************************************Denial covers the pain of the past * A blanket over the world * Lift a corner * Don't be afraid * Your life awaits you*************************************

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Disillusioned: An Encounter with a Shaman

I'm adding this image, which I created last month, entitled "Safety"
It seems relevant. In the image I originally had, the wall went all the way around the figure in the middle. I realized that is no longer how I am... and opened it up. Opening up does allow for some pain to get in, but without that opening I've missed out on a lot. I don't want to do that again, and this experience (below) illustrates why.

I've been on a Spiritual Quest for some time now, and it has brought me again and again to the fundamental beliefs of the ancient Shaman. So, yesterday I was looking at Shamanic retreats and workshops. Suddenly a name I hadn't said out loud in thirty years, jumped off the screen and knocked the wind out of me.

I will call her Nando.

She moved in across the street from me when I was around eight, but we really didn't became friends until I was eleven. Our friendship lasted through middle school and a year or two beyond.

Nando was an interesting mix of shyness and enthusiasm. I loved her in the way many twelve-year-olds love a best friend. I remember sleep-overs and walks to school, the stories she loved to write and how excited she'd get over a new, favorite song. I remember that her first crush was on a boy named Brett, and I can still see how she looked when he held her hand.

I was not a good friend.

I was very troubled. I was confused. I had no idea about boundaries of any kind and found my worth only in physical relationships for most of my teens. 

I knew even then that my behavior was not right, I just had no idea why I behaved as I did, or how to change it. I can remember telling Nando about the rape that happened when I was fourteen, as if it was nothing. Closely following that, I confided sleeping with other men, practical strangers, always much older than I.

But the kicker was when I slept with a guy she liked. 

Not only did I sleep with him, but then I told her about it.
In detail.

I know. I'm not proud of it. It was a rough time for me and I'm afraid that spilled out on everyone around me. 

So, yesterday, after I caught my breath, I texted a friend of mine who knows about my love of Shamanism:

A good friend who I've not seen in over thirty years is a practicing Shaman!
Her response:
You have to get in touch with her!

I told her:

We had a stormy past... a guy came between us. It was ugly.
She wrote:
Two Shaman and their stormy past involving a guy? That's a book I want to read! Write it! Now! And you know - she's a SHAMAN. How bad could it be?
Me: Do you think I should email her?

Her: There's some reason you found her, now.

So I composed the following email and then closed my eyes and hit send:

My breath literally caught in my throat when I came across your name. So many memories... wonderful, painful, and some full of shame… It would be such an honor to reconnect with you.

How ironic to find you in this practice... I have friends who call me "the Shaman." but I’m only beginning to learn this Spiritual path.

Perhaps, even after all this time, there are things you haven't forgiven, Holding those distant resentments blocks the energy we seek... this much I do know. If you feel as if you can, contact me. There is a place in my heart that will always be for you.  

I hope this finds you well,  ~Shen

This morning I was excited to see her name in my inbox. I clicked to open it, and this is what I found:

Hello Shen,

Well, it was certainly interesting to find this email. I haven't really thought of you in decades. I hope you are doing well in your journey through life and continue to learn and grow.

As for myself, my life is pretty full. Perhaps it is because I have a vocation that fascinates people, but I am constantly being asked to be friends with people. However, I barely have time for the small, close-knit and very special circle of friends in my life...and I'm a very private person. So I really don't have the time, energy or desire to pursue other friendships.

I wish you the best of luck!

May joy and peace fill your life!
I mean - excuse my language, but the words 'what the fuck' come to mind. Her "vocation" is "fascinating" and she is "constantly" being asked to "be friends"? I had thought of several possible scenarios, but being treated like a groupie or a member of the Paparazzi never crossed my mind. 

And this is how she is after twenty-some years of intense spiritual practice? 

It really hurt me deeply that she would so calmly tell me that she had no time for me and her claim that she had such a close knit group of friends that she didn't need anyone else felt absurd. My stomach cramped up and I saw red for a while, but gradually I calmed down. 

Email to Nando (this morning):
Well, what a surprising response.

I'm glad your life is full, as is mine. The growth and seeking I've been doing for the last few years has brought me many close relationships, so, I don’t find myself in great need of more friends. On the other hand, I’m not in the habit of turning them away when they present themselves.

After seeing your name, I remembered so many things from the past that I haven't thought of in years. I wonder how your mother is. I always thought she was a special person and was so jealous of your relationship with her. I needed someone like that in my life, when I was young. I was so hopelessly unguided.

Of course, I'm hurt by your dismissive response, but I know there must be a reason I came across your name. I will leave you to your busy, private world and wish you the best. I am going on a private retreat next week, and in that solitude, I will let this go. Hanging on to hurt doesn't serve me... that's one thing I've learned well.

Good luck on your journey and should it bring us together in the future, I hope we can co-exist peacefully. If we never meet again, enjoy the ride and I'll see you on the other side.

So, that's my latest emotional crises. A very small part of me looks at her words and the threat of ancient worthlessness pushes towards the surface. However, I'm so much stronger than I used to be. I don't feel bad through-and-through or hopeless as I likely would have even a year ago. That's growth.

In one week, I'm returning to the wonderful quiet of the retreat center I've been to, twice before. For two days I will be completely alone, cut off from all outer contact including phone, internet, tv, radio, or actual human contact. I'm hoping to find that elusive stillness that I only seem to be able to get to through isolation and contemplation. While there, I have a list of things I want to release. Now I have one more thing to add to that list.

We all make mistakes and some of them follow us throughout our lives. At least at this time in my life, I'm able to look at her words and realize that the walls she holds up to protect herself keep out as much love and connection as they do pain. It never occurred to her that I might have something of value to offer her. Instead, she saw my reaching out as a burden. It's sad to think how much she will miss out because of her closed attitude.

And... it's joyful to know that I'm no longer inside those walls.


  1. I can sense that you were deeply hurt by her response. I am so sorry. But, you did a wonderful job in your email...it was open, honest, and you expressed your true feelings. It sounds like she has become a little narcissistic in her view of herself and what she does. You are so right...she is going to miss out on a lot with that kind of attitude. Do not let her bring back your insecurities about yourself from the past. It is amazing to me how quickly they can resurface. It does sound like you have it under control. I am glad you are going to a retreat. I think you will return with a little more peace. Take care.

  2. It seems obvious to me that NANDO is still holding resentment inside from something that should have long been resolved. It seems to me that you have grown and evolved much more than she has...and SHE IS THE SHAMAN!! NOT MINE!! For whatever it is worth, I think you hancled the entire situation very appropriately. I am just sorry she hurt your feelings. I hope you enjoy your retreat!

  3. I have found that no matter how evolved I think I am if someone or something comes up from my childhood I instantly become that child. Hurt and angry even if just for a moment. Maybe your email took her back and she didn't want to open up to those feelings again or maybe she was looking for more from you. It surprises me how it doesn't matter how long it's been the hurt is still there.

  4. Robert Masters speaks of 'spiritual bypassing' - that is using 'spirituality' as avoidance.

    You know, those people who look like they walk just off the ground - who seem so deep that they don't actually feel an emotion fully (and certainly not the 'negative energy' of anger).

    I might be being unfair to Nando but it feels like she is solidly into spiritual bypassing.

    I'm glad you know that you can let this stuff go. I hope you have a deeply refreshing and nourishing retreat.

  5. Thank you for your supportive comments. I put the word disillusioned in the title because I did have the concept of "Shaman" on a pedistal. It was a good lesson for me to remember that no matter how much we've grown, we are all still human.

  6. And Evan - you're right about her. I feel as if she is missing the whole point.

  7. wow as I read her response all I thought was ego /self
    and of course she is hurt but she certainly was not ready . there is no way she is not thinking of you right now after your note . but you did the reaching , and now you are there if she works through her stuff .
    I am an elder now and I can say it takes alot to be a teacher of the young and have followers and remain humble
    I always wish to remain the student in order to be a good teacher .
    almost 5 yrs ago I had to leave my friend of 28 yrs behind
    I realized my part in enabling her and it was not a friendship at all it hurt so very deeply , I journaled to her for almost 3 yrs ,grieving as if it was a death because the pian was so deep.
    you know what ?
    she is still stuck , and why because she of course never said it hurt , nope she didn't miss me , is fine , her life is good , good , good.
    well of course that is not true . of course our split hurt her just as much as I .
    she chose to hide her pain I did not .
    I've no idea if we will meet again on this earth but I know via others in my life I would not wish to connect with her now . she is hung up on being cool , fitting in etc. and the arrogance is high .
    I feel blessed to be small and little and unnoticed ☺
    I personally had to not call myself shaman , psyhic and avoid the word prophet& prophecy altogether etc. because it made me feel big I felt ever so special , not in a good way . I kind of like cunning or medcine woman but really just being me is fine ☺
    sometimes we are shown people in our lives not to see what to do , but what not to be or do .
    maybe this is your clue as to what a true teacher should not do & become .

  8. Yes! Rox, you are exactly right. I've already had two head-on collisions with ego since I sincerely began this spiritual quest I find myself on. Both times, my spiritual guide warned me to keep ego out of it. I have been blessed in those times when I've felt as if God was speaking to me - but we are ALL blessed. Everyone can hear God, at the right time, if they're listening. I truly believe that.

    The second time - I was feeling above and beyond the rest of the world because I listen! Again I was reminded to look at my ego. I listen because I've had the experiences which have led me here, and have also had very good teachers. I seek, I learn, I listen and sometimes I hear God speak. It isn't my doing or my talent, it is another blessing.

    That's what I have to keep remembering and that is exactly the lesson I was presented with here, again.

    Thank you for making it so clear.

  9. I have enjoyed reading both your post and all the resulting comments :)

    I have a much simpler take on things. To me, when anyone feels the need to respond in the way Nando did, it shows insecurity. A secure person would not need to elevate themselves in the manner in which she has done. I do not buy into her claim that everything is so good in her life. I think she's putting up a front.

    Your emails to her show such warmth and wisdom, Shen. It will be good to let this go, too, while you're in retreat. It's clear you have made great progress in your ongoing quest for inner understanding and contentment and you demonstrate so much strength of character through your openness to learning and through your integrity to yourself and those around you. To me, it's glaringly obvious that you are by far the bigger person here. She may have enjoyed a more nurturing and ideal upbringing, but her response to you shows me that something is lacking. Perhaps the purpose of your seeing her name was merely to bring up those past feelings in order for you to confront them now, from your position of strength. Maybe you were not intended to meet up with her in person ;)

  10. Hi Desiree,
    The timing - just before the retreat - does make me feel as if there is something in this I'm meant to resolve, this week. I'm really working hard at living in integrety in all my relationships. It isn't easy and I make mistakes all the time, but there are times when I have to be on top of it, and this seemed to be one of them. I'd love to think that the encounter was a chance for growth for both of us... but I have to let go of expectations that I can change others in any way. It's her journey. While I was hurt, innitially, now I honestly do feel that I was lucky to discover right away what I was dealing with, before I became entrenched in a relationship which could easily have swayed me. The title she's invoked has alot of meaning for me and I had to assume it did for her as well. I'm sure there's another lesson in there, too. It seems like another transference thing... something I'm too familiar with already!

    I'm fine not meeting her again, in fact if we did meet, I'm afraid it would be awkward.

    You on the other hand are someone I am very glad to know, even across the miles.


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