How to train your dragon

Eagle_dragonJust let go. Let the rhythm of the drum release you. We were told before the session that the drum is the key to enter the trance. 3 beats per second puts us in a more receptive brainwave pattern, allowing deeper exploration of the inner realm. Once the mind is unlocked, the voice of the guide directs the way. Our guide is Joshua. He’s from California, but he’s legit. Lived among the natives in both North and south America.  Well-cut surfer body, trained in martial arts and yoga, covered in tattoos. He is physically impressive, yet his giant heart is his most striking feature. This guy lives the example. He is well-suited to guide the journey ahead.  What did he say? ‘Just let go. Deeper. Deeper. Just let go. Let the rhythm of the drum release you.’

Your power animal symbolizes your spirit. It is a part of you, and all the energy you are here to express. The vision quest of the native North Americans, the walkabout of the Aboriginals, the plant-induced rituals of Amazonian tribes all provoke a connection with our animal spirit. It is a rite of passage, a requisite step toward maturity. From the point of western psychology, the animal with whom you bond is an archetype. It is a symbol of who you believe yourself to be at a subconscious level. How do you see yourself? Where is your proper place? What power do you possess?

Tonight’s journey was a search for answers to all these questions. 5 of us laid in a circle, heads toward the center. We were 5 wanderers from all over the map that somehow converged on this open porch in southern Thailand. We had all met Joshua around the island, and were drawn in when he mentioned a free shamanic journey. Everybody ready? Let’s dive in.

Eyes closed, the drumming begins. It’s soft, but loud enough to hear over the din of life in the canopy of forest above. The mind wanders off… what am I doing here? This is lame… Back to the drum. The rhythm blasting through the noise of mental distraction. This won’t work. It’s just hippie nonsense. The predictable voice of western skepticism always a breath away, but there’s the drum. It’s starting to work, and my awareness dives beneath the waves of noise. I can hear the critical voice above, but it’s losing volume. It’s only the drum I hear. My body sinks an inch deeper into the floor, my eyelids start to flutter. The constant sound of drum has taken over all other senses, as conscious mind fades.

Joshua’s voice comes in – ‘Picture a desert, flat in every direction, nothing in view but a tree. As you walk toward the tree, you notice a hole in the ground at its base. The opening is just big enough for you to crawl in. Do it. It’s cool an dark as you descend into the hole. Don’t worry, just keep going. Up ahead, you see a light. It grows brighter as you draw near. When you reach the light, the tunnel opens into an enormous cavern. More like an underground world, the space is vast, stretching beyond sight, with a ceiling high above. The entire scene is warm with soft light, showing trees, hills, a river, even mountains. This is the spirit realm, and you are here to connect with your lost power. Somewhere in this realm, there is an animal waiting for you to find him. It is up to you to figure out how…’ as Joshua’s voice disappears, the soft, distant sound of the drum continues.

I knew coming into this what I would find. I was born in the year of the dragon, and always identified with this mythical creature. Living in Asia for 7 years, I learned all about the dragon’s significance. I like the sense of power, the good luck, the sharp wit, and all the dragon represents to the culture there. So my perception on this journey was already skewed, but I decided to play the game with an open mind.

The first animal I encountered was a rabbit. I asked ‘Are you my power animal?’ He shook his head and waved me to continue walking down the path. Later, I came to a Bear, strong and serene. He appeared fierce, but approachable, so I stopped to ask. Again, I was waved on. The bear pointed me toward a path that led to a cave in the side of the mountain. Ah, this is where I’ll find the dragon for sure.

I entered the cave, rounding a bend toward a light ahead. The suspense of meeting my dragon started to excite my imagination. Just as the lair came into view, a flash from behind caught my attention. Securely gripped by the shoulders, I was lifted… up, up, up to the cliff high above. When I was released, I sat directly above the dragon’s lair, face to face with an eagle. ‘Oh, come on. What is this? You’re not my power animal.’ He looked me in the eye and asked ‘When are you gonna give up this dragon shit and claim your real power? You are much more than you think.’ I resisted, thinking this was a test, but he continued. ‘The dragon has power in its own way, but it is dark, hidden from view, hoarding and protecting its riches with malice. I will teach you a higher path.’

Before I could react, he caught me off guard, hurling me off the cliff into the abyss. Falling fast, I hear from behind ‘Now fly!’ Looking out to the side, I found my hands and forearms covered in feathers. With a subtle turn, the fall was controlled. Banking left, then right, I found flying quite natural. ‘Now’ the great eagle said, ‘I will show you how to defeat the dragon.’ With that, he dropped down just above the sleeping dragon, close enough to clasp and pull a scale from the great beast’s back. Under normal circumstances, I would shy away from a fight with anyone, but this eagle was provoking a dragon! Angered at the offense, the dragon came to life. His head lifted to find us above. With a deafening roar, his wings opened wide as he came up to pursue.

The flight of the eagle is swift and agile. He circled the dragon in smooth, tight turns, making the dragon seems clumsy, awkward. Each pass, the eagle attacked, angering the dragon even more. Now the dragon was fully wound up, and the eagle called me in to the action. ‘Come! Engage! Now!’ Fighting my resistance, I flew straight in. A few nice moves, and my beginner’s luck helped me at first, but the dragon caught me. Caught in the claws, eye to eye with the beast, I was frozen in fear. ‘Now is the crucial move. See the fear. See the enemy as an illusion and feel your power.’ With that, a great burst of strength filled my wings. I flew straight in to my fear, straight toward the wrath of this foe. With that, my mind fixed on victory, the claws lost their grip, and the dragon’s flesh tore apart. I moved straight through where the dragon had been as his form faded away like burning embers of a fire that raged. The dragon was defeated. I was the eagle.

Back to the cliff, we sat eye to eye in silence. This eagle was me, and our forms began to merge as the sound of the drum called me back. Joshua’s voice invited a return through the realm, a return through the hole and out to the desert above. As I emerged to the starlit sky above, the drumming ceased. The journey was complete.

Awake, aware of the surrounding jungle, I opened my eyes. Of the 5 who embarked on this journey, 2 fell asleep, 2 had a vague inkling of a dream, but mine was so vivid. I decided to share it when asked. The whole circle looked on, gripped by my account of what had transpired. I had entered this with an open mind, but never expected such a vivid experience. It was so real, so lifelike, as if I’d walked right through the screen into a film. Even now, 3 years later, I remember every sensation: the sights, the textures, the pain, the smell of the dragon. Describing it to the others felt like I just had an overactive imagination, but this was something totally new for me. I had become the eagle. I didn’t know what that meant, and it felt like a disappointment, a downgrade from my magical status. But the symbolic meaning of the journey itself obviously told a different story.

This was a personal breakthrough that I am still learning to embrace. Of course the whole experience is colored by my experience and inner archetypes. The eagle is a universal symbol of power, but who am I to be powerful? That’s the fear talking, the resistance. Really, why would I not internalize and embody this ideal? The fact is, the eagle sees from a bird’s eye view. It is the king of the sky. It is the part in each of us that comes forth in the moment we challenge our fear. Yes, I have felt aligned with this power many times in life, and I believe everyone else has too. The trick is to stay in that frequency of strength and freedom even when we’re tempted to cower in fear or sink into our cave, hording our riches and growing grumpy. Each time I put myself out in plain view, I risk criticism and failure, but the alternative is simply not an option. We must fly with the wings we are given.

p.s. thanks for the image, harley-davidson. it’s perfect.

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