"Get out of there; it’s going to explode!” I hear those words from a man yelling as I sit on the street, looking down at the smoldering flesh hanging from my arms and legs. I look back and see our camper and SUV engulfed in flames, with my wife still inside.
I was involved in an accident 12 years ago, and I believe my experience was that of a divine intervention. Until recent months and my discovery of Pachamama, this has been a journey of internal darkness where I have now been guided back onto a path of finding my purpose, my light, and myself. I have not talked, written, or expressed this moment and experience with anyone over the past 12 years, as I have never thought of it as a big deal. I recently recognized that it was the turning point, which has had me stuck in depression, unmotivated, and just wondering through life.
In June 2011, as a military member of the US Coast Guard, our family began a move or transfer from Louisiana to Oregon. A week before our departure, my mother, with our two kids, drove one of our vehicles to her home in Montana so that my wife and I could get moved and setup in Oregon. The evening before our departure, I wanted to ensure my wife was comfortable towing a camper, as I would be driving the moving truck and towing a trailer as well. With my wife at the wheel, we set out on a short 5-mile loop; all seemed to be fine until we came around a corner and a large truck caused a disturbing wind that set our SUV and camper into a fishtail. I told my wife to grab the electric trailer brake and engage it fully, which should have stopped the fishtailing, but it had no effect. We jackknifed with the driver door pinned against the camper and headed towards the passenger side shoulder/ditch. As we were heading into the ditch, at about 50mph, I felt relieved that we were facing backwards and the impact would not be a head-on collision or a frontal impact. I watched as the camper partially peeled apart and we came to a rest with our vehicle still facing the opposite direction, with the camper crimped up against the driver's side back door and the passenger door uphill towards the street. I asked my wife if she was okay. I noticed white smoke in the passenger door mirror behind us and told my wife, Let's get out of here. I think the fuel tank is leaking onto the exhaust. I pushed the door open and crawled out; my wife crawled out of the driver seat and over to the passenger seat. As she was about to step out, I felt an intense heat, and I felt as though someone squeezed my body tight, forcing all the air out of me, and placed me about 20 feet away from the vehicle. I looked down and saw my skin on fire, and I instinctively STOP, DROP, and ROLLED. Not feeling anything and looking for flames still on me, I heard that man yelling at my wife to get out. I jumped up and ran to the driver window, as she had fallen backwards into the driver side and was trying to get upright. As I arrived at the driver window, it was rolling down, and my wife was still trying to get turned around. I stood on part of the camper and could feel the heat of the fire burning like a flamethrower from the back of the vehicle. The white smoke I had seen was actually liquid propane from the tanks on the front of the camper. We planned to sleep in the camper on the road trip to Oregon and ensured all the tanks were full. My wife expressed concern looking at me, and I told her I was fine; let’s get you out. I pulled her out of the driver window, and we ran about 100 feet away from the burning wreckage and watched as the remainder exploded into an inferno. People tended to us and looked in disbelief until the ambulance arrived and we were placed on stretchers. As I entered the ambulance, the medic asked if I was in pain, and I told them no, and then everything in my vision was closing in like a tunnel and went black into darkness.
I woke up two weeks later in the Baton Rouge Burn Center and spent another two weeks of excruciating pain and daily baths to remove burned skin and flesh. I was very numb, almost angry, but I didn’t know why. I didn’t blame my wife once for our accident, but she kept asking why I saved her, and I told her I would have done it for anyone. My military transfer was delayed, and I wanted to get to Oregon to see my kids, who still didn’t know what had happened yet, and they were told I had to extend a bit longer in Louisiana. I was grateful my mother had taken the kids the week before, as things could have been much different with them in the vehicle at the time of the crash. I was told to see a psychologist before I left to get clearance before I moved, and I said all the things I needed to get clearance and suppressed any feelings there may have been surrounding the event. Two months after the accident, I was finally cleared to make my move to Oregon and start a new chapter. I was grateful to be alive, to all the blessings, to the new beginning, but it wasn’t complete; I didn’t feel complete, and it only brought more darkness. I felt there was more to life than what I had; there had to be more.
I wound up divorcing my wife, alienating myself from my kids, drinking more, and only looking for the fun times. I engaged in a 10-year toxic and co-dependent relationship with a girl I knew from childhood. I found myself stuck and unmotivated at work and not completing things necessary to help me advance my military career, and I was eventually forced to retire. I found new work with the purpose of getting my kids through college, but I found myself doing the minimum, where I am normally a very high performer. Drinking went to hard alcohol and excessive marijuana use, and my ego was overflowing with righteousness. I hit rock bottom when I discovered the girl I was with was having an online affair, and my world came crashing to a halt.
I began to question everything. I began to reflect deeply on my past, on my childhood, and on who I was. I remembered my accident and the Divine Intervention that somehow shielded me and kept me alive in that explosion. I WAS SUPPOSED TO WAKE UP THEN! The thought of alcohol made me sick, and I instantly stopped drinking. I watched hundreds of hours of YouTube videos to help me discover myself, do my shadow work, and understand what my purpose here is and where I want to be for the rest of my life. I began to search for ayahuasca healing retreats, and that is when I found Pachamama Sacred Paths and a Sacred Plant Medicine Retreat near me. (Literally, it was 7 minutes from me and meant to be.) I used the last money I had in my account and maxed out my cards to get the retreat paid for. I was going with a full-open mind to what I felt was calling me. I needed to further cleanse before the retreat, and at that time I also realized marijuana was only being used to cover and hide my emotions and feelings. Eventually, I needed to work through it all, and I stopped using marijuana and haven’t had any desire to use that medicine since.
My Pachamama sacred plant medicine retreat was one of the most profound moments of my life. I have never experienced such a collective of love and care. My ayahuasca experience gave me a new birth; my body cracked out of a shell as I sat with Mother Aya, watching my rebirth in a new light. Ninos Santos gave me many visions and clarity of that around me, as well as suppression of ego and letting my wall down. Bufo left me laughing like a kid, warm and comforted. I trust and believe in the Pachamama process and its entire team. Until this experience, I had never heard of holding space and an entire vocabulary of the most beautiful support for one another’s body, mind, and spirit.
As I sit here today entering into my 49th year, my 7th year of my 7th Chakra cycle, My Crown-Crown, I understand that I have just been shown a new light, a light of purpose, my purpose. My deep love for one another and to support one another has called me to help be a part of as many ceremonies as I can while continuing to work on myself, learning deeply about myself, and igniting the light within. The Shamanic Initiation Course is a calling I believe in and have felt for a long time. The teachings are allowing me to connect deeply within myself as well as experience our world from many different perspectives. I see many cycles that I went through repeating in many people of all ages; I see the power of a collective at a concert staring at the musician on stage; I see the unlimited boundaries of love in expressions between two different species of animals. I see who I am!
Noccan-Kani Shae Neal, I am the Being! I am Love! I am Eternal Light!