During one of my early visits to Peru, while hiking in the mountains near Machu Picchu with Don Antonio, I came down with a case of pneumonia. A full course of antibiotics did not help to control the infection, and the coughing fits simply would not stop. Every time I coughed, my abdominal muscles would go into spasm.

I came to Don Antonio in acute pain. The old Indian asked me to lie down on a fur throw that he kept at the foot of his bed. He sat on a cushion by my head and performed a healing on me. He called on the four cardinal directions, then invoked Heaven and Earth. Next he raised his arms, as if he were parting the air above his head, and slowly brought them down by his side, as if he were expanding the edges of an invisible bubble. He repeated the motion, this time extending the edges of this invisible bubble forward to cover me like a blanket.

I felt an immediate sense of safety and comfort. The chatter inside my mind ceased, and I slipped into a state of stillness and tranquility I had felt before only during meditation. I could hear Antonio’s voice from far away, instructing me to breathe in rhythm with him, and felt my breath accelerating to keep pace with his. I could feel his fingers turning in a counterclockwise direction around the hollow at the base of my throat, drawing out a sticky, cotton-candylike substance. I noted all of this casually, as if it were happening to someone else, or as if I were seeing it in a dream, none of it disturbing my calm. And then my left arm began to twitch involuntarily.

“That’s the toxic energy leaving your system,” Don Antonio said. “Don’t be afraid. Let it happen naturally.” The twitching then spread to my left shoulder and down to my right leg. It was completely involuntary, like the sudden jerking one sometimes experiences before falling asleep, except that this kept on going and building in intensity. Then, as suddenly as it had started, it stopped, and I fell asleep.

Nearly one hour had passed by the time I awoke and looked at my watch. Antonio was still sitting by me, his hands cradling my head. He asked me how I felt. I took stock of my body and realized I was unable to move. Strangely, though, the realization did not bother me. I felt as though I were floating in a warm, silent sea. Antonio began to massage my scalp, and after a few moments I was able to stretch my hands and feet and sit up.

I felt as if I had had a solid night’s sleep, and the pain in my chest was gone. I asked Antonio what he had done. “This is called Hampe, or energy healing,” he explained. “You have spent most of the last hour in infinity,” he added with a smile, “but that is only a figure of speech, for one cannot spend a measured amount of time in timelessness.”

He treated me for only one session, yet almost immediately my cough subsided. My immune system had been kick-started, and I felt I was on my way to recovery. Even more important was a deeper healing that went far beyond my cure. After the healing session I was left with an abiding calm and serenity that I could only describe as a state of grace, of forgiveness and blessing, that has remained with me for years. I had tasted freedom from the chains that kept me bound to time past, to my painful history, to guilt, and to regret, as well as to my hopes and my anxiety about the future. I had tasted peace. I was brought up to believe that such grace was attained only through prayer and the generosity of God’s love.

“I am not bestowing grace or any such thing on anyone,” Don Antonio was quick to explain. “I merely held a sacred space in which you experienced infinity. You did the actual work yourself.” He was letting me know that he had created the sacred space where healing happens. The energy within that space and the assistance from luminous beings in the Spirit world empowered me to heal myself.

The way of the shaman, I discovered, is a path of power, of direct engagement with the forces of Spirit. I had never experienced the path of power before. In my Christian upbringing I had learned to pray and would recite my evening prayers without fail. Later I studied meditation. Both prayer and meditation remain important practices in my life today. But the path of power is different. It requires a direct experience of Spirit in its own domain, in infinity. Tremendous healing takes place when we commune with the powerful energies of the luminous world. In the process, you shed your identity with your limited self and experience a limitless oneness with the Creator and the Creation.