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                                     OF THE SHAMAN

                               Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D., is a medical anthropologist who comes from a long line of Earth-
                               keepers from the Amazon and the Andes. The author of numerous best-selling books, Dr.
                               Villoldo currently directs The Four Winds Society in Park City, UT, where he trains people in
              the practice of energy medicine and soul retrieval.

            As an adolescent, I rebelled against Christian dogma.  I began studying shamanism as an
            I felt that it lulled me into an even deeper slumber   anthropologist, and discovered
            instead of helping me wake up. I grew tired of asking   that it also grapples with the core
            God to keep me safe from the bullies at school, using that   questions about love, security, and survival after death.
            special formula every Catholic boy knows of making the sign of   The shamans do not practice prayer as we know it. They do
            the cross three times over my chest. I became tired of praying   not meditate. Instead they go on vision quests and practice
            to my angels that I would wake up the following morning alive,   journeying. They go into nature and fast, drinking only water.
            repeating the prayer “and if I shall die before I wake, I pray   After a few days of not eating, once they have burned through
            the Lord my soul to take.” And I longed deeply for the love of   all the sugars in their system, they slip into that state between
            God or the love of another, anyone really, who could see me   sleeping and waking, where reality ceases to be objective and
            and love me just as I was.                           becomes fluid. In this realm time seems to stop, to warp and
                                                                 fold onto itself, just as it does when we are dreaming.
            Recently a group of well-intentioned missionaries knocked
            on the door of our home to ask me if I believed in Jesus. “Of   You could be at the foot of a mountain one moment, and next
            course I believe in Jesus,” I replied.               magically on a beach, the warm sand beneath your feet. An
                                                                 ordinary person might experience this as a mild hallucination
            They then asked me if I believed that Jesus was the Son of   induced by starvation. But shamans retain their awareness
            God. “Of course,” I said. I then explained that I was raised   and focus in these states, so they can meet masters devoid of
            Catholic and had recently gone to holy communion with my   physical form who offer their wisdom to them. These beings
            mother and eaten the wafer that becomes the body of Christ   are made of light, since their nature is identical to that of the
            during the Eucharist, and had felt my entire body become the   Primordial Light, and they offer their boundless generosity
            Christ and a deep sense of peace come over me.       to anyone seeking help. The closest image we have of these
                                                                 beings is that of the angels we read about in the Bible—numi-
            This seemed to disturb them quite a bit and they promptly   nous, translucent, heavenly.
            took their leave.
                                                                 In my vision quests in the Amazon, I learned to enter these
            After becoming disenchanted by Christianity as a young man,   dreamlike states and within them felt more awake and alive
            I studied Buddhism. I discovered that it seemed to have gone   than I did in my ordinary life. I recognized how in the past I
            the route of the intellect, with many texts in many libraries to   sought love partners who made me feel safe and did not chal-
            argue a simple truth about the experience of meditation. After   lenge me. How terrified I was of death and how that was the
            years of finding meditation uncomfortable and maddening, I   reason why I went into the jungle on journeys that were death
            learned to enjoy it. Yet still I found myself searching for some-  defying (at least, in the eyes of my friends, who are a sensible
            thing sacred. I was hunting for a treasure I could not explain.   group on the whole).
                                                                                         ...continued on page 27

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