BOULDER, Colo. -
University of Colorado senior Virgil Martinez, 44, changed his life so he could follow his dreams.
If a dream leads him somewhere on the map, he'll go. When a dream told him to quit his job, he did.
Martinez wrote about his journey from soldier to stockbroker to healer in his recently published memoir, "A Step Beyond Madness."
The Asian studies student's book is based on journal entries he wrote while undergoing a major spiritual transformation after falling ill with appendicitis, having a growth surgically removed from his thyroid and suffering an inflammation of his prostate -- all within a year-and-a-half.
"Prior to all my health issues, I would describe myself as a pretty healthy individual," Martinez said. "So when these three things happened, it was a little overwhelming for me."
He said treatment from the traditional doctors and specialists was not alleviating his painful symptoms. Even some specialists seemed to question the validity of his sickness, due to a lack of abnormal test results, he said.
"I had people tell me I was making it all up. I could see the looks in people's faces," he said.
Martinez also battled alcoholism for years.
"They'd say, 'According to the results, there's nothing wrong with you.' So finally I stopped going. I began searching for alternatives to traditional medicine."
This led him to energy workers in Boulder, who told him he would be healed in six to 12 months.
"They were the only people up to that point that were basically positive about the whole thing," Martinez. said "This is when things started to get interesting."
And it's when the dreams began. Recurring dreams. Dreams telling him to go places. Dreams guiding him to a new place in life.
He decided to follow the dreams.
Martinez resigned his commission with the military after 16 years of service, he left a long-term relationship and he terminated his investment-banking career in Denver.
"For the first time in my life I actually felt like I was the person in my dreams," said Martinez, who describes the dreams in detail in his book. "The man that I would see in the dreams -- there would always be a man -- when I would wake up, I would feel physically and emotionally like whoever that man was in that dream was me."
This is when he started to believe in reincarnation. He thought that perhaps he was to be living a disparate life. But he kept quiet, as to not seem "crazy."
"I started having dreams about going to places -- whether it was nearby or in other states or even other countries," Martinez said. "I started noticing that if my dreams kept recurring and I wouldn't do -- or strongly consider doing -- what the dreams said I should, I would become physically ill."
So Martinez began researching the mysterious events he was experiencing.
Stumbling upon books such as "Many Lives, Many Masters," by Dr. Brian Weiss and a key facilitator from a happenstance workshop he came across at Naropa University, called Peruvian Shamanism, Martinez was directed to a "death and rebirth" in the middle of the jungle in Peru.
"Up until that point, all the things I felt that provided me stability were going away," Martinez said. "So I had to leave my old life -- or at least those things that weren't useful to me anymore. Usually the calling to shamanism is marked by serious health issues. Many cultures that have shamans, they say the spirit world calls to you to tell you that you have really important work to do when you're on this planet."
His "death and rebirth" consisted of various ceremonies, including drinking a powerful plant hallucinogenic mix called ayahuasca -- or "vine of the souls" -- in the jungle.
"Up to that point in my life, I would never consider myself to be a healer," Martinez said. "At least, not in the way that we would think of it in our culture. More in the sense that you are a guide or facilitator ... to help people get through whatever it is they're going through."
When he returned to Colorado, in the fall of 2005, he quit his investment-banking job and began school at CU -- based on his dreams.
"After I came back from Peru, my dreams became very pronounced, very defined, very specific about things," Martinez said. "All these things were slowly coming together. I am much more in touch with my own feelings, with other people's feelings and my intuition is magnified by what feels like 10 times."
Does he feel like he found himself?
"That's a good question," he said. "In the book, I say I thought I had gone through what is called a death and rebirth experience. There were times I thought were basically nuts. I had some doubts, but as time went by, it was interesting.
"I feel like this is what I am."