By Berenice Andrews
In the “work” of shamanic teacher/healers, there can be some really scary moments. We head out into the Spirit World, into that eternal vastness, with no idea of where we’re going, or what’s awaiting us. And we have to rely on a power animal or other spirit guide(s) to take us all the way there, help us if needed, and bring us all the way back.
Eventually, we do realize that spirit journeying is wonderfully safe, because Spirit is always in charge. We have learned to trust that this is so.
But during the preparatory training, there can be moments of real terror, when that gestating trust can be lost completely. This is an account of what happened to me.
My Encounter with the Washer at the Ford
It was the day when I was to meet the Washer at the Ford. That ancient Celtic spirit being would tell me my future.
On the appointed morning, I felt very nervous. Oriented since childhood toward survival, I liked to have “all my ducks in a row” with no exceptions. So, the thought of the Washer awaiting me caused me great uneasiness. Yet, there wasn’t any thought about skipping school that day!
My teacher’s instructions to the class (there were 12 of us) were clear and concise:
Each one of us would spirit journey to a shallow crossing (a ford) in a river where a spirit being (a washer) would be washing something that we were to observe very carefully. Then we would undergo an experience. Our observation and experience would constitute the foretelling of our future.
With my intent well in hand, I lay on my mat and rode the drumbeat into the Spirit World. Quickly I arrived at a gently moving river in a beautiful green landscape. There awaiting me was my power animal, who wasted no time in leading me to the ford. Then he vanished.
I was feeling lost…until I sensed a friendly presence.
There, looking up at me sideways was a bent-over figure, whose head was almost completely covered (except for one bright, intelligent eye) by a huge hood attached to an enveloping cloak. I knew that here was the Washer at the Ford. The figure beckoned for me to look, then turned toward the deeper water. There, bobbing about was an object that the Washer began to wash. I saw that it was a long, brown, wooden box that kept appearing and disappearing, while the Washer vigorously scrubbed. Then I realized what it was…
…An adult-sized coffin. Indeed, it was an exact replica of the coffin in which my father’s physical remains had been buried. Instantly both it and the Washer vanished.
Then, I was on my back being carried rapidly and roughly in the river. It was very shallow and I was being bumped hard on the stones. I lay there helplessly and felt all the bruises forming. They hurt. Irritated and sore, I wondered how long this was going to last. The bumping and bruising continued, while I suffered and angrily resisted.
Then…I stopped resisting and began to allow things to happen. When I did, the current that had been carrying me immediately ceased. The hurting stones were gone. And I was in a shallow pool of cool, soothing water. When I attempted to sit up, the pool was gone.
I was lying on my mat in the classroom and hearing the drumbeat.
At that moment, I was wondering why I was bothering to prepare for my life as a shamanic teacher/healer when I was going to die, maybe before I even got underway. I was really scared. As I listened to the others recounting their wonderful experiences, all very upbeat and reassuring, I became terrified. How was I to tell them about mine? Then, my turn came.
And I lied.
I told my classmates, and teacher, that the Washer had been washing a box that held a bag of gold. (I barely mentioned the bumping and bruising.) My teacher looked at me very strangely. Then I knew that she knew!
After she had carefully and thoroughly interpreted the messages the others had received, my teacher turned to me. I waited for my punishment like a guilty little girl. She smiled at me quite lovingly. Then she spoke to me, without once telling me (or the others) what my experience had actually been.
“When we meet up with the Washer at the Ford to find out what our future holds,” she said, “we receive a message that is usually paradoxical and always loving. That’s the way the Spirit works. And we are to trust that this is so. Indeed, the encounter with the Washer at the Ford is, above all else, an exercise in trust.”
“There are times,” my teacher went on, “when we are frightened by the message we receive. Yet, even if that message looks like a ‘bad’ thing, death for example, the death could mean an ending to a particular phase in our lives so that a new phase can be born. How else can we be born again unless we ‘die’ to the old?
“And,” she continued, “while we are being carried by the current of life and undergoing the changes that are necessary, they can be quite bruising. Yet, are we not required to go with the flow? Is not earthly life in its essence a constant change and renewal? Look around you in nature. What else do you see?”
“So we learn to trust. Wouldn’t that be like a bag of gold that pays our way?” She smiled at me.
I had received a luminous lesson.
Although that day at healing school happened many years ago, I remember it vividly. It has taken me this long to assimilate that lesson, simply because I am still learning.
It was, first and foremost, a lesson in recognizing the hidden, powerful connection between an animal soul’s root and sacral chakras, where survival “instincts” and primitive feelings energies dance their dance. They can actually overpower the calm, objective “thought” energies of a solar plexus chakra. And why is that?
Since many of those thoughts are based on beliefs that are rooted in survival, they are likely not as calm and objective as we would fondly hope. Indeed, they can be triggered easily by those “lower” vibrations and be what is really in-forming us…instincts that “sound” rational. And this they will invariably do, until we lovingly bring them to the surface to be healed in the heart center. No matter how “old” we are, that’s the first lesson to be learned (often repeatedly) on a spiritual path.
Thus, that path can often be a “bumpy” ride that requires both courage and perseverance! But right from the onset, the trust is developing.
Just a brief aside: although there is much to be said about “faith,” there can still be an element of animal soul control carried within it. After all, as Paul pointed out, faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1). And the unexamined animal soul beliefs can produce interesting thoughts about “substance,” “hope,” “evidence,” and “unseen.” Thus, there can be some amazing affirmations and inspiring statements that are meant to bolster “faith” and to keep it to the forefront on the path. Yet, often they are simply attempts to avoid the bumps.
But that’s not what developing trust is all about. Basically, it means going with the flow. With some of us (me for example) that can be an extremely difficult process, with the physical and emotional bodies kicking and screaming every bump of the way.
Then, how does one trust?
Trust has to be understood for what it is…an ongoing surrender to the indwelling Spirit…the opening to heart connections and the allowing of the transcendent love energies (perhaps for the first time) to flow downward into the aridity. In short, trust is being in an ongoing “holding pattern” with Spirit.
It’s also an ongoing rebirthing process, during which the old energies of animal soul (those from both this incarnation and many past lives) slowly get changed. And while this is happening, we are realizing (again, slowly) that those old energies are actually part of our evolutionary development; that just as the computer had replaced the abacus, those old energies could no longer serve us (for whatever reason) and had to be replaced.
So, we trust our emerging sense of wholeness to transmute our old “i-am” beingness. (Since it’s consciousness energy, it cannot simply be “let go” or destroyed.) And day-by-day this lifetime just flows along.
Meanwhile, in the course of surrendering to the healing current, we are gradually replacing the old beliefs and patterns of reactions, feelings, and thoughts. And we are undergoing the change that has been described in many ways, but my favorite is in Matthew 3:18. There Jesus, the Great Teacher, instructed us to become “as little children.” Although the word “trust” is not mentioned, it’s a childlike (not childish) “holding pattern” with Spirit that I suggest Jesus meant.
And that trust can take a lifetime to develop and understand.
Over two decades ago, that development and understanding was triggered in me by the Washer at the Ford and by my teacher. Spirit has kept me going with the flow ever since. Every day has brought a reaffirmation of the lesson I first learned on that unforgettable morning.
And now I finally know that “going with the flow” is the biggest paradox of all; that while everything is changing around and in me, everything eternal remains unchanged. And I can trust this to be true without “thinking” twice!
Berenice Andrews is a shamanic teacher/healer and a regular contributor to this magazine. To explore the ideas presented above in greater detail, please refer to her articles in back issues of Transformation Magazine and to her book: Rebirthing Into Androgyny: Your Quest for Wholeness…And Afterward. If you are interested in becoming her student, see her website: thestonecircleclassroom.com.