I did manage to get an appointment with Beryl, her last one. I found her to be delightful; a white-haired English lady dressed in a turquoise jacket. I later learned she was from Yorkshire (which happens to be my mother's place of birth). As I sat across from her in the little guest cottage on the side of a hill in Pacifica, she handed me her deck of well worn tarot cards and asked me to shuffle them. When I returned the deck to her she took the first card from the bottom and turned it over.
"Oh that's a lovely card," she said, "do you see what it is. It's the manifestor." My familiarity with the tarot was rusty from neglect so I did not recognize the archetype. "Haven't you noticed that things show up when you need them? It's has to do with the law of attraction."
"Well yes," I admitted though I loathed the concept. The one about making your own reality that the New Age movement had so thoroughly exploited, until the economic collapse took the wind out of their sails.
I did consciously manifest small things, mostly having to do with shopping, finding just the right pants, for instance, or the right hotel and B & B. The rest I chalked up to luck. And good relations with the spirits. It was some combination of all three that had recently helped me to find speakers for next year's ICD (Institute Challenging Disorganization) conference for which I was the program chair. (This was such a large job that no one in their right mind would volunteer for it. Not me anyway. I had to be asked and then told why I might be worthy. Plus I had inadvertently auditioned by showing up on stage at a previous conference to field questions on a panel about international shopping habits. I knew I had charmed the group with my poise and ability to speak off the cuff from the podium. It just had not occurred to me that they would wish to put this talent to use.)
Beryl went on with my reading laying out card after card. "Have you been reading a lot of medical texts?" she asked.
"Yes," I said pleased she had picked up on it. She told me I could write a book, not right now, but in a year or two, based on the medical information I was studying now. In fact I would likely write several books which could become my income stream in the future. Sounds good, I thought. Now I had a second opinion confirming this potential. If I could just get around to it.
"You have so many ideas just popping out of your head," said Beryl, "you have to watch that you don't get too fragmented." Exactly. "Your passion is knowledge," she continued, "how the brain works. Anything you're curious about, you go and research." That described my current self to a T.
"You are intuitive. You'll just know things while you're reading or looking for something." Terrific. What an affirmation; it boosted my confidence immensely. And accounted for why I had been able to learn so quickly and follow my nose to read what I needed to know.
"I've been working on it," I told her. Like I did most things—by reading a book. This one had DIY exercises involving a pendulum. A beginner's intuitive toy. Training wheels.
"Brilliant," she said genuinely pleased.
Beryl also asked me if someone close to me was seriously ill. So we spent a good bit of time looking at Catherine's profile and examining her character in terms of her childhood history. Beryl felt that Catherine would recover completely from the cancer.
"It's the cancer treatment that's harder to recover from," she said. That was my worry too. Beryl had, for a time, been a naturpath (and before that a lawyer). Clearly a smart woman. She then told me how to perform a direct healing by infusing a glass of water with healing intention and then having Catherine drink the water.
We incorporated the infusing of water into our next ritual to get on board with the Red Death, the affectionate name that cancer patients had given to the chemo drug Adriamycin owing to the color of the solution as it was injected into the veins. (It was so caustic it had to be contained in a glass vial not the usual plastic bag.) Catherine and I each wore a red shirt for the ceremony. I had bought red tulips for her altar. As before we asked that the chemo medicines be affective and gentle.
The first round made her very tired, but we were grateful that she had manageable and only slight nausea. She maintained good appetite and ate everything I cooked. Nor did she suffer from chemo brain so was able to continue with her spiritual studies for what was now a ten year long inquiry practice (called The Diamond Approach).
By the second round Catherine had made a big leap in her approach to her treatment with the help of our Buddhist teacher. She told me she just decided to observe the experience instead of trying to prepare for all possible calamities that might befall her. This was what had made her so anxious before. Now she would simply observe everything in real time, watch how the drug felt as it went into her body, be present for the infusion and chat socially with the nurses. If any difficulties came up she would address it then. This was such a big spiritual leap of faith that it noticeably changed the experience for me as well. Things felt normal. This was our life now with its regular visits to the cancer center. All the faces were familiar. We knew most of the nurses and the guys at valet parking.
We had been on this journey eight months now and had both been changed by it. I had become the planner and director and the manager of details, while she had become the observer, reflecting on her experience and learning how to amuse herself. We had both filled our heads with medical information to support our various diagnosis.
It had not been my plan to be so cerebral. I was going to spend the year concentrating on my Shamanic training. I had even picked the teacher I wanted to work with. Not to mention that it was 2012. I was so thrilled that we had finally entered this cosmically famous and potent year that it was with a sense of great anticipation and entrancement that I wrote the year on my checks and tax forms.
Scholars had already published their findings about how the Mayan calendar did not actually predict the end of the world, but was simply meant to be turned over and used again. That left the portentous date to the minority of us who had put our attention on the coming transformation, the birth of a New Era, The Great Turning as Joanna Macy, the deep ecologist sage put it. But the popular culture references–the cartoons and jokes–remained focused on doomsday fever.
I didn't want to have the date pass by with me sitting at home looking at the sky and wishing I had done something to mark the occasion. A colleague asked me to join her at a solstice gathering at her home, but then got too busy to plan it. The only other invitation I had was to a solstice ceremony being given by Lenore, a Shamanic counselor I had never met. I knew her only from Facebook by virtue of a woman who regularly read my blog, whom I didn't know either. And so for two years or so I watched Lenore and her postings from her ex-pat home in Germany, saw her looking to return home and settle in Oakland. Occasionally she was kind enough to "like" my updates on Facebook despite having over 1700 contacts.
I wondered how comfortable I would be going to a ritual with complete strangers across the Bay, an hours drive away, but there was also a Shamanic training to go with the ceremony; a dress rehearsal of sorts. This interested me because then I would learn something and get to meet Lenore. And if I did the training I might as well go to the ceremony since by then I wouldn't be with complete strangers. As it turned out, I was the only one who had signed up for the training so she had recruited two other women from her drum circle. I went to meet her at her office in Oakland as scheduled and we sat down as if we had long traveled in the same circle, but hadn't yet had a chance to talk. I liked her immediately.
Lenore's ceremony was not focused on 2012, but she did mention it when the other two arrived. There had been no promise or obligation that I would be part of the ceremony, but once it was clear that it was only the three of us and we couldn't do it with much fewer than that, I was in. I was part of the 'inner circle'.
Lenore described the ceremony which was based on a Norwegian Sami solstice ceremony to celebrate the gifts of the dark in the sense that the dark was a place of retreat for inspirational works to gestate. We were to embody the Spirit of the Dark in order to allow her to manifest in the room. By being merged with us, she would be able to perform acts of healing. This could mean we just sat there for the duration or we might move around and touch people, depending on what the spirit compelled us to do. But first we would have to journey to meet her in the Shamanic world of non-ordinary reality.
"All righta," I said, excited. "Where do we find her?" I asked, "in the Upper or Lower World?"
"Ask your power animal," she said, "You know, your usual pals." I was tickled by this casual reference to the spirit guides. We proceeded to lay down on the floor covering our eyes as Lenore began drumming for us.
The Spirit of the Dark
Naturally I went to the lower world to seek the Spirit of the Dark, calling to my guides as I descended. It was Bear who would take me on his back with Mongoose riding shotgun. We sped through the night to a sizable mansion, pulling up to the door. I jumped down and knocked eagerly on the double doors. The Spirit of the Dark herself answered the door. She was hooded and large, but I was my fearless Mowgli child self.
"Mama Dark," I said, jumping up and down with excitement, "we're having a ceremony and we want you to come and help," I explained to her.
"You better come in then," she said, and stepped aside to let me in. The hood gone, I could see her face briefly, a proud woman.
"Walk with me into your womanhood," she said letting me know I was to bring myself to my full maturity. She walked me through the house much as I would with a new client. It was a grand house, full of wood trim in a traditional, English country home style. She opened doors to various rooms to show me artists and writers working, then another room of scientists in a lab. They were gestating their ideas under her inspiration and protection. We then walked into a wood paneled room full of sleeping patients sitting in chairs. She approached one and took both his hands in hers, just like Catherine's oncologist did with her.
"That's what Dr. C does", I said.
"Yes," she said, "that is how Dr. C does his healing. It is the only opportunity he gives us to help with his healing work. You can tell Catherine that," she added.
She continued her rounds touching patients in various ways, and just to show how many ways this could be done, she hung upside down above one patient and embraced his head. That's too silly, I thought. We continued down the hall and she told me that I must think of myself as her heir in order to embody her power. Heir to all the wealth and power represented by this house. We stopped in a sitting room to have tea. She kept calling me Alicia and I did not correct her; perhaps it was part of the role. (Later when I sat down to write this account, I looked up what the name meant. It was the German form of Alice and meant "nobility".) We finished our tea and moved onward down another passageway lined with portraits. Now she looked like the wicked queen in Snow White. I asked her about that.
"Yes, that was a fractured fairy tale to defame me," she said. I well knew how the work of the Goddess had been demonized through the retelling in patriarchal times.
Finally we arrived in a single room at the top of the house where we would practice merging, but before we could begin I heard the call back of the drum.
"Ah you must go," she said, and opened the French doors to a little courtyard where I found my animal friends and returned to ordinary reality.
Once back the three of us told of our experiences with the Spirit of the Dark. I was struck by how much information was contained in my visit, both for my own psychological development and in the way of instruction. I was excited about how she would manifest in ritual space using me as a vehicle.
Lenore seemed satisfied that we had made contact. She told us to bring a scarf to cover our head. Something transparent we could see through. There was one more important thing to remember. She instructed us to bring an object for the altar, something to represent the gifts we received from the Dark. I immediately thought of my green enameled fountain pen that I've been using to write in my journal at night. I had bought it some 20 years ago as a symbol of commitment to my becoming a writer.
On the day of the Solstice ceremony, I drove Catherine to the cancer center for blood work because creatinine levels three days prior had shown that her kidneys were functioning at half their effectiveness and her treatment had to be delayed for a week until we found out why. It was likely that she had gotten dehydrated, nothing more. Later Catherine remembered that her psychic had mentioned that there would be a hitch with the blood work, but it would be nothing. So she refrained from worrying.
When we got to the center there was a line of cars waiting for valet parking. I had not yet reached the entrance. We were waiting by the metal barriers placed to keep people from entering the construction site next door. Catherine got out, not wanting to be late. I watched her walk forward, glanced back at the line of cars and when I looked back she had disappeared. As I waited for her to reappear a man looked at me with a frown on his face as if I had just run her over. I jumped out realizing she had fallen. She was sitting on the ground, with her nose and upper lip scraped up, looking stunned. She had tripped over the perpendicular legs of the metal barrier. Easy to do since the protruding legs were so low to the ground.
"Are my teeth cracked?" she asked me. Her two front teeth felt loose to her. Her hands were also scraped. She had reflexively put her hands out, but had not been able to keep her face from hitting the asphalt. I inspected her teeth closely; they looked fine.
Three other people had also come to her aid, one with a wheelchair. We took her to get her blood drawn, then to the ER to have her looked over just to be sure. I called our dentist, then called a client to cancel our afternoon appointment. (She was completely understanding.) The wait wasn't long at the ER and soon a nurse was able to check her teeth and clean up her road rash. And her blood work came back normal so that was a relief. I still had plenty of time to get her dinner and be in good time to drive to Oakland for the Solstice ceremony. It was December 20th.
How 2012 Stole My Brain
In the early hour of the actual day of Solstice, December 21st, I was sitting at my computer looking at a Solstice greeting a European based contact had posted moments before. I hit the 'like' button, then remembered that I had a ceremony I was supposed to be at. But it had happened already. Had I actually gone? I wondered. There was a tune going through my head; a monotonous, but pleasant tune, sliding up then down, repeating over and over. I looked around. I saw my red trimmed black Tibetan vest hanging over the back of the chair. On the seat was my unpacked bag. I looked for my pen that I had put in the front pocket. It was back on my nightstand. The scarf was under the vest. Then I realized that it was 1:30 a.m. and I had to get up at 6 a.m. for a client. So I slipped into bed. Maybe I didn't go after all, I thought, but I wasn't too worried about it. I was lulled to sleep by the same pleasant tune.
The next morning I woke before the alarm went off, warmed up my broccoli frittata, ate it and checked Facebook for clues. I had indeed posted that I was going to a Solstice ritual the night before. I felt strangely altered as if I was living two realities at the same time. Perhaps my pineal gland had been co-opted for a 2012 download per one of the prophecies. The one about how a sun flare would strike the earth's magnetic field sending a force to everyone's pineal gland, simultaneously waking us up to a more enlightened reality. I got in the car still wondering if I'd made it to Oakland the night before. Propped up on my dashboard was a half sheet of white copy paper with directions written in pencil in a hand writing I did not recognize. I smiled to see it. The note and the neat roundness of the letters exuded such a feeling of love and care that I was immediately comforted though I did not have time to read where the directions were to.
When I arrived at my destination I found my bag of potluck finger food in the back seat. The cut up veggies were half gone and the bag packed not quite as I remembered, plus the yogurt dip and toothpicks were missing. I did not have time to dwell on these details. I had six hours of bookkeeping to do. I was, however, able to chat with my client as usual and all felt quite normal. Luckily the work was so routine that it grounded me. I carefully double checked all my work as I tried to remember the night before.
At least now I had proof that I had indeed been to the event and made contact with people who took care that I got home alright. With effort I could remember arriving in Oakland and checking the parking meter to make sure I didn't have to put money in it. I had knocked on the front door of the windowless building, then remembered we were supposed to enter through the side entrance which I did. But then it all became a dreamlike haze. I vaguely remembered sitting with people in a small room full of couches, listening to people talking, then thinking to myself that no one knew yet who among us was going to embody the Spirit of the Dark. I vaguely remembered entering the ritual space with it's soft lighting and pale wood floors. I thought I could remember the circle of people and perhaps walking inside it during ceremony, but nothing more than that.
When I got home I carried in the half sheet of directions as if it were a McGuffin in a Hitchcock movie. I placed it on top of my bag which sat on a small bookcase. I saw the paper slip behind the bag and fall down behind the bookcase. I went into the bedroom and told Catherine about my memory loss. She was naturally concerned. "Could you have fallen asleep," she asked. Highly unlikely. I might have been hypnotized by the song we were singing, I speculated. Yes, and sleep walked all the way home, for I did not remember the drive home until I pulled up to our house.
I went to look at the hand written sheet of directions. It wasn't there. I moved the bookcase and other furniture looking for it. Not there. Was this proof going to elude me too? I went to the kitchen and looked in the bag with the potluck food. The directions were sitting in the bag. My mind was still providing me with two realities. I took the directions to my room again and pinned them securely to a clipboard. Yes they were indeed directions from the site of the ceremony; turn by turn directions all the way to the street where I lived as if someone had copied them down from Google maps. I was again struck by the care with which this had been done.
I was beginning to feel like a character in a Herman Hesse novel who had just visited the Magic Theatre. How anti-climatic that I couldn't remember not one thing about the evening. Then I feared that something serious might have gone wrong, but every time my mind went to grasp around some thought of misconduct, I got a gentle emotional hit that there was nothing to worry about. All had been about love. I was assured that I had participated as befit the occasion and nothing inappropriate had happened.
I checked Facebook again. Lenore had posted that it had been a beautiful ceremony and she was going to Portland to do another one. By the evening it finally occurred to me that I hadn't checked my e-mail. She had written me that afternoon.
"Please let me know you got home alright" read the subject line. That was all. Nothing about why she would be worried. I replied asking if I had been able to participate in the ceremony as planned. I told her I had no memory of it and could I call her or talk to someone else who could give me a recap of the evening's events. Maybe I should come in for a soul retrieval I added, as if I were a car in need of a tune-up. A soul retrieval was a Shamanic method of retrieving lost pieces of a client's spirit that had gone missing under traumatic circumstances. But I did not feel like I had been through any trauma at least not since childhood.
She wrote me back just two lines saying she thought it would be good for me to get some help and yes a soul retrieval might be helpful. Well, at least she didn't say I should seek medical attention. I wrote back asking if she would perform this soul retrieval for me—for the usual fee, I added so she would know I was good for it and I went to bed. All I really wanted to know was what happened.
Her assistant wrote me back that Lenore had gone on retreat and she herself would be leaving shortly too, but I could have an appointment two weeks from now. I accepted, grateful to have a possible end to this mystery. Meanwhile, I thought, if no one was going to tell me what happened then I was free to make it up. That Queen of the Dark must have been quite powerful to take over my entire mind like that (assuming that I was able to merge with her as trained). I had likely overreached my ability as a Shamanic practitioner, being still so inexperienced. On the other hand, maybe I channeled an entirely different entity and would now become famous for embodying the ancient warrior god Ramtha, (oops already been done). Or possibly I now had the ability to heal spontaneously. Or perhaps I had levitated and was floating in the middle of the room. This vision sent me into fits of giggles.
The most phenomenal fact of the event was that I had been able to drive all the way home perfectly, having left nothing behind except the candle for the altar. The altar where I had placed my pen (if indeed I had done so). And then Spirit had stolen my narrative. How symbolic was that? I mean who was I without a story to tell? I called up my buddy Stacy to get a bead on what kind of story this was. She was completely intrigued especially when I said I felt no anxiety about it at all. "So you received a gift," she concluded and assured me that I did not need to get my head examined and more importantly, would I write about it?
Having settled that nothing was wrong with me and lacking any details to analyze, I would simply have to look at myself and what I was feeling. I felt calm. Everything flowed forth with such grace and contentment that I had not a moment of stress. After all, if I had been so taken care of while being absent from conscious reality for six hours why did I need to worry about anything again? I couldn't even make myself worry about anything. I felt completely de-stressed. It was indeed I who had been blessed with a healing. Three days after the incident I became more certain that it was I who had changed consciousness in the galactic eye of 2012. I laughed at all the jokes, full of play on words. How Oakland had no there there. How death was far easier than birth because at least you didn't have to drag a body with you.
The New Era
I entered the hustle bustle of the world, to do the marketing. People seemed extra kind to me, one running after me to return a bag I dropped. Several things I needed were on sale. I noted an increase in luck when I pushed my cart to where there was no line and was greeted by my favorite cashier. Everything seemed to move with a great deal of synchronicity. Perhaps the world really had shifted like that Ray Bradbury story about time travel and the butterfly. But changed in a good way, in the manner of the promised 2012 transformation. Plus it was an absolute stunner of a day, brilliant with sunshine after the many storms.
I posted my observations of increased synchronicity to Facebook and another colleague with magical karma confirmed that she had also felt there had been a shift towards more synchronicity.
If Spirit had wanted to get my attention, it couldn't have done more than to steal my mind—my narrative. Something had definitely happened to me. I had been altered. I became convinced that I was a magical creature. Beryl had confirmed that I could trust my knowing; perhaps I could expand it.
I went outside to walk the dogs and started reading the universe. Everything had something to say to me in metaphorical form. Two cars passed by following one another, one blue, one red. Now that's about the country's political consciousness, I thought, and watched what they did. The blue car made a left turn and shortly after the red car followed. Perfect, just as I suspected, the country was turning to the left. And so it unfolded. Two women jogging along crossed in front of me, both in pink jackets. One in a deep pink just ahead of one in a lighter pink. Now that's about our breast cancer journey I noted, slightly apprehensive. They passed quickly out of view to the right. Exit Stage Right, I thought to myself. This was the name of an organizing business owned by a colleague. Yes, soon our cancer story would properly exit our lives.
On Thursday, I took Catherine to her next to last chemo appointment. A new, younger oncologist had taken over her case because Dr. C had moved on to a policy making position. We had warmed up to her immediately the week before. She was so smart and articulate and she touched Catherine repeatedly in a warm consoling manner. Catherine asked what she thought of her prognosis. "We were just talking about that," she said nodding to her intern. "It's a very good prognosis," she said smiling and confident; then listed all the reasons why she thought so. Catherine was enormously relieved, comforted by the word "very". This was wonderful news. She spent the evening calling everyone in her life who had been concerned, including our dharma teacher, her father, various friends and my mother.
My heightened sense of awareness began to fade after the three days of the 2012 transmission, but I wouldn't forget how to talk to the universe and continue to summon its magical wisdom. And now that I had a new teacher I could immediately continue with my Shamanic training. The book recommended by her soul retrieval information was available at the library; I would just have time to get it before the three day holiday closure.