Friday, December 14, 2012

A path that Really Isn’t

by Mauricio Quintana, 昆游龍, a.k.a. cintain

Today’s guest post is by Mauricio Quintana. Mauricio works as a practitioner of various alternative medicine techniques, but considers himself above all an explorer and student of life and the human condition. He goes by the name Cintain on various online and offline social networks, and likes to travel almost a bit too much. He can be found by following the trail of endless rant on twitter, baited with single-malt scotch or the smile of a pretty woman, and persuaded to sing with nary an enticement. His blog can be found at

I. Amongst the Host of the Pretenders

Photo courtesy of Mauricio Quintana

The hardest part about doing the kind of work I do is keeping it real. There is literally a horde of people out there who claim to see energy, work with subtler aspects, and be in contact with a host of incorporeal entities. It is annoying. Moreover, it is pretentious. The thing that used to really drive me up the wall is the fact that, if you're into this sort of thing, there really isn't anything that you can say to refute them. After all, subtle perceptions are what they are, right? If you can't hear what the spirits are saying to me, surely you can't hear them at all, and then you're the poser, the liar, and the quack.

Effectiveness is another one of those "objective" measurements that become tenuous with these people. There are so many "levels", that maybe your healing has already happened and you're just too dumb to notice, too "out of touch" for it to work on you. I am continuously amazed at the followers of some of the more charismatic healers out there. It isn't so much that they're getting "better" as that they are becoming more capable of aligning themselves with the vision and speech of their leader.

Photo courtesy of Mauricio Quintana

The trappings of this work are so alluring, too. Sometimes it seems that the more feathers, bones, medallions, wristbands, and stridently-coloured dress on a person, the more powerful and effective their mojo. The styles vary with lineage, teacher, and tradition, but "badges" are more important with some of these clowns than with the military.

This is why I usually don't talk about what I do. However, my friend and brother @urbananimal has asked me in a pretty compelling way to retell some of my experiences, and in so doing I've discovered that there is actually quite a bit to talk about. Take it, dear reader, with a kilo of salt and toss it out the window. It should at best make for entertaining reading. You've been warned.

II. Of Clowns and Holy Men

The very first experience I had along this path was, to put it mildly, a blast. It. Completely. Blew. My. Mind. Singing, dancing, endless roller-coasters, pretty colours, the works. God was there, too, I think. I came away the next morning feeling like I'd been reborn, and breakfast that morning tasted like nothing I've ever eaten before or since. It was to be the first of many such transformations. I understood why the Native Americans call people who do this "Holy Men".

So, what did I do after that? Nothing. I spent the next four years of my life sitting on my ass, feeling sorry for myself, and trying to live life the way I had been told it should be lived. I still have the journal entry for the day when I wrote about the experience. I re-read it constantly, but couldn't see how it connected with my life in any way.

A few years later, I fell in with a bunch of people who were doing this sort of thing. Without thinking, I jumped on their bandwagon and spent a considerable amount of my spare time hanging out with them, hearing their stories, and partaking of their medicine. This time, the work was one of cleansing and healing for me. Whatever it was that I had seen the first time came back, only this time it and I had business.

Whereas before it had made me feel enlightened, this time it made me miserable, laying bare the deepest, darkest truths about my life and pointing a bony, accusing finger at me for all the pain I'd caused to people close to me in my life up until that point.

It hurt. A lot. I cried, and ran away from all of it as fast as I could. I spent the next few years trying to become a doctor, and repairing as best I could all the damage that I'd done. I worked with a guy who'd been a clown before he started doing healings, and he taught me not to take myself seriously. I met another guy who ran the sweat lodge and I learned so much from him, about so many things, it would take a book to recount it all. I learned from a crazy Daoist guy who was by turns brilliant and consumed by his own shadow. The one thing these three had in common was that they didn't think I was crazy when I told them about my experiences.

III. Wounded Healer

Crazy Daoist Guy warned me at one point, that in most traditions, people who do this don't elect to do so, they are "chosen". He explained that fools who go looking for this kind of thing with the pretension to learn are in for a lot more than they think, and that if by artifice of their sheer bad luck they get what they wanted, there is no going back. Ever. I remember being mildly amused by his admonition and replying something along the lines of "bring it on".


I think that his most stern warning (and self-fulfilling prophecy, as it's turned out) was that if I decided to "become" this kind of healer, I would never be able to ignore the suffering around me. He explained to me that being in this is a pledge of sorts, to be available and "help out". It's funny how this works because it isn't a "demand". It's a selfless, knowing awareness of what is needed in any situation. The desire to help wells up from within, and it's trying to ignore it that makes things difficult. If I try to hold back, my life becomes an empty shadow made of longing and sadness. Something is just missing, so I no longer try to stop.

Not that the alternative is any better, mind you. I am constantly being reminded that I have work of my own to do. Internal work. The kind that is deeply unsettling, exquisitely painful, and profoundly transformational. It's had me on the verge of suicide at one time. It's made me let go of my fear to being exposed and known in all my devious, scheming, cold and calculating nature. All along, I always have the sense of a presence; a knowing, witnessing something that approves, with a smile, of what is going on, especially when I am having a bad time. It's like supervision. It's like training. It's just plain weird.

IV. Between Faith and Spontaneity

As I've recounted before elsewhere, three years ago my life fell apart. After I somehow picked up the pieces and got on my feet again, I was confronted with the reality of what living in the world with these gifts truly means. It would be a disservice to whatever is really going on to try and go into specifics, but what came out of it was something I don't believe I've experienced in my life ever before: Conviction.

You see, I'm not entirely sure of what it is that I do. I help people, out of a desire in my heart that I don't fully understand, can't reliably anticipate, and never can control. Even when following all the guidelines and techniques I've received along the way, half the time I don't know what the hell I'm doing. But it makes my heart happy and my life meaningful, and it works. This is why it's so hard to keep it "real": I believe in what I do. Unlike my friend, brother and ally, @Rogue_Priest, I don't think that it is just a working of my own feeble little rational mind (which would be pretentious), nor do I continue to secretly argue with it to explain itself in terms that I can understand (which would be a waste of time).

No, the real danger is that I believe in what I do because of the something else that I described. The "thing" which has deigned to explain to me just very recently that it led me along this crazy journey, and will continue to do so, because I can be of service. Crazy Daoist Guy was right: we're chosen, those who carry the gift. Sometimes, we are led down the path believing that it is us looking for it, because that's the only way that our stubborn minds will consent to go down the path we need to go. The work is being done through us, not the other way around. We have one foot in this world and another somewhere else, where we mediate and plea for the greater good of the People.

Crazy Daoist Guy said one more thing to me: the shaman advances along the journey with one foot, while the other foot stands wondering who is doing all the walking. The things we're given to do make sense only when they're given to others in a spirit of Service and Celebration, and yet, there's really nothing that any of us are "doing". Our work is nothing other than the celebration and furthering of life by ensuring its continuance. To quote Chan Po-tuan, the 11th century Daoist mystic: "Although we speak of attaining the Dao, in reality there's nothing to attain. This is it."

This is the journey that isn't, the path that walks itself.

It's called life, and each of us is a part of it.


IMG_1471 Photo courtesy of Mauricio Quintana


  1. As your friend the Rogue Priest, I should correct you on one point: I do not believe spiritual experiences are all in our head.

    But I'm open to that possibility.

    Just as I am open to the possibility that they are supernatural and far, far greater than us little mortal beings. I keep an open mind on this point, which I believe helps me stay honest.

    On the other hand, you are sure that these experiences are much bigger than us. You're sure that you are right, and that others are wrong.

    So I would be careful where you lay the charge of pretentiousness.

    1. Drew,

      Sorry if you are misquoted. I made no editing attempts on the piece. I do know this, your ideas are respected in our household, as they are fierce debate topics between Saum and I, the highest form of respect there is for us.

      I hope you have a chance to clarify any points you feel are misrepresenting, the last thing I want is someone to be misrepresented here.

  2. "The work is being done through us, not the other way around. We have one foot in this world and another somewhere else, where we mediate and plea for the greater good of the People."

    Beautifully put!

    I have to say that this article really helped me understand more about the healing work Mauricio Quintana, 昆游龍, a.k.a. "Cintain", does. When I first attempted to ask for his help in a personal matter (he was recommended to me by RP), I got the feeling that I was interrupting him, or that he was the type who would consider me crazy. Now I understand that he is the kind of healer I would most likely get along with, had I met him in person.

    Thank you, Urban, for introducing him on your blog. He brought a fresh perspective. I would love to read more about such experiences. I feel like I share too much of my own, like I am talking to myself all the time on my blog at wordpress:
    (don't visit my dead blogs, I haven't updated them in years, and yes, shameless plug)
    I also want to apologize for not visiting your blog in a long while, Urban. It's been good to come back!