Step One - Find your Tribe.
The very simple, little brick building greeted me when I pulled into the parking lot. A single door was wide open, patiently waiting to welcome the guests that would be arriving shortly. I sat in my car in the empty lot and wondered what I was about to encounter. I felt the all too familiar and decidedly irrational fear vibrating around me. I realized I was at a cross roads. I was going to have to accept a spot in humanity, I was going to have to participate and be counted. Sequestering myself because it was easier was not working for me. A circle of wise women, the group invite had said. "Well, I am a woman and I need wisdom," I assured myself.
The seeking began as far back as I can remember; a yearning to understand my place in the world and my purpose. Of course at 7 years old, you don't put terms to the feelings. You just know you have them. You don't know their labels; you only feel them pulling you, almost a whisper in your ear.
The grass on the back forty acres of my father's farm would grow very tall in the summer. I often thought it was taller than me but maybe I just wanted to imagine that it was. There was something so freeing about running through it with abandon, not knowing what secrets it hid or where. So soft the grass was that I could easily trod it down, walking in a circle that would create a woven bed of reeds several inches deep. The nest I would make kept me safe from the heat of the day. The coolness from the earth rose beneath me as I sprawled out with my hands behind my head. A wall of bobbing, feathery tops surrounded me and all I could see was the sky, a beautiful robin's egg blue, and the clouds that happened to drift by.
I would indulge in the usual daydreams any child might have, but there was always something more. Not until I was well into my 40's did I begin to understand what that "feeling" was and why it began all those many, many years ago in the field in Iowa. Now after another 15 years, I would finally come to know.
The inner room of the church looked like most any you might see in a non-denominational setting, no trappings of any particular dogma, but artwork, musical instruments and a sense that people gather here for a common purpose. Rows of chairs had been stacked aside to make room for us all, thirteen of us, to spread our mats in a circle, like a star with feet to the center. There, where our mats met, was a simple blanket and a woman, the Shaman. I would be hard pressed to describe her presence. I can tell you how she looked; tall, slender, her hair tied up in a messy topknot with a pink scarf. She was dressed in soft grey flowing layers with a pair of leggings. She spoke softly and deliberately as everyone took their places.
It was cool in the room and I was glad I had followed directions for a change and brought a blanket. I draped it across my lap and legs for warmth and also for security. I felt an increasingly strong sense of vulnerability, fear wouldn't be the word, but under the blanket I was less exposed to the circle of women I had come there to be a part of. I was, however, amazed at my level of comfort with them. I didn't feel isolated like I might normally have, but I didn't feel at peace either. That would be earned.
The Shaman knelt in front of each attendee in turn and in a very private moment, anointed them with oil, laying her hands on their face, intent on discerning their needs. Seeing without seeing why each had sought this healing meditation. She was close enough now that I could hear a bit of what she was saying but I felt like I was prying, I directed my intent inward out of respect for that person's moment.
I could smell the scent of the oil, earthy, spicy, rich and flowerlike and it drifted through the room now. She stepped in front of me, knelt down and asked if I had been undergoing a very difficult time recently. Puzzled she would know this, I explained that my husband had asked for a divorce and naturally, I felt very angry and depressed. A moment of sympathy came across her face and was immediately replaced by a bright and kind smile, "Well, we're going to get rid of that today. You are in the right place."
She asked me to close my eyes and began to speak to me and as she did, she touched my face with her hands prepared with the oil. "Oh," she whispered, "you have a beautiful soul. Stretch your spine upward toward Source....".and her words trailed off...she was still talking to me, but I couldn't make out what she was saying. I can only describe it as being "flooded" with love and acceptance, it washed over me in a huge wave and I couldn't contain it. I began to weep, from a deep dark place of sadness. I felt a rushing to the surface. I could hear her voice again, "It's ok, don't fight it...tears are ok here." She pushed my hair back from my face, stroking my head and kissed me on the forehead. I continued to sob and wipe my tears as quietly as I could until the whole group was ready for the next steps of our journey together.
We each reclined on our mats to begin the meditation, and my blanket was warm. I felt safe now, with a growing sense of what was about to take place. The spoken words of the meditation began to guide us through our past, rooting out fears and injuries, old commitments, betrayals, struggles and addictions, abuse, any and all heavy, dark energy we had been dragging around with us. Beings of light, Angels, were asked to help each of us cut the cords binding these old things to us. We stepped further from our earthly bodies into the consciousness of our own being.
Suddenly, the guided meditation stopped and we were "left" to finish the path on our own. This would be the personal part of the journey. The only sound was the chanting music selected by the Shaman. I allowed myself to drift while feeling the sensations of my body. My arms slightly outstretched and my palms raised, I laid on my back with my knees bent and my feet on the mat. The small of my back rested heavily, almost buried in the floor, as was the back of my head. Slowly, I begin to feel like my arms were no longer on the floor but floating somehow. I couldn't feel the hard floor beneath my back anymore. My head felt as though it were on a down pillow.
The Shaman was above me now, spreading another oil across my forehead and down the sides of my face. She touched my chin and my throat and finally the top of my head, stroking my hair before stepping away. I started to cry again but this time it was different. It was from a place of joy. I waited, and then it came. It wrapped around me. Like a portal had opened, a conduit, and without warning energy came rushing down through it, circling around to my back and pulling up though my chest, my heart. My upper back involuntarily lifted off the floor as I felt it pulling me up. I couldn't feel my arms or any part of my body any longer but I felt like my chest was going to burst. It was expanding and I felt suspended as if by ropes around my rib cage. At the same time, the most brilliant, bright white light I have ever seen surrounded me. It wasn't a light like one would see or imagine at the end of a tunnel but rather, I was completely immersed in it. A flash of pure, clear energy and then quiet, even though the music was still playing I was not aware of anything or any sound. I opened my eyes to be sure I was still here; I was still on the earth. With the same quiet resignation that the waves return to the sea, the pull stopped, the portal slowly closed and I came back to rest under my blanket. My body felt moored to the ground once again, but it felt lighter, newer and stronger.
The women, in various stages of composure, sat up and rejoined the group. We gave away the things we no longer needed, releasing them back to where they came from. We discussed what today had meant to each of us. As I listened intently to others' experiences, I was struck with a profound truth. My truth, my wisdom, my learning is just beginning. I have found the way out of my social anxiety. I have found a fellowship of seekers. Women like me, wise women indeed.
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