If you have visited me as a client or as student for any of my classes or gatherings, you have seen her.
She is always presiding every healing session and ceremony with her intriguing smile and calming presence.
Some of you have asked me who she is and where I got her from.
Some of you have sat down and spent time with me, patiently listening to the whole story.
In one of those warm summer nights of 2016 when I used to stay up late avidly reading The time in between by Maria Dueñas, I went to bed reflecting in awe about how the author had managed to put together such an intense historical drama. I lied down in the dark thinking about all the research she must had done to get all the details of the world of espionage during the Spanish civil war, but above all, I was enchanted because most of the locations the novel took place in, I had visited. I was mentally going over the names of the cities and the memories popping up with them: Madrid, Tangier, Tétouan, Lisbon... "I have certainly left many pieces of me over there," I silently stated and continued to close my eyes resting them in preparation for a promising good night's sleep.
Through our bedroom's curtainless window, the white glow of the street light in front of our house would always sneak in, giving us the sensation of a perpetual full moon display every night. Since we don't like curtains, we got used to perceiving this light with our eyelids shut and somehow it became soothing.
But that night had prepared something different for me.
My thoughts were still going when I finally found my perfect position by resting flat on my back without any pillows.
And then, darkness.
The usual moon-like light I was still perceiving was replaced by a pitch-black mantle.
In one second, my whole body became aware of a presence, just above me.
I must have experienced what felt like five seconds of fight-or-flight reflex reaction, mainly adrenaline pumping and muscle tightening.
Until I heard the voice: "It is time."
Perhaps I will never understand the recognition of this voice by my autonomic nervous system as my body calmed down and relaxed immediately as soon as I heard those words - "The unconscious mind knows it all, dear", Carl Jung would say.
When I finally opened my eyes, I started scanning the black space from side to side. It felt like the dream state but I was awake and fully conscious, not quite the same as during a shamanic trance but close.
There was a sense of anticipation, the knowing that soon I would meet the source of that voice.
It was the oldest face I had ever seen in a human. Lying there in my bed I got a close-up look of an old woman's face.
My guts reacted with an unfamiliar sensation, a mix of shock, surprise, wonder and astonishment.
My eyes didn't even know where to begin looking!
The detail of her wrinkled skin, much leather-like with a yellowish tint, dry and withered, transported me to the vision of the mightiest drought of the land.
It was just so old, far beyond my limited comprehension old.
I tried to find a picture that would resemble what I saw but this is the closest image I could find and I admit I photoshopped the work of photographer Tuwing Tahkang trying to match the imprint I carry in my memory but still, not enough.
At first I thought this woman being shown to me was dead: she was lying down with closed eyes on a bed, completely still, but as relative time passed I was given a slightly broader perspective of the whole scene: there was some kind of dry grass and what seemed to be white, furry animal skin around. A metallic pot on the dirt floor got my attention, it was silvery shiny and was positioned on top of an arrangement of rocks with some clear smoke coming out of it.
I noted she was a small woman but solidly build. She was just lying there, motionless, with her hands crossed resting on her abdomen partially covered by a very dark brown wool blanket.
All this perceived by my eyes having an experience of bilocal exploration: I was not moving but my eyes could travel around seeing different angles.
I couldn't get over exploring her face. The visceral reaction it induced in my body was bizarre and intriguing and at the same time made me think about the possibility of her being a spirit transitioning and wanting some psychopomp help from me, (guidance and protection while escorting her to the afterlife,) but I was given no more time to elaborate on this idea.
Shockingly, she fully opened her eyes at this moment, almost as if wanting to set me straight on my previous assumption of her being deceased.
Her deep dark brown eyes encountered mine for the first time and they began a gazing dance that would reveal us one universal truth: one of time and space, and oneness.
It took us no time to recognize each other. "It is me!" seemed to be the silent mutual exclamation as per our synchronized smiles.
"Today is my birthday, I become 200 years old today" I heard her say and from this point forward my whole perspective changed as if suddenly I had been transported right next to her into what I first believed was a hut. I could tell she could see me in there too as she started talking to me with lots of hand gestures and showing me things by pointing.
While she stood up from her bed, I realized there were people around, at least two male figures had been sitting on each side of her bed and both reached out to offer her a hand. The younger man was around 30 years old, the other looked a little bit older, like in his 40s. To my surprise she refused their help with kindness and was up on her feet with ease.
"They are fifth or sixth generation" - she stated and grabbed a long heavy wooden staff that one of the men handed her.
The first step she took amazed me. She was solid, strong and vital. 200 years of age was something I still couldn't conceive and seeing her walk with such determination, lifting with power that heavy staff, felt like witnessing a miracle.
"They take turns to come look after me, I'm never alone" - she continued, and pointed the way towards the entrance.
Coming out of the relative darkness from inside what actually was a circular tent towards the bright outside made us both squint and shade our eyes with one hand.
Once my eyes had adjusted to the radiant midday light, I could see what she was staring at with longing eyes and pride: miles and miles of vast whiteness, for as far as your eyes could see, there was nothing else but a snow-white blanket.
She stood outside there, a few footsteps away from the tent's door, with her face towards the sun, just soaking in the warmth and holding her staff with such grace that you could tell she had had it for ages.
"This is my home, but it is not always like this. We are close to the warm season and those hills and mountains over there will be green again" - she said pointing towards the distance.
I couldn't distinguish anything at first but soon some hills and a small chain of mountains appeared behind the blurry white horizon.
"I have wandered the woods of those mountains all of my life, I know them and they know me," she asserted, inviting me into her memories and transporting me closer and closer towards those mountains. Soon, tall evergreen trees emerged welcoming us and I started seeing scenes being played in front of me like in a movie screen.
"I was given in marriage being very young. My father always guarded the traditions of my people and I was his only daughter. My husband-to-be was an older man, a warrior whom my father chose thinking he would always protect me, and he somehow did, at least at the beginning of my life with him.
He was considered, fed me and dressed me and did not force me to lay with him until nature decided I become a woman."
She was describing all these things to me not with words but with claircognizance and clairsentience, the knowing and feeling of what was shown to me in scenes.
"I even had a little orchard next to my summer home where I could cultivate different herbs and plants I used for healing"- she continued. I could see this young girl, feeling happy and tending to her garden haven in a black woolen skirt with red embroidery designs at the sides and a clear shirt with a black vest on top whose red designs matched her heavy skirt ones.
"I could never really love my husband. I used to worry about him when he was away for the hunting but when he was back, he was mostly drunk and picking fights with the people. I used to feel very lonely and my plants were my best friends and companions. I learned about them and eventually many women would come to find me when they needed medicine.
Things got worse when a war broke out.
I started having vivid visions, mostly warnings about how the enemy would attack and then I would share those with my husband. They all became true and when the army returned victorious to our land my husband would look for me and slap me.
I realized he punished me because he feared me, I had something he couldn't control, a special power that put me somehow in a higher place he thought not any woman could ever deserve. He always had to feel superior. He terribly hated my knowing, but mostly he feared it.
One day all the men prepared to leave for the hunting and before my husband left I told him where I knew he could find game. I did so, despite of hi fury, for the benefit of all. Times were hard and scarce for food.
He arrived home after so many days but way before all of the other men did. It was night and I was crouching, feeding some wood to the fire. He entered the house silently and everything happened so fast. He grabbed me by the hair with one hand and held his sword with the other, twisting my long black braid around his fist to pull me closer. I tried to pull away but I felt my scalp releasing from my skull with a dreadful sound. I thought it was my end when my throat was exposed towards the roof, like an animal sacrifice, but my head was not his trophy, he chopped my hair with a whistling swing of his sword.
He thought he had finally found the way to my ultimate humiliation by despoiling me of the sacred symbol of my femininity and pride, he wanted to make me an outcast, unworthy of my lineage and my clan. To his surprise, I stood up feeling myself larger, my tears coming out burning like fire and my eyes stared at his, mirroring his insanity and hatred.
He stood there shaken, looking at me with profound fear and horror. He realized he had offended a higher power and its messenger.
That was the last time I saw him. He left that night and was found dead a couple of days later. He was not a well-liked man around and had made several enemies.
My life completely changed after that. The elders reunited to discuss about my future, I was still very young and now a widow. I had no children of my own and I was afraid they will decide to re-marry me. But they had heard the stories about me using healing plants, about my wisdom and my gift of prophecy. When they called me in to inform me about their decision, I felt ecstatic: I was going to take care of the children. Mothers would leave them with me when they needed to go away for gathering or communal work and I would look after them. In return the whole community would provide and care for me.
They became my joy, my companions, my laughter and my hope.
I enjoyed feeding and playing with all of them. I also loved taking them to my orchard, where we used to spend most of the time in the warm season. I would teach them about the healing plants, how to collect them and how to use them. I also taught them how to listen to their inner voice and how to speak to the silent woods at the mountains in the winter.
I grew proud of all of their accomplishments, I cried when they became adults and had kids of their own.
From them I received devotion and respect. I've been blessed with abundant love for generations. Not a single day I spent alone, there was always a little hand reaching for me or a big one asking for wisdom.
Since I became an elder, the children of the children have cared for me. I don't need to remember their names, just by looking at their eyes I know who they are and who they came from. They still bring their children for me to cleanse and bless them. I became their mother, I lived the life of one hundred mothers."
A mix of scenes unfolded while I returned to the space of my bedroom. She had come with me and told me she would still live many more years, as a healer and the great mother of all.
The vivid emotions and imagery I brought back in my heart cannot be put into words. Words feel too shy and too limiting.
Slowly my eyes were again perceiving the familiar moon-like light through the window and as my conscious state shifted, she became a bright and ethereal energy. She approached me like wanting to offer me a hug, the hug I was desperately seeking for, the hug of the mother, the woman, the healer. Our energies blended and I felt hers entering and expanding in my body.
I took me a few minutes to recover. A part of me had returned, a universal aspect searching for my present reality had found me. She called and I answered, or perhaps I had been calling her all of these lives.
Two days after this experience I was browsing at a second hand store and found my beautiful 'Girl with feather' by Anahata Joy, looking straight at me, just like I saw her in that special night. She has become a loving reminder of all the mothers that walk with me in the ancient lineage of my family.
Glory to the great spirit and to the great mystery! Hinayá!
( Pictures by Alexander Khimunshin from his portrait project 'The World in Faces'.)