Written by Bonnie Glass-Coffin Ph.D. & don Oscar Miro-Quesada
The key to personal and planetary healing is the same: one must live in awareness of the I AM.
When I began practicing the rituals of my ancestors, it was then, when I began to quiet myself, communing with the Mystery from a place of deepest surrender to wholeness, that I came to realize this truth more fully: Illness equals action without alignment.
Illness is estrangement from the sacred as we project the causes and consequences of our suffering onto others. It comes from looking outward rather than inward for acceptance, approval, and love.
Illness Has A Purpose: The Dark Night of the Soul
This is not to say illness has no purpose. Quite the contrary, it can call us to question everything about our lives as we enter into conversation with powers that awaken us to our true nature. Suffering can beckon us to assume new responsibilities of being human as we become aware that we are already whole. Illness leads us to a dismembering and a complete re-graphing at the deepest levels of our being.
As we come face to face with these lessons, we experience what shamanic apprentices call “the dark night of the soul.” This is a descent to the inner world of our shadow-selves, where we must choose to engage all the inferior states of our being and embrace these without judgment, fear, or denial. Then, as we release to the knowing and allow for rebirth, we come into a place of deep communion with All-That-Is. The soul reveals, the mind awakens, the spirit soars, the heart delights, the body dances.
It is this shift in consciousness—from judgment to tolerance, from denial to acceptance, from separation to wholeness, and from fear to love—that is the basis for all healing that follows. Anything else is simply therapy.
The Act of Trusting in Soul Helps to Alleviate Suffering
So, what does this mean when applied to suffering? How can illness and pain be reframed so that these are understood as more than senseless suffering? And how does the act of trusting in soul help to alleviate suffering?
The answer is simply this: In all sanctioned lineages of heartfelt shamanism the world over, the symptoms of illness are symbols of the state of your being. While you may be ill, you may be in pain, you may have experienced deep tragedy or longing, you are not just suffering passively. Instead, as you allow yourself to trust in soul and to align yourself with the process of soul-making as the reason for having a human experience to begin with, you begin to see this particular illness as a call to enter into conversation with powers that beckon you to assume new responsibilities of being human.
This awareness is the beginning of healing. It is the transformation of consciousness from feeling victimized and separate to remembering that we are always connected with a higher purpose and a greater objective than simply sleep-walking.
There Is Purpose In Every Experience of Our Lives
This realization liberates, moving us from feeling that we are mere victims of some random act of violence or suffering to recognizing that there is purpose in every experience of our lives. As Teilhard de Chardin once noted, we move from an understanding of being human beings having a spiritual experience to a knowing that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. And that is profoundly comforting as we journey.
Furthermore, because all healing transformation involves acknowledging that we are an interdependent part of the sacred hoop of life, as we re-member our true selves, we are inspired to act in harmony with that flow. We recognize all life as a gift. And as we receive, we participate in the flow by giving back: we give of ourselves, we give our service, we give our reverence and our gratitude.
Our relationships with the earth are transformed as we enter into that awareness. We find ourselves engaging in balanced and sacred reciprocity with what is being offered and what is being received. And as we do, wholeness and sanity within the self and the world are also restored. Personal healing becomes planetary transformation.
Sacred Reciprocity: What We Feel Within Is Manifest Without
All of our planet’s original peoples lived in accordance with what my ancestors called ayni. They practiced graceful rituals that honored the change of seasons, the cycles of the moon, the life-force energy of all the food they hunted or harvested. Sacred reciprocity is the closest English translation of this term.
This ayni is the essence of shamanism. As we participate, we are awakened to a power that resides both within us and beyond us. Shamanism is rooted in the experiential understanding that the cosmos comprises a system of correspondences. What we feel within is manifest without. What we honor above is made manifest here below. As we transform ourselves, we transform others. We are the change we wish to see in the world and, as the Hopi elders tell us, the “ones we have been waiting for.”
Modern peoples, by contrast, have mainly forgotten that we live in relationship as brothers and sisters with all the beings and forces of the natural world. Our scientific redefinitions of the “unseen” as the “unreal” have caused us to forget that we are all luminous strands in a giant web of belonging. In my country, those who have tried to continue the old ways have been mainly shunned and ridiculed as ignorant, stupid people that just haven’t gotten with the times.
Gaining Access Once Again to Abounding Miracles
Participation in these graceful rituals has the power to restore relationship with sentient allies that do not walk on two legs. And once this right relationship is restored, we enter into dialogue with their soul-power. For, as our awakened souls are manifestations of Divinity, so are the souls of our Earth mother, the moon and sun, the sacred rainbow, the stones and trees, all plants and animals, all world teachers, our star relatives, angels, Shining Ones, and all our ancestors.
And, as we reclaim our rightful place at their side as co-creators, we gain access once again to that crack between the worlds where miracles abound.
©2013 by Bonnie Glass-Coffin & don Oscar Miro-Quesada.
Lessons in Courage: Peruvian Shamanic Wisdom for Everyday Life -- by Bonnie Glass-Coffin Ph.D. and don Oscar Miro-Quesada.
About the Authors
Bonnie Glass-Coffin, Ph.D., is an internationally recognized professor of anthropology at Utah State University. She has studied with Peruvian curanderos since 1982 and is author of The Gift of Life: Female Spirituality and Healing in Northern Peru as well as numerous scholarly and popular articles on the topics of shamanism and transformation. She began apprenticing with don Oscar in 2005, experiencing the transformative power of these wisdom teachings and integrating these deeply into her life. She is an endorsed teacher of the Pachakuti Mesa and an avid practitioner of earth-honoring traditions in her home community of Logan, Utah.
Oscar Miro-Quesada originated the Pachakuti Mesa tradition of cross-cultural shamanism, and is the visionary founder of The Heart of the Healer (THOTH) Foundation. He is a respected kamasqa curandero and altomisayoq adept from Peru and has been guiding cross-cultural ethno-spiritual apprenticeship expeditions to sacred sites of the world since 1986, with special emphasis on Peru and Bolivia. He has been a popular faculty member at numerous U.S. educational centers. His work and programs have been featured on CNN, Univision, A&E, and the Discovery Channel.