by Kristen Shepard
I have called 14 different places home in the last 17 years and will be moving again within a month’s time…but this time it’s different. It’s not because of a new relationship, cheaper rent, running away, or new job/school. It’s to be with family, my sister closest to me in age. I come from a large family but there is disconnect and it’s a piece of my life that is missing. May the journey continue with an open heart…
Sitting upon a stone ledge in the darkness, covered in sweat. All around me are sounds; drums, singing, crying, moaning, sometimes laughter…I can feel them all reverberating through my body. It’s hot, so very hot. I have to breathe slowly and calmly in the thick, dense air. How many hours have I been in this sweat lodge? Hard to say but after the first ceremony I stopped anticipating the end. Enjoy the ride and learn what you can…it will be over when it’s time. I stayed on the upper level, wanting to do the hard work first, knowing I could retreat down if the heat got to be too much. Sometime during the 3rd(?) round I finally needed to rest. Was I trying too hard? Did I really need to tough it out, be strong as I always tried to be? I moved down a level. Nope, not enough. It felt like an invisible hand was pushing me, further, further, until I was in the fetal position on the cool earth; complete Surrender.
An overwhelming sadness overcame me. So many thoughts had been going through my head…perhaps I needed to let loose and cry. As I lay there curled up, it was as though a mirror or piece of glass was under my cheek, cool and illuminated. I turned and saw my Reflection, and smiled. “I’m happy” escaped from my lips. There was no need to cry, this pain was not mine. I was feeling the emotions of one or more of the people in the group around me. The years of pain, betrayal, and sadness…I had already cried for in the past when they happened and many times over. I had been stuck in a world of pity for far too long, feeling something was missing. I had shed enough tears… “I’m Happy” I thought, grinning broadly as I began to rise back up.
A shift had taken place within me and I truly realized how grateful I was for my life and everyone who’d crossed my path. I had more work to do but now I was coming at it from an entirely new Perspective.
I didn’t feel that I had any close connections…many people have drifted in and out of my life. My intention for this ceremony was to find out the role “I” played in my failed relationships. I started going through a list of ex boyfriends…I was never abused but had been cheated on numerous times and had stayed too long in almost every situation. I realized I had not been grateful…expected others to make me feel happy. When they didn’t/let me down, my happiness fell away as well.
I thought I was independent because I had taken care of myself financially, and sometimes others, but realized how codependent I really was.Low self-esteem and a lack of self-love. I thought I was independent because I had taken care of myself financially, and sometimes others, but realized how codependent I really was. I focused on remembering the good times, gave kudos to the guys who had improved their lives and wished them well. I didn’t need to hold onto this crap anymore, just let it go. As for my current boyfriend…we had grown apart and had discussed this. I didn’t really know what would happen when I got home. The intimate relationship may be over but holy crap, I love that guy! He gave me the space I needed to fall apart and rebuild myself. There I was, sitting in the middle of Ecuador in a sweat lodge with 30 of my newest “family members”, being guided by some truly awesome Shamans…and he completely supported it! He was the only one who knew 100% of what I was up to, traveling alone to South America. I didn’t yet know how to even begin to explain it to anyone else.
What had brought me here? It had crossed my mind many times but the timing wasn’t right. “Mother Aya calls you” we were told. You were all meant to be here at this exact time. It was a scary thought, diving in and exploring the depths of your soul head-first; like 10 years of therapy condensed into two weeks. The last few years had been particularly rough. I quit a job (and career) that I disliked and had burned me out. And then…I fell apart. My health failed, depression set in, my relationship started slipping away, and yet I couldn’t stop it. I had trouble concentrating and at times, words would not come out of my mouth properly…jumbled and incoherent. The Descent was painful and slow…I lost days, weeks, a year or more? Some of it was new but I had been ignoring the pain and fatigue in my body for too long. Working too many hours, putting others’ needs above my own, and ingesting things that were damaging my body.
I was lost after quitting. I had been managing for 12 years…and now, no one needed me. Having no energy to get out of bed or leave the house most days, I began reading, searching. Nutrition, food intolerances, side effects of the birth control I had started, self-help books…spending hours absorbing whatever Knowledge I came across. I went to a few doctors, some helpful, some not. I journaled, practiced yoga when my body felt strong enough, and read some more. I began reading uplifting articles of others who had gone through a dark night of the soul and came out the other side. I started integrating things I had learned, focusing on the good, not being as judgmental, being more positive in general. I realized my isolation was keeping me in depression and I needed a social outlet which I found through an additional pt job. It was remedial but wouldn’t overwhelm me…start small. I spoke with others, came across possible career opportunities. I tried some out and turned some down. I had been doing the same thing for so many years that I didn’t even know what my options were… The most challenging and biggest thing I needed to learn about was myself, what do I want, enjoy, etc. I had lost myself in the chaos. Numerology, Enneagram, all the various various ways to analyze oneself have been insightful but often I still forget just to stop, tune-in, and listen to my higher self.
I feel like I’ve already started a new Journey…and yet like it’s just begun. I am a constant learner…so perhaps it will never end. Or is that just doubt creeping in that I will never find what I’m looking for? I know I’m on a spiritual journey. I dismissed organized religion after being turned off as a kid. It’s been less than a year that I’ve even been able to use the word God without feeling uncomfortable. I’ve never completely denounced a higher spirit but I didn’t label or accept one either. Working with the Shamans in Ecuador, they used Great Spirit, Mother, Father…which I found easier to accept and connect with in this transition, realizing they are one in the same. They lived in prayer and gratitude. Giving thanks for the food, the water, for holding our space. Their humbleness and acceptance of us “gringos” was incredible considering the whining and outright disrespect they received from a few…but they had a mission as healers.
I’ve never completely denounced a higher spirit but I didn’t label or accept one either.They had been called to unite the East and the West, the story of the Condor and the Eagle, connecting the mind with the heart/spirit. It was a difficult burden to bear but they do it with grace. It was during my second ceremony that the thought jumped into my mind…maybe I can do what they are doing. Be a Shaman, a Healer. I don’t know in what form; like them, working with plant medicine or maybe completely different like in an office setting. There is more to learn, exploring modalities, connecting with others on the same path, and seeing where life takes me.
My first draft of writing my Transformation story was filled with details of all the bad things I’ve gone through but I realized that’s the not the story I wanted to write. Instead, I chose to focus on the lessons I’ve learned from my experiences whether good or bad. While it has been a long process, my time in Ecuador was profoundly life-changing and why it was my area of focus. The hard work was coming back (as we were told it would be) but it liberated me mentally from the plateau I had been stuck on. This is the first time I have written about my experience there with the intent to share it, which is scary in itself, as it may be taboo and difficult for many to comprehend journeying with plant medicine. I am eternally grateful for the safe space of healing they’ve created there and I hope to return someday. I just need to implement the what I’ve learned first, before I go asking for more 😉
Learn how you can deepen your readings through a Transformation Oracle Workshop, like Kristen!