I brought here. They can rot on the shelf, for all I care! Instead, I sleep or just stare into this unworldly light. Unimaginable anyone could get bored in such surroundings. Not with this light, the tasty air and the sound of a silence, that isn’t quite as silent as it first seemed, once you begin to understand its language. It’s the night that is most varied and beautiful; much too beautiful to miss: One endless dawn, full of strange noises and changing colors. So the only sleep I get is around noon.

Last night I must have fallen asleep on my bench, although I had planned to take in every minute of the full moon glory. I woke up from a strange, yet vibrant dream: There was a big white polar-wolf watching me intently from his yellow eyes, and then gently touching my forehead. Next he rubbed his nose against my cheek and stroked my arm with his paw. He pressed so hard against my back, I could feel every hair on his breast. Finally I surrendered into the embrace, cuddling into his soft, white fur. What a lovely dream! Am I really that needy?

 

The strangest light

What an awkward day. The milky light is irritatingly diffused, and the little vampires are even more aggressive than usual. Today they have decided to ignore our arrangement. Even the crows sound nervous today. Just as I settle down with my diary, I hear an uncanny crackling above my head. Instantly I find myself shelled by three huge pinecones, that hit the ground right next to my head. I understand that this is no day for writing or dozing. Once more I feel unwanted and dispelled. Memories of Richard and our separation surface my mind. No one wants me, not even nature is willing to put up with me. So there’s my self-pity again. And I had almost forgotten about it. Despite the mosquitos and horse-flies, I decide to go for a walk. Maybe this will brighten me up or at least distract me. There must me some path through the forest. I decide to take the axe from the shed with me, just in case. I haven’t met anyone since my host left me here. But that was what I wanted, wasn’t it?

The forest starts behind the deserted dirt-road and the lupine-fields. I head for the isolate grey hill that seems to grow out of the forest in the hazy distance. I am glad, when I finally reach the forest and escape the sun. Clouds of mosquitos are my only companions, as I axe my way through the forest. Their constant humming makes me mad. I don’t know, if I am trying to run away from them or from my thoughts. I hardly feel their bites. They have become like a second skin. They itch far less than at home, maybe because their habitat is less poisonous.

At last I find a hint of a path through the undergrowth. It leads straight to the foot of the grey mountain. I start to climb up the steep rock on all fours, using trees to help pull myself up. The climbing distracts me, so this part of my plan works. Near the summit, there are no more trees left. Here the hill is less steep and easier to climb. At the top I am rewarded with a breathtaking view. Mapped out before me is a landscape of lakes and forests, devoid of any trace of human civilization. To my surprise, I find myself on a peninsula in the middle of a huge lake of which the hill, I am standing on, is the highest peak. The Lupine-field and the dirt-road are the only way out. Down below, in the thick forest, I can see another small lake. It is completely black and very different from the blue surrounding lake. It looks like a black eye in the head of a cyclop. I feel drawn to it. I don’t know, whether I can make it down the slope of the rock and through the thick forest down to the lake, but I will try!

With my axe, I fight my way through the forest and clouds of mosquitos to the swampy bank of the little lake. It is so black that it is impossible to tell its depth. Without thinking, I get rid of my sweaty clothes and plunge into the water. It feels warm and soft, very different from the cold, clear water of the surrounding lake. As if it wasn’t the same element. I enjoy floating on the surface of this seemingly bottomless lake.

After a while, I swim back to where I left my clothes, only to find that, easy as it was to get into the water, getting out seems an impossibility. Like in a nightmare, the nearer I get to the bank, the deeper I sink into the muddy ground. I become more and more discouraged every time I try to grab hold of something on the bank and have to let go again. I just seem to slip away back into the muddy water every time. I look around me, but everything seems the same. I can feel the panic slowly creeping up my back. Is my life supposed to end in this desolate moor-lake? I force myself to analyze the situation: Since I cannot see anything, I have to try and feel my way out of this. Despite my exhaustion, I decide to swim only with my arms, using my legs like a perpendicular to explore the depth. Thus, with my foot I finally hit a flat rock, invisible from the surface, that I might be able to use as a platform. The rock is so slippery, that I fall back into the water again and again. But this rock, it seems, is my only chance. So I try again, and finally manage to stand on it. From there I jump to the shore, where I sink up to my body into the muddy ground. But at least I escaped the black lake! Somehow I manage to crawl through the swampy bank back to where I left my clothes. Since washing myself in the lake is definitely no option, I put on my clothes right over my muddy body. It feels strange when the mud starts to dry, forming a thin crust on the skin. Only on parts, where I sweat, the mud keeps running down my back and my legs. At least the mud seems to keep off the mosquitos and soothe their bites. I convince myself that all this must be very healthy indeed.

It is as dark as it gets, when I finally reach the cabin. It must be long past midnight. I make a fire in the sauna and wash myself in the clear water of my – as I only realize now – enormous lake. Strange that the little black lake, that almost cost my life, lies embedded like an embryo in the middle of the bigger lake. All this now seems like a dream; a dream that comes from me, is part of me, and yet something alien, just like the black lake within the blue lake.

After this expedition I earned myself a lazy day. A couple of pages in my book, a siesta, some light pasta-lunch – vegetarian as it were – and again siesta. Today all is peaceful, including the pine-tree. Even the insects are having a day off, it seems. I enjoy lying on my blanket in the half-shadow of the birch-trees, that allow just the right amount of sunlight to filter through. I am already half asleep, when I feel a hot breath on my forehead. As I open my eyes they are met by the intent gaze of a wolf! I am instantly present and frightened to death. My instinct tells me to jump into the water, since the path to the house is blocked by the beast. My ratio tells me to stay calm, since flight might provoke the creature, and it can certainly swim better than me. As a result, I remain motionless, under shock. The wolf seems not half as frightened as me, only slightly puzzled as what to make of this strange bundle of naked white meat. Sensing my anxiety, he almost respectfully draws back from me a couple of yards. But he’s still gazing at me with his yellow eyes, as if he was waiting for me to calm down. It is a long gaze, until finally the wolf trots off as silently as he appeared. As I write this down, I am still recovering from the shock. But I will surely never forget the look from those warm, yellow eyes.

Only hours after this incident, after the shock has finally passed, I realize what a precious encounter that was! And how inadequate my fearful reaction! I wish the young wolf would come again. Then I would try to react differently. But I’m sure he won’t. And what could he do with a fearful female of the human race? He probably passed on to look for a pretty young she-wolf to start his own pack. I note: Only sheep have to fear the ’big bad wolf’. And as if to punish me for my arrogance, the pine-tree throws its cones at me again. I should go inside.

 

An anonymous charge

In my dream a female voice asked me to write a book about religion. How absurd! I can only say: First of all, I don’t accept any anonymous orders! Secondly, there is little that interests me less than religion! I was brought up with the belief, that everything real can be explained scientifically in some way or other. Conclusion: What cannot be explained cannot be real. My mother was an atheist, and my father didn’t like to admit, that he actually did believe in something like God. Christmas was acceptable only under the label of tradition, while my mother never failed to point out that it had heathen roots. Nonetheless my sister and I prayed secretly every night before going to bed. It was like knocking on the prison-wall. There had to be something out there, that attributed a greater sense to everything, that was good, just, and more powerful than our parents. But religion? Like our parents, we thought it was dogmatic, intolerant and inacceptable on the whole. Yoga and Meditation practice are a different matter. They have long become part of my everyday-life – for merely practical reasons. I don’t consider it a religion. While meditating, I try to create some peace of mind, and yoga was what helped after a bicycle-accident many years ago. And now an ominous voice asks me to write a book about religion?

(…)

Dozing on the lake-terrace, I again hear the voice from my dream. She gives me a few sentences. They sound like the prologue to a longer text. I hear the voice coming from inside. I can rather feel the words than actually hear them. It is hard to describe. To my surprise the words make sense, and they are – in a strange way – beautiful. I decide to write them down.

From now on I receive a chapter every morning. All I need to do is wait and listen. You could say, the text has to do with religion, yet in a much more fundamental sense; having nothing to do with church or service, as I always understood ‘religion’. No, this text is all about love. The words are very clear and beautiful, and they strike a chord deep inside me. I expect all this to end with my departure tomorrow. However, it was a great experience: the black lake, the wolf, my dreams, this inner voice… Back home, I will try to create a regular space for this: interludes of silence, beyond my meditation routine. At least I want to allow for such beautiful things to happen.

 

Back Home

Home. I hardly dare to call this big, empty apartment ‚home‘. But going out doesn’t solve the problem. The city dulls my senses. Too many sensations, too much for the mind to digest. I try to close up against the sensory overload, and by doing so forfeit my awareness. It is the opposite when I am in Nature: The senses are woken and alert, and every detail becomes meaningful. In nature I can feel the whole as a composition of every part. It all makes sense. I can best experience this, when I am alone. I have become more sensitive since I came back from Finland, and more vulnerable, too. Do we need all this noise, because silence confronts us with our greatest fear: our own boundlessness?

(…)

In Norwich, I visit a little parish church on the outskirts of town, that hadn’t drawn my attention, when I was studying there. After all, there are over fifty churches in Norwich. The church is situated rather unromantically next to a building-site. Annexed to the church is a little chapel dedicated to Julian of Norwich, who lived here in the 14th century. The chapel is very plain and uninviting for any visitor. I have no idea, what brought me here.

I am about to leave, when I hear a female voice close behind me. I turn round, but there is no one else in the chapel. I remember the voice, though. It is the same voice that gave me the text about ‘religion’ a couple of months ago in Finland and then back home, until the text was complete! This time, there’s no need to ‘translate’ the words, they are clear as crystal: “I am so happy, that you have come. Now I know: You will continue my work. With you, it is in the best hands!” There is so much enthusiasm in her words, and so much love and affection! It almost makes me cry. Then it was Julian, who had spoken to me all the time, Julian of Norwich!

A man enters the chapel and kneels down to pray. I leave the place with mixed feelings. It feels so right, and yet so alien. How I would have loved to actually see Julian, not just listen to her fine, warm voice. How I long to look her in the eye! Then rationality attacks again: „This is all your imagination. None of this really happened, or can you prove it?” Of course not. How could I? Yet there is something about these outbursts of rationality, that has changed. That tiger ‘doubt’ seems to lose his fervor. As if it knew, it is losing ground. Still I don’t dare to tell my friend about it. He would probably think I’m mad. Maybe I am. But that doesn’t keep me from writing everything down in my diar. I have the feeling that this is just the beginning. And who knows, if later on I still believe what happened, if I don’t record it now. In any case, I have to find out more about Julian of Norwich. I want to read everything she wrote and everything that was written about her. I want to know whom I am supposed to follow!

Julian lived as a nun in 14th century Norwich. In the middle of her life, she fell very ill and welcomed death as a redemption. Yet she recovered and lived in that cell in Norwich until old age. Her Showings thrill me and repulse me both at the same time. What she writes about love is inspiring and strikes a chord in me. It must have been revolutionary for her times, maybe even dangerous, to postulate that love is in every one of us, and every one of us is God. It is her adoration for the crucified Jesus that repulses me with this strange mix of bloodlust and death wish, I cannot relate to. What touches me most, though, is one simple phrase, that speaks of her unswerving trust in God: „All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.“

„Julian, what are you doing to me?“ I am hearing her voice again. After a failed morning meditation in my B&B, in which I couldn’t stop thinking of my cold feet and then of my anger, because I couldn’t stop thinking of those cold feet, I tried dynamic yoga to warm me up. “I loved to do what you’re doing now back then in my cell”, I hear her say. I swirl around, and there she is. I cannot see her quite as clearly as I would see someone in the street, rather blurred and as a silhouette. As if I still have to get used to this kind of perception. But my picture of her is much more colorful than usual. I can see her pinkish aura with a bright white center. She looks different to what I thought she might: Sportive and almost modern, despite her nun’s habit. How small she is, barely reaching my shoulder. She seems so spirited and vivacious; unbelievable that she should be dead for more than 600 years!

I can see Julian experimenting with one of my yoga-asanas. She bursts into laughter because she cannot get it right. The situation seems so real and surreal at the same time, that it makes me laugh, too. “Sorry, Julian, but you couldn’t have done this in your cell. It’s yoga. It comes from India, and you are a medieval nun!” – “True”, she smiles roguishly at me, “but my exercises were quite similar – apart from this one… I am so incredibly happy that you have come!“, she says again. “When you came to my cell, I just couldn’t wait any longer to show myself to you. And I knew, you were curious enough by now… I hope you don’t find me obtrusive? Will you continue my work, as you have already done?”, she asks eagerly. “First I have to know, what you mean by ‘continuing your work’, I counter cautiously. “I’m certainly not going to become a nun! And I must confess, I do have problems with your Showings.“ – „Oh, that I understand only too well! But it is more than enough, if you just concentrate on love”, she reassures me, “That is the essence. See, you have to understand the conditions, under which I lived and worked. Adoration for the crucified Lord was what was expected of a mystic those days. And above all of a female mystic.“, she added with a certain tone, „There was always the danger of heresy, see, and at that time it was a mortal danger! And then, I wanted to reach people, reach straight for their hearts. So what would you have done in my place? In my times, a woman couldn’t just live alone and do as she pleased, like you today. And the men were either priests or monks or lived in the darkest middle-ages – spiritually, I mean.” We laughed together.

“I never wanted to marry. I couldn’t have lived with those men that were available to me. It would have been slavery – body and soul! So I fought to become a nun. But then: I, too, had my desires, my dreams, my longings. Rather a soul-mate, that I had to share with many others, than none at all. Perhaps now you can understand, why I indulged in all this bodily adoration for the Blood of Christ. It was my sensuality, my eroticism, as you would call it today. And as for the death wish, that repels you so much: Who wouldn’t want to be with her lover? What I mean is: Death was a normal part of life for us then, not like for you today. It was nothing to be afraid of. For most of us death came as a longed for reward for a troublesome life.” – “So why did you live on, after you were on the brink of death already?”, I inquired. “Because I had a cause, a vision to fulfill; our vision. I wanted people, ordinary people, not just the ‘chosen ones’, to feel the love of God inside and to spread it among each other. I wanted them to be consoled, so that life on this side, too, would improve.”

(…)

There was a visitor today. Just when I ended my meditation with a bow and a “Thank you for everything being as it is”, I could feel something brushing the back of my head. It’s a raven. Of course I know, that it is no ‘real’ bird, but I can nonetheless ‘see’ it and also feel it spreading its wings and touching my shoulders. Although it is only a soft touch, I feel awkward about it. Hadn’t Fiona warned me that not all spirits mean well, when they make contact with us? And the raven has a rather sinister reputation. But so has the wolf, and yet, instead of devouring me, it helped to open my heart.

I dreamt that I am a participant in a seminar taking place near a river. The teacher divides us into two groups. Together with two other handicapped (in my dream my legs are paralyzed), I’m in the smaller group. I am the first to roll into the seminar-room in the morning. There is a raven already waiting for me. It jumps on my lap and allows me to stroke it. Later the teacher mentions the raven and asks me to follow him down to the river. Despite my handicap, I am supposed to get into the white water of the river. To convince me, he tells me about its fantastic underwater-world. But he also mentions the dangerous currents. He shows me a detailed map of the river and the surrounding area. Although I am afraid, I decide to enter the river. Unfortunately this is where I wake up.

The dream reminds me of my childhood; when I refused to learn how to swim. With endless patience my parents finally managed to convince me, that the water will support me, if I make only slight movements with my arms and legs. But I was terrified to let go the safety of the pool edge and my floaties in exchange for the big unknown. When I finally did learn how to swim, it was so magical that it was hard for my parents to get me out of the water again. Today, once again, I feel like a little girl trying to learn how to swim. And the raven seems less uncanny to me, after it reappeared in my dream.

 

In fifteen minutes around the world

I will do it. I will enter this other world, that seems to be calling me again and again. I will enter the unknown, just like in my dream. But I will do it methodically. So I registered for a beginners-course in shamanism. Now I am in the mountains, in a group of about 30 people with varied reasons for being here. Some want to fill a void in their life, others come out of curiosity. And a few have had a call to adventure, like myself, some incident beyond the usual that calls for explanation.

For our teacher all this is merely a routine. Without a long introduction we start with our shamanic journeys. “Nowadays hardly anyone fails“, she reassures us. “Twenty years ago, it was different. Back then it was not so easy for people to cross the border into that other reality.“ When she mentions the ‘other reality’, it is without quotes. For her it is just a real as our everyday-perception. And as a fact, only two of us perceive little or nothing on their first shamanic journey.

The journeying is no big deal for our teacher. We can blind-fold ourselves, if we think we need it, otherwise there are very few rules. We’re supposed to imagine a place in nature, some place we know and love. It will be the starting-point of our journey. Then we just lie down and start to the beating of her drum. First we shall look for a companion, some creature, in the ‘lower world. To get there, we imagine a hole in the ground, a crack between rocks or some dark lake or pond. From there we come to a tunnel, through which we travel. Some tunnels are longer, some shorter. The landscape that will open up to as at the end of the tunnel, is supposed to be a surprise. There we shall immediately start looking for some animal that could be our companion. When it appears, we shall ask permission to take it with us. In case there is more than one creature, we shall choose the one that wants to contact us or at least doesn’t run away. We take it with us back through the tunnel to our starting-point. We should have arrived back there, when we hear the calling back-signal of the drum: Four times eight beats, then a ruffle, and then again four times eight beats of the drum.

Travelling to the ‚upper world‘ is similar. The only difference is, that we don’t crawl through a hole in the ground or a tunnel, but imagine something that leads up, like a ladder or a ray of light. Sometimes, however, we are collected right at our power place. In the ‘upper world’ we find our teachers. They usually have a human form, and talk to us, if we’re lucky. That doesn’t mean, that power animals can’t talk or can’t be found in the ‘upper world. Anything goes, in the sphere of shamanism, it seems. So much for the theory.

After everyone has settled down on the floor, the only sound left is the monotonous beat of the drum. We are all alone now with our anxieties and expectations. We are advised to travel with a clear purpose (like finding a power animal), but without expectations. The latter seems difficult. Of course, I have expectations, and plenty of them! And fears, especially the fear to fail. Will I be able to feel anything under seminar-conditions? Up to now, I never actively chose the time for the spirits to come; it just happened. Or will I pass all borders, lose myself and make some unpleasant acquaintances? Who will I meet? What will my power animal be? A mouse? Or a spider? How disappointing that would be! Why disappointing? Wouldn’t a spider be good enough for her ladyship? My head is full of thoughts like this, while I try to relax into the task before me. The relentless beating of the drum reminds me that time is running out. We will be called back in fifteen minutes! How much time do I have left? I haven’t even thought of a power place, let alone entered the tunnel! I quickly imagine the lake-terrace in Finland, where the wolf came to me. Immediately a new image pops up: A wolf! Of course, my power animal has to be a wolf! Would I now still be open for another companion?

To get to the ‚lower world‘, I simply dive into the lake. The tunnel seems endless. To my surprise, I finally find myself in the other, smaller lake. It is completely opaque, just like in Finland. Instantly memories of my futile efforts to get out of the lake, surface my mind. And there is not a single animal to be seen! At last I can make out a little black and white snake winding its way close to the surface. I try to make contact, but the creature doesn’t seem to notice me. I’m close to giving up, when I hear a caw above my head. The raven! And how I had mistrusted him! Before I can ask for permission, the bird is by my side. We pass through the tunnel together, and when we reach the lake-terrace, I can hear the first call-back signal of the drum. My journey hasn’t even taken fifteen minutes, the first ten of which I spent fighting back my fears and doubts! Unbelievable, how distorted time seems in the ‘other world’!

For the journey to the ‚upper world‘, my raven is already waiting. He is taking me on his large, black wings up to the midnight sun. The Finnish landscape looks so beautiful from above with its dark forests and glittering waters. This journey is about finding a teacher in human form. We fly through a thin layer of mist into a warm, yellow light. There is nothing to see here, but I can feel a male presence close by. I can even feel his hand on my shoulder. Next I hear a male voice telling me to continue my path steadily and trustfully. It would be easy and full of joy! Sole obstacles are my impatience and expectation. He tells me to trust in what I find, without adding to it, and without interpretation. Now I feel Julian by my side, too. I ask her, if the male voice is trustworthy. „Yes, it’s Hor. You can trust him alright!“

The purpose of our third journey is to find out, what our task is in the spiritual world. The raven is there and seems excited. Through a narrow passage we enter a burial chamber. My eyes have to adapt to the darkness, before I can make out the shape of a tall, slender man in the ornate of an Egyptian priest. He is treating a corpse, embalming it. The thick air is filled with the scent of perfume and death. I feel the urge to leave. But Hor calls me back: “You will get used to it. Wait here until I am finished.” After the embalming, There is a ceremony to accompany the soul of the decedent to the other side of the river. I can hear some low singing, an occasional whisper and silence in between. I am deeply moved by what I am allowed to witness. After the ceremony, Hor comes over to me, expecting my questions. “What does all this have to do with my task in the spiritual world?”, I ask, puzzled. “You will prepare the dying for their last voyage and accompany their souls to the other side of the River of Life.” is Hor’s simple answer. I shudder, feeling that this might indeed be true. “Why me?” I object, „Why such a grave task?“ – „It is a holy task, but don’t be afraid. This is only for later in your life. And then I will be there at your side to help you.” Then it was no coincidence, that I received the raven, the bird of death as a companion. I begin to anticipate, what is in store for me in this ‘other world’. How familiar must one, who accompanies the dying, be with death? “Don’t worry”, Julian intercepts my thoughts, “now you have us. You got to trust!” Trust seems to be so central in this work. It takes courage to trust. Do I have that courage? Or rather: Do I have a choice?

20140103_180756A further journey to the ‚upper world‘ leads me to a mountain river, where an old, Indian looking woman seems to be talking to herself. I take my time watching, before I speak to her. “May I ask, what you are doing there?”, I inquire respectfully. She slowly focuses on me the same way she had focused on the river. Hers is a warm, attentive gaze. After a while she replies, that she listens to the pebbles and the stories they have to tell. Again, she gazes at me intently. “You, too, are a stone-teller”, she declares, „This is your task in the crystal realm. Leave the precious stones and begin with ordinary pebbles and cobble-stones. You like collecting them, don’t you? They can’t wait to talk to you. You will listen to them and write down their stories. You can pick them up and take them home, when you have asked their permission. Thank you for coming!“

(…)

I can’t resist the temptation to ask my companions about the future. But Hor puts me off: “Don’t ask what will be, only ask what you can do.” – “Or not do”, Intschi adds shrewdly. “Or do you honestly think, you are a slave of destiny? You’re not! You are here to shape your reality. Trust your inner guidance and act accordingly. That is all you need to know.“ – „So what am I supposed to do today?” I ask, since I have no clear purpose for my journey. The raven takes me up to the midnight sun, where Hor is already waiting. “Don’t do anything unless you do it for love’s sake”, he says. “If not, leave it. There is far less need to act than you think.” I have one more question. I would like to know: Are they entities separate from me or are they a part of me? “Both. We are separate entities and we are a part of you. And you are a part of us.” – I am puzzled, so Hor continues to explain: “We are all manifestations of the same power. If we work together, we are so much more powerful than alone. That is true for humans, and it is also true for the spirit-world. We need you as much as you need us. We can only work through you. That is why we are so pleased when you perceive and trust us.” I have so many more questions, since one question seems to lead to a dozen more. But my companions indicate that it is enough for one session. So I express my gratitude and end this journey.

I can’t wait to start fasting. I am only waiting for the first warm days, because I always feel so cold, when fasting. I am looking forward to shedding my winter fat and feeling reborn in spring, like a butterfly who slips from its chrysalis. Not only the body is purified through fasting, but also the soul, it seems. I want to fast away all the chocolate that helped me through the cold, dark days of winter (thank you, chocolate). I run on chocolate and sunlight, it seems, and love, if I can get it. That fuels me more than anything else.

There’s one thing I’d like to know, before I start fasting. I have always wanted to know, so why not ask my companions? They are already waiting for me on the lake-terrace: “Where does it come from, this completely inadequate fear of starvation”, I want to know. This time I am taken on a very unusual journey, neither in the ‘upper’, nor into the ‘lower world’, but on a horizontal beam into another period of time. I find myself in a dungeon. There’s a moldy smell, and I can hear drops of water running down the stone walls and dripping onto the floor. When my eyes have adapted to the dark, I can see a thin old man with a shaggy beard crouching in a corner, staring at me with a jaded glare. I know this man! Sometimes he visits me in my dreams. Every time after waking up from this dream, I feel drained and exhausted. I am afraid of this man.

Only because Julian and Hor are with me, I dare to address him: „Who are you?” – „My name is Nathan“, he starts in a rusty voice that sounds like he hasn’t spoken in years. Yet the voice gets clearer and more urgent with every word he speaks. “I am your ancestor. You know me.“ – “What happened to you?” I want to know, “I was thrown into this dungeon, was tortured and then forgotten. There is no one left but me. It is not the hunger that tortures me most, but to be forgotten. What keeps me alive is the water coming from the stones and you.” – “Me?”, I exclaim. “Yes, you. I chose you, because you know what it is like to be neglected.” This last sentence makes me cringe. He’s right, I do know what it feels like. As an infant, when I wouldn’t stop crying, I was brought to the furthest room in the house, all doors shut. My parents just couldn’t believe that I was hungry again, compared to my sister who was so different. In the dark room, the baby must have thought it was going to die. Now I understand why my ancestor clings to me in my dreams and won’t let go, until I manage to save both of us. I want to leave the dungeon at once. But what can I do to give us some peace? “When the time has come, you will hold a ritual for both of you“, I hear Hor say, “now to your second question” What ‘second question’? I am still captured by what I just saw. “Now you know, where the fear of starvation comes from and that it is very old. Fear of death is only defeated by the same, that is: ‘Fear of death’. Healing works that way. But don’t worry, you still have a task here. And remember: We are there, when you need us, more than you can imagine.”

Then we’re off on the time-beam to a wide green plain. A toothless old farmer comes out to greet me. He proudly presents the tiny hut where he lives with his wife, a goat and some poultry. The period is as hard to tell as the region, but the farmer gives me a hint, together with a big smile: “Life is simple, when the tsar is far”, he states. “What is it I can learn from you?”, I ask. “Just keep on loving“, with this he grabs his woman by the hips and swirls her round, “love, sing, and tend your animals. All else will be seen to.“ What a message!

Before I can thank this wonderful couple, we are back in the blur of time heading for yet another destination. This time we have clearly reached the stone-age. A young woman with ancient eyes sits by the fire and feeds her baby. We are in North Africa, at a time when the Sahara was still green. The young woman sings for her baby, and her message for me is: “Sing the holy healing chants, for the dead and for the living, for man and beast”. So far I know nothing of these chants, but by now I feel sure that they will appear when the time is right. Exhausted, but happy, I am finally allowed to return to my lake terrace. What an adventure. And the clock tells me, that again this journey lasted no more than fifteen minutes!

 

The fuse

After careful consideration, I now dare say, that what I begin to experience, including the voices I hear and the entities I feel or even see, don’t interfere with my everyday life. And they certainly don’t harm me in any way. On the contrary: I can even apply those skills I my job as I now sense, when a correction of some routine is necessary. And, what‘s more, I better than ever manage to convince my boss of new ideas; ideas he can then present as his. Since my ego is distracted by plenty of other things, I have no objection against his ‘identification’ with my ideas. If it helps to implant them, I have no objection. Everything now seems much easier than only months ago. Success comes effortless, and brings with it growing respect and more freedom. Freedom that I can use to develop my attentiveness towards that other world even further. My companions help me with my daily routine by enhancing it, letting it appear more joyful, which has a positive effect also on my efficiency. And what impresses me most: Their means are wisdom, tenderness and humor. When I am allowed to see through their eyes, all the competitiveness and jealousy of everyday-life seem so vain. Like when they invite me to walk in the shoes of my boss, and I am suddenly able to feel the pressure, under which he lives, his longing for respect and some kind of security. Then I realize that I am not so far away from him as I used to believe. That makes me softer, more lenient towards him – and myself. Again and again they invite me to laugh about myself and accept my weaknesses as lovingly as they do.

In return, I open up to them more and more and write down, what I receive from them. I give and take, and what a gain for my life this is! Since my encounter with the wolf, I have a growing feeling, that more and more often I tend to be at the right place at the right time. The right books find me together with other directions that I need at that very moment. Maybe because my life has finally been given direction in accordance with my soul. Now I know, how happiness feels, or should I call it bliss?

(…)

Today all seems dark and meaningless. The dim morning-light is no invitation to get up and start the day. Even the crows can’t brighten me up. Their craw sounds like quarrelling in my ears. I am sure this is only my thinking, and apologize to the crows. I can literally sense the negativity I emit today. At least I want to try and see my companions. But I find it so hard to focus on my journey today. My head seems like a bee-hive!

Then I notice black feathers slowly stroking my face. My lovely raven is helping me to focus. Finally I’m there. The raven comes to take me to the ‘upper world’. But in the middle of the black tunnel, I panic and insist to go back. Once again I interrupt a journey. 20131230_162221Where has all my trust gone? I decide to do what I always do when I feel low, that is taking a bath. maybe reading some magazine will distract me from my gloomy thoughts. Yet even here, in my beloved bath-tub, the light is glaring into my face not helping me much with my reading. As if to answer my thoughts, the light goes out without warning, and I sit in the dark. Now I am really angry, as I have to dry myself, get out and find some candles. The general fuse seems to be intact, since there’s light in the kitchen. Angry as I am, I disconnect the bathroom lamp, screw it down from the wall immediately and try to fix it. I put it back to the wall, but it remains to be dark. What is this supposed to teach me?

Since my negative energy obviously managed to extinguish the light, I ought to be able to convince it to shine again, once I invest the same amount of positive energy, shouldn’t I? This is the purpose of my next journey. Again, the raven takes me up, where at first I can see nothing. But I can hear a friendly male voice behind me, and have the feeling that this is a new teacher. He doesn’t hesitate to introduce himself as Mahinda. I am a little disappointed, as his unglamorous looks don’t quite match his deep voice. Mahinda is a stout little, bald headed Buddhist monk wearing the typical orange attire. It is his laughing eyes that instantly warm me up towards him. He seems exactly the right person to ask my question to: “Mahinda, how can I strengthen and purify my energy in order to get the lamp to burn again?” Fair enough that this is not a life or death matter, as I do not know yet, whether I can trust him. „The lamp is your teacher. It will teach you patience and endurance – and trust. But you should realize that this lamp can only start burning again, if you don’t want it to burn and your ego won’t triumph over your success. You are quite good, but two things render it difficult for you: Your impatience and your arrogance. Arrogance is a travesty of confidence. It is a surrogate, a mask. Arrogance comes from the ego, while confidence comes from the heart and is related to a basic trust that is the opposite of ego. Try to know the difference and learn how to be patient.” – “How do I know the difference?”, I inquire. “Arrogance is weak. It needs ever more proof of its grandeur, only to then exaggerate it, whereas true confidence needs no proof at all.” I realize that Julian, Hor and Intschi make room for Mahinda in the half-circle of their counsel. That means I can probably trust this new teacher. And what he says, does seem to make sense. So now I will gather my skills of trust and faith and meditate in front of the lamp until it burns again. I see this as my first shamanic task in the practical world. I wonder how I will do as a magician’s apprentice…

20131230_162244The last couple of days I have done regular ‘sittings’ in front of the bathroom-lamp in order to convince it to burn again. No, wrong, I tried to convince myself of my not wanting the lamp to burn again. I tried to bestow the lamp with unintentional love. But I didn’t yet dare to turn on the light. I am too afraid of being defeated. At the same time I was happy that no one watched my strange endeavor, doubting my mental health after all.

Now ist he great moment: I finally turn on the light. Nothing. The bathroom remains in darkness. But why? Didn’t Mahinda tell me to do it this way? I feel tricked by this new teacher. It is all his doing. I find it rather unprofessional for a teacher to let his student fail his very first test! And so unfair! As an act of rebellion, I will, rather un-shaman-like, call an electrician. And guess what happens? He simply changes the fuse in the lamp, and very unceremoniously, it starts burning again. “See, Mahinda, It’s as simple as that! What do you say now, you clever monk?”

On my next journey I want to know the meaning of this unworthy charade! Julian, Hor and Intschi are present, and Mahinda is there, too. All four of them seem to have the time of their lives, laughing their heads off. “Why are you so angry”, Mahinda finally blurts out, “you did an excellent job. The lamp is burning again, isn’t it?” – „Right, but what about my spiritual task?” – “This, too, you mastered expertly” – “How that?” – “You tried over and over again.” – “But to no avail!”, I retorted. “On the contrary, with great avail: Now the lamp is burning, and so are you!”

(…)

 20131230_153306

Into the Desert

I cannot concentrate on my work today. There is such an unreal, orange light outside, and there’s a soft warm wind coming from the south. I’ve never seen anything like it around here before.

DSCF2105Today I feel fat and ugly, and the only thing I can think of, that could make me feel better is ever more chocolate. So I choose this as my journey’s purpose: “How can I love myself better, so that I won’t need so much chocolate to compensate?” As usual, the raven collects me at the lake-terrace. Together we fly to a small town on the edge of the great desert. We settle down next to a group of oriental women in colorful clothing. They invite me to join their bathing ritual. When they undress, I realize to my delight, that those women are at least as voluptuous as I am. Yet they celebrate their sumptuous flesh with such sensuality, that it is delightful to watch. “There you see pure beauty”, the raven states, “it takes courage to see. You must know that you are beautiful as you are. Then pondering your appearance won’t keep you from more important matters. In the desert, we will encounter much more important things. Then the question of your appearance won’t matter any longer.” What does the raven mean by in the desert?

DSCF2270In the news today they said, the red light was caused by a storm high up in the atmosphere, on which sand from the Sahara travelled across the sea and the Alps as far as Northern Europe. People reported on air that in the morning their cars had been covered with a thin layer of red dust. Later I find an email in my mailbox. Fiona is forwarding me an offer of a desert-camel-tour with a Shaman from South America, called Ana. She strongly advises me to go. Well, let’s see, whether there’s time and if there’s still a place for me. I almost hope not. But when I call them, they just had a cancellation, and I could take her place. – „Julian”, I ask, “shall I travel to the desert?“ – The answer is “Yes”!

eidechseMy further journey brings me to the Sahara desert and the Amazon jungle. But the greatest adventure remains to be everyday life…

 

dschungelIf you still want to read more, please contact me.

 

 

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