It was not easy to explain to my business partner and to my clients my decision to spend two weeks in the Arizona desert with a Yaqui shaman at the height the television casting season—the busiest time of year. Regardless of the consequences to my career, I felt I had to make this journey. Since my cancer diagnosis a year earlier, my discernment process had switched from an “I can’t afford to” attitude to an “I can’t afford not to” reality.
A limited knowledge of Carlos Castaneda’s books had led me to expect a Yaqui Shaman to be mysterious, intimidating and unapproachable. Lench Archuleta, when I met him in February of 1999, was none of these things. He was a welcoming, down-to-earth, middle-aged man living with his second wife, Patty, and their infant son, Eli, in a modest two bedroom house on the edge of the Arizona desert.
Lench had served in the Vietnam War as a “tunnel rat.” He was assigned to search the underground tunnels that the Vietnamese soldiers built and to make sure they were abandoned and not mined or booby-trapped. Lench survived for a tour and a half because of, as he characterizes it, his intimate relationship with the earth and living things which he learned as a child from his father and grandfather.
Lench told me this story the first evening: