by Dr. Alberto Villoldo: Shamans are master trackers…
I remember being in the Amazon rain forest with two shamans with whom I had been traveling for several days. That morning we decided to hike to a nearby river, where pineapples grew on one of the banks. The monkeys knew this spot, and when the pineapples were ripe they came down from the trees for raucous feasts. The jaguars, of course, also knew the spot, and converged at dusk to stalk the monkeys, which are their favorite meal.
We were interested in observing the jaguars and knew that if we missed them, at least we could join the monkeys for pineapples. We were following a trail with a thick ground cover of crimson leaves when one of the shamans stopped abruptly. He pointed to the ground and whispered, “Jaguar tracks.” I bent down, but all I could see was the thick blanket of moist leaves and scarlet soil. The other shaman silently nodded, then pointed to a tree nearly twenty feet away and exclaimed, “Jaguar fur.” We walked up to the tree and found two hairs stuck to a cut in the bark where some great cat had scratched itself. I had seen nothing until the medicine woman pulled the hairs from the tree, which looked exactly like hundreds of other trees in the forest.
We saw no jaguars that day, and the monkeys had already made quick work of the pineapples. But I did receive two great lessons in tracking. I learned that tracking requires the tracker’s unconditional attention. When looking for jaguars, you focus on nothing else. In that way two jaguar hairs can stand out like a piece of glass catching the sun in the desert. The second lesson is that tracking happens over space and also across time. We were tracking events that had happened days before; when we began, the prints were nearly four days old. We followed the feline’s tracks through the forest, catching a spot of hair here, a footprint on a moist riverbank there, and occasionally a place where she had lain to rest. On the first day we covered three days of the cat’s travel as she meandered lazily through the forest. Each track we observed was more recent and better defined than the last. On the second day we came upon the magnificent spotted creature. She was lounging at the edge of a river, preening herself, completely absorbed in licking her forelegs. When she caught our scent, she leapt up into the air and disappeared like mist into the jungle.
In a similar manner, a seer learns to track the cause of illness and emotional distress across time. The seer can discover the incident that caused her client’s disease or misfortune. The following technique allows you to track a client’s wound of origin, the source event that is responsible for a particular malady. This wound can be a recent event, a childhood trauma, or even an experience from a previous lifetime. The seer tracks across time to the original incident when the wounding occurred. My mentor referred to this as finding the wounded “face” of his patient. I learned the practice by tracking for my own wounded “faces.”
When I first began to practice this exercise, I was sure that the faces I saw were my own subpersonalities, the many selves that live within me. I was not convinced that these faces were ones of my own past incarnations, from one hundred or one thousand years ago. After years of practice, I came to the conclusion that the difference was more a matter of semantics than of reality. There is no hard evidence that we have lived former lives, and this exercise does not constitute proof of previous incarnations. Whether from this or previous lifetimes, these are the stories that live within me. They are no more or less real to me than the story of my childhood. Whatever their origin, they contain healing power. Such tracking requires a great degree of skill and practice, yet 90 percent of our students achieve this skill by the end of their training.
TRACKING PRACTICE: TRACKING OUR FORMER SELVES
Don Antonio taught me how to use my intent to track. When you are deep in the rain forest following the footprints of jaguars, you exclude everything else from your perceptual horizon. You see dazzling vermilion and yellow macaw feathers along the way, but you pay them no attention. Your intent is set on jaguars, and everything else blends into the background. Parrot songs and monkey howls are of no consequence. Only the growl of the cats interests you. When you are tracking for your own or a client’s wound of origin, this is the only face that calls you. Set your intent clearly at the beginning of the tracking session and let Spirit take care of the details. The face that appears still and unchanging after all the earlier transformations is the face that you are tracking for. Once it appears, it will reveal its story to you.
In a darkened room, sit three feet in front of a mirror and place a small candle on a table next to you. Be sure the candle is at your side and not in front of you.
Come into prayer pose, perform the Second Attention eye exercise, and become mindful of your breath. When you are completely relaxed, gaze softly into your left eye. Do not stare. Count each inhalation until you reach ten, and then start again at one. Notice the play of light and shadow on your face, and keep focused on your left eye.
There are four stages to the tracking process.
At the first stage notice how your face is as you have always seen it. Everything is exactly as it appears to be. This is the face you have looked at in the mirror a thousand times.
The second stage begins a few minutes later. Your face may change into different forms. You might perceive animal faces superimposed on yours, or your face may disappear altogether except for your eyes. Nothing is only what it appears to be in this stage. Stay with the changes, focusing on your breath. Do not be alarmed by what you perceive. Simply register the various faces that appear, passing no judgment and making no interpretations. Some of them may be tens of thousands of years old. Some may be former lives; others are power animals, our guides and allies in nature. Other faces are our spirit guides.
In the third stage, a single face appears and becomes dominant. Here everything is as it should be. This is the face that you are tracking. You have noticed every changing, shape-shifting face until you recognize the face that comes to stillness. When the image appears, allow it to inform you. Hold it steady by focusing on your breath, gazing softly into your left eye. Let it reveal its story to you. Who is it? Where did it come from? What does it want from you? The Luminous Energy Field holds the memories of all of our former selves, including the faces of who we were when we were hurt or wounded. Often these appear as a former lifetime in which you might have experienced great pain and suffering or perhaps died a violent death. More frequently they are the faces of who we once were, or who we might have become, in this lifetime.
In the fourth stage all images disappear, even your own face. At this stage in the tracking practice you are seeing the luminous nature of reality. (l call this the “poof” stage, because everything disappears.) There is only Spirit and light.
To finish the tracking practice, return your hands to prayer pose and take a few deep breaths with your eyes closed.
When I was learning this practice with Don Antonio, he had me work with a fellow student that I disliked greatly. We were a group of 12 that he had selected to train, out of many who had requested to learn from him. Carlos was a man whom I trusted with my life—we had traveled through the mountains and the rain forest together—but I refused to have dinner with him. I found him excessively pious and spiritually trite, and when things did not go his way, he became pouty and infantile. I realized that I was full of judgments about him, but I could not help myself. The dislike was mutual. We avoided each other. Now Antonio had the two of us practicing tracking, looking eye to eye. In the first stage of the process I saw his black eyes and Indian features and was faintly aware of the setting sun and the outline of the mountains behind him. He was in his mid-thirties and had striking black hair, which he had let grow past his shoulders.
In the second stage, his face began to morph. I saw his nose turn into a beak, his eyes recede back into their sockets. In front of my eyes he was changing into a beautiful eagle. Suddenly as I entered the third stage, his face turned into that of a six-year-old. He had tears running down his face and was longing for his mother, who was sick. The little boy seemed bereft, and was convinced his mother would never return home again. He looked inconsolable, and I wanted to reach out and comfort this child.
On the fourth stage I allowed the image to dissolve into pure energy. My partner disappeared, and all I saw were the last rays of the setting sun behind him. Antonio had explained to us that this last stage, which is the most difficult one, was necessary so that we did not bind the enduring image into physical reality. This was particularly important when we were working with a client to track future possibilities. You did not want to lock in the image of a client’s destiny. When you dissolved the image, you turned it over to the will of the Great Spirit.
It was difficult to dissolve the image of that forlorn little boy. I could not shake it from my mind. I had to focus on my breathing and let go of the intense feelings this image elicited. At the end of the exercise Carlos and I sat up and hugged each other warmly. We had never done this before. I explained to him the images I had seen, how tender I had felt toward him, and inquired what happened to his mother when he was six. Carlos was a very private man, and since we had avoided each other all these years, we knew nothing of the other’s personal life. He explained to me that his mother had died when he was one, while giving birth to his sister. He could not relate at all to what I had seen. At the end of the session Don Antonio explained that what we had seen in each other’s face was our own story. To my surprise, when I returned home I queried my mother and discovered that she had been in and out of hospitals for nearly a year when I was six years old.
Before you attempt this exercise with a client, be sure that you have received adequate training in the luminous healing practices. For the time being, use the tracking practice to discover all of the facets of your own being. Become familiar with the faces you carry within you. Should one appear on a client, be sure you can recognize it as your own projection. Often other people serve as a mirror for us to get to know those parts of our psyche we keep hidden from ourselves. Carl Jung referred to these disowned parts as the shadow. Remember that when the waters of a lake are absolutely still, the lake reflects the trees, the sky, and everything around it perfectly. At the slightest breeze, with the smallest ripple in the waters, the lake reflects nothing but itself. To see another with clarity and objectivity, one first must master stillness. The slightest breeze of judgment or interpretation from the rational mind will create a ripple that shatters the Second Awareness and returns us to ordinary perception.