It is often the case that we find our calling in the most pivotal moments of our lives. Deana Paqua found hers in holistic health after undergoing a stressful experience with malignant melanoma when she was in her 20s, followed by a devastating car accident that forever altered the course of her life. Now, she is a teacher and practitioner of cross-cultural energy medicine, contemporary shamanism, a Reiki master teacher, licensed massage therapist, and flower essence practitioner. She shares her passion for and wisdom in cross-cultural healing through her lectures, training programs, classes, events, healing sessions, ceremonies, intuitive readings, space clearings, and so much more. Joining Tesa Baum for a conversation, Deana shares her personal zigzag story that brought her to where she is now. She also shares the incredible wisdom she has accumulated over years of studying the ancient healing wisdom that conventional medicine chooses to ignore.
Listen to the podcast here:
Embody The Sacred: A Master Healer’s Zigzag Journey In Holistic Health With Deana Paqua
In this episode, I’m going to be speaking with Deana Paqua. She’s a teacher and practitioner of Cross-Cultural Energy Medicine, Contemporary Shamanism, a Reiki Master Teacher, Licensed Massage Therapist, and Flower Essence Practitioner. She has been practicing for many years. Deana is also an Adjunct Professor at WCSU in Danbury, Connecticut in mind, body, and cross-cultural healing. She serves on the advisory board of the Institute of Holistic Health Studies. She offers training programs, classes, events, healing sessions, ceremonies, intuitive readings, space clearings, and so much more. I’m thrilled for you to be hearing from her and knowing her most impactful zig-zag story.
Deana, how are you?
I’m good. How are you doing?
I’m good. Thank you for coming, listening and sharing. I appreciate it. There’s so much going on in the world. Thank you for taking the time.
I’m honored and I’m always happy to work with you.
I am curious if you would like to share what your most impactful zig-zag story was.
You and I have known each other for a long time, so I know you’ve heard the story, but to share for those who might be reading, my zig-zag story that made the biggest impact in my life was connected to my health. It was a series of events. The major story that pushed me along a different path happened many years ago. In my senior year of college, I found out that I had cancer. I had malignant melanoma. Being in my twenties, I don’t know about anybody else but I felt like I was indestructible back then and never thought about any life-threatening health issues. It freaked me out. It was my senior year. I was like, “Why am I dealing with this?” It was scary. I had major surgery but thankfully, that took care of it. I was lucky that I was fine after that. I was already dealing with some anxiety. I was an anxious and sensitive kid, and this kicked off my anxiety even more. I developed a form of OCD where I was worried that I was going to get sick and I was going to die.
I was worried about cancer coming back. That was the time when AIDS was coming out into public awareness. It’s interesting that it was a virus and you don’t know how it was transmitted. We had some ideas at the beginning, but like COVID, when we first found out about it, there were a lot of unknowns about how it would spread or how you could get it. I was worried that I was going to get AIDS, I was going to die, and I kept my blood tested over and over again, and I couldn’t stop. It was dragging me down. It was a dark night of the soul. It was hard for me to talk about this for years.
I didn’t hear this part that you were going through that.
I was ashamed of it. I felt like I was out of control like this had some control over me. It was strange because it was like I was living in two worlds. I was in the corporate world at that time as a graphic designer. I was doing well. I was married. My husband was understanding that I was going through something and I tried to keep it to myself. I didn’t talk about it with anybody else, which contributed to the shame. I go for tests. I wouldn’t tell anybody.
Now that you were married, you still have the fear of AIDS because you didn’t trust that it was transmitted sexually. For some reason, this was getting you.
It stuck in my head and I couldn’t get off of this hamster wheel. It was stressful. This is what led me down the path of finding complementary forms of healing because I was seeing a psychologist. I saw a psychiatrist. I tried medication. Trust me, if I could have found a drug that would have helped me, I would have taken it like nobody’s business, but it didn’t work. That was meant to be because I was meant to find the path of holistic health. I started exploring self-help, alternative healing, yoga, chiropractic, naturopathic medicine, flower essences, meditation and prayer. I started to feel better. I thought, “There are some things that could work to help me with the stress of this situation.”
Were you into Reiki at that point as well?
No. I didn’t hear about Reiki yet. It was back before there were any yoga studios or Lululemon yoga pants. There were two yoga teachers in all of Fairfield County. This was a different time. I had this foundation in holistic health and then a few years later, when I was 30, I was in a near-fatal car accident. That was the big zig-zag. I was in the corporate world, and even though I liked my job because there was a creative aspect of it, I liked all the people that I worked with, the social element was nice, then having all your benefits paid. Being self-employed, I appreciate that.
It was a built-in safety net. Everything was moving well and it was fine.
At my core, I knew that I was supposed to be doing something else. Before I got into the corporate world, I was thinking about becoming a teacher. I always felt like teaching was what I was supposed to be doing and I got it derailed. At that time, there weren’t a lot of teaching jobs so I thought, “I’m going to stay in this field.” I was an artist as a kid. I fell into it and it started going in its own direction. I allowed it to take me, but I knew deep down I wasn’t supposed to be doing that.
It was moving along okay, but there was something bigger that you were meant to be.
I was struggling with the OCD and then I get into this car accident. I was hit head-on at 85 miles an hour. The whole front end of my car came in, I went forward, and I shattered both my femurs. I only had a strap. Back in those days, I didn’t even have a lap belt. There were no airbags, so I came forward. My chest hit the steering wheel. I bent the steering wheel. I broke my rib cage. I collapsed both lungs and I lacerated my liver. I had three potential fatal injuries.
Everything came crashing to a stop. At that moment, were you aware of what was happening?
I was awake and I was aware of the whole time of what had happened. Because my lungs collapsed, I stopped breathing. I was sitting there in the car and I didn’t have any medical background at that time but I thought, “I don’t think you can live long.” I said, “It’s going to be a while before the EMTs can get to me.” Fair enough, it was 25 to 30 minutes before they came. I was like, “I don’t think this is going to work out too well. Do I want to die?” I closed my eyes and gone. It would have been easy to do. I wasn’t breathing. I was ready to blackout. I would’ve been gone because there was no way they would’ve got to me in time.
Somehow, I was able to stay awake. I was married at that time, my ex-husband had lost his best friend the year before to cancer. I said, “He can’t handle losing his wife and his best friend.” That’s insane. I am an only child so I was like, “They’re not going to be able to deal with this.” I also felt like I hadn’t done the work that I came onto this planet. I knew deep in my core that I came here to do certain things and I hadn’t done them yet. I was like, “I don’t want to go yet. There’s more for me to do here.”
I figured it’s not time for me to go. I said, “God, I can’t do this by myself.” I’m sitting there trying to breathe but nothing is happening. As soon as I said that prayer, I felt some energy come in and I didn’t know what energy was back then, but I felt something and I started to breathe. From what I’ve heard, that’s not usually what happens when you collapsed both your lungs. I had a tremendous amount of blood loss as well.
I was able to stay awake and stay alive until the EMTs got to me. They brought me to Danbury Hospital and I was in ICU. I went through eight hours of surgery to put my legs back together because my femurs were in pieces. I had to have emergency surgery on my liver because I started to bleed out during the surgery on my legs. It was touch and go. The doctors told my family that you’d better make arrangements because she may not make it. It’s not looking good. They gave me a 50/50 chance of surviving.
At this point, in hindsight, you feel and it sounds this way that you had assistance. You clearly had someone helping you breathe and sustain this physical being. You were aware and conscious. That’s how you have a different sense of who we are.
I was raised Catholic but I was always open-minded, and I also studied world religions. I had faith and I still have faith. That’s important. I believed in angels and I was praying to angels at that time. I knew that other people would pray for me. I’d felt that presence of spirit there for me. I believed that once I started breathing when I was in the car that I was going to be okay. The truth of the matter, what I had to go through to get there, that I was going to be okay. I got to go through some stuff to get to be okay.
It’s such an incredible story. You had to rehabilitate and that was the tough part. During this experience, it was an out-of-body experience. You understood how expansive your being is, and then you have to help your body to come back.
I felt this light, this energy from the prayers, my faith and my connection to spirit and the angels. They were infusing me with light. My recovery was quick, at least the physical part. The emotional took a lot longer but my physical recovery was so fast. I was off the ventilator in five days. I started choking on the tubes and I ripped them all out, which I don’t recommend. This is holding me back. I’m like, “I’m not dying choking on a tube.”Don't live in a place of fear all the time. It's okay to be afraid, but try to let it move through you. Click To Tweet
There goes your personality. You came in. You’re tough. You have the strength. It was something that you had to do. You were back. You wanted life.
I knew that those tubes were holding back my healing process. It wasn’t medical knowledge or anything like that. It was knowing in my body what was going on and sure enough, the nurses were like, “You have to go back on the vent.” I’m like, “I’m not doing it. Whatever you have to do, you do.” I had some amazing respiratory therapists. It was almost like God handpicked the doctors, nurses, and other therapists that I needed and gave me the best. They were phenomenal, precise and amazing.
What a story, it’s beautiful. This was a blessing. All the works that you do, I always feel when I’m in your company, that you are teaching about blessings. There is something incredible about that. I don’t think many of us understand the power of us being able to be creators, give blessings and receive the blessing.
There was no way I could do all that by myself. That was one of the key messages. We all get that message in different ways. It’s the message of surrender. It’s like, “We have to do our part, but then we have to surrender it to a power greater than ourselves.” That’s what I felt like especially when I was arriving at the hospital going into the ER and I could barely breathe. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know the doctors here. I don’t know what’s going to happen with my job. I don’t know if my husband is going to stay with me. I don’t know if we’re going to be able to pay our mortgage. Who knows what’s going to happen?
I didn’t have long-term care insurance or anything. Everything was like, “Who knows?” I said, “God, all I can do is breathe. You have to take everything else. You have to take it. I’m giving it to you. I’m surrendering everything to you.” Everything started to fall into place. My job got taken care of through a lot of generous people. There were lots of generosity and these gifts that came through. I was back to work in three and a half months. I started walking after six weeks. My doctor said, “I don’t know if you’re going to be able to walk again.” I was like, “No, that’s not going to be an issue.” I also worked hard with physical therapy, but I also knew that that wasn’t going to be enough. I left the hospital with a prescription for pain medication and physical therapy. I almost laughed my butt off. I was like, “You think that’s going to be enough? This kind of situation that I was in, I don’t think so.”
Look at how powerful you were. Somebody could get stuck on fear and you did not accept that. If a doctor says you may not walk again, a lot of people listen to that. There’s no way you were believing that. That’s where it’s dangerous that some professionals can put that in your subconscious. You’re like, “No.”
It’s a tricky thing. I knew that possibility was out there, that I might not walk again because of what happened to me. I also believed that I could walk again and I had to accept how things were. I couldn’t get up out of bed and walk right away because I didn’t have the bone growth yet to do that. I had to follow the rules to not hurt myself, but then also believe that I was going to get better. Especially with what we have going on with COVID now, it’s not like I’m walking around without a mask because I’ve gone through the accident and I had all these amazing things happen. You follow the guidelines because they’re in place for a reason. I’m not afraid of getting sick with the virus. I don’t want it. I don’t want to go back on a ventilator.
This is an important thing that you said. I’ve been feeling the same way. I’m taking precautions. I would not walk around without a mask but I’m not up at night scared. I’m not saying that that is the right way to play it because a lot of people are. They can’t go to sleep because they’re playing it out. God forbid they would get it. That can come into your self, your spirit, and take over.
That’s completely understandable because it is scary. Take it seriously, do what you have to do to be safe and healthy, but don’t live in a place of fear all the time. It’s okay to be afraid, have it, but try to let it move through you. You and I have studied and worked through a lot of practices that we can help people move through. I got scared when it first came out. I was hearing about the seriousness and how it was. We were losing many people especially here in the tri-state area.
We were scared and my husband is a primary care doctor. He was terrified for his patients and for us because he would be exposed to everything and then can bring it back home. I didn’t want to keep that atmosphere in the house. I wanted to create a positive bubble for us. Everyone handles it differently. Sometimes, when we let fear take over like what happened to you when you were in your twenties when you were scared of AIDS.
It took over my life. It was a miserable way to live. It was no way to live. There was no way I was going to let that happen. Thankfully the OCD cured itself.
That’s the zig-zag because your life was going in one direction, and then you had a bigger crash. You have a bigger thing come over and say, “Do you want to see what’s bad? I’m going to knock you off your feet and you will then recover your power.” You did and listened, you completely owned it in the most incredible way. You took control of your life.
I helped myself the best I could, but it was also that surrendering that there’s only so much we can do. Relying on the spiritual connection and the faith. It’s like I can’t solve this problem, like this virus, but I can surrender it when it comes into my awareness and say, “Please, help us. What can we do?” Also, following the science. One does not negate the other.
There’s a balance. We have to have a balance. It shouldn’t be a battle and this polarity trap that we fall into. We have to work with everything and the reality of what’s happening in a harmonious way. I know that it’s all of your work, and that’s what I’ve got so much out of all of your programs over the years. These are tangible skills for relating to life. What I also love about all that you teach is connecting to the unseen. There’s so much more than what we see. Having a connection to the Earth. Honoring the Earth, nature, and not working against it. We know we have some big things that are coming our way and we have to work with everything.
I love that you have beautiful rituals that you teach us. Most of us didn’t grow up with these traditions, rite of passages to anchor us to the Earth. I love the practices of connecting to our ancestors and having a relationship with all that we don’t see, and quieting down more. You’re such a wonderful facilitator for me especially because a lot of times we don’t believe in our intuition on a daily basis. We need those sacred times to quiet our minds and feel, listen and receive. Taking these sacred moments away from the hustle, bustle and loudness of every day.
In my life, it’s been magical and transforming. It inspires me to continue it. I always want to scream to the rooftops, to the world like, “Look at what I experienced. We all can experience this.” All of your work is ritual arts and it’s colorful. The work is colorful. Anything that you would like to share about the programs that I’ve experienced with you, or anything else that you have been working on? I would love to hear.
After going through that big zig-zag, it led me to continue working with holistic health and integrative medicine for my own healing. About a year later, I discovered Reiki, which you know well. That was a huge force in my own personal healing, and then I wanted to be able to teach and share it with others. I became a massage therapist because I loved working with people, their physical pain, and helping to relieve that. Synchronistically, while I was at the office one day, I got this intuition. I was continuing to work on my healing while I was training to work with other people. I got this message that I needed to work with a Shaman. I didn’t even know honestly what that meant back then. I have specific feelings about what that role is and what that title means. Within a month, there was a Shaman on the doorstep of where I was working, and then we could say the rest is history.
Can you tell me about that? You’re such an authentic teacher. There’s so much information that is around in our society and the word Shaman, everyone uses it nowadays. I would like to hear about who woke you up to this world. Who was that Shaman that you met? I would love to hear a little bit about that.
When I was working as a massage therapist, I met this gentleman, James Riverstone, who was trained in the traditions of the Andes down in South America, mainly in Peru. It seems so foreign to me at that time. I met him. I had some stuff going on, and he did some healing work on me. Since I was a massage therapist, we decided to start doing exchanges. That was a blessing in the healing field as you can exchange with other practitioners.
He started doing weekly Shamanic journey circles. I started getting into it that way. I had a natal chart reading in astrology, which maps out the date, time and place of your birth, and everything that’s going on with the cosmos. It can be specific if you have somebody good reading it. It showed that my life path was directly connected with the Earth. I was like, “What does that mean?” I felt something was missing in my healing work and it was about connecting. From our Judeo-Christian traditions, it’s a lot of up and out, and into the heaven to connect with the higher being.
I follow that path with you. I was in that same direction.
All the upper stuff, the body and the lower shockers get withered away. I was like, “It’s about the Earth.” The reader said, “You should explore Shamanism.” I was like, “Okay.” I only knew my one friend who was practicing and I didn’t think I would ever do anything that he was doing. I come to find out years later. His teachers started coming here to Connecticut right in our backyard from 2006, 2007. That’s when I met them for the first time. I felt this incredible purity and this direct connection with nature that was so palpable. You could feel it in the room around you. It was heart-centered. If they would come and play with a pack of marbles, I would have goosebumps. That’s what I felt, honestly. That was like, “I need to work with them.” I’ve been working with the Q’ero tribe of Peru since 2006, 2007.
You brought these incredible people close to us, and it’s such a gift.
Thank you. It’s their generosity for sure. They have gifted their teachings to the West and humanity. It’s different. There are some tribes and rightly so especially with colonialism and white supremacy who keep their traditions private within the tribe. The Lakota tribe is one example. They are guarded about sharing their teachings outside of the tribe. They might invite specific people in, but they keep it close and understandably. The Q’ero felt like their prophecies that they were called to because of what’s happened to the Earth through our contemporary Western society, and because of organized religions, governments, and corporations that we have lost that ancestral connection to the Earth like what you were mentioning before.
All of our ancestors had the Earth honoring connections, otherwise they wouldn’t have survived. They had to live in harmony with the Earth, the seasons, the moon cycles and all of these things. That Q’ero wanted to bring this back to Western culture, so they’ve gifted teaching. We have to work with them with respect and I always refer to their original teachings as best I can being a Western person but it’s like a bridge. They always believed that there would be those of us in the West that would bridge their teachings from their traditional culture to the West. I feel like I’m a curator sometimes.
You are because it’s another language. All the books that we read in your classes help us understand these practices, but it is Q’ero language. It’s wonderful seeing the translations. It’s important to make sure that we’re understanding it as close as possible to what they are saying to us.
They were not Shamans. The title Shaman comes from the Siberian region, the Evenki tribal region. They have specific ceremonies, rituals, practices, and initiations for how someone is chosen by their ancestors to be a Shaman. That’s also a title for the men. The women are called udagan. That’s a much older title than the male title. Over the years, different anthropologists who went to study or work with these tribes hijack that title and decided to call all the different indigenous healers from different tribes and traditions who don’t even speak those languages, Shaman.
I hear it nowadays in our new age healing circles all over our country specifically, “I met a Shaman. I am a Shaman.” Studying with you all these years, I don’t want to take on someone else’s title.We can all find our own medicine. Click To Tweet
The Q’ero from the Andes has their own titles for their healers. They’re not Shamans. They’re heart-centered. They don’t care about that thing. If you meet an indigenous healer, they have a title in their language throughout the different types of healers. Here we have Reiki practitioners, nutritionists, herbalists, and chiropractors. We don’t walk around calling everybody a chiropractor.
I love how you clarify it because it’s important. I remember I posted something online and I was giving a broad article. It seemed like a positive article. A friend of mine who’s a community oncologist said to me, “This is 80% true.” She didn’t know what she meant by that but energetically and then you called it too. You said, “Something is off of you, Tess.” You did clarify it. That is important that 20% of people are lightly mentioning these names. Everyone is looking to create hope and positivity, but we want to be careful and honor traditions.
We can do that. We can create positivity, we can teach people things that we’ve been given permission to teach, and we can do it with respect. The Western culture, especially here in the US, we have a foundation of slavery, colonial entitlement, and white supremacy. We think we can take whatever we want from other cultures. That’s not okay. Especially when you’re trying to do spiritual work. That’s the last thing we should be doing. It’s respect and permission. Tribes like the Q’ero have gifted their teachings and sharing them with the world.
We still need to be respectful. Money should be donated back to them on a regular basis for sharing their traditions. We can find a way to do this, and then also what they gave us and what I’ve tried to share with you and other students is it’s a framework like the framework of contemporary shamanism. Learning how to journey, meditate, and connect with your spiritual guides and ancestors. The Q’ero gifted us the teachings of the Mesa, the portable altar. We’re not trying to copy and make a Mesa like theirs. There’s no way we could. We’re putting in our Mesas, our portable altars, items that represent places and aspects of our spirituality that are sacred to us.
That’s our medicine.
That’s one of the things that I learned from the accident, that we all can find our own medicine.
We can learn even though we weren’t raised these Earth traditions. We didn’t have all the same rite of passages that they did, but we can learn and then bring in our own way. We don’t want to replicate their traditions. We can create our own practices but it’s nice to understand their suggestions. I love the way you’re saying that. The bones of it, the structure of it, and I never experienced journeying before. That was a beautiful practice. My imagination and intuition, I have received much from that experience. It is all zig-zag, the way you’re telling your story. It comes full circle in many ways like understanding our growth. When I mentioned the zig-zag to you, anything that’s coming into your mind that you would like to share, anything about what’s going on in the world, any words of wisdom?
It was cool how it unfolded in our conversation to tie into what’s going on with COVID. It’s going to take time to figure out what preventative medicines are going to help people, and any types of vaccines or other treatments, medications that might help if someone contracts it. Unfortunately, we lost a lot of people in that process. To say there’s a cure here or this is going to work, we need to let this ride out and follow the safety guidelines of the doctors and the scientists. Do what we can on the holistic side to release fear, stress and vote our conscience. That’s important because what we’re going to be voting is social, environmental justice, and awareness. It’s about bringing people back together and validating what our scientists have been saying about climate change, about this virus, racial and social justice issues because we need to be in a more equal place. We’re taking advantage over here and that’s going to affect us. It already has.
I have the chills when you’re saying all of these in terms of it has to be balanced because then something is going to fall. It has to be. We could do the best we have to do and what we can to support the whole. Any information you have to help donate or anything that you would like to mention, organizations that we can help support. I would love those names.
I feel strongly from my practice because I do a lot of work from the traditions of the Andes to support the Heartwalk Foundation and also planting trees is fantastic, #BlackLivesMatter, any local organizations in the indigenous and first nations. People feel like we need to take care of ourselves, our families, our communities first, and then extend out from there.
Building community and heart-centered groups, that’s the biggest part of your classes. The connection with each other and the support we get from helping one another. It starts small, then we could expand.
One of the main teachings of the Andes is ayni, sacred reciprocity. It’s giving something before you expect something back in return. If we were asking for health, how can we give something? Donating to one of these organizations or donating to the food bank. If we’re making requests to the universe, what can we give first? Donating some clothes even if you don’t have extra money. Give things away and make an offering to the Earth.
You feel that reciprocal exchange. With animals too because the animals are brilliant when we connect to others besides humanity. There are many other energies that the plant community, the animal kingdom, there’s so much that we can have more of a subtle connection with.
That’s what can carry us through, these connections because we can get frightened or upset about what we hear on the news. There’s so much conflicting information. It’s hard to figure out what’s real and what’s true. It stresses a lot of people out but connecting with your intuition. One of the best ways that you can start hearing that is going out into nature and opening ourselves up to connecting with beings that are here, wish us well, compassionate, loving like our own evolved and loving ancestors, nature beings, trees, plants, stones. What are you drawn to? Then start learning about how you can connect with those elements respectfully.
The quieting down more and listening because we were loud. Let’s be a little more subtle and calm. There’s so much for us to receive. Thank you, Deana.
This was such a blessing and wonderful. I am looking forward to seeing you in person when this is all over.
Thanks for the opportunity to share. I always love to share stories.
Thank you. Lots of love.
Love you too.