In March of 2005, I attended the first five day Visionseeker 1 retreat (VS1) taught by Hank Wesselman and Jill Kuykendall, at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA, titled “Shamanism” and the Modern Mystical Movement,” and I thought I would share a few experiences with you. The following is a description of the VS1 retreat from the Shared Wisdom website.

This retreat includes elements of the three weekend workshops, but in greater depth. We will utilize the classic shamanic journey method to establish connections with our spirit helpers and teachers, ancestral spirits, and possibly descendants. We will begin to examine the nature of health, illness, and healing from the perspective of the traditional shaman, and the week will conclude with a powerful healing ritual. This workshop provides a clear introduction for those less familiar with the shaman’s path and will enhance the practice of more experienced inner travelers.

During the opening ceremony, Hank pays respects to the four directions, mother earth and father sky and invites our ancestors, spirits and teachers as well as the spirits of the Esselen Indians of the area, to join us for the week. He then goes to each participant and “rattles us in.” At the beginning of the ceremony, I was sitting with my eyes closed when I got a spiritual tap on the shoulder and was told to open my eyes. As I did, I saw the spirits, ancestors and teachers coming into the room. I didn’t actually see physical forms, but I perceived them, and my mind represented them to me as shadows coming up and standing behind the people in the room. As Hank rattled me in, I experienced an incredible flow of pure loving energy washing down, over and through me, and all physical-world cares, worries and concerns faded away. At the opening of each session, we do rattling and drumming as a group to set our individual and group intent, and to open the sacred space. At our second meeting as we opened our session with the drumming and rattling, I was sitting with my eyes closed, and put out a greeting to my helping spirits, teachers and ancestors, and was immediately greeted by seven of my ancestors, who appeared to me in a circle with six around the outside, and one in the center. It was an incredibly powerful way to start the day. I don’t remember their faces, but one of these days I will pick up my pastels and see if they will pose for me. In one of our journeys to the lower world with the intent of coming into relationship with another, or a new spirit helper, I was actually met by my new spirit helper in my sacred garden. As I was preparing to head down into the lower worlds, a horse trotted up, and told me to get on. There was no saddle, there were no reins, I just slid up onto his back and he started the walk down the path at the edge of my garden, through the forest and into the lower worlds. The thing that kept me constantly amazed throughout the week, was the richness, and the sheer volume of the visual information that was coming to me. As I mentioned in Dreamtime healing part 1, after the healing dream that took place in the water treatment plant, my visions increased, but they were still images – little or no motion. Here, at VS1, those still images gave way to full motion visions. It was like I was there, with sight. Since this was something I had seldom experienced before, it was a little overwhelming, and much of the richness of my experiences became a blur. It was obvious my “recorder” needed some adjustments. We also journeyed to get a brief look at some of our other lives. In one of the lives I was shown, I was a Scandinavian woman in the 18th century. In another, I was on the high plains in the US, which ties back into a vision I had while walking with friends, so you get a bonus journey through the time portal.

Shortly after I moved to this area, a couple of good friends had taken me to an area outside town to show me where they had found some Indian artifacts that were, quite literally laying on top of the soil. We spent some time looking at them, and marveling at what we were seeing. On the walk back, one of my friends wondered aloud what the Indians were doing at that location. I was immediately, literally, walking in two worlds. The world I experience as reality, and the past world of the Indians of the area. In front of me, overlaying the reality I knew, a short distance away was a group of teepees, with fires burning, horses grazing, and men and women going about their daily routines. The golden prairie grass was gently dancing in the breeze, and there was a group of Indian children running toward me, all smiles and giggles. As the little girl out in front got closer, she lifted her arms for me to pick her up, and as I bent down I could see my buckskin covered, red-skinned arms lifting her up. I was so surprised by this vision – while walking across a field – that I related far less of it to my friends than I have given here. We now return you to your regularly scheduled post.

Since I had never before witnessed or taken part in a shamanic healing ritual I was looking forward to the one on the last night of VS1. At the beginning of the week, Hank and Jill ask for those in need of healing to let them know, and then they consult with their spirits to choose the person who will get the healing. And actually, at a healing ceremony, all that are there receiving healing. Hank explained the ritual and then chose an assistant to help him. As the ritual begins, the entire group begins drumming and rattling, and we send our energy to support the healing. I allowed my eyes to go into a soft focus, and was observing the ritual when I realized that in addition to seeing Hank’s hands scanning the person, I was seeing two more pairs of hands. I resisted the urge to let that thinking, reasoning part of me begin an analysis (recovering engineer that I am) and just continued to observe. It was about this time, that I began to hear chanting accompanying our drumming. I allowed my eyes to look around our healing circle, and no one physically in the room was chanting. Everyone was concentrating on the healing. As I continued to look though my soft focus, I started seeing forms, and like the ones during the opening ceremony, they were appearing as shadows, but not physical shadows, it was just my way of perceiving the spirits. As I allowed my gaze to come back to the healing, I watched as Hank pulled something out of the person being healed. What I saw was a silver thread and at the end of the thread was a black mass which was more like an absence of light. I watched as he pulled out several more and dropped them into a bowl of water. Again, it was not easy for a recovering engineer to keep from calling a time out while he conducted an analysis of what he was seeing. Words cannot describe the power of a shamanic healing ceremony, and this is at best a “view” from a distant peak. During the ceremony, the power in the room was incredible and I’m certain that if we could have harnessed it, we could have powered San Francisco for a month, maybe a year.