The following text is a eulogy for a former life, an individual account of a collective experience. I write these words with deep reverance, love, and respect for the community at Om Jungle Medicine devoted to radical healing. I also thank my family: my brother for his pure heart and my parents for the life that they gifted me and their infinite love ...
Chapter I: The Eagle
It’s very difficult to do this experience justice with words.
It was precisely during this experience that I learned that words - the things that I assemble and release out into the world to convey meaning - words are just another faulty human construct that can hardly capture the true essence of things.
“I’m vomiting all over myself in child’s pose. Child’s pose.... Who decided to call this child’s pose? What does this evoke about being a child? What were they thinking?”
“Stop talking Sarah,” she said.
Or I said.
Are we one?
“Let go of these words, stop trying to describe this with words, just sit with me in silence and feel.”
“But I’m vomiting all over the floor,” I lamented. “I’m making such a mess on this beautiful wooden floor.”
“This floor was built for you, to hold you here and now.”
I felt the floor on my cheek, its molecules softly pulsing against my palms, the sweet odor of its lacquer filling my nostrils. Suddenly, as cliché as it sounds, I was one with the floor, one with everything.
The floor, the wooden planks, the tree that they were cut from, the sapling, the seed... The entire lifecycle of this tree flashed before my eyes. Its fate connected to my rebirth - our paths connected by a divine order that suddenly I was clued into, that suddenly I could perceive.
The universe split open like a fallen fruit.
From my sacrum to my crown, I caught a glimpse of her cascading through me like a tidal wave in the form of a giant black serpent.
“Now I see why they call you a snake,” I quipped.
“And you’re an eagle,” she smiled back at me.
I turned around and saw an image of an eagle in flames flickering on the wall. She’s right, I’ve always been an lone eagle drifting in the sky. “You see the forest through the trees,” I’ve heard since I was a child. The metaphor carried on into the rest of the evening as I was bestowed with what felt like immaculate eagle vision, looking down not only on myself, but this blue-green gem of a planet, and all of clumsy human civilization.
“Look what words do,” she admonished.
I saw a beautiful planet divided into countries and borders. I felt all of human warfare, modern and prehistoric, pass through me in the blink of an eye. “All the bloodshed!” I cried as I felt the violence and trauma of a thousand battles in every cell of my body.
“All language is essentially meaningless,” she repeated.
Emotions, memories, truths, obsessions, fears, and senses melted off of the words in my head. Words turned into mere echoes, strange sonic frequencies that could no longer console me.
Soon the messages came pouring in in the form of vibrations.
I was flooded with what felt like a thousand messages per minute.
The moments I felt overwhelmed or undeserving of this divine intervention...
I’d vomit again.
At one point, I lost touch with reality and sunk into a state of complete absence. However I looked on the outside was concerning enough for the shaman and his assistants to surround me. I heard “Hipertensão,” in Portuguese. I heard one of the assistants say, “Sarah breathe from your diaphragm you’re hyperventilating.” I could hear the words but it was as if they were speaking to me from light-years away, through another dimension.
Suddenly I felt the shaman’s father, the eldest person in the maloca, hold me in his arms. I felt his leathery touch only vaguely as if my body was neither here nor there. When he spoke to me, his voice penetrated the dimensions that separated me from the people around me. His grandfatherly baritone voice echoed and resonated within me: it reached me like a rope, something that I could cling onto in this bottomless well where I kept on sinking.
This is the power of a shaman.
He spoke his native language Yawanawá but it didn’t matter what language he spoke: I understood that he was taming this wild spirit who was pummelling me with otherworldly messages and visions. I understood that he was inspiring me to get back up and keep on fighting.
In that moment I could have understood any language.
In that moment, I understood that the essence of understanding is feeling, not words.
Words oftentimes seem so inaccurate and futile.
“God,” for example, is a strange word...
Work in progress, to be continued...