Thursday, September 7, 2006


I'm not sure why I've been in a darkish mood the last couple of days. I've been feeling my mortality and thinking about it. I don't want to sound morbid or morose because it's not like that. It's just kind of dark. And it's just part of being and feeling alive.

On August 19-21, 1999, I experienced the Shaman's Death. It wasn't at all 'typical' of the traditional initiations of native cultures. It was a very modern version, especially now that this 'ritual' I experienced has become an icon of modern advertising, but the 'where-and-how' it happened really isn't as important as 'what' in this case. Not that the 'where-and-how' aren't at all important; nearly everything has a 'landscape' or 'background' that's not mutually exclusive (though not always very influential). However, it's a sociological mistake for some people to say that the only way to a truly profound experience is to go through a particular, regimented ritual. Some native cultures sent their Shamans out into the wilderness for a few days, and some 'buried' them overnight. Some cultures had other practices. But they all sought the effect of facing your Shadow (your darkest fears and impulses) and emerging wiser (though wounded) for it, or to be 'spiritually reborn'.* I think of my 'death' as having my 'bubble' - my bubble of illusions that surrounded me and distorted my view of the world (like a placenta in a way) - burst . And it was a real visual experience that literally appeared as if the 'old world' fell away in pieces and disappeared, leaving an almost painfully vivid and crisp world in view.

It was the kind of sight that your heart 'sees' in addition to your brain. There might be some kind of neural 'direct line' of communication from the visual nerve directly to the heart. And maybe not, but it sounds good. ;-) Maybe this is the 'chi' of Eastern traditions. Anyway, it was profound and painful in a visceral way. Some might call it a heartbreak, but it was more than that. Not that heartbreak isn't bad, but a Shaman's Death is a more complete breaking of the entire self. And the future is truly, absolutely unknown which means that you don't even know if you have a home to return to. That is a very scary feeling, but you must face it.

I don't really consider myself a Shaman, but that 'system' of beliefs most appeals to me because much of it most accurately reflects my own life experiences. The Shaman's Death was truly the rebirth into a new way of thinking of myself and my world. And it has been a long, hard process to reintegrate my 'new' self into the world. After that rebirth it takes time to learn to live again. So all of that was the 'what' of it, but the 'why' of the Shaman's Death has always been somewhat elusive, as most good 'why' questions tend to be. ;-)

I'm not sure what it means, but I've been feeling on the verge of something important. And maybe that is what seems to have heightened my sense of mortality. But not just mortality in the sense of living for a limited time, but of being and living. It's a greater awareness of being alive in a physical, sensual world. And that's good because I tend to neglect that over the intellectual and spiritual aspects of life. Maybe I'm reaching some other Shamanic milestone. I'll have to look it up.

*I've also been Baptized.

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