José Stevens PhD is an international lecturer, corporate team builder and organizational coach, consultant and trainer. A psychologist, licensed clinical social worker and author of more than twenty books and numerous articles, he is also co-editor for the Journal of Shamanic Practitioners and a board member. He is the founder, with his wife Lena, of the Power Path School of Shamanism and The Center for Shamanic Education and Exchange, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating youth in indigenous cultures. He has completed a ten-year apprenticeship with a Huichol Maracame in Mexico and has studied with the Shipibos of the Amazon and the Paqos of the Andes for the last thirty years.
My recent rather short eleven day trip to Vietnam was a much larger event than I could have imagined even though I knew that at some point in my life I was going to have to travel there for some completion. The trip was conceived of as both a family vacation and as a kind of pilgrimage to a land scarred not only by a war of my generation but from many past and present insults. Every once in a while my family likes to take a trip together that is not work related and so we look for interesting places we can go where air fares are bargains and this time it came up for Vietnam. My son Carlos needed a break from a heavy work schedule and the rains of Seattle as did his girlfriend Katie, and Anna, her husband Aaron, Lena and I all needed a break too from a long hard winter. So we arranged to travel together to Vietnam to get some southeast asian culture, some heat, and much desired time together. As a family we had a wonderful bonding experience and I am glad they were with me to support my own rather intense experience there.
Recently I returned from The lake Titicaca region in Bolivia and Peru, more alive than ever. This is the story of a miracle, but then, miracles have become the norm in my life. This is not to say I take these events for granted or that I am not amazed each time something like this happens.
Last month someone asked about Tiger Woods and I wrote about how some individuals volunteer to become an icon or symbol for humanity. They live bigger than life and dramatically represent some of the big lessons humanity faces. In the same way certain regions do this for the world. If the whole world represents the collective psyche of humanity then Haiti represents that part of us that is downtrodden, overlooked, ignored, and dismissed.
The current vampire craze is a most interesting phenomenon that is becoming a bigger and bigger theme, especially among young people. Let us look at a brief history of where vampires originated, some of the particulars of vampirism, and recent developments to understand how this craze mirrors deeper processes in the human psyche.
A brief history:
Concern over vampires has been reported in most cultures and continents on Earth since the dawn of time. Mostly the fears have been associated with the dead returning to life and creating havoc or coming back to people they knew and hurting or killing them. Therefore great care has been taken with burials, honoring the dead, and not provoking them. Burial sites are often avoided or placed in remote locations.
During the month of October I had the extraordinary opportunity to travel from the Peruvian Andes to the Amazon jungle, visiting in sequence the Q’ero people in the mountains and the Shipibo of the upper Amazon. This amazing trip was only partially a result of long term planning. While the trip to the jungle was part of our long term schedule, the Andean part of the trip was, to be truthful, last minute. One of our students, Richard, had connected with the Q’ero people on a prior trip to Cuzco and became a godfather to one of their children. The child was now close to two years old and it was time for the important hair cutting ceremony that signals an infants initiation into the greater community. Until that time the child’s hair (whether male or female) remains uncut and uncombed and can appear quite scraggly. Because of high infant mortality it is unclear whether the child will survive or not. Between one and two years of age the child is deemed old enough to be received more fully into the tribe. Being the godparent, Richard was responsible to make the trip to Peru and cut the child’s hair along with the giving of proper gifts and financial support. He did not particularly want to make this extensive trip alone and asked my daughter Anna, my wife Lena, and myself a couple of months before if we would be interested in going. After brief consideration we decided that this was an unparalleled opportunity to visit a people we were very much interested in meeting, so we said yes.
This is a personal story of recent events in the Amazon and the extraordinary experience I had there. The upper Amazon region of Peru is the home of the Shipibo people, a tribe of indigenous people who practice their ancient shamanic traditions and are known as the go to people for training shamans from all over the Amazon.
I consider myself to be a proud member of the green generation. I have grown up in a time where eating organic, holistic health, and riding your bike to work are constantly gaining in popularity. A time when North Americans are finally waking up to the harm they have caused our planet and have made small steps towards progress. The green generation has observed the foolish mistakes of our parents, leaders and teachers, and knows that there exists a much more harmonious way of living.
The last time I was in Bangkok, Thailand in 1976, there was a government coup. Later in the nineties as Lena and I arrived in Nepal, an insurrection was in full force leading us to hole up in our hotel under government curfew.