As an aspiring adept, I was moved to write this article out of a desire to be honest about an intense personal struggle that stirs a sense of inadequacy. In the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition of Cross Cultural Shamanism, one’s vista plays a crucial role in ceremonial craft of all kinds in our relational work with the energies and entities of the unseen world. I know and accept this, even though it is here that I struggle. Belief is not the issue at hand. While certainly not discouraging to the point of resignation, it has nevertheless been my experience that encountering these realities via my senses, physical or otherwise, has been a mystifying challenge. My hope in openly sharing this deeply humbling state of things is that those who have similarly struggled with relating to the unseen world will find some resonance and that together we might learn from one another how we might travel on as Hampikamayoq, carriers of spirit medicine.
It was during my Five-Part Apprenticeship that I learned about shamanic vista, which, as I understand it, is a form of energetic sight, or capacity to peer through the veil and see the sources of wounding. In this way, energetic fields, blockages, and disorders are identified and manipulated so that balance and wholeness can be restored. The ability to perceive this living matrix is vital if one is to walk the path of a healer in this tradition. So, I start with a deeply personal fear – if this ability to perceive energetic states, bodies, manifestations, and expressions of the unseen world are the measure of my shamanic aptitude, then I must be an utter novice who has botched both his initiation and apprenticeship. While straining to hear the guidance of my teachers, I often find myself lacking the capacity to see beyond myself and the physical plane. I feel blind to many magical things, while at the same time I bear witness to the work of those who are not. Countless are the circles in which I sat with masters and mistresses who saw, heard, and felt things that I could only imagine. I looked on in awe as they pierced the veil, invoked, and engaged forces beyond my perceptual scope.
Nevertheless, what I do see, I see clearly: love and wholeness. There is no denying the power of these emissaries to heal, restore, and transform. I cannot question this reality when I stand in its presence. But even there, in the midst of this sweet communion, I am anguished by a deep, unrelenting voice asking “Why is it so hard for me to know the source of such wonder?” As the great poet Rainer Maria Rilke writes in his Book of Hours: Love Poems to God – “So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp.” I am left then, to struggle onward with the challenge of opening myself up and surrendering more to a world I cannot see.
So as I gnaw away at the cords that seemingly bind me, I ask the question again, what could it be that holds me back? And time after time, this question leads me to my own culture of origin. As a student of history, I am aware that in many ways I am a product of the western European world with its exalted “Age of Reason”. I was taught that to know and experience something as “real” I needed to see with my eyes, to hear with my ears, to feel with my skin, to smell with my nose, or to taste with my tongue. For something to be true and factual, I must observe it as such, with observation confined to the realm of perception by way of my five physical senses.
In keeping with this dogmatic approach to reality, I was taught the “scientific method” from an early age in school – hypothesize, test, determine validity based on the evidence of observed results, repeat. This approach still holds sway over the field to which I have devoted my professional career – psychology and psychotherapy. In the world of community mental health we have to bill insurance companies for services rendered, and those services must be “evidence-based,” a designation that epitomizes a scientific methodology. As a result, healing modalities that have been practiced around the world for millennia are given short shrift by contemporaries unless and until they are systematically deconstructed, reconstituted as outcome data, and presented to an already skeptical cadre of scientifically minded peers who then may, or may not, ascent to their use.
There can be no doubt that this highly rational, reductionist way of seeing the world has impacted, or at least influenced, my perceptual range and my diminished attunement to the non-material nature of the universe. Regardless, overcoming my energetic misalignment then is the crux of the matter, be it culturally induced or simply a byproduct of the human condition. The hunger is un-abating and the beckoning is a clarion call. So, I choose to step forward and use the capacity that I do claim as my vista, and I heed my intuition and let her guide my voyage.
In response, she leads me to this shore whereupon I find myself aground – without over simplifying my quest into some formulaic regimen, my intuitive heart tells me that there are three things I need to do: release that which impedes, be re-Membered by SOURCE, and learn to trust my imagination.
First, my challenge is to release all the energetic blockages that I need no extra-sensory perception to identify. Most specifically, I am talking about attachment in the form of desire and envy. I recognize that my desire for this capacity is not selfless, and as such, stirs envy of those who seem to come into their abilities more readily. It is here that I most recognize the voices of the sanctioned teachers under which I apprenticed – “Be the hollow bone, David, be the hollow bone.” In this sense, the releasing I am called to complete is more an emptying than anything, a pouring out that which fills the vessel and thereby making space for something new. I call upon my mesa and will work within the campo ganadero as I seek a purified heart.
Second, my challenge is to invite the process of being re-Membered as a wholly new creation connected to Source through the recovery and restoration of the lost pieces of self. This requires a complete surrender of my Self to an outcome designed by Source. While perhaps just another form of attachment, it is much more a function of trust, at least for me, than that of releasing desire, which makes this challenge particularly tricky. Like so many, trust does not come easily to me and the route of surrender is often blocked by fear. Yet, I know there are lost and stranded pieces of my soul longing to be restored. This I feel in my bones. I call upon my mesa and will work within the campo medio as I seek a balanced and whole soul.
Lastly, my challenge is to energetically invest in my own imagination, giving it freedom to develop unhindered into the expanse of possibility. This is like inviting a lightning strike of creative illumination, which, as we know, can remake one’s interior and exterior landscape entirely. Here I recall the tutelage of my dear Cynthia Greer who guided my apprenticeship: following the sacred path from the Northwest, the place of spirit and creativity, through the sacred center, the place of soul and creating, and finally to the Southeast, the place of embodiment and creation. I call upon my mesa and will work within the campo justiciero as I seek the creative strength of an imagination surrendered to Source.
So there you have it, my challenge and my response in all their messy humanity. Perhaps I’m not alone. For now, I have contented myself to remain in search of these mysterious para-sensory capabilities and conjectured that my vista is of a more intuitional nature. Even still, peace eludes me. While I can and do appreciate the sacred nature of mystery, and I know this to be true of this healing work, I hunger to experience an intimacy with these energies which shatter all mystery and lay open my senses to the ecstatic realities of the cosmos.
I can’t wait to experience what the mesa has to teach me.
About the Author
An awestruck husband to an amazing woman, and grateful father to two phenomenal teenagers, David is a soccer player and coach, wilderness guide, counselor, teacher, and non-profit administrator. He has devoted himself to the walk and talk of living a scared path. He completed the PMT 5-part apprenticeship under the guidance of Cynthia Greer, and more recently completed don Oscar Miro-Quesada’s Magic, Medicine, and Mysticism course. David holds a Master of Theological Studies degree from Emory University where he specialized in medieval spirituality, and a Master of Arts degree in Counseling Psychology from Prescott College. While at Prescott, he developed an original integrative therapeutic model called “Gaian Soul Therapy” that synthesizes ecology, theology, and psychology as a means of healing self, community, and the natural world through right relationship. He is a licensed professional counselor with certifications in clinical supervision and trauma. David works full-time as the director of a community mental health center near Atlanta and part-time as the owner and operator of the newly formed Burning Bear Healing Arts, LLC, offering psychotherapy, supervision, spiritual direction, and shamanic ceremonial healing. He lives and works in Decatur, Georgia, not far from his hometown of Stone Mountain.