Descent and Incarnation

It’s been a tumultuous few weeks for my family ever since my Dad fell and broke his femur. We live only a mile from my parents’ house and moved here with the intention of helping when the day came that we were needed. That day has arrived.

Ever since a pandemic was declared in March, my mate, son, and I have lived in strict social isolation. “We are in our 80s” I took to saying to my family. “We need to be able to step into G & G’s house at a moment’s notice.” 

“Why don’t we combine our households?” I started asking my Dad several weeks ago. “We could cook meals together and play games. Let’s enjoy ourselves before we are forced to combine forces.” I knew something was coming; being a sensitive has its advantages. Dad said he wanted to watch how things went with the virus this summer and decide later.

Then one midnight, carrying two trays of glassware, Dad fell. He was carrying too much and lost his balance. The body has a way of telling the truth and of creating change.


We incarnate for a reason. The intersection of spirit and matter is what makes the learning so potent here on earth. It hurts to be embodied, to feel, to be injured, to grow old. But that hurt is only part of the whole picture.

Most of us fail to fully incarnate, though we all have bodies. This was not always the case, but in our mind-identified culture, having a body is a problem that only grows greater with the years. We experience the body as the locus of loss, diminishment, and the source of suffering. 

But, in fact, the body isn’t a problem at all. Breaking bones and losing memory isn’t the problem; the mind is. If we want to understand our lives, if we truly want to remember the unitive consciousness and wholeness in which our lives are rooted, we are tasked with pairing the material focus of our minds with the big-picture awareness that can only be apprehended by the heart.

Incarnation is a commitment to join what is, to accept limitation, to feel loss, and to touch the reality of Spirit beating and alive in the heart of matter. Sacrifice means “to make sacred” and this is precisely what we are doing as we bang about in these increasingly tattered bodies and hearts of ours. 

Seen through the strong eye of the heart, the spiritual organ of perception upon which we draw in the shamanic journey, we are on a lifelong journey of incarnation. We are on a purposeful descent from the light and the heights of the mind into the dark heart of impermanence and imperfection. We all take this journey, aware or not, to make a sacred offering of our lives. 

We are sacrificing ourselves, bit by bit, day by day, so that we might give a gift worthy of the gift of existence. It may not look like much, but the offering of an inhabited life in the form of a well-worn body is the only gift we can give that is worthy of our lives.

My dad has learned to love my mom fully and well, with laughter and a robust reserve of patience in the face of my mom’s fading memory. They are happier and relish the simple fact of their togetherness more now than ever before.

My mom is making a sacred offering of her life, too, though in ways she never planned. What we prize about ourselves, whatever it may be, is always too damn small–even when it’s a mind as impressive as hers. Whatever we treasure has to go in order to make room for Immensity.

If we are lucky, if our souls are ambitious and drunk enough with love, we get to let it all go or have it all stripped away. In the end, it makes no difference. Becoming incarnate, making a sacred offering of our lives, is always and ever a costly work. 

The purpose of the shamanic journey is to see with new eyes. Through the regular practice of descent from the mind using the shamanic drumbeat, we can begin to appreciate the beauty of what we’re up to down here. May we catch on to the true and generous nature of our souls while still we live. 


Our journey intention this week will be about glimpsing the meaning behind a pain, loss, or challenge that meets us now in our lives. 

For our offering to our guides and the circle this week, let us choose something tender, battered, broken, or well-loved to share with each other at the start of our circle.

What are you making sacred in your life right now? What is being sacrificed? What larger truth, what beauty, awaits your discovery in the midst of pain? What messages and images await in the tender, fleshy, compassionate awareness of your beating heart? 

We can keep this journey personal and/or you are welcome to journey for your deeper wisdom about the challenges our collective body faces as part of our shared and sacred pilgrimage of descent and incarnation.

This is a free weekly online journey circle offered by Gaia Shamanism offered at 4-5:30 pm PDT every Wednesday in 2020.. Email your interest in joining us at All skill levels are welcome.

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