I’m a happily married man, but not long ago I found myself struggling with very strong feelings of love for another woman. Thank goodness I wasn’t acting on those feelings, but they were very powerful just the same. We had both become fascinated with the shamanic journey process and had been meeting weekly to share this interest. Because our friendship was strong, so were the journeys.
It all felt wonderful, but what to do? Should I remove all temptation by no longer seeing her? Should I go with the feelings and damn the consequences? Things had gotten to the point where something had to be done, but what? Finally I decided that a “journey” might help.
A journey is a little like a meditative dream with a purpose. One journeys to a “teacher” or “power animal”, states the purpose of the journey, and then pays attention to what happens. For this journey, let me first share a little background.
As you know from my other writings, our five year old son Timothy died at home in the middle of the afternoon of March 11, 1975. Family and friends spent the afternoon with us in our grief, but at seven that evening we were startled by a knock at the door. I say “startled” because no one ever knocked at our house. We were so informal that friends and helpers just opened the front door, called out a quick “hello”, walked in and started preparing lunch, or washing dishes, or joining a team member for their eight hour shift with Timothy.
But this time Julie and I were greeted by two strangers in business suits. In a quiet, unctuous voice one of them said, “Mr. and Mrs. Snell, we’re very sorry about the loss of your son. We’re here to take his body to the funeral home. Just show us where he is and we’ll take care of everything.”
As Julie and I looked at each other we knew we didn’t want these strangers to invade our home. We didn’t want them to go upstairs into that sacred room where Tim had just died, zip him up in a body bag, and haul him away. So Julie turned to me and said, “Why don’t you get him? You were the one to bring him down to lie on the big bean-bag cushion whenever he wanted to be with us during meals. You do it, and we’ll join you.”
So Julie and I and two or three of our volunteer crew trooped upstairs and into our big room. As Julie gently pulled back the covers, I reached down, picked Tim up, and held him close. With his head over my right shoulder, and his cheek next to mine I stepped out of the room and started down the corridor.
It’s at this moment that the recent dream / journey begins. In the journey, my teacher has taken me to this moment so many years before. For the longest time I stand there holding my son’s body ever so close, his soft cheek on mine. Finally my teacher says, “This is how love is. Infinite love held right next to the possibility of infinite loss. Have courage. Do not run away from the pain. Do not try to protect yourself. Love and grief are intimately intertwined. If you wall yourself off from the pain, you will also wall yourself off from the most precious of all gifts: infinite love. For with love the pain is bearable, and with pain the love is much more precious. Don’t be afraid to live life fully and to love again.” With those words the journey ended.
So from then on, whenever my friend came I would allow myself to feel the intensity of my love for her, and when she left, I felt the deep loss of her going, and between visits life returned to a delicious state of normalcy.