When I was at an advanced workshop many, many years ago, and was partnered with another student to ask for a healing for myself – something of huge import – the question I asked her to help me with was this:
How do I cure my insomnia?
I remember the wording precisely because I asked this question so many times, and with so many fellow practitioners. Year in and year out, I asked this question of my helping spirits in my personal journeys, too.
Counsel came, and occasionally prescriptions, some easy and some difficult. And I was careful to follow prescriptions. I was both observant and reverent.
But I was never cured. One solution did last for a period of time, but then stopped working.
Why? Why do the spirits not cure when urgent help is requested?
In my case, the answer came in a most unusual way. A few years ago, a godchild was visiting, and suggested I be tested for sleep apnea. She said I snored with roars and gasps. I recorded myself when I was sleeping, and was appalled by the choking, strangled breathing, and the whimpering I was doing in my sleep.
After tests, the doctor confirmed I had one of the worst cases on apnea he had ever seen. When I slept, I stopped breathing an average of 101 times per hour. Sleep, when it came, was killing me. My body waged a battle between air and rest every night.
At that point, I was sleeping four nights out of seven, and three days a week were spent in a vague nightmare of never getting any REM sleep. He remarked, “You are actually lucky you have insomnia. It has probably saved your life.”
Wow. I saw that by NOT curing my insomnia, the spirits were working for me in the best way. Once my apnea was treated, blessed sleep returned. And now, having lost a tremendous amount of weight, the apnea is resolved.
There are great, inherent teachings in all of this.
The first is this: why did it never occur to me to ask the spirits, “Why are you choosing to NOT cure my insomnia?”
I cannot be sure in retrospect, but I believe that had I opened myself to another line of questioning, my path to curing this problem might have become more direct. We are always ready to ask the spirits to remove suffering, but are we remembering to ask them why they don’t cure when they don’t?
I believe every journey is perfect, no matter what. This is not sentimentality, but hard won observation after two decades of doing the work. And if that is true, that means that you are always receiving the work you need.
Second, and this is really a reinforcement of what I know for sure: every illness has a spirit, and its arrival, duration and evolution are dynamic. Illness is never simple.
When a client comes, I never know where the client is in relation to the spirit of his illness. Having worked with an eleven-year illness, which shamanism cured in four hours, I know that when people ask me (with great surprise and sometimes shock), “You were CURED in four hours?” I answer, “Actually, I was cured in 11 years and four hours or in four hours. It depends upon how you look at it.”
The days have long since past when a question like “Why did it take so long for me to find shamanism?” hold any interest for me. That was a question I asked for a year or so following my illness, but then I learned the answer. The illness roughed me up as was proper for years to prepare me for my work as a shamanic practitioner.
When clients come, I intimately grok what chronic illness is, and the despair it causes. I know about the havoc. And that deep compassion that was finally forged during my evolution through mine. It made me worthy to see my clients.
Knowing to ask the spirits, “Why didn’t the cure for X CLIENT work as I believed it would according to the treatment protocol?” is a question well worth asking. It opens doors to how I may have misunderstood a subtlety. Or the need to ask another question, set another intention entire.
Now I do understand that if I hold the matter of the spirit of an illness in too small a container, I need to minutely examine the wording of the question asked, and the overall intention. This refinement has proved to be useful in my personal work, and, certainly, has changed the work for my clients in some unusual ways.
I still have some insomnia, but now it is for different reasons. The answer to why it persists is complex, and has to do with deep evolutionary work I am doing. Some of it is simple, and some of the work rises like a crest of a wave that carries me deeper into the waters of mystery. I am learning a skill set that is difficult for me, and that is patience.
Just as seasons turn in their own time, illness turns, too. In shamanism, every journey must be taken with a profound respect and in the spirit of not-knowing. Always, we are beginners in the vast and unfathomable grace and mystery of the spirits.