The following story, “Lost & Found: The Birth Of A Shaman“, was first published in February 2013 in Inspired Voices: True Stories Of Visionary Women. The writing of this story came through my participation in a 9-month Heal My Voice program. The mission of HMV is to: “empower and support women and girls globally to heal, reclaim their voice and step into greater leadership in their lives and in the world.” (www.healmyvoice.org)
Since that time I have written several other stories found in Heal My Voice collaborative books including:
“I’m Okay, Really!” in Harmonic Voices: True Stories by Women on the Path to Peace
“Afterword: Becoming Peace” in Harmonic Voices: True Stories by Women on the Path to Peace
“Foreword” in Tender Voices: True Stories by Women on a Journey of Love
“Recovery Is Possible” in Feminine Voices: True Stories Of Women Transforming Leadership
In addition to writing these stories, this program has helped me to step forward as a leader and share my voice with the world. I am excited to share my first Heal My Voice story, Lost & Found: The Birth Of A Shaman, with you here. Later this year, I will be co-facilitating a program with HMV Founder Andrea Hylen called “Recovering Voices: True Stories of Women & Men Healing Grief“. We will also be leading some local workshops and virtual teleseminar classes on Writing To Heal ~ Transforming Our Grief. Visit www.healmyvoice.org for more details.
In my story, I talk about how my life experiences, particularly those of trauma, loss and grief, led to my path of becoming a shaman. I mention my teacher, Ross Bishop, who I came to meet a decade ago; he helped me to understand and integrate what I had experienced as a child in a profound and healing way. This led to my apprenticeship as a shaman; and this work has become a foundation in my life and my work with clients today.
Ross will be arriving in Maryland tonight to spend some time offering healing space in my community. If you are local to the MD/DC/VA area, I invite you to join us on Saturday for a Community Talk and Sunday for a Half-Day Workshop at The Zen House in Annapolis, MD. To learn more visit azenhouse.com or Ross’ website, www.rossbishop.com.
Lost & Found: The Birth Of A Shaman
By Beth Terrence
I write this story in honor of my inner children, the ones who were willing to travel into the darkness to find the light. The ones who walked through fire and instead of emerging charred and burned, transformed themselves into the light of illumination which carries me through this life, allowing me to be happy, whole and filled with love.
It has been 10 years since my mother died. My life has transformed so much in that time; I might not even recognize myself if I passed the former me on the street. So many blessings and journeys have emerged since then that were unimagined. Around that time, I didn’t know it but I was about to experience what I consider to be my first soul retrieval, the return of a soul part that has been lost through life experiences. Looking back, I now view this part of my life journey as the gateway to stepping forward on my path as a shaman.
Prior to ten years ago, I had spent a good part of my life exploring spiritual and holistic practices. This was both through a deep sense of calling and also, in response to the struggles that came from dealing with anxiety, depression and the physical condition of fibromyalgia. In retrospect, I can see those imbalances were due to the effects of the severe trauma I had experienced as a child growing up with a mentally ill parent. I had made tremendous progress by the time of my mother’s death. I felt a sense of health and well-being that I previously never imagined was possible. Still, I felt something was missing.
For as long as I could remember, I had felt such a sense of extreme loss. Like there was a hole inside of me that could never be filled. It felt so deep and vast. When I was willing to look at it, all I could see was the darkness of an infinite abyss. Most of the time, I tried to pretend the abyss wasn’t there. Sometimes, I attributed it to the loss of my mother to her illness and to the wound of not really having a mother. Even stronger was the nagging and recurring feeling that some part of me was missing. I truly believed that a part of me was lost to the past and I doubted that it would ever be found.
From a shamanic perspective, it is believed that a portion of the human soul is free to travel and leave the body. Our souls are thought to travel during our dreamtime or as we enter into a shamanic journey. Also, a soul part may leave the body to protect itself from potentially threatening or dangerous situations whether they may be mental, emotional or physical. In situations of trauma, the soul fragment may not return to the body on its own and a soul retrieval or other healing process may be needed to assist it. However, a soul part may return on its own once a sense of safety has been established.
As I invited the story for this book to emerge, I found myself waking early one morning thinking about Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Telltale Heart”. As I imagined Poe’s story, I began to feel my own heart beating and pounding so strongly. It felt like it might shoot right out of my chest. That was an old and familiar feeling that I had known for much of my life. Living in fear and intense fear – fear of the unknown, fear of the unseen, and fear of the unpredictable was something I had experienced on a daily basis.
Although the memory I was having could have been many nights of my life, I realized it was the first night I spent alone in my mom’s house after she died that felt reminiscent of the Poe story. This was the house I grew up in, often a place that people cherish and love to return to, but for me it felt more like a house of horrors. I hated to go there for even for a few hours. I went as infrequently as I could, always feeling a sense of guilt for not going there more. I hadn’t slept there in over 15 years; one of the last times I had to be rescued by the police.
My mother had died very unexpectedly. I was shocked and really not sure how to feel. Energetically, she had been gone for so long. I felt like she had died when I was a child. I had mourned that loss in many ways. There was this woman who was my mother; she was not a real part of my life. Yet, she profoundly affected it. I longed for a mother to turn to for guidance, support and sharing; sometimes I still do. My mother was not that mother. Even if some part of her wanted to be that mother, her mental illness prevented it.
I found myself inheriting my mother’s house, my house of horrors, a place that still truly terrified me. Soon after I got the news, I had to go up there to deal with legal paperwork, go to the courts, and become the representative for my mother’s estate. There was no will, no instructions, just a mess, a big mess and a lot of pain emerging. I had the daunting task of cleaning and preparing the house to be sold. It felt utterly overwhelming even though I had a lot of support from friends and family. The house was in total shambles and filled with clutter in almost every room. I felt so much shame about that house, about my mother and about all of the memories surfacing as I merely thought about going into that house, let alone actually walking through the door and spending time there.
Surprisingly, I found myself feeling a need to spend a night alone there. I needed to know that the house and my memories couldn’t kill me. That’s how it felt for so long, like if I went in there and spent time there, it would kill me. I imagined going in and never coming out. I felt like it could just swallow me up whole never to be seen again. I believed it was a miracle that I had made it out of that house before. Going back seemed like going into the lair of a dragon whose breath of fire could annihilate me in an instant. This house was the place that terrified me most in this world and yet, I knew I needed to return.
I had to sleep on the couch in the living room that night because there were no beds left in the house. My mom had died in her bed. I imagined my mom dying in her bed, lonely and alone. Just her and Percy, the sweet, sweet, loving Percy; the cat who had blessed our lives in so many ways. My mother dying lonely and alone isolated from the world at only 62. It seemed like that house had kept her prisoner, too.
As the sun descended and night arrived, my fear began to crescendo. My heart started beating like it used to, harder and harder until it beat so hard it felt like it would jump out of my chest, possibly even explode. I sat on that couch. I lay on that couch. I tossed and turned. I knew that sleep wasn’t going to be possible. I lay there hoping and praying for the night to come to an end.
Many memories began to surface. The knife fight. Locking myself in my room, again and again. Barricading the door. Hiding in the closet. Crawling under the bed. Sleep walking. Hearing the voices. Seeing the entities and not knowing what they were. Knowing my mother was gone and finding this being who seemed like a monster in her place. Constantly, fearing for my life. Hearing those familiar words that played, over and over again, in my head for so many years – “I will kill you, I will kill you, I will kill you”. Again and again. And, knowing that for so long those were not voices in my head, but words my mother would say to me, over and over again.
It truly felt like the words “I will kill you” came not from my mother but from some part of her that was not her true self. And eventually, it felt like it was the voice of the house. Every time I thought of it, whether I imagined being there or actually was there, I heard that voice. It was like it was captured in the structure or the energy of the house, just like the heart beating in Poe’s story. And, when I thought of those words and those memories, my heart would beat like Poe’s, too.
As I lay on that couch, I could feel that energy, hear those voices, and see those memories playing like a horror movie in my mind’s eye. I knew I was me now. I knew the house couldn’t kill me. I knew my mother was gone and she couldn’t kill me. Still, my heart continued to pound. I felt a full on flight or fight response arising.
I remembered all those nights, lying in my bed, begging and praying for God, for the angels, for someone or something to come protect and save me. Many nights, I wondered if I would make it to see another day. I wondered if this was the night she, my mother, would fulfill her words and kill me.
I longed for someone to hold me, to rock me, and to tell me it would be okay – I would survive. I wanted to cry for my mother, my mommy to come and save me, but she was the one I needed saving from. I was scared and terrified all the time. I was confused and lost. I felt totally lonely and alone.
So often, I wanted to run. I wanted to run from that house. Or scream, scream really loud. When I heard those voices, when I awoke in the middle of the night to my mom’s paranoid ramblings and to the one voice that always wanted to kill. “I’ll kill you”. He’d say it, over and over again. I say he even though the voice came from my mother. I don’t know why, that’s just how it felt. I knew the voice wasn’t really my mother, but some other energy or entity that possessed her, encased her and suffocated the beautiful, loving being that she was inside. Even then, as a child and later, as a teenager, this was something I knew, something I saw and something that would lead to me to the shaman’s door.
So many nights I awoke to her standing over my bed, staring at me and saying those words, over and over again. “I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you”. I’d try to remain perfectly still and invisible, because that seemed like the safest thing to do. Eventually, I knew if I did that it would pass; she would return to her bed and usually not even remember what had happened during the night. In the morning, she would sleep late, often into the afternoon. When she finally awoke, for a short time, she might actually seem like the sweet mother that I knew before her illness took over.
It was scary and tricky. I didn’t know when to trust. On the occasion when she was a sweet loving mom, the one I longed for and wanted to share my life with, I was guarded because I knew in an instant she could turn. Just one wrong word. One funny look. One thing said that she didn’t like and KABOOM! Explosions, rage, anger, attack. And those words – those vicious, hurtful, and terrifying words, “I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you.”
I wanted to run and I wanted to scream. But my legs seemed to always be frozen or not even there. My voice was gone or frozen, too. Even if I would open my mouth to scream, no words would come, just silence. I told myself over and over again, “Just be still and be quiet and maybe, we will survive.” I know it was on these nights that I learned to travel or journey within. I found places I could go inside that felt safe and secure, where I could hide parts of myself for protection.
However, in the world of people, I came to believe that silence and invisibility were the safest places. And, having a voice and being seen were very dangerous places. I learned to put on a cloak of invisibility that was nearly impenetrable. I learned to silence myself even when I was crying inside. Even when I was screaming at the top of my lungs inside for Help! Help! Help! no one but me could hear it. And, when I wanted to run, all I knew to do was to stay. Stay frozen and stay still. So I stayed. As my life went on, I stayed in many situations when I should have run or at the very least, walked away.
Spending the night in that house alone changed me. I am not sure if I slept a wink that night. So much fear arising; so many memories swirling around. I feared I might not make it through that night. But I did! When morning came, I was still alive! I finally knew that house could not kill me, my mother could not kill me and memories could notkill me. I was alive! I could get up; I could walk or run out of that house and still be alive! I could take the part of me who thought we might die if we went into that house and begin to create a new life. And I did! I could finally live my life. I didn’t need to stay. I didn’t need to be invisible. And, I didn’t need to be silent anymore.
As I look back, I view that day, in the morning as the sun rose when I “woke’ on that couch, alive and well, as my first soul return. I had lost myself there in that house and that it is where I found myself for the first time in this lifetime. I had survived that night and that life. As I walked out of the house that morning, I walked into the sunshine of a new life. I was awake enough to know that I was safe, supported and whole.
It would be a few years before I fully entered the shaman’s path. My own healing continued and eventually, led me to apprentice with a shaman. I finally came to understand on a deeper level what I had experienced. I came to know and view my childhood experiences as an initiatory process. I had learned to journey on those terrifying nights, to find places within that were safe and secure. I had left parts of my self in those secret places and it was in learning to journey with my inner children that I became whole.
I learned that loving myself is the key to healing. And, honoring and embracing the inner ones, the soul parts, who carry the memories, pain and traumas of the past, is what brings them home. As my healing progressed, I learned how to support others in reconnecting with their lost soul parts and in healing their core wounds. I consider this the gift of my past. I now know that it was those experiences that opened the door to a deeper understanding of life, one that allows me to walk between worlds with an awareness that is grounded, centered and open to the beauty of life as it unfolds.
If my story speaks to you in some way and you’d like to explore Shamanic Healing, feel free to contact me for a Complimentary 20-Minute Consultation to explore what’s possible! I am available for Shamanic Healing and Integrative Holistic Healing Sessions both in person in Annapolis, MD or virtually by Phone/Skype? Learn more at www.bethterrence.com.