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Be the Tree

In the Amazonian rainforest, a shaman became my guide.

I didn’t know I needed one.

Shaman--Amazonian Rainforest

I was visiting with a group of students in the spring of 2015, and near the end of our week, we were to visit a shaman to have our auras cleansed.

Auras cleansed?

I watched as students went forward to sit, eyes closed, while the shaman blew smoke on their heads, chanted, and whisked them with palm fronds, walking back and forth behind them. Mesmerized, fascinated, I still didn't know what awaited.

Shaman blowing smoke on person's head

Then it was my turn. I didn’t want to mess up my one chance. I decided to carry no expectations, but simply to clear my mind and sit, eyes closed, and wait.

As the shaman began his ritual, I found myself up on the canopy walk, amidst lush greenery and darting birds. I lingered, but then I was inside a red bromeliad, miniaturized and dancing in raindrop puddles.

Rainforest canopy walk

Each time the shaman changed his chant or movements, new scenes appeared though they all flowed together. I was aware of him outside of me on the periphery, but in my mind, I flew through the rainforest I had grown to love that week.

Rainforest canopy

I landed on top of an enormous tree. I wanted to launch again, to be a bird amongst birds. But I was stuck. Struggling, I tried to leave, but my feet were glued.

At the same time, I was aware of the shaman behind me, one hand light on my head, the other whooshing the palm leaves around me—my shoulders, thighs, over and over. I had seen him do this with the students, but not for so long.

Did he know I was stuck? How did he know? The palm fronds whisked, he chanted. What was I supposed to do? I just wanted to leave that tree and fly. Long minutes passed.

Shaman whisking palm fronds around me.

Then, I entered the tree. My whole body simply dropped inside its trunk. And in that moment, the shaman stopped whooshing the palms, his chanting came to a close, and it was over.

What had just happened?

Walking outside, still floating in the mystery of it, I happened to look down at my muddy hiking boots, my dusty pants, and thought, “This is what I’m supposed be doing with my life.” I knew being in the outdoors was crucial to me, but now I recognized it was me. When I entered the tree, I was entering myself.

I still ponder the immensity of that experience. I've tried to avoid oversimplifying it. But I knew then that I needed to pay better attention to how I was living my life and not fritter away my time. And the only way to become the person I yearned to be was to enter the core of myself.

In this blog, I want to explore the obstacles I put in the way of being that person. I want to clear the path toward being the best person I can be for this world.

The journey has begun. You are welcome to come along.

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