Strange and unusual accounts from the world of trauma healing.
An autobiographical short story.
I’m flying through the air at 35,000 feet, and dreaming of my first serious injury…
It’s a lovely California day; warm yet crisp, the sunbeams shining through the boughs of the trees are palpable, and the air smells of leaves and suburbia. I am 4 years old.
My little nervous system has mostly adapted to its reality the last couple years – a week immersed in tension, anxiety, hypervigilance, and simmering rage (dad’s house), and a week submerged in codependency, emotional games, subtle manipulation, and underlying depression (mom’s house).
Back and forth. Flip flopping between a patent sense of danger, and a soothing yet toxic collapse. Not that I was aware of any of that at a conscious level. All I knew is that I felt better with mom. She was the safe one. That illusion was about to be shattered.
I’m in one of those bike seats that attaches above the rear wheel. I’m just happily cruising along, feeling alternating swaths of sun and shade as we pass beneath the green trees. Feeling the air on my skin. Safe with my mom who is peddling us down our street, happily waving my legs around a bit.
I don’t know if the bike seat I was seated in so comfortably came without the leg guards that are supposed to go down both sides of the wheel in order to protect the legs and feet of the child, or if my mom simply didn’t attach them. Either way the result was the same.
I’m happily, contentedly, cruising through the lovely California air, legs gently waving.
Then, the next moment, my first conscious experience of physical agony comes crashing down on me like a tidal wave. My left heel is suddenly on fire. My foot had gone into the rapidly rotating spokes of the wheel. My shoe went flying off, and a scoop of flesh was carved out of my heel.
I twitch in my airplane seat, my leg drawing up and contracting, the body reliving this trauma that is still, unbeknownst to me, locked in my system.
Flashes of my mom’s horrified face. Being carried into the back yard. My older brother trying to distract me and make me laugh, while my mom disinfects the bloody hole in my heel and bandages it up. The shock of the pain matched by emotional shock – mom was supposed to be safe!
I start sweating and my core trembles, my eyes flutter open, and I am awake. Outside the window is the ocean and, just coming into view, verdant tropical green. Ladies and gentlemen, we are now beginning our descent into Kona.
* * *
Looking back, I can see the path that landed me in that airplane seat had its first flagstone laid not only with that trauma, but also with all the attachment wounding and early developmental trauma that preceded it. At the time though, the more obvious branch in the road was forged by the Vipassana retreat I had attended a few months before. It was during those ten days of silence that I first recalled past lives, and became Super Meditator Guy.
It was during my third group sit in the hall. I was settled into my seated position, just a few minutes into the practice, when I was suddenly flooded with vivid, full color memories of being in a much older stone hall, sitting just like this, surrounded by my shaven-head brethren, practicing this form of self-observation that had been discovered by good ol’ Gautama Buddha.
This wasn’t my first spiritual experience; I had already begun my spiritual journey in college, kick started by psilocybin, but this was a whole other level. For one, I was completely sober. No drugs, alcohol, or tobacco allowed in the center. For that matter, no books, paper, pens, or media of any kind. No speaking, avoid eye contact as much as possible, stay in your bubble.
This was heaven for me – no need to socially engage at all?! Fantastic!
Just sit and focus on moving my attention through my body?! YES.
I took to it like a monk to the monastery, and in that memory it became clear why. I had done this before. Not just once, but for many, many lifetimes; so I took up the practice of Vipassana as naturally as one slips into an old, comfy shoe.
By the end of those ten days I had gone from systematically feeling every inch of my body, one bit at a time, to moving my awareness in different ways – feeling my entire body simultaneously, passing my attention up and down it, as if I was a column of energy that I was revving up with awareness, moving that attention into my energy body and chakras, and feeling a sense of my particles, my kalapas, as Buddha called them – feeling a physical sense of the quantum field. I was Super Meditator Guy!!
And, I had no idea how much of my physiology and psyche I was not sensing at all.
That’s a big problem that can happen when innate spiritual ability comes into contact with a dysregulated, traumatized nervous system that has learned over time to recruit the numbing qualities of the freeze response in very subtle ways; I thought I was enlightened, and yet I was feeling only a tiny portion of what I was.
I was high on Spirit, and completely deluded.
I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
* * *
It’s amazing how much you can sense about a person you are sharing space with, when you are both sitting in silence focusing solely on yourselves for 10 days. Even though we didn’t speak, or barely even look at one another, it soon became clear that I, and the guy who was in the bunk kitty-corner to me, were like peas in a pod.
We weren’t struggling with the practice, we were loving it. We had been shaven-head brethren together long ago, I just knew it. We were enlightened masters who had walked with Buddha and Christ. We were counterculture connoisseurs, and we both loved the weed.
So, after ten days of just feeling each other’s vibes, we became quite close, and after the ten days were up, we left together.
His name was Jason and he was a grower of the finest cannabis I had ever encountered. He set up crystal grids in the soil of his grow room, and regularly played didgeridoo for his lovely ladies. He was into raw food and green juice. He was going to help me get set up as a grower in the network he was part of, who all shared seeds and seedlings, growing tips and curing techniques, and the distribution of pounds and pounds of sweet mary jane.
However, it soon became clear that it was going to be difficult to find any landlord in the Snohomish area, well known to be a hotbed of pot growers, who was willing to rent a space to a hippy looking guy with minimal work history and no clear source of income. So I became a distributor instead.
For the next few months I hung out with Jason, meditating and smoking fantastic cannabis, and reading about ETs, secret societies, ancient Earth history, Atlantis and Lemuria, Agartha and the Pyramids, the order of Melchizedek and the flower of life.
I wasn’t ‘getting stoned,’ I was ‘using plant medicine.’ I had become Super Meditator Shaman Guy and I travelled hither and yon, selling weed and generally just having a good ol’ time. It was on a trip back to my old stomping grounds in Montana, the purpose of which was to connect with old friends and sell a particularly robust shipment, that I would have the experience that put me in that plane seat.
I was sitting and meditating in the snowy Bozeman cemetery. It was as still and quiet as only a snowy cemetery in the depths of winter can be, and I was totally rocked – in the throes of both a powerful third eye meditation and a particularly potent strain of White Widow – when I heard the soft, flapping wings of an owl passing over my head and the single, soft, utterance of ‘whooo.’
As that sound landed in my ears, my third eye burst open in a brilliant flash of light and I saw… green jungle and waterfalls, black sand and blue ocean, and a voice in my head that sounded quite separate from me said distinctly, ‘go to the Big Island of Hawaii.’
So that’s how I ended up with a one-way ticket to Hawaii, $600 to my name, and nothing else with me but a big backpack filled with clothes and gear, my trusty banjo, and a solid case of spiritual delusion.
* * *
The Kona airport is tiny, situated in the middle of old, black lava fields, so it wasn’t much of a trek from the baggage claim out to the highway; but still, by the time I got there and stuck out my thumb, I was dripping sweat from the unaccustomed tropical heat, and from the oversize backpack I was carrying that contained, I would come to find, a ton of shit I would not need at all, or that was entirely unsuited to the climate I had just arrived in.
I got picked up in short order (Hawaii is one of the few places left in the US where, to this day, hitchhiking is still a normal way for people to get around) and I eagerly hopped in the back of a rusty Toyota pickup. Not knowing where the hell I was in relationship to anything else (this was before smartphones and I hadn’t bothered looking at a map) I asked to be taken to the nearest beach where I could camp, which ended up being Kiholo Bay, a short ride away. A ride which I experienced in absolute hippy splendor.
I had made it! Here I was, the wind blowing through my hair and cooling my sweat, my grinning face lifted to the glorious midday sun that was even then, unbeknownst to me, burning my face so profoundly that I would still have scars ten years later.
The truck pulled over at the access road and I hopped out, thanking the driver, who gave me my first genuine ‘aloha,’ and I started down the road that punctured through the black lava field to the shore. What a surreal landscape! I just had to take a detour.
I just had to hurry up and get to the luscious weed that, compressed and wrapped in layers of saran wrap, layered with ground coffee, and more saran wrap, was tucked up under my bonch in a special crotch pocket I had sowed into my boxers for the trip. What better way to arrive at the shore in full Super Meditator Shaman Guy glory, than by first getting freshly rocked in an alien, twisting, swirling, black lava landscape?
I dug out my weed and also the tiny, unused glass pipe I had stored in the middle of my sleeping bag and lit up, exhaling clouds of fragrant smoke up to the sun in thanks. I meditated there a while, experiencing the profound confluence of my old familiar plant ally with the new, utterly strange environment. My face continued it’s silent, painless progress towards devastation.
I didn’t know how badly burned I was until that evening when, after finishing my trek to the shore and baptizing myself in the warm salt water, I was sitting, idly plucking my Almighty Bantar.
The Bantar was once a banjo. Given to me by an old family friend, the minister of my mom’s church, who had received it as a gift when she was a child. About a year ago my friend accidentally dropped it, breaking off the wooden back.
Dismayed at first, my loss turned to joy as, upon picking it up and plucking it, I discovered that it’s tone had shifted drastically. It had acquired a slight buzz in it’s intonation, such that it sounded a bit like a sitar. Having already learned guitar, I was struggling with the banjo tuning anyway, and so, upon hearing its tone now nodding towards India, I tuned it in octaves and open fifths, and it’s transformation to the almighty Bantar was complete!
Seeing someone playing a banjo, but hearing something that sounded Indian or Middle Eastern, must have been intriguing to the band of fellow hippies who approached me that first night in Hawaii. They came up softly, red-eyed, beaded, bearded, and barely clothed, and I, being a performer from way back, gave them a smile and nod, and stepped up my performance a bit with more flourishes and hammer-ons.
I finished up, receiving a lovely little round of applause and some, ‘wow, man’s’ and similar sentiments, until one young man looked closer at my face in the light of the descending sun and said, “Oh brah, you just get off the plane? Your face is BURNT! You better get a hat.”
* * *
Haole, pronounced ‘howlie’, has long been used as a sobriquet, or outright slur, for a person not native to Hawaii or Polynesia, though these days it mostly just means ‘white folk.’
The literal translation though, is ‘without breath,’ and I believe this originated because of the original explorers’ and invaders’ ignorance of, and/or disdain for, the traditional Hawaiian custom of exchanging Ha, the breath of life, as a greeting.
This exchange of breath is done when two people press together the bridge of their noses while inhaling at the same time. It’s a Hawaiian greeting that welcomes the other person into their space by sharing the breath of life, and the mana it transmits. The first westerners to arrive were too prudish and upright to embrace such a custom, and so would withdraw their head, and offer a hand to shake instead, therefore, they were Haole – without breath.
I didn’t know all that then. I had not yet begun the deep dive into ancient Hawaiian tradition and spiritual practice that would enrich my life so much. At that point, on that first morning waking to the birdsong and sound of the ocean, I was just a stupid fucking Haole with a terrible sunburn.
The matriarch of the hippy clan who had been enthralled by the Almighty Bantar was named Fantasia, and she showed me how to use the cooling slime of the aloe leaf to relieve the pain of my burns while they healed.
She also invited me to join her intrepid band as they toured around the island, introducing me to many beaches and camping spots that were unpatrolled by the state, and also introducing me to the first of many self-healing and energy work practices that I would encounter there.
She was into Rebirthing, which basically is a form of voluntary hyperventilation, the idea being to flood the system with oxygen and mana on the inbreath, and to breath out all that was old and toxic on the outbreath, and we travelled around together practicing that, mostly while floating in the ocean, all happily hyperventilating together.
Eventually, we made it to Puna, and it was there that I left that merry group, and encountered Mama Pele, and the lessons she would bring.
* * *
At the time, Puna was the quintessence of hippiedom on Earth. Populated almost exclusively, it seemed, by all the white folks who still stayed true to the counterculture once the 60’s died, as well as the locals of Polynesian descent, and quite a few folks from the Caribbean and Africa.
It was a place where one could live without money, my goal at the time, surviving through work-trade arrangements and by harvesting the never-ending bounty of tropical fruit, roots, and shellfish that the Aina brought forth in an abundance so plentiful it verged on obscene – during mango season, there was a stretch of the Red Road that would become so covered by fallen mangoes that the slush actually made driving conditions hazardous.
Densely jungled and sparsely populated, it was also the site of the spot where lava flowed across the land and into the Ocean. That spot, southwest from Kalapana, was the site of many a seeker’s pilgrimage and it wasn’t without risk. Going out to see the lava flow meant that once you got close you would be walking across a crust of unknown thickness, with who knew how much active, flowing lava underneath. It was a test of faith that I was eager to meet.
It is here that I will add one of the few pictures that survived from that time, an “aren’t I the most mystical and fabulous hippy ever” selfie I took on the beach of Kalapana, the night before I started my trek. A month had passed since arriving in Puna and you can still see remnants of my burn on my forehead and right cheek. Behold, Super Meditator Shaman Guy in his natural surroundings. If you cringe that’s ok, you won’t be cringing more than me.
The next morning I started my pilgrimage. It began on a road that cut through the lava fields, but eventually the road disintegrated into nothingness and I had to cut across the jagged, broken landscape directly, a plume of smoke in the distance my only landmark. Between the sun and the unrelieved ebony landscape, it was very hot.
My destination wasn’t the plume of smoke and steam I could see in the distance – that was where the lava was flowing into the ocean, and NOT a place you wanted to get too close too, as the steam made by boiling lava colliding with salt water wasn’t the healthiest for human lungs, but it was a signpost in the right direction. I wanted to find one of the slow moving flows that a person could actually get close to, and after about six hours hiking, I got my wish.
Pāhoehoe (pronounced ‘paw hoey hoey’) is the name for lava that moves ponderously across the landscape, solidifying into smooth, ropy swirls and curves that are a pleasure to walk on and quite trippy to behold. Very distinct from ‘A‘ā, which is pronounced “Ah! Ah!”, as in the sound you make if attempting to walk across it’s rough, sharp, spiky surface.
It was approaching evening when I found my Pāhoehoe flow, which looked a lot like this…
I stripped down naked, placing all my clothes carefully on my hat to weigh it down and prevent its escape.
I bowed to the four directions and invoked the amalgamation of meanings I had devised after studying both Celtic and Lakota Traditions.
I called in the East and the element of Air, the rising sun of new beginnings, bringing the wisdom we need to undertake new things well.
I called in the South and the element of Fire, the passions, all that is warm and growing and alive.
I called in the West and the element of Water, the land of emotions, the feeling and empathic heart.
I called in the North and the element of Earth to which we all return, the ending of things and the wisdom of the crone, which comes near death after a life well lived.
I called in my ancestors and asked them to bless my undertaking.
Then I walked my naked ass right up to that lava flow.
I stood, just a few feet away so that the intense furnace blast radiating from the flow was palpable on my skin.
I stood, arms raised high in a V, legs planted wide, I turned slowly in a circle so that my entire body would be bathed in that heat, and I asked Mama Pele for healing from all that had gone before.
My fucked up, grief stricken, hypervigilant, angry childhood. The hearts I had broken and my own broken heart, and all that I had done for which I needed to be forgiven. I asked that it be sucked out of me then and there, by the flowing magnetism of Pele’s power, and I offered her as payment, my tears.
Then I went and got dressed and discovered that Pele had already extracted another small price. My plastic straw hat had melted into the ground.
* * *
The next morning I awoke to discover that my skin had turned red in a perfect band around my sacral chakra. Hmmm. That’s interesting.
Maybe it was because my stomach protruded a bit more than the rest of my body, and therefore was closer to the heat? But that didn’t explain the uniformity of the band, and that it circled my whole waist, including the back.
Sacral chakra cleansing then? It would make sense. Lord knows I had certainly seen and engaged in enough sexual activity that was toxic in nature – casual sex with people I barely knew, a porn addiction that had haunted me for years, shame and guilt coupled with my creative energy. Hmmm. Ok.
Two days later, when the band had mostly faded, the first open sore appeared on my belly, right in that area.
If I wasn’t new to the island I would have known that this was the appearance of Jungle Rot, more scientifically known as a Staph infection. Staphylococcus bacteria is commonly found on the skin and in the nose of even healthy people, and it doesn’t generally cause any problems. But when a cut gets infected with it, or it somehow finds its way into the blood, organs, or bone, it can be life threatening.
I didn’t know any of that though. There was no cut that had become infected, the skin there had been previously whole. So, my logical deduction was that this was my prayer being answered. Mama Pele was sucking the poisons out of me, and this was the result. And, as unscientific as that sounds, I still believe that is exactly what happened.
I had applied my will and intention to the mass of flowing electromagnetic power contained in that lava flow that it should latch on to all that was poisonous in my own electromagnetic field and extract it. The open sore was the echo of that ritual at the physical level, enabled by the Staph my body had recruited to do the job, but in order to understand how I got to that conclusion and why I still believe it, I need to explain about the shamanistic perspective.
* * *
Shamanism was the first spiritual tradition I embraced, way back in college. It had been sparked up by my first Psilocybin experience, undertaken in the woods that surrounded my college. I was with my roommate Josh, who was a more experienced tripper, and it was a safe, joyous, profound, and life-altering experience.
The forest breathed. The plants, ground, and sky formed a single, pulsating tapestry, and all wove into and through each other. Moving, shimmering, alive. And I was part of it. I WAS it. It was my first lived experience of being an organism that was not on the Earth, but rather inextricably woven into the Earth. I was part of the consciousness field of all that was around me, and I was also the sum total of that field, and that was perceived not only with the eyes, but with the unshakable bone-deep knowing that we are, none of us, ever alone.
Well, that changed me. I had always been a questioner. I already didn’t relate to the mainstream medical model and how it’s acceptance of germ theory painted a picture that we were constantly being attacked by our environment, and we had to defend against it.
As a young teenager, watching my older brother sicken over the course of two years, slowly crushed by the treatment that was supposed to heal his cancer, ony to eventually die not from the cancer, but from the treatment, might have had something to do with this.
I had grown up learning to keep my questioning to myself though, for if I spoke my truth, If I gave voice to my unfiltered wonderings about the mysteries of life, that would be met with rage from my father and placating gaslighting from my mother.
Here though, was at long last, validation. A lived experience that reached all the way into my cells and confirmed, yes, Seth, you are correct. Everything is connected. We are nature itself, and any perception of separation is illusion.
In that experience, and planted in my consciousness even more firmly after, as if that afternoon had thickened a mental porridge that had long been stirring, was an instinctive knowing which shamans all around the world had been exploring for thousands of years, a truth found as well by later psychedelic researchers such as Aldous Huxley, Terence Mckenna, and Timothy Leary; psychedelics do not make us see what is not there, they temporarily lift the veils that hide reality’s deeper nature from us.
A bad trip is much the same – it’s what happens when the pain and trauma that has been locked in a person’s unconscious is suddenly let loose upon the astral plane, which is the territory a person has one foot in while undertaking such a journey. This is why setting and intention, as well as dosage and experience, are so important when using a psychedelic.
Also, some psychedelics are inherently ‘friendlier’ than others, and Psilocybin is generally regarded as one of the more kindly medicines. Nevertheless, given the amount of trauma I was holding, I am positive I would have had a bad trip experience if, like so many others do, I had taken that sacred plant medicine in a party atmosphere, instead of in nature with a safe guide who was familiar with the psychedelic terrain.
All that to say, my approach to health and healing was then, and still is, grounded in that shamanistic perspective. Everything is connected and there are no accidents or coincidences, only synchronicities that we may not understand. My experiences with Vipassana had shown me, very clearly, how the way we respond to an event is what determines the outcome, as well as greatly influencing what sort of experiences we attract in the future.
The idea that ‘we create our own reality,’ despite containing elements of truth, is a massive oversimplification. While it is true that the vibrations we are holding on the inside will be reflected by the external reality (no such division actually exists, hence the concurrence), and that we can influence said vibrations by the way in which we respond to events, this applies just as much, if not more, to the unconscious mind as it does to the conscious mind.
So, if we are unaware of our ability to influence so-called external events by working internally, then it will largely be our unconscious that is manifesting. This is bolstered by the fact that the human system and soul always seeks out healing, which means that the unconscious mind will continue to present the monsters in our closet to us, over and over, until we make that unconscious material conscious, and find a different outcome.
So, the idea that we can create our own reality is literally untrue for someone who doesn’t know it, and therefore a very unkind thing to suggest, and we also have to remember that we are constantly co-creating with everybody else’s conscious and unconscious mind as well. So the best way to put it might be – our ability to greatly influence our reality and what experiences we have is very real, and yet it has be cultivated and strengthened by doing the inner work to bring to light that which is unconscious, and none of that happens in a vacuum.
At that point in my life though, I didn’t yet have the nuance that I just went into above and was one of those arrogant, ignorant shits who would tell someone who was suffering that they were responsible for creating their own reality. Sorry, everyone.
However, as unrefined and brutish as my new age thought was, I was onto a few fundamentals that are still true for me to this day. I knew that whatever I experienced, it was what I needed to experience. Whatever my body had taken in or brought forth was part of an experience that I needed in order to evolve and heal. I was largely unconcerned.
When the first local who saw my sores said, “Oh brah! You got the Jungle Rot, you bettah get da kine.’” (Da kine’ is an expression commonly used to describe anything at all, to the point that I’ve literally heard someone say, “Yo, hand me da kine’ on top of da kine’.’’ In this case, da kine’ meant antibiotics.) I didn’t comply. At that point I had learned that this was a Staph infection, and I also had learned that most forms of Staph on that island are highly resistant to antibiotics. Instead, I just kept on meditating. But I wasn’t getting better. Despite my skills at inner awareness and my expanded, cosmic perspective, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say because of those things, I was missing something else. Something important.
That’s when the Universe brought my first wife into my life, and all the joy, pain, learning, revelation, loss, and growth that relationship would bring.
* * *
Shortly before I took my pilgrimage to Pele, I was sitting at Verna’s 5 in Kalapana munching on some lovely ulu fries when this fairy-like woman approached me and asked if I would like the towering ice cream sundae she was holding. She explained she had bought it for a kid she was watching, who’s eyes were much bigger than her stomach.
At most points in my life I would have been all over that! Funnily enough though, she encountered me during a brief window of my life during which I was vegan. Had to be all high-vibration and the like, ya know?! So I declined, which surprised and intrigued her. Then, she noticed the banjo at my side and asked, “Oh, you’re a musician? Me too, I play the violin.”
So I told her about the Almighty Bantar, and how I tuned and played it more like a Sitar than a traditional banjo, which she got quite excited about. Maybe we could hang out and play sometime? Sure. Her name was Loralei.
I didn’t see her again until about two months later, at which point I had open sores on my body and was firmly ensconced as houseboy of Kea’au Castle; servant to Lady Cassandra and the Wizard Vortex, and smitten by the fair Princess Julia.
* * *
The Kea’au Castle is no more, but at the time it was a local Mecca for hippiedom; a big, rambling plantation house left over from the sugar cane boom times, with two stories plus a partially finished basement, which was where I made my lair.
I had first visited it at one of the monthly Full Moon parties where I had, of course, brought forth the Almighty Bantar, which had so enchanted the house’s owners that they invited me to stay on; and when they found out I could cook, I was elevated to houseboy, as well as resident musician. I was pretty stoked. After about four months of hitchhiking around the island and camping hither and yon, it was lovely to have a rent-free living situation in the heart of Puna.
The only surviving picture of me from my time as houseboy at the Castle, complete with flowy hemp hippie pants.
Lady Cassandra was the matriarch, a plump lady in her sixties with a larger than life presence and classic smoker’s laugh. She had been a choreographer in New York City during the late 70’s, and her crowning achievement and claim to fame was that she had come up with the dance moves for the classic song, YMCA, by The Village People.
Her consort was the mysterious Wizard Vortex. A tall, skinny man, older than her by a little bit, with the obligatory long white beard and wire-frame circular glasses, he was perpetually shrouded in marijuana smoke, and spoke rarely. Though dubbed a wizard I never saw any magical powers, unless you consider rolling a serviceable joint from a bag of weed composed mostly of stems and seeds a magical power.
Then there was Vortex’s daughter. Only 17 at the time, the fair Princess Julia was intelligent, funny, shy, had long natural wavy red hair, freckles, an enormous bosom, and a shared interest in fantasy and sci-fi novels.
I adored her, I fantasized about her, and I employed copious will power to restrain myself from attempting a seduction.
She was only 17! Granted, not a huge difference in years from me, then 25, but when it comes to years lived and maturity acquired there’s a big difference between 17 and 25, versus, say, 27 and 35. Plus, you know, illegal and all that.
Plus, I was spiritual! Must combat the lust. Must. Hold. Back!
Plus, open sores. Right. I now had one on my belly, one on my right elbow, and one on my neck.
The fact that they were erupting from multiple locations meant that the Staph was in my blood, indicating that I was basically walking a tightrope with the valley of death underneath. It’s quite possible I would have died had I not bumped into Loralei again at that time. We ran into each other at the Pahoa Farmers Market and arranged a date to meet up at the Castle and do some jamming.
When that day came and we sat down in the yard and began improvising, it was simply magical. I had never had the opportunity to play with a violinist before, much less one who was also versed in the East Indian and Middle Eastern scales, and who could listen and improvise as fluidly as I could.
As we played, our souls spoke to each other in concert with our instruments. Bathed in the green golden light of the tropical sun filtering through the jungle, a shared vision of our future unspooled before us, intertwined with an immediate awareness of past lives and experiences shared. We were both surprised, bewildered and suddenly committed to each other. Just like that, we were a couple.
Loralei was familiar with both Staph and some of the local flora that could be used to combat it. Have you ever seen, and smelled, a Noni fruit? Yowza.
When ripe, as unappetizing as it looks, it smells and tastes worse – like a pungent, ripened cheese blended with notes of fermented fish sauce. Lovely. But it is a very powerful immune booster and the fruit and leaves both could be used to treat wounds. Many times I held back the urge to puke while drinking juice made from the stuff, and more than once smeared the smashed up fruit all over my skin, and baked in the sun, smelling like vomit.
Add to this, turmeric compresses, endless ginger and turmeric teas, black walnut husk, psyllium seed husk, and even iodine to treat the wounds topically. Loralei also introduced me to a Bahai Minister and Reiki Master, a powerful woman, who treated me energetically, and also with a Rife machine. All that, combined with abstention from all sugar and grain, and my wounds began to close up and scab over.
During that time she introduced something else to me – a huge piece I had been missing – the power of emotional expression.
Not that I was unfeeling before, but from her I learned the practice of intentionally translating my internal emotions and bodily sensations directly into sound and movement.
The Vipassana practice I had taken to so naturally was all about equanimous observation, but that doesn’t always work when it comes to healing trauma – I learned that simply being neutrally observed can actually feel quite cold and abusive to the lost, silenced pieces of my physiology, psyche, and soul – pieces that had learned very early on to shut up if they wanted to stay safe. Those pieces needed to be heard!
We spent hours, days, and weeks at a time just feeling our bodies, our wounds, and giving them voice and motions – writhing around in our tent, moaning, growling, singing, speaking in tongues, giving voice to those scared, enraged, horrified pieces of self that seemed to be lined up endlessly at the internal doors of awareness. Helping the silenced sing, and come back to life.
* * *
We married not too long after that time. Y2K came and went. Sadly it did not bring about the fall of civilization as we so hoped, but that’s ok, surely it would happen on the winter solstice of 2012! Right?
In August of 2000, Loralei, assisted only by myself and a few long distance calls to a trusted midwife in Virginia, bravely gave birth to our son, Jevah, in a little hut in the jungle of Kalapana. Thus began some of the most precious times of my life.
There is so much I could tell, about those times in Hawaii, about my family, but I will save all that for another time. Suffice to say for now, those first three years of my son’s life were darn near perfect.
We travelled around a bit here and there. Even went to Mexico for a short period before returning to the Big Island and settling into Wood Valley for a year and half, where I built a brick oven and started selling organic wood-fired sourdough at the farmers markets, before buying land and building our own house in the small mountaintop town of Volcano.
Me with my sourdough and the Almighty Bantar at the Pahoa Farmers Market
The house we built in Volcano.
The brick oven I built with me in my hunched, emaciated vegan days.
Me and J, before and after the first cutting of his hair. First at age two in Wood Valley, then at about age three in Volcano. He still plays the violin 🙂
I spent a lot of time during that period learning more about, and practicing, the ancient Hawaiian spiritual practices, as did Loralei through Hula and song, and we both absorbed a lot of teachings from the spirits of that land directly. The land, the aina, in Hawaii is SO alive, and also so varied in a way that I have not encountered anywhere else, and the devas and nature sprites abound.
What a wonderful place to raise a baby into a young child! We delighted in our beautiful blonde boy, even as a rift slowly grew between us.
Here’s the thing with relationships that are formed in the context of unresolved trauma – they are damn near impossible to make sustainable. Even we, who were conscious of using the triggers that relationship and family brought, such that we might move together through that and more deeply heal, eventually even we could not resolve the weight of all that was still unresolved within us and, in 2004, we split up and she moved back to the midwest to be near her family.
I tried, for a couple years, to live there too, so we could still co-parent together, and that worked nicely for a while. But eventually, I couldn’t stand living in that culture anymore. I got fat, depressed, and angry, and in 2006 I moved back to the woods and my old stomping grounds at Breitenbush Hot Springs in Oregon, where I would spend the next four years.
I accepted the fact that I just was not made to be in the normal world. I never would be. I would live out my life in the woods, in the counterculture.
As long as I was there, in my safe bubble, I was great. In the context of that bubble, and that lovely community of hippies, misfits, and seekers, I became healed and whole, powerful, and respected.
But. If I went to the city for errands and supplies I would, after the span of a few hours become overwhelmed, anxious, and paranoid. And I would retreat back to the safety of the forest.
I thought it was just my nature. I’m just not made for the world. That’s just how it is. But that was not the truth.
The truth that I did not know was that still, after all the inner work I had done, I had still not healed or even barely touched my unresolved trauma.
Why had my trauma not been able to heal?
Why, after the Vipassana, the glorious spiritual heights I had experienced, the plant medicines, the detoxing and cleansing, the power of emotional expression, the many ways of working with energy, why, after all that, was I still so broken inside? And why did I not even know that I was?
All of those years and events have been on my mind lately, and now, I know the answer to that question.
All that I had done was valuable, and I still to this day use bits and pieces of all that I have learned, but at the time, none of it touched my trauma because I did not understand the nervous system, or how to work with it; and at the root level the nervous system is where trauma lives, and it must be addressed at that level. For more about that read this article.
Without doing that, without understanding the intricacies of the survival responses, the subtlety of the attention that system requires, the delicateness with which it must be approached, and how that work must be done in the context of safety and right relationship; without that knowledge and skill, all other approaches either miss the trauma entirely, reflect off of it, overwhelm it and cause it to hide, or explode it into reactivity.
Thankfully, in 2010 I met my wife, Irene, who pulled me out of the woods and into the world, and into the profound work of somatic, nervous-system-based trauma healing, of which, after many years of training and working on myself simultaneously, I am now a practitioner.
It took me about six years of doing that work to get to the point where my nervous system was regulated and I actually, for the first time in my life, understood what it felt like to truly be safe on the inside, while in the world, fully engaged with all it’s beauty and toxicity.
With the bulk of my trauma resolved and my nervous system no longer being run by survival energy, all should be dandy, yes?
Well, yes. In fact, all is pretty much dandy these days.
And. That does not mean that shit shall no longer happen.
* * *
On February 22 of 2021, my old pal, Staph, made a reappearance.
Just like before, it appeared out of nowhere, this time on my leg, and I realized very quickly what was happening, and why.
I had been practicing martial arts regularly, both boxing and kickboxing, for about four years at that point, and two days before the sore appeared, my hips, which had long been chronically tight and which had slowly loosened over the last few years, suddenly opened up dramatically.
My left leg had, for as long as I could remember, been much more clunky than my right leg. The foot tended to be turned in, almost clawlike, and there wasn’t much nuance of movement or dexterity in the whole leg. This was primarily because of that first physical injury and shock trauma with my mom and the bicycle wheel long ago, compounded by countless rolled and sprained ankles over the course of many years playing soccer, and skateboarding in my youth.
When my hips opened up, the fascia in that left leg began to thaw, and unwind.
Fascia is amazing stuff.
It is the slippery, silvery thin layer of tissue that separates the skin from the muscle and allows it to glide.
Put a hand on your forearm right now and grip it loosely. If you move your hand up and down, gripping the skin, or rotate it left and right, you will probably feel how the skin can slide independently from the muscle underneath. That’s because of fascia, which also wraps around all of the organs. It’s important stuff!
It is supposed to be flexible and fluid in nature, yet amazingly, it can also be hard as steel, and I believe that this is because of how the fascia responds to trauma.
You know that uncomfortable feeling in your tummy you get, when you walk into a room full of tension, where people are hating each other but silent about it? That’s the fascia, tightening up, responding to the tension in the room, and in other people’s fascia. It’s amazingly communicative stuff and I think it should be considered a form of nervous system in its own right.
When my ankle and lower leg got wrenched, so long ago, by that turning wheel, my whole system went into shock, and then freeze. When that happened, the fascia in my leg also stiffened up in shock and, because as a child and young adult I never received any sort of body work whatsoever to heal from that and many other injuries, the fascia in that leg hardened over time, giving me that claw-like foot and unrefined movement.
There is another thing that I suspect, and that is that fascia which is frozen and hard can act as a storehouse for toxins.
There have been a few times in my career as a practitioner when, as I worked with a client to process a surgical trauma, the room suddenly became flooded with the smell of anesthesia, perceptible to both of us.
Another time I was working with a client who’s chain smoking uncle had molested her frequently, and as we worked through a layer of shock and freeze the room was filled with the smell of cigarettes.
I have spoken with many colleagues who have had the same kinds of experiences.
How does this happen? How does the body hold, frozen in time, these chemicals? For decades?
Fascia. I’m pretty darn sure it’s fascia that holds these things.
And I’m pretty darn sure the fascia in my leg, which had been the most frozen place in my body for decades, was holding on to some Staph from that time in Hawaii, and when the hip opened up and the fascia began to unfreeze, that bacteria was let loose.
* * *
It showed up looking like a cluster of spider bites, and it is possible that is what it was, and that the spider was carrying some Staph. At first that’s what I thought, but when I looked up spider bites it didn’t pan out – there were no fang marks for one, and no poisonous spiders in the area I live except Black Widows, which left a different looking wound.
So, here we go again. My body was releasing Staph, and as the infection progressed, I got a sense of why this was happening. Remember – no accidents in my world, only synchronicities, and things that, however painful or strange, need to happen for some reason or another.
What I noticed was that as the infection progressed, despite the discomfort of my skin being eaten away, that leg actually began to feel much better on the inside. I was discovering a range of motion, nuance of movement, and finer degrees of inner awareness than I had previously had access to, and I realized that the bacteria was literally eating away the very old bracing pattern in the skin and fascia.
So, I needed to let it do what it needed to do.
And, I also had to keep it from taking my leg or killing me, both of which became real possibilities as the infection progressed.
So, back to the wonderful medicine cabinet of nature!
I put myself on a blood cleansing diet again – no sugar, alcohol, or grains. Lots of turmeric ginger tea with Manuka honey, along with doses of Curcumin, Vitamin D, C, and E, and oregano oil.
I also used poultices. Crushed garlic, after being allowed to sit for ten minutes, releases Alicin – a powerful antibacterial, so I used that, combined with Manuka honey, Curcumin powder, and Bentonite Clay to make paste to apply directly to the wound, and then would wrap it up.
The wound was starting to scab up in places, indicating progress, but the redness also continued to spread, indicating continued infection, so at that point I contacted a lovely colleague who does what’s called body dowsing – using a pendulum to scan the systems of the body and determine what it needs, and what it needs to avoid, and she put me on a specifically timed regimen of massive vitamin C doses (8000 mg at a time), vitamin D (7000 mg), E (5 capsules), and citrus bioflavonoids (5 capsules).
After the second massive dose of vitamin C, things began to change rapidly. Later that day bumps started to appear on my hands – not Staph, this was different, and it looked like an allergic reaction. By the next day my hands and wrists were swelled to twice their size and completely covered with bumps, even some on the palms! And I had massive red circles under my armpits where the major lymph glands are.
This could have been alarming for sure. It was certainly one of the most uncomfortable physical experiences I have ever had, but I tuned into my body and asked what was happening, and the information I got was that this was a detoxing from a die-off of the Staph that had found its way to my blood and organs. My lymph glands had processed what they could, and my body stored the rest of those little bacterial corpses in my hands – as far away from the organs as possible.
My intuition was confirmed the next day when, finally, the wound started to crust up in earnest and scab over, and the redness had retreaded a tiny bit in some areas. The next day it began draining yellowish-clear pus in large quantities which sounds gross, but which was a tremendous relief as the swelling in that lower leg, ankle and foot began to be relieved, and that kind of seeping is a clear indication that a Staph infection is coming to its close.
One wouldn’t know it by looking at my leg at that point, but I knew I had beaten the infection naturally, and that in doing so I had allowed the bacteria to do its job of eating away the old bracing pattern.
My leg looked hideous, and felt amazing! SO much more nimble.
It was at that point that my body said – ‘Ok, time to get some antibiotics to help clear this up more rapidly.’ There was clearly still some infection in the leg itself, but I knew that my blood was clear.
So, I went to see my doctor, who was absolutely horrified that I hadn’t seen her sooner of course. Hard to explain the shamanic perspective to someone trained in allopathic medicine, but to her credit, my doctor at least listened to my perspective without judgement or calling it nonsense. She already knew I was a bit… different.
She put me on a strong dose of pure penicillin, as she suspected that it was a Strep infection (which penicillin is the best pharmaceutical remedy for), not Staph. The culture of the puss sample that came back from the lab confirmed that it was actually BOTH Staph and Strep. A lively flesh-eating bacteria party in my leg, everyone’s invited!
She also had blood tests done, as she was SURE that my white blood cell count was going to be through the roof, and she suspected I would need to go to the hospital for I.V. antibiotics.
Imagine her surprise when my white blood cell came back totally normal, my blood sparkling clean. Haha!! Told ya.
Still, I’m glad I got the antibiotics, as I could tell they were speeding up the healing process, and what’s more, my acceptance of their use and the role they could play was significant for me personally.
In those old Hawaii days, when I was full of spiritual hubris and disconnected from my trauma, my stance towards western medicine was very radical. I literally would rather have died than use it for anything apart from casting a broken bone, sewing up a cut that needed stitches, or repairing internal injuries from some kind of accident, all of which modern medicine does excel at.
I still lean in that direction – I’m not into the idea of preventative testing, and would never use western medicine to address any sort of ‘illness’ – cold, flu, cancer, autoimmune stuff, etc. I think the allopathic approach does not understand the wholeness of the body, nor its interconnectedness, subtleties, and fundamental energetic nature, nearly well enough. Germ theory is patently ridiculous in my opinion, as is the stance that the body is some kind of machine that can be understood by breaking it into separate parts.
As Gabor Mate, MD, said, ‘trying to find the answer to cancer by looking at the individual cell, is like trying to understand a traffic jam by studying the internal combustion engine.’ Indeed.
However, my stance has softened a bit when it comes to infection. I had severe diverticulitis a while back, and, despite my protests and arguing, had to go into the hospital and get I.V antibiotics for three days in order to save my colon. It’s possible I could have addressed it naturally, but it’s also possible I could have been wearing a colostomy bag the rest of my life, or die from sepsis, so yeah, I went into the hospital.
And actually had a pretty great experience! The nurses were kind. It wasn’t awful. And my infection cleared up.
That was a transformative experience that took the zealous edge off of my anti-allopathic stance; and so this recent experience of beating the infection naturally, and then using some good ol’ Penicillin to finish cleaning up was a powerful reconciliation.
There was one more level to this experience. The spiritual, karmic level.
I haven’t put pictures of my leg directly into this article, as not everyone can handle looking at pictures of wounds; but I did chronicle the entire experience with photos and have put them all into a PDF document along with dates and descriptions of what was happening. If you want to look at that you can do so here; and if you do, you may better understand what I mean when I say that with this experience I was, karmically-speaking, pulling my leg out of Hell.
* * *
I’ve been around for a long time.
The recall of past lives that began with that first Vipassana retreat did not stop there.
I’ve had a daily meditation practice ever since then – for more than 20 years – and as that practice deepened, so did my recall of older and older experiences. Memories began to come of different planets, different species, different dimensions, and other Universes.
Ours is not the only Universe, it is only the most recent. I have discovered that I am originally from a much earlier Universe, and I have travelled through many different Universes during my soul’s journey. I have experienced countless forms of incarnation, and countless forms of experience, and not all of them were positive.
During this lifetime I have had some pretty dark experiences, but I’ve never physically hurt anyone or engaged in anything that could be considered evil, and I’ve always done my best to help others along with healing myself.
But. I’ve lived quite a few lives as an evil fucker, I know that for sure.
Vibrationally speaking, that leg was stuck in that claw, stuck in that bracing pattern, because it was representing, in this life, the karmic debt of all my past misdeeds from ALL my lives.
It was told to me in meditation that this process of infection, transformation, and healing, was facilitating not only the emergence of what feels now like a brand new leg, it was the final debt paid for all the horrible, ignorant, violent things I had ever done.
As Bill Murray once said, “So, I got that going for me. Which is nice.”
* * *
I would imagine there are some elements of this tale that may seem fantastical, or even the ravings of delusion to some. Oh well. I’m pretty used to that.
Growing up having my perspective and inner truth denied, ridiculed, and gaslit, such that I learned to keep it to myself had the side benefit of inuring me to such abuse now.
Though being ridiculed still hurts a bit, the sting doesn’t last long.
And if we want to be whole, vibrant, healthy, and powerful beings, we need to speak our truth, no matter if the whole world says no.
We may discover later on that we were wrong, or that our understanding was incomplete, but still, it is much better for the body, psyche, and soul to confidently speak one’s truth and be open to being wrong, than to stay silent, timid, and never take the risk at all, or to couch one’s expression in qualifications and apology.
The human body and mind are far more mysterious than most are willing to consider, and I believe that the low foothills we do understand about our fabulous fleshy self, and about the abilities of the soul and spirit which animate us, are dwarfed by the mountains of revelation that we do not yet understand.
So I invite you to question.
To keep searching.
At the finest level of your being you are indistinguishable from the starry cosmos, of which we are, all of us, made.