Looking back on one’s life we can see moments that stand out as turning points – a marriage, a milestone birthday, a trip, an unexpected diagnosis, the loss of a loved one – each event shifting our perspective of life as we know it.
Each turning point is like a polished pearl added to the string of our life’s journey. Yesterday, I added another pearl to my string when I attended a despacho ceremony hosted by Ray Crist and Nina Henrikson of the Jaguar Path and led by the legendary Don Sebastian Pauccar Flores, a Paco shaman from Peru.
My experience with the ceremony began long before I had arrived. I spent my morning taking care of some chores, folding laundry, washing dishes, and straightening up my studio. After my meditation, I emptied my mind onto a notebook with a to do list for the next week. These activities helped me to clear my home and my mind so I could arrive free from any distractions.
As I shuffled a deck of oracle cards, I asked, “What do I need to know for today’s experience?” I pulled the “peace” card which reflected how I was already feeling and it aligned with my intention to be open to any healing or insights that may be offered in this ceremony.
In the ceremony, the shaman built a despacho, a type of prayer bundle made of a variety of ingredients including corn, grains, beans, herbs, sugar, and sweets then covered by a layer of cotton to form a bed to carry our intentions. Each participant collected three leaves while meditating on a challenge or limiting belief that we wished to release and on one dream or goal we wished to manifest. The women in our group were given red flower petals representing Pachamama, Mother Earth, and the men, white flowers for the spirits of the mountains.
In turn, we each brought up to the shaman our leaves and flowers infused with our prayerful intentions. After blessing us and our offering, each bundle was carefully placed on the cotton bed arranged in rows with the feminine energy on one side and the masculine on the other. Additional ingredients of nuts, flowers, corn, sweets, and colorful sprinkles topped the prayers then wrapped like a package and tucked inside a beautifully woven cloth called a mesa.
We each took turns to step before the shaman who chanted, rang his bell, and tapped the mesa on the top of our heads, hearts, and solar plexus awakening the energy in these areas to initiate healing.
The next part of the ceremony gave us the opportunity to go before the fire to place a stick representing what we wish to release. We then energized our personal mesas that hold our blessings and healing energy. The shaman then placed the despacho into the fire that quickly consumed and transformed our prayerful intentions.
What made this powerful ceremony a turning point moment for me was learning how the shamans offer up their struggle not with hard feelings but with deep gratitude. As an optimist by nature, I see my life’s challenges as offering insights. I often gain some new wisdom, relationship, or skill as a result. But even knowing that the hard lessons in life have much to offer, I’ve often felt so weighed down and resentful by them asking “Why me?”
In recent weeks, I had felt particularly heavy with a challenge that I’d been carrying all my life. More than one astrologer has looked at my natal chart and recognized this struggle and said, “wow, you’ve had a really hard life.”
The timing of this despacho ceremony is perfectly aligned as I’m currently in my Chiron Return, a period of time when one awakens to their core wound and if aware is empowered to heal it. The Chiron Return is our soul’s need to completely wipe away all those toxicities that have been holding us back on our life path.
When it was time to declare the challenge I wished to release in this despacho ceremony, there was something different within me. This time, I didn’t feel the heaviness of this old wound, I felt much lighter and at peace. The invitation from the shaman to offer this challenge with deep gratitude, oddly came easily for me.
Pictured here is a recent mandala that I created to acknowledge this struggle. At the center is the sun representing my fire nature surrounded by a ring of snow capped mountains with a black backdrop for the challenges, and an outer ring of clouds to add a lightness and ease that I desire. Looking at this mandala today, I see how it captures the story of the struggle with orderliness and beauty.
I kept today’s schedule free and clear so I could sleep if I needed and savor time to integrate what I had learned from the ceremony.
During my morning meditation, I had my mesa with me. In recent months, I’ve been thinking a lot about my rightful work, my soul purpose. Building a business and working for myself, has taken a lot of work, determination, and courage. In recent weeks, I’ve questioned not my why but my how. Is working for myself right for me? Am I cut out to wear so many hats to make a living? Am I making it harder for myself to do my soul’s work? Is there a way that I can serve more people?
With these thoughts once again showing up and my hand on my mesa, I looked over at the wall across from where I was sitting where I saw my mandala underneath a collage that I had created last fall. Looking at it today after yesterday’s shamanic ceremonial experience and with fresh eyes, I see how my art reflects my shamanic journey.
Would you like a closer look at that collage? Keep scrolling.
At the bottom of the collage, the snow leopard, an animal ally, watches faithfully for any danger and offers me protection. The path made up of spirals and the adjacent black field with white dots represent the many possibilities for me to consider as I turn towards my journey.
The woman represents me looking up at the tree roots considering how I’ll find my way up. Inside the dark openings are behaviors that hold us back and lead us off our path. Pictured here we see cleverness, our armor, and niceness. Does that last one surprise you? Niceness has a shadow side. There was a time when I had the disease to please and in the face of being “nice” I gave my power away. I would accommodate everyone else and never honor what I wanted or needed.
Here we see three more shadow elements, ego, willfulness, and judgement.
As we move up the collage and tree, we come to “intellectualizing.” This is the tendency to rely exclusively on thinking to navigate one’s life path and to “get to the top.” Intellectualizing will only get you so far.
What we find at the top is a pink cloud and a little message that speaks to what happens when we reach this peak, we expand our view and can see how our potential is limitless.
As I look at this collage and the mandala that I shared earlier in this post, I see how my unique shamanic path involves creating art to not only express my thoughts, feelings, and truths but more profoundly as a means to have sacred conversations. When I create collages and mandalas, it’s more than creating a pleasing picture, it’s about the process of co-creating with my wise inner self and the Great Spirit for insight and healing.
As I was telling my husband about the ceremony, it became quite clear that my work is about bringing the spiritual to the arts community and the arts to the spiritual community. I’m a bridge. I’m also a guide for showing others how they can create art as an oracle. For each of us is the weaver of our dreams, the makers of magic, and the wounded healer.
so it is.