Realization by Jan Engels-Smith
Lately I have found myself in what I call the “North” energies. To me the North energies represent a time of great reflection, being still, evaluating my life and noticing what it is that I am undertaking, holding on to, or resisting, and what it is that I need to “die to” and let go of. It is also a time of being in awe of the marvelous life ride I have been on, the choices I have made, and possibly being able to view those choices with 20/20 hindsight of how they have unfolded.
I believe that each person is eventually called to connect with the vastness of spirit and the mysteries of life, and that each calling is unique to that individual. Some of these callings will be blatant and others subtle; however, all will encompass a decision, then action and change. Many times there is a loss of the familiar. It is in the loss that many people bail from their commitment to follow the internal call that has sounded. However, the loss or the letting go of the familiar is what clears the way for the remarkable transformation that is brewing just below the surface. Resistance to this change can cause stagnation and lack of growth. If there is trust, perseverance, determination, patience, and receptivity there can be life-changing transformation that propels a person onto a new purposeful life path that continually unfolds. Life is never stagnant. While consumed by these North energies I have been reflecting on my life’s work, which is soul retrieval through the template of shamanism, and this is my beginning story.
I was introduced to alternative healing in a very alternative way. I had a vision. In my vision an old Indian woman approached me. When I asked who she was, she replied:
I am you,
I am your mother,
I am your sister,
I am your grandmother,
I am the Earth.
She had gray hair pulled back tightly in a bun, and her skin was wrinkled and weathered by life. She was wrapped in a wool blanket and was smoking a pipe. She asked if I wanted to join in the sisterhood but warned me that my life would be forever changed. I was doubtful, but I kept hearing the word “Trust” in the background. I nodded my head and spoke the word “Yes.”
I remember being extremely nervous, but there was a peculiar kind of strength surrounding and supporting me. We sat down and she handed me the pipe and we smoked it together, passing it back and forth.
When we finished smoking the pipe, she spoke again. “Your guidance will be provided. Your medicine that you carry is North—Wisdom, Healing, and Love. Begin at this time to start reading and learn to understand the Ways.”
Looking back on this experience, I see the meaning of the vision with clarity and understand fully the intent of the visitation, but at the time I was left perplexed and wondering. I had had no exposure to any indigenous teachings. I didn’t know what sisterhood meant. I didn’t know anything about the pipe ceremony; I didn’t even know that it was traditional for Indians to smoke pipes. My only exposure to this Native American ritual was from Westerns on TV when some white person would come across a tribe of Indians and they would sit and smoke the peace pipe as a sign that they would try not to kill each other anymore. I had no idea what the word medicine meant except as some combination of chemical elements to take when you are sick. I was engulfed in the mystery of the vision, but confused as to its meaning. Why had I had a vision? What did it mean? What, if anything, was I supposed to do with these strange images that had invaded my consciousness? So many unanswered questions.
Even to start reading about the Ways presented a mystery. What were the Ways? Where would I find readings that would teach me the Ways? I was involved in psychology in a very traditional way; I knew no other way. I was active at the time in the Methodist Church. In fact, I was considering studying for a Doctorate in Theology and perhaps pursuing a ministry. This vision was not at all a part of my existing reality system; it left me completely baffled. However, my love for Source was so great that I honored the experience. I reminded myself of the many stories in the Bible where visions had occurred with wondrous messages accompanying them. I believed that this vision had come to me for a purpose I did not yet understand. However, for me to fully honor this spiritual visit, I needed to seek greater understanding. Thus began my voyage of discovery. It would prove to alter my very existence and it is a voyage I continue to this day. The wonder of it has proven to be in the journey itself, not in any final destination.
I am a person of commitment. I am dedicated in the pursuit of my goals and persistent about overcoming any obstacles. My tenacity has often helped me to reach success in spite of difficult objectives. I love to see the impossible become possible, and the unrealistic become real. I did not know where the new challenge of my vision would take me, but I was prepared by habit to pursue it to its conclusion.
I committed to joining the sisterhood, whatever that was. I had made a contract with the vision, and I would keep my commitment. I just had no idea what to do or where to start. I felt that I needed guidance, but there was no one in my network of friends with that kind of knowledge, and only one with whom I was comfortable even mentioning the experience. It took one year before I found anyone that could help me understand what it meant. During that year I experienced extreme loss. Best friends that I loved deeply could not understand the deep changes I was experiencing. Talking about a vision or aberration that showed up in my living room left me sounding “crazy’ to them, like I had folded from the stress of my job. At the time I was working on the dissociative ward in a psyche hospital specializing in multiple personality clientele. For many of my friends and family members my new truth was strange, perhaps abnormal, and it was in conflict with the Bible belt religious belief systems that were prevalent where we lived and my beliefs were more than many of my friends could manage. My friends started to abandon me in very hurtful ways. Thank heaven my marriage survived this shift. I also became extremely ill, which now in hindsight I recognize is often another sign of deep transformation. I was weak, exhausted, and brokenhearted. My losses were unimaginably difficult and I was suffering. I needed to escape the pain.
We moved from Dallas, Texas to Portland, Oregon. This move created wholesale changes in my life: a new job, new community, new church, and new friends. I did not know at the time, but I understand now that this move was part of a major shift that would lead to a reordering of my life. In fact I now see how I was plucked out of that environment and placed into another.
Shortly after the move, I was at the Oregon coast with my husband who was attending a convention. He returned to our hotel room from a presentation saying, “Jan, come down to the vendor displays with me and meet this person who has a booth with some very unusual books. I think you will be intrigued.”
I followed him down and browsed through the various books. They addressed a wide range of spiritual matters, many from nontraditional perspectives. I don’t remember the specific titles of the books, but I do remember feeling an uncontrollable urge to ask the sales woman if she knew anything about visions/aberrations. She did not, but offered me the name of a woman who might help. I remember the excitement, the bolt of energy, that ran through me as she handed me a business card with the woman’s name and phone number written on the back. I called immediately when I returned to Portland.
The woman referred to herself as a channel and claimed that she connected with the client’s guardian spirits or angels, for guidance. She told me over the phone that she felt that my own guardian spirits could help me understand my vision. I caught my breath. The whole concept of guardian spirits was completely foreign to me. I had been to psychics in the past, but I had never experienced anyone who claimed to channel. I had little idea what the word channel meant or what I had gotten myself into. Yet still I was curious and felt innately that this was the right choice. I drove to her house.
The woman took me to a small room and, after some preliminary information; she entered into a trance and started speaking to me in a strong and unusual accent. My mouth fell open. I was overwhelmed with the information I received, but equally awed by the feel of love that emanated from the words. During the session my guardian spirits explained to me the different symbology that was used in my vision. They also suggested that I buy books about shamanism, healing, and soul retrieval. I was to learn of this ancient healing technique. Through the process of learning about shamanism, I would remember many things recorded in the cells of my being that had to do with my purpose in this lifetime. It was later revealed that they were referring to my life long career doing soul retrievals.
My mind raced at the conclusion of the session. I had heard so much that was new to me, most of which I had little or no understanding. At this point in my life, reincarnation and the possibilities of other lifetimes existed only as a part of Eastern religions. Now, I was being told that I too had previous lives, and that it was possible to remember them. All of this felt very odd to me, but at least I had received an explanation of my original vision and a suggestion of books that would help me understand more. The directive to read was a comfortable and acceptable assignment, so I immediately bought several of the recommended titles.
From that point on everything changed. Due to this shift in my awareness and my willingness to open to new possibilities, I became exposed to the people, training, and concepts that completely remolded my life and my profession. Each shift has been a step along the divine path of my development and my understanding of how we all can heal.
I have questioned spirit on many occasions about the loss, suffering, or hardship that frequently accompanies transformation. The spirits have redirected my question and asked me, what have you been praying for? I realized that my own heart yearnings had been present most of my life. My prayer of greater understanding of God, life, and what I would call religious understandings (remember at that stage of my life my only context for God was enmeshed in Christianity and I was considering a doctorate in theology) put these creative energies into motion. However, my involvement with the church was not the venue for my deepest connection and severing this relationship would not come without resistance on my part. On the whole, humans hate change and will not easily give up their attachments, belief systems, friendships, or loyalties. The resistance to the change that is necessarily for the transformation to take place is the problem and causes the suffering. In my own life example I could have chosen to try and heal the friendships that were being severed and deny the esoteric experience of my vision. That route might have felt safer, more familiar and easier but I believe I would have suffered more emotionally with a lack of satisfaction or fulfillment in life. My prayers opened an unexpected door and my decision to follow the new path paved the way. At the time it seemed to be the hardest thing I had ever done; now it seems the most obvious choice.
Possibly you have had longings, curiosities, or just felt like you don’t fit in traditional belief systems. Maybe you have had extraordinary encounters with spirits, angels, emotions, or places and tried to explain them to others but received back only odd looks, disparaging comments or, worse yet, humiliated. These judgments can cause people to step back and shield themselves, cutting themselves off from the necessary movement forward. It can be very confusing but realize that change must happen within the individual and this change has to do with letting go of old ways of being—letting go of friends, spouses, careers or whatever is in the way and not supportive to the initiated change.
Since the original vision, I have had numerous additional spiritual experiences. I began to reorder my life, to renew my thinking, and to interlace my knowledge of psychology with elements of spirit and actual teachings from the spiritual realm. As I integrated these experiences into my own consciousness, I became acutely aware that my experiences were not only for me but to be used as teachings for others. The teachings and experiences hold universal messages, or basic truths, that need to be shared. In fact I would go so far to say that the extraordinary is now the norm in my life.
Truly, each person is called to connect with the vastness of spirit and the mysteries of life and each calling is unique to each individual. If you feel that you fit this call of the inner shaman, take action, let go of resistances, seek out a teacher and move forward in your own self-discovery.