For the shaman, the supernatural world does not exist. There is only the natural world, which has both visible and invisible dimensions. Otherworldly events seem odd only in our waking reality, while in the other world, the future can reach back to us into our present to guide us to our destiny. Our dreams are populated by a much more colorful array of creatures than our waking dimension, all having the ability to inhabit the past and the future simultaneously, and we are seldom surprised by these figures and beings we encounter.
The story I am about to tell you illustrates the fluidity of life as it surges forward and backward, much like the tides, defying what we know as “time.”
I had a dream about my long-deceased father, and it seemed perfectly natural that he was younger than me. My father had come to caution me about an important meeting. Then he vanished, before I could ask him for more details.
The meeting happened two days later. I was walking through a grove of trees on our farm as the sun was setting. I sensed him before I could see him. He was stalking me, stopping when I stopped, yet invisible between the trees. I could feel my heart racing and sweat beading on my palms. The farm is miles away from the nearest town, and it was unusual to meet anyone in the woods. When I reached a clearing, I stopped and sat on a boulder and waited, my pocketknife drawn and open.
His pace was deliberate and steady. The first thing I saw was his walking stick, and then he appeared. He was an old man, clean-shaven, slightly bent, yet you could tell he was fit and comfortable in the outdoors. He seemed wrinkled like the hills. I would have guessed he was at least ninety.
“You don’t remember me,” he said. “Of course you don’t; this meeting hasn’t happened for you yet.” And then he smiled. There was something oddly familiar about him. I exhaled, unaware that I had been holding my breath.
“You can put the knife away,” he said casually. How did he know I had a knife hidden in my hand?
“Dad told you I would come. Remember?” And then he explained that he was me, from the future. As if to drive home the point, he told me secrets from our youth that no one but I would know. And yet I was still doubtful.
During my training with the shamans in the Amazon, I learned that hungry ghosts can take on the disguise of a familiar person or loved one, only to mislead you or feed on your life force. I wasn’t sure I could trust this eerily familiar old man.
And then he explained what he had come for, saying, “I need to bring you back with me, to your future.”
During a soul retrieval, the shaman journeys back along the client’s timeline to discover an incident in the past that derailed his destiny. The shaman knows how to coax his client’s soul to return to the present, so that the person can become whole and recover his sense of purpose and destiny. In essence, this man was doing a soul retrieval on himself, coming to my present to heal his present, my future. We were having an encounter, but I was encountering myself.
“But tell me what happened to you,” I asked. It was obvious that his life had been challenging.
“I can tell you,” he replied, “that we were asleep for the climate crisis. It took everyone by surprise. Then it dawned on many of us that this was a time of unprecedented opportunity, much like the Renaissance at the start of the 1500s. But there was also a lot of chaos.”
“And what did we do?” I asked the old man. It seemed strange to be addressing him as we.
“You did what you were trained to do – teach and heal,” he replied. “It brought us out of retirement.” The slightest hint of a smile crossed his face.
I asked him what he needed from me. And he replied that he needed to recover his ability to laugh. “Perhaps you could help me with that,” he suggested.
“But do I really have to look like you when I’m ninety?”
“Ninety? I’m one hundred and fifteen!” he replied. “I hike three miles every day, and I’m still happily married. It’s not uncommon now for people to live this long, and even longer. The children being born today may not even have to die.
We sat across from one another and gazed softly into each other’s eyes. I saw the old man’s depth, his strength and his vulnerability. And then I said the words I knew he had come for, and that only I could offer him. “It’s all right, my little one. All is forgiven. It’s okay, my love. It’s time to come home.”
I noticed a tear running down his cheek, catching the last light of the day. I felt my own tears well up, and saw his eyes sparkle like a child’s. I closed my eyelids and eventually felt the light touch of his lips on my forehead.
When I opened my eyes again, he was gone. Only the branch that he had used as a walking stick remained, leaning against a dead trunk. The woods were dancing with the shadows of the great trees. When I drew close to the house, I noticed the glow from the candles in our living room and saw that Marcela was piling kindling on the fireplace. She embraced me and asked if I had been crying.
“I’m going to be with you for a very long time,” I said. “Did you know that?”
I share this personal story in more detail in my book, A Shaman’s Miraculous Tools for Healing.