Brilliant Miller's Blog

The Search for Self in Ceremonies and Other Sacred Spaces

Who are you, anyway?

Answering that question truthfully—and satisfyingly—might be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.

The ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi asked, “Am I a man who has fallen asleep and has dreamed he is a butterfly, or a butterfly who has fallen asleep and dreamed he is a man?”

It can be hard to know.

When I interviewed Arkan Lushwala, a Peruvian healer and teacher, for the School for Good Living Podcast, he told me that he regularly witnesses people struggling to know who they are.

Arkan shared about a time he was leading participants through an indigenous ceremony in which they spent four days fasting and praying on the side of a mountain in New Mexico’s high desert.

Each participant received a designated space in which to remain in solitude.

Just them and nature. And, perhaps, ancestors and spirits.

These participants might never have a better chance to truly connect with the deep wisdom in and around them.

After their time on the mountain, Arkan collected the participants. He then led them through a sweat lodge ceremony where they continued to pray according to ancient traditions.

Arkan noticed that one young man seemed to have reconnected with a lot of wisdom during his time alone with nature. Arkan suspected that this ceremony might even have been a turning point in this young man’s life.

Having spent years following his own spiritual path, and leading many others through portions of their own, Arkan knew that if this young man followed the wisdom he’d received—if he didn’t forget his experience on the mountain, his life would be different.

He’d be a leader who would make a difference for many people.

After the sweat lodge, as the group came down from the ceremonial grounds and returned closer to the comforts of home, the young man asked Arkan to stop so he could buy a drink.

The water the young man had been offered following the ceremony wasn’t enough. During his time on the mountain, he said, he’d been dreaming of a cold drink.

Arkan stopped at a gas station and the young man went in. He came back with a Coca Cola.

After he began drinking it, he said, “Aaaaah. I feel like my old self again.”

With a single sip, Arkan thought, the young man severed a sacred connection he’d spent many days cultivating.

In his years leading ceremonies, Arkan has seen many people have powerful experiences far outside their day-to-day lives. But he’s noticed that many people seem unwilling—or unable—to stay in those spaces.

People eventually return to what’s comfortable and familiar.

French philosopher Pierre Thielhard de Chardin declared, “You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience.”

It can be easy to forget. But you can remember any time you choose.

Brilliant Miller

I help achievers learn & grow, connect, contribute and have fun.

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