introduction

Introduction: Kibbutz

Those of you who grew up in a kibbutz, as I did, will probably agree with me that a kibbutz is nothing but a children’s paradise. Those of you who weren’t that lucky, just imagine growing up in nature’s temple, where your playground includes a gigantic field of green grass, groves of oranges, lemons, avocados and other kinds of fruits, a forest of towering eucalyptus trees, and where the fragrance of jasmine bushes constantly hangs in the air. Imagine a place where the most common transportation is a few tractors, horses, mules, and a couple of donkeys. You don’t fear cars racing on the roads; in fact, there are no asphalt roads at all except the main entrance. Only dirt roads connect the kibbutz’s different sections—members’ houses, the school area, the industrial zone, the cattle barns, the groves.

At the age of six, on my first day at school, I entered the class and found my name on a desk in the second row. I was seated next to Mazal, a beautiful brunette with a ponytail, big hazel-brown eyes, and a stunning smile.

“Greetings, children,” said our teacher, Bella. “Welcome to first grade.”

She then asked us to open the drawers in our desks. In mine, I found a small chocolate bar; we each received one. I felt joy and happiness; it was a moment I will cherish forever. Then Teacher Bella pulled out a beautiful dark brown teardrop-shaped mandolin and played melodies from her childhood days in Minsk, Belarus. I was in love, though I’m not sure with whom, the astonishing six-year-old brunette seated next to me or with Teacher Bella, the mandolin wizard from Minsk.

Nature taught me that whatever is given to us does not really belong to us. We don’t own it, so we had better appreciate it and enjoy it while it lasts.

When I was thirteen my family had to leave the kibbutz. My mom divorced my stepfather and we moved to live in Beer Sheva, “the capital of the Negev,” a desert in the south of Israel. It was a devastating experience, but at the same time it forced me to cope with a tougher reality. For the first time in my life I felt scared and insecure. I had to meet new kids and I didn’t know how they would treat me. Would I be able to make new friends? I felt helpless. On my very first day at school, I realized that kids are the same everywhere; they all share the same basic needs. All kids want to enjoy life, to connect with others, to explore their own feelings, to be inspired.

Soon enough, I accepted the new reality of life in the city. I learned how to use money, to cross roads only on a pedestrian crossing, and to wait until traffic lights turned green. No more living in paradise.

I made peace with myself and became great friends with other people. Beer Sheva was a melting pot of several nationalities and cultures. I was fascinated by the rich culture of our Indian neighbors. I warmed to the hospitality of my good friend Shalom’s family that arrived from Tunisia. On weekends, Shalom and I would go to the Bedouin market on the outskirts of Beer Sheva, where the Bedouins traded camels and sheep. We would stroll among the antique traders and drink sweet, strong, freshly brewed black coffee from small cups. Walking in that magical place made me feel as if I was sailing to another planet.

During school vacations and holidays, I would travel back to the kibbutz, the only place where I could fully embrace nature, a place I felt inspired, where I felt at home, and where I could close my eyes and exhale.

When I became an adult I lived in Tel Aviv, with the Mediterranean as my natural refuge. Whether it was a misty winter dawn, or a hot steamy summer night, only on Gordon Beach, either sitting on the golden sand or floating on the sea, could I truly live and experience nature again. Even just a few snatched minutes revived me, at sunrise on my way to work or at sunset on my way back home.

Since I left Israel in 1993, I’ve been fortunate to have lived in several countries—USA, Cyprus, and for a short period, India—and I was fascinated by those cultures. Carrying the kibbutz bliss within me everywhere I went, I searched for that outer and inner paradise, whether it was the magnificent St. Louis, Missouri Forest Park, the charming pine forests on top of the Troodos Mountains in Cyprus, the wild magical jungle of Kerala in southern India, the holy Ganges in Varanasi, or the mystical Golden Temple at Amritsar, in northern India.

In all the places I’ve visited and in all cultures I have been exposed to, I couldn’t help but notice that regardless of nationality or religion, we all, at some stage in our lives, pause to pay attention. Some hold their breath, some begin to wonder, others question their existence—why are we here? What is our purpose?

I was no exception. I had reached a certain stage of my life and felt that I was missing something I could not describe. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but a restless feeling of being incomplete dominated my whole existence.

At the time, I was living in St. Louis. I was forty-five years old, I liked my job as a computer software engineer, and I had pretty much everything that a middle-class person wanted or needed. Still, there was a nagging emptiness within me. Then, in the winter of 1997, I heard about a weekend workshop on shamanism in New Orleans. That workshop—that weekend—changed my life completely.

After the workshop, I returned to St. Louis and slipped right back into my seventy-hour-week workaholic lifestyle and my familiar routine. But life was not meant to be routine for me. That shamanic workshop awakened a spiritual seed in me that began to sprout. It created a hunger in me for more. I longed for change and an alternative way to live my life. I practiced shamanic journeys, I studied Reiki and became a Reiki master, I studied Tai Chi. I went from meat-filled lunches and dinners to green salads. Organic foods appeared on my plate more and more often.

A little about shamanism. The word “shaman” derives from the Siberian Tungus people and means “the one who knows.” It describes their healers and medicine people. The shaman makes a spiritual journey to three dimensions—Lower, Middle, and Upper Worlds—for healing purposes and to receive answers to questions. When practicing shamanic spiritual journeys you may meet your Power Animals, Spiritual Guides, and Teachers in one of those three worlds.

In the following chapters, I share my personal experience during that weekend in New Orleans, and the incredible journeys when I met Dolphin and Bear, my Power Animals, the amazing Hilla, my Spiritual Guide, and my Teacher Elijah the Prophet, who is the main reason I walk the path of shamanism.

My hope, dear reader, is that my words are not taken lightly. I am compelled to share with you this dramatic change in my life. It was an enormous shift from incompleteness to a sense of fulfillment and bliss.

In September 2001, I moved to the beautiful island of Cyprus, where I lived for four remarkable years. The first two years I lived in Amathus, a tiny pictorial village hanging on a cliff right above the deep blue Mediterranean. For the other two years there I rented a small, cozy home in the charming village of Saitas in the Troodos Mountains. Tall, lavish Pinus Nigra surrounded my house, black pines that generously shared their shade throughout the hot summer days, and provided warm shelter during cold winter nights.

Cyprus’s natural beauty enhanced my willingness to share and give, and I started teaching Reiki on Sundays and Tai Chi on Thursday nights. I continued my own shamanic development and journeyed for those who quested or who asked for answers, clarity, and spiritual guidance. I performed these tasks for no charge, thus allowing me time to focus on giving and sharing. The more I shared, the more confident I felt that I was walking the right path for my own spiritual growth.

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