Shaman Express is a provocative and deeply humorous novel about the dangers of pursuing enlightenment. A depressed divorcée and a recovering addict are both at a crossroads in their lives. They barely know each other but decide to embark together on a journey with the intention of writing a book on experiential shamanism. But spiritual retreats and self-help books haven’t prepared them for what lies ahead. Moving between pastoral Italy, the rugged steppes of Siberia, and the crowded streets of Thailand, the story alternates between ordinary reality and shamanic non-ordinary reality, the borders of which become blurred along the way. They may not find what they thought they sought, but they will be forever transformed.
|Product dimensions:||5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
For more information visit www.benedicterousseau.com
Omar Beretta is a traveling writer. He was born in Argentina in 1965.
For more information visit www.yacarevolador.com
Shaman Express is their first co-authored novel.
Read an Excerpt
When a wound is tired of crying It will start to sing.
Ghazi Al Gosaibi
Amsterdam, 19 June 2015
I woke up sweating, alarmed, and with a painful erection. The electric clock read 4:45 a.m. Enjoy the pleasures this puppet theater has to offer, it said in glowing green lights. What the fuck? I attempted to masturbate, but the need to pee was stronger. I sat on the toilet without being able to pee, acknowledging the tiny attic room of this Amsterdam hotel. Seated, I rested my head against the wooden roof beam and perceived its solidity. I sensed my skin, the fine layer of flesh composing my temple and my skull. Could I really feel my skull against the beam? Yes, I could feel it all right, but what lay inside my skull was a mystery.
As I sat, I peed partly over the toilet seat and also on the white bathmat. I would have to wash it in the shower in the morning. I tried to masturbate again, but I needed to pee some more. I went into the bedroom and opened the window over Kerkstraat. I sat on the window ledge and only wished that I had some pot to smoke. Or a cigarette. Or a lover in bed. The Blue Dolphin Café across the street was closed, as was any other decent coffee shop in town where I could buy pot if I wanted to. I wanted to, but I was not going to. The fact that all coffee shops were closed supported my decision.
I could get some charlie from the guys down Warmoesstraat at this time of the night. I had not visited that network for a long time, and I did not feel like making new friends. And of course, yes, I did not do charlie. Never had. Not never-never, but it had never been my thing. So why the hell was I thinking about snorting charlie? I had been attributing every strange thought I had to the withdrawal effect. Two years, nine months, and one day sober today, if I made it to the night.
I could take a shower and go to a sex party. I was almost sure that it was naked party night at Club Church, which was just across the street. If I leaned out of the window enough, I would see the glow of Club Church's fluorescent front projected onto the cobbles of Kerkstraat.
I felt my skull leaning on the solidity of the window casing, but I could not feel what was inside my skull. Some sticky grey matter, maybe. Was it just my imagination? I masturbated on the window ledge of the attic over Kerkstraat, neither smoking nor snorting nor dancing naked. This was real. All I needed was to pee. I drank some water and went back to bed. Two years, nine months, and one day. I closed my eyes.
What was it that made me wake up sweaty, alarmed, and with a painful erection? Oh yes, that message from my last shamanic journey: Enjoy the pleasures this puppet theater has to offer; enjoy it while you are still here. It will soon be over. You are on to a new journey.
Was I dreaming?
I put my clothes in a plastic bag and check the bag with the half-naked guy at the cloakroom in exchange for a plastic token. We cannot talk because the music is too loud, but he gives me that smile. I keep the token inside my runners and we both laugh, but not really.
I am inside a cubicle at Club Church's toilet, trying to get hold of the last half of ecstasy that is crushed inside a small plastic bag hidden in my runners. I fiddle with the laces, the plastic bag, and the plastic token. Too many things simultaneously. And my jaw aches. In what seems to be slow motion, a portion of the half "e" falls from the plastic bag to the toilet seat. The seat is wet, totally wet, as are the walls and damp yellow light bulbs. Someone is vigorously knocking at the door of my cubicle. I have to make a quick decision: I lick. I lick the rim of the toilet seat, attempting to make the minimum possible contact with the seat but at the same time enough contact to catch the entire fraction of "e." This being my last half-pill, the event is significant enough for my brain to factor in the risks and benefits involved and decide to lick the toilet seat in order to retrieve the magical substance.
I come out of the cubicle drenched with sweat and feeling as if I have achieved a most trying somersault. Enjoy the pleasures. It will soon be over. Nobody notices my victory, but my face is radiant and my heart is ever expanding. My eyelashes have turned into a rudimentary shamanic eye curtain, those fringes of beads that Siberian shamans use to separate themselves from the ordinary world. With my eyes almost closed, I ask the glowing demigod behind the bar for a Spa blauw. I grab a five- euro note from my runners and hand it to him, making a hand gesture for him to keep the change. He smiles and flexes. Transpersonal clubbing collective consciousness: there is no need to talk.
My eyelashes are still almost down when I dive into the 130 beats per minute of progressive house. While you are still here. The melody is standing alone, and the song does not start building up until what seems much later. As the beats become velvety and bitter, I begin grinding my teeth. I welcome the much-awaited midsong climax with orgasmic joy. Daft Punk's "Alive" is exploding inside my skull. I can distinctly feel my pituitary gland oozing serotonin. I can push my pituitary gland with my tongue, in exactly the same way that I can push my prostate with a finger up my butt to make me ooze pre-cum. It itches, and it makes me happy. I scratch my scalp with one hand and grab my balls with the other one. Enjoy the pleasures while you are still here. We hug and kiss and jump and have the weirdest empathic visions. Alive.
Later, just before the DJ stops playing, I exchange the plastic token for my clothes at the cloakroom. I dress with great effort and come out to the street. I lean against the wall, and a guy offers me a much-needed cigarette. He clumsily tries to light the cigarette with a plastic lighter. We both laugh. "Hi, I'm Omar, from Argentina."
He answers that he is from Thailand, but I do not catch his name. "Oh yes, I would love you to come to my hotel." Enjoy the pleasures this puppet theater has to offer.
"I'm wasted, man. I think I'll take a long shower and collapse in bed."
"Cool, let's take a shower together and cuddle. And take some GHB and listen to music, or watch porn. I would love that."
"No, I don't have Viagra. Let's just cuddle. We can fuck tomorrow." While I am still here.
We cross the street to my hotel. I fidget with the keys, and we climb the stairs to the attic. My new friend follows me, but he is too tall for the narrow stairs, or too drunk, or both. There is something out of proportion between him and this little crooked house. We reach my room, and I fling the door open. I see myself sitting at the window ledge with my limp dick in one hand and looking at the Blue Dolphin Café downstairs. "I've brought a friend," I hear myself saying. I feel genuinely happy. I look at myself and start laughing. I have missed this so much. My Thai friend starts undressing and falls asleep half-naked on the bed. I walk to the window ledge and sit. A rolling wave of tenderness falls from the roof and embraces the three of us. The Blue Dolphin Café will not open before 10:00 a.m., and the fluorescent lights of Club Church are already off. A soft pink light dawns over the roofs of all the crooked little houses on Kerkstraat and beyond.
"Do you want a cigarette?"
"Fuck no. Two years, nine months, and one day today."
"Oh shit, don't tell me. We did that?"
"I should start getting ready. I have a plane to catch in a couple of hours. I'm going to meet Benedetta."
"Is that now? Is that today?"
"Now, yes. That was some party you took us to. I can still feel
'Alive' inside my skull."
"Oh fuck. I'm sorry. It was just the most ... the music tonight ... are you really feeling the inside of your skull?"
"Did I say that?"
"Yeah, man, you did."
"I guess that I need to thank you for this. It feels more real now."
"Hey, were you with me when I licked the toilet seat? Did you get the vibe?"
"Gross. You know I wasn't with you. I was remembering it. Are you here now?"
"I am. But did you feel that? Man, the stench, ugh, and the texture ... any regrets?"
"Well, I wish I hadn't. I had nightmares and woke up with a hard-on."
"I felt that."
"Do you know who I am?"
"I'm not sure who I am. Shit, my Thai friend is dead, man."
"His name is Pak. He passed out. Too much GHB. He'll be all right in the morning. I'll tell the guys to wake him up after we leave for the airport."
"Do you know him?"
"I remember him. I'll tell the guys in case they can see him."
"Maybe we can give him a blowjob?"
"He passed out."
"Just for fun, man. For old times' sake."
"The carefree yogin soars like a great Garuda."
"What the fuck?"
"What the fucking fuck?"
"Two years, nine months, and one day today. That is, if we make it to tonight."
"Fuck man. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck."
"Okay, okay. I'll take the back seat."
"Back seat is good. I may need you. I think that I'm going to die soon, you know."
"Oh, not that shit again. Have you been meditating?"
"It's not meditating. It's journeying, shamanic journeying. No, it isn't that. The withdrawal effect."
"Listen man, I'm naked."
"I can feel it. I'm naked too."
"I miss you."
"I miss you too, sometimes. But now is better. You have to trust me."
"Where are we going again?" "Pisa. Benedetta."
"Fuck. Yes. Awesome. That is awesome! Do I know Benedetta?"
"You don't, but I do. You can't remember her."
"I know, but I can imagine her."
"Are you here now?"
"I'm with you, always. I love you man. Back seat, promise."
"Good. Now, go to sleep."
A few hours later I had collected myself and was sat at a café in the Schiphol Airport boarding area. I had a strong coffee and a banana muffin as a substitute for the drugs and sex I did not have the previous night. My shamanic drum was on the chair opposite me, together with my small backpack. Michael Harner's Cave and Cosmos lay open on my table with my journeying notes. I had kept a diary for many years but I gave it up when I started keeping travel journals. I eventually gave them up as well, for journeying journals. It was my new drug and source of inspiration. I read and reread my notes about the messages that the spirits gave me. All the love that I was looking for in the wrong places, all the time: I could avoid that impulse, one day at a time. I felt loved like I never had.
"What is this?" the security guy asked me.
"A musical instrument."
"Can you open it, please?"
Years of smuggling marijuana, hash, LSD, and GHB in and out of this country, hidden in my luggage. And porn, dildos, leather restraints, leather chaps, handcuffs, rubber briefs – you name it. Never was I asked any questions. But a shamanic drum raises an eyebrow. The security officer inspected it as if it were an explosive. He hesitated a moment before instructing me to put it back in its case. What is invisible is scarce and attracts attention. A part of his consciousness was telling him that the item was an unusual device that opened doors to new forms of perception, a realm beyond his controlling duties, which made him uneasy. No matter how hard he tried, the more rational side of him failed in coming up with an excuse that was legal and binding to enquire more about my drum and possibly requisition it for further investigation.
"Are you a musician?"
He thanked me with a polite smile and indicated I should proceed to the boarding gates.
Three years ago I was in a very bad place. I had a vampire lover. A classic vampire: the one that sucks your blood. The vampire dumped me, and I had nowhere to go but deeper into the drugs and sex routine. I was longing for a new vampire and also felt suicidal. I hit rock bottom. As is sometimes the case if one is lucky, I entered a twelve-step recovery program for addicts and spent a few weeks sober for the first time in ages.
It took me some time to understand that the twelve-step recovery program I had entered was a spiritual program. I needed to stop the spiral of destruction so badly that I was ready to embrace salvation in whatever form it came and let go of prejudices. I honestly came to believe that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity, and started connecting regularly with that power. I went back to the meditation techniques that I knew and devoted more time to practicing yoga. I was enthusiastic, yet it was too early to be able to make the sort of powerful spiritual connection that I was looking for.
After a year committed to my recovery and under the guidance of my program sponsor, I was lucid enough to hop on a plane and go to a spiritual community in Scotland. I spent a few months there working in the kitchen and learning the values of communal living. Being a small fish in a large spiritual pond brought me a sense of purpose, and with it came a figment of hope. The introduction to shamanism came as a bonus.
Each time I tell Europeans that my first steps in shamanic practice were taught in an attic in the Scottish Highlands, they seem disappointed. Most of them expect me to be the disciple of a maestro ayahuasquero from the Peruvian Amazon, because I was born and raised in South America. Castaneda delivered to perfection the story that the Northwestern Hemisphere was willing to believe. I apologize; I was introduced to shamanism in the Scottish Highlands. After my first drum- induced shamanic journey, I realized that I had tapped into something very powerful that offered an endless supply of healing, forgiveness, and love. The recovery program had awakened a spiritual connection in me that was manifesting itself gracefully. Things just fell into place.
Between 205 and 240 drumbeats per minute are needed to induce a shamanic trance in order to journey to the non-ordinary reality. All those nights dancing to house music, I was nearly there. It fell short a few beats only. I had always believed that the state of trance I achieved dancing was by grace of the chemicals that I was ingesting. Wrong: human beings naturally possess all the needed psychoactive chemicals. Shamanic drumming is aimed at activating this potential. I could identify the effect that shamanic drumbeats have on the brain when I started journeying with them. The chemicals might produce something like the same serotonin boost, but the drumming is the real thing. In hindsight, all those nights clubbing on "e" were the antechamber to the palace of dreams where the drumming takes me.
What was the previous night's reverie about my clubbing days in Amsterdam? Oh yes, Pak. My Thai friend. I met him that night at Club Church several years ago. Athletic and terribly good- looking, the artful Oriental lover. A serious Buddhist, too: he embodied non-attachment. I saw the toughest Western men crumble in tears for him. Fortunes were offered for the coveted monopoly over his negotiable affection, but he danced with all of us. When he danced with me, he made me incredibly happy. We became inseparable buddies, matching tattoos and all. When I told him that I had fallen in love with him, he responded that my attachment to him was a deluded form of perception.
Pak had affluent sponsors on the club scene. Like so many boys and girls in his trade, most of the money he earned went to his rural hometown to support his family. He was providing for his sister's education. It will soon be over. I'm on to a new journey. That is what Pak used to say all the time. He would soon return to Thailand to become a monk. "Am I going to die?" I pondered, chewing on the chemical softness of the banana muffin. That night at Club Church, which I had forgotten, had come back crystal clear. I could feel the toilet seat, the velvety beats, and the inside of my skull. Last night could very well be a loop in time, where I met myself at a crossroads of change. Same place, different time.
Maybe it was a flashback. I had been attributing every strange thought I had to the withdrawal effect. Have I said that before? Or was it a lower spirit that adopted the form of a younger me with the intention of provoking my fall? Paramahansa Yogananda explains that the spirits of the recently deceased spend some time among living human beings, dealing with the anxiety of their new non-physical state until they are ready to reincarnate. A spirit that had a strong attachment to our reality may find a portal into a living person and relive situations to which he was attached. For example, a spirit craving the adrenaline rush provided by wild sex, street fighting, or dangerous driving by a precipice may find a portal into a living being in order to carry out any of these activities.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Shaman Express"
Copyright © 2018 Omar Beretta and Bénédicte Rousseau.
Excerpted by permission of Beretta Rousseau.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part 1: Alive,
Part 2: Dead,
Part 3: Awake,