Can shamanism cure my fear of flying?

Fear of flying

Seven years ago, I would have been paralyzed with fear simply to see this plane flying in the sky.

Phobias are anything but rational, though my fear of flying came from a somewhat-legitimate place: a hellish plane ride in a small regional jet during a vicious thunderstorm.

That day, I lost a bit of my soul as I whimpered in the back of the plane. As the flight attendant panicked, I wondered if they’d find me in pieces somewhere among the treetops between Harrisburg and DC. I was far from “ready to go.”

For the next several years, it was hard to stomach watching a plane fly at all, much less to get on one. When I absolutely HAD to fly, I would choke down a xanax-chardonnay cocktail and hope that the edge would be sufficiently blurred for me to board, but not so vaporous that I’d black out.

This was long before my Shamanic work helped me see and experience fear in more empowered ways… My body became quite tolerant of Xanax and I’d have to take enough to calm a raging rhino, plus drink at least a glass of wine, if not three. At my weight, I should have been dangerously slurring by then – but my flight anxiety had my brain and body so keyed up that I’d barely feel a buzz.

I knew that something would have to give, and after many years of this behavior I decided that I wouldn’t fly anymore. I took a cruise for my first honeymoon so the plane crash dreams would stop.

Fast forward a number of years to the time when my life came apart.

I met Tigre. Three weeks of bliss together and then an indeterminate amount of time hemispheres apart. Without (much) second thought, I booked a ticket to visit him in Peru.

Unknowingly, it was the beginning of my unofficial initiation into Shamanism.

If you are called by Shamanic work, you will at some point enter into an initiation. An initiation is a time period in your life in which all sense of hope is lost, the identity and ego are shorn away, and a death of some kind occurs… If it does not overpower you, it will lead to the rebirth of a more authentic self.

For most of us, modern life provides plenty of initiatory experiences, as I mentioned in my Forbidden Conversation with Sarah Nicotra. An initiation can come in the form of a traumatic event, experiencing a great loss, a psychotic episode, or even an organized ritual as it was in our tribal days. Every initiation is drenched in fear.

My most powerful initiations have mostly taken place on plane rides.

My first flight to Peru started with a lightning-filled four hours; I knew from a dream that thunderstorms would plague my flight. I tried not to panic and instead entered a deeply meditative state. With the help of Spirit Guides under the plane’s wings (whom I did not think of as such at the time) the storm immediately ended, the turbulence calmed, and I humbly offered my thanks for any help I’d received to smooth things over. Like my phobia, it was far beyond logic.

I’ve put in years of Shamanic work since that flight to Lima, much of it having emerged from my time in Peru. I now understand what happened to dissipate the storm. My fears are a bridge I must cross if I want my real self to keep emerging.

As a working Shaman, I deeply understand that there is no “true” death – only a shape shift to a different form. I am at peace with death and dying. Except when I step onto a plane. I *have* been able to fly without any chemical cocktails for a long time… But, I am still afraid. Every single time.

I am still getting initiated. When I fly, I am still faced with losing everything I am not ready to release… my amazing marriage. My children. My unfinished work. I continue to see it all play out before me on repeat: even in smooth skies I anticipate the animal fear I’d feel if we started to go down. My hard-won peace with death and dying goes right out the window.

I write this post after returning home from a few days away. We flew on a private jet, co-piloted by my husband Tigre. It would be a dream come true for a large swath of humanity. To even have the privilege of taking a trip like that makes me blush.

Flying with my daughter in the CJ3

And, it’s so much more for me than leather seats and no security check. The smile on my face as I sit with my 4-month-old daughter is hard won: pulled from the wreckage of my thoughts after 2 hours of shedding my attachments to life.

Today’s guidance on the flight? I need to do a soul retrieval for myself… to find and re-integrate the part of me that left preemptively when I was so scared all those years ago.

I will journey (much like I do for my clients) and seek out this fragment of my soul. If it’s like the others I’ve found, it will be in a place the Shamans call the “lower world” – a realm that exists beyond this layer of reality… a place accessed by way of a type of trance induced by drumbeats. My guides (Jaguar, Fox, and sometimes Elephant) will take me where I need to go… and perhaps my missing piece of soul will be embedded into the huge banyan tree that I’ve visited there before… If so, I will pull it out and envision bringing it back with me to everyday life. I can reunite it with the rest of my soul by doing a simple, metaphor-rich ritual.

Perhaps then this initiatory cycle can come to a close. Or, maybe I am not supposed to get over this fear: it’s possible that I’m being asked to continue crossing this bridge and actively choosing surrender. At any rate, with a more intact soul and an even more embedded shamanic perspective, I will certainly be that much stronger for whatever my next initiation holds… I have many more miles to go before I sleep.

I wonder what the next monster will look like?

Care to confess?