The Shaman in the Stars

April 21, 2014 Christine McDonald Human Behavior and Animals

The stars are storytellers for little boys who cannot sleep.  Locate the right one and find your way into the atlas of the universe where all the best stories reside.

And so our impromptu story telling began at bedtime with a sky full of stars as guides and listeners.  My son, Kyle was four and we were both tiring of Dr. Seuss and nursery rhymes.  Our stories began something like this, “Once upon a star there was a ______,” and the first word that popped into our head was the beginning of a story that took us into the depths of our own imaginations.  And we could go anywhere.

Deep into caves of four headed reptilian creatures that slept on beds of gemstones and had names like Claypox.  Sometimes there was a villain and a foe, and other times a budding romance of a boy meeting a girl in a far-away galaxy where everyone had two toes, three fingers, and walked in circles when they said Hello.

The stories went on and on until the vowels turned into yawns, consonants slurred, and sleep came. You might be inclined to believe a peaceful night’s sleep was in store for all.  But that is not what happened.

Consistently, my son woke up our small household of four about 3 am.   Not a quiet, gentle please put me back to bed kind of wakefulness.  This was yelling, screaming and night walking.  As he got older, there might be an adult dialogue.  “Give me the money.  I have a gun” or “Stop or I will, shoot you” and then more screaming, kicking and walking about the house.  I must have witnessed my son die a dozen times in those early morning hours.

We tried to wake him up but could not and by morning Kyle did not remember anything.   The day began as if nothing happened and off to preschool or school he went without any recollection of the night’s events.

We shared out stories with other parents thinking their children might be experiencing something similar.  They looked somewhat confused and shared their child might occasionally have a nightmare, but the child was easily comforted and went right back to bed.  We eventually found someone who told us our son was having night terrors.  They told us, “Children grow out of them” and to not get alarmed.

When Kyle started first grade the night terrors might happen once or twice a week.  By the second grade we could make predictions on when or where they might happen; stressful day at school, a long play day without a nap, too much sugar before bedtime.

Spending the night with a friend became a problem.  After parents of his friends called us in the middle of night not knowing what to do we had to start warning them, “Kyle might have a night terror and if you hear him screaming to call us and we will come and get him.”  If we were lucky nothing happened.  But sometimes that was not the case.  And everyone but Kyle looked like they had just walked out of a horror movie by early morning.

We tried lots of things, but the terrors did not stop.  I decided to ask my spiritual teacher, Leslie if she could help us.  She was in Portland, Oregon, for a weekend of teaching and meditation. Leslie is an enlightened spiritual teacher from South Africa.   I told Leslie all about Kyle and his night terrors.  I told her about being woken up in the middle of the night, the screaming and the violent dialogues we witnessed.  They were so animated it felt like someone else was in the room.

Leslie told me Kyle had been a Vietnam soldier in a previous life.  She went on to say many children were reincarnating after having lives of being in the Vietnam War.  He was trying to work out his previous life traumas in his sleep.  My son’s night terrors coincided with a series of school shootings that happened in Colorado and Oregon.

I asked Leslie if there was anything I could do to help Kyle.  She told me to put a picture of her near his bed so he could see it before he went to sleep.   Leslie instructed me to tell him that she was going to help him.  She told me I would need to talk to him when he was older about his previous life as a Vietnam Veteran. She suggested getting some books or movies about the lives of veterans.   I thanked her for her help, bought a picture before I left, and did everything she told me to do.

He never had another night terror, not even one.  For the first time in years we all started getting a good night’s rest.  The bedtime story telling and creative dialogue continued.  My son was able to explore more friendships away from home, his creativity blossomed, and he did all the things little boys do.  My faith in the world of spiritual teachers and guides took a leap forward.

This is my story and how I remember it.  I have learned much since those starry nights of storytelling with my son.  Children retain a connection to the mysterious. As adults, the closest thing we have to wisdom is rooted in the mysterious.

I am grateful for the support given by my spiritual teacher in understanding how to release and heal this past life trauma.   Before psychiatrists and counseling, the role of the shaman, or tribal healer, was to help members of the community heal from trauma.  Shamanistic cultures see a disconnection between body and soul and know how to retrieve the soul back into the body.  Leslie played the role of the shaman and helped my son reconnect with his body.

Understanding how trauma or PTSD gets frozen in the body and how to release it are of interest to me.  Untangling the knots of my childhood and adult traumas have pushed my life in new directions and put me on a spiritual path.  The mystic role of healers in releasing trauma has been replaced with science, medicine and drugs.  Modern medicine is beginning to acknowledge the depth of the impact trauma has on the body, mind, and soul.  But with all the conflict in the world, the role of the mystical shaman in healing trauma is needed now more than ever.  Soldiers returning from worn torn countries, accidents, victims of violence in our schools, neighborhoods and cities, and unknown causes of disease, may all contribute to or originate from trauma.

My intuitive work with animals is an ever growing learning curve that has coincided with my own understanding and healing of trauma.  Humans share a common bond with animals in the way trauma is discharged from the body.   Peter Levine in his book Waking the Tiger, Healing from Trauma provides guidance on the importance of understanding how to heal from trauma. If left uninterrupted, animals will recover far more quickly from an accident, attack or near death experience than humans.  They stay connected to their bodies and allow their neurological systems to release the trauma rather than freeze it.

My two children are adults now and both are embarking on careers in human and social behavior.  I do not know if these early childhood events affected their career choices.  I do know compassion for humanity has grown as I heal my past.  Trauma remains a part of the human experience.  Unresolved, the nature of trauma is to hide in the psyche of our awareness.  Years or lifetimes can pass before healing and a return to our authenticity.  Trauma can be a bad dream or night mare until we find the gems of wholeness in the rubble of an outdated story.

PTSDshaman and mysticismtrauma


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