Excerpt from Chapter 3: Meeting Yuan Miao

As we listen to the primordial healing sounds from Miao’s lineage, she encourages us to move freely, following whatever our bodies feel inclined to do. Losing myself in sound and movement I have the following vision:

I’m walking in the forest and I come across an impossibly huge tube of skin, obviously shed by a snake. Then, in the distance, I see an equally gigantic diamond-backed rattlesnake slithering through the trees. He is hidden and sinister, but Miao’s mantras are soothing, calming, and quieting him. For the moment he is staying in the background, sliding silently through the trees, moving seamlessly through dark and shadowy realms.

I realize Dan’s suicide has called me to deeply enter into and explore these realms, but I think it will be a quick descent and return. I do not anticipate the increasing severity of the challenges I will face there. I do not yet understand that this is only the first in a series of life experiences that will call upon me to let go of my illusion of control—to transform the way I live if I want to survive. All I have to do is learn the trick of sliding out of my old skin.

The world looks different as I exit the bookstore: the stars are brighter, colors more intense. I’m the person getting into my car and the person watching me do so at the same time. I sense that a significant shift has already taken place in my consciousness.

What I don’t grasp at all as I leave the workshop is that I have just embarked on a profound journey with a spiritual master whose teachings and practices will be my guide when my own tether to this realm is ravaged by cancer and threatens to break loose three years from now.