Episodes I to XV … all in one place.
2018 decided to show me who’s boss … first we had another ice storm, thankfully not as severe as the last one, the power only went out for a couple of hours and no more branches were lost from the Winter Tree, or trees in our neighbourhood. There has been unfortunately, a tremendous amount of branch trimming and tree lopping as people began to clean up the storm damage. And … I’m now recovering from five migraines in six days. Not just your planet-buster migraines, these were galaxy-busters. Thank you 2018!
On with the post I was going to write before the above mentioned galactic destruction was let loose inside my cranium.
Ever notice how things come in waves?…
… you find that pair of wrist braces in a backpack that hasn’t been used for years …
… that jar that fell behind the fridge (that you couldn’t be bothered to move the fridge out to get) suddenly appears on top of the dishwasher …
… and a sock finally reappears out of the washing machine of life, that’s been M.I.A. since midsummer …
… All within the space of 24 hours?
I call it Murphy’s Law of Attraction, (a variation of the original which says that anything that CAN happen WILL happen) which goes something like this: If one thing decides to screw with you then many things will decide to screw with you in order to keep it company and ruin your day/week/month/year …
… which is apropos of nothing to do with this post, apart from having been asked by a few people of late, both online and off, about that one little phrase in my ‘About Me’ page, that goes like this, ‘… I’m a shaman…’
It all began a few decades ago… in a Galaxy Far, Fa … erm … in a country on the other side of the Pacific Ocean
I was running late. (still do, and with monotonous regularity) I missed my bus connection and speed-walked for six blocks, thankfully most of them downhill, and found the room in the building where I needed to be. All the other women in the room were seated and, apart making quiet eye contact with whomsoever they knew, seemed to be firmly in this physical reality.
My embarrassment that I might be too late and interrupt all sorts of otherworldly goings-ons vanished. I sat down on the only empty chair left and prepared to embark upon the unknowable. I breathed a few deep breaths and closed my eyes. The lights dimmed and my first Journey began.
(I’m not going to go into the mechanics of shifting into a trance state. There are so many different styles and the experience is ultimately unique to each person.)
I was sitting inside my head, metaphorically twiddling my thumbs and wondering if anything out of the ordinary would happen at all, when betwixt one moment and the next, my sense of what was real expanded beyond any understanding I had a context for and catapulted me into somewhere else where anything, quite literally anything, could happen.
My body, from my neck to my thighs stretched and grew longer, like I was made of rubber. I could have reached up and touched the ceiling above me without any effort at all. I had never experienced a physical sensation like this ever before, but for some strange reason I wasn’t scared. Disconcerted? Certainly. Who wouldn’t be? But not scared. My fear had been suspended by something, someone perhaps, for unknown reasons, so, because I didn’t have any other experiences to judge it against, I simply accepted the phenomenon as something that was supposed to happen in a meditative state.
My awareness of the strange physical sensations in my body evaporated and I was … elsewhere.
If all the realms beyond this mortal physical one were like marbles in a bag, I had manifested somewhere in the spaces between the marbles. Out of the nothingness of this Gap Between the Worlds, roots swirled into being in front of me like gnarled fingers and flowed smoothly into the trunk of a tree. Magnificent branches spread out from the trunk into a massive umbrella of grey-green branches. It was a huge Moreton Bay fig tree.
I reached out and gently brushed my fingers along the bark. Its roughness caressed the edges of my fingertips. Awe took my breath away as realized I was in the presence of such a potent physical response in another realm of Awareness, while I was also sitting in an ordinary room with my eyes closed, and yet, this felt right, like I had been waiting all my life for it to happen.
A retrospective digression . . .
Small country towns and rural backwoods often produce offspring with itchy feet and restless minds. This Journey of mine started in a tin shack on the bank of a creek in the harsh untidy Australian bush.
All through my childhood and young adulthood life I lived through a variety of mundane and oh-so not-so mundane abuses. As I grew through the first decade of my life, and became aware of the wild bushland that was my backyard, I sensed a deep awareness of something that seemed to be sleeping, waiting for me to grow to adulthood when I would be able to understand it. In my childish innocence I simply felt ‘safe’ out there. There wasn’t much in my childhood world indoors that was safe, and I escaped outside to the bush as often as I could.
I never really liked school. I always wanted to know the layers of ‘why’, about everything, and to see beyond the horizon, and all that going to school did was to keep my nose firmly buried in books of rote material, and exams. So, I left school as soon as I was legally able to, (14) and got a job. Not a very fancy one mind you, but I earned enough to live, just. I lost that job and found another. I learned how to survive. I lied about my age and got a better job with better pay.
All the time, searching for that next horizon.
The townships around where I grew up were quite famous for their early colonial architecture, particularly the churches. In my teens I began investigating these monolithic sandstone manifestations of religion to see if they could answer my rebelliously agonizing questions of Life, Sexuality, the Universe, and Everything.
I found them all wanting. I never believed their story. For awhile though, in a sort of a spiritual desperation, seeing as it was the only form of spirituality around me at the time, I tried to believe their dogma, but I rebelled at the blatant separatism (among many, many ‘isms’), that each belief system or creed taught. (I had the ridiculous experience of one of these religions offering to ‘cure’ me because I was a lesbian)
I didn’t fit their model and they certainly didn’t fit me.
In spite of a childhood of adult imposed terrors, the agonies of adolescence where I knew I was different and fearing I was the only one in the whole wide world, and the longings of young adulthood, I knew beyond any doubt that there was something waiting for me out there. Something that was magical and wonderful, and once I found it I would never be the same, ever again. Until I found it, or it found me, I was content to just drift along the line of my life, trying all sorts of new experiences. Experimenting with love and lust, consciousness altering substances, political movements, and the philosophical paradoxes of the adult world.
All that changed the day I discovered a sport that set my heart on fire! I felt like I KNEW what I was waiting for at last. I mapped out my path with a dedication and self-discipline that brought a tear to the eye of the most cynical of my friends at the time. I planned to progress through the amateur rankings, then play professionally, and then become the best in the world. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was my destiny. I declared my every, well almost every, waking moment to that goal.
(The trophies from that era are long gone, but I still have the memories safely tucked away, to be taken out now and then and looked upon fondly)
I was in my early twenties and I rode a motorbike. It was cheap to run, because I couldn’t afford the luxury of a car when every cent I earned seemed to disappear into training for my dream. I felt such freedom, and strangely enough, a sense of safety when I was riding my bike. It seemed that none of the ghosts of my past could ever catch me.
Have you ever gone to a lookout at night that overlooks a city? All those beautiful fairy lights, innocent in the distance. In summer the air carried the scent of flowers and freshly mown grass, and in the winter, wood fires cast lazy tendrils of aromatic smoke through the chilly air.
I would ride out in the early hours of the morning when the country roads were empty of human life but so full of the energy of the night. I traveled along backroads and highways that flowed like rivers of pure moonlight. They wound across endless dark plains, up through mountain clefts, and over high peaks and mountain passes.
Early one night I was idling my way home through a rugged terrain of gorges and steep twisted roads when suddenly all I could see in front of me was the glare of headlights. I was smashed off my motorbike and my dream of athletic stardom ended in a trail of broken bits of plastic and machinery from my bike, and a butchered knee. It was 7.30pm on the 5th of April 1983. As it turned out, a time and date to remember. (but that’s another story for another time 🙂 )
I would never be physically able to ride a motorbike again. (without it being severely modified) My time as a ‘biker’ was done. I never regretted a single moment of my time riding one, and I know for certain that if I had been in a car the night of that accident I surely would have died. The bike allowed me time and the agility to maneuver enough to save my life.
As a treatment for relieving pain in broken bodies, morphine is magnificent. During the 5 weeks and 1 day I was in hospital, Sister Morphine and her less (relatively) intense siblings, numbed my emotional turmoil and physical pain to a level that allowed me time and space to reconcile myself to the undeniable fact that I would always, and only, have one-and-a-half knees.
I remember lying in that hospital bed with my leg swathed in bandages from my ankle to my thigh, knowing that I had come within millimeters of not being alive at all, knowing how bad the damage was, and wondering if I would have a leg to stand on at all. In one simple rush of thought, like the swelling of an unstoppable tide, I relinquished all my dreams, hopes and fantasies. I was back at the beginning of my searching again, almost.
Of course this epiphany happened only at an intellectual level. It took a little longer for this information to percolate through to my other levels of Awareness, and a lot longer for me to accept it. For many years, in my dreams I would always have two good knees. I would wake up and start to get out of bed like I used to, and either hurt myself terribly or catch myself just in the nick of time from falling flat on my face. Either way, getting out of bed was not my favorite activity of the day. To finally appear in my dreams with my damaged knee was, in a strange kind of a way, a relief.
Anyway, back to the hospital. With my emotional responses thus temporarily suspended, I was intellectually able to find some of my answers to the big WHY?
I would never be that world famous athlete, but I would be able to walk upright, eventually, with a limp, and the rest of my body functioned as it should.
I realized I had been given the gift of experiencing the passion of Knowing, of understanding at a very deep level in my Spirit, what being on a Life-path felt like. I just hadn’t picked the right one yet! That seemed simple enough. All I had to do was find out what my path truly was, (fully aware of the irony of the statement) but I KNEW that all I had to do was keep looking. And so I did.
I left the small town behind and moved to Sydney (Australia) and found out lots of things about how to survive in the Big Smoke.
Moving from the country to the city also kick-started my political education as a woman in a capitalist patriarchal society. I got scared, I got angry, I got radical, I got even. I got laid, I got into collectives and consensus, I got into women’s peace camps and anti-nuclear protest rallys. I got into performing, I even got to play guitar in Sydney Town Hall on International Women’s day! I read the worlds of Mary Daly, Kate Millett, Diane Stein, Starhawk, Monica Sjoo, Dale Spender, Vicki Noble, and many, many others. My head spun. I found in those books, and living that life, the answers to so many of my questions, but not all. I’d found my key to what I was supposed to be doing, but where, oh where, was the door?
I was deep in the painful end of a relationship. I had just begun to study at University. Architecture if you please! If there is a more secular bastion of intellectual patriarchal endeavor, I’ve yet to come across it, but for a high-school drop-out simply getting into University was a great achievement. In the midst of these not insignificant events, I heard about a meditation group that I thought might help me find at least some balance in my chaotic life that also might give me some clue as to what and where that door was.
Little did I know, that very first evening, when I found my door, it would swing wide open without hesitation and welcome me into its Mysteries. Although, with hindsight, it felt like it sucked me in, shredded me, and spat me back out, remade and ready to begin again.
… but what happened after the Moreton Bay fig tree, I hear you ask? … Well, that’s for the next chapter.
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… the story so far … Childhood of major suckitude … searching for spiritual meaning … my first encounter with meditation … end up in front of an ancient tree … and away we go …
I took a moment to assess my situation. The Morton Bay fig tree was real and I was really standing next to it.
A large almost weightless ebony ball appeared in my hands.
Surely not a crystal ball, some irreverent part of my mind commented, but as I looked vague shapes shimmered and flared inside it and I knew what they represented.
The remnants of my stress at running late looked like a mini lightning strike. An odd-looking jiggly thing off to one side was the tough week I’d had at work. Another shape was my University workload. Another one was my relationship, it wasn’t going well. My health, finances, all the aspects of my everyday life captured in miniature.
The tree was a kind of way-station on my Journey between the physical world and whatever lay ahead. I couldn’t take all my mental dross with me, so this was the perfect place to leave it, to be collected on my way back if I so chose. I gently lodged my ebony ball in a comfortable little nook between two branches, and feeling much lighter, took a deep breath.
My perception shifted and I looked down on a sea of long rolling sand dunes in shades of yellows and browns stretching out in all directions. No trees, grasses, or visible life anywhere. The air around me smelled crisp cold, with a dry bite, not at all what I expected. I glided on soft silent wings across the sky, flying from horizon to endless horizon.
My flight seemed to last forever but eventually the desert ended at the edge of an ocean and plunged abruptly into the green depths beyond the gentle tidal surge. The sea, too, extended in an hypnotic rolling swell as far as I could see.
I landed at the edge of the sand and faced the sea, folded my wings back from whence they came, and waited. Not much else I could do, really.
A wooden rowboat aged by wind and tide gently beached itself. I got in and off we went, across the sea to the opposite shore, which looked exactly the same as the one I’d just left. Sand dunes rising out of the water and then more sand dunes, beyond sand dunes, beyond sand dunes. I left the boat, unfurled my wings and soared onward to my final destination.
An oddly shaped building appeared at the edge of the horizon, becoming larger and larger as I drew close.
By now I was starting to feel, not exactly tired, but edgy, as though the part of me that firmly believed in three dimensions and all the familiarity and safety they entailed, was having a bit of a terse conversation with the part of me that accepted all I was experiencing here, as real too.
I drew closer to the building. Long sweeping planes and cunning tight corners flowed into curves rather than angles and took on a very specific shape. The seven storey high building was a statue of a very elegant looking Siamese cat with her front feet tucked together and her tail draped neatly over the tops of them.
Well, color me gobsmacked! My internal discussion shut down without a whimper.
“Of course it’s a giant Siamese cat,” I said. “What else would it be?” I really hoped I wouldn’t hear an answer because I was starting to feel a little punchy at this point.
As I softly landed in front of the building that towered above me like an overhanging cliff a doorway opened up in one of the giant toes. With a kind of fatalistic acceptance I stepped through. The opening wasn’t very wide, but the scale of the temple was so massive that just one toe left me with ample headroom.
The opening closed behind me without a sound, leaving me in utter darkness. Not just your ordinary darkness either, where you know the sun is out there on the other side of the planet, just out of sight for a while. This was a complete absence of even the concept of light.
My internal voices really had something to discuss now. Mostly about whether I should feel an ordinary garden-variety existential fear, or outright unadulterated imminent-annihilation terror.
I didn’t know which way was up, which way was down. I didn’t know where to go, or what to do next. I had willingly entered a place I had no frame of reference for, that was completely beyond the constraints of any time or measurements of distance that I knew of. Where magic was happening all around me, and dreams, possibly nightmares, came true.
I spent endless moments in that unutterable blackness before I realized I was still standing upright. Therefore, it followed that I had to be standing on something. My rational mind was so pleased to have some sort of reality to hang on to it relinquished its terrified death-grip on my throat and I could breathe again.
Breath meant movement and with movement came light. As I walked, a faint glow bright enough to see by emanated from the walls and faded back into blackness as I passed. The walls themselves were carved in long serrated grooves as though something with very big claws had scratched it out of the bedrock.
My eyes adjusted to the dimness so that when I reached the end of the tunnel, the circular room beyond seemed like it was bathed in brilliant white light. It was a perfect hemisphere nestled between the two front feet of the giant statue. I looked around but the only thing that I could make any sense of at all were a series of deep gashes carved into the walls in a herringbone pattern.
I reached out and touched them, they weren’t rock anymore, they were made out of clay, and I knew they represented a telling of my entire life. My past, present, and my unknown future. In some places the clay was still damp and in others it was so old and dry that I was afraid it would crumble if I even breathed on it. I understood the clay was made out of the blood of the earth, the first Mother of us all.
I knew if I could translate the pattern I would be able to see the course of my life from its beginning to its end, and beyond. The enormity of such knowledge set my hands shaking and I felt cold, ice cold.
A pair of french doors appeared right in the middle of the solid clay wall. They looked as though they’d always been there. Perhaps they had, and I could only see them when I needed to. They led out into a small courtyard, with beautiful green growing things and hidden somewhere just out of sight, the sound of water flowing, like a fountain.
Suddenly I was warm again. I walked through the lush tropical greenery with tears in my eyes.
This potency, this beauty of my ‘interior’ or ‘spirit’ world had always been here and I’d never been unable to access it until now. I laughed and cried. I felt sad for all that I’d missed, and elated for all I might find, all at the same time. I wanted to go further, beyond the garden, beyond the sand dunes, to explore just how far this wondrous paradise extended, to venture into who-knows-how-many other magnificent Realms. I wanted it all in one big hit. I wanted . . . I wanted . . .
A lifetime’s hunger condensed around me into this one impeccable moment. I hurried to the edge of the garden and bumped into something large and immovable. I looked up, and up, and up.
Her name, she said, was Bast. She cocked her head slightly to one side and glared fiercely down her whiskers at me. She held one gigantic, yet perfectly proportioned paw, just above my head, poised to stamp me out of existence.
“I want to fly,” I shouted at her with my arms outflung. “Give me back my wings.”
Bast laughed. Her belly shook with her mirth. “I will catch you and eat you. You will not survive.”
I glanced at a tiny butterfly innocently sipping nectar in the garden, and I thought I might be able to fly out as a very small and insignificant butterfly so no-one or no-thing would notice me, and I’d be OK.
“No,” Bast said. “I will squash you.” Her paw quivered just above my scalp. “You are not ready, and you will not survive.”
She seemed so very sure of herself and, seeing as how she was a whole lot bigger than me, I conceded her the point.
As I returned to the garden, and thence to my physical body, sitting in a chair in a small room in an old suburb of a ocean-side city, exhaustion swept over me like a tidal wave. Moving, standing up, breathing, took all of my energy.
Obviously, there were things I had to learn before I could go exploring any further, so I was content to wait, (at least until the following week) to understand how and what I would need to survive.
I was so excited though. Here was a place, a Realm, that could take me as far as I was wiling to go. I felt invincible.
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Since I posted the first ‘Prelude’ I’ve had a few comments both here and elsewhere about the nature of these meditations, which are quite a bit different from your average meditation, where we are able to calm all the noise in our minds so we can relax, and then, feeling refreshed, we go back to our lives.
This, isn’t that.
I stated previously why I didn’t go into any detail about how I entered into the trance state, but, in the interests of clarity, I’ll expanded a little on how I go about it.
First up, what I didn’t (and don’t) use: Consciousness altering substances … of which there are many, and many Traditions around the world do use them.
I discovered very early on in my adult life, long before I started this Spirit Path, that although ingesting consciousness altering substances, alcohol, marijuana, various opium derivatives, chemicals, and fungi, did indeed alter my perceptions, I never felt like I was ‘getting in touch with the real me’. Instead I felt like I was me-through-rose-colored-glasses.
I sit in a chair rather than laying down so I’m not tempted to fall asleep before the fun bits. Also, falling asleep during this work can be … troublesome. Other realms of existence open and the rabbit holes you can fall into are not for the faint-of-heart. In fact they’re downright dangerous.
I use visualization to relax my body, center my mind, do a bit of ‘housekeeping’ – sending healing energy to any bits of my body (usually my knees) that need it, give the old power centers (‘chakras’ in some Traditions) a bit of a vacuum and polish, and generally make sure what I leave behind, my physical body, is taken care of. (When I’m teaching, this visualization is spoken, or guided, by me, but it’s second nature now because I’ve been doing this for so long so I slip into it without a great deal of effort)
I usually set my destination (one or more of the Realms in that bag of marbles I talked about in Prelude I, of which there are as many as there are motes of star-dust in the universe) and the work I want to do ahead of time, then I head out.
Basically, beyond all the trappings, a Shaman’s work is to Journey into other Realms of Awareness and bring back that which is useful here in this one.
I had a week to think about my first adventure. I felt like I’d traveled through a movie. Who knew it could be this exciting? The sensual technicolor images, exploring unknown places, mythological images becoming manifest. As for Bast’s warning, it lost its impact with each day that passed. Nothing really horrible happened to me the last time. Not really. I was eager for a repeat experience. I wanted it all. To soak it up like a desiccated seed absorbing an ocean. I could hardly wait.
“I don’t know,” came a doubtful whisper.
“Oh, pish-posh,” I replied. “On with the show.”
The old tree flowed into existence in front of me, but my ebony ball was nowhere to be found. I visualized it as hard as I could, to no avail. For a moment I was too stunned to react, a frisson of panic rippled up from the pit of my stomach, but my journey continued to unfold around me, so off I went, ready or not.
I was flying through the star-lit sky at the speed of thought, heading towards the planet Neptune where I was supposed to experience unconditional love. On Neptune? And where I was to meet Venus, the Goddess that is, not the planet.
My throat constricted, and my eyes filed with tears of pain, of loss, of a grief too terrible to comprehend. I was going so fast that the starlight stretched until it looked like time-lapse video of car headlights at night.
Then the space around me began to harden until I couldn’t even move, even to breathe, bound in a coffin of rock, pushing at me, in me, a part of me, becoming me.
My chest caved in and my heart collapsed, crushed by the weight of that terrifying grief. In some strangely separate part of my mind I wondered if all the grief I had ever experienced in my life was somehow coming back to haunt me? Had all the ghosts I tried to outrun on my motorbike finally caught up with me?
Another thought swiftly replaced it. What if this grief isn’t actually mine? What if I had somehow unwittingly tapped into the rivers and oceans of grief that humans have been crying since we began inhabiting this planet? And I wondered, what would the weight of that do to me?
Another part of my brain screamed at me to open my eyes and everything would be normal. The crushing weight would disappear and the waves of grief would recede and return from whence they came, but I couldn’t open them, my physical body was too heavy.
I grew heavier and heavier, still unable to move, bearing it until I broke, until my bones and muscles and organs were crushed to pulp. Until the floor beneath me gave way under the strain. The floorboards splintered under the enormous weight and I fell straight through the floor beneath and down, down into the ground, where I knew, beyond a doubt, I would die.
Then, between one moment and another I was back in the room. It hadn’t collapsed, nor had I been crushed out of existence, but that grief, the unutterable weight of anguish, returned with me. I broke into great heart-wracking sobs, frightened to the depths of my being
Later that night I watched the news on television, as it relayed images of a great tragedy unfurling on the other side of the world, where people were already dying. My breath caught in my throat and I felt as though I were suffocating. I walked to a nearby park near where I lived and stood under the naked stars.
I whispered into the gaping wound inside me that wouldn’t close, “Why is this happening to me?
A voice that was neither inside my head nor somewhere out there beyond the furthest star, perhaps Bast, spoke to me. “So you will learn the First Lesson.” There was so much Power in that sentence I could almost hear the capital letters.
First Lesson. I pondered the words. First Lesson. What the hell did that mean? No-one answered. The words rattled around inside my head keeping me awake for hours.
Eventually, at some point during that sleepless night I figured a couple of things out. If, I chose to continue this work (and at this point it certainly wasn’t a given) I would be expanding my awareness of my surroundings and what constituted my reality, and I needed to be able to discern what was meant for me and what I was picking up from ‘out there’ that wasn’t meant for me. I was essentially bearing witness, nothing more.
Another even bigger ‘if’ was that if these Realms were as real as the physical one I’d inhabited for all my life, as real as the walls of my house, and the trees and asphalt pavement of my street, then perhaps I could’ve quite literally died under that crushing weight.
I’d been given a (relatively) painless glimpse into the true size and potential of the Path I’d innocently stepped upon.
It was a hard decision, but in the end I trusted what I’d learned from my motorbike accident, knowing that I must accept every challenge that came my way. Hard or easy, pleasurable or painful, to willingly go where the Journey took me. To trust that I would be cared for … until I’d learned what I needed to know in order to survive on my own.
I had no idea of what I was actually agreeing to.
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I must admit, after the events of the previous week I approached my third Journey with a small degree of trepidation, and wondering just how vast an undertaking this was all going to be.
In the Gap Between the Worlds a whirlpool of misty vapor came into being in front of my feet. Tiny eddies of energy at the edges swept inexorably around counter-clockwise surging faster and faster toward the center and disappearing down to who-knows-where. I studied it intently, looking for clues as to what this might mean. I was pulled down into it with a force that took my breath away. Before I could gasp my breath back into my lungs, I was standing at a place where the sea meets the sand looking out across gently breaking waves.
Some years prior, Ocean and I had come to a mutually agreed upon covenant which did not include me going swimming in Her, even if it was in another Realm of Awareness.
I glanced behind me. Nothing there. Literally nothing. I sighed, perhaps a little fatalistically, and said to the wavelets, “Well then, I’d just have to go forward, won’t I?”
The wet sand squeaked as I walked into the water. It rose higher and higher around my body and the receding tidal surge pulled the sand out from under my feet. Soon the water lapped at my chin. Panic brought tears to my eyes. I tilted my head back and held my breath, trying to find the strength to trust the choice I made only days ago.
I can do this, I told myself. I can let the water close over the top of my head.
My breath was now stuck somewhere between my lungs and the back of my throat. An unearthly howl of terror rippled across the water. It took me a moment to realize that it was me. I was drowning.
A part of my awareness, far off in the distance asked, “What is it about water that brings this terror up?” But no answer was forthcoming. I had to do a lot more Work before I would be ready to face the answer to that question.
Also, I didn’t drown. Which was a great relief.
The water simply became a substance like air, albeit denser than air, that I could pass through. I took in a few steadying breaths and descended to the ocean floor where a scattering of coral outcroppings floated among the mercurial beams of light that danced across the sandy floor.
I could get used to this. I smiled as I walked toward a small crevasse that caught my attention. The closer I got the bigger it got, or the smaller I became, it was hard to tell. I passed through some sort of portal in the crevasse and entered a completely different ocean. One with a living pulsing entity. I hung, suspended, with nothing to see except the blue-green water.
Suddenly my ‘walking through water like it was air’ wasn’t working anymore. I struggled and thrashed about until I created enough bubbles to show me which way was up. I took off for the surface as though my life depended on it.
My lungs filled with water. Seawater tastes disgusting when you’re drowning. Eventually I broke through the surface and thrashed around some more, trying really hard not to sink. I spun this way and that desperate to find something to hang on to, to keep me above the water.
Then I became aware of Her.
A presence, encompassing all the waters of the world. Lakes and streams, rivers and oceans, and even tiny puddles on the side of a road. She held me in Her immense watery arms, and murmured over and over again, “You will not drown. I am holding you.”
It was my personal experience, starting right back in my childhood, that no-one was capable of that kind of holding.
I stopped struggling though, and tried to accept that I wouldn’t drown. That I would be able to rest in the depths of the passionate love She offered.
In a voice that washed around me like a caress, She asked, “Do you trust Me?”
I broke out in a cold sweat, which is really a neat trick with most of me submerged. My heart pounded so hard in my chest that I wondered if it would shatter my ribs.
“Do you trust me?” She said again.
I could say that, yes, I did trust Her, but we’d both know that wasn’t true. So, how was I supposed to tell an entity of Ocean’s eminence that, really, I didn’t trust Her?
I had to answer, that much I did know. It was part of the agreement I made when I chose to do this Work.
I struggled to hold myself still, to relax my body, both physical and psychic, so that I could face my fear and be able to answer Her truthfully.
“No,” My voice cracked and the words seemed to come from very far away. “I don’t trust You.”
My heart slowed down and I said again, this time clearly, with ownership, “No, I don’t trust you.” I braced myself for the end of the Universe or something equally catastrophic. Or at the very least, my own demise.
My choice was simply accepted, not judged, nor reacted upon, simply accepted. I had been challenged to find the courage to risk an unwelcome answer, to be true to myself. I was cradled and rocked on Ocean’s gentle breast, accepting acceptance.
When I was a child we lived in a shack built of sturdy bush timber and old corrugated iron next to a small gully with a creek at the bottom of it. We carried our water up from the creek by hand and emptied each bucket into a trio forty-four gallon drums.
I loved that creek. I loved it’s earthy, lush smell. I loved all the unknown creatures that wiggled, slithered, and flapped just beyond my line of vision either along its banks or down in the, sometimes still, sometimes burbling along, green waters.
Our main swimming hole was formed by a natural rock dam that headed the first ever waterfall I saw, all of about a meter high, but seeing as I wasn’t much taller than that it impressed me none-the-less. Through all the floods that came and went that swimming hole never silted up, and I dog-paddled around in it to my hearts content because I knew that no matter where I was, my feet could always touch the bottom and I was safe.
The first time I saw the Pacific Ocean I was about ten years old. Up until then my horizons had always been limited by trees and garden plots, houses, and the clutter of human things. I looked across the waves and felt completely lost. I was very young but I felt such an adult fear. It was something I had no words for, and so I filed it away in my silent place inside, with all the other knowledge and fears that I had no words for, that grown-ups wouldn’t understand or believe.
When I was in my mid-twenties a group of my friends and I traveled north to a Women’s Music Festival at Lismore on the North Coast of New South Wales. Afterwards we headed to the ocean and camped for a few days with some other women from the festival. The ocean called to me like a Siren, an irresistible pull, and wasn’t I an adult now? Not a child with childish fears?
The others were in the water already, confidently swimming out to catch the crest of the waves and body-surf them in to the shore. It looked all pretty easy, so I plunged in and swam out beyond the surf. Floating in the swell I battled with the lump of fear in my throat which was conducting an on-going dialogue with my rational brain, that went something like this: “The tide is turning, I will be dragged out to sea, the positive buoyancy that women are supposed to have because of the extra layer of fat is a lie, and I will probably just paddle around like that silly woman in that silly Sixties song ‘Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini’, (not that I was wearing anything … which probably contributed to the … hmm, getting ahead of myself here) get waterlogged, and sink anyway.”
After a while it became obvious that none of the above scenarios were about to unfold, except the one about the tide turning, so I decided it was okay to relax and enjoy myself, and try body-surfing.
The very first wave I caught was perfect all the way in, until a few meters from the beach where there was a pit of gravel dug out by the undertow from that pesky turning tide. I ended up back on the beach all right, but half-drowned from having swallowed a generous portion of the Pacific Ocean, and the ungrateful recipient of a gravel rash from my chin to my knees.
It was then and there, as various soothing unguents were being applied to my body, that Ocean and I made our agreement. I would be able to travel over Her, walk beside Her, even paddle and splash about and make sandcastles at Her edge, but I would never go any deeper into Her than what I could stand up in, and She wouldn’t drown me!
Quite fair, I thought.
-oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo-
I found myself in an old, old forest.
Moss-covered tree-trunks towered above my head while shafts of pollen-laden sunlight angled through the sparse undergrowth and shone on fallen giants repurposed as nurseries.
I sensed, rather than heard, birdsong and the lilt of falling water underneath the sound of soft rustling leaves and creaking branches.
I was so happy to be Journeying again I spoke without thinking. “This is much better than drowning.” My words disappeared the minute they passed my lips. I paused, warily. The universe didn’t immediately end so I counted my blessings and moved on.
The gnarled tree trunks gave way to saplings and then to a clearing. In the center an old woman kneeled next to a small energetic campfire. Its light threw her flickering shadow up against a tiny house made of things the forest had bequeathed her. She sensed my presence and slowly got to her feet. I could see massive scarring surrounding her right knee.
She, was me, perhaps in the future, or from a different timeline. Our eyes met and a flash of recognition passed between us, but then her campfire exploded into a giant fireball and consumed her. Higher and higher it rose. In-between one heartbeat and the next it seared the trees and undergrowth, and reduced the entire forest to cinders.
The fire burned so hot I could feel it scorching my clothes, burning my face and bare skin. It towered over me, challenging me.
“What do you want?” I shouted over the raging noise.
The flames blazed even higher and hotter.
My skin began to blister as though I’d been out in the heat of a long Aussie summer day for hours. Some separate part of my mind said that I couldn’t be burning. After all, I was really just sitting with my eyes closed in a room in the suburbs. You’d think that by now I would’ve learned that what’s real in one Realm is also real in another.
However, prudence required I take a step back, just in case, then, in a flash of clarity I rephrased question.
“What is my lesson?”
The fire lurched towards me, surrounding me. I’d experienced being surrounded by fire once before and I didn’t like it very much then either.
The heat was so intense my flesh started to disintegrate right off my bones. I had to find a way to escape, or die.
I wondered if the fire was an illusion designed to test me, something I could walk straight through if I chose to. I stepped forward and got cooked some more. I tried again, then gave myself up to the inevitable. This Fire was going to consume me.
My thoughts turned philosophical. (probably in order to stave off the screaming heebie-jeebies. I mean, who in their right mind stands willingly in front of a raging bonfire and calmly contemplates their demise?) I would experience Death and Transformation, without having to actually reach the end of my physical life. Who knew what epiphanies I might epiph.
A tongue of flame shot out from fire and licked across my body reminding me that philosophy had its place, but that place was neither here nor now.
So be it.
Trial by Fire.
Fine. If I couldn’t go through the flames I would go under them.
First I had to protect myself. I flexed my will, (I was getting the hang of this bit) and caused a hard shell to form around me with a pointy end, a bit like a bullet shape and began burrowing into the Earth. The cool earth relieved the burning sensation on my skin. When I sensed I had gone far enough to outdistance the fire I headed back up to the surface, and emerged in a completely different place.
I was vaguely aware of my physical body trembling with tension. The struggle had exhausted me, but my success at getting past the fire pushed such minor considerations away.
I stood on the surface of a small planet or moon, so small I could see the curve of the horizon quite close to me. I was safe. I could breathe, and more importantly I had passed another Trial.
I spent a bit of time looking around, not that there was much to see, until it occurred to me that I’d escaped Fire by entering Earth, so, logically, that was where I was supposed to go next. I decided I would skip the week-long wait, resume my bullet-ish shape, and dig my Self back down into the earth beneath my feet and continue my adventure.
A searing heat rippled around my body. A subtle reminder that I knew this Journey was complete, and to push this particular boundary, at this particular time, would incur the wrath of Beings best left un-wrathed.
That night my skin still felt kind of warm so I looked in a mirror and was shocked to see my face covered in a heavy sunburn. Being fair-skinned, and the Summer season at its height, I hadn’t been out in the sun without a wide brimmed hat and sunscreen for weeks!
My knees went weak and my heart rose up in my throat and pounded so hard I thought it was going to break out of my body, again! I sat down abruptly and asked myself what was I doing gallivanting around the cosmos and coming back with a sunburn?
My skin blistered and peeled and took several days more for the redness to fade.
Elsewhere in my life a different sort of crisis was looming.
I was doing fairly well at university despite my abysmal lack of math expertise. Although I had a logical mind, I’d left school before I could delve into the intricacies of geometry, and it’s elder sibling, algebra, was something I’d heard of only in passing.
But, I was being pulled between two polarities. At one end was university, where everything was measured, calculated, precise and concrete, literally as well as figuratively. Where we were told we were being taught to think for ourselves but that anything that deviated from an acceptable ‘norm’ (set by the faculty) was publicly exposed in a classroom situation and used as an example of how not to do that particular task.
I can’t say this was true of every student around me or in every faculty, or in every institution of learning, but it was enough for me to wonder if this was where I wanted to be for the next six years.
Then, there was this other new world I was discovering with equal intensity. A world of Myth become manifest, where there was no right or wrong way to be, only my way. (which, of course, is different for each and every one of us who choose to walk a Path of Awareness)
I was dis-covering, uncovering, a knowledge that had remained dormant all my life, and perhaps even before this life. Knowledge stored in my very cells, the only safe place for it until I was ready to recall it to consciousness. Knowledge that made my heart and Spirit soar with its Beauty and Power. Knowledge that had such a profound sense of rightness and balance to it that sometimes I was moved to simply sit and just be with it.
My dilemma then: How could I continue to venture forth into a rigidly structured academic world that was fast becoming the antithesis of the knowledge I was thirstily absorbing in the Spirit Realm?
One day, at the end of a scorchingly hot summer back in my Aussie dyke-on-a-(motor) bike days, I decided to go for a ride along one of the endless roads that linked the one-kangaroo towns scattered infrequently across the length and breadth of the country. Some of them so small they didn’t appear on any maps.
I was on my way home, tired but content. For a while I had outrun my ghosts.
Maybe it was an idiot throwing his still burning cigarette out of his car, or sunlight through a broken bottle, a lightning strike, or even deliberately lit, but a bushfire (we call them ‘wildfires’ here in Canada) had sprung up and spread rapidly through the scruffy tinder-dry bush.
Over a small hill ahead of me a towering plume rose into the sky faster than I ever thought possible. Suddenly the harsh sunlight turned a sickly beer-bottle amber. Smoldering and charred remnants of gum leaves and twigs gusted all around me like grimy soot-stained snowflakes.
As I rode along the sun disappeared behind the choking smoke. Finally I pulled over and looked behind me, hoping to go back to where I could skirt around the fire and take another route, the long way, home. The smoke was thicker that way though, obscuring the flames just out of sight, roaring like some kind of nightmarish monster and heating the stifling air around me.
If you’re caught in a bushfire they tell you the best thing to do is stay inside your vehicle, right? Good advice if you have a vehicle to get inside of. My options weren’t good. Mentally tossing a coin I decided to keep going forward. I lined myself up with the white painted center-line of the road and gingerly inched my way through the smoke and heat and ash. I rode without ever seeing a single flame until I was well beyond the fire and high up on a ridge.
At a lookout I stopped and took off my helmet. Tiny smoldering holes pocked my jacket and thick pants. I breathed in the clean air and watched the road I’d just ridden along get swallowed by the fire. If I’d’ve turned back, I would’ve been caught in that maelstrom and would not have survived.
-oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo-
Every time I Journeyed another layer of my fears, my preconceived notions, my externally imposed (and thereafter internalized) limitations and deceptions, peeled away. I could see clearer and clearer each week.
I wondered, a bit nervously, what this week might throw at me.
I’ve only ever ridden a horse once in my life, which lasted all of five seconds. I went up one side, over the top, and down the other. The horse looked down at me, flat on my back, with that gleeful superior expression horses get when a human has done something ridiculous. (his name was Rain Lover, a retired racehorse who’d won the Melbourne Cup twice, the biggest race in Australia, so in my defense, he was a whole lot taller than your average bear … erm, horse)
Now, I found myself atop a beautiful grey mare whose job it was to see that I stayed on her back until we reached our destination, far off into the desert. Unlike the above mentioned nag, she did so, and at the end of our journey I slid off her soft warm back, stood on wobbly knees, and thanked her profusely.
I’d arrived at a box canyon carved out of the surrounding sandstone by some long gone river, and was greeted by a gathering of women. They seemed to glow a little around the edges as they ushered me toward a dark opening in the back of the canyon wall.
We stepped from the scorching heat of the desert sun into the shadowy coolness of the cave, and as we walked they asked me to recall the things I had already learned in my Journeys and be aware of the enormity of the things I didn’t know.
Yep, I thought to myself, this was going as expected.
I hastily complied as we progressed along curved tunnel. One by one the women faded away as though they were melting into the rock. By the time I got to where it opened out into a good-sized cavern, they’d disappeared completely.
In the center of the cavern a small fire burned brightly. I hoped it wasn’t of the exploding variety like my previous Journey. The shadows of the women sitting around it danced along the walls. They were the same women who’d just faded away on me, only less solid, Spirit versions of their Selves. None-the-less I stood to one side waiting for an invitation to rejoin them. It seemed the polite thing to do.
A women rose and glided toward me. She carried a beautifully fashioned stone knife in her hand and began to cut the same herringbone pattern of marks I’d seen carved into the walls of the Bast temple on my first Journey, into the skin of my forearms.
A little part of me that carried the trauma of my motorbike accident in its nucleus squeaked in fright. Okay, it was a big part.
A Much Shorter Retrospective Digression Than The Last One …
I’m the only woman I know who doesn’t have a piercing upon her person, of one sort of another, anywhere.
Long before I received all those wonderful scars on my right knee from the motorbike crash, I had accumulated two other important scars that contributed to my non-pierced self.
The first occurred when I was a child. (separate from the usual bruises, scrapes, bumps and general bloodletting-spawned scars of childhood)
My father, who was as confused about my burgeoning baby butch identity emerging from the wilds of my early childhood as I was, tried to force me to wear a dress for a family outing. He won, but only because he was bigger than me. I later fell and cut my leg. (funnily enough, in the exact place on my knee that would be sliced off when I had the motorbike accident twenty years later) I got blood all over the dress, ended up wearing my old clothes, with a giant bandage over my wound. I wore that ‘huge’ scar (I was just a little kid so size was a matter of perspective) like a badge of honour.
My second scar of renown was a self-inflicted one on my left forearm. A scream for help from my teen years that no-one heard, so I resumed my self-imposed protective silence. You wouldn’t believe it these days, but back then I had a spoken vocabulary of only a few hundred words. I never spoke more, or less, than what I required to survive.
In the heady days of my ‘steep learning curve’ when I moved to Sydney a year after the motorbike accident, all the women around me had pierced ears and/or were contemplating getting some in places with significantly more nerve endings. (this was a time, long past, when body piercings were only starting to enjoy their hedonistic popularity)
I honestly contemplated it for a few … moments, but the idea of voluntarily choosing to have my body skewered by inanimate pointy objects, even if they only made a tiny little hole to stick dangly ornaments through, made me feel queasy and heading in the opposite direction at a great rate of knots.
Back to our story …
“This is a Blood Ritual.” The Spirit Woman said gently, trying to soothe my fears as she staunched the flow of blood from my arms with some silvery dust. “In this moment, you have a choice. You can stay here in this Place of Power and the shedding of your blood will not have meaning, or you can go further into the Mystery and find the strength and means to continue this Path.”
My heart then did what I was coming to expect it to do when Truths were revealed to me on these Journeys, it seized up for a few moments then thudded against my ribcage until it got back up to speed.
The Spirit Woman indicated a dark tunnel branching off from the cavern. “Choose.”
The second tunnel curved and sloped downward. My eyes adjusted to the darkness as I walked the spiral, and ended up directly underneath the first cave. The tunnel ended in a shimmering wall that looked like quicksilver or the surface of water as a fish might see it.
A friend of mine once said, on a completely unrelated topic, that all we really need to do is stand in our life and breathe.
Once I stopped thinking about what to do next and simply let my sense of my Self lead the way, I knew what to do.
My hand passed through the quicksilver surface of the wall and, meeting no resistance, I stepped through the Portal into a dark space.
I was in another cave, bigger than the others, but again directly underneath the other two. I had descended into the heart of the Earth in a Sacred Spiral.
The quicksilver Portal retreated to one side of the cavern taking the small amount of light it generated with it.
There was that the familiar thudding in my chest again. I was buried who-knew-how-far underground, in the dark, utter dark, with no way out, and I was supposed to do, what?
Because of my previous adventures I had learned enough to know that I could create whatever I willed, (with varying degrees of difficulty) if only I could figure out what that might be.
My heart settled down. I breathed some more.
First, I needed to create light from lightlessness.
I focused my attention on the pattern tattooed on my forearms, and moved the energy pulsing there down to my hands.
Tiny bright tendrils of energy began to radiate from my fingers. The streams of light swayed and danced from finger to finger, grew brighter, swallowed up my palms, spread across the backs of my hands, and even shone through my fingernails. My hands were wreathed in pure light.
I gazed at these beautiful glowing hands, my hands, in amazement. I lifted them over my head. The light spilled out through my fingertips and filled the whole of the cavern with the most brilliant of whitest lights.
My eyes, used to the dark and overloaded by the intensity of the light immediately filled with tears. When I could see again I beheld a cave made entirely out of crystal. The light reflected and refracted around the space until it shattered again and again into a million rainbows and returned to pure white light once more.
I did a little dance of joy like a gleeful child who had just discovered the most wondrous magical thing ever. I laughed and I cried and l laughed again, dizzy with euphoria.
I calmed down eventually but I still had a big grin plastered on my face while I looked for a way out. I hadn’t noticed until that moment that the floor of this wondrous crystal cave was crystal too. Of course it would be. Nice long pointy shards of crystal, angled in every direction.
I faced the next part of my challenge. To get back across the cave to the Portal, the edges of which glowed with the same bright light still shimmering all around me.
I focused my will and saw the crystals as all soft and smooth. They ignored me and remained pointy. What if I flew above them? The crystals flexed and slowly turned their pointy ends toward me. Several of them started to grow.
Got it. No flying.
I must walk, (and it was made clear to me there was no other way to do this) with bare feet, across the razor sharp edges of the crystals, without shedding a single drop of blood.
Remember that part of me that had a thing about not willingly putting myself in situations where I would have my person perforated? She was a gibbering mess now.
I shifted my weight onto my right foot and slowly, very slowly raised my left and lowered it onto the crystals, the very pointy crystals. I could feel them pushing against the sole of my foot. I held my breath and shifted my weight onto it.
I knew I couldn’t entertain even the merest thought of injury or my fear would bring the entire structure down on me and there would be slicing and dicing and blood everywhere. I focused my will as sharp as the sharpest of the needle-like crystals underneath my foot and took another step.
And another, until I stood in front of the Portal, where I finally remembered to breathe. My solar plexus ached and I shook from head to toe, but I’d done it!
The bright silvery light of the Portal slowly shifted. Swirling patterns rose to its surface and resolved into a map that showed the three caverns I’d already been in and others both above and below those three. An endless labyrinth stretching beyond my capacity to understand.
This was the way out though, I knew that. I stepped through the map and found myself back at the entrance to the very first tunnel in the desert canyon, only the canyon wasn’t there anymore. Nothing was there.
-oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo- -oOo-
When last we saw our intrepid hero, our Shaman-in-training, she was standing on the edge of … well, nothingness. (which I wasn’t happy about, at all)
Christmas was a big deal when I was a child, not because of the ‘Christmas Spirit’ (which I didn’t really ‘get’) but because I would receive, ordered all the way from England, a ‘Girls Own’ bumper album of stories, (which probably accounts for why Hermione Granger is one of my heroes – I was born in England and my family emigrated to Australia when I was two, and I think this was one of the ways my parents kept that connection alive for me) and a similar ‘bumper annual’ book of Rupert the Bear’s adventures.
All these stories had a satisfying beginning, middle, and end, and later as I sought out my own reading material (science fiction and fantasy mostly, although I did have a brief flirtation with regency romances in the 70’s) I required those three elements to be present.
Where were you when ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, premiered? I’d traveled all the way to Sydney (a two-hour train trip) and queued up for hours to be one of the first to see it.
Remember how it ended?
Han Solo, encased in carbonite, carried off to Jabba the Hutt to a fate worse than death. Luke Skywalker, with his new hand, in shock because of that ‘I am your father’ moment. Leia, discovering she’s connected to the Force, Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian leaving in the Millennium Falcon to search for Han.
As far as I was concerned, when the end-titles started rolling up the screen, we were still in the middle of the picture. (which was in fact the truth, but I had to wait several years to see the other half)
The end of my previous week’s Journey felt similarly unfinished. I’d obviously got a handle on the ‘basics’ (obvious to me, at least) and I was ready to go deeper.
It was time to meet the neighbours.
A breeze skimmed around the room even before I’d begun my Journey. It pulled me Between the Worlds, through the nothingness of the week before, and deposited me in the middle of a sun-drenched cobblestone boulevard, wide and inviting. The buildings on either side looked vaguely Romanesque, but with strange angles that created optical illusions where light and shadow met.
There were many women walking along the street, all heading in the same direction, so I joined the throng.
Some politely nodded, I was not known but felt welcomed none-the-less, and some, so set on their destination, walked a straight line that never deviated, looking neither right nor left.
Being a student of the female form divine, I noticed that some of my companions moved in ways that didn’t seem quite … human, let alone female-form-divine-ish.
What hubris, I chided myself, to think that humans were the only ones to do this Work. The more I looked the more I realised that beings, Spirit Walkers from all walks of life and species, strolled alongside me.
I beamed from ear to ear. This was so cool!
We arrived at our destination, a great Hall, essentially the boulevard roofed over, with corridors to museums, storehouses, and smaller meeting rooms, branching off from the main atrium.
Some of my companions headed down those halls but the majority of us milled around, ‘meeting and greeting’, then gradually settled into the wickedly comfortable seats facing a wide stage, most of which was hidden behind two huge burgundy coloured velvet curtains. I introduced myself to those seated around me and we chatted for a few moments until the room slowly darkened.
The curtains wafted back and forth as though someone had walked behind them and ruffled the air.
A voice spoke quietly but such was its power that everyone heard. “Are you ready?”
I glanced around at my companions, who were all doing the same thing.
Well, someone had to start things off. “Yes,” I said, not as confidently as perhaps I could have. A wave of assents followed, then quiet descended again.
We were asked the same question again and this time we responded immediately and with a touch more confidence.
“Very well,” the voice continued. “You who spoke first, come forth.”
It figured. I stood up.
A shaft of light, like a spotlight, surrounded me and suddenly hardened into a crystal shell which just as abruptly melted away, and I was somewhere else.
I stood in another hallway of the enormous Hall with a colonnade along one side that opened out onto a broad sun-dappled pergola, festooned with purple and white wisteria blooms. The delicious flowery aroma distracted me and it was a while before I noticed two women standing next to me.
They motioned me to join them as they walked, until we passed a shallow flight of steps with the swirling nothingness at the bottom.
The women informed me that to Walk Between the Worlds I must learn the process of true transformation into each of the Four Elements I’d already learned to manipulate. (with differing degrees of difficulty and success I might add)
“Rock, for example,” one of them said as we approached a giant boulder in the middle of the walkway. “You need to un-define the boundary between your body and the rock, to become rock, to know its essence, to be able to do this as easily and as smoothly as the breeze that caresses your skin.”
The other woman took my hand and pressed it against the rock. “Do it,’ she commanded. The touch of her hand ripped through me like a white hot fire, but not painful.
‘Painful’, was the furthest thing from what I felt at that moment.
She took her hand off mine and repeated her command with less intensity. I probably imagined the tiniest upward curve of her mouth as my hand sank into the rock and the rest of me followed.
I was surrounded by a fiery redness, churning and boiling, compressed by the weight of an entire planet until it could find a crack in the mantle through which to break out.
I ‘undefined’ my Self until there was no difference between me and the magma. I became mindless except for that singular purpose, to escape.
I forced myself through that crack, and shouldered aside the puny tectonic plates who dared to thwart my will.
Up, through the surface of the earth until suddenly, like uncoiling a tightly wound spring, I exploded out of the volcanic vent and high and wide into the sky. I screamed in agony as the cold air began to quench my passion.
Time passed, ages, eons.
Continents shifted. Seas rose around me and drained away with soporific regularity.
At last I became a solitary sentinel. My substance scoured by wind and water and sun until all that remained was obdurate stone.
Once in a millennium a tiny grain of sand blew loose from a crack in my substance and began its long fall. This tiny intimate part of myself was hustled by the wind until it reached the ground and was part of me no longer.
I became aware of my sense of my Self separating from my sense of ‘rockness’. Tears welled in my heart, weighted with the loss of that tiny grain of sand.
I slowly made my way through the stone to the top of the butte. The breeze from the beginning of my Journey had followed me here and whipped around as though inviting me to leap off this narrow pinnacle and trust my fate to its capricious nature.
Nope. Not gonna do that! Being in such a precarious location had brought me completely back to my senses.
I wiped the tears from my eyes and was about to retrace my path down through the butte when the way back snapped closed. That narrowed my choices, but there was one problem with that flying with the wind thing, I didn’t know how to fly.
Someone tapped my shoulder and I bloody near fell off my perch!
There she was, the woman who told me to ‘do it’, way back in another time and place, floating just off the precipice edge. She was wearing snug-fitting, dark coloured clothes.
“Do it,” she said as though expecting me to immediately comply.
I was tempted, but it’d already been a bit of an eventful trip. I was emotionally wrung out and in no fit state to step out onto nothing but a bit of wind, even if it was in the company of a rather attractive (even if I do say so myself) Guide.
I shook my head and waited to return from whence I came, for the Journey to end. (I was kind of looking forward to a bracing cuppa tea and a biscuit/cookie)
And waited …
… and didn’t return.
This was new.
I took a moment to catch my breath and do a bit of a Grounding, before whatever was going to happen next started happening.
The ‘dark woman’ hovered nearby, not quite smiling, but I could sense a gleam in her eye. A tiny shimmer in the air next to her caught my attention as it grew and grew until it manifested as a woman who was both old and young.
Her name was Oestra, Goddess of cycles; menstrual and lunar, relationships, Journeys, birth-life-age-death-rebirth, and from whom many of the most fun Easter (and Spring Equinox) traditions have descended.
“What do you want?” She asked in a voice filled with ferocious Power.
I glanced at the Dark Woman.
“Not what she wants,” Oestra said. I could’ve sworn she restrained the urge to roll her eyes. “What you want.”
What the hell. In for a penny, in for a pound, I say. I took a deep breath. “To fly.”
Because of course I wanted to fly. Who wouldn’t, given the chance? How often have we watched a bird in flight, from the soaring wingspan of a eagle to the tiniest hovering hummingbird, and felt awe, tinged with just a wee bit of envy?
The Dark Woman made to bump shoulders with Oestra, but probably thought better of it as Oestra glided toward me.
“You must give up all that anchors you to the ground.”
“All? Again? I just did that with …” Oestra quirked an eyebrow at me. “Right. All. Again.”
She immediately whipped out this honking great sword and sliced off a piece of me, from head to foot!
At least that’s what I thought she did until I looked closer. There was a silhouette of me laying on the rock, but it was in a primary colour rather than black. The part of me where she’d sliced was actually still attached and unharmed, but clear, like glass. I could see right through me.
Suddenly the pain of being cut open, albeit psychically, with a sword, hit me. I almost keeled over in agony.
She sliced again, the other side this time, and I screamed. Another silhouette in another primary colour lay on the rock.
Another slice. And another and another. It went on forever.
My mind turned to ice and was electrified by the pain at the same time. I shed more and more colour and became clearer and clearer until only small globes of colour, aligned with my Power Centers, were left deep within my body.
Fuck flying lessons. I was being tortured. The pain took me beyond my limits, beyond trust, beyond comprehension, beyond fear, beyond death.
My Guide, the Dark Woman, came toward me, and in that moment, that blessed moment, my suffering lifted. She reached into my body, and pulled out the coloured globes one by one, stacking them in a pyramid at my feet, until only one remained.
This one, tiny, red, battered, pulsing, heart, I had to take out myself.
I reached into my see-through chest with my colourless hands and removed it, and handed it to Oestra as my last sacrificial benison.
My feet left the ground.
I shot straight up into the stratosphere. This was what being a jet or a rocket must’ve felt like. I rushed up beyond the pull of the atmosphere. I hovered there for a moment and then came plunging back down as fast as I went up.
I screamed again, but this time in an exhilaration that was almost as painful in its extremity as the torture had been.
I leveled out and began to slipstream from side to side, soaring above fields and water, continents and alien landscapes, following the sun around whatever world this was, until I met up with Oestra and the Dark Woman, my Guide, again.
The flight was over. I was no longer colourless.
As I landed on the butte I staggered and almost fell off. The Dark Woman hauled me back and turned me toward Oestra who hugged my tight. I leaned into her endless compassion until I felt strong enough to return.
My relationship was in its last desperate death throes and I felt very alone in the world. I had friends but they couldn’t touch the hurt abandoned place in my heart, which ached for that deep touching that only a lover could bring.
Oestra understood, and by enfolding me in her arms, not only did she share my exhilaration about my flying, but she also eased that loneliness in my heart for a while.
I found love, acceptance, attending, when I Journeyed. Sometimes it came from the most unexpected places, and in the most unusual ways.
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I’d come to terms with the less-than-salubrious aspects of University life and started to enjoy stretching myself academically. It certainly was something, as a high-school dropout, I’d never envisaged for myself.
My Journey work consistently blew my little cotton socks off every week. Learning about aspects of my Self and my abilities opened me up to worlds beyond my wildest imaginings.
But … my home life was ripping me apart. Sometimes relationships end painlessly, (relatively) and sometimes, they don’t. Sometimes there’s evisceration and misery. Lots of misery.
My first ever full-on, flat-out, moving-in-together, long-term relationship was done, finished, kaput. We were at the messy, ugly, and never-ending, cutting-up-the-corpse-and-getting-rid-of-the carcass, stage.
Part of my ritual before setting out on a Journey was to connect with the energy of the Earth and use it to center and ground my physical, emotional, and intellectual bodies, and to give my Power Centers, (Chakras in some spiritual traditions) a bit of an invigorating, ‘out with the old and in with the new’ energy burst.
These energies usually manifested in a wondrous mix of colours and images, but that afternoon my ex and I had a huge blow-up, and in celebration of that singular event, black tar covered everything, and no-one wanted to come out and play in my technicolour journey-scape.
With an, ‘Oh bother’, and a ‘Bah-humbug.’ (I may have used slightly stronger phrases) I got on with it.
I traveled through time and space to a lake high in the mountains, a vividly blue lake, the blue of mountain air, winter, and cloudless skies.
In the middle of the lake was an island,(for any newcomers to my blog who don’t already know, for the last six years I’ve lived on an island in the middle of a lake. How cool is that?) and in the middle of the island, towering over everything, stood a very active volcano, reputed to be a summer home of the Goddesses of Volcanoes, Chantico and Pele.
I needed find out, quickly, what season I’d landed in, because if those two were vacationing nearby, this little black duck (Daffy Duck reference) was gonna get outta Dodge, pronto!
In the meantime, my destination came into being around me. I stood in a little vale nestled between two spurs of cooled lava flows. In a glade near the center of the valley a group of women were dancing a Spiral Dance. (There’s a video at the end of this post that gives you a better idea of what a Spiral dance is than my favourite go-to resource, Wikipedia, can)
The women invited me to join them but I really didn’t feel like it. My black mood from the fight with my ex, and my tarred Power Centers, clung to me like a bitter miasma.
I considered leaving and calling the whole Journey off when the ground gave a little shake. Pele and Chantico obviously had other ideas. I sat my glum self down on a nearby log and wondered what I was in for.
The two of them got the whole volcano a-rumbling and a-grumbling for a while but then everything went quiet and still.
I held my breath.
A single CRACK! snapped through the air like a gunshot. Then another, and another. A breach formed high up on the rim of the volcano. A narrow fissure gnawed its way down the mountainside, through the vale, through the glade, and stopped right in front of my feet.
“What?” I said, as it nudged my toes. “I’m not moving! Go around.”
“Sooner or later you’re going to have to deal with this, so it may as well be now.” Pele/Chantico, now joined in a single entity, answered.
“I’ve already battled once today. I don’t want to do another one.”
She seemed to consider my stance for a few moments, then the fissure zipped back up the volcano, and all was it had been.
“That was easy,” I commented to no-one in particular.
I looked up at the rim and there was Pele/Chantico,waiting for me.
“Well, fine,” I muttered under my breath, and I set off, one foot after the other, up the side of the damned volcano.
My path through the glade soon came to an end and the only way up that I could see was along a very steep, boulder riddled, creek bed with shallow rills of water burbling and skipping down it. I lost count of how many times I slipped and fell on the rocks. I cut myself so often the water began to run red with my blood.
“Why are you bleeding and angry?” Pele/Chantico asked me when I finally reached the top.
“I’m not angry!” I said through clenched teeth. “I am so sick of having to cut my heart out every time we meet.” I wasn’t sure if I was referring to my ex or my Journeying, or both. “I’m tired, wrung out, bled to death, and empty.”
Pele/Chantico looked at me with such compassion in Her eyes that I nearly crumpled into a puddle of tears on the spot. She stretched out her arm, palm facing me and focused on my Crown Center. I closed my eyes and felt a golden sparkle dance through my skull and dissolve all the bleak tar energy that had filled me to despair. She imbued my whole being with the essence of Her energy.
I smiled to myself. Love, that wondrous gift, did indeed come from the most unexpected places.
The golden energy enlightened me, quite literally. As my colourlessness had previously enabled me to fly, this kindly gift lifted me off the top of the volcano and swept me into another Realm.
I landed on a ledge high up on the face of a single mountain. On one side a green fertile valley with cultivated fields and darker green patches of forest stretched to the horizon. On the other was an ocean, bright and sparkling in the glorious summer sunshine. Behind me eternal snow capped the top of the mountain.
It felt like home.
A cloak of feathers and other magical things fell around my shoulders. Soft and warm, it too felt like home.
I turned around, (it was always a struggle to turn around. Some times were easier than others. This time it went rather smoothly) and came face-to-face with a woman who had a cloak, identical to mine, on her shoulders.
She hugged me then said, “There’s a storm coming.”
I looked out to the horizon, expecting to see a thunderstorm brewing, but there was nary a cloud in sight. She turned me around and pointed down the face of the mountain.
A turgid, roiling, mass was clawing its way up toward us. Livid streaks of oppressive colour oozed through it like slow-motion lightning.
I watched in horror as an arm, a woman’s arm, struggled free of the morass only sink back below the surface. Then a leg. Elsewhere a head. A torso.
My senses were assailed by the most heart-rending emotions.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” I asked the woman, feeling like I might collapse under the weight of my broken heart.
“Let it go,” she said.
It was then I saw I had a rope in my hands, attached to that … that thing, that storm. I was holding it up.
“Let it go,” she said, gently.
“But there are parts of me there. Parts of my relationship with her.”
“Let it go,” she said, implacably this time.
Slowly, so slowly, I opened my hands and the rope slid through my fingers. The storm, with all the body bits still sticking out of it, fell and shattered on the rocks at the foot of the mountain.
I didn’t think I’d ever feel clean again. I needed to get off that ledge.
I certainly wasn’t going to climb down through that slimy mess so I handed my cloak back to the feather woman, cleared my body of all colour and ran to the edge of the mountain.
I somersaulted through the air, twisting and turning this way and that. I laughed out loud for the sheer joy of flying and hovered a few meters out from the ledge.
There was a different woman standing there, tiny, hunched in on herself.
“Don’t go,” she called out in a scratchy hollow voice. “Don’t leave me behind. Please take me with you.”
My eyes filled with tears. “I can’t. This ending was your choice. Now you have to follow that path.”
I could see her judging the distance between us and I hastily backed up a few meters.
Her tearful face changed abruptly and she sneered at me until finally she turned and began to clamber down off the ledge, muttering under her breath all the while. I knew that as soon as she was out of sight she’d forget all about me.
My breath caught in the back of my throat as I breathed a huge sigh of relief. The feather woman wafted her cloak across the ledge, clearing away any residual energies.
As I landed next to her she passed me my cloak. I slipped it on and felt the feathers take hold.
“There is not much time left,” she said with the unflappable, yet focused demeanor that birds of prey exhibit just before they take flight to hunt their next meal.
“Time enough though.” I said kinda cheekily, as we spread our wings, together.
The only image I could find of Chantico on the public domain, via Wikipedia
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A endless expanse of lakes shimmered under a soft autumn sun as far as my eyes could see. At the edge of the horizon an ancient meandering river fed this great plain of lakes, fed it with the lifeblood of the Mother, Earth. Trees that had stood since the time of the dinosaurs, along with their myriad relatives and descendants, clothed all the land between the lakes. Creatures, both of this world and otherworldly, dwelt here in harmony. The air around me was soft and cool with a bite to it that promised winter would soon be here to cloak all and sundry in a coverlet of white.
It was a glorious day in the neighbourhood.
I stood on a pebbly beach on the shore of one of the lakes, waiting for my guide, and skipping stones across the still water, something I hadn’t done for a long time. I hadn’t lost my touch.
I felt quite light of heart and spirit. I’d cleared mountains of dross away last week, and was mostly back on track both here and in my personal life. Not that I wasn’t grieving, angry, and feeling like I was living on the outside of my skin, but the brutal rawness had eased.
The shimmering energy rose up from the lake and coalesced into a canoe, built for two. Boots clattered along the shore and my guide, the Dark Woman, came into view. I thought about making a smart remark about canoes and paddles, but she smiled and a paddle appeared in my hands. I restrained any further outbursts, I was clearly outclassed, and inserted myself into the canoe. She got in behind me with far more grace that I ever exhibited, even on my most elegant days, and off we paddled.
I tried to turn around to talk to her, but with a subtle thrust of her chin she indicated, ‘eyes forward and keep paddling’. I obeyed, glad in a way because my on-going struggle to turn around in my Journey world, which consisted of mostly failing at it, distracted me far more often that I was happy with.
The surface of the lake was as smooth as glass, a silvery green, with blue and grey highlights. The only movement that marred the surface was the lazy ‘V’ of our wake rolling across the water.
I was so busy enjoying myself that I didn’t notice the approaching shore until we were almost upon it. We beached the canoe and tied it off to a nearby tree then faced a clearing with fallen logs scattered hither, thither, and yon.
I was right about the weather changing. A great snowstorm, the first of the season, was about to hit these lakes and we needed shelter, quickly. Unfortunately there were no shelter-building tools or materials to be had.
I started to flex my will to manifest an assortment of saws and chisels, etc, and duct tape, (always manifest duct tape whenever you can) when the Dark Woman walked over to one end of a log and steered me to the other.
We focused the energy of the Earth through our hands and the log slowly rose into the air, then with deliberate gestures we sawed the log into long planks. Then another, and another.
We ran our hands along some of the planks and smoothed them into floorboards, others we cut and notched so they fitted together to form a snug little cabin. We pulled stones from the waters edge and fashioned them into a wide-hearthed fireplace.
It took us most of the day, but as dusk fell we attached the solid door and stood back to admire our handiwork.
The Dark Woman pulled me into a quick hug and I could tell she was as chuffed with what we’d achieved as I was.
A gust of wind ruffled the surface of the lake then rushed toward the jumble of left-over wood shavings and whipped them into the air. The stars shining in the fading indigo sky were snuffed out as a battalion of tumbling clouds thundered in from the west.
The storm broke above the placid lake and raised meter-high, foam-capped waves in an instant.
In the interests of efficiency and insulation the cabin was half-buried in the ground. I ducked under the lintel and stepped down into the main room.
For all its fury, the storm made little impact inside the cabin as the Dark Woman and I sat cross-legged in the center of the room facing each other and began … wait a minute, I was sitting cross-legged! How was that even possible?
Up until that moment I’d always experienced my Journeying Self as having one knee that bent the way it was supposed to and one that didn’t. This was the first time I’d naturally, and without even thinking about it, bent my knee as it ought to be bent. More chuffed-ness ensued, until the Dark Woman pointedly cleared her throat.
I refocused my attention on her, but the oval shape of her face was an endless star-filled expanse.
Countless stars, strings of them, galaxies, universes, everywhere across my vision. Between each one lines of energy crackled and flitted, linking them all into a single entity.
Enchanted, I leaned in closer until our faces touched. The stars swept around me and pulled me in.
I was still in our cabin, but oh, how it had changed. It was bigger, much bigger, and the walls were now circular. Gigantic stone hearths stood opposite each other. In the center a massive wooden post supported smoke blackened beams that radiated out to the walls, which, in turn supported a conical shaped roof high above. Tendrils of smoke wafted up from the fires and slowly oozed out through the thatching.
The wooden floorboards were now flagstones and the walls themselves were made of rough-dressed stone, with cunningly designed niches that held all manner of esoteric and mundane household items.
This place felt ancient, felt like home. The bones of my ancestors were buried here. (which made sense as my mother was half Irish, and I stood in a Celtic roundhouse)
A stone ledge of a rich golden colour ran around the whole circumference of the room, (apart from gaps for the fireplaces and doorways to other rooms) and carved into it were rows and rows of glyphs. Some I recognised, runic alphabets, astrological and mathematical symbols, and still others whose meanings were hidden from my sight.
I understood that this room was an annex of the great Hall, (that I first visited in Prelude VII – where I learned to fly) and had manifested at the Dark Woman’s request.
Sunk into the ledge were padded bays with scatterings of colourful squishy cushions. I sat down and made my self comfortable.
A line of women walked through one of the doorways. They were similarly garbed but with subtle differences so that each one was somehow surrounded by the cloth of her heritage. They slowly circled the room and walked out. They passed by me without acknowledging my presence. I felt as though I were witnessing a parade of corporeal ghosts.
The Dark Woman sat next to me. Close enough that our shoulders and legs touched, but not in an uncomfortable way.
I nodded toward the women. “Who are they?” I whispered. Anything louder seemed inappropriate and disrespectful.
“These are the shades of all the women who have died seeking knowledge.”
She didn’t need to tell me how, or when and where they’d died. I felt it in my heart as each woman passed my by.
“What are they doing here?” I asked when I found my voice again.
“There are so few who come here who can see them,” she answered. “So, when anyone does, they enter, seeking a Witness.”
The Dark Woman took my hand and we sat in silence, and Witnessed their passing, honouring their lives, and deaths.
It took minutes, days, perhaps forever, but when the last woman had returned from whence she came, the Dark Woman stood up and stretched.
I appreciated the view for a moment, then rose to join her as she walked to a circular stack of shelves now occupying the center of the room. In the shelves were rows and rows of dust-covered books. Massive tomes, with hand-tooled leather covers, bound by straps, and clasped with brass buckles so old they’d turned green. She pulled one out, blew some of the dust off the top, and set it down on a pedestal.
The book fell open to a blank page and as I watched, writing and drawings appeared. I recognised my handwriting, my artwork. These were the assignments, structural drawings, and renderings I’d created for my university architecture courses.
After turning a few more pages the Dark Woman closed the book, re-buckled the strap and put it back on the shelf.
“All these books,” she said gesturing to the shelves. “Belong to a part of your Self, just as that line of women, your ancestors, those of your bloodline and those of your Spirit, are equally a part of your Self.”
I nodded and we sat down in front of one of the fireplaces that glowed with the warmth of a welcoming fire. I knew what was coming. I’d known it from the first moment of my very first Journey.
My university studies were all consuming. I’d received ‘above average’ marks for my assignments. I was good at it, but I had almost nothing left over for the rest of my life.
My Journeying provided a counterbalance that, although exhilarating, also left no quality energy, or time, for anything else.
In all honesty I was glad my relationship ended when it did or I would’ve been reduced to a complete gibbering wreck instead of half a one.
I entered a period of calm in the center of a storm of life-altering chaos. It wouldn’t matter in which direction I moved, chaos would ensue.
Nevertheless, that moment of stillness the Dark Woman and I shared was a gift and I let it surround me for as long as the moment lasted.
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(My previous nine adventures into other Realms of Awareness can be read in sequence on their own page, ‘Prelude’ just up there on the header, or you can catch up on individual episodes over to the right in the ‘Topics’ section, under ‘Prelude’)
I was feeling persnickety. Not at anything or anyone in particular … just … just … off.
Like if you got stung by a mozzie (mosquito) and scratched it because it itched, then you scratched it because it hurt, then you scratched it some more because you were angry that it still itched and hurt, and then it started to bleed and you had to put a band-aid (bandage) on it, which was ridiculous because it was just a mosquito bite! … and then you’re too out-of-sorts to be able to laugh at the whole thing.
Yeah, just like that.
Not the best frame of mind to go a’roving across the firmament.
One of the things I always do at the beginning of a Journey is to create a Sacred Circle by calling in the Four Directions, the Four Elements, the Four Guardians, to anchor the Circle in the physical Realm so I can find my way back to my body.
The Elements and Directions provide a clear location. (bearing in mind I lived on the east coast of Australia at this time) I’d start in the East, from whence the sun rose, signifying the start of a new day, a new Journey. Geographically speaking, to the east of where I lived was Water, the Pacific Ocean.
Being in the southern hemisphere the sun traversed the sky via a northerly arc, and it certainly got a lot hotter the further north you went, so, next was Fire in the North. To the west was a whole lotta dirt, an entire continent of it, so Earth was in the West, and finally (and not only because they were the only ones left) in the South was Air.
(Today, I live on the west coast of British Columbia in Canada, so East is Earth, South is Fire, Water is West, and Air is North – the Calling of the Elements/Directions/Guardians differs from Tradition to Tradition, but the gist of it is the same, to create a sacred space, separate from the ordinary, where magical mystical things can happen)
The Guardians embody the energies of each Direction/Element and manifest in each Journey as they will. Animals, colours, symbols, spirit archetypes, etc.
Given my state of persnicketyness, I wasn’t overly surprised when my Guardians turned out to be dragons.
From the East, a sister to the Loch Ness ‘monster’ rose out of the ocean. Form the North, a fire-breathing Pernese dragon came gliding in for a perfect landing. Out of the red earth of the West, one of the Ancients, a brachiosaur, rumbled across the mountains. The air to the South was filled with the rustling of tiny Antarctic Ice-Dragons wings.
The dragons danced the Circle into being and firmly anchored it in the places between the Worlds. One minute swaying together, graceful and majestic, the next, gamboling like clumsy kittens at their first encounter with sunshine,
I have to admit, I smiled, and found myself walking along a rustic track in a land of emerald green. On one side, lowing cattle stood knee-deep in lush fields of pasture, on the other, the grass abruptly gave way to the knife-like edge of a cliff-top.
The track meandered through the fields for a while then swung back toward the cliff until I could see the tide surging over the broken rocks far, far below. The tumbling breeze that gusted across the pasture smelled of sweet cut grass and the tang of sea air.
I enjoyed the walk until I caught sight of a shadowy presence ahead, walking in the same direction. The Dark Woman.
I’d only ever been aware of her as an outline, a nebulous female shape, or simply sensed her presence.
I truly don’t know what happened, but my perskicketys returned and I stopped dead in my tracks. “I’m not going any further,” I shouted, “Until I know exactly what you look like!”
She stopped walking too, slowly turned around and very deliberately walked back to me.
It seemed like a very long time.
I held my breath.
“Hah!” she said and turned away. I breathed again. “How can you expect to see what I look like when you can’t even see what you look like.” She waved her hand as though casually backhanding a fly. “You could be a frog for all you know.”
My stomach contracted painfully and I abruptly sat on my haunches in the grass, my skin a moist greenish-brown. Before I could take in what had happened, I was myself again.
My skin still felt damp, but thankfully, it was just a soft drizzle that had moved in from across the fields.
My perskicketys turned stubborn. “I don’t care what you do to me, I’m not moving, I’ll make sure we both stay here, I can do that you know, until I see what you look like.”
The Dark Woman turned back to me, growing darker with each step until she was shrouded in pure midnight. “Or,” she said thoughtfully, as though the idea had just occurred to her. “I could be the frog.”
And she became one. Right there in the middle of the track.
The drizzle turned to rain.
“Or,” she croaked, “I might even be a magpie.”
She flew across to the other side of the track and perched on top of a weathered old stump. She cocked her head to one side and clacked her beak at me as the rain became a drenching downpour. It dripped off the end of my nose and her beak. The wind gusted and blew her off her perch. She flopped over and was her Dark Woman self again.
“It won’t work,” I said. I’d been tested by a much harsher taskmistress than her. “We’re staying here, until I see you.”
She gave me an eye-roll worthy of Bea Arthur, (why, yes, I was a Golden Girls fan, now that you mention it) and raised her arms. I was in for it now, but she just lowered them and the cabin we’d built together last week came into being around us.
“Oh,” I said.
She threw a towel at me and turned to stoke the fire, moving aside the two fire-cats who’d taken up residence on the warm bricks, one black and one white.
By the time the fire was snapping and crackling in the hearth, I was dry and wondered what sort of trouble my persnickertys had got me into.
She stood with her back to the fire, in silhouette again. “I know what’s bothering you.”
I took a step forward. I didn’t want to, or maybe I did. The Pandora’s box of her words repelled me as much as they seduced me. I didn’t want to hear what she had to say, and yet, maybe I did.
“If you want answers, you’ll have to create the light to see me by.”
I focused on my hands and a soft white light flowed between them.
I saw her face, the line of her jaw, the shape of her mouth, the curve of her nose, colour of her eyes, angle of eyebrow, depth of forehead. I’d never seen her before but I recognised her.
Suddenly I felt sad, and I didn’t know why.
She made to reach for my hands but pulled back immediately. I think she knew I needed that small distance between us.
“Why do you think we’ve become so familiar with each other so quickly?”
It was a rhetorical question so I didn’t respond. I had wondered though, what it was about her, of all the beings I’d encountered, that kept pulling at my consciousness.
“By now you’ve realised these Realms of Awareness have always been here, have always surrounded you.” She paused, and this time I wanted to reach out to her.
“You’ve been on your own since you were 14, and long before that there was no-one you could trust. And now, here we are.” She glanced around our little room. It was a look that encompassed all my adventures so far, and the far greater expanse of knowledge and experience to come. “You’ve found the kind of connection you craved all your life … and you’ve asked yourself where was it all when you needed it in the past.”
Yeah, I’d wondered that too. But really, my past was just that, past. Immovable and immutable. I was happy to leave it there.
“You will continue to confront all the things of your past that would stop you from reaching far beyond anything you’ve already experienced in these Realms.”
Well, so much for that.
“My earlier question wasn’t rhetorical.” She smiled and I swear the entire universe got a little bit brighter. “I’ll be with you, from now on.”
In my exquisitely dysfunctional family, I had always felt alone. It was safer. Nothing could touch the deep still core of me that way. I couldn’t be hurt by anyone. Not really, not deep down where I truly lived, and from that still deep place my childhood imagination soared. My treehouse became a spaceship, or a submarine, or a hot-air balloon swaying in the wind far above the concerns of a childhood stalked by adult terrors.
Maybe the Dark Woman had always been there. Maybe that’s why I’d actually survived my childhood, my adolescence , getting caught in a bushfire, the motorbike accident, moving to the city, getting a political, (and academic) education, falling in and out of love, body-surfing, having a confrontation with a giant cat-Goddess, learning how to fly …
Not surprising really. It probably has ninja skills and is able to poison you at five hundred paces. I love the fact that I grew up in a country where almost every animal of fur, feather, scales, and skin, could kill the unwary in all manner of unpleasant and painful ways. (I wonder what that says about me? … hmm … best not to know) As far as I can remember I only ever got stung by a bee and a spider. Dodged a bullet there.
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A sense of expectation, an awareness of the unknown, ran down my spine like ice-water.
The air around me had an electrical charge to it, as though a thunderstorm had recently blown through but no rain had fallen. I breathed it in, feeling the energy fill me and focus in my hands until I was about ready to burst at the seams with it.
Along with the energy came a sound, the rhythmic soughing of stones being rolled by ocean waves … which took me to my destination, or at least the first stepping off point for my adventure.
A pebbly beach sloped lazily down to the water’s edge and behind me towered the high bluff that I was on top of for last weeks ‘froggy’ adventure. It was a beautiful sunny day, the kind of day where you could smell the sunshine radiating off the rocks and sand and sea.
The sun slowly set behind the bluff as the Dark Woman, (whose name I now knew, but won’t repeat. The Naming of certain Names is not for these stories) came up behind me and put her arms around my waist. She was taller than me, which for a lass as tall as I, was an unfamiliar, yet comforting sensation. She smelled of sunshine too.
I breathed into her and she held me close. The electric energy in my hands eased and slipped beneath my conscious attention. We stood together in companionable silence and watched the day pass to dusk until the evening sky filled with twinkling stars that danced all around us.
My body began to split in two, as though one aspect of me had been superimposed on the other, and then slowly, and painlessly, (phew) one of the aspects took a step to one side and turned around.
The horizon, betwixt water and sky, began to glow as the full moon rose in the eastern sky and laid down a silvery path so bright it was hard to look at.
The Dark Woman’s energy surrounded me like a cloak and I stepped off the edge of the sand where it met the water and on to the silvery path. But only one of the two images of me stepped forward, the other remained behind. I no longer needed it, or the duality it represented, a duality that had been coursing through me since I began my Journeying adventures.
Was it really going to be this easy? After all the struggles I’d gone through, and a not insignificant number of self-flagellating doubts? Was this all it would take?
I left the aspect of my Self that was my university studies, and all that that implied, behind. (I’ve never once regretted the choice I made. Some things are just … right)
I walked further along the silvery Moon Path, and as its immaculately clear light shone all around me, through me, I felt the other image, abandoned on the shore, dissolve into nothingness.
I remained in this state of grace … until I came to the end of the Path and drifted off, over the edge, into the clear light.
I admit it, I wallowed. It felt so exquisite to just be in that place, in that energy.
Slowly, as though my mind was unable to process the thought any quicker, I realised that the light was the energy of my heart … as others see it, as others feel it. Not as I do, filtered through my own pain and insecurities and other stuff, but as they see and feel it.
Great rears rolled down my cheeks. The light completely overwhelmed me.
“This is what they see? This is what my love feels like?”
Not obsessive, not needy, but free, buoyant, alive, magnificently beautiful. “This what it is to be loved by me?”
“Yes,” the Dark Woman whispered in my ear.
The bright lightness slowly darkened and became the night sky again, pitch black, pinpricked with stars. The moon had long ago set behind the land and I was surrounded, held, by the darkness …
… an enormous leaf-bladed spear sped through the air and passed through my body between my heart and solar plexus, and thunked into the hard ground behind me!
“Well,” I said as I checked for punctures in both my physical and spirit bodies. “This is new.”
As neither seemed to be damaged I did a sweep of my surroundings, because, of course, I was now somewhere else. My hands reclaimed my attention as they buzzed with electrical energy that seemed stronger more dense, than before.
Suddenly iron-hard bands of energy whipped around me and bound me in place. The Dark Woman stood in front of me, two, two-and-a-half meters tall, or taller, and looking remarkably solid, disconcertingly so. She held the spear above her shoulder, poised to throw it into me.
“Before I came to these Spirit Realms,” she said, “I lived and died in this physical body.”
I had, somehow, ended up in her Spirit Realm.
… A momentary digression …
Remember that bag of marbles I mentioned way back in the beginning of these adventures? Well, each and every one of us has our very own bag of marbles. (the first one who drops a losing your marbles joke gets to sing the Hogwarts school song, out loud, in front of the whole room) Which is why no two Shamans, or anyone walking a Spiritual Path, ever experience the ‘otherworlds’ the same way. We can go visiting someone else’s ‘bag of marbles’, but it’s tricky and you need to know how to get back to your own or you could get marooned out there.
… digression ends …
I shrugged off the iron bands and breathed my Self into this Realm so I would understand the ‘rules’ and avail myself of the wonders herein, unscathed. (well, with as few scathes as was womanly possible. I swear, I never sought out trouble, but it always had a way of finding me)
The browns and reds and muted greens of the Dark Woman’s homeland surrounded us as, after making sure I knew what and where I was, she lowered the spear. For which I was truly grateful. I really didn’t want to find out what it felt like to be skewered when we were both in the same Realm.
… another same-sized digression …
Why might she have skewered me? From her perspective I was an unknown danger. At that point in my adventures just about everything I encountered, every Realm I entered, was for the very first time. Although she and I were fast coming to a great many understandings of and about each other, there was still much about my abilities she (as did I, to be honest) had little understanding of. As I was the Guardian of my Realm, so she was the Guardian of hers, and if I’d run amok (or even walked slowly) she was prepared to do whatever was necessary to protect it.
… digression ends …
The Dark Woman sat down and began to create a sand painting. I sat across from her, entranced. When she finished she drew a circle around the entire design then divided it into two halves.
“I thought so,” she said. “This is you and I. Two halves of the same circle.”
I stared at the design inside the circle. It showed quite clearly that we shared the same incarnate line. (spiritually at least, if not physically)
We’d just entered a whole ‘nuther world of weird.
It appeared the Dark Woman agreed with my analysis. “Because of this,” she said, and swept her hand across the sand painting. It slowly blew apart, its message delivered. “I can manifest in your Realm without effort, and you, in mine.”
We sat in silence, contemplating the possibilities. I smiled as strains of orchestral music floated across the landscape.
“You know this piece?” she asked. When I nodded, she continued, “As do I, now. Tchaikovsky.”
“Yes.” I smiled again. “His 1st piano concerto.” I raised my arms and ‘conducted’ (more like Bugs Bunny, unfortunately, than Marin Alsop) an unseen orchestra. The music swirled around us like a living thing. Perhaps it was.
(Another snippet of Widder info – Classical music has always been my first love, closely followed by Rock-n-Roll. Interesting bedfellows, no?)
As my hands moved in what could laughingly be called elegant parabolas, flashes of electric energy spiked from my fingertips and twitched around my hands like barbed wire.
The electricity lanced from hand to hand in ever increasing arcs. I tried shaking my hands as I would to release a static charge, but the energy just kept on expanding, growing stronger.
The Dark Woman suddenly stood up and hoisted me into her arms. She took off like a bat outta hell toward some destination I couldn’t see.
“What, are, you, doing?” I huffed as her giant bounding steps grew longer and higher with each leap.
She shook her head, conserving her energy for our headlong gallop, while I forced my hands together, interlocking my fingers. It helped, but I knew it was a stop-gap measure. I trusted that the Dark Woman knew what she was doing.
A sonic boom shattered the landscape. I tumbled out of her arms and landed on all fours in a different reality.
The earth underneath my fingers felt primitive, raw, unformed. Without thought I pushed the energy in my hands down into the land and felt it kickstart a chain-reaction in the very core of the world. It began to turn on its axis. Chemicals churned in its molten core, nucleonic reactions sparked basic elemental structures, the building blocks of life.
To say I was stunned would be an understatement. I leaned further down until my forehead touched the nascent land. It glowed with vitality, whereas I was …
“Get up,” the Dark Woman said. “You look silly with your bum stuck up in the air like that.”
I craned my neck and looked at her from under my arm. “I can’t. I’m … erm, stuck.”
I couldn’t lift my hands from the earth. The energy transfer was still going on. She placed her hands on my shoulders and together we raised two columns of energy that looked like upside down waterfalls. They pushed against my hands until I was standing upright again.
The Dark Woman laughed with glee and wrapped me in a hug, lifting me off the ground so that our eyes were level. “That was fun!”
Not really my idea of fun, but I could see her point.
She put me down and placed her hand over my heart, right where that spear went through, funnily enough.
Tchaikovsky’s 1st Piano Concerto: This performance by the electrifying Khatia Buniatshvili …
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A wolf’s head appeared in front of me. Close enough that I could count each and every one of her teeth. There were a lot of them, and very pointy. I backed away and she disappeared.
Then I came across an owl, not your usual upright owl. No, this one was on its side and looked suspiciously like some sort of mechanical toy.
I saw a coiled cobra with her hood splayed wide, ready to strike. Thankfully not up close and, also thankfully, not facing me. She faded away into the edges of my Journey-scape and I wondered if (but probably ‘when’ knowing me) I’d be seeing her again.
A hole opened up beneath me and I slid, feet-first, down a long spiraling tunnel. Sparks of colour and odd transparent shapes flickered around me as I fell.
Eventually the tunnel opened out onto a vast disc-shaped plateau that smelled like it had been sprayed with some sort of asphalt substance which sluggishly oozed away from my feet, obviously as keen to avoid me as I was to avoid it.
Next to me stood the Storyteller, but before I had any time say anything to her, the disc broke in half. This time I had company as I fell through, and we ended up in a weightless realm filled with paint splatters of yellow, pink, and orange.
The Storyteller and I drifted toward a huge mechanical structure that looked suspiciously like a set of wolf jaws opening and closing. We looked at each other and neither one of us said anything. I wondered if it belonged to her. She was probably wondering the same thing about me. We continued on.
Beyond the wolf jaws we came across other obscure mechanical structures that creaked and groaned and gnashed their cogs and gears.
A form of gravity surrounded us, and ‘up and down’ had meaning again. I felt like I was in a museum and all these mechanical things were on display for me.
“So, what’s the story here?” I asked the Storyteller.
“Buggered if I know,” she said, and walked off with an indifferent shrug.
“Not exactly helpful,” I said to her retreating back.
The texture of my surroundings changed and took on an artificial quality, like brittle cellophane.
“I get that I’m in a story but there’s no Storytell … Ahh.”
I was the Storyteller.
The cellophane-y substance shattered and I was suddenly an observer in one of my previous Journeys, many weeks ago in the Crystal Cavern of my initiation.
I watched my earlier Self raise the light with her hands, (she was rather good, I thought) until a mocking voice called to me from beyond the cavern walls.
I passed effortlessly across the crystal-strewn floor and swept the solid rock aside as though it were a curtain. I was backstage at some sort of theater. The smell of the dry decay of the dust motes that swirled endlessly in the pallid beams of watery light reminded me of old 1930’s black and white movies and vaudeville shows of earlier times.
Ropes hung down from gloomy catwalks in the fly gallery high above. Pieces of wood braced large sheets of plywood with muted scenes painted on them and cross-braced with other panels. The whole area was littered with giant clockwork machinery, wheels and cogs, and levers coming out of the floor. Everything felt like it had paused for just a heartbeat and was waiting impatiently to start up again.
Just out of sight, the mocking voice cackled again. “She thinks she did it all by herself,” it said as though to an unseen audience. The dim lights grew steadily brighter and the clockwork machinery started up. “It’s all done with mirrors and wheels and ropes. Like a puppet show.”
I’d sweated blood and tears in my adventures and to have some annoying twerp mock all I’d done really got my dander up. I screwed the entire scene up in a little ball of cellophane-like material and threw it away.
“She did do it all herself!” I said as I turned away … and came face to face with the Dark Woman.
“Not entirely,” she said with a smile, and held her spear upright in front of her. I took hold of it, each of my hands below hers.
She began a deep-throated chant that raised the hair on the back of my neck and sent chills down my spine. The spear began to vibrate and heat up, shifting us through space and time until I was again in another Journey from my past. The very first one. (which if you’re heading off to refresh your memory, was in two parts, Prelude, and PreludeII) Only now the strange herringbone pattern had evolved so that my life from my earliest memories until this very moment appeared as a series of frozen images.
I moved to the first image, and witnessed the child I was. A child who lived out a fantasy world of spaceships and submarines in her treehouse. A confused and frightened child who couldn’t figure out what that horrible man was doing and why no-one stopped him, or believed her.
Then there was the anguished heartbroken girl, about to menstruate for the first time, who couldn’t understand how her family disintegrated overnight.
Next to her was my adolescent self, filled with hurt and confusion. Unable to believe that the world around her was fucked and that what had happened to her wasn’t her fault. So she locked her emotions, her voice, away.
I passed by the next few images. They were fleeting years with only the passage of time to distinguish one from the other.
I stopped next to her in her early twenties, on a squash court, where for the first time, everything in her life clicked into place. The sound of the racquet hitting the ball, the ball hitting the wall, bouncing off a side wall, onto another racquet and back again. She’d begun to open up the silent places in her spirit, struggled to communicate with words, to feel feelings, to be alive.
I smiled to myself, but perhaps it was a grimace. The dark Woman took my hand, gifting me her strength for what was to come. I knew that moment of shining glory wasn’t going to last for very long.
There she was on her motorbike, flowing with the winding mountain road on a dark April night.
I shivered, my breath ragged and shallow.
(now, decades later, in writing these words, that same frisson hovers, just perceptible, at the edges of my awareness)
The motorbike and rider leaned into a corner. The headlights of the two semi-trailers loomed large. The moment of impact captured in the sculpture of her athletic dreams being stripped away.
I moved through more images where I witnessed her leaving the countryside of her childhood and figuring how to navigate through a big city, through relationships and experiences, journey’s with women, various careers, until at last I arrived at the final image.
Me, in this moment looking back at the imagery of my life.
I nodded slowly, grounded, solid.
“I am here.” The words came from deep within me, soft at first. A whisper. “I am here.”
“I … the essence of who I have been, the result of my life, the images on the wall and what living them has made me into, who I have chosen to become.
“Am … who I am now, in this cavern, and why I am here.
“Here … an awareness of the whole of existence in this moment.
The three words flew up and echoed around the room. Grew louder, stronger, more potent, and folded around one and another until they filled the entire space.
The Dark Woman handed me her spear and I raised it above my head into the roiling sound. She squatted low, her arms solid around my thighs, and lifted me high off the ground. I felt her strength and sureness flow through me as I focused my, our, intent on the spear.
I whirled it around my head. Slowly at first, pointing to all the individual images around the walls, gathering the chanting energy like the Pied Piper. I spun the spear faster, round and round, charging it with these energies, until the energy exploded, smashed the images, shattered the rock plinths on which they stood. Reduced the shattered pieces of rock to rubble, the rubble to dust.
The energy of the chant became a whisper that softly echoed around the chamber then faded away like a single puff of wind.
The Dark Woman slowly loosened her arms and I slid down into her embrace, holding the spear in my hands behind her back.
With my hands I gently shifted the spear that lay along her spine into her body. With my arms I brought her body into mine.
The spear was a tool, not lightly given, but earned, and not to be denied or returnable. My memories weren’t lost or destroyed but I would never be mindlessly driven by them again.
And the Dark Woman?
She stood in front of me one last time. “Will I see you again?”
“I don’t know.” she said. “Nothing of our past exists here anymore.” She gestured around the empty space. Even the dust had drifted away.
But then, she smiled. “The past, once set in mortal stone, is nothing but dust. And the future,” she paused. I held my breath. “Has no power here.”
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One more Khatia concert – this time Rachmaninov’s concerto #3
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I had an irritation in the back of my throat that just wouldn’t go away. It wasn’t your ordinary garden variety tickle either, and it would, I knew, morph into a full-blown head-cold within the next twenty-four hours.
I was so distracted that I missed most of the imagery from my Grounding and only managed to tune back in when I saw a spear, wreathed in fire.
A shaft of fire flowed up from the tip of the spear, so high I couldn’t see where it ended. It grew wider until it looked like a road, a golden path to who-knew where.
Well, what was I to do but walk upon it? I cleared my throat as surreptitiously as I could, (hoping it would clear whatever was torturing my throat. It didn’t) and set off.
The path led through a lush green forest until it passed between two jade trees. The highly polished facets of the jade reflected the light from the golden path into the rest of the forest, casting greenish-golden rainbows everywhere I looked.
The irritation in my throat increased. I broke out into a cold sweat that made my eyes water. I swallow hard, and coughed.
(Sometimes, the physical intervenes. An itch that needed scratching, an aching joint, a numb bum from sitting, a tickle up my nose from an errant bit of pollen, or toast crumb that didn’t go all the way down … I’m not one for the remain-still no-matter-what-and-ignore-your-body’s-needs, school of thought, when doing this work. That smacks too much of the rigidity that some spiritual, and religious, practices demand of their adherents; the my-way-or-the-highway version of Walking the Path … if you gotta scratch an itch, then you gotta scratch an itch, and the truth is, it won’t negate your experience. It might be altered, but who’s to say that wasn’t what was supposed to happen anyway)
I stopped between the two trees and glanced up. Wedged between them was a giant tarnished silvery sphere. I leaned back to get a better look when it fell down onto my chest. I held my arms out to grab it but it got bigger and bigger until it rolled off of me and smacked onto the golden pathway with a crack that echoed throughout the forest.
It increased in size until it grew far beyond my awareness, beyond any possible conception of its size. Its surface wasn’t smooth anymore but criss-crossed with ravines and bottomless crevasses, as though it had been eroded by wind and rain for millennia.
I looked around, trying to find a way in, when a voice said, “The way to get from the outside to the inside, is to focus.”
I refrained from rolling my eyes, barely, and sniffed, idly wondering if I’d get through this entire adventure without having to blow my nose.
I ‘focused’ on a single chasm and walked through it until I found myself inside the sphere, surrounded by utter desolation. No trees, no plants, or animals, no life. Mounds of slag, with oozing oil pits in their hollows, stretched as far as I could see. Thunderous clouds hung low and roiled with sickening lurches. The over-ripe smell of decay percolated through the fetid air.
I slowly walked away from the scant protection afforded by the chasm’s reflection in this Realm and saw off to one side, a cliff rising out of the land, with a jagged cleft scored into it, shrouded in deep shadows. Out from the shadow drifted a huge cocoon, somewhat metallic in surface texture. It split open, and as the two halves fell apart, a scorpion, about the size of a percheron rolled clear and landed in front of me.
It shook for a moment then extended its legs and pushed the claw at the end of each one into the blighted earth as though to anchor it for … I had no idea what for, but I wasn’t going to stick around to find out.
Before I could move, or even flex my will to shift Realms, the scorpion shuddered, from its nasty pincers at the front end to coiled stinger at the other.
Like the cocoon it then split down its middle into two halves. Viscera and other ‘ewww’-worthy gloop flopped out of its body cavity and revealed a vaguely humanoid body entwined in the remaining icky bits.
The body breathed the gulping breaths of birth. It lived, but no-one was home.
It was at this point I realised two things. One, my current physical body was about to disappear on me, and two, that was my new one.
I slowly approached the pile of gloop, grasped the body by one gloop-covered arm, and pulled it free of the, really disgusting, sticky, (now that it had dried out a little) gloop.
To my great credit I neither vomited nor wiped my hands on my shirt, but only because I wasn’t ‘embodied’ anymore. No vomit, no hands, no shirt.
I looked down at the creature, closed my eyes, (or at least my awareness of them) and drifted down into it.
I’d done some pretty weird stuff in my adventures so far but this took the cake.
I opened my eyes and everything around me looked as though it was tinted in shades of yellowish-green, then I realised it was my eyes that had changed. My field of vision had wavy edges to it. The iris of my eyes were reptilian rather than mammalian. My face was elongated, jaws extended forward. I also had a tail. I knew I had a tail because I’d been laying on it and, being a continuation of my spine, it didn’t appreciate the extra weight. I rolled over onto all fours and pushed myself onto my wide three-toed-and-clawed feet.
I flexed all my new muscles. I had powerful legs, built for running. Strong arms, also ending in a set of rather impressive claws. As I twisted this way and that, admiring my new form I saw a faint pattern of scales on my shiny new skin. (dragon-sized scales rather than fish-sized, I thought)
I was here in this strange land, to receive two gifts.
I wondered if this body was one of the gifts, (which would’ve been beyond cool) and received a negative answer. This body was a vehicle in which to move through this land, to find the gifts. I asked if my new vision, (that I’d decided was dragon-ish rather than lizard-ish) was one of the gifts, but no, it too was simply the means to an end.
I rolled my shoulders, (half-hoping a set of wings might pop into existence) and set off in the direction that pulled at me. As I got comfortable with how my new body worked, I walked faster, then jogged along.
My body warmed to the task and I started running. The dusky land flowed beneath my feet. I ran faster. The land became a blur as I ran at an unimaginable speed toward the still distant horizon. Past sound, past time, past an awareness of any reality except this ever increasing movement, this unbelievable speed across the land.
A thought popped in and out of my mind in an instant. I wondered what might happen if I kept on running faster and faster for all eternity. Would I catch up with the Big Bang? Would I eventually go so fast that I’d catch up with myself?
It was probably just as well that soon I outran my ability to create thoughts.
A flash of blue sky, high up in the sky, broke through my endless acceleration. In an instant I ceased running and stood in the absolute stillness and silence that surrounded me.
A cold shiver made the edges of the scales on my arms curl upward. I was standing in the middle of a snowfield. The silence was so profoundly deep I could feel it settling into the earth.
My new body quickly adapted and my three-toed feet sank into the snow as I moved forward. Walking this time, leisurely, toward a woodland that looked like a picture postcard. Snow bent the boughs of the ancient trees almost to the ground and between a pair of them I spotted a set of animal tracks. I wasn’t alone here.
I came upon a reindeer. Her magnificent antlers glowed in the soft light that emanated from the trees. She was busy using her antlers to move the snow cover aside to reveal the sweet grasses underneath, but when she saw me she lifted her head and snuffled the air, her breath coming out in white puffs of stream.
I stood stock still, hoping my strange body wouldn’t spook her, but it seemed like she thought of me/it as an old friend because she came over and gently head-butted me, obviously schmoozing for a skritch.
‘Dragon’ claws make for good skritches. Every time I stopped she nudged my hand to another spot and away we went again.
Finally, my new-and-improved muscles got tired and she lowered her head so that the tips of her antlers were at eye level. Suspended between the two outermost prongs was the silver sphere, albeit significantly smaller than I’d last seen it. It fell forward and I grabbed it in my right hand before it hit the snow.
A sphere in exchange for skritches seemed like a fair bargain to me. Mdme Reindeer thought so too, because she ambled off between the snow covered trees, probably in search of more skritches.
At first I thought I was imagining the cold getting more intense, but as I walked back out of the forest my feet didn’t sink into the snow anymore. It had frozen solid, like ice. I walked, carefully, on top of it until the air around me started to freeze as well. It cracked into shards as I walked through it then refroze behind me. I took a few more steps but that was it. I was frozen in place.
A subterranean rumble rose up near me from deep within the ground. With a sound like a million wind-chimes let loose on a windy day, the frozen air shattered.
The ground shook again and a crack opened up beside me. Something rose up through the earth, through the snow, and passed through my open left hand. My eyes started to water and I blinked them hard. The strange irises contracted and I saw what was in my hand. A staff of fiery red energy, wreathed in runes and a repeating pattern of what looked suspiciously like stylised antlers. As I watched it cooled to a silver colour that matched the sphere in my left hand.
Once I was sure I was back in my body, in the room, I opened my eyes, but the body I’d re-entered didn’t quite feel like my own. I surreptitiously did a quick check for tail, scales and three-toed feet. Everything looked like it was supposed to.
Some weeks later a friend of mine returned from overseas with a gift for me.
After comparing notes we realised she’d bought this gorgeous pewter statuette (she’s only 6cm tall) the same time as I’d been doing this Journey.
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I’m not a patient person, (I learned, endurance, when I was stuck in hospital for five weeks – and one day but who’s counting – unable to walk and waiting to see if my leg would heal) but I’m an even-tempered person, for the most part, even if it’s not something that comes easily. My ‘line in the sand’ is quite broad but once the far boundary’s been crossed, I don’t take prisoners.
It had been a week since my last adventure and the tickle in my throat did indeed develop into nasty head-cold that knocked me out of action for the entire week, and although I was over the worst of it I wasn’t in any mood to take prisoners.
Almost before my Journey began, a formless, and as yet, directionless anger rose up from my gut and settled itself at the base of my skull. (probably because seven-tenths of me thought I ought to still be in bed with a hot water bottle, aspirin, and a bowl of restorative chicken-carrot-and-ginger-soup to keep me company)
A enormous marketplace came into being around me but although its teeming denizens thought they were free because it was so big, a great wall surrounded the entire space at the horizon’s edge.
I made my way slowly through the maze of stalls selling all manner of things. Spices, dried pulses, cloth, jewelry, wickedly sharp weapons, household goods, and many, many other objects whose usage was beyond my mortal abilities to comprehend. Those who catered to a more unsavoury clientele hawked their wares beneath low hung canopies, patched and frayed at the edges, all the while casting furtive looks into the crowd. Soothsayers, of the genuine and charlatan variety, flung their saying of sooths at anyone foolish enough to make eye-contact. Food vendors wandered the narrow alleys and wide boulevards selling freshly cooked seafoods and meats, pies, and veggie kebabs.
I ran the finest of fabrics through my fingers, reveling in the sheer sensuousness. I smelled the aromas wafting at me from all directions. I tasted meats and fruits of unknown origins and species, knowing full-well I could indulge my tastebuds as I had left my Anglo-Saxon digestive system far behind me.
Dust from ten thousand feet plumed around me on its way up into the violet-tinged sky.
I enjoyed myself to the hilt, but my convalescent state had left me vulnerable to this cornucopia of excess. Eventually the cacophonous avalanche of bleats, clangs, bangs, screeches, and people shouting at each other, drove me from the main concourse and I ducked down a side alley where the noise, if not the dust, became bearable.
I stood in a small cobbled courtyard, bound on three sides by cascades of hanging plants festooned with tiny droplets of water from a cleverly hidden misting device. I relaxed my shoulders and breathed deeply of the softer air.
In the center of the courtyard stood two high-backed ebony chairs side-by-side, each with a small white porcelain urn on its seat.
Without warning, the urns exploded. Shards flew everywhere, a few punching through my clothes and drawing blood. The chairs shattered into bits of kindling that caught fire and were reduced to ashes in a few moments. For some reason this infuriated me more than my tiny wounds.
“What a fucking waste!” I shouted. “What’s the point?” I shook with rage and turned to go back to the bazaar. At least there the dust and noise made sense.
A sheet of metal with a huge hole punched through it blocked my way. Whatever had blown up the urns had escaped through the hole. Incensed at still more destruction I made up my mind to pursue it.
As I clambered through the hole I cut myself quite deeply on one of the jagged and rusty edges. I swore at my clumsiness, which didn’t help matters much either.
Back out in the market, one of the food vendors exclaimed at the tear in my shirtsleeve and the blooming bloodstain. Because I couldn’t be bothered with explanations, I just flexed my will, healed the wound and erased the stain.
The vendor fell silent and backed up into the crowded thoroughfare. The silence spread from person to person, stall to stall, like some sort of pestilence. It soon encompassed the whole place, right out to the far distant walls.
The moment of silence stretched out like a giant rubber band, pulled to its limit.
Suddenly everyone started talking and gesticulating louder than ever and the noise crashed back over me like a tidal wave, although quickly returning to its normal level, to my relief. I couldn’t’ve withstood such an assault for much longer.
My rage and confusion engaged in a neck-and-neck race to the finish line. What the hell was going on?
Another scene flickered into being around me, then flickered out just as quickly. And another and another, so fast that I couldn’t make any sense of them.
I wondered if this was just an after/side-effect of being sick. (this was the first time I’d been unwell since I began my adventures) If it was, my impressed-ness was underwhelming.
I shifted my attention away from the texture of my Journey to create a ‘pause’ in the proceedings, and contemplated ending my Journey.
This work was tough enough when I was healthy, and it was clear to me, finally, that I wasn’t in any shape to continue. My physical body had the shakes, which probably meant I ought to be in bed with a hot water bottle, aspirin, and a bowl of restorative chicken-carrot-and-ginger-soup to keep me company. It would’ve been the first time I’d returned from a Journey before its end and a part of me felt like I was letting myself down, like I was cheating.
Well, I think that must’ve been the last straw for whatever or whoever was orchestrating my current misadventures, because my shivers suddenly increased beyond what was physically possible.
My attention snapped back to my Journey.
The flagged stones underneath the entire marketplace buckled and heaved. Cracks opened up in the ground and the heavens split apart. Blasts of white-hot steam burned everyone and everything they touched. Screams filled the air and felt as though they were tearing me apart.
The shaking continued as my insides liquefied.
“Alright!” I snapped. My anger rose beyond my desire to control it. “If that’s what you want, lets take it all the way!”
I focused my rage, my horror of what was happening in the bazaar, on my internal shaking, on the breakdown of my body, and I … pushed.
I pushed the rage deeper and deeper until it reached my cells, until the structure of the cells broke down into their atomic composition. I used my anger like a scourge and goaded the breakdown further, down to the quantum level where matter ceased to exist and only energy reigned.
I wasn’t done yet.
I spun the quantum field anti-clockwise, (the original widdershins) and whipped it up with my anger to create a shift of energy that I could control, could work with.
Soon the field was spinning so fast it didn’t need me to sustain it so I moved myself to the center where everything was still and reined in my anger. It had served its function.
Something foreign, alien, began to stir within the field. The centrifugal force had shaken it loose from where it had lain undiscovered for who knew how long. It expanded like a mushroom cloud and grew until it broke out of the quantum field. It coalesced first into its atomic structure, then into physical matter, and finally scurried to hide within the cells of my body.
I continued the outward pressure until it oozed through my pores like some hideous doughy fungus. It began to harden until the suffocatingly obscene substance completely encased me.
But, just like everything else on this Journey, this attempt at suffocation triggered my anger and wrenched it out of my control until it was an entity separate from myself.
I flexed my will to crack open the disgusting thing encasing me and escape. It gave way for a moment then reformed even more solid than before.
My anger exploded with enough force to erase the cosmos, (or so it felt at the time) and I found myself standing on the outside of the pillar of gray-black solidified oozy substance. Relief that the uncontrollably destructive force of my anger had been contained left me feeling light-headed.
I turned away and almost stumbled over the staff I received as a gift last week.
I warily nudged it with my toe. If I took it up I’d have to use it, but given my state of mind, along with feeling weak as a baby kitten from the head-cold aftereffects, I feared what would happen if I unleashed the power of the staff on something that had already proven itself to be, perhaps, equally powerful.
“Pick it up.” An imperious voice commanded.
I shook my head and whispered, “No.”
“Pick. It. Up!”
“No. I won’t. It’s not safe.” I wasn’t sure whether I was talking about the staff or myself.
“You only get three chances. Pick it up.”
I knew the alternative to picking up the staff, to basically reject the ‘three chances’ rule, was probably akin to a fate worse than the other side of death. I’d experienced a whole bunch of fates this side of death and I had no desire to go through to the ones on the other side.
(My first few adventures were mostly about establishing what worked for me in these other Realms of Awareness, and what didn’t. These ‘rules’ are different for everyone. The tricky bit is what you have to go through to figure ‘em out!)
Still, I thought it was profoundly unfair to take advantage of my weakened barely-convalescent state. (let’s keep the fact that I chose to drag myself out of bed and do this Journey, just between us, shall we?)
I flicked the staff up with my foot and caught it in both hands. I swung it over my head and struck the solidified oozy pillar, once.
It was a colossal blow even if I do say so myself. The concussion alone threw me out into the now deserted marketplace where I landed flat on my back with an almighty thump.
The staff was nowhere to be seen, I didn’t know it it’d been destroyed, but the pillar certainly had. I rolled over and painfully clawed my way to my feet, aware that some elemental force had been liberated. Whether for good or ill, remained to be seen.
My immediate family of origin was broken long before it completely imploded when I was twelve.
Each of us acted out that brokenness in our own unique ways, but all of them were self-destructive and, as is the way of self-destructiveness, another sort of destruction rained down on all others within the blast range.
My parents dealt with their anguish in ways I, as a child, couldn’t understand. (although I gained some insight as an adult, as you do)
I chose to emotionally shut down and silence myself so as not to be visible. Only coming alive when I was alone in the wild bushland.
I had/have a younger brother. (I say ‘had/have’, because I haven’t had any contact with any of my family of origin since the late 80’s) His defense mechanism was to be highly visible, loud and belligerently visible, and take up as much space as possible.
One day he and I got into a verbal fight. Well, he fought and I retreated, hurt, and angry that he was picking on me simply because I was the nearest target. (me, pointing that out didn’t help matters much. Funny that)
We were standing at opposite ends of the dilapidated remains of a small barn that my father had begun but never finished. (he was good at never finishing things) There were raw logs, old ropes, rusty hand tools, rotten planks in frowzy chaotic piles everywhere. (a kid’s paradise, if you weren’t in the midst of a shouting match with your sibling)
My brother wouldn’t stop pushing at me, (I doubt he knew how to) and the more he pushed the angrier I got. In my child-ish way, I knew this was not a good thing. (my mother was half Irish and I’d inherited every measure of her temper) I told him I was getting angry and if he didn’t stop there’d be real trouble. (we were both kids, remember, so ultimatums were our default response) My brother, on the other hand, didn’t have a clue, and me imparting another bit of information only inspired him to new heights.
We were almost screaming at each other when my anger shattered my conscious thoughts. I picked up a rusty hatchet (a small axe) and threw it at him.
It thudded into a wooden post about two centimeters (an inch) from his left ear.
We both froze.
His face went from crimson to bleached terror.
He bolted in one direction and I took off in the other. (by unspoken agreement we never mentioned the hatchet incident again, and certainly never told our parents)
I have no memory of picking up that hatchet and throwing it. I could’ve killed him. I knew that if I went into that enraged place ever again, the risk would be just as great, so I didn’t let my anger, my ‘temper’, off its leash, until this particular Journey.
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Something was afoot. A stirring in the places between the Worlds, the ‘gaps’ between the marbles in my ‘bag of marbles’ analogy. It fadeed a little throughout the week between each Journey, but never completely, and always returned a little bit stronger each week.
I was being prepared for a challenge that, if the training I’d received wasn’t up to scratch, to fail would have dire consequences. (within the Journey)
And it would also be the end of any further adventures.
I wouldn’t be able to any go deeper into these Worlds (safely) that had so enchanted me, taken my heart, and showed me my untold potential. (‘safely’ being a relative term given all the things that had already happened to me!)
The best analogy I can think of is building a stone archway out of individual blocks. The placement of each one on top of the other is very important especially when you get up high enough and start to curve the arch itself. The most important stone is, of course, the keystone at the apex of the arch.
Without it the structure will fail. Adventures can be had on either side of the arch, but none going forward. With the keystone, the arch is complete and can be walked under, through, and over, without fear of it collapsing. The Path can be continued, on into the Unknown.
Each adventure, each Journey, I undertook was tinged with this awareness. Would this one be the ‘keystone’?
The ordinariness of the physical world faded to black, still, quiet.
Tiny pinpricks of light slowly came into existence all around me, and expanded into stars and galaxies, black holes and supernovas. I swayed with the subtle music of the cosmos until I found myself at the very end of the Universe. (or the beginning, depending on your point of view)
(An interwebz search for ‘Hubble images’ brought up this magnificent collection. Go ahead, take a wander through them, I’ll wait … because this is what I saw too)
I drank it all in until my mortal eyes, even in ‘Journey-mode’, were unable to gaze upon it any longer.
I made to turn around but my feet remained in place as though nailed to some cosmic plank of wood. I cursed and swore, and twisted my body, but stuck, they remained.
As I’ve mentioned before this happened regularly and was just as frustrating this time as it had been every other time. I laboriously heaved the entire structure of my Journey around so it was finally in front of me. I plonked it down into place and took a moment, with my hands on my knees, to catch my breath. I was definitely going to have to figure out an easier was to do this.
I straightened up and felt the immensity of the continuous movement of that wondrous living galaxy-spanning entity on the skin of my back. In front of me was the unfathomable expanse at the edge of All Known Things that could only be traversed at the speed of thought … which at that moment, just happened to be blue. A deep rich potent blue.
I chuckled to myself. OK then, off into the wild blue yonder!
I stepped forward and down a little. A soft breeze blew through the blueness, gathering it up and forming tiny crystals that settled at my feet, revealing a flat featureless plain that extended out in all directions.
I picked up a handful of the sand-like crystals and let them drift between my fingers. The breeze carried them through the air until they brushed over something, invisible, to reveal a face laying on top of the plain.
I cast more of the blue dust into the wind and more faces appeared. It was as though a whole race of giants had buried themselves until only their faces remained above the surface.
They had high cheekbones and wide eyes, and mouths that were a twitch away from speaking. But for all that they looked like they were just (blue) stone statues I felt their energy lean hungrily toward me
“It’s your fear they want,” said a voice that came in with the wind.
Up until that moment, as far as I could tell, I wasn’t feeling any fear.
My body clenched up and I broke out in a cold sweat.
“Ah, there it is.”
So, what was I afraid of? If fear, as an emotion, is a warning, it had certainly got my attention. I relaxed my shoulders and let tension slide out of my body and down into the earth, and switched into ‘attention mode’.
The faces themselves didn’t feel dangerous. I glanced sideways around me. Nothing there either.
The wind dropped to stillness and the dust slid off the faces. Although they remained blue I could see through them as though they were glass.
All of a sudden they lifted up from the plain until they were upright and started toward me. Surrounding and almost encircling me before I could move out of the way.
“No!” I said in a quivery voice, feeling a little freaked out. I held up my hand. “One at a time would be good.” They moved back and formed a ‘V’ shape in front of me.
I stood still as they, each in their turn, came up to me, and by either touching my forehead with their own, or sending their energy in a beam of blue light, gave me a gift of Sight.
At first I could see all around me in all directions, as thought I were in the center of a sphere, and with each touch of energy this sight expanded until I could see the spinning of suns and galaxies. The entire universe that I wasn’t able to encompass at the beginning of my Journey. The sphere of my sight grew larger and larger, expanded beyond my comprehension. And still, the faces came on.
I felt my sense of Self dissipate as it was dragged along with my expanding vision. It was an amazing sensation, like nothing else I’d felt before, to truly be beyond any human, any mortal, sensation or experience. I released every pore, every synapse, every cell, every atom of my essence, into this amaranthine existence.
Some of my brain cells must’ve still been in communication with each other because in a single flash of awareness I knew, with crystal clarity, that this … seduction, was the stuff of madness. And unless I reclaimed my Self, I would be lost to it forever.
I made to gather myself together when a tiny beguiling thought intruded on the process. What if I didn’t go back? Would my physical body, sitting in a chair in a darkened room, just disintegrate and drift away like fairy-dust? Would I re-inhabit my body as though I were sleepwalking, just going through the motions? When compared to this, why would I even want to go back?
Oh, what a pretty seduction it was indeed.
What turned it for me? … … I wasn’t done being human.
One by one I began to close off the visions and pull the ‘sphere’ of my sight inwards, until I was standing on the blueness and the faces had finally receded, along with the flow of their energy. They were still out there though, perhaps waiting for my ‘fear’ to manifest again.
Time for a digression…
… Make no mistake, the other Realms of Awareness are overwhelmingly seductive. They deal in absolutes, archetypes, grand challenges and experiences that leave us breathless with awe and longing. (and so far removed from our daily ‘grinds’ and endless supply of doubts and fears)
I occasionally wonder if the ‘madness’ that some people carry with them stems from not being able to clearly choose which reality to live in, and by not choosing, become stuck with pieces of their Spirit in each one, and destined to wander aimlessly with only the most tenuous of threads connecting them to their physical bodies.
This is why it is so important to have someone with you who knows exactly what it takes to get you back into your body when learning how to do this stuff, and why so many people who undertake such Journeys without either the knowledge of how to do it themselves or someone who does, can have very bad experiences.
Plus … it always helps to have something physical to do once you return, hence the cuppa tea and a biscuit/cookie mentioned elsewhere. Eating something protein-y helps too, it refocuses your energy way from the Spirit Realms and aims it toward your digestion. As does a good orgasm. Sex, really, really, good sex, (either with a partner or alone) is the best thing ever, to ground one back in one’s body. 🙂
And now, on with the adventure …
Something pushed at me from behind. Just hard enough to get my attention.
I was NOT going to go through the whole ‘turning around’ thing again, so I ever so slightly ‘bumped’, back.
A small woman dressed in green tights, tunic and pixie hat bumped my shoulder as she wafted by me. The more she came into focus the smaller she got. The blueness started turning greenish and took on discrete forms and shapes that were almost familiar.
“Got that out of you system, have you?” she chided. “You were supposed to come here first, you know.”
I shrugged. “Sorry.” What else could I say?
“Hmm.” She sounded remarkably unconvinced of the sincerity of my apology, but appeared to accept it on probation. “Well enough of that, it’s time we got a move on.” She drifted closer to my face and looked at me very seriously. “You’re almost there, you know.”
I looked down for a moment. I was standing on a sandy path with sandstone rocks scattered to the side. “Am I ready?” I wondered if I was ready for her answer, whichever way it went.
She patted my cheek with her warm small hand. “Almost.”
I reached for a nearby boulder and sat down abruptly. So, not ready, either way.
I took a deep breath and looked around me at last. I was sitting on a rock at the edge of the world, and spread out before me and below me was the breathtaking vista of the Escarpment in the Blue Mountains, near where I lived as a child. Soaring sandstone cliffs hid dark shadowed gullies with water running through them that tippled over the edge to the river so far beyond me that it had disappeared into the blue haze. (which is caused by the eucalyptus oil in the air, from all the gum trees)
The sun dipped toward the western horizon, the rock underneath me warm from its touch. The little green Deva thoughtfully allowed me a few moments to drink in the vista then ‘tutted’ at me to get a move on.
I’d never been ‘tutted’ at before. It was quite effective.
I walked along the sandstone path that led from my rock and across the face of the cliff. My shoulder brushed against the stone face on one side, and, keeping both eyes on the narrow path, I tried not to look down at the sheer chasm dropping away on the other. As I inched my way around a large boulder sticking out into the path I saw that it branched into two just ahead.
One fork looked enticing. It led up into a small hanging valley and the path itself was covered in soft mosses that would be gentle on my (I only noticed at that moment) bare feet.
The other path continued underneath a waterfall, flowing down from the valley above like a curtain, and along the narrow ledge. At first glance it looked as though it was strewn with sharp rocks, twigs, and thorns, but as I got closer I saw clear spaces, like stepping stones, among the sharp edges and pointy things.
I heard voices urging me to take the easier path. It looked like my little green Deva had company. Sounding distressed, they pointed out that if I had to concentrate on where to put my feet all the time, I’d miss seeing the end of my Journey. In the far distance, at the end of the path, a golden glow shone like a fireworks explosion frozen in time.
I reassured them that I’d take each step slowly and look up at the energy glow between each one. This seemed to be acceptable, so along the crooked path I went. It soon veered away from the cliff edge and into a small woodland grove tucked down inside a gully. The Devas came out of hiding and danced around me. Surrounded by their energies I could feel, with all my senses, physical and otherworldly, how vibrantly alive everything was.
The path drew me on however, until I came to a staircase. The Devas urged me to walk up it. The treads were smooth and the steps shallow, but I was on to their tricks. I continued walking along the path and looked over my shoulder. The staircase went up for a dozen or so steps then finished in mid-air. I flashed the Devas a ‘look’ to let them know I knew what they knew, and they giggled at me. Who knew ‘tuts’ and giggles’ could be so expressive.
Smiling, I walked on until I couldn’t walk any further, literally. My feet wouldn’t move. I froze.
Something, a presence, appeared in the middle of the path.
Without thinking I forced my Self out of the Journey. Tears ran down my face. I wrapped my arms around myself to keep the terror away. I felt a keening grow deep in the back of my throat, “No no nono,” but no sound came out of my mouth.
I had found the ‘keystone’ … or rather, the keystone had found me.
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