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Don’t Squeeze the Shaman: Life Lessons I have Learned from my Friend the Healer

Posted April 17, 2009

I’m not sure that I could tell you what “normal” looks like anymore. My perception of what is “out there,” or crazy, has certainly changed over the past year and a half. Experience will do that for you. It is one thing to read, study, and speculate, and quite another to experience.

I consider myself fairly open-minded. I have my own opinions and ideas, but I certainly accept that others are entitled to theirs. It isn’t my place to push mine onto them. In addition to the way of thinking that was emphasized to me in law school, I’ve always placed some credence on following your gut—that in addition to looking at all of the concrete facts in a situation; one should follow after peace and do what feels good. Thus, though a bit of a skeptic, and legally trained to assess the tangible facts when looking at any situation, I’ve always allowed room for what cannot be seen. I’ve been open to the idea of internal guidance, though not necessarily sure exactly what that meant.

I enjoy when things aren’t as they appear. I love the concept of not being able to judge a book by its cover. I’ve never liked stereo-types and had to laugh at myself when I realized I have created many of my own. I grew up in a conservative middle class protestant household. My father worked at Johnson’s Space Center and my mother was involved in the community and held leadership positions in our church. I didn’t realize how much of a “90210” or privileged homogonous high school I’d attended until I went off to college. I was not surrounded by a lot of diversity. I did have some brilliant friends who challenged me to look bigger and to see outside of myself, but I have to admit that I grew up in my own little world and I’m really enjoying experiencing how much more there is out there than I’d originally perceived.

So, growing up in the environment that I did, I was not aware that modern day shamans exist. If they did, I’d certainly be able to spot them, since they must all be Native Americans with long, wild hair and eccentric behavior. A psychic would be like “Miss Cleo” from the infomercials, or a gypsy-type woman who had a crystal ball and tarot cards to offer from her shop off the side of the road. I wasn’t even so sure that any seeming abilities that such people possess could be real. If anyone tried to read my future, it would be generic enough like the daily horoscopes that could mean different things to anyone. It’s funny how things aren’t always as they appear and how we really can’t judge a book by its cover.

A year and a half ago, I met Dani. He was sent to our martial arts school to run classes after our main instructor decided to leave. Dani looks “normal.” He looks like you or me. He is a black belt instructor in two different martial arts. He served in the armed forces. He is physically fit and is pleasant to talk with. He has mischievousness about him and has a great sense of humor. When I walked into the dojo and saw him for the first time, I heard the little voice inside my head say “he is your teacher.” Well of course he was—that was pretty obvious, right?! “Not that kind of teacher” the voice told me, but I didn’t really know how to process that, so I just tucked it away.

Living in Austin, I have finally experienced some diversity. There is a movement of local business owners to “Keep Austin weird”---that should tell you something. Austin is an amazing city—it is the capital, it has several universities, it is known for its live music—there is culture. It’s also very much still Texas. There are plenty of cowboys, smaller towns and open land. There are also the hippies and new age thinkers. It is a liberal-minded town where you can find just about anything. I have enjoyed expanding my experiences by trying out some new things. I really love adventures, and have become almost addicted to trying to bust down some of the walls that I built growing up in such a conservative environment. Kung fu has certainly helped me in that capacity. I’ve also attended different personal growth seminars and have recently added belly dance classes into the mix.

About 2 summers ago, I attended a weekend seminar about recognizing and using your intuition. I was telling Dani a bit about a meditation experience I had at the seminar as we were stretching before class. He told me that he’d like to hear more, so a day or so later, he called. Of course my husband and I had just had words before the phone rang and he could tell that I was a bit upset. I learned the first and one of the biggest lessons from Dani in that phone conversation: it’s always about you, or in my case, it’s always about me. He’d asked me why I was upset with Mike and I had a few responses which he immediately put on me. We are mirrors for each other. What I saw and didn’t like in Mike were really things I saw and didn’t like in myself. Dani asked me, “What’s your deepest, darkest sin?” I thought about something and he said, “No, not that.” I kind of think “whatever” and move on in my mind to something else. I said nothing at all and he tells me “yes, that” and then proceeds to describe what I had done and kept to myself for so many years. He encouraged me to tell Mike, which I did the next morning, and I saw that what I had perceived as some great evil, was really not so unforgivable. Since that day, we have had many life-lesson conversations.

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