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Jeff Takes a Journey.

Who seeks for heaven alone to save his soul,
May keep the path, but will not reach the goal;
While he who walks in love may wander far,
Yet God will bring him where the blessed are.

Henry van Dyke, The Story of the Other Wise Man

In the minutes before reporting his meeting with Scott, Jeff had set the stage by
explaining the basic principles at work in shamanic healing practices, and describing in
full detail one of his early journeys. Although our culture has been stripped of this
ancient wisdom and thus lost a central source of spiritual power, he explained, the ideas
nevertheless remain with us, diluted to story. The adventures of Alice in Wonderland, he
pointed out, illustrate the basics of a classic shamanic journey. “First the traveler relaxes
and prepares to enter an altered state, like Alice did as she nodded off listening to her
sister read by the river. If you’re gonna travel,” he emphasized, “you’ve got to be willing
to let yourself go and start with an open mind.”

“Then, to gain entry to the spiritual underworld, the realm of spirit, one must descend
through some sort of tunnel.” He explained that the archetype of the mandala, a series of
infinitely decreasing concentric circles, is believed by some to symbolize this primal
experience of descent.

Spiral. Look into this image for a moment or two and see if you don’t perceive motion,
or maybe bits of color.

Courtesy of Jessica

“Alice started her journey,” he continued, “by falling through the rabbit hole, falling
deeper, deeper, deeper. Then, she found herself experiencing a new world, accompanied
in her journey by the spirit animals of a talking rabbit, a wise old caterpillar, and a series
of other animal and human guides.

In that realm Alice came to realize that anything could happen. Things solid and

relatively unchanging in this world, such as size or shape, suddenly became completely

“Just like in a dream, the old rules had been left by the wayside. And,” he continued,

“she experienced a dramatic series of lessons in that surreal world, all of which she
brought back with her to this side when she woke up. She came back wiser than when
she left, and I’d bet nothing was ever quite the same.”

“Quite interesting,” I thought as he spoke. Like millions of others I had always loved the
quirky story, but accepted it as simply a fanciful exercise in creativity. Could Charles
Dodgson, writing as Lewis Carroll and living his days in Victorian England, have
somehow come into contact with the shamanic tradition? Whether or not he had been
aware, the tale fit perfectly into this world view. My mind wandered, ambling back over
the years I’d spent with Jeff. Wasn’t it just like him to start on a wild new journey, and to
drag me along with him?

Having educated me as to the basics, Jeff proceeded to tell me the tale of a healing
journey he had undertaken on behalf of a friend, a man we’ll call Sean in order to protect
his privacy. “I’ve taken a couple of workshops and read up on it,” he explained, “but
don’t have a lot of experience yet with unsupervised journeys. But I wanted to tell you
about one I did make for my friend Sean.” As I looked at him expectantly, he paused for
a minute, gazing down upon the city. “He knew I’d been exploring this work, and asked
me if I’d learned anything that I might be able to put to use for him. He said that he
needed a little help, that he was experiencing some distortion in his eyesight he’d never
had before. He was also dealing with some emotional blocks. It bothered him that he
felt like he was unable to grieve the loss of his dead mother, and that he had a distant, sort
of adversarial relationship with his father.”

“I agreed to give it a try. I explained to him that it was important that we both approach
the situation with an open mind, to avoid any preconceptions that might limit the
experience. Neither of us had any idea what would happen, if anything. I went over to
his place, and we started preparing for the journey by purifying a space.” “What does
that mean?,” I asked. “Well,” he answered, “it’s a series of small rituals that help put you
into the trance state, a mindset open to receiving from the spirit. Literally, it’s like
preparing a space that is neat and organized, marking it out physically by sort of
rhythmically pacing around its borders, defining it as a sacred space. Prayers are made
in each of the four directions, and assistance is requested from the Mother and Father

“It’s important to the trance state to have some rhythm going on in the background,
usually a steady drumbeat. That day I brought with me a c.d. of Native American
drumming, and we put that on. We lit a candle, and I asked Sean to lie down on the floor
within the space and to make himself comfortable. I told him that it was important that
he stay present, try and keep attuned to what we were doing. Then, after saying a short
prayer, asking the spirits to help me help this man, I took my route into the underworld.”
“This is some wild stuff,” I thought to myself. “What do you mean,” I asked him, “your
‘route into the underworld?’”

In response, he asked “Have you ever seen Blue Springs?” I nodded in affirmation,
recalling the beautiful site in the spring country of North Central Florida. Through
impossibly clear water, in which fish seemed to hang suspended as if in air, their shadows
darting across the green and aqua field of grass far below, one could easily spot the
bubbling sources of the spring. That area had inspired Quaker traveler William Bartram
during his explorations there in the Eighteenth century, and his published journal entries
had in turn captured the opium-fueled imagination of his contemporary, Englishman
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who penned the following words into his magnificent poem
fragment, Kubla Khan:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran

Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

A North Florida spring fed by the same aquifer as Jeff’s internal “leaping off” point, into the deeper and
more golden realm of the “underworld.” View of main spring at Seven Springs ranch near Marion Oaks,
FL, from dock.

“I remember going there when I was a little kid,” Jeff continued, “and looking way, way
down deep into this hole, that seemed to go all the way down into the center of the Earth.
Even then, it fascinated me.” He paused for a moment, recalling. “That’s how I go
down,” he said softly. “I feel myself standing in the water, I feel the cold around my
ankles, and then I dive in. All the way down.”

“At this point my eyes are closed, so I’m seeing with my mind’s eye. Floating there in
the darkness, I requested contact from my two helper spirits.” “What are they?,” I asked,
full of curiosity about this bizarre realm of experience. “One of them is my spirit
animal,” he told me. “Does everyone have a spirit animal?” “Yes,” he replied. “What
kind of animal is it?” He vaguely frowned at me, explaining that that is sacred
information, not open for casual discussion. “O.K.,” I said, “I respect that. I was just
asking.” I smiled to myself, noting that all of a sudden I was filled with intense curiosity
about this question now that its answer was hidden from me as behind a shield.

“The helpers then took me on a journey,” Jeff continued, “deep into these mountains, up
to the entrance to a cave. Then they left me there. They said ‘Go on, we’ll be waiting for
you when you come back.’” I found myself full of questions. “Now, you weren’t under
the influence of any drugs during this experience?” “No,” he laughed. “When you were
in this state,” I asked, “with Sean laying on the floor beside you, did you narrate the
things you were seeing? Did he have any idea what was going on?” “Usually I’m pretty
good about that,” Jeff explained, “but it’s more important to me to have the experience. I
can always share the details when I get back.”

He looked at me somewhat impatiently, as if hoping I had run out of questions so he
could get on with the story. I shut up. “So I went into the cave, and found this kind of
crazy-looking holy man there. He looked like one of the saddhus, the ascetic holy men
you see pictures of wandering India. His hair was kind of rastafari, going everywhere, he
was real thin and dressed in rags, and his eyes were bulging.” He thought for a moment.
“He looked crazy, but I knew he had this terrible kind of wisdom. I wasn’t afraid. So I
asked him ‘Are you going to help me help Sean?’ He didn’t say anything, but simply
pointed with his long, thin arm in one direction.”

“At that point, the wall of the cave became mist, and his arm went right through it. I
followed in the direction he pointed, and suddenly found myself on the roof of an old
fashioned kind-of skyscraper, looking down on this bustling city.

“It was so vivid, I could feel the warmth of the sun and the wind on my face and the roof
sturdy beneath my feet. I mean, solid. I knew that it was the 1920′s, because there were
all these beautiful old buildings, like the ones here in Seattle. It was like I was seeing the
city from the perspective of being on top of a five or six story building, the kind they
used to consider a skyscraper. I saw a streetcar passing below, and the streets were
jammed with great old-style black cars. And these were definitely the Roaring Twenties.
Even from above it was obvious that something special was going on, that the city was
bustling with energy and commotion.”

“From where I stood, beyond the buildings, I could see a huge blue body of water that
looked like a lake. I then realized that ‘This must be Chicago.’

All of a sudden my perspective shifted, and I was down on street level walking among
the excited crowds. A lot of the men were wearing those old-fashioned flat-top straw
hats with the wide brims, with those red, white and blue bands around them. I figured
some kind of political event must be going on. Even I got kind of caught up in the
excitement. I was having a great time, observing the really cool dresses the women wore,
drinking in the scene.”

Republican National Convention, Chicago 1920

“Suddenly, from out of the crowd, this man walked toward me.

“First he looked kind of above me, then he stopped right in front of me and looked at me.
It was like no one else there could see me, so I figured this meeting was no accident. In
my conscious mind, I was wondering ‘what’s going on here?,’ but surrendered my
disbelief to see where the journey might lead me.

I asked him ‘Do you have something for Sean?’ He was this really handsome man, and

he just looked at me and smiled very beautifully. It was like I could hear his thoughts,
and he was thinking about a woman he had had sex with. All I could feel was this
absorbing sensation of deep love. Suddenly, I knew that the woman he was thinking
about was Sean’s father’s mother, and that this was Sean’s grandfather. He only smiled,
and said ‘Tell Sean that I love him.’”

“For a minute it was like I just stood there, absorbing his energy, the two of us among the
crowd as if we were alone. Then, I asked him ‘Is that all? Is there anything else?’ Then
he said something else, something else about the grandmother. He was so full of love,
but seemed to smile sadly. ‘She really was wonderful. I should have married her.’ At
that point, I sensed that it was time, so I gathered my energy and turned to go. The
saddhu was back, and he guided me back toward the mist, pointing me back out of the
cave. My spirit helpers were there waiting for me, and I asked them if there was anything
else. They said, ‘Give this to Sean.’”

“So I brought myself ‘back up,’ and woke up holding my midsection, almost doubled
over. I felt this incredible energy running through me, almost like an electric current. It
came to me to breathe this energy into Sean, so I blew a breath into his chest, and then
one into the back of his head. He started crying, and said that something had just
happened to his eyes. He said ‘I felt like energy coming through my eyes, and then
passing through.’ I just sat there with him for a few minutes, being there with him, as he
went through this emotional experience and sort of settled back down.”

“Then we talked,” Jeff continued, “and I told him about what I’d seen in more detail. I
can never be sure exactly how much I’ve gotten across while in the trance state, since
more of the communication there than not is probably nonverbal. He told me that his
father had been born in Chicago, which I hadn’t known, and that his father had never
really known his own. Sean felt that that loss had become part of his problem with his
father, his coldness, distance, etc. Maybe Sean’s father didn’t feel able to give something
he had never really been able to receive himself.”

“I’m still not exactly sure about what it meant,” Jeff concluded, “but it had something to
do with healing the sense of continuity that had been broken in the male relationships in
Sean’s family, between generations of fathers and sons.” Anyway, it seemed to do great
things for Sean.”
A moment later, he spoke again. “But I really need to tell you about my meeting with

To: Chapter 36