Jan 17 2009

The Fire and the Ritual – A Visionary Experience of Healing

Published by at 4:47 pm under Ivan's Story

/ Photo by netlancer2006 /

A few weeks ago I wrote about a past life ‘memory’ from the American Civil War (Silent Guns). That post generated such strong interest that I thought I’d share another transformative experience I had at about the same time. But this is less easy to label. Is it a past life memory? A discussion with some part of my own psyche, or perhaps a spirit guide? Even I am not certain.

This was the early 1990s. At the time I was dating Michele, who would later become my wife. This particular night we got into an argument, first at a restaurant, and it spilled into the rest of the evening. We went back to her apartment, still arguing, when I started having difficulty breathing. I laid down on her living room floor, and Michele told me to breathe deeply from my belly.

I could hardly breathe. There was some sort of block in my chest. I struggled to inhale. My breath started to come in heavy sputters, half sobbed, half forced.

Then my breathing suddenly took on a life of its own. I wasn’t sure if I was pushing it or if it was pushing me. I wasn’t entirely in control of it. My breathing became deeper and more powerful, like a heavy bellows in my chest.

I grew hot. Heat built up in my feet. I started to take off my shoes, but I fumbled. I was having difficulty focusing on the laces. Michele removed my shoes for me.

The heat began to shoot up through my body in electric shivers. It was so strong that my body actually began to shake, and I couldn’t keep my legs still. I wasn’t aware of trying to move my legs, but they just started kicking out, as if they couldn’t be held to the ground. To someone else watching me, it would have looked like I was going into seizure.

The energy flow in my body increased until I felt flooded. I was having trouble maintaining awareness of the room around me.

My breathing soon started to calm down and the energy running through my body subsided. I began to feel like I was floating. Michele pulled some gems from her collection and placed small stones near my feet, on my chest, belly and forehead.

I felt a cool weight in my right hand. My eyes were closed and, by this time, opening them would have required a supreme effort. I assumed Michele had placed a gemstone in my hand, and I asked her if she had done that.

“No,” she answered, a little surprised. “What do you feel in your hand?”

“It’s heavy. Are you sure you didn’t put something in my hand? I can feel it. It’s kind of flat.”

“What does it look like?” Michele asked.

“I don’t know. I can’t see it. There’s something in my other hand, too. It’s shape is harder to tell. The one in my right hand is flat and long. It seems to fit in my palm between the thumb and index finger. It has different sides . . . feels like metal or crystal.

“The thing in my left hand,” I went on, “has a roundish feel to it. The object might be hollow.”

Michele asked me what the objects were.

“Tools,” I said, surprising myself with my answer. I was near to tears. “Tools for healing. I used to use them. I thought I lost them.” I burst out crying. “They’re so much a part of me and I thought I lost them. I thought they were taken from me.”

“What do you do with them?” Michele asked me.

“I heal with them. Not just people, not just bodies. I am a cultural healer. I create rituals. It’s a community that I heal.”

“Do your tools have something to tell you?”

In my normal state of awareness, I might have thought Michele’s question was odd, but I answered without hesitation: “They say the world has been waiting for me.”

Michele asked, “Do you see anything?”

I told her I saw a man sitting in a comfortably crouched posture. His skin was black and his curly hair stood like a thick bush atop his head. The curls of his hair were thick and somewhat loose — he could have been African, but he could just as easily been an Australian Aborigine. I couldn’t see the person clearly enough to say for certain.

“He is thin,” I said, “skeleton thin, but not from hunger. It is just his way.”

Although I felt like I was an observer watching him, I knew exactly how he felt, how his body felt to him, as if I were him but watching from the outside. Although he was very thin, I knew he was really quite strong and healthy.

“He is clothed in dust and rags,” I went on. “People come to him for guidance, for advice and healing. But it is not just healing. He makes sure everything is right . . . that the world is working right. His face is painted with white markings. I think they are white circles. There is dust on his body. He sees things. He sees things in the earth, in the soil.”

“Like a map?” Michele asked.

“Sort of like a map, but not with lines and all. He throws little objects — stones or strange teeth. Maybe they’re little bones. But they are little things, and he sees meaning in them. He makes a white circle in the dirt with some sort of dust or powder. He crouches over the circle. It is night and the firelight is in his face. He casts the little objects in the circle from a gourd or wooden cup. He sees things in the stones and teeth, but not like other people think he does. Throwing these objects is as much for the other people as for himself, I think. It’s like he already knows what he needs to say and sees what he needs to see, but the little objects help him to make order out of it. I see him crouched over his circle reading things in the dirt, advising people.”

“Does he have any advice for you?”

“He says to remember the fire and the ritual.”

“Do you understand what he means?”

“Yes. Ritual is what keeps us sewn to the universe. It is what keeps us in our place. Not in the sense of holding us back, but in the sense of an affirmation. We need ritual to understand the universe and our place in it.”

“What else does he tell you?”

“He says that I have to become him.”

“Does that scare you?”

I was surprised by Michele’s question. I felt such a wonderful, relaxed strength inside me that I couldn’t imagine why she would even ask the question. But I found myself answering, “Yes, it scares me.”

“How does he say you can do that?”

“He says I have to heal myself. I have to heal my mother — not the mother who raised me, but the mother inside of me. Go back to the beginning. Get to the root. Start there. I have to create a space there, a warm space. And I must defend it ferociously.”

“How do you feel around this man?” Michele asked next.

“Warm. Just being near him I feel warmth and joy and strength.”

A minute or two passed. Michele must have noticed a smile spread across my face.

“What is it?” She asked. “Do you see something else?”

“He has the two tools, one in each hand. He is putting them in a basket. He is handing them to me.”

After a moment I added, “He is standing at my right shoulder. He is sidestepping right into me, like we’re the same person. I have this feeling like we are circling around and around. It’s a wonderful feeling.

“But then I see him again crouched over his circle and reading things in the dirt.”

Michele could tell that I was coming out of this deep state and began to carefully remove the gems she’d placed about my body.

For a long while I didn’t feel like talking. I sat up against her couch and was breathing deeply. Thoughts, word-thoughts were far from me for a long time.

Michele pulled something from the coffee table: a tin she kept filled with small cards. “Take one,” she said.

A single word was written on the card I pulled: “Transformation.”

I later taped the card in my journal. It’s still there today.

Whew! That whole period was a very difficult time for me personally, but at the same time I felt like I was finally witnessing something of the deeper, mysterious aspects of life that I so desperately hungered for. Up until that point, I just didn’t see what the purpose was of struggling so hard to find a place in the adult world that seemed, frankly, pretty superficial and pointless. I began to see that there were other layers to life, not just as wishful thinking, but as experienced reality. I felt like I could breathe for the first time since early childhood. These experiences gave me something worth living for as I was entering into adulthood, reassuring me that there was a depth to the human experience that gave meaning to the day-to-day struggles.

But then came the very difficult work of trying to integrate all that with a sense of balance and groundedness, and actually live it…

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