I’m writing this blog from Pisac, Peru, where I’m meeting with shamans as research for an upcoming book Sacred Medicine, an exploration of anomalous healing. My spiritual love affair with shamanism began on my wedding day at Post Ranch Inn in 2005. I was browsing through the posh resort’s list of activities. I read through it—yoga, group meditation . . . shamanic journey. Now that sounded interesting! With no idea what a shamanic journey actually was, I thought it would make for a good story. A shamanic journey on my wedding day? Why not?
Now mind you, I had no idea what a shaman actually was. And this was long before I had left my job in conventional medicine. I was not the “woo woo” New Age type at all, and I tended to be cynical and even mocking of things that didn’t fit neatly into my rational little box. But it was my wedding day, and I was happy, and I was feeling a little . . . I don’t know . . . unusually willing to explore outside of my comfort zone.
I showed up in the yurt in the middle of a meadow, expecting to encounter a long-bearded Inca decked out in tribal robes, maybe smoking a peace pipe. I didn’t expect what I found—a handsome Kiefer Sutherland look alike sitting cross-legged in blue jeans. Ten of us crowded into the yurt and formed a circle, while the shaman, who I later learned was named Jon Rasmussen began chanting to the four winds, invoking the spirits of nature and honoring Pachamama (Mother Earth). Inhaling a floral essence from a bottle, he exhaled misty puffs of fragrance to the north, east, south, and west, calling in the ancestors and the totem animals, before asking us to lie on our backs on padded mats. We listened and closed our eyes, while he beat a drum like a collective heartbeat. His voice intoned over the drumbeat, lulling us into a sort of tribal trance.