Traveling between the Worlds: Conversations with Contemporary Shamans
Hillary S. Webb: What do you mean when you say, “Part of shamanic mastery is learning to swim in this liquid universe”?
Oscar Miro-Quesada: Anyone who has done any work in shamanism knows that the universe is not a static state. It is more like an ocean, very liquid, very fluid. When doing magical flight or shamanic journeying, the soul or consciousness is actually separating from the physical vehicle and entering into that ocean of possibility. The shaman needs to learn to disengage his or her consciousness from the body and float freely in that ocean. The trick is in embracing the great mystery and in trusting that the universal world is a safe place to float. In a true shamanic journey, you need to put your personal will aside and allow Divine will to take over.
HSW: Which is probably one of the hardest parts of this work. The death of one’s attachment to being in charge.
OMQ: A true practitioner of shamanism learns to trust that there is a larger source that is guiding you and directing your journey. Otherwise, you are constantly fighting it. The currents then become very threatening, and you feel like you are drowning. When you realize that there is no reason to hang on, because you realize that you are already dead, then you can just surrender and become the liquid universe itself.
HSW: Hold on a second. What do you mean we’re “already dead”?
OMQ: Didn’t you know that?
HSW: I guess I wasn’t aware of that. Does this mean I don’t have to go to work tomorrow? Seriously, though, what is all this about being dead?
OMQ: There is no difference between death and life. When you die and cross over, you are going to come to a place where you think that you are still alive. The Tibetan Book of the Dead talks about various Bardos—intermediate states in which you exist before you incarnate again. Let’s say you have a car accident. You’ve hit a tree and you are on the floor. You look at yourself and there’s not one scratch on you. You get up and you say, “Jeez, I’m fine. I guess I’ll go home.”
In reality, you are physically dead, but you are back in the same reality that you were before you died. Then, little by little, life starts shapeshifting around you and synchronicities start to abound. Your waking dream, your daydream, and your sleeping dream all become one and the same. You think about someone and immediately they call you up on the phone or perhaps show up at your door. Then, you start thinking about people who have already passed over, and they show up, too. At that point you start to say, “Oops, something’s different here.” Then, little by little, with very much gentleness, the Elders of the various Bardos start introducing you to the fact that you have passed over. At first you panic and life becomes unbearable, because the minute you experience fear, love becomes constricted and you attract lower astral forms. That’s what Hell is. But when you learn to just surrender and accept it, it becomes a very luminous experience. Some people take a long time to wake up when they are on the other side, and some people are very quick at it. Get my drift?
HSW: I’m not sure I do. If there is no difference between life and death, then why do we make a distinction between the two?
OMQ: The difference is the mind. During my most tortuous period of initiation, I had a severe auto accident that resulted in a near-death experience. When I returned to my body I was given a choice to continue and transcend, or to return to physical form. Once I came back, the synchronicities and acausal coincidences were so rampant that I was convinced that I had not returned at all; that I was in some other realm. Encounters were being provided that were beyond bizarre. For two years I did not know if I was dead or alive. I almost went mad trying to figure it out, until one day I realized, shit, whether I’m dead or alive, I still have to get up and go to work in the morning. I still had to live in whatever reality is being presented to me. So why freak out over understanding who’s in charge, right? At the point that that “aha” came to me, I no longer had to struggle with the need to understand. I let go of the need to know and just embraced the great mystery. That was a major rite of passage.
HSW: And, I would imagine, a major lesson in detachment.
OMQ: Right. And it helps to understand that even the striving for enlightenment is attachment.
HSW: So when a shaman goes on a journey, is he or she experiencing a kind of death?
OMQ: Yes and no. The aspect of consciousness that goes on a shamanic journey is the same one that leaves the physical body at the moment of death. The shaman understands that he or she can travel through the same realms that are presented at the moment of one’s physical death without having to physically die. In that sense, in having that experience, one realizes that there’s no separation between life and death, spirit and matter. All duality is dissolved.
HSW: So the answer then, is not to look for answer?
OMQ: Well, the answers will come when the time is right. When the person is ready to apply them in a concrete way to help our planet, there will be many, many answers. They’ve always been there and they always will be.
HSW: During our conversation, Toltec shaman Ken Eagle Feather said to me, “You have to know that you don’t know anything and be comfortable with that.”
OMQ: That’s exactly right. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that clear in my earlier years. I really tried to explain God and Creator through academic means. Finally, I realized that a donkey with a load of books is still a donkey.
HSW: That makes me feel silly putting this book together. This whole project has been, in many ways, my quest for answers.
OMQ: Well, what I see you doing, regardless of what you personally want, is documenting certain people who are committed to a path of service and who can speak about where we are as a planet of people right now. And that is very important in waking people up.