The best place to begin is my story. Ever evolving, ever turning, and yet always a part of the moment. There have been moments of my life I look back and wonder was this even me? I see the veins of my story running through periods of decision-making, did I do that? It sometimes feels strange to think a few years ago I was traveling the country in a school bus offering meditation coaching and now I am an active shaman in Anchorage, AK.
For now, I am in a moment where I highly identify with my story. In fact, at this moment I am powerfully in alignment with its teachings, yet rewriting its meaning.
When I was a child, many of my boundaries were hazy and undefined. I looked up at the stars a lot. My father has a story he shared with me throughout my youth, that when I was just forming sentences I asked him, “What is behind the stars?”. Throughout my teenage years, I found great joy in rearranging my room and was always careful to have my pillow in a position so I could see the stars through the trees when I fell asleep. It is still one of my favorite things to do.
Around eight years, I would open my window at night, climb out and walk around the woods in the dark. What was I looking for? Why was I wandering? If I was scared at all, I would look for my cat, Blossom. I knew if she was calm I had nothing to fear. This was also a practice I kept throughout my adolescent and teenage years.
The first time I remember seeing spirits was around eight years. I think it was the age where I was still highly attuned, but adjusting to this world and becoming sentient all at the same time. I can only assume that was around the time my boundaries formed. If I needed to go to the bathroom at night, I had to rush past the opening from the hallway to the rest of the house because there was a Tiger spirit that lurked in the dark. Some nights I was brave enough to stop and stare at it. Some nights I had to sleep in my parent’s bedroom because the bats would come out of the walls.
Eight years was about the same time I remember feeling the weight of the world move in on me. I was trapped. I must wake up each day, maybe go to school, maybe do menial tasks, maybe play, but this would go on day in and day out until I was eighteen at least. What is the point why am I here? I remember crying to my mother. She would ask what was wrong and I could not even explain but I felt a deep sadness.
When I was in middle school, my grandmother gave me the book, The Education of Little Tree. This was the first time I heard the concept of meditation. It was around the same time I moved away from the church. We would usually go to church most Sundays and often classes on Wednesdays. As I was gaining interest in religion and spirituality and acknowledging its presence, we missed service one day. That day I had my ceremony in my room. As it would turn out, my ceremony was far more powerful and enriching. Although I have a deep respect for the teachings of Christianity now that time marked a departure from the church for me.
I learned meditation from the trees. I would walk back into the woods on sunny days and lean against a tree. Some days I would sit in silence, some days I would talk to the tree. This brought me peace.
The sadness stuck with me, however. And so did the spirits. I would see them often at the dawn and dusk hours. I would see them often on the edge of the woods. I even heard voices during the daytime. What the hell. As I grew older, I became acutely aware that hearing and seeing these things was not normal. Naturally, the next thought was something must be wrong. Something feels wrong. What is the sadness that is sometimes mine and sometimes has no origin?
That is when the mania started. I found ways to pull myself out of the depression however I could. Often it was through periods of deep creative outpourings in which I would detach from my earthly body in an effort not to feel the darkness. Sometimes I would barely sleep for days to avoid coming back into my ordinary reality body.
In psychology, they call it Bi-Polar II. Manic-depressive with a tendency for the depressive side and in my case, psychotic tendencies. I had reached my limit and finally sought help. My parents took me to some counselors and I am so grateful to say, listened to my feelings on whether the person was a good fit or not. The first one had a room with awful energy. I filled out a survey that would categorize my problems. Since I used marijuana once, she was sure it was laced, thus my hallucinations were drug-induced. I ran from her. The psychologist I found basically saved my life. Through rigorous investigation, he thought that perhaps my problem was less about being out of touch with reality and more about being highly attuned to energy. Oh my goodness! This sadness I am feeling isn’t even always mine! I was picking up other energies and processing thoughts that people a decade older than me would be contemplating. I am a high IQ person and just did not have the emotional experience to handle the connections I was processing, and I was not in a community that could support experiences outside the framework of Christian fundamentalism.
I took years, but I eventually figured out how to manage my emotions and the energy. Unfortunately, I was heavily medicated. Although it helped stop the visions and allowed me to figure out how to be in this world, I realize now how valuable it would have been to have a community that fostered my experience rather than cover symptoms they do not have a framework to understand. In my teen years, beginning around 15, I learned about energies in plants and stones, taught myself to read tarot and made my ceremony. I would go to weekend meditation sessions. I think part of me suspected that these tools were healthier ways of expression than riding waves of mania. I came back to them when I stopped taking medication and have been able to manage any symptoms that would typically be associated with bipolar disorder naturally and with deep introspection and the wisdom of balance.
For a long time, this experience was fraught with trauma. I now hold the power to rewrite it as a teaching for me I may share as a teaching to others.