Shamanism is a living alchemy that is not seeking the stone,

but has found the stone.


Terence McKenna

Image 04-01-15

Day 8: Shaman’s Tale

Find your sacred

Do one thing today that scares you, something that makes you super uncomfortable. Break out of the limiting beliefs and behaviors of your current story and dare yourself to do something different. This may mean speaking to a stranger, trying a new sport, attending a meeting, or starting an investment account. Maybe you book a plane ticket to a destination across the world, or knock on a neighbor’s door and say hello. Anything you have been putting off, dreaming of, or both is a good candidate for this exercise.

Because I did not read our Day 8 lesson until tonight I really did not get an opportunity to do something that scares me today. Well, maybe I did one small thing of which the larger notion does scare me a bit. I will be heading on down to Santa Fe in two weeks, for a two week stay. I have only ever been out to the Southwest once before and that was just this past August and I really did that trip on a whim and a prayer. In truth, it was meant as a healing retreat in order to get my head together in the immediate aftermath of Laureen’s death.

Now I suppose it was not exactly immediate because it was some five months after Laureen died that I actually went out to New Mexico. And that was a pretty big step for me. But one of the byproducts of losing my wife was that, for a time, I lost my fear. It was a rational loss. Having lost my wife, the thing I feared more than anything else in my life; a fear that existed long before it ever even became a possibility, I realized that there was nothing left to fear. I rationalized that if I died tomorrow, it really did not matter because we are all going to die sooner or later and I had just watched my wife die in front of my very eyes, knowing that there was absolutely nothing I could do but sit and witness her death. So I put aside all my internal arguments, like, “I don’t know anyone out there”, “I am not a desert kind of guy”, “I don’t like to fly”, and I just said, “Fuck it!” – I am just going to buy the tickets and go. And that is exactly what I did.

I’d been out in Santa Fe for about a week and I think I found myself writing about fear one night when I was back at the house I’d rented. It was then, while looking for an appropriate quote about fear, that I came across Georgia O’Keefe’s comment –

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life and I have never let it keep me from doing a single thing that I wanted to do.” 

I found immediate comfort in her words. I had been struggling during the week as I drove north out of Santa Fe. For someone who has always been surrounded by the comfort of trees back here in New England, I found the wide open country of the high desert to be a bit of a challenge. As I’d be driving along the highways I could not help but have this physical sensation of being on a roller coaster of sorts and it was something I felt in the pit of my stomach. I had the sensation of the whole world just falling away from the highway. And I have to admit – some of those rides were white knuckle rides as I felt like I would simply drive off the edge of the world.

But I did not drive off the edge of the world and despite the physical sensations and the anxiety they provoked, I took my trips and saw the things I needed to see and overcame the bouts of fear and anxiety that I struggled with. And I was certainly glad that I did.

Indeed, many of the things I have done this past year have been done despite my fears and anxieties. There was one trip that I took last summer, out to Oregon, where I simply directly confronted my fear. I was not sure about whether or not to do the trip and my indecision was making it very difficult to know what to do. So I finally, and quite simply, asked myself, what was the root cause of my indecision and I realized it was fear. And when I examined the fear I found there was nothing there. It was a straw man. An excuse. I could not actually name one good, supportable reason for not doing the trip – which in truth was a very big lesson in trust. Once I discovered that there was no basis in reality for my fears, I booked the trip and went out to visit people whom I had never physically met before, even though I had known them for going on 19 years via the internet. And it was an amazing experience. At a time when I was still so deep in my grief, I simply surrendered to their caring and kindness and they truly helped me to begin to heal and to move forward again.

Segue to today and I took action on an idea that had come to me about a week ago. It’s a “what if?” thought and it’s a notion that does scare me. What if I considered the idea of moving to a place like Santa Fe? There’s a lot of scary aspects to that idea. Right now I am still living in the place that Laureen and I called home. I adhered to the general grief rule of “make no big decisions for a while – at least a year”, and so I haven’t really made any big decisions. But now a year is over and I’m trying to think a little bit outside of the box and I have to ask myself, is where I am now, working for me? And I don’t know quite what the answer is yet.

What I do know is that I have worked incredibly hard at the job I have right now. That job damn near broke my spirit on more than one occasion and I know how much of a strain it put on Laureen’s and my relationship for a while. And the job definitely is not conducive to living a spiritual life. Except on one point – it creates a lot of abundance. And the trade-off for that abundance is time… well, time and perhaps a piece of one’s soul. And I struggle with that a lot, although a part of me is already starting to let go and so I perhaps don’t quite struggle as hard as I once did for the residual of no fear still lingers a bit.

So my small act today, in preparation for going out to Santa Fe in two weeks, was to begin looking at some real estate using Zillow so that perhaps I will line up a few properties to look at and devote a day, or possibly two, to actually physically looking at a few places and seeing if this feels like a possibility. One thing I do know – both Laureen and I absolutely love(d) the Southwest style houses. We both really dislike(d) most of the standard New England styles – ranches, splits, capes, colonials, etc.

So it was a very small act in a way, but it does strike the nerve of several fears – actually selling my house and moving to a completely different place, giving up my job, and going to a place where I really don’t know a lot of people. And it’s not like I’m Mr. Outgoing. The last thing I need to do is isolate myself. Unless, in that isolation, I find my true creative path and create a life following that path. It requires more thought. . .

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8 Responses to FEAR

  1. Walks with Wolves says:

    I find that so damn impressive. It seriously takes my breath away.
    I mean sure, D & I have talked about moving to Tennessee in 10 years…but to actually DO it? Petrifies me beyond belief.
    You truly are amazing.

  2. Angie says:

    Wow. This entry gave me goosebumps. Your courage is beautiful.H

  3. This posting is an example of what I call synchronicity. I am dealing, currently, with a slate of sudden fears, almost overwhelming in their ferocity and am struggling to focus on one issue at a time. That is, I think, the key to dealing with them.

  4. John- Thank you, Your, and other friends, just being there gives me an anchor. The biggest problem is struggling, again, with my agoraphobia. The realization that my best friend was five years dead also triggered an immense loneliness in me. Not anyone’s fault, just sayin’

  5. nowandzenn says:

    I can understand that feeling when you remember that someone is gone. I was at work, at my desk the other day, and the thought popped in “I should call mom”. Just like it used to. And I would call her and she would annoy me, but still I was glad that I called her. And now, I have the thought, feel the impulse to reach for the phone, and I remember, “Oh, yeah, she’s gone now.” It creates an emptiness and sense of loss, and yes, loneliness too.

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