Shamanic Death in Mexico
In September 2013 I travelled to Mexico to live and travel for 8 months with my partner John. What I left behind was my home, my work and my community. I had no idea what lay ahead for me, I was venturing into the unknown. There was no specific itinerary apart from the initial destination of San Agustinillo on the Pacific Coast where we had reserved a rustic cabana close to the beach. What transpired on that trip, of what felt like many lifetimes, was the opportunity for profound personal growth. Apart from a couple of ceremonies much later in the trip, with Mayan Elders, my experiences came purely from the living of life, from experiencing life and all that comes with being a spiritual being having a human experience. I believe that shamanism is a way of life, or perhaps the way we interweave shamanic practices into our every day life, the living in the Kawsay Pacha (Cosmos of Living energy). It is also our relation to the Earth and the elements and the spirits of nature. What I would like to share with you here is what I consider to be my most shamanic encounter of this particular journey.
Nature was ever present in our beach cabana location, situated on a hill above the ocean at eye level with the jungle. Our companions were geckos, lizards, crabs, iguanas and a multitude of exotic birds including my favourite, the hummungbird. Our challengers were the omnipresent mosquitos and other invisible creatures that bit us at any opportunity, day and night, even in our bed. Nature also dealt us a series of tropical storms and electric light shows that were out of season, dramatic and drenched us in our open plan ‘home’. Our only retreat from this particular element was our bedroom in the loft made of rush walls and screen windows, it did its best to give us shelter but did not always succeed. The bathroom facilities were outside with no roof and had to be visited with an umbrella and at night a torch as well.
I grappled with the culture shock, this wilderness in contrast to living in a flat in a city which is what I was used to. Leaving everything I knew behind had left me feeling emotional, uprooted and unsure of my purpose. I felt so strongly that I am here to work, to serve, that this is my purpose in life. Who am I without my work? I struggled with this concept. In addition my soul, through my body was speaking out. My lower back and right hip were in pain from the day we arrived, I could barely walk. I felt immobilised and dependent in a strange place. Over the weeks I plunged into a dark night of the soul, I felt I had slid down the ladder of consciousness into a deep dark pit. Yet my spirit was not totally diminished and watched from the place of observer whilst feeling oh so strongly the physical and emotional pain that I was experiencing. I worked with the Andean practices Samin Chakuay to help lighten the load and Saywa Chakuay to help nourish me and give me a greater connection, in my uprootedness, to Pachamama.
After 24 days passed and I was finally able to walk free of pain, that first day with my mobility back I was able to venture into the ocean. This stretch of Pacific coast has a huge tidal capacity operating in at least 3 directions at the same time. The waves are robust and knock you off your feet, I had not been strong enough to buffer their blows. That day we stayed close to the shore, perhaps waist deep but no more. I found a little pocket in the water where I could be a little more submerged. Then suddenly I felt a pulling by the ocean, as I put my feet down I felt the sand slip from under my feet and I was swept away by a rip tide. Within moments the distance between me and the shore increased. I called out to John but he could not hear me above the sound the waves. Thankfully he made it safely to shore. The beach was deserted, I waved my arms in hope that someone somewhere would see me. Then the battle with the ocean began, one wave would push me under and as I came up for breath another would be over my head and the cycle repeated. There was no opportunity to catch my breath, to get air. As I fought with one element I sought the other.
Before long I was struggling to breathe, I was feeling fatigued and I could feel the water gurgling in my lungs. I was submerged again, this time I plunged deeper and it was an age before I reached the surface again. In that moment I considered that lying back and letting the ocean take me would be easier than the fight. I knew if I made that choice it would be the end. The end of this life. Is this what the end looks like I asked myself? Do I want this to be the end? I decided that No this was not what it looked like, No I did not want it to be the end and I chose life. As I emerged once again from the aqua green water I prayed for help to come, I don’t want to die, I want to live. I sent the energetic request out into the ether, into the Kawsay pacha. It was not long before my prayers were answered. A young man with a bodyboard appeared and pulled me to safely followed closely by the lifeguard.
I had experienced and survived what I consider to be a shamanic death. As in the Andean process of Wanuy, where you see yourself die in certain circumstances, especially those you are afraid of, I felt I had viewed that death, stared it in the face and had chosen not to die that way. I had chosen life as I still have more to do on the earthly plane. That night, for the first time, I consciously asked to wake up the next morning. My appreciation and gratitude for life was renewed.
Tiffany Stephens- Copyright 2014