My Year Awakening as an Emerging Shaman

I’ve decided to share my responses to questions that examine my experiences this past year. I was inspired by an article I found while surfing Facebook. Why do I feel the need to share this? I went through a transformative experience this past Spring. It not only changed me, it completely changed my outlook about my life and the world we live in. It gave me hope, not only about my future, but the future of our society. I wish to share that with others, even though most people won’t read this. The ones that do, may likely think I’ve gone completely bonkers (I haven’t). But before I get into any of that, I feel it’s important to learn about my history.

I am a queer, Latino male and for the past thirteen years I have been physically disabled due to an autoimmune disorder causing inflammation and deterioration along my spine. My condition has kept me isolated in many ways, particularly the pain and the physical limitations that go along with my disease. It also prevented me from finishing my Bachelor degree. I don’t have the same time markers that others might have from working or going to school. I don’t even have a set sleep schedule because it gets interrupted when my pain level becomes excessive. In that way I live a life that is in many ways outside of our mainstream society. The hardest thing about my condition is the guilt I feel, like I’m a burden to my family and possibly society. Sadly, there is evidence to support the former, but the latter, I now realize, is part of the shame I’ve internalized from the ignorant assumptions of American society. What is interesting when examining my current situation and isolation is that there is a symmetry there that is inline with my past.

While growing up, I was raised in communities that were conservative, Christian, and with a demographic makeup that was mostly middle-class to affluent. The people were also predominantly Caucasian. In many ways, growing up in these communities was also isolating for me because my perspective and values were at odds with most everyone else. For starters, despite being raised in a Christian household, I purposefully abandoned Christianity at my father’s urging (and my own) when I was around ten years old. Despite that, the values and perspectives associated with Christianity remained a large influence in my life.

Secondly, I had a very rich inner life due to me being a highly imaginative child. For example, I experienced very vivid dreams, on a near daily basis. It was a particularly lucid and vivid dream where I was flying to the top of a mountain similar to Mount Fuji in Japan (I awoke before I was able to reach the very top), that ingrained in me a desire to experience more lucid dreams particularly where I was flying. I discovered I couldn’t do that without putting in a lot of effort and work.

My early attempts to fly in dreams were like trying to run in dry sand. I frequently woke up from the effort. Still, I worked at it and continue to put that work in to this day. I now regularly lucid dream and I’m starting to realize that the impact of this skill extends far beyond the dream state. I have had numerous experiences where I seem to shift into an altered state during my waking life (non drug induced) and they have led me down a spiritual rather than religious path.

Those experiences also inspired me to read books on psychology, starting around the third grade (again, around 10 years old). I was also interested in and trained myself to meditate. By doing all of that, I have developed skills that some would consider Shamanistic, a term I was hesitant to embrace until my experience this year. I was also a naturally gifted singer, but I strained my voice after puberty. It was never the same. I would go so far as to say that I could no longer sing. You’ll soon understand that this history is very relevant to my experience this year.

What makes this year unforgettable?

Back in May, I went through an event best described as a spiritual awakening. It felt very similar to other experiences involving a shift into an altered state, only this time the impact wasn’t limited to my mind. I believe it also altered me physically. While the main event only lasted around two weeks (it’s important to note that my longest altered state before this event lasted about two hours), parts of the experience continued on for three months including frequent synchronistic encounters and the impression that I was connected to something bigger than myself.

Three huge impacts from this experience are continuing even now. I will be forever grateful for them because of their transformative quality, and in one case, the immense joy that it brings me. This awakening started with visions that I believe shifted my perspective, allowing me to see beyond the normal trappings of our society, particularly our insanities. It’s like emerging from institutional thinking, but on a societal scale.

One of those visions allowed me to recognize how the history of our present-day society mainly began around 10 to 12,000 years ago with the introduction of surplus agricultural production, despite our species’ history extending as far back as 200,000 years ago based on fossil records. Before then we mainly lived as a hunter-gatherer society. This innovation of surplus agricultural production changed our society and inevitably led to our worldwide exponential population growth. It is the main mechanism behind our overpopulation on this planet, the impact of which has become hugely self-destructive, particularly when looking at climate change.

While I learned bits and pieces of that knowledge through reading, advocacy work, and college courses (particularly a graduate seminar on Climate Change), it wasn’t until this awakening that I put the pieces together and was able to see a very disturbing, big picture that I’m still wrapping my head around.

Besides gaining power over life and death in a way our species had likely never seen before, I believe our agricultural advancement had an added side-effect. Perhaps it is best to describe it as an imbalance. It was the start of our society disconnecting from our natural environment through our behavior. I also believe this disconnect has greatly diminished our connection with our own minds and bodies, because it is this realization that kick-started the majority of my awakening. This also makes sense to me because hunter-gatherer societies existing today and in our more recent past demonstrate a symbiotic relationship with nature, a relationship that is in balance with the ecology of the earth.

How does this create a mind/body disconnect? From what I can see, surplus production denies a very important fact of life on this planet , the behavior assumes that our resources are limitless. I suspect this behavior eventually translated into a belief that we were above nature. Take, for example, biblical texts that tell us we should have “dominion over the earth.” This perspective has led to us denying the destructive impact of booming population growth and the increasing waste from our production and energy input and output, another consequence of our exponential population growth. We are also in denial about our waste production overloading nature’s mechanisms for waste removal and how that is increasing the rate of changes in our worldwide climate.

This behavior and denial doesn’t end with society. We behave in ways that also deny our own individual limitations. If you start by examining the limitations of cognition (i.e. forgetting), you can begin to see how this limitation shapes the way we see the world, like in our perception of time. We frequently behave in a manner that deny these physical limitations, like our arrogance in assuming we have much of this world figured out. By doing so we deny our very nature and that takes a lot of effort and work that could and should be directed elsewhere. I believe that work and denial is partly responsible for our mind/body disconnect and that it prevents us from accessing parts of our higher awareness. In reality, we’re still infants just barely able to walk let alone make sense of this world.

I could go on, but I’d be delving into areas that even I don’t fully understand nor can I provide evidence to support it. Still, I believe these realizations somehow led to my awakening. It was as if I tapped into a new part of my mind and subconscious. More than opening up, it awakened and this event was like this new area of my subconscious waving back and introducing itself to me. These are just some of the visions and experiences that came out of my awakening and was the first impact.

The second impact which has been physically transformative has to do with the Chronic pain I’ve been experiencing for the past thirteen years. While the pain has not gone away, the severity has shifted and was immediate the moment the awakening began. I’m not sure what that means for my future, but I’ve started a gym membership to help get me back in shape. Another physical change happened when I found my spiritual name. I know that’s what it was because there was a moment during the awakening when I claimed the name in a post I was writing for Facebook (although I didn’t actually publish it). Within moments after finishing, my hearing, sense of smell and taste all heightened. For the rest of that two weeks, food tasted incredible to me with one exception. I don’t know why, but uncured pork smelled awful to me and it tasted worse.

The third and last impact of this event that now brings me immense joy was the return of my singing voice. While it’s not like it used to be, it is far better than it has been. I can now sing songs that were impossible for me to sing before the awakening. I’m not sure how this change could happen, but I am very grateful for it.

What did you enjoy doing this year?

At the top of my list would be the return of my singing voice and learning to adapt it to songs I couldn’t have sung before my awakening. I’ve also enjoyed investigating other visions from my awakening. Some I’ve been able to corroborate, some are impossible to verify and some seem a little cray-cray but have nonetheless opened my eyes so that I see the world in an entirely new way.

What/who is the one thing/person you’re grateful for?

For the ‘one thing’, that would obviously be the awakening. For the ‘one person’, that would be my father. Despite many hardships, particularly my disability, he has stuck by me and helped me to embrace the parts of myself that other people have judged and looked down on me for. When I came out of the closet, he stood by me, even when he didn’t understand where I was coming from and he listened when I talked about my experiences and relationships.

He even backed me up during my spiritual musings and investigations despite some of them scaring my mother. It even scared the people around me, most notably some of the students’ parents back when I was in elementary school after they reported back home on the controversial books I was reading, including books on Wicca. That’s apparently frowned upon in a conservative Christian community. One parent actually confronted me after school one day and accused me of practicing devil worship. Finally, when I became disabled, my father stepped up to take on the role of my caregiver which has been emotionally trying and humbling for me. All in all, he’s been there for me in ways that I wish more parents were for their queer children.

What’s your biggest win this year?

I feel my biggest win this year is the shift in perspective/vision I’ve received from the awakening which included recognizing the immense value of the shamanistic skills I’ve been developing. They seemed at first worthless to me except for the escape they provided during my most painful and traumatizing experiences.

What did you read/watch/listen to that made the most impact this year?

Since I’m constantly reading, watching and listening to new books, movies, audiobooks…there’s way too many to list. I would, however, start with Daniel Quinn’s The Story of B and Limits to Growth: The 30-year Update, two important books that I referenced after experiencing the awakening. I was also introduced to Jared Diamond and his book Guns, Germs, and Steel which help to corroborate some of my visions and gave me a new stepping stone down this transformative path I’m now traveling.

What did you worry about most and how did it turn out?

My biggest worry for the past decade has been about my health and the kind of future my disability was constraining me to live. The awakening has turned all that on its head. I no longer feel fated to painful and deteriorating health. I see possibilities that weren’t there before and I’m hopeful about the future in a way that I haven’t been for a long time now.

What was your biggest regret and why?

My biggest regret is that it took so long for me to reach this point in my life where I’m feeling less pain and hopeful about my future and the value I provide to my family, friends and possibly society.

What’s one thing that changed about yourself?

I’ve already listed a lot in my previous responses. But the biggest change is how I see the world, particularly the trappings and insanities that are meshed in with tradition and organized religion. I now understand in my gut the importance of true diversity and how, as a society, we need to purposefully develop a habit of exposing ourselves to new ideas, people, cultures, even new ways of using our bodies. I now see that such habits are important because they help us to shift our perspective which is a necessity for understanding our world, for our evolution and our survival as a species.

What surprised you the most this year?

What surprised me the most this year is just how much I didn’t know, see or understand about our despite a more than decent education growing up, blindings that my ego prevented me from seeing. I was especially surprised at just how much my past history and perspective was blinding me to things that I now feel should have been fairly obvious. More importantly, I now realize that there are many, many things about this world that we as a society don’t know, see or understand and yet we behave as if we do, all of us.

If you could go back to last January 1, what suggestions would you give your past self?

I would tell myself to hold on because this year is going to be a wild and bumpy ride, but I will find my way through it and be all the better for it. I also feel it helped to prepare me for an even wilder and rougher year in 2020 (This last statement is an add-on since I first published this, here at the end of 2020).

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