I recently had a very humbling experience. I was in Peru, where we’d gone to celebrate the dawn of 2012 with a bunch of friends. We were slated to visit the ancient site of Machu Pichu and other mythic sites in the Sacred Valley and around Lake Titicaca. And we had also set-up some time to work with a few shamans from the area, who host an amazing 3-day healing journey that includes sound healing sessions for each participant. Given that I run so many groups myself have a background in sound healing, I imagined that I’d be able to really help create the needed energetic container for the circle and even aid in the healing sessions. But I was in for a big surprise!
When the day arrived for our awaited ceremony, I was feeling revved and ready! Though it was the rainy season, the sky was clear–which was a true blessing giving we were planning to hold our circle outside. The trip was charmed! And I felt joyful as I watched these young shamans lay out their many instruments on our makeshift altar of woven cloth. First, there was a large drum made from a bull hyde. When I took a whack at it, I heard a thunder with vibrations that echoed across the valley. There were whistling water vessels that were sculpted from red-colored clay that make a high-pitched wailing sound. And I watched the man, long hair glinting in the sunlight, gently unwrap a sort of pan pipe cut from bird feathers, followed by a huge horn painted to resemble a mythic dragon. Finally came an instrument I’ve never seen. It’s hard to describe, but when spun through the air, it makes a very ancient whirring sound–somewhat like a dijeridoo. I was both excited and fascinated.
Our circle gathered together, sitting on the grass, surrounded by a ring of jagged and gorgeous mountains. It seemed almost picture perfect. And we began the prayers. “Thank you Pachamama. Blessings PachaQuama, We honor you Apus, Spirits of the Mountains. Great Spirit, Wiracocha, be here with us now.” The shamans offered us coca leaves, which is a staple among Peruvians, and invited us to set our intentions and make our own offerings to the spirits of the land.
After the circle was underway, I walked over to another woman who seemed to be having a hard time to offer her my support. She assured me she was OK. And then all of a sudden, I found myself beginning to feel queasy. And then before I knew what hit me, I found myself lunging toward the bushes so I could vomit without disturbing the group. Now this was a bit embarrassing. We had barely begun the ceremony. And yet, what could I do?
I went from feeling a bit nauseas to being completely incapacitated, laying belly to belly with the Earth. The sun was out, and I was HOT, HOT, HOT! I kept peeling off layer after layer of my clothing till I felt almost naked in the glaring sun. I was warned that my lack of clothing could cause me to get a very bad sunburn in this thin atmosphere at high altitude. But I could not get myself to put on more clothes. In fact, I could not move. And while I knew it would be really good for me to re-join our circle, where the healing sessions were now taking place, my body felt paralyzed.
So I just laid there, like a worm.
And eventually my sweet sisters began to attend to me. First came the water barons, who lovingly began applying cold towels to my head and to my body. And I laid there, like a worm.
Next up were the mavens of sunblock, slathering my white skin to protect me from the very strong sun. And I laid there, like a worm.
Eventually, I was so hot that I just had to get out of the sun. So I wiggled my way over to the only patch of shade nearby, which happened to be the open-air thatched roof structure that was covering the sewer. So I just sat there, on top of the sewer. And when the next round of vomiting sent me off into the bushes again, I was thinking that being a worm would really be so preferable to my current state.
Back in the circle, people were clearly having profound healing journeys. From afar, I watched as the shaman sang songs to one woman’s liver, helping her to clear years of ailment in her liver. And another man in the circle wept as he personally took responsibility for the damage done to the planet by white males.
There was so much healing happening over there, I felt a little left out. All this deep and profound experience coming through? And here I was, sitting pathetically on the sewer drain. This was not my picture of a magical journey with shamans. In fact, my own experience was’t feeling magical at all. I just felt HOT and SICK.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe there’s a situation in your own life that just DID NOT turn out the way you expected. Maybe there’s a situation where, try as you might, you could not have things your way. Maybe there’s a situation where you felt a bit humiliated, and there was nothing you could do about it. If you have a life situation that comes to mind, please know that you are not alone. We are right there together!
While my inner child was busy complaining, my inner elder came to the rescue. She asked me, “How could I create ‘lemonade’ from an experience that was tasting a lot like sour lemons?” So I decided that instead of focusing on everything that was NOT happening for me, I began to put my attention on what WAS indeed happening. What wisdom could I possibly glean from this unpleasant experience? And I began reflecting a bit more on my new friend, the worm. What could I learn from the worm?
Humility was the first thing that came to mind. This experience gave me a chance to strip away all the labels of “teacher” “guide” facilitator.” I was none of those. I also got to give up (at least temporarily 🙂 ) the part of me that’s attached to “helping” someone else–because I really couldn’t do much at all on this day. And I certainly was not very helpful. I also had a great opportunity to let go of wanting to look good, as I stumbled around with my stinky breath, sweaty body and dis-shevled hair. And while it was not a pretty site, it was also pretty freeing.
But most important for me, I was able to really open up to receive on a much deeper level. I have been known to put up a bit of a guard or give the impression that I have it all together, but here my facade was pried loose. I had no choice but to allow people take care of me and mother me–which is actually something I deeply desire. I found that in my worm stage, I was actually quite an approachable snuggle-puss. I kept finding myself in the center of a big snuggle pile, which was really very sweet. I found that as my own vulnerability was more exposed, I experienced others being more vulnerable with me too, and so friendships deepened and softened. Of course I have known this on a mental level, but this experience just underscored the point.
So while this experience was perhaps not “magical” and it was certainly not what I wanted or expected, it was actually quite valuable. It made me realize that some of those things that I long for, like nurturing relationships and a deeper heart connection, are more easily fostered when I can embrace my worm nature.
I’ve decided that I rather like being a worm! And this lemonade made from sour lemons–while perhaps an acquired taste–is actually very satisfying.