By Sally Lofte as told to Iric Nathanson, Becketwood Members
It started with the drumming.
I decided that I needed to stretch my mind and my heart so I went to my first drumming circle. If you had told me twenty years ago that I would be drumming at this stage in my life, I would not have believed it. But it was something I needed to do.
At that first circle, I had expected to see a lot of young people with tattoos and purple hair. Instead, I found a lot of ordinary people there—people who did not stand out in a crowd. The rhythm of the drumming was very restful and meditative. And that is where I met Jamie. Jamie had been a seminary student preparing to be ordained as a Lutheran minister, but he decided that he needed to move down a different path. He became a shaman, a kind of spiritual healer who helps his followers achieve an altered state of consciousness in order to connect with a more spiritual world.
I had read Jamie’s Drumming the Soul Awake, which intrigued me, so I decided that I wanted to do more explorations with him. One day, I found myself in Jamie’s backyard with a small group of like-minded people. He had built a ceremonial structure there that looked like a wigwam.
We had come for a class on ways to get in touch with the earth, and to learn what the earth can teach us. He asked us to come into the wigwam and to bow first and bless the space before we came inside. Then, he asked us to sit in a circle. I sat next to him. He had a basket of feathers with him. Many of them were quite beautiful. I decided which one I liked the best.
Jamie said to us: “Don’t shop like a westerner. Don’t pick the feather. Let the feather pick you.” But I already know which one I want,” I told him, plaintively. Then he had us close our eyes. And, instead of starting with me, he passed the basket in the opposite direction. By the time the basket got around to me, all that was left was this scraggly, beat up black feather. It was not the one I would have picked. “I don’t like this feather!” I blurted aloud, somewhat angrily. “But it chose you,” Jamie responded calmly. “It’s yours.”
Then he challenged us to do three different things with our feather. We could keep it. We could find a place to put it on the ground in a special place but somewhere out of the way. Or we could give it away to a stranger. As soon as he said that, I knew what I had to do. I had to give the feather to a stranger. That could be hard, even painful. Why would a stranger even take the feather from me? I asked myself. But I had to do it. After all, I went to Jamie’s class to stretch my heart, so that was the path forward for me, even if it was uncomfortable.
I kept the feather for three days, but the time finally came for me to act. It was about 9:30 in the morning when I walked across the parkway over to the path along the river bluff. People were running. Mothers were pushing their babies in their strollers. I saw all these people and I said to myself, maybe I don’t have to give the feather away, after all. I kept walking and found myself on the path going down to the dam. I started praying. I said out loud. “Just show me who is supposed to receive the feather.” Then I saw this young woman coming toward me on the sidewalk. She was the one. She was to receive the feather. I was certain about that. I was holding the feather in my hand, as I waited for her to pass in front of me. Just then, she saw me, and she called out before I could say anything: “What a beautiful feather.” I was speechless. As she came toward, she smiled and explained that she and her son collected feathers and kept them in a green mason jar.
I held out the feather to her and said, “Please take this.” She did and thanked me, saying, “We will treasure your gift.” I was so overcome by her gesture; it seemed like a sacred moment. I asked if I could hug her and we embraced. Why was she there, just at the right time, just when I had to give away the feather?
I may not understand all of this, but I don’t need to understand. Somehow, some way, I knew that the feather had touched my soul.