The Guffa Initiation

When the spirits find someone to work through to help others who are suffering, sometimes that person finds themselves practising shamanic healing.

This happened to me.

Sometimes I wonder how many times I will die and be re-born in this lifetime! And then I remember, I am a shamanic healer. My soul has asked for this , so I have to get use to the ride. And believe me, it has been an adventure!

In my travels to Nepal and studying with the Tamong and Tibetans, we were asked to go through an initiation called the Guffa. It is believed that the shaman needs to go into a cave from anywhere to a day, to weeks,to  pray, do chod ( offering your body to the masson, suffering souls ) and to invite in the hungry ghost. The whole purpose is to test the pure heart of the initiate.

This was my second time to Nepal and we were outside the Kathmandu Valley. My friend who put it together did a great job with hiring local shamans to assist us and add to the deep sense of community.

For a week we spent in a huge tent, sleeping on the floor with out camping gear, praying, drumming, and praying some more. We would drum and pray at the graveyard near the tent area, to call up the hungry ghost. This was all part of the ceremony and I was a simple participant.

Every night as the village folk would come up after their day, we would drum and do shamanic dancing with different masks that would represent the various deities and shadow parts of ourselves. I remember the local shaman’s,  Bell, Samindra, Amma, Maya and Ram would be sharing their particular medicine with the community.

It was so beautiful to see the glowing faces of the town folk, the laughter and joy that we were there. They knew, that what we were doing would help “clean up” the dark spirits, which in turn would bring happiness and joy to the hillside.

In the forest, they had constructed three little huts that each initiate would stay in for how ever long they wanted. The decision was made at the beginning, that most of us would stay for one night.

So, each night, after the evening puja, we would walk the initiate to the guffa huts, sending them off with prayers of protection. At dawn, they would be gathered and walked back to the main tent to rest, as part of the initiation, was to stay up all night and help the hungry ghosts.

The third night was my turn. I was pretty nervous and excited at the same time. I forgot to mention that the first night we were there and we had prayed, drummed and danced on the graveyard, that night there were these spirits that came in the tent and were trying to eat me. I was deep in sleep and all I could do was moan! In the morning Larry asked who was moaning and I just said…” if you only knew..”

Off I go to my guffa hut. There was room for a candle, my drum and my alter, with a cloth curtain for the door. The wind kept blowing it open and it was pitch dark.  Within minutes of me not hearing my friends footsteps, going back up the hill, someone was shaking the hut…it literally felt like I was being shaken up.

I got my drum out and started chanting. I could see with my shaman’s eyes layers and layers of spirits outside the hut. They were all asking me for help. As I began to feed them my body ( chod) and see who needed help passing over,  many started to tell me their story of suffering. I was so moved and chanted and prayed for hours, until I felt they had all been helped. Then I decided to lay down for a few moments.

As soon as I fell asleep I felt myself being pulled out of the hut by my hair. I woke up and shouted, “NO!!” and again began the chanting praying and drumming.

I was taken to NY as 9/11 had just happened a month ago. I stayed up till dawn listening to where I needed to go to be of service. By then, I felt fearless. All I could feel was my soft, vulnerable heart and the sound of my drum and my singing.

As I was brought back to the main tent in the morning, I got a high fever and slept most of the day. I simply allowed myself to feel what was transforming in my being. At the same time, knowing I was in the right place and so grateful to be alive.

After the week was over, there was a huge celebration from the village community, with prayers, food, flowers and many hugs. We also had a fire ceremony, where we walked on the hot coals and brought the “scared flame” back to the people. It was a powerful full moon that night and there was much laughter and joy in the circle!

I had met this lovely village woman named Sita. She would bring us water daily up the mountain. Even not knowing the language, we could share and speak with our hearts ( it was also great to have an interpreter). I will always remember the hugs, knowing we were spirit sisters, with the sweet memories of what we shared with the community.

It was later in the trip that I was able to meet the Tibetan shaman’s in Pokara. There, I felt I had come home. I knew that somehow my shamanic work would be working in the lineage of His Holiness, The Dali Lama.

Years later, I met Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, and he continues to be my main root lama ( teacher). The Bon teaching are based on ancient shamanic principles and the main protector, is a Goddess, Weshi Walmo, who is the Mother, protector and guardian. She is fearless and she lives in my heart.

My shamanic work is a combination of all the studying I have done over many years and I continue to have gratitude for all the indigenous cultures who have preserved their shamanic teaching, as the Mother Earth and Her children, need this wisdom more than ever!