Narco-Cartels, Training, PTSD, and The Return of The Warrior-Shaman

by | Dec 16, 2020

This YouTube dialogue between Navy SEAL/CIA contractor Shawn Ryan and Mexican Government Special Operator Ed Calderon is the single longest video I have ever watched. At nearly four hours in length, it required scheduling over two consecutive days to give it the attention it merited.  I’m not going to recap the interview. I do recommend that if you are interested in any of the subjects I mention in the title, that you watch the video and take notes.  Below are some things that leaped out at me. 


Ed Calderon provides a blunt operator-level perspective on the War on Drugs, the link between the cultural wars in the United States and drug use, and the broad influence of China on the US-Mexican border. “Mexico is the US’s Achilles Heel” he says. To savvy observers of the changing global geo-political landscape he provides a refreshing look from first hand experience.


I found it so gratifying to hear an instructor of hard skills/soft skills say “Who would I be if I didn’t take the opportunity to experience (he went inside the Atlanta riots to examine Antifa/BLM and their organization up close — and returned with excellent insights) the environment I train people to survive in…and deny my students (he had a class running concurrently) the opportunity to go and experience and practice their skills in that environment?”


Back in the 90s when I developed the training protocols I use, I went to the world’s most dangerous places to test them. My students went out and used the skills and came back with real world reports on what worked and how to make it work better. The model of taking students out into a real operation to test new skills is not a new model. The Selous Scout training program culminated in a real-world mission, led by experienced NCOs; the CQB Services training model required a full reality immersion exercise (as opposed to simulation) — the VIP protection course ended with a live fire (real ammo, real bad guys, real dangerous environment) full day movement exercise in convoy with advance scouts, QRF, LE liaison, in the worst places in the most dangerous city in the world.

I use that immersion training principle whenever possible. Minneapolis has an exponential (300-500%) increase in car-jacking focused on women. I was asked by a friend to help his wife and daughter feel safe driving through some of the high-risk areas. They are not gun people. I designed a 2-hour immersion course focused on providing 80% of the skillset one takes away from a 3-day professional driver class.  During the class, both of the students (I conducted the training one on one) went through at-risk areas, and one of them identified two “profile” attempts by likely carjackers. She was able to immediately implement the necessary procedures to ensure her continued safety and leave the area in a planned fashion.  The second student didn’t have the same experience, but traveling in the same high risk areas armed with the knowledge and skills to dominate any situation from behind the wheel of her daily driver did wonders for her confidence. Both women reported how that 2-hour immersion class gave them an experience CEMENTED in their neurology. That makes the skill set available under stress without conscious recall.


The most powerful segment of this over 3-hour long interview for me was the last hour, when Ed Calderon and Shawn Ryan went deeply into their own efforts to work through significant PTSD. Mr. Calderon made the point that in Mexican culture, there is no word for PTSD, and the methods to mitigate or prevent that are signs of weakness in a macho culture. His powerful and poignant description of his reaction to the enormous stress of his extremely dangerous work is moving beyond words. 

I salute his courage, and that of Mr. Ryan, for their willingness to openly discuss incredibly painful experiences with the healing intention to provide a path for others out there who may need their example to bring out their own demons and deal with them.


I was surprised and gratified to hear an open discussion about the positive influence shamanic practice has on Mr. Calderon’s health. He’s Mexican from the land of Don Juan and Carlos Castenada. Shamanic practice is deeply embedded in his culture and the culture of those he warred against and those he warred beside. The discussion about the dramatic therapeutic affects of sacred hallucinogens in mitigating and  relieving the symptoms of PTSD is one that must be heard. 

As a long time practitioner and researcher of shamanism, I observe how many veterans of law enforcement, military, government intelligence, and security are drawn to shamanism for the profound mental and spiritual benefits.  Many of those veterans undergo a transformation as they work through their PTSD or other emotional/spiritual trauma. They emerge on the other side of their initiation as “warrior-shamans” — practitioners of a rigorous and dangerous discipline devoted to healing, helping, and PROTECTING others.

I welcome Mr. Calderon, and Mr. Ryan if he pursues that path, into those realms. This world needs more men and women of great and tested courage to face the forces of darkness. After I heard Mr. Calderon and Mr. Ryan speak, I was reminded of these scenes from THE LORD OF THE RINGS. There’s a great metaphor in facing the demon…and returning from the fire.

May they be welcomed on the Other Side and all the Realms.