Swami Sivananda said “The paths are many but the truth is One”. I believe that it may take a few spiritual pathways to find the truth, but as long as one path is a platform for the next path, we don’t fall back but we keep going forward to that one Truth, that inner light that is a part of us all.
Through all my yoga training I have had my share of struggles. I didn’t know why. This was true with the Annual SOYA Retreat, the different workshops that Mugs and I have attended, my SOYA 200hr training, the 300hr at the Himalayan Institute. I was totally immersed in the practices. I had a personal practice that I was proud of and it shifted my sense of consciousness to a different level.
But something was still missing. I never felt comfortable in my yoga skin. Then we went to Haida Gwaii!
There was a remarkable shift in how we processed our day. Starting at Hazelton we started to read and understand the totem poles. We began looking at every decision as a moment to pause and see where our intuition would take us.
It was a couple of months after that trip that I had a dream, “a vision”. Usually my dreams are very fragmented and hard to remember. This dream I still remember like it was yesterday. It was me going to a Shaman for healing and using the plant medicine Ayahuasca. I knew that this was something I had to do. I knew a good friend who was taking part in ceremonies, so I gave him a ring to see if he would introduce me to his group when I came back from Mexico after the winter.
But a funny thing happened. I was talking to a friend in my kitchen down south and the first time I verbalized my dream to someone down in Mexico a sequence of events unfolded that were unbelievable. After the conversation in my kitchen I went to my acupuncture appointment and out of the blue he asked me if I ever did Ayahuasca. I said no, but I am planning too. Then I came home and the phone rang and it was a friend saying that they are going to Ecuador in January to work with plant medicines, (Ayahuasca). Naturally I said “Where do I sign up?”
It was an amazing time. Being in Ecuador, the birds, the sounds and a beautiful beach to walk on every day. Antonio taking me out on a hike to see Monkey’s, more birds, dangerous snakes……that whole jungle thing. Great food and accommodations. A wonderful place to relax, let go and go inward.
Working with the plant medicines, Ayahuasca and tobacco is work. It is like any practice in our yoga – the more effort put into it, the more you get out of it. It is important to note that Ayahuasca in Ecuador is considered a medicine, and Shamans are legally certified practitioners. Tania, one of the Shamans, said that tobacco was about this lifetime and Ayahuasca is about healing past lifetimes.
I really took to heart what Tania said and I went through my whole life backwards to the beginning and back again to present day. It was this process that showed me those situations in your life that may not appear to be much in themselves, when all put together can give a lot of clarity to what may be holding me back.
With the Ayahuasca, Ed and Tania both said it is about surrender to unconditional love and trust. So I surrendered and put my love and trust in Grandmother Ayahuasca and oh boy, she showed me a few things.
The first Ayahuasca journeys are about cleansing. The first few times there is a good chance you will vomit and sometimes have diarrhea later in the night. But it is a good thing. You feel like you are letting go of what is trapped down in the abdomen. Very similar in the Tantra philosophy, of cleaning and stabilizing the lower chakras to create a foundation for our spiritual practice.
Without going through the details of my journeys, the biggest realization is that I had to get back to the earth. I used to be a farmer, and then a landscaper. I was always outside working the earth in some way. It was after this journey that I emailed Mugs and told her we need to make some changes. It was time to sell the place in the Shuswap and find something that will nurture this connection with the earth again. The week in Ecuador flew by and I really felt I returned home a different person. This stayed with me which doesn’t always happen. Usually I go to a retreat feeling good, but life has a way of grinding you back to reality. This was different.
So…….I went back to Ecuador in May. Having done the cleansing aspect back in January I only vomited once and it came from way down deep. I felt like I was getting rid of something that had been stuck inside me for a long, long time. All my journeys were based on past life times. Understanding the good times but also some horrific times brought into clarity why I feel the way I do in this life time.
These are tremendous tools that the medicines give you. To understand what has created the “samskaras” for this lifetime brings an amazing amount of peace to my life. But, there was more to come.
That was when Grandmother Doreen Spence came into my life. She is an 80 year old Cree Elder who acts like 50 years old. She is a woman of tremendous knowledge and spirituality. In June we did a Traditional Native Teachings course with her in Victoria. It was here that I knew a new path was being laid out for me.
We had a drum journey at this event. There was a bear and he led me to the top of a mountain. Then an Eagle came by and picked me up and took me across the mountains and landed me in the prairies. It was there that my journey became a continuation of one my Ayahuasca journeys and I knew then that the prairies held a special significance for me.
Mugs and I had our summer all planned out. We had our place up for sale, we were going to travel through the Kootenays and Northern BC looking for property. But Grandmother changed everything. She invited us to a sweatlodge in Cochrane. “Of course!” we said, and our plans had to wait.
The sweat was a great experience – so cleansing and detoxifying. We spent a couple of nights at Grandmother’ home hearing her stories and gleaning her wisdom. She is not a fan of Ayahuasca, but feels it does have a role and she seemed to accept that with me going to a Shaman in South America.
We left her place without really knowing where we were headed, and at the same time there were areas that intrigued us. We had a summer of following our intuition, looking for the signs and paying attention. We had faith that where ever we ended up was where we were intended to be. As a BC boy all my life I could not ever see myself living on the prairies, but when one begins the journey there is no stopping it. When you place your trust in your inner knowledge and the divine knowledge that is within every being that surrounds us in our day, we can’t do anything wrong, because everything just is.
My point is that learning from my lovely wife, Erich Schiffmann, Tantra, Ayahuasca and now Grandmother, everything becomes part of our tool box. I am not just a yogi; I am not just studying Shamanism; I am not just working with Indigenous spirituality. I am the totality of everything I have learned. There are four colours to the medicine wheel, Yellow- (Asian), Red- (Indigenous), Black- (African) and White- (Caucasian) . It is said that when the four colours come together there will be peace on earth.
When the fruits of our spiritual practices come together, will we become enlightened? I guess that could be another article.
Bob McConnell co-owner of SOYA is offering a special retreat for Men in Ecuador January 6th. Come to the jungle and expand the mind. Go to A Shaman and Ayahuasca Retreat for Men.