Autobiography of a Western Spiritwalker
Della Clark


I have heard a voice in my head since I was an infant crawling on the linoleum floor of my bedroom. It told me I was loved and cherished by God, and by the angelic beings and teachers in the spirit realms. My mother was a nurse who, having worked the night shift for many years, slept until noon. My father was a mechanic who had his own business and worked twelve-hour days, six days a week, and eight hours on Sunday. My relationship with the spirits became part of my daily life. It was real.

I know the stories of children having imaginary friends. I believe much more attention should be given to document these relationships from a spiritual perspective. My relationship with the spirits did not involve tea parties, but did involve teachings about nonordinary reality.

The "voice," my spirit helper, would tell me stories and sometimes give specific guidance. Sometimes, the guidance was for my parents. I was told how to speak to my parents so that they would listen to me. I would suddenly shout out in a very strong voice something they needed to do that would help our family. Because there had been a family history of some of my ancestors, on both sides, hearing such messages, my parents did, indeed, listen.

My paternal ancestors were followers of Emmanuel Swedenborg, the Christian mystic who heard guidance from angelic beings. My maternal Latvian grandmother had visions of her brothers and sisters in Auschwitz long before the Holocaust atrocities were known. She was diagnosed schizophrenic, committed to a mental hospital, and died while receiving shock treatment.

When I was nine years old, sitting under our back yard lemon tree, my spirit helper told me my paternal grandfather was going to be killed in a car accident. I was told not to tell my parents or the spirit would not return. I did not believe this spirit would leave, as I had heard its loving, comforting voice my entire life. I told my parents. My grandfather did not drive, so it seemed likely that my father would be driving him. He became very attentive to his driving. A few weeks later my grandfather was hit while riding his bicycle; it was a hit and run car accident.

There seemed to be points in my life where extremely important healing guidance would come. These were turning points. I was given several scenarios of how different choices regarding this time would bring different consequences. Having all those options was sometimes very confusing. I would become very upset, and in my upset state would forget the options, and then, frustrated, be forced to make a choice in the moment. Through the years, I realized that when I was confused, I was just not meant to hear the message clearly.

As an adult, sitting on my front porch, I observed some Bluejays attempting to build a nest. . They were trying to stuff rather large twigs under the eaves, and they would fall to the ground. Periodically, two or three would stay wedged for a while, and then the next twig would bring them all crashing to the porch. An extremely large pile of twigs began to form on that corner of the porch. Visitors began to ask me what I was doing.

"Nothing," I would reply. "I am watching Bluejays trying to build a nest."

I thought about helping them by breaking some of the twigs into smaller pieces. That would be interfering. Interfering with any sentient being without permission would have negative consequences. So, I just watched, as the pile of twigs grew larger and larger. Then, one night we had a freeze. I realized that had the jays built their nest, all the eggs would have frozen. They were confused for a "higher" reason. When the danger of frost was finally gone, the Bluejays began to pick twigs which were suitable for their nest. They had the clarity they needed.

When I feel confused, I try to remember it is for a reason. Rather than becoming angry or frustrated things are not going the way I want them to, I release to the guidance of the Universe and the spirit beings who have always guided me.

When I was twenty years old and a sophomore in college, I saw a poster in a hallway with a picture of the temple ruins of Tikal in Guatemala. I felt instantly drawn there. The university was sponsoring a summer extension program in Guatemala City. My parents were very strict by today's standards and I lived at home and was expected to follow their rules. I was a good girl, extremely naive, and very introverted. I perceived the University program as a way I could travel to a romantic foreign land, and yet have protection by living with a local family in this Latin country. I did not share my plan with my family, but began to save my paychecks and paid for my school tuition, board and room with a family, and my airplane ticket. I was extremely motivated and talked one of my school-work friends into going. I told my parents the night before I was to leave.

My father gave me $100.00 in singles for "just-in-case" money; my parents were very proud of me. My intended disobedience was a leap into adulthood. Of course, I had deliberately not mentioned
Guatemala City was under martial law, and that there were student riots in Mexico City where my flight was transferring.

The experience in Guatemala helped me to blossom from one who observed life into one who experienced life. I replaced my glasses with contact lenses just prior to the trip. I felt more confident. The teenage daughter of the rather well-to-do family we lived with had told all her male friends three American girls were spending the summer with her; we had dates every night of the week!

I learned to dance and I could drink fresh banana daiquiris and Cuba-libres. We were stopped frequently by the authorities and asked for our papers. Cars had to keep their dome lights on at night. There were military troops with machine guns on the buses. We saw people living in tin and cardboard shacks on the edges of the wealthy areas. A, friend of the family took us to San Salvador one weekend and I saw children with the bloated stom­achs of malnutrition.

I also attended classes and visited archeological digs. The school arranged a trip to Tikal. It was exciting to be there and explore the temples. At that time, only two had been excavated. There were several still deeply entwined with the rain forest. I felt I had been there before; it was one of my first conscious deja vu experiences.

While in Guatemala, I was obsessed with going into the mountains to Lake Atitlan. Just a week before we were to return home, I arranged to go with some school teachers who had hired an extremely flirtatious guide to take them to Lake Atitlan and Chichicastenango. I was twenty; the teachers were in their forties and fillies. At this time, I was having a number of deja-vu experiences and spiritual encounters, which were affecting me deeply.

When we arrived in Santiago Atitlan, several villagers met our car and began to surround me. A local shaman had told them that I was arriving that day. I heard a voice in my head say that a shaman of the village had invited me there and that I should go with these villagers who would take me to him. My life would be forever changed, but I would become a part of the village and he would teach me all he knew. This was beyond anything I had ever experienced. I knew that I could not share these experiences with just anyone.

The guide was urging us into a car that would take us to Chichicastenango. The villagers were insisting that I go with them. I was very confused. A part of me wanted to go see this man, and listen to what he had to tell me, and another part wanted to retreat into the safety of the familiar Americans that I knew. I chose to leave the village.

In Chichicastenango, we did some tourist things. In the late afternoon, we visited the church. The native shamans were permitted to wave their incense and do their healings on the steps and into the knave of the church, but not beyond. The church site, as most sites, had been built on a sacred native site.

We then went to the back of the church and a small hill where the guide had arranged for one of the village healers to speak to us. As he was talking with the guide translating, I looked up to another nearby hill and watched another man doing a ceremony. As I watched him, he waved to me to come and join him, but I ignored him. He continued to do his ceremony and then periodically would wave to me to come. Eventually, the village healer asked the guide to ask me what I was looking at. I pointed to the other man on the hill. One of the teachers remarked there was no one there. The guide asked me to describe the man and what he was wearing. I said he was older, perhaps in his late 70s, and described the sash he wore around his waist. The village healer became very upset and stormed off. The guide told me that no one else could see what I was seeing, but the person I described was a well known shaman from Santiago Atitlan and he was spiritually trespassing on the other fellow's territory! The guide told me I must have a "gift" and that he understood such, things because he had experience from his childhood. He told me to pay attention to my dreams that night.

Interestingly, I had an incredible dream, which was so vivid I would say it was more of a vision. I was pulled out of my body and went into the bottom of Lake Atitlan where I met a woman who was rather large and round with a gray streak in her hair. She told me that I had been called there to work with a village healing man, a shaman. She added that the call had gone into North America and that four or five people would respond to the call. We would have to experience an initiation that would involve being in the jungle alone with wild animals, includ­ing snakes and jaguars. It would mean experiencing hardships that might lead to death. I was shown some of the initiation experiences and was told that it was known that at least one of us would die. She said I had a choice, but that it was my destiny to follow this path. Since I was with her in that moment, she said it was an affirmation that I was a "spiritwalker." However, without much hesitation, I declined the "calling" because, as a twenty year old American from a culture vastly different from the one in Santiago Atitlan, I did not have the skills to survive there.

She told me that my choice would be honored, but that too many knew now that I was one who had been called and my life was in danger. Shamans in this culture continually test the powers of other shamans and I was in danger of being tested as the new initiate. She told me that when I was asked what I had dreamt, I was to lie. I would be asked three times. This was going to be difficult as I had never been able to lie. The woman left me and I returned to my body.

I laid awake most of the night wondering what was happening to me. Had I made the right choice? I had been told to remain perfectly still, and blank my mind of all thought in order to change my path and walk back into my Western world. This was extremely difficult as I was experiencing extreme fear. Other spirits came to me with other options. One of these was to explore core shamanism where the practitioners co-operate and assist one another as they work with the healing spirits. I said "yes" to this, and I felt a peace.

The first to ask me about my dreaming was one of the teachers. I told her we had such an exciting day the day before, I was exhausted, and when my head hit the pillow, I was out. I added that if I had dreamt, I did not remember. The next person to ask me was the guide, to whom I repeated the same story.

We went to the Chichicastenango market where I wanted to buy shawls for my mother, grandmother, and myself. The guide stuck to m~ like glue, offering to be my personal translator. At a stall where I was looking at some shawls, a large woman came up to the woman who was in the stall and began speaking to her. The woman in the stall stepped aside, and the large woman entered the stall. The guide said something unusual had just happened. The large woman was an elder and a women's chief from Santiago Atitlan; she did not belong there. Because she was an elder and a chief, the local woman had stepped aside, but stayed nearby chattering with a group of other women.

The large woman asked if I wanted to see some shawls, and I said "Yes." As she showed them to me, I heard the guide translating, but I also heard and understood her in my head. She asked me what I dreamed the night before. I became fearful, and then tried to release my fear. I told her that we had traveled a great distance and I was so tired, I slept soundly. She looked at me with a stern face, gazing into my eyes, and said, "You Lie!"

My heart skipped a beat! Then she began to smile and I noticed for the first time the gray streak in her hair. I felt tremendous love coming from her. She said that as soon as I left the stall, I would forget this experience for thirty years, and that since I had chosen to decline this invitation, I would be released. She added that because it was my destiny, my initiation would be spread out over the thirty years; I would be forced to face fear and death, but in my own familiar material world.

She showed me a beautiful multi-colored shawl that I had not seen and I bought it, and two others for my family. As I turned away from the stall, my mind was washed clear of the experience. I forgot about the helping spirits. I busied myself studying for exams, working, or was engrossed in television programs or in relationships.

Then, in 1978 when I was thirty years old, my mother was in intensive care in a hospital. I called on the spirits to come, and they did. They told me the healing was for me, not my mother. She was the vehicle for my remembering my connection to spirits. What a gift my mother gave me! Shortly after her death transition, I connected with a metaphysical church. I took a class in meditation and became part of a healing circle.

Sometime in the early 1980s, Michael Harner came to give his "Basic" shamanism workshop. I felt a strong call to go, but had no money. My spirit helpers told me that if I borrowed the money, I would lose my memory and that I had to trust the spirits to lead me to the funds I needed. I did not trust. I borrowed the money. After that, and for many years, I had dreams in which I attended courses in nonordinary reality with Michael Harner.

The healing circle began to send souls who had relinquished their physical forms in death on to the "other side." When the church was going to stop the circle for lack of attendance, I spoke out from a very deep and centered space within, this was important work, which must continue. Somehow, I became the facilitator for the circle. I did this service for ten years, and along the way, became a minister in the church.

I did laying on of hands, and a form of Polarity Therapy for those who requested it. Several people in the healing circle had cancer, and we began to utilize visualization therapy with them with success. I decided that I needed to study psychology to better understand and help these people with their emotional traumas, which were leading to physical illness.

At that time, I had been working for fifteen years as a retail sales manager for one of the world's largest retailers. Though a successful work-a-holic, I was also totally out of alignment with my soul's destiny. I submitted an application for graduate school in psychology/counseling, my intention being to get a BA in psychology, and then to get a Masters in counseling. I thought I would work and go to school part-time. The school accepted me into the master's program without the undergraduate require­ments. I knew that spirits assisted in this, so I made a commitment to "go for it." I resigned from my job, and went to school full time. I found a part-time job which was easy for me and paid well.

I obtained my Masters degree and began a 3000 hour internship at a runaway shelter. I worked as a youth supervisor on a thirty-two hour shift on weekends, did a twenty-four hour internship during the week, worked part-time in a store thirty hours, facilitated the healing circle, led meditations and services on a rotation basis at the church, participated in a choir, and was in a relationship. In 1985, I was licensed as a Marriage Family Therapist. I could not have done all this without strong connections with spirits.

My connections to the spirits deepened in a profound way. While leading the circle one evening, one of my allies came to me and told me a woman was there who wanted to talk to me. Her name was Josephine and she needed to come into my head so I could hear her. I was very adamant that I did not want to channel and was told that was not the intention. She was traveling outside of time, but was leading a circle much like ours, sending lost souls on. Her spirit helpers had asked her to send some of her circle to places on the planet that needed healing, where souls had been trapped. She wanted to link up with our circle. Our group agreed. Noth­ing was to change. She visited the circle perhaps three times. I did permit her to speak through me on her last visit; she is the only one I have ever permitted to do his.

After this experience, I was given the opportunity to study in nonordinary reality with one of three teachers. Each was described to me, along with what I could learn from them. They were: a woman named Pearl, Sister Thedra, and Josephine. I chose Josephine. Josephine had a strong connection to other teachers. She taught her students how to connect with their spirit helpers through automatic writing. She taught me about healing Karma, and helped me to remember some of my initiations in other lifetimes (most of which I failed).

A complication arose in 1988: the runaway shelter lost funding, and I was laid off work. The next day my best friend told me he had a rare form of cancer. He needed someone to take him to appointments and be there for him. There was no question that I needed to do this; I was totally present for him during this time. My allies told me that when I was no longer needed, I would find a great job. I continued to look for a position, but none called me back. I was very calm about this process. Though I had very little money at the time, I won food prizes at fast food restaurants, which kept me going for several months! It felt like I was absolutely doing what I was supposed to be doing.

Sitting with Earl during his death transition was a great honor. He had asked for healing to keep going until he repaired his relationship with his son. That complete, he made a very conscious choice to let go of his ravaged physical body. He had raised orchids, and found his place in nonordinary reality where the orchids are plentiful and wild in nature; he visited there for several days before his spiritual loved ones came to talk with him. He said, "I'm going to go now," and left with them.

As promised by my spirit helpers, two weeks later I interviewed for, and was hired into, a position earning three times what I had been making. I was to report in mid-January, but right before my report date, I awoke realizing that I did not remember anything regarding my profession. My mind was blank. I thought perhaps it was grief or stress. I meditated, did deep breathing - nothing. In a panic, I realized that I could not report for this position. I started to call them and decline their offer. What else could I do? Then, a voice inside my head said, "what have you got to lose?" I was given the alternatives to not reporting. They were not good. "What have I got to lose?" became my mantra. If anyone noticed anything wrong, they never said anything. A few months later, I was introduced to someone as an "intuitive therapist." That resonated with me, and I relaxed into a comfortable place of peace with my work.

I left the healing circle and the metaphysical church. My life shifted in another direction. I sat with several people who were making their death transitions; it is a tremendous gift to be there at the moment a soul is released from its physical form. I also was working with adolescent females who were pregnant, and was sometimes asked to be their birthing coach. It is hard to say which was the most profound and the most joyful.

When my father was diagnosed with stomach cancer, he was given six weeks to live. I asked his spirit helpers to come and give him all of his options. There are always so many more options that can be seen by the spirits. I could see them at his door, speaking to him. He was asking them about me, and I felt I was eavesdropping, so I returned to bed. About 2:00 AM, I had to get up to help him with a stomach pump. He asked me who those people were I was talking to. I said they were friends that I had asked to stop by. He then asked for a pain pill, the first one he had ever taken. The next morning, I could see something had happened; he was crooked in the bed. I asked him to move his legs and he did. As I fluffed the pillows around his neck, I realized he was going. "Things will take care of themselves," he said. He made his transition as I was holding him. I sat with many other friends who were making their death transitions; it all seemed to happen at once.

Gradually, I found myself spiraling down into depression. I had pneumonia, and was not getting well. I went deeper into depression; I could not pull out of it. This was not like me at all. I sought help from a psychologist in Northern California who was doing regressions. She asked me what I had been doing, and proceeded to do depossession work on me. I had felt protected doing the death and dying work, but she said that the spirits attached to those souls had to go somewhere when the souls moved on, and that they picked the closest being. I actually did not believe her, but when I returned home a few days later, I did an exercise to send the spirits and entities on before I went to sleep. The next morning I awoke and could tell immediately that I was back to my normal self.

I began to ask my power animals and teachers to speak to the allies of my clients. If there was anything I could do or say which would assist them in clearing any spirits or entities which had attached to my clients and were causing them harm, my intention was that this be so. I did nothing else. The young women were entering my office in one state and leaving in another. My staff jokingly accused me of doing depossessions. My clients reported feeling better, and demonstrated an ability to function better in the world. I had done nothing. The spirits had taken care of whatever needed to be done.

Seven years later, in 1994, I was guided to a book called Spiritwalker, by Hank Wesselman. When I read it, I entered an altered state of consciousness. I was given a tremendous amount of information, and many opportunities and consequences for possible choices I would be presented in my life. So many were given that I could not possibly remember them all. To this day I still experience a lot of deja vu from this.

One of the opportunities presented itself the next day. I received an unexpected invitation to a workshop in San Francisco on overtone chanting to be given by Jill Purce. I had no idea a woman could do this form of chant, and was extremely drawn to it. I had difficulty doing the chanting of the vowels at first. I worked on it for two weeks, doing visualization and personal healing work to help. While driving my car one day, I was practicing and it suddenly worked. I felt a tremendous surge of energy flow up from the base of my spine through the third eye and then the crown chakra. I felt power come down to join with my own, and link up! My spirit helpers were sending me such love and joy! It was something they had been waiting for. I again felt a deepening connection to the spirits. New spirit teachers presented themselves. I began to receive gifts of spiritual as well as material nature. I assume this was to encourage me to continue this practice. As my memories began to return, I began to remember my connection with Michael Harner and am now a Council member of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies.

I began to do healing work with the sound almost immediately and began to teach anyone who crossed my path who had an interest in it. I began to use the sound with shamanic journeying with great success in my workshops. According to participants, it is a profound experience for them.

I volunteered with a group of developmentally disabled adults and their caregivers. It helped the hyperactive to calm down, those in a quasi-vegetative state to become more responsive, and relaxed the stressed caregivers.

I also volunteered with a rural elders program. Most of the elders were diagnosed with senior dementia or Alzheimer's. They responded well to the sound, as well as drumming and Tibetan bells and bowls. A member of our community had made her death transition prior to one of these sessions, and one senior had heard the drums. I explained to the group that she was being drummed across to the other side. They all thought that was wonderful. We had quite a nice discussion on what they might like to have happen at their own death transitions. It felt as though a tribal ritual was being seeded into a part of the community that is often neglected in our Western culture.

In January of 1999, I hit road slick on a rural mountain road in California. As I went off the road, I had another deja vu experience. I said a prayer of protection as I careened down the cliff. I remembered pieces of the guidance I was given five years before. I did not need to choose this experience, but I had now chosen it. I needed to listen.

My car ended up 200 feet down a cliff, upside down. I was hanging upside down by my seat belt. I did a sound journey into nonordinary reality and was told not to remove my seat belt; severe injury would be the consequence of that choice. I needed to choose the path of healing and trust that I was protected and guided as long as I stayed in the present moment, creating healing rather than fear. I was guided to my cell phone, which was connected to the charger. I had to dislocate my shoulder to use it. The 911 dispatcher answered and sent help, which arrived about one and one-half hours later. I was pulled out of my car onto the hood of a pickup truck that had gone off the road in the same place a few months before. That driver had died there. I knew instantly when I heard this why I was there--to send the soul of this man on to the other side. With help from the spirits, we sent him on. My shoulder was put back in place; I had no other injuries. Later, I discovered that I had a compression fracture at the third lumbar vertebra. If I had removed my seat belt while upside down in the car, I would have severely injured my body, and been in so much pain I would not have heard the spiritual guidance that was offered.

Later, I learned that cell phones did not work at the time where the accident occurred. I was called the "Milagro Lady."

As a contributor to the Foundation for Shamanic Studies that year, I received the book, Secrets of the Talking Jaguar by Martin Prechtel. Martin shared his experiences as an initiate to a shaman named Nicholas Chiviliu Tacaxoy in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. I recognized several people described in the book, and memories of my experiences in Lake Atitlan thirty years before came flooding back!

Over the past thirty years, I have experienced my Western world initiation, facing fear and death, renewing and forgetting my connection to the spirits, losing my way and then finding it again, most often through an encounter, not with a jaguar or a snake, but often with a book. I have been blessed to serve the spirits as a Western spiritwalker. I honor my teachers in ordinary reality and in nonordinary reality, including Michael Harner, Nicholas Chiviliu Tacaxoy, Josephine Taylor, and Jill Puree. I honor many others known and yet unknown. What gifts you have been and are to this Universe!

"Autobiography of a Western Spiritwalker", From the Foundation for Shamanic Studies ( journal, Shamanism,
pp. 30 - 36, Vol. 17, No. 2 (Fall/Winter) 2004.