Shaman's Fast- Part Two
Can you admit honestly when you have broken a pledge, promise or vow? Well if you were in Hollywood this past Wednesday afternoon and happened to be on Vermont Ave around 5pm you may have seen me digging into a veggie burger and fries at Fatburger! Yes it’s true, I broke my fast and cannot tell you how much I truly enjoyed and delighted in one of my favorite ‘treat’ meals.
There are numerous reasons why I could say it happened. Was it that I just finished receiving two-hours of spiritual counsel with a Monk at Self Realization Fellowship, and all we shared served to stir my hunger? Or is it that I am with weak will power? One thing I know is years ago if I would have ‘broken a vow’- I could never have admitted it. I would have wanted people to like me for what I do, not how I do- what ever it is I did. I would need to appear as some version of perfection- thinking this is how people will respect and ‘like’ me more.
When I lived in New York I taught yoga and worked at a nursing home during the day. At night I performed shows with a rock band. I lived two seemingly separate lives. At yoga I was always the ‘perfect’ teacher. For many years none of my students knew I smoked tobacco or drank alcohol. At the nursing home my hair was up in a bun and all of my tattoos were covered. While performing in rock shows with band ‘69 Nova’, I let my dread-locked hair down and pushed my cleavage up! I drank Guinness and Jack Daniels, and smoked my famous sagerettes during those late and raucous nights- back when you could still smoke in bars. Low and behold, over time some of my yoga students began coming to the rock shows and my two worlds collided. I suddenly felt I was betraying my students by having this other life outside of our very pure yoga classes and my good girl employee-at-a-nursing-home reputation. Could I smoke in front of my yoga students? Could I swill a Jack and Coke and still be my pure and true self? The answer is YES.
Tuesday performing with '69 Nova' circa 2002.
It is actually quite liberating, allowing myself to be human. The best part about it is I intend to stay the course of this fast. I have not allowed my ‘slip’ to take me down a road of giving up and throwing away the blessing and merit of what has been achieved thus far. When I say merit, I mean the spiritual, energetic and personal expansion, the transformation, focus and discipline gained along this fast thus far. It is easy to just give up completely, I could decide to eat veggie burgers everyday from here on out and forget about the fast altogether. But then what? What of the magic that is dispensed by the universe for following through on the innate divine guidance one receives?
This is the third in a trinity of the longest fast’s I have ever been guided to practice. It is easy to allow a ‘slip’ to change the entire course of one’s path. Say, for example you are trying to give something up, like smoking for instance. You may have been very good for many months and have not gone near a cigarette. Then one day you decide one wont hurt, and then you have another, and then you buy a pack and you are smoking more than you ever did before! I will my will to stay the course of this discipline. I am happy to say my fasting diet has expanded from adzuki beans, vegetables, miso soup and quinoa- to include yogurt, organic coconut shards, rice cakes, nut butters, avocado and hummus. I do daydream of pumpkin pie, and with Thanksgiving coming up... well, I will cross that bridge when I get there!
It’s amazing how the senses become acutely heightened during fasting. The other day while walking in the city I was overwhelmed by the pungent fumes of carbon monoxide distilled from car exhausts, and I had to cover my nose and mouth as the spritely stench of urine became illumined through my nostrils while undertaking my usual path to work. Are these smells always here? And are they always this strong? Should I find a new route to walk tomorrow? It is profound how fasting and a change of diet can expand the basic and often overlooked sense-abilities.
It is the same for my home. How could I have left it so many months to clean the refrigerator, and my bathtub? It reminds me of my favorite Yoga teacher, she is the closest thing to a guru I have ever experienced. Meaning, I have never been the type to call anyone ‘my guru’- until she came into my life. I still don’t really call her my guru, well - maybe sometimes. Deep within, I know she is the closest thing to ‘guru’ I have ever felt. Traditionally guru simply means the remover of darkness. In many ways we are guru for one another.
I recall my teacher telling a story about how she had discovered an old lemon upon her sacred alter space. Within the area allocated for pictures of her gurus, Indian deities and other objects that signify her spiritual path, she would often leave offerings for the gods such as sweets, small stones, or fruit. She had left it so long before cleaning her alter space, that upon finally taking things down and wiping picture frames and such, she discovered the fateful lemon she had once left as an offering to Ganesha. It was shriveled up and covered in dried and dusty mold. I thought of this story a couple days ago while showering. I couldn’t help myself, I had to step out of the running shower, grab the Ajax and copper scour scrubber from under the bathroom sink and get to work. Just how many months had it been since I scrubbed the tub? Too many.
The fast is not allowing me to leave any corners unkempt. I can’t just turn a blind eye anymore. All the little things I would normally gloss over now require my appreciation and attention. No more thinking “Maybe my roommates will do it.” Same thing with the fridge, and this week the fast wouldn’t let me get away without seeing the utter funk that had built up in the cracks and crevices. Now that I am finished with the liquid portion of my fast and onto the solid food part- I just can't bare to put beautiful and amazing food items such as fresh organic kale onto a dirty refrigerator shelf, knowing I will soon be eating it.
While I scrubbed the tub I noticed bright orange flashes of color within the center of my palms and the backs of my hands. After some time I recalled the porcupine quills broken into my hands amongst my recent ceremony within the inner worlds. I realize it is past the time the tribe leader told me to come back. I envision my body wrapped like a mummy inside that dark cave, deep below this world of scrubbing tubs, bus rides and grocery store lines.
This leads me to ‘Part Two’ of my inner world travels. This last journey took some time to digest, as it served to move my soul in ways it had not been moved prior. This ‘soul movement’ is the blessing, and the ‘merit’ I spoke if earlier. When we are guided from within or above by a divine force, and see something through – there is usually a reason. A meaningful revealing often takes place in our lives as we complete the task at hand.
It is Sunday morning and I am stirred to awaken. Upon checking the time I see it is 4am. I think to myself “I wanted to sleep in today...” And close my eyes while snuggling with the cat but I can’t deny a tingling in my heart, and I know I must get up and meditate at the birth of this new dawn. After gathering my drum and sacred items I sit with a blanket and light a candle. Today I begin with counting my breath. I perform oujai breathing while connecting my tongue to the top of my mouth, and roll my eyes (behind gently closed eyelids) to the center of my forehead. I count one, two, three, four- up to eight as I slowly inhale and then one, two, three, four... up to eight again as I hold my breath, followed by another count of eight as I slowly exhale completely. I perform eight round of this practice and follow it by softly drumming. A song wishes to come through and my tongue relaxes while my eyes stay suspended upward. A sacred song I have not heard before begins to sing softly through me.
Over the years of being ‘with drum’ and using it as a part of ceremony during personal and group meditations, Reiki gatherings and spiritual practices, I have experienced such sweet, sacred tones channel through my vessel. While in ceremony with Ayahausca last year, I heard my voice reverberate from within my body as I never had before. This, I believe is due to the shape-shifting of my skull from bone to quartz crystal during that evening. My crystal skull allows a deep resonance of sound to echo within my body and without. The occurrence shifted my voice to a new frequency that has been with me since. It is no longer my voice that sings during service, but the universe that sings through me. *It is interesting to note the word ‘Universe’ translates to ‘One- Song’.
As spirit moves through and I drum softly, I feel the Tribe Leader pull me towards the cave. I was to be wrapped up for three days and at this point I am late in my return. As I drum in the physical world, I depart my body and float down the kitchen sink pipes, returning to the sacred space of the inner worlds. Many of my totem animal friends are awaiting my visit. I sit next to my big tree, leaning my spine against her wide trunk. I can feel the soft grass under my bare feet as I breathe deeply here. Crocodile slowly emerges from the saltwater lake that always accompanies my inner world environments and I recall how I dreamt of him recently. Telepathically he transmits to me he will be my escort into the cave where Puma and my mummified body reside.
I look down and notice an army-green satchel I often use in this realm. It feels heavy but I do not look inside. I take it along and reach for my inner world drum that lies by the tree. I begin drumming as myself and Crocodile enter the darkness of the cave and within minutes we arrive to the cul-de-sac area I left several days before. Puma is sitting at the entrance to this space. He is alert and ‘on guard’ as a loyal watchdog would be. Crocodile takes his place while Puma accompanies me into the circle where the tribe resides. I stop in my tracks, astonished to find my body dismembered, and I slowly stop drumming. My head, arms and legs are severed from my torso and individually wrapped in the same cloth of the previous ritual. What is even more daunting – each tribe member appears to be gnawing at one of my limbs as the eyes inside of my dismembered head watches from a tree stump. I look sheepishly to the Tribe Leader, knowing I am late in my return and wonder if the scenario I am seeing is somehow a punishment for my tardiness. Tribe Leader motions to me telepathically, letting me know the current happenings are of no such consequence. He knows I am late, but he welcomes me because he is my teacher.
He guides me to stand above my severed head. I take my place and realize the tribe members are not actually eating my limbs. The closer I look, I see they are simply motioning as if. Are they chewing away debris and illness, all the parts of me that need cleaning? Soon the tribe members place my body parts down in alignment with my torso. Tribe Leader motions to the satchel that lies over my shoulders. I reach into it and pull out a huge shining green emerald stone. It weighs heavy in my hands and its energy pulsates as I pass it to the Tribe Leader. He holds it up into the air with both hands, as to bless it- and then sets it aside.
My body prickles with fear as I sense what may be coming next. I feel a 'surgery' of sorts approaching this scene. I know it can’t be anything I am not ready to receive in this world, or any other, but I am still on high alert. Though these experiences are new to me in this life-time, they are like memories of life times past. Tribe Leader swills from a clear glass bottle and holds the liquid in his mouth with cheeks large. He next spits and sprays the liquid over all members in the circle. He next takes a puff of tobacco from his pipe and blows the smoke in all directions. He speaks a few words, again in a language I do not recognize. It feels like the invocation to this ceremony has begun. He nods to me, and as I stand over my dismembered crown, I begin to drum.
The beater in my hand bounces on the skin of my drum- in a heartbeat rhythm. Tribe Leader next hovers his hands over my lone torso (still unattached from my limbs) for a few moments, and then plunges his right hand into my chest. While I sit in the third dimension, drumming in my living room, I feel a deep sensation in my upper body and gasp a deep inhalation. He next pulls my heart from my body. I see it bloody and beating in his hand. I watch this ceremony of the inner worlds from the alternate universe of my living room and begin to cry. I know what I am watching is an initiation of sorts, and once I allow this ceremony to be complete there is no going back.
He takes my heart into his left hand and cuts an incision into it with the fingers of his right hand. He then places the emerald jewel inside of my incised and still beating heart. I immediately sense an intense healing take place from deep within a part of me that has always been here, but I have not explored much; my soul. Again Tribe Leader swills from the glass bottle and spits and sprays the clear liquid over my heart while it rests in his hand, and follows that by smoking from his pipe and blowing tobacco over this sacred organ of my body. He next places my heart into his mouth and just as Crocodile would, he gulps my heart down in one swoop. As I stand drumming in this inner world circle, I see my heart travel down inside of his body until it sinks into his own. It begins beating in synch with his heart. At this point I know there is no turning back, from this ceremony and from its significance to me at this point in my life. Is this something I have deliberately asked for? Or is this something that simply is? I have always known my path would come to this, as it has many lifetimes over.
After some time the regurgitation of my heart from his body takes place, and again he holds it in his hand. He reaches for a small pouch and with head tilted back, he appears to swallow its contents. Upon lowering his chin, he then spits over my heart again. But this time it is not the clear liquid from before, or smoke of tobacco, but a beautiful gold dust that covers my heart completely like a shiny metallic paint. He turns to me in his stoic manner and telepathically tells me my soul is now 'fire-proof' and protected throughout all worlds and dimensions. He seals the area of my heart opened to place the emerald inside, with a clear wax liquid he pours from a small glass bottle. Once again he raises my heart to the sky and speaks in a language unknown to me yet. He then places my heart back inside of my chest. My heart begins to beat in my body and the tribe members rejoin my arms and legs to my trunk. They drip, pour and rub the clear wax serum (that Tribe Leader used) over and under my shoulders, arms, hips, thighs and neck. This instantly heals and reconnects all of my body parts.
I am now rocking back and forth in my living room as I drum. I am crying- softly howling as sobbing tears flow down my cheeks. The intensity of this experience is almost too much to bear. In the third dimension my hips and ankles are aching and pulsing from sitting in lotus for... I’m not sure how long. All I know is I am ready to go home, I am ready to come back. "Can I go home now?" I think to myself. In the cave of inner worlds the tribe members are now dancing, playing drums and rattles in a circle around me while I slowly sit up and become re-acquainted with my renewed body and heart. I motion to Tribe Leader and telepathically tell him I am ready to go. The tribe members help me to stand and unwrap my body from its mummified state. Tribe Leader motions that we will smoke a tobacco offering before I go, but now I can feel the extreme discomfort of my third dimensional body like never before and I just want to go home. I shake my head ‘No’ and motion to Puma and Crocodile that we are leaving. “I gotta go.” I tell Tribe Leader. “Come sit with us, stay and smoke.” He motions. I bow to him with great respect and thank him for this otherworldly healing and the many blessings therein, but I cannot stay a moment longer. “I must go.” I speak out loud to him. I gather my satchel and find it hard to walk, so sit I upon Puma's back as we make our way out. My journey body is still drumming as I walk behind the scene of my renewed-body. I see me riding upon Puma's back, along with Crocodile as we all make our way back to the entrance of this cave. And it cannot be quick enough.
We finally return and I crawl from Puma to lay upon Crocodile’s back who then walks us into the lake where I am submerged three times and it feels so good, so healing to be back. I next crawl from the water and lay upon the grass. I am out of breath, exhausted and feel drained. The journeying, 'drumming me’ knows I must leave the renewed and refurbished me to rest. Once I feel the renewed me is comfortable, I quickly fly up through the sink pipes and return to my body. Three last beats upon the drum to complete the ceremony and I fall back in lotus and slowly begin to uncross my legs, gently unwinding my knees and ankles that are throbbing at this point. I lay back and sob even harder now. I cry of the energetic shifts bestowed unto me from this mind-blowing journey. As I make my way to bed I see the clock signify I had been in ceremony & sitting in lotus for 100 minutes. No wonder my hips are aching.
I sink into a deep sleep and awake four and a-half hours later by a phone call. A pal asks if I can substitute teach his yoga class. I agree, knowing it will help me to get ‘back into my body’ but I feel very disoriented and foggy as I make my way through Downtown. All through class I am careful because I feel drunk, or like I have just got new glasses and need time to become acclimated to my ‘new sight’. As I wait for the bus home, I feel completely jet lagged, and hungover- though I have not drank any alcohol and have only traveled to the inner worlds. As I sit on the bus home I notice a very old woman sitting across from me. She has a black beaded Crocodile keychain hanging from her purse. It is a sign.
At home I feel ungrounded and ready to eat, though it is my seventh day of liquid fasting, and I have only to go through this eve until I can ‘officially’ eat tomorrow if I shall decide. I sit and watch the movie ‘Frida’ about Frida Kahlo’s life. I am astonished and moved by the scene in which she is fascinated by the gold paint of an artist on the bus that later covers her body (as is my heart). The same bus ride causes here to undergo a lifetime of her body being broken apart and put back together again. The Crocodile keychain, the gold paint and her physical-body's incarnations are synchronistic with my scenario.
I finish the movie and sit in stillness. I want badly to smoke a sagerette and briefly wonder if I have the ingredients to make it a reality. I then consider the ramifications- "You are fasting Tuesday.. No smoking!" I think to myself. I then realize Tribe Leaders request for me to stay and smoke with the group. I could not earlier, as I had reached my limit of other worldly surgeries and third dimensional lotus hips reality. But now, as darkness falls and day becomes night, I know I must go back and fiinish the ceremony started earlier this morning.
So I begin to travel with my drum and re-enter my saced space. Crocodile is expecting me, and with Puma we re-enter the cave. This time there are bats flying around inside of the cave. They are swooping and trying to dive bomb me. Is this because I did not finish ceremony? I feel like they are here to signify the opening of my energy, left by not completing the ceremony. Would they be here had I finished the ceremony earlier? I feel they signify no real danger, but they are a nuisance none the less.
As we arrive, The tribe is sitting in a circle, awaiting my presence. Tribe leader shows me where to sit and begins to fill his bone-pipe with tobacco and other herbs. The pipe is passed in a clockwise direction, away from me. Each member takes two puffs and slowly passes it to the left. As it arrives to me, I savor the feeling of this pipe in my hand. I hold it to my lips and take a long slow inhalation. The smoke fill my lungs with its healing energy and I take one more puff, this time holding the smoke inside of my body for a few seconds. I look to Tribe Leader and he nods, as if saying “Now this ceremony is complete..” We sit for some time together in silence and I now know I am truly ready to go back home. I offer gratitude to my group and Tribe Leader and make my way back with my totem friends. This time the bats are hanging upside down, asleep and do not notice our passage through the cave.
As I enter my sacred space outside of the cave, my renewed body lies upon a bed of daisies and my Peacock totems flourish their beautiful feathers around me in a circle, as to protect me while I rest here. Upon returning to my third dimensional home through the kitchen pipes, and reawkening from this second journey of the day. I feel refreshed and any craving for tobacco is now gone. I slowly stretch and stand up, deciding I will in fact begin my solid food diet tonight and commence to make quinoa and steamed kale. It was the best meal ever... maybe even better than that veggie burger and fries! (c)TuesdayMayThomas