I’m a sequential reader, which means I try not to start reading a new book until I’m done with the one I am already reading. However, when I finally got around to reading “Tales of a Shaman in the Making” by Katie McLaughlin, I am pleased to say I was hooked and finished it all in one sitting. I know the author personally, so some of the stories and struggles that she so beautifully presents in this book weren’t new to me—but the vulnerability and the openness through which she expresses herself in this book allowed me, as a reader, to enter more deeply into her experiences and to truly understand where she was coming from when all of this happened to her.
Katie is a writer with a clear eye for detail. Like Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of abundance, she appreciates the finer things in life: The beauty of a landscape, the way people present themselves and even dress, the energy that is radiated from certain spaces, the pleasure of a hot cup of coffee. She acknowledges and is in tune with these finer things. She knows what is beautiful and distinguished and appreciates it without letting it become the center of her attention, which would make her observations superficial. Instead, the beauty that she notices in her surroundings reflect an inner state, a yearning for the spiritual beauty that inspires and molds all forms of natural beauty and the forms of the physical world. I enjoyed the way she described her observation of people’s appearances and the spaces she was in and the effects it had on her. I could also very clearly and vividly imagine all of the natural settings that surrounded her mind’s eye during her shamanic meditations and also her descriptions of the various shamanic rituals.
“Tales of a Shaman in the Making” is essentially the fictionalized autobiographical story of the author’s introduction to the Shamanic Path and the hardships she endured with her first shamanic spiritual teacher. I say fictionalized not because I believe the events depicted are anything less than true, but because names have been altered and some details of the author’s life during that time have been changed in order to move the story along and keep it centered on what it is—the story of her calling to the Shamanic path. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to do when relating a story, and in some cases, such as with this book, it helps depict the underlying truth that the author wishes to convey in a much clearer way. I respect and understand the approach, even though I would have liked to hear more from the author regarding her experiences during this time-frame with the other spiritual practices in her life, such as Yoga for instance, or even her travels across Asia and other parts of the world.
One of the most compelling characters of this novel is the protagonist’s animal spirit guide / totem, which is a mighty wolf. The wolf is reminiscent (to this reader at least) of the Norse God Odin and his unbounded wisdom. One of my favorite scenes of the book was towards the end, during the protagonist’s meditation in the pine-tree forest where she’s confronted by a pack of wolves who all but force her to face her fears and heal herself, like a true Shaman should. And she does. The author is also very wolf-like in her own way, even though it’s subtle. She notices when somebody appears weak, or when someone says the wrong thing, and is in tune with the natural hierarchy present in any group. She also automatically notices who she admires and respects and who she doesn’t, something that not all people are so aware of in themselves, which is a very wolf-like thing. I believe this is one of the reasons that her eventual ‘exile’ from her first shamanic tribe hurt her so much—as a wolf-like spirit, it was like being cast out unfairly from the pack. And a pack, to a wolf, means family.
Without giving too much away (no spoilers), I found the real beauty of this book to be in the climactic scene where the protagonist finally confronts her teacher, the person who had been sending so much harm her way. It was very touching for me to read how she managed to view the flaws of her teacher from the highest point—indeed, from the point of view of the Higher Self—and forgive and understand her. From a spiritual perspective, I consider this a great thing and possibly the most important lesson for the readers of this book. To choose to love, rather than to give in to the reactionary feelings of anger or revenge… what is more, to choose to understand and view the other person in a way that is loving and gracious and respectful of the other person’s being, even though the other person has done nothing but try to harm you, is the wise thing to do and indicative of the author’s personal growth through all of this process. She could have easily succumbed to the dark side and chosen to lower her energy to match that of the person harming her. You know, fight fire with fire. But instead she chose to let go. She chose to see the situation with grace, and to focus on her growth, on her intentions, and on her own personal path and mission. It feels, for all intents and purposes, like she passed a very important test.
Like the author mentions many times during the book, a person’s growth is ongoing. We can be focused on having pristine thoughts and emotions one day and succumb to our shadows the next… it’s all part of the human experience. What is important, however (especially for those people who, like the author of this book, have chosen to make a difference in the world through their energy work) is to continually strive to become a conduit or channel for that which is greater than our physical, human form with all of its defects. In simple terms, to let the light shine through. And I believe this is what the author achieved during this first test on her path, and also one of the thing she is doing with this book.
All in all a very nice read, I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the Shamanic path or spirituality in general. I am certainly looking forward to the author’s future works and hope to read about her experiences teaching others on the path, and many more experiences to come.