A Luminous Re-membering: How Death and Illness Transformed a Shaman’s Life

When we surrender the need to figure it all out and cultivate the ability to let it all in, then our earth walk becomes a sacred dance of healing service on the planet. More than the world needing saving, it needs loving.

I am Oscar Manuel Miro-Quesada and this is my story. It is a story told within the immediacy of the present moment, even as it recalls the past. It is a story about how I came to serve the earth by returning to the origins of a once-forgotten tradition. It is a story about how honoring these ancient wisdoms can awaken us all to the spiritual dimensions of life.

I was born in Lima, Peru, on August 21, 1951.

I was youngest of five half-siblings, a result of my mother’s third and father’s second marriages. My coming back into wholeness as a soul on this good earth began at first breath. This divine ally of both earth and heavens filled me with so much more than oxygen in that first awakening. Spirit itself filled my lungs as life took hold.

Yet what began so easily became a struggle for survival as I grew.

As ever increasing episodes of severe asthmatic hypoxia set in, my breath was simply not available. I felt distant from Spirit, distant from life itself. I was a young soul encased within a dangerously frail physical body. As a seed that has not yet sprouted, my soul remained dormant deep underground. Rather than expansion and growth, my soul sought contraction in order to survive. Rather than movement, it welcomed stillness. Rather than the radiant sunlight of day, it came to anticipate the darkness of my childhood room as an artificial harbor.

In addition, during my first nine years of life,

I learned many ways to appear sane as my family descended into a deep dysfunction where violence and danger had become the norm.

Within all the chaos, my breathing became more and more constricted and the asthma attacks more frequent. I missed day after day of school as I struggled just to breathe. Meanwhile, I found refuge in small spaces, under tables, in corners. I crawled around in the classroom as perplexed children pointed fingers, laughing and mocking me. I was like a scared animal. Hiding.

Viewed from the perspective of a heartfelt shamanic initiation—a veritable ‘rite-de-passage’–I now understand the true miracle of love that was at the root of my illness.

The severe asthma and family dysfunction that was part of my life for so long had been the very path to my redemption. It pointed the way for my return to wholeness. It paved the road from the dark night of my aching soul to the luminous realms of my shamanic ancestors.

I was ten years old, and the finest physicians in Lima had concurred that my very survival depended on leaving this coastal city with its smog, humidity, and pollution, and relocate to the dry central highlands. Even then, I felt a stirring as we rode up the winding roads away from sea level Lima into the central Andes. As we traveled, we followed the river Rimac, called such by Quechua-speaking peoples of the highlands because it is the river of the “one-who-speaks.”

My destiny was calling out to me and I could feel the murmuring voices of my ancestors tumble down the mountainsides into its flow.

Our destination was the town of Chosica, halfway between the coast and the highest peaks of the Andes, where mountain lords are named and honored with ritual offerings to this day. There, high above the village, giant stones and enigmatic citadels are venerated today, just as they were during ancestral times. The entire region is known as a place of visitation, of sightings, and actual contact with star-beings. It was there where I found breath through an encounter with the beyond.

It was a December night in 1961. The air was cold and the sky was full of stars. My mother had put me to bed and then returned to the kitchen to clean up after dinner. From deepest slumber, I awoke with a start. My eyes were wide and round in surprise and growing desperation. My mouth was just a slit, and I felt my chest disappearing. My body was completely numb: There was no breath at all. Panic cannot even describe the sensation. I tried desperately to call for help, yet I could not move or speak. The world began closing in on me as darkness pressed down against my chest. The earth opened to swallow me, and I felt myself pulled down through the mattress of my bed, deeper and deeper into this abyss. My body felt cold. The pounding in my ears that was my heart became faint, then fainter still; then all was silent. I relaxed and fell into total drowning.

I was dead.

From far away, I began hearing someone call my name. It wasn’t my birth name at all, but a nickname my father had given me years before because of my curiosity and my countenance. Eager Beaver, he had called me, or Beaver for short. It felt good to have an animal name. I identified with it. Faintly, I began hearing it in my right ear, then in my left, “Beaver, Beaver, come back. We need you. Beaver, come back, Beeeeaver . . . .” Suddenly, with a gasp of air, I was pulled from the abyss that had swallowed me. I found myself sitting upright in my bed in total darkness.

With open eyes, I gazed around the room. Slowly, as I regained consciousness more fully, I began to feel the presence of extraordinary compassion, and indescribable love, healing, and grace.

As I gazed deeper into the darkness, there appeared a quivering field of luminosity that gradually settled into three human-like forms.

Standing seven feet tall, their heads were almost touching the low ceiling of my room. As they became increasingly more detailed and separate, their appearance became discernible. All three had long white beards and luminous blue eyes. They were ancient, yet ageless; wizened, yet completely unencumbered. They wore long, white robes, and their long hair grew into wispy trails of luminous, spiraling light. They were three angelic beings, three Shining Ones. I now know them to be three expressions of the Divine that have been described in tales and legends since the dawn of time: luminous beings, perfect, harmonious, whole. They were beyond all dichotomy and division.

They were absolute Love.

These three beings communicated in unison a thought that mirrored exactly what I felt. A resounding gift of awakening to my true place of origin reverberated deep within me. The thought-feeling coursed from my head throughout the entire length of my body as they stood before me. It felt pleasant, like the vibrational lingering of sacred words once spoken. In that moment, my entire experience of being in a physical body shifted. I recognized my own essence in the same light that they embodied.

That awareness alone would have been enough for me to embrace the experience of death that had come upon me. In that instant, I could have just let go, returning with a peaceful heart into the hands of our Maker.

Yet somehow I knew it was not my time.

No sooner did I know it than the Shining One to my left bent his tall frame toward me and placed his transparent lips to my chest. He began to breathe the asthma out from my lungs into himself. For what seemed an eternity, he sucked in through his lips, extracting from my frail body all residue of the illness that had so far accompanied the evolution of my soul in this lifetime. Afterward, he raised his head and offered that density in breath up to the heavens. I saw the crack between the worlds in that moment. All my suffering, fear, doubt and insecurities were taken skyward as he blew forth to the heavens. When he finished, the portal between worlds vanished as quickly as it had appeared.

Next, the Shining One to my right placed his right hand, with a luminous open-fingered palm, upon my sternum. He then placed his left palm on top of the right one. As he closed his deep blue eyes, I felt a concentrated willing: a bestowal of his essence into my heart. My entire being was lit from within as I lay motionless on the bed.

Meanwhile, the Shining One who stood between the other two opened his eyes wide, looking straight ahead. His Buddha-like hands danced with flowing light. He touched his luminous fingertips together in various gestures. Once the hand gestures were complete, this Shining One rested his arms by his side and gazed toward me with his infinitely compassionate eyes. It was then that the communication between us began.

I entered a realm between dream and waking where images floated seamlessly along. The first image I was gifted by that luminous being was of returning to Lima. I saw the great turmoil that would ensue as my father and mother separated, yet I saw myself being free of asthma forever more.

The telepathic transmission of the events of my life was extensive:

the jobs I would hold, the relationships I would treasure, the children who would be born and those who would be lost to me in the dance of eros that accompanies the search for self. I saw the teachers I would meet, and I saw the artistry of what I was born to do as my service to the great web of life. As the movie of my life began to fade from view, the last message reverberating through the depths of my soul was this:

“Remember the rituals. Remember the rituals. Remember the rituals.”

For the next several years, my recollection of that transformational moment was clouded. All that changed when in August of 1969 I met the famed maestro huachumero don Celso Rojas Palamino from Salas, Chiclayo, during what was to be the first of many night sanpedrito ceremonies. Yet during that first night, after the tobacco offering was given and after his patients were cleansed with the sacred objects on his altar, out of the center of his banco a light started to circulate. I blinked my eyes in amazement. The light continued to rise from the mesa. As it emerged, it coalesced into a large, oval, pulsing field. As I continued to watch, the same three wizened Shining Ones that visited me and healed me of asthma eight years before appeared before us now. As they began to come closer, I stared in open-mouthed wonder. No one else seemed to see them, not even don Celso’s assistants who were sitting just to his left. Was I dreaming? Was this really happening?

At first I didn’t notice don Celso’s sideways glance. Then, he elbowed me firmly, jarring me from my reverie. “Do you remember them?” he asked me. “Yes, I do,” I stuttered. At that moment, my entire reality shifted. I felt transported back in time to a moment I had all but forgotten. In less than a nanosecond everything that had been shown to me at age ten during that near-death experience came back into my awareness. And I remembered it all. In this second visitation by the three Shining Ones, I tapped into the noosphere—the ineffable yet universal field of information that some call the Akashic record.

In that moment, all contrasts, all polarities, all separation, all interpretation, all need to have a nice comforting orderly world was annihilated. It was all destroyed. And I found myself floating up in space and dissolving as a separate entity, as an individual, as an ego-mind, as a personality. In that moment, the one known to this world by the name Oscar just disappeared.

I was absorbed within the ALL.

I remembered my purpose for being born, and this time, it stayed firmly imprinted in my psyche. All that I had witnessed and forgotten at age ten came cascading back, free of censorship and dimensional filters. I realized how incomplete our sensory experiences are as I peeked behind the veil of the eternal now. As soon as the ritual ended, I asked don Celso if I might apprentice with him, and he agreed.

After that, as I began practicing the rituals of my ancestors, the memory of that moment was released in me again. It was then, when I began to quiet myself, communing with the Mystery from a place of deepest surrender to wholeness, that I came to realize this truth more fully:

Illness equals action without alignment.

It is estrangement from the sacred as we project the causes and consequences of our suffering onto others. It comes from looking outward rather than inward for acceptance, approval, and love.

In all sanctioned lineages of shamanism the world over, the symptoms of illness are symbols of the state of your being. While you may be ill, you may be in pain, you may have experienced deep tragedy or longing, you are not just suffering passively. Instead, you begin to see this particular illness as a call to enter into conversation with powers that beckon you to assume new responsibilities of being human.

Each of us has catalyzing moments that open us to an awareness of Source within ourselves. Like many who recognize the power of the spiritual in their lives, it was the depth of my suffering that primed the pump of my awakening. As I opened to my reality of being born “of spirit” as much as “of matter,” I gained an expanded view of myself. I allowed LOVE to be who I AM. In this awakening, I connected deeply with the Ultimate Ground of my Being. And in so doing, I entered into a true sacred alliance and path of healing service in honor of All Our Relations.

This Great Work is not so much about changing the world as it is about changing oneself in the process.

As we commit to this quest, and the graceful honoring of all life that will naturally flow from our actions, unhindered evolutionary transformation is effortlessly unleashed upon the world—in paraphrasing Joseph Campbell, we have learned to ‘follow our bliss!’

Adapted from Lessons in Courage: Peruvian Shamanic Wisdom for Everyday Life, ©2013 by Bonnie Glass-Coffin & don Oscar Miro-Quesada.
 Reprinted with permission. Publisher: Rainbow Ridge Books.

donoscardon Oscar Miro-Quesada Solevo is a respected Peruvian shaman and beloved faculty with The Shift Network. He has recorded an interactive online course to teach the lessons of shamanism: The Path of the Universal Shaman – Transforming our world through Sacred Living.

don Oscar is a respected kamasqa curandero and altomisayoq adept from Peru, visionary founder of The Heart of the Healer (THOTH), originator of Pachakuti Mesa Tradition cross-cultural shamanism, and co-author of Lessons in Courage: Peruvian Shamanic Wisdom for Everyday Life (Rainbow Ridge, 2013; with Bonnie Glass-Coffin). An internationally-acclaimed shamanic teacher, healer and Earth honoring ritualist, don Oscar is also an OAS Fellow in Ethnopsychology, UN Invited Observer to the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and member of the Birth 2012 Welcoming Committee and the Evolutionary Leaders Circle convened, respectively, by Barbara Marx Hubbard and Deepak Chopra. He has been guiding ethnospiritual apprenticeship expeditions to sacred sites of the world since 1986, with special emphasis on Peru and Bolivia. To learn more about don Oscar, click here.

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