At the Beginning
Back in the late 1990’s, I went to Peru on a journey to tear down what I had unknowingly built up. I had been an actress in Hollywood for 8 years and had developed some solid and unhealthy patterns which protected me from acknowledging my own limitations. These patterns included starving myself down to a size 2, wasting time and money on vanity, staving off the love of family and friends, and gambling my future away in the hopes that I would cash in on the Big Jackpot with the next audition.
Just to save face here, I’ll tell you that I did book some pretty spectacular TV and film jobs while in LA, but I’ll be honest; I never hit the Jackpot. And, sadly, through those industry-acquired patterns, my ego grew to grand proportions, tipping the scales and outweighing true happiness by the tons.
After about 6 years of emotional strife and suffering, I went on a personal quest to Peru. In a small villa, reached by a 12-hour flight to Iquitos, a 3-hour boat trip up the Amazon River, and a 2-hour walk into the rainforest, I met a native Shaman. During this six-week retreat, he held up a stern mirror for me to see myself. But the reflection was too painful. It cast back the image of a self-referenced, defensive young woman who depended upon her outward appearance to succeed in the world.
It didn’t take long for the Shaman to get to know me and my patterns. He clearly understood that I was relying on a superficial image of myself to cover up deeply hidden pain. He made valiant efforts to help me see my protective behavior, but he just couldn’t crack through my solidified barrier. I had constructed it over my lifetime, and it kept me from having to see what lay beneath.
He seemed relentlessly stealth in his approach. He spoke in unfinished statements, rebuffed my queries, glared disapprovingly, and provided me with confusing and deep questions. It was infuriating, but his manner had a purpose; it was meant to force me into taking a clear look at myself and take responsibility for my patterns.
Sadly, I just couldn’t understand that my own behavior was the reason for his ‘uncaring’ ways. I spent my valuable time with him unconsciously demanding for kindness and caring. I just didn’t have the insight to understand that beneath his crusty demeanor, he was ultimately caring. It was the epitome of not seeing the forest for the trees.
It wasn’t until one of his gruff comments pierced my wall of ignorance that I truly understood the extent to his kindness. In a rare moment of a quietude, which was louder than the cacophony of rainforest frogs, he gently yet pointedly told me that I should go back to my own society to get a job and not go on another retreat unless I planned to write a book. Under different circumstances, it would have sounded as though he were merely indicating that I needed to go home and get a job.
But he was masterful, and I understood a deeper meaning. I realized that he saw my yearning to be an author. I had never mentioned my love of writing to him, but somehow he got it. And it was then that I knew he truly saw me, that he was offering his utmost validation and encouragement for something that I could not validate for myself.
After decades of self-protection and self-deprecation, I was able to fathom through this man who spoke in upside-down messages, that writing was the answer to my life. Whether I was successful or not, didn’t matter. It was what I wanted to do most of all, and I was finally able to own it.
This Shaman knew that I was a writer at heart. He shot an arrow straight through my barrier and showed me the deepest and most unexpected kindness. I am forever grateful to him for that, and, although I was a tough nut to crack, I am grateful that I did finally hear him. I tucked away this experience as a precious keepsake, packed up my bags, and set out to wrestle with the uncertainty of how it would all manifest in my life.
And so, nearly 20 years later, what the Shaman saw in me is only just now coming to manifest. What transpired between my time with the Shaman and my life now is a trail of further quests and challenges which I will chronicle in the series of blogs entitled, “Who I Am & Why I Do What I Do.” I hope that if you follow along in this series, some of my hard learned lessons will help you in your own unfolding.