As with other aspects of shamanism, the tools you find in the Chamber of Treasures are symbolic—but that doesn’t mean they’re not real. They have the power to change your life. When my client Sally entered the Chamber of Treasures, she discovered a gold pen that came with a proviso: if she picked it up, she wouldn’t be able to put it down. Sally hesitated, because she always dreamed of being a writer, but she could never find time to write. She not only ran a household, she helped her husband with bookkeeping for his business and had her own full-time practice.

Next to the pen, Sally found an hourglass, and she brought both gifts back with her. When she turned the hourglass over and watched the sand flow the other way, she realized she had the ability to make time. She cut back on work hours and her gold pen began revealing the stories she had within her. True to her journey, she hasn’t been able to put the pen down since—Sally is now working on her second book.

The intangible inner tools we find in the Chamber of Treasures are sometimes difficult to recognize and put to use. It takes contemplation to understand how to utilize them, and uncover their intended purpose in our lives.

During one of my early visits to the Amazon, a shaman gave me a hand-size conch shell after my soul retrieval. It took me months to understand what I was supposed to do with this gift. The shaman had said, “Let it speak to you. Discover what its medicine is,” so I carried it with me. I blew through the hole in the end of the shell, and made a sound. I held it to my ear—I couldn’t hear the ocean, but I found that it did amplify everything I heard. It was then I understood part of my lesson: I needed to learn to listen better to my calling. When I learned that in many traditional societies the sound made by a conch is a call to prayer, I realized that part of my calling is to call others and help them find their own gifts as healers and modern shamans.

One day I realized the shell had been built by an animal as a house, and this animal walked underwater with its house on its back. That was almost exactly what I was doing: trekking through the Andes with a pack on my back filled with gear that gave me a sense of safety and protection—including a tent, my own portable house! I had to ask myself if I really needed to carry such a big shell on my back at 14,000 feet.

I began to make many analogies about the baggage I was carrying, and what I needed in order to feel comfortable and safe. That shell not only showed me my calling, but how to travel lightly, holding everyone I love in my heart, which is my true home. I now know that what makes a tool isn’t the use it was first created for, but the use to which we put it.

You too must come up with a way to transform your tool from a symbol to a practical instrument. I’ll often give clients an object that represents something I find in their Chamber of Treasures in order to bring the tool from the imaginal to the physical realm of ordinary reality. I like to make it something they can carry, meditate on, hold, and utilize, because then it will have an impact on their daily life.

Laura was a university program director who found herself entangled in webs of political intrigue at work. During our journey together, I found a golden knife lying on a table in her Chamber of Treasures. I brought the symbol back with me and blew it energetically—the traditional way to “gift” the essence of a soul part, tool, or power animal—into her third chakra. Afterward, I asked her to find a ceremonial knife, which she carried with her for the next six months.

In her meditation, she used this knife to sever the energetic strands of toxic relationships, work intrigues, and restrictions she placed on herself, thereby disentangling from the cords that tied her to her past and to relationships that were suffocating her.

I’d also brought back a spider as a power animal for Laura, which I’d blown into her second chakra, but neither she nor I understood the significance of this creature. What I didn’t know at the time is that Laura had a severe lung disease (sarcoidosis) that was not responding to treatment. Her doctor had told her that a lung transplant was a distinct possibility.

Laura had been bitten on the hand by a poisonous spider a few years earlier. It swelled and became infected, but after it healed she never gave it another thought. She now realized that it was after the bite that her lung disease appeared, and she became seriously ill.

After meditating on her power animal, Laura grasped the relationship between the spider bite and the “webs” in which she was caught. As soon as she began to cut herself free from all the entanglements in her life, her body was able to clear the poison that caused her illness and she healed.

Next week: Journey to the Chamber of Treasures.