If there is a moral to this story, it is that visceral knowledge is the best teacher; the student role – or that of the Sacred Fool – opens the Self to exponential learning. The use of sacred plant people provides knowledge and opens perception.

George and I tent camped for the first time in our married lives between Los Alamos and Jemez, New Mexico.  We purchased an expensive “Old Fuckers” self-inflating air bed and showered under a tree. We hung a commercial water bladder – with hose and shower nozzle – from a branch.   The Rio De Las Vaca directed rushing waters over boulders, producing captivating sounds. Fresh water came from a green hand pump.  A double lined metal cylinder, propane stove and lamp held fire.  The sun and rain alternated across the tall standing nation of Engelmann Pines.

Our first night produced for me astonishing perceptual expansion.  In addition, I was still vibrating from the Solar Eclipse and the biggest piece of my new progress was George’s intervention. We sat in chairs eight feet from the river, enveloped in scent from tall, Engelmann pines.  A slight wind blew tall grasses against our legs. We decided to partake of Sacred Smoke in the form of Marijuana.  Plant divinity and personal approach determines outcome: this was NOT a Cheech and Chong moment!

I lovingly placed my lips around the pipe stem and welcomed the plant inside me by attending to its taste, smell and a slight burning sensation in the back of my throat.  At that moment, I felt the temperature around me drop and relaxed into the coziness of my cotton hippie parka with hood and hand pouch. I did not possess Sacred Smoke; instead, I swirled it around my mouth and quickly released it to the wind!  Love allows both intimacy and distance.

George and I giggled like teenagers: this was not my intent.  Sacred Smoke understood this, allowed a brief frolic, and then secured intimacy with me.

My muscles loosened from bone and sinew, pushing my skin outward:  my beginning and ending merged with the forest. The Rio De Las Vaca tumbled downstream and its voice spoke unrecognizable sounds.

With evening progression came darkness that I compared to our cave experience in Belize where sight was not possible.  George simply said, “Wait and SEE,” so I did and was astonished.

White light edged around objects in the woods: an artistic etching on black paper.  I looked up at a tree section distinct with this outline and cartoonish faces began dancing across its bough: fox, chipmunk, raven, skunk and mouse appeared, sometimes wearing glasses; child-like, I called out to George each dancer that appeared.  At that point, I clearly heard what I was seeing in the tree: animal and people talking in the rolling waters of the Rio Vaca!

In a divided world, this divine unity was breathtaking and joyous, approached with trust and innocence. I was about to learn, however, that without this approach something very different can happen.

It began with our walk up the hill to the vault toilet.  At the halfway point, the unity I perceived became visceral allowing no separation between anything and me.  I was swallowed by a great dark shadow and feared losing myself.   Only with great concentration was I able to return to what I thought was me; but what turned out to be tiny and obscure.

I kept shifting between the two perceptions of  body enormity and insignificance and my exhaustion created self-doubt.  I distrusted my ability to maintain my sanity.  Mistrust replaced trust and eradicated innocence.

I was scared shitless and desperately wanted back into an either or world.

I ran into the little girls’ room, came out and expected George to race me back down the hill to the tent because I was so afraid.  He had no such intention; instead, he asked a simple question and then answered it:

The Discussion

“How can a student of Shamanism be so afraid?  I guess you don’t really know your own power!”

“I don’t care about any of that – the animals are coming out of the woods!”

He scratched his head.

“Which animals:  your power animals or worldly animals?

I knew the animals were there!  I just kept scanning the woods with both flashlights looking for eyes reflecting back at me.

…and of course they were, if I could have opened my eyes to SEE them.

I was acting ridiculous, knew it and clearly understood what George said.  I was, I guess, fear possessed and my behavior was what it was.

“The dark cannot hurt you,” he softly said, repeating my own mantra back at me.


I managed to walk to the toilet, close the door and tinkle.  The tinkle produced a loud swooshing sound, echoing throughout the 8 x 10 building that followed me outside and ended when I spotted George.  He encouraged me to walk with him down the hill.  I could not do this, standing in a place of mistrust; instead, I took the longer path, down a cement road, leading back to the tent.

I continued using flashlight beams to search for eyes in the dark.  My ears perked up and twisted back and forth, but I refused to call my power animals because I now feared them as well.

Rounding a curve on the hill, I continued alone.  After some time I awakened inside a dream.  My perception split and I was aware of my trail and a large and long building to my left.  I began to explore the building as the tent came into sight and, once inside, I covered my head like a child.  I could not sleep and continued to twist my ears.   Nature called again, and I would not go back up the hill in the dark to the toilet.  I was outside the tent, pottying, when the loud rumbling happened. I trembled violently and then became giddy:  it was the sound of my own pee!

My laughter balanced the shadow and light and – this time – it stuck.




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