In the beginning, there was only darkness, and I was small, fragile, and alone. The proceeding years had been long, the path winding and treacherous. In a matter of a few years, everything had changed. The life I thought I was meant to live, the significant other who I thought I would spend my life with, the job and career that was so important to me, the city and town I called home, the cat who was my soulmate, all of it changed. In the blink of an eye, it was all gone.

In those early moments, it felt difficult to breathe. The air was heavy and hostile. Nothing was safe. I was unprepared for the darkness that surrounded me. Had I been paying better attention, I would have seen the writing on the wall. After all, I was the one who had written it. From the time I was a small child, I had been authoring the same story. Sadness, pain, and rejection written over and over, carved deeply, and intricately into my soul. My perception of love, acceptance and belonging had slowly eroded, becoming distorted and confused. After all, we repeat the same patterns over time, searching for comfort and familiarity, even when those patterns are inherently destructive. I had unknowingly created my own prison, but I was not yet aware of that reality. In those first moments, all I felt was pain, all I saw was darkness, and all I knew was that I was alone.

But soon, a new light would dawn.

I still remember vividly the first time I met Iggy, who has since become my teacher and dear friend. Through a series of events, I found myself in a seat in his class on a hot August afternoon. I was guarded, afraid, and had no idea of what I was getting myself into. All I knew was that I needed to be there.

What I didn’t know then was that life had been preparing me for that moment for quite some time. In the direct aftermath of all of the change I had experienced, I retreated to the woods. I spent countless weekends on endless solo hikes, exploring nature, taking photographs, and searching for myself. As a little girl, the woods had always been my home. Long walks under the canopy of trees with my family, giggling and running. The smell of honeysuckle in the summer and green walnuts in fall always brings me back to that space in time. In my brokenness, I went back to the only place that ever felt safe. I went back home. Soon connection began to develop. The animals would come out to visit, the trees would say hello. In time the light began to dance in my photographs. Yoga, meditation, Reiki would all follow. All tools that would serve me on this journey. All things that were preparing me.

The first six months after meeting Iggy were a blur. Drum circles, sweat lodges, classes, lots of new people, lots of things to learn. Inside I was a mess. Torn between a deep pull towards work that I did not fully understand and everything that it was bringing up inside of me. There were moments that I did not think I would make it and days that I just wanted to hide. Confronted with myself at every turn, deep spaces inside of me just wanted to run. Yet the pull towards the work was so strong. Gently calling me back each time.

Despite my internal struggle, I was aware of the gravity of the situation that I found myself in. For Iggy, Shamanism is his life, his family’s legacy, and his culture. Ancient wisdom passed down from generation to generation, language, traditions, and culture lost over time, families and communities destroyed. So many fought, and so many lives were lost to ensure that these traditions survived. And yet here I stood, with the same color skin of those who destroyed, those who stole, those who silenced, and those who killed. Yet somehow, I was still given the opportunity to learn and to heal. I do not have the right words for this, but to say I have immense gratitude is an understatement on so many levels. Since I met Iggy, I have been taken aback by his integrity in the work that he does, and given all of the circumstances, his incredible compassion and patience as a teacher. To be given the opportunity to learn and participate, even in the small ways that I have, remains an extraordinary gift and one which I hope to always honor.

The last year was one of many challenges and tests. A global pandemic, quarantine, civil unrest, wildfires, the potential for war, and global conflict at every turn. Yet, I found myself grounded and anchored in this work, learning and growing more every day. Days spent down by the river, listening, telling stories, laughing, and meditating. Deep conversations yielded themselves to even deeper understandings. Somehow we found some semblance of peace even though the world around offered us none.

Over time my wounds began to heal. Until one day, I woke up, and I could see the sunlight again. Magic began to infuse every moment after. The clouds above creating shapes and telling stories. The condors soaring overhead holding space, creating family. The herons calling, the fish crying, and ducks playing. Ceremony was once an event to be attended, and sacred moments were few and far between. But now, a new way of being emerged. All things were in ceremony. All life became sacred, All words offered as prayers. There was no longer a separation between my time learning with Iggy and the rest of my life. Shamanism had once felt like glasses to be worn on certain occasions, then slowly became the lens through which I saw my life, and finally, those lenses melted away, and I was left with only my eyes. No separation, only integration. Regardless of where I was, the title I held, or the role I played, the work was the same.

For me, this path is now and always has been the journey back to myself, the journey home. I have had the great honor to learn and to begin to find and reclaim the pieces of my soul that were scattered so many years ago. I remain deeply grateful for the opportunity and equally humbled by the experience. As Iggy always tells me, all healing is self-healing, and when we heal ourselves, we heal those who came before us and those who will come after.

Kate Huebner