From Chapter 1
We were high in the Andes and the night air was chilly, yet I was burning up with fever. I lay with my hot cheek against the stone-cold brick floor. There were books and blackboards around the edges of the room, and branches, herbs, stones, and water by the fire burning in the center--but I took none of this in at the time. I only knew that I needed help, and I somehow knew that the shaman was the one to help me.
After a time he began his healings. "Who wants to be first?" I heard Juan translate to the group. Despite my illness, my hand flew up with such determination that I astounded myself. I seemed to be led by an inner self that knew what I needed. I remember a strange sense of calm knowing, of familiarity, of being home. The ceremony utilized the four elements--fire, water, earth, and air--and was conducted with branches, herbs, feathers, and stones that had been gathered to move "energy."
Too weak to stand before the shaman, I sat on the dirt floor by the fire, holding on to the rocks at the edge of the circle for support. Chanting melodically, don Alberto rhythmically brushed me with aromatic branches, shared spirit with me by spraying me with a fine mist of herbal water, surrounded me with smoke and incense, and cleansed my aura with flapping feathers.
Nothing was ingested, nothing was physically or chemically manipulated. In no way did the healing resemble any technique that I had been taught in medical school. Nothing in my life to date had prepared me for this, yet I held no fear or doubt, only calm assurance. The healing took about half an hour. During that time I felt my strength return, the nausea abate, and my spirits build in ecstasy. Afterward I stood and thanked Don Alberto. He hugged me and said how happy he was to see me again. I had never been to Ecuador nor met him in this life, yet I knew him at a very deep soul level. We had been together in the past. I can barely find the words to describe what I felt. I had no context in which to place this experience. . . .
Looking back on that night I am struck with many questions. I am a physician, a surgeon, with board certification in both general and plastic surgery. I had trained for many, many years to become a plastic surgeon--four years of medical school, five years of general surgery residency, two years of plastic surgery residency. I had no previous experience with non-allopathic healing techniques. Why was I not demanding to get to a phone? To be taken to a doctor or the nearest hospital? To be given medicine? To get back to Quito? To return to the States?
That night I was led by an inner knowing. Perhaps my whole life had led me to that night. In a half hour with Alberto Tatzo I was introduced to a whole new world--a new way of looking at health, at life, at healing. It in no way fit into the box of what I knew, and had studied so long and hard to know. It in no way fit into my model of the body or of scientific method. I could not explain. And that night I let go of the need to explain.