Dr. Alberto Villoldo answers the question:

What is the nicest thing a non-family member has ever done for you?


You know, Phil, it's hard to narrow that down but a story comes to mind. I was nine years old... and I'm a refugee from a Communist country. I was born in Cuba and we were coming to the U.S. on a ship. We had boarded the ship in Havana and I had a goldfish in a bowl that I brought with me. So I took it on board the ship and it was a small bowl, it was probably the size of a soup bowl, and I was sitting at a table and the boat was heaving back and forth, and one of these heaves, my goldfish bowl slides down the end of the table and it crashes on to the floor and it shatters. And I'm going, "Oh, my God, my fish is going to die," and this lady was sitting next to me and she had a cup full of water and she says, "Come. Let's take it and we’ll take it back to the sea, to the ocean." 

So we pick up the goldfish and we put it in her cup of water and we go up to the deck and there's this huge, vast expanse of ocean, and I have this little goldfish that I'm holding with this beautifully kind lady sitting next to me saying, "We're going to return this little fish back to the great ocean, back to the great sea so that it might find its destiny.” I say a prayer for the little goldfish, and together we put it over the side and we release it to the ocean. And in my mind's eye I see that this goldfish is now free. It's broken out of its bowl and it's returned back to the greater family of fish in the sea. And I'm so happy, I'm so thankful to her, and I go back to my seat.

And then many, many years later, I realize what a great gift she gave to me because a goldfish is a freshwater fish and she knew how heartbroken I was. She gave me a new map, a new model of this fish not dying but stepping into its freedom and its liberation, and it stayed with me to this day. And I know that some day when I break out of my little goldfish bowl and I'm ready to leave this body behind, that I will also be journeying back to my greater family. So this is probably one of the nicest, sweetest things that has ever happened to me.

Alberto Villoldo, PhD, a medical anthropologist, has studied the shamanic healing practices of the Amazon and Andes for more than 30 years. He is the founder of the Four Winds Society, an organization dedicated to bridging ancient shamanic traditions with modern medicine and psychology. The Four Winds Society Light Body School is internationally recognized as the Gold Standard in shamanic education, preparing wise and ethical energy medicine practitioners.

Alberto has authored numerous books, including Power Up Your Brain... Shaman, Healer, Sage... The Four Insights... A Shaman’s Miraculous Tools for Healing... Soul Journeying... The Illumination Process... and The Heart of the Shaman. His latest book, Grow a New Body, was released in March 2019 (Hay House).

Click here to visit Alberto’s website.

Catalyst is produced by The Shift Network to feature inspiring stories and provide information to help shift consciousness and take practical action. To receive Catalyst twice a month, sign up here.

This article appears in: 2019 Catalyst, Issue 14: The Reuniting Science & Spirituality Summit