In 2015, I published a post announcing my apprenticeship with a shaman in Peru (in case you missed it, you can read about it here: Becoming a Shaman). Since then, I’ve had numerous requests from readers for an apprenticeship update as to what this apprenticeship (which started in November 2014) is like, what it entails, and how it’s going.
And so I wrote an update. It was beautiful. It delved into what it’s like to apprentice with a shaman, to work with plant medicines, to learn an art that has no textbook or checklist of learning points, what it is to be a “healer”, and the long-term reciprocal commitment my teacher and I had made to one another in working together.
And then, before I got a chance to publish this most excellent update, everything changed.
This post was originally published in 2016. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
Apprenticeship Update: Big Changes
These big changes went down in April, but I haven’t had the heart – nor the words – to say much about it until now. Even now, I don’t feel ready for what I’m about to write; somehow to put it in writing and publish it for the world to see makes it all the more real. More permanent. And given my current circumstances, that reality and finality has been both painful and scary.
But here goes.
The day I returned to my home in Peru after spending a few weeks in Canada and Ireland, my teacher sat me down for a talk. Without preamble, he pulled the plug on everything.
I would no longer be studying plant medicine with him.
I would no longer be assisting him with all his ceremonies and retreats.
I would need to move out of the house I was living in, which was on his property.
The assistance he was giving me in attaining my Peruvian residency would end, and all the hard work (and money) dedicated since January to get my residency was for naught.
And given the above four abrupt and hurtful announcements, our deep friendship was over.
The circumstances that led my teacher to this decision are largely irrelevant – or at least out of the scope of what I’m prepared to write about at this time. In short, it was unexpected, and very much unwanted.
What’s Next for The Professional Hobo?
That’s a really good question, and another reason why I’ve hesitated to write about all this.
I don’t know what’s next.
I have no answers. After eight years of full-time travel, I was really happy to have found a place I wanted to call “home” – even though I wasn’t consciously looking for “home” all those years. And in my 2+ years in Peru, I had found home, community, and a new exciting life path of working with plant medicine.
But in the last couple of months of remaining here after these changes, I’ve come to understand that I need to leave Peru – at least for a while – for my own healing and growth.
When I sold everything in Canada in 2006 to go traveling, I kept six boxes of stuff. In those six boxes were precious items that I couldn’t bear to part with; things that I thought might eventually go into a home – wherever and whenever such a thing would come to pass. And having found that home in Peru, I made a commitment and brought a lot of this stuff down with me during my last three trips to Canada. Add into the mix a variety of acquisitions (in the name of “nesting” and making my home more comfortable), and I’m no longer feeling anywhere near as mobile as I once was.
But mobile I must be. So I’m getting rid of everything (again), and reconnecting with that deep-seated fear – fear of the unknown, and of loss of control – and once again, breathing into it while preparing to make another leap of faith.
It’s terrifying….but it’s also liberating.
Not Knowing: I’ve Been Through This Before
In 2011, after four years on the road, I returned to Canada from New Zealand for the summer. I had absolutely no idea what I would be doing (or where) at the end of my time in Canada. I wrote an article about how at peace I was with this predicament (a poetic piece if I say so myself) – which was helpful for me to recently reread. (Curious? It’s this: Destiny is a Direction).
In the post I wrote about how I was sitting patiently waiting for the right opportunity to grab me. And it eventually did, serendipitously and just in time: I did the Ultimate Train Challenge, which involved traveling from Lisbon to Saigon in 30 days, all by train. (25,000kms in 30 days….it was an adventure that is chronicled in my book Tales of Trains: Where the Journey is the Destination).
From there, opportunities (at times coming in the strangest of ways) kept lining up for me, as they had in years gone by and did for years to come.
Fast forward to today. Once again, I’m at the whim of the world.
When the world is your oyster, where do you begin?
In my experience, mapping out your destiny/destinations without knowing what to do or where to start can be a bit excruciating.
(I wrote about this, and the concept that “choice” is not always a gift, in this post: The Paralysis of Choice)
So I’ve taken a page from my own book and just chilled out. Despite having lost my “home”, I’ve had places to stay in Peru courtesy of generous friends, and there has been no need to go anywhere or make any decisions more complicated than what to eat for dinner.
But this process of sitting in the discomfort of the unknown isn’t easy by any stretch (especially this time around, with this life change being brought upon me rather than instigated by me).
I don’t tend to choose my destinations; they choose me – usually in the form of a unique opportunity for free accommodation, visiting friends, attending events, or otherwise.
Serendipity has been a great guide for me in years’ past, and I trust it will continue to be. So I’ve kept my eyes and ears open for opportunities, and given my relatively blank slate, I’m curious to see what pops onto my radar next….and where.
It’s already paying off, with a number of opportunities (some of them quite unexpected) trickling in to slowly formulate a plan. The plan is far from solid, because I have an intuitive sense that I still need to wait for a few other pieces to fall into place. But I’m not far off spreading my wings and taking to a life on the road once again.
Whatever and wherever it is, I’m sure it will be good.
My Plant Medicine Path
In moments of greater clarity and selflessness, I see how this turn of events with my teacher is a gift – in more ways than one. I lived a charmed life working alongside him, and went seamlessly from being my teacher’s client, to his neighbour/tenant, to his student, friend, and assistant. (I believe this was also one of the root causes of the end of it all; too many blurred lines between these different aspects of our relationship).
Although any work with plant medicine and personal transformation is a tough road fraught with hard work, on many days I felt that my tough road was laced with diamonds. I was so blessed – as if it was almost too easy to step into this new career and lifestyle.
But the hard yards (at least on this path) are generally best walked alone. In order to develop my own relationship with ayahuasca and san pedro, and in order to develop my own “brand” or flavour of healing medicine, my hand can’t be held through the process.
I don’t know if I’m ever going to become a “shaman”. I’ll have to see what happens in the coming months and years. But I do know that on a personal level, I’ll continue to study and work with these plants that have changed my life and way of being.
I’ve learned a lot through having the rug pulled out from under me. They are good life lessons that I’ve taken on board (or been reminded of), and appreciate, such as:
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Student/teacher relationships are best not commingled with friendship. In my case, my teacher had become a central person in my life in just about every arena (except romantically). He was my landlord, teacher, boss, and friend. So in the dissolution of our relationship, everything crumbled and I was forced to make a full life change.
You earn your stripes during the hard times. These last couple of months haven’t been pretty. It’s all well and good to be “spiritual” during the easy times, but it’s when life throws you a sucker punch that you have a real chance to put into practice what you’ve learned. And I’m pleased to discover that I have a new understanding of many things as a result of having been through this crisis; I met the situation with a significantly higher level of awareness and compassion (towards myself and others), and been rewarded for it with a deeper sense of self and trust. This experience has been even more “enlightening” than the most “enlightening” of plant medicine ceremonies. And it’s because of the work I’ve done with plant medicine that I have this heightened awareness. It is said that the real ceremony begins when the plant medicine ceremony ends; personal growth and integration of ceremonial teachings happens fastest when we’re faced with challenges.
Life changes (aka sh*t happens). Nothing is a sure thing. And to think that anything in your life is a sure thing is not only dangerous but arrogant. Control is an illusion. The original tagline of my blog (way back in the pioneer days when I called it “Life Happens”) was “Life happens while we’re busy making plans”. And so it is.
All we have is the present moment. Whenever I’ve thought that “this is it” about something in my life as if it would remain that way forever, I’ve been taught that it can change – whether we bring in that change ourselves, or whether it’s brought upon us. The dissolution of my marriage (yes, I was married once), my lifestyle change to embrace full-time travel, surviving natural disasters, breakups on the road, a near-fatal accident, and this recent turn of events are all reminders that planning life – or rather, counting on it – too far in advance is a gamble.
What we DO have, however, is the present moment, and we can continue to honour those moments for the gifts they bestow. Regardless of what happens in the future, I am grateful for the many precious moments I had in the last couple of years in Peru. They changed my life….as every day that we walk this planet, our lives (and our selves) continue to change.
My mind has been awash with cliches since all this happened, and as annoying as cliches can be at times, they became cliches for good reason; in many instances, they’re true.
This too…shall pass.
Everything happens for a reason.
Where one door closes, another one opens.
Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.
When the student is ready, the teacher will (dis?)appear.
Damn you, cliches. You’re right.
I’ll cap off this post with another cliche that nicely encapsulates where I’m at without making any commitments to where I’m going:
Onwards and Upwards.
Note: After writing this article, I moved on to continue my studies of plant medicine at a retreat centre in Ecuador for almost nine months. You can learn about this final chapter in my shamanic studies here: Learning to be an Ayahuasca and San Pedro Shaman.