A Winnabego Indian Story:
Once upon a time, a long time ago, an old man left his people to go to die alone in the wilderness. Many years of hardship had marked his body with sickness and pain.
When he had walked until he could go no further, he climbed upon a hill where he lay down to die. While lying there he passed into a delirium and his mind left his body, journeying to distant places.
On his journey he was greeted by many different animals and birds. Raven, Turtle, Wolf and Black Hawk placed medicines on the places that gave him pain and made him well again.
"Human Being," the animals said, "in a similar way you shall cure your fellow men and women."
Then the spirit of Grandmother Earth appeared to the man and blessed him saying: "Grandson, as the other spirits are blessing you, I, also, will bless you. You may use me, and especially the blue clay and other minerals and crystals that you derive from me, for medicines. Should you use as medicines all these things with which I have blessed you, you will be able to accomplish all that you attempt." (Rogers, 1982, 119)
The path through life is fraught with experiences which teach us about our place in this world and how to live in peace with other creatures and ourselves. "Those who have been favoured with long life, from one point of view, have gone through a life-span initiation. The path of life itself when traversed with 'an obedience to awareness' is instruction." (Halifax, 1982, 30)
All life transitions reflect a "change of worlds." Some believe that the experience of the journey from birth to death in one's personal life is mirrored in the understanding of the universal process of transformation. Yet, in daily life, we often feel separated from this timeless perspective.trapped by the pleasures and turmoils of mundane existence, we forget our place in the cosmos, and in our own relations with others, and live distant, one-dimensional lives.
Except that, every now and again, something comes along to remind us of the eternal specialness of simple existence. If we heed the call, then we may yet pass beyond our personal "egos" "to attain the solar realm where consciousness is eternally awakened, to climb to the top of the mountain where the infinite is revealed, to seek life in order to know death, this is the quest, the journey." (Ibid.)
For the shaman, the love affair with the natural world is revealed in the potency of his or her experience, and reflected in the sharing of that experience with others, to heal them and bring them back into harmony with the forces of nature and society. The shaman's ecstasy extends beyond the individual to encompass every aspect of the environment, blessing all that it touches with the power of health and well-being: the force of love, the force of life.
"'Only if one loves this earth with unbending passion can one release one's sadness,' don Juan said, 'A warrior is always joyful because his love is unadulterable and his beloved, the earth, embraces him and bestows upon him inconceivable gifts. The sadness belongs only to those who hate the very thing that gives shelter to their beings.' Don Juan caressed the ground with tenderness. 'This lovely being, which is alive to its last recesses and understands every feeling, soothed me, it cured me of my pains, and finally when I had fully understood my love for it, it taught me freedom.'" (Castaneda, 1974, 288)
Perhaps we too may grow to understand the healing power of the earth, to feel the winds and rains caressing our bodies and minds, to perceive the beauty and wonder that constantly surrounds us, from the smallest sub-quantum universe to the vast expanses of the galaxies. Perhaps we may still experience the sheer joy of life, retaining nothing as it is continuously renewed. If we choose, we may still come to know the "freedom that is similar to the superhuman freedom of the shaman." (McKenna and McKenna, 1975, 16)
Thank you for taking the time to read this humble explorative essay. It has been a remarkable journey, and the road ahead is shrouded in mist. If we should meet on one of life’s little-trodden paths, let us meet as allies, co-sojourners on the trail to our quest’s fulfillment. In the meantime, have a good trip....