- Selva Lawler
#21 - A Heavy, Heavy Feather
Each one of us is on our own path of learning. On that path, according to Don Howard, “We can receive our lessons with the weight of a hammer, a baseball bat, or a feather."
In many cases, I seem to elect and (eventually) learn best with ye olde Louisville Slugger. Life can be like the School of Hard Knocks, and sometimes it takes me getting bludgeoned repeatedly with a baseball bat for something important to really stick.
The 16 people in our most recent SpiritQuest retreat group had the honor of being part of the first Huachuma mesada that Selva, Don Howard's daughter and gifted prodigy, conducted this past Sunday. Selva has been her father’s ardent apprentice in Shamanism since childhood, and is blessed with special gifts in the art of the Huachuma mesada.
Seeing is believing, and Selva orchestrated a true masterpiece. She has learned her lessons from her father impeccably well, and as Don Howard told me afterward, Selva is only going to keep getting better.
Selva's skills at leading a Huachuma ceremony are sublime. I'm a hard grader, but in every category that I could possibly grade, she earned an A+. In naming a few areas that Selva passed with flying colors:
Set up of the mesa.
Command of the room.
Eye contact (i.e. staring into your soul in that Don Howard kind of way).
Courage and leading the way heart forward and head up.
Strength, exemplified not by brute force, but by love and kindness.
Saying the right thing to the right person at the right time (once again, in a way that only someone with Don Howard's genes would be capable of doing).
Ineffable Star Deck mastery (I can't even begin to describe that experience).
Feedback from our group, many of whom said it was the best day of their lives.
Don Howard saliently observes that, "Huachuma has a way of lovingly hitting you over the head. Huachuma is like a feather. But it’s a heavy, heavy feather." Huachuma is both powerfully gentle and gently powerful. And Huachuma has no shortage of invaluable lessons that it imparts.
Huachuma commands presence, but the reward for that presence is unmatched. The sense of time doesn't merely dilate on Huachuma; it ceases to exist entirely. What time is it? It is always now. When you’re present, each and every second feels like several ages of the Earth of present moments. It's why Don Howard explains that Huachuma is like living a lifetime in a day.
It's blissful to be in that flow of full immersion in the present moment. While our group was on the beach, one of the people being initiated to Huachuma insightfully expressed to me that "Each moment is delicious."
Huachuma doesn't show you anything that isn't there all the time. It's why Don Howard advises that on Huachuma, "Reality is the vision and vision is the reality." Huachuma is a clarifier. It’s hard to see and hard to drive if you have a dirty windshield. Huachuma thoroughly cleans the windshield.
Heed the subtleties on Huachuma, and all of a sudden, they aren't the least bit subtle. I barely took any written notes this time, as I was doing my best to stay in my heart as opposed to in my head, but one of only a few notes that I jotted down was that on Huachuma, "Pay close attention to the subtleties, and the subtleties turn into supernovas!"
When Forrest Gump ran across the U.S. for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours, he stated that some of the landscapes were so stunning that he couldn’t tell where Heaven stopped and Earth began. That resonates. After all, "You don't find Heaven," I was once told by Don Howard, "you realize it." Or as Don Howard said to me a few weeks back, "Once you really see the beauty in the world, you'll never let it leave you."
I couldn't process anything more glorious than the beauty on display this past Sunday. You don't hallucinate on Huachuma. Not one bit. Huachuma simply reveals to you the unvarnished truth of what you experience all the time, if you simply slow down enough and still your mind enough to appreciate it.
On multiple occasions, Huachuma has made me ponder, "How much do I really need?"
How much do I really need? And what do I really need? Let's take an inventory of last Sunday, for example: what did I really need? Well, a small slice of a secluded beach wasn't necessary, but it sure was delightful. The warmth of the sun. A glass or two of limonada. The inhale and exhale of my breath. A connection to my heartbeat. Community, friendship, and love. Perhaps a cup of heart-opening, mind-blasting Huachuma every now and then to remind me how it's all a gift. In adding all of those up, I reckon that is a lot, although not in a materialistic way.
Don Howard may be in the last movement of his life. From time to time I get emotional and well up with tears, and I've repeatedly received a message from Don Howard in a visionary state who has told me, "Where do you think I'm going, brother? Where do you think I'm going?" Whenever that happens, I'll inevitably sense something tangible. The feeling of a soft gust of the wind. The chirp of a bird. The howl of a coyote. Those palpable signs confirm this knowing I feel in my heart that the Maestro will always be here; he'll just be on the other side. Moreover, Don Howard has informed me that he'll always be there in ceremony supporting me, and I know his word is his bond.
When our group returned to the Sanctuary from our excursion on the beach and ascended to the Star Deck, a full, amber moon slowly peaked out from above the tree line. The evening sky was clear as crystal and the stars really popped. I felt Don Howard's presence.
As I was jaw-droppingly admiring the perfect Amazonian landscape and soaking all of it in, another wrinkle and answer to the lesson of "Where do you think I'm going?" became all too obvious: Selva. When Selva got up from her seat and walked right in front of me, it was an even more obvious "No duh!" moment that hit me with the force of a baseball bat. If I'm looking for Don Howard, I don't need to look anywhere beyond Selva's shining example. That's where Don Howard is. That's where he's going. Selva so beautifully carries on her father's tradition, and simultaneously brings her own energy to the experience and to SpiritQuest. That feeling became so abundantly self-evident, so profound, and yet up until that point, I had never done that Huachuma 1+1 math. Then, a phrase came to me in Spanish, "Siempre te apoyaré!", meaning, "I will always support you." (I knew that didn't come from my brain, because my Spanish leaves a bit to be desired and this came out so smoothly and effortlessly.) Needless to say, I made that promise.
The ensuing tears didn't appear subtly. Nothing was remotely subtle about it. I unleashed a torrent of tears. I was grateful that the tears felt so real and heartfelt. I had hit a bullseye, and my heart knew it. That was it. There. Right there. Right there was the moment. I was enormously grateful for the epiphanic lesson. And equally grateful that I wasn't sobbing at any audible level, as the sound would have been deafening if it was commensurate with the tears cascading down my face, Niagra Falls style. 😂 😂
Huachuma shows you how remarkable it is to be a human. Don Howard, Selva, and I firmly believe that Huachuma gives you the playbook to thereafter have a life really well-lived. It will present you with an indescribable day. Your mission - should you choose to accept it - is to do your best to live that way and live that kind of day again, moving forward.
Many people are never quite the same after the experience. Why is that? They know the true magnitude of what’s going on around them. Afterward, people feel an acute awareness of the concept of reciprocity and a sense of connectedness to Mother Nature and the Cosmos, and they reconcile and realize their relationship with everything and everyone.
I saw the same person who commented that on Huachuma, "Each moment is delicious", underneath a tree minutes before the group wrapped up this cycle of work and left the Sanctuary on Tuesday morning. Time and time again we hear from our graduates that they "felt like a kid again" while experiencing Huachuma at SpiritQuest. Many people get a sense of déjà vu, and it harkens them back to being like a child in experiencing the wonders and awe of the world. He was staring at a tree with a child-like awe. I asked him if the world still had that new-car-shine look to it. With a smile as wide as the Milky Way, he confirmed that the magic of the world hadn't faded in the slightest.
The SpiritQuest Huachuma experience is one that a part of me so wishes that everyone could undergo. And yet, I know temperance with that desire is the proper move. I would never want to proselytize or even persuade someone to do it, because Huachuma should only be done with reverence and intention, and it can be extremely hard work! Still, I'd be disingenuous if the thought didn't cross my mind in imagining how magical a world it would be if everyone felt a calling to it and would partake in it with an open heart. The reward? To experience that lifetime in a day in the Chavín/Don Howard/Selva tradition.
The people I most respect in life haven't played it small. When they saw an opportunity in life that was highly meaningful and worth pursuing - regardless if it was a cause, a vocation, a romantic partner - they went all in. They demonstrated the patience to be selectively ambitious for the right opportunity, and then pushed all of their chips into the center of the table when that all in moment arose. My admiration for them has very little to do with their successes or accomplishments in those endeavors; rather, it's that they took a calculated risk and boldly made the move.
We each can have certain limiting beliefs or behavioral patterns that prevent us from shining our light brightly. By believing those limiting beliefs, we invariably play it small and live small as we live more in fear than in love.
All of us have our moments of frustration and questioning about our paths. I suspect you'd be hard-pressed to find any human who has ever drawn a breath who hasn't. A friend of mine who I deeply admire eloquently wrote to me about this subject recently. He senses that "a new chapter is ready to begin, but I just can’t see what it looks like yet. You know, I have been moving around, trying my hand at different professions and living in different places and it has been exciting and challenging but I feel like I am ready to be more settled. I’m kind of yearning to stick my flag into the ground and be able to say: here I am and this is what I am doing. The only thing is, I don’t know where to stick this flag nor what exactly I should be doing. I’m hoping to receive some insight."
Huachuma, boiled down to one word, is about clarity.
Clarity. I got quite a bit more of it on Sunday. I'm immensely thankful. Taking Huachuma is like living, seeing, and experiencing a world without filters. Huachuma removes the veils. Huachuma excavates. When you remove the clouds from the sun, you recognize, “Oh yeah! The sun is always there!”
Being a tiny part of this Huachuma mesada was, without question, the most beautiful experience of my life. What an enormous privilege. In my own way, if I can pay that forward to others, that will be the gift that keeps giving.
In the last several months, I've had a few potential work opportunities come my way. Some have been really enticing, and check all of the boxes in terms of being outstanding ideas, filling a market niche, having seemingly excellent product/market fit, being financially lucrative, having top-notch people on board, being something that I could excel at and make a big difference, being given a lot of autonomy and independence, and being a lot of fun.
Notwithstanding that, upon further reflection, none of those opportunities feel like the right move. Being a retreat facilitator and a small part of what we do at SpiritQuest is what I want to do. To be a positive chacaruna for others.
So let it be written, so let it be done. In my opinion, the die has been cast. I've planted my flag firmly in the ground, and I know where I stand. With what I'm doing at SpiritQuest right now, that's about as big as I can play it. I can't offer anything more Para El Bien De Todos! (For the Good of All!). To see the kind of high-quality people SpiritQuest attracts, to see the dramatic results in just over a week's time (and to know that the blossoming is merely commencing), to see the gratitude and appreciation and love both immediately afterwards and in the months thereafter...all of that further fuels the Parker V. Sherry fire, and that fire rises. 🔥 🔥 🔥 The proof is in the pudding. The ink is dry, and I know I've made my choice.
I can certainly step it up - way, way up! - and continue to be a better version of myself. I fully intend to. Even though it's only been a few days, I have noticeably discarded many of the distractions, the fears, and the self-limiting beliefs that periodically weigh me down. I feel a heightened focus. A heightened sense of mission. A heightened resolve. In other words, the effects of that Huachuma clarity.
Until my final breath, I'll never stop striving in the mission to keep leveling up. If I can do anything more in service (what Don Howard describes as the meaning of life, summarized in one word) to humanity and Mother Earth apart from my work at SpiritQuest, it sure doesn't come to mind.
More importantly, it doesn't come to heart. And thanks to the reminder by Selva and that heavy, heavy feather that she wields, staying in my heart as much as possible moving forward is where I intend to remain.
Much love, respect, and gratitude for all of you, all that you do, and more importantly, all that you are!