A new José Stevens Article

Working With Physical Challenges

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In August of 2011 Lena and I decided to take a much needed short local vacation after months of hard work. Both of us were in great need of being in the great outdoors and doing something physical after months of Power Path events, writing, and seeing clients. We ventured out to Canyon de Chelly in Arizona, rented horses from a Dine man, and spent the day exploring the Canyon. It was great fun but by the end of six or seven hours of riding I had an aching back due to one of the stirrups being a little shorter than the other. After spending the night we were off to visit a friend in Telluride, hiked around the mountains, and rode our mountain bikes around local trails. The following day I decided to take my bike up the lift to ride down one of the mountain bike trails back into town. I went up with my daughter Anna and her husband Aaron and they decided to take a much longer trail. I was still tired and hurting a bit from the horse so I chose a shorter trail. The signs and maps were a bit confusing and soon I realized I was on a very steep expert trail that I was not qualified to be on. Too late! On my hair raising way down I fell off my bike twice but managed to get to the bottom without further incident. After a couple days of more activity we headed back to town just in time to do one of our programs on our land. The first day I was leading a chi gong exercise when I felt a little crunch in my left knee along with a sharp pain. After about an hour my knee had swollen up like a grapefruit and I could effectively no longer get around. I thought, “OH NO! A torn meniscus. How can that be? All I was doing was a little chi gong”.

Then I thought about the horse, the mountain bike, falling off the bike, and all the activity of the last week and realized that somewhere in there I had injured myself without realizing it and all it took was a little twist to put the finishing touches on my meniscus.

Ten years before, I had torn the meniscus on my other knee in a skiing accident and had it operated on with great results. However, then I had medical insurance and a more open schedule. Now I had a non stop schedule with no breaks in the works for a number of months and no medical insurance. Being 63, not old enough for Medicare and too old for affordable private insurance, I was in the window of no coverage. I had given up the insurance I had when I discovered that no matter what I tried to use it for it was always disallowed. I was basically paying the insurance company for turning me down. They probably would have turned me down again saying it was a preexisting condition. “Oh well”.

In the days that followed, I went to urgent care and got checked out and after an MRI it was determined that indeed I had torn my meniscus on my left knee. After checking out the astronomical price of a knee operation, I decided that perhaps I could heal the knee myself. So, I spent the next eight months stumbling around like an old man with my knee locking up every other day or so. I heard about people healing torn cartilage on their own without surgery so I decided to try it out. I tried prayer, concentration, ceremony, massage, electronic mats, lazers, distance healing, psychic surgery, you name it. I put on special penetrating lotions, took anti inflammatory enzymes, and ate glucosamine and chondroiton pills by the handfuls. Perhaps it kept the pain down and made me more mobile, but it did not mend the torn meniscus. During that time I had major travel for work. I went to Peru twice, Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Mexico twice, New York twice, Chicago, San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Texas, and Denver, all the while shlepping luggage and other gear. I did lots of shamanic healing, hiked mountains, trucked across the desert, drove thousands of miles and so on. Sometimes my knee seemed like it was getting better and sometimes worse. Finally in May, 2012, I gave up. I went out to get the newspaper one morning and stepped on a cobblestone slightly wrong and in moments had a major knee lockup with severe pain. I knew I was in trouble and that my efforts to heal my knee had finally come to an end. I also had a little open time due to the cancelation of a trip to Peru. I decided enough was enough and I had to do something drastic. So I went to the local Orthopedic Surgeon who had worked on my son’s knee and he took an x-ray of my knee and showed me the tear. There it was, just like it had been eight months before. I said, “when can we do it doc?” He said, well I have a cancelation tomorrow. “Holy shit” I thought. I could be done with this tomorrow. However I had to go down to the hospital and negotiate the fee since I was uninsured. Off I went and like buying a car at a dealership I got involved in hard core negotiations and came away with what I thought was something I could live with. After all, they have to keep their operating room full and machinery buzzing or they lose money just like airlines with empty seats. Better to sell them more cheaply than not at all. By the time I got back to the doc, the cancelation was gone so I was on the calendar for a month later. Oh well, just one more month. I could live with that.

I counted the days. However, I had some considerations to deal with. When I had been traveling in India in my twenties I met a Vedic Astrologer guru who gave me a predictive reading about my life. Little did I know that he would go all the way to the end of my life and tell me when I would die. This freaked me out at the time to say the least. It was like, “don’t think of a pink elephant”. How are you supposed to forget a thing like that. I never did manage to forget it. Fortunately, the date came and went and I am still here, after years of trying not to think about it. However, the date was not that long ago so maybe I was still in the window. What if I had karma with the Anesthesiologist and he gave me a triple dose of anesthesia. I could suddenly die on the table. It does happen to people who go in for simply surgeries like this. The hospital had given me some paperwork to fill out and one of the booklets was a State of New Mexico set of directives for what should happen if I were rendered a vegetable after surgery. Should they use artificial means to prolong my life? Do I want to donate my organs? Who do I appoint my guardian? Hmmmm! Was this a sign or something?

I decided to go see my Astrologer, Tom Brady, after a three year recess. First thing he said when I walked into his office was, “oh, still alive I see”. He went on to tell me that with the astrology I had just been through in the last several years I was very fortunate that all I had were some bumps and bruises. He said this is the kind of astrology that kills people. Suddenly I realized why the Vedic Astrologer in India had predicted my demise during this time. Fortunately Tom said that the worst was behind me and I had some good alignments coming up. I just needed to be careful not to overdo things after surgery. “OK” I thought, “I can do that,” breathing a big sigh of relief.

Armed with this new information I began shamanic preparations. I virtually visited the operating room and began to prepare it. I called upon my allies to help my knee recover quickly. I brought in protection, a giant virtual octahedron over the operating table, and I instructed it to allow in only healing and beneficial influences and keep out anything that was not conducive to healing. I blew clouds of virtual protective jungle tobacco over my imagined body lying on the operating table. I invoked my counsel of expert healing masters and consulted with them about my upcoming operation. They said, “don’t worry, you will be fine.” Each day I handed the surgery over to spirit and said, “ok, this is your surgery so do what you know to be best”. I took a page from Steve Jobs’ book and each day I would look around me and think, “ok, if this is the last day of my life how do I want it to be?”

Meanwhile, I talked to my knee and explained to it that I was sorry it had been injured and in pain for so long. I thanked it for its many years of service and told it that it was going to have to undergo surgery and I would do my best to help it recover. My knee seemed anxious to have it over with so I could kneel, sit cross-legged, and walk normally again.

The day before the operation I stopped by the hospital for a pre-op interview. Seeing my age they wanted to know if I had hearing aides and/or dentures. They wanted my list of pharmaceutical medications that I took daily. They read me a long list of diseases they were certain I would have, being as old as I was. I had to disappoint them. When they asked me who my primary physician was and I said none, they looked at me incredulously. I couldn’t tell them that my primary physician was a spirit and that the plant medicines I took were not the kind of medicines they meant. In fact, this experience was quite amusing. They required that I take an EKG and blood test just in case. The nurse stared at the EKG and shook her head and asked me if I was an athlete. I said “yes”, that I had been. The blood test was the same. If something is going to kill me it won’t be those things.

Finally the big day came. I felt strangely calm. After Lena blew some good mapacho smoke over me and my knee she drove me to the hospital and I got changed into the party dress they make you wear and got me onto a gurney in a pre op waiting room and pulled the shade. I started cleaning out the room with virtual tobacco smoke, concentrating on the corners of the room where energy tends to collect. I called in my allies, my team of healers and told them this was it, the time I needed them. I asked them to bless the nurses, the anesthesiologist, and the surgeon. I did some Ho’oponopono to forgive this situation and to release the pattern of non support that gave rise to this condition in the first place. The left leg is about support, the knee is about flexibility. Putting those together and injury to the knee on the left leg is about lack of flexibility in receiving support, a long held pattern that it was time for me to let go of. Having the injury required me to ask for and receive support from a great many people and so the experience was quite useful.

Meanwhile various nurses and prep people kept coming into the room joking with me and I took the opportunity to joke right back at them. I practiced seeing them as other me’s, as parts of myself over there helping me out. I looked around the room and reminded myself that there was no real room here, just a dream, a specific hallucination drummed up out of the quantum field that I was experiencing. This realization actually made me feel like bursting out laughing and I had to control myself or risk the staff thinking I was losing my mind. Eventually they hooked me up to an IV of saline solution, check my vitals and remarked at how healthy I seemed to be. When they had left me alone again I suddenly perceived a strong feeling of warmth in my heart and then a portal began to open up in the space above my chest.

Now there are no words to capture what this experience was like. It was like an oval stargate opening in the air over me and shimmering a bit. While it seemed like a portal, it also seemed like a presence. I couldn’t exactly understand it but I was very glad it was there and it made the room feel like sacred space and filled with bright light. When the nurse came to wheel me into the operating room, it remained in place over me as I was transferred. I felt totally calm and peaceful. So pronounced was it that I wondered how the others in the room could not notice it. Somehow in that short space of time I felt the answers to many questions come to me and I felt some kind of a shift, a good shift as if something were being completed and left behind and something good were beginning. This presence seemed to be showing me that all the things I had worried about were absolutely nothing at all when compared with what being was really all about. I was just able to glimpse my essence and it was grand. Shortly after, they administered the anesthesia and I was gone in seconds.

I awoke in what seemed like moments later and to my surprise I was singing. I did not know if I had been singing out loud, I think it was more mental singing. And I somehow had the presence of mind to be singing icaros from the jungle and remembering all the words and phrases. I remember thinking this was odd because they had told me I would be very groggy when I woke up. I kept on singing this way until the nurse came and asked me how I was and I said I was great. She looked at me kind of oddly.

Then Lena came in the room and she told me the surgeon had told her that despite having two tears in my meniscus that my knee was in great shape, especially compared with the two other surgeries he had done that morning. He said he felt like he had actually repaired my knee completely and that made him feel good. I got in the car, rode home, and immediately started writing and completing tasks. I was filled with energy all day long.

Now it has been a month since the surgery. There have been moments of doubt when the swelling and pain got tiresome and I wondered when I would be able to walk pain free again. The day after tomorrow I leave for Guatemala with one of our our shamanic study groups. I can walk pretty well. Going downstairs is still tough but everything else is coming along. My knee can catch at times but the doc assures me this will go away.

Sometimes I ask myself what this was all about. Why do my learning processes have to be so physical? Couldn’t I have gotten the teachings more easily. With reflection, I have seen benefits. There is nothing like a physical condition that impairs walking to focus the mind. A moment of distraction results in a painful stumble. I have had to pay attention. I have had to be mindful. I have had to walk with deliberation and patience. I have had to look at any number of ego fears regarding my impermanence. I have had to look at any tendency to complain and whine about my condition, etc. The process has not been fun but it has been useful. I have reflected on all those veterans coming home without limbs, some missing several and how they manage these losses. Comparatively, my knee problems have been very minor. Some day these types of injuries will be healed easily by the mind. Not yet however. I have been humbled by what I have not been able to do. At times the medical establishment can be a good garage to keep the old auto moving down the road.

I am grateful to all of you who have helped me during this long stretch. I am looking forward to being active again. Since my moving center is my healer, I have sorely missed it for a while. Now I can concentrate on more interesting things like how I can be more helpful to others through my writing, shamanic work, and sessions with people.

I know that the news of the world is somewhat disheartening right now. We are in the deconstruction zone and it is messy. Politicians won’t save us. Corporations are projections of our illusions about ourselves. They won’t save us. Technology is fun and might be helpful but it won’t save us as long as we remain immature. The economy seems important to everyone but at the end of the day it is just a reflection of an old way we deal with energy. What is the economy within ourselves? What is our debt to the planet, to spirit, to each other? How do we pay that? What is the real currency? What if it is love? Is there really not enough? If we move to the real economy, how long would it take to make things right?

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José Stevens

José Luis Stevens, PhD is the president and co-founder (with wife Lena) of Power Path Seminars, an international school and consulting firm dedicated to the study and application of shamanism and indigenous wisdom to business and everyday life. José completed a ten-year apprenticeship with a Huichol (Wixarika) Maracame (Huichol shaman) in the Sierras of Central Mexico. In addition, he is studying with Shipibo shamans in the Peruvian Amazon and with Paqos (shamans) in the Andes in Peru. In 1983 he completed his doctoral dissertation at the California Institute of Integral Studies focusing on the interface between shamanism and western psychological counseling. Since then, he has studied cross-cultural shamanism around the world to distill the core elements of shamanic healing and practice. He is the author of twenty books and numerous articles including Encounters With Power, Awaken The Inner Shaman, The Power Path, Secrets of Shamanism, Transforming Your Dragons and How To Pray The Shaman's Way.