After that first surreal vision at the hospital in Kuwait, I didn’t have another similar experience until many years later, well beyond my time in the military. However, I did feel very different. I began to notice that I could “feel” other people’s emotional states a lot stronger than before. I think most of us have come across someone who is really angry or depressed and picked up on it, but I began to feel myself being in tune with everyone I came close to. I wasn’t reading their specific thoughts, but it was like the primal energy behind those thoughts was radiating from their bodies, and I was able to perceive it.
It felt like a distinct tightness in my chest, even if I wasn’t directly interacting with them. Simple proximity was enough to cause me to be aware. This wasn’t an intentional effort to read people. It was something I experienced like one would smell a scent from a nearby person who had on too much cologne or perfume. I didn’t always detect something from every single person, either. I speculated that some were just relaxed and didn’t radiate anything, or at least anything I would feel.
At the time, I was a man in my twenties with a very healthy sexual appetite. I could go to a club and easily recognize people who were attracted to me and open to “hooking up”. I felt like a hunter picking from willing “prey”. My mind would be very focused on the purely physical desire. I could move through the rooms of people socializing and find others to satisfy my needs.
I had a lot of one-night stands. Everything was consensual, it was just easier because I could feel how they were responding to me as we talked. I was good at short-term relationships, but my hunger for new people kept me disinterested in monogamy. Even today, twenty-plus years later, that still holds true.
It was a very mixed blessing however, due to my inability to filter. It became increasingly more difficult to be in crowds, and by the mid-nineties, I stopped going to clubs because I found a new way to make contact with people: computer bulletin boards and then the Internet.
In those early digital days, the BBS scene was local. I would dial-in to a computer set up to be a messaging board and could interact with others. Some of the BBS’s were configured to allow multiple users to connect at the same time on different phone numbers. This allowed for real time chat. The users were usually in my city because long-distance phone charges discouraged far away people from using the systems.
So these were smallish digital communities that would regularly host “BBS parties” at someone’s home. There was enough variety to keep me satisfied, and when the shift to the Internet began, an explosion of new people in “chat-rooms” hosted by companies like AOL and Yahoo felt like new hunting grounds.
By the late 90’s I had fully adapted my sensitives into my carnal lifestyle. I still struggled with feeling “sane” and almost daily questioned whether or not I was suffering from delusions and my sexual success was the result of the confidence they created. There were a lot of rough times, too.
And then the visions returned.
In the summer of 1990, I was twenty years old. I had decided to take a break from college and join the U.S. Army. During one of our final dress green inspections by my company commander, I blacked out just as he stood in front of me. My drill instructor was angry, and told me it was because I had “locked my knees”. But a week later I was in a military hospital with an infection in my head. The whole left side of my face was swollen and for three days I was in and out of consciousness.
I remember waking up now and then and seeing different faces as doctors would come look and try to figure out what exactly had happened. They would talk, but their voices were very muffled and I couldn’t talk very well at all. I still have no memory of even being released from the hospital. The next thing I can remember is that I was now at my Advanced Individual Training and apparently in good working condition.
In January of 1991, I had completed all of my training and was assigned to an Engineering battalion. I was promptly deployed to the Gulf War a few days later. My platoon was selected to move forward into Kuwait city to help with restoration missions. I was an Electrical Engineer and my tasks were getting power back on at two hospitals.
The first memory I have of something strange happened when I was walking through a dark corridor at the first hospital. I was assessing the situation and looking for the power center, where I would hopefully find backup generators.
I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. Tension was high, because this was still a combat zone. After a careful search, I found there were no enemies. However, I wasn’t alone. The walls began to ripple like they were underwater and I saw jellyfish darting about. Most were small, like the size of a softball and even a golf ball. Some were bigger, around my size, and they appeared to be walking on their tendrils.
I just stood there. I know my heart must have been pounding, but I couldn’t feel it. The jellyfish moved about as if I wasn’t even there. Either they didn’t notice me or didn’t know (or care perhaps) that I was seeing them. When I thought about retreating, I then realized I was paralyzed. I couldn’t feel my feet or move my legs. I don’t even know how I was standing but it didn’t feel like I could fall down.
This seemed to go on for several minutes, and then suddenly there was a very loud snap and all of the jellyfish just instantly vanished. The walls were no longer distorting and I could definitely feel my heart pounding now.
I continued to stand there for a few more minutes. No military training gave me any reference on what to do in this situation. Eventually, I calmed down and continued on my mission. Nothing else strange happened after that, but I played the experience over and over in my head, and was pretty spaced out while I worked.
Luckily for me there were no accidents involving electricity that day, either.
Shamans are found in cultures all around the world. Some come from traditions spanning back thousands of years and some are emerging in modern culture. Their methods are different, but they do share certain qualities that define them:
- Has compassion. Compassion for their community/tribe and compassion for all life as a whole.
- Perceives other layers of existence, outside of the awareness of the body’s physical senses. This is commonly known as journeying.
- Communication with entities that co-exist with us but are not usually perceived with the physical senses. These are often referred to as power animals, spirit guides, etc. The shaman builds lifetime relationships with some of these, just like we network with other people in the middle world.
- Becomes a bridge between the spirits and the shaman’s community/tribe by connecting others with the healing and knowledge provided by those spirits.
These four qualities will be found in shamans across traditions and cultures. But the most significant of these qualities is the last one. People can be compassionate without being a shaman. People can journey and develop relationships with spirits but not be a shaman. The final quality of bringing the healing and guidance from spirits to the people/places/lives that need it is what defines someone as a shaman.
The methods of a shaman are defined by their tradition. These are the tools they employ, the rituals they use, the processes they follow. Shamanism is in itself a lifestyle. The particular way a shaman lives that spiritual practice are their methods. Tribal shamans will be taught their methods by a mentor, usually another shaman in their tribe. Shamans from modern society may be taught a tribal tradition by a shaman from that culture, adopt methods they learn about through study or develop their own methods based on what works for them.
Roles are the duties of a shaman. For example, a shaman may: lead spiritual ceremonies, perform marriages for members of their community, take people to sacred places, bestow blessings on people or crops, be a mediator for disputes, advise the community on when best to plant, and be a general healer.
Traditions will often influence the roles a shaman fulfills, but ultimately those roles will be dictated by the needs of the community/tribe.
When you see a color that is “red”, typically other people will also identify it as red. But while we may have taught our brain that this particular light wavelength is to be called “red”, we are not certain that our actual perceptions of the color are the same.
Some scientists believe that our color perception is influenced by external factors that shape our neural patterns. Researchers state that two people can look at a red object and call what they see as “red” but the unique perceptions of “red” is likely not the same.
For example: We both say the apple on the left is red and we both say the apple on the right is blue. We both identify colors the same, but what our brain says red looks like to us can be different, even if both sets of eyes sensed light the same. So what I see as red, if you were able to see through my perception, might be blue or some other color.
This concept can also be applied to our experiences on a shamanic journey. Our brains make associations to make sense of what it perceives. While on a journey you may meet a spirit you call a “wolf”. Because you have seen wolves in our physical world, your brain may see a wolf because it is similar in size, shape and mannerisms. The spirit sense is different from our physical senses and doesn’t provide the same level of environmental detail to the brain. This means our perception of the upper and lower layers (worlds) are distinctly defined by our experiences.
We are all aware of animals. So our brain will likely associate small and medium spirits with different animals. But that doesn’t mean the spirit is bound by the traits of that animal. We could meet a wolf who is able to stand up and walk with us and carry on a verbal conversation. When spirits shapeshift, it is because our brain is adjusting to the fluidity of their energy form, which is not as rigid as forms in the middle layer (physical world).
Also consider, the colors we see on a journey are not from visible light wavelengths. They are perceptions from our spirit sense as interpreted by a brain that has been programmed primarily by the senses of the physical world. The other layers can start out being very abstract and surreal, but in time, as your brain creates new patterns and associations, it will all become familiar to you.