Tag Archive for: the void

understanding solitude

The Seriousness of Solitude

I was brought to tears this morning by the most surprising of lines in a book:

I see more and more that solitude is not something to play with. It is deadly serious. And much as I have wanted it, I have not been serious enough. It is not enough to ‘like solitude,’ or love it even. Even if you ‘like’ it, it can wreck you, I believe, if you desire it for your own sake.” – Thomas Merton in A Year with Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations from His Journals

This is one truth I have endeavored to express in any myriad of ways, but Merton’s gravity does it more eloquently than I ever will. Solitude can wreck us and that is precisely why we should come to be with and know it, seriously.

What We Don’t Understand About Our Need for Solitude

Solitude is not simply taking time out for ourselves. Here is how we get solitude wrong: We think it simply has to do with being alone and not talking to anyone. To many, solitude means unplugging from email, social media, internet searches, television, texting, and phone calls. Others go further and believe that true solitude means turning the lights off, putting away all literature, leaving home, going outdoors, refraining from elaborate meals or fasting altogether.

When we think we are going towards solitude we are really looking to be left alone. This is what Merton means when he says, “desire it for your own sake”.

By looking at what we do when seeking solitude, we can easily see that the root of our need for solitude is one typically born of our need to escape, to get away from it all. Overwhelm is likely the most common excuse for a flight into solitude, but so is frustration. How many times do we say, “I just need to get away and clear my head?” But, how many times are we secretly hoping to regain control?

Solitude has a way of stripping us clean this is true, but we have no say in what is left over after it sweeps through. Solitude is not about being in control, precisely the opposite in fact. The process is anything but obedient.

What About Not Liking Solitude?

While living on an island by myself which I wrote about in my memoir Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks, I met the perils of solitude. I hadn’t gone to the island to be alone. I was not one of those people that Merton says “likes” solitude. Albeit, at times I had wished I could escape the shackles of societal pressure and expectations – why else would I be out in the wilderness? – but I preferred to be with both a crew of researchers and the sea.

In regards to alone time, I had nameless hours alone during my childhood as a latchkey kid. That was enough for me, thank you. I was afraid to be alone on that island because, like many others, I associated being in solitude with feelings of emptiness, abandonment, and depression.

So many of us are afraid of what we will find in ourselves when left to our own devises. What if we encounter that deep pit of sadness/hopelessness/pain/apathy? How will we ever come out? The question, “What is wrong with me?” often looms in the quiet of time alone along with “What am I doing with my life?” and “What’s the point?”

The Grace in Solitude

Yet no matter, there is great beauty and peace in this life of silence and emptiness. But to fool around brings awful desolation. When one is trifling, even the beauty of the solitary life becomes implacable. Solitude is a stern mother who brooks no nonsense.” – Thomas Merton

And, thank God she does brook no nonsense. What I found in living alone for such an extended period of time in such a harsh environment, was that solitude was stern. I was forced to stay in a solitude (my only way off the island was a private plane that came once per week), which took charge and ferried me past the anguish and tears.

I found an inner space so quiet and clear that I truly felt the sacred for the first time in my life. This was no fooling around. For those of us who currently reside in a fear of solitude, this is the gift of staying in solitude beyond the point of discomfort. Solitude surprises us with meaning and soul.

For those of us that wish, at present, to get away from it all, the craving is eventually destroyed by our own self-involvement. Our need to escape overwhelm and frustration follows us into the wilderness and we find that to know peace we must let go of ourselves. It is this surrender of control that can be messy, fitful and tumultuous.

If we stay in solitude long enough, we have the opportunity to glimpse the true grace of solitude that changes the life we no longer want to live. Solitude allows the sacred to infuse our being. Clarity becomes ours.

Understanding the Joys of Solitude

Sometimes life comes through and brings us into solitude without our planning or choosing so. This can be the unexpected job loss or the debilitating illness. One of my teachers called this “cocoon time” and it is known by mystics as a sacred gift along the road of transformation. If we can take these unplanned way stations without resistance or resentment, the benefits of going with the flow of divine timing are numerous.

What we usually forget about solitude is that the decision to retreat into solitude can beget from gratitude, joy and love. Simply taking the time to give thanks and reflect on this beautiful life we have is reason enough to seek solitude.

The magic of an honest experience of solitude is that what we once thought was important falls away. We are given the chance to touch something greater both inside and outside of ourselves. Pain and anguish melt away. We become centered and generous and good once again.

Not all of the time we spend alone is time spent in solitude. The grace of an experience of solitude is too strong to maintain for prolonged lengths of time. So we simply set the stage however we know how and wait for solitude to come to us.

 

 

About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch

Stacey Couch shamanic practitionerStacey L. L. Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, works as a Spiritual Director and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. With her deeply rooted experience in the field of shamanism and passion for working with wildlife and rescue animals, Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the matters of the soul easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More About Spiritual Direction.

bat symbolism

Spirit Animals: BAT BRAVERY

The mere mention of a bat sends many people into a panic. Conservationists have been working for decades to dispel the terrifying myths about bats and to bring humans into a greater appreciation of these flying mammals. Bats work wonders for an ecosystem keeping pest insects in check and producing fertilizer in the form of guano. Still, despite the best public relations campaigns, many shy away from bat symbolism.

Coming to Terms with Bat Symbolism

We often want our spirit animals to bring good tidings, but it’s hard to feel optimistic about bat spirit animal. When we draw a bat card from an animal totem deck, we tense up, brace for impact, and begin furiously trying to figure out how to spin this in a positive light.

At the core, bat symbolism carries an archetypal association with fear. Our gut reaction to seeing a picture of a bat speaks of this. There is really no good way to turn fear on its head so that we can feel better. Fear is unnerving, and bat spirit animal seats us firmly outside our comfort zone. If you find yourself already holding your breath, it is likely that bat is bringing to the surface the fear you’ve stored up inside.

Move into the fear and know that you have one of the best guides along for the journey in the form of a flying, furry mammal. You have an opportunity to inherit gratitude, which will be one comforting emotion during this very trying time.

Bat Spirit Animal’s Foreboding

When helping others interpret their encounters with spirit animals, I often find a nail-biting listener on the other end of the conversation. Many people fear that the message from the animal is bad news. I always want to bolster the listener’s faith in the universe by creating an uplifting reading about an animal encounter, but this can be tough to do when faced with bat symbolism. The truth is, it’s scary.

Bat spirit animal carries messages of fear, suffering, trial, initiation, and challenge. At the same time, this tenacious, outstandingly brave little creature could not be a stronger ally to have in times of uncertainty.

On the spiritual path we hope to find great rewards and even bigger favors, but coming into connection with the Divine is not a way to guarantee comfort, safety, peace, joy, or abundance. It is a way to gain fortitude and presence. To become a generous being that moves grace and love into the world.

Death & Initiation

To become clear channels for grace we have to release our egos, identity and attachments. Release is a poetic word for death. Shamanic teachers are much more candid about what this process of releasing looks and feels like. It feels like dying. Even though the physical body comes through the process, we are not the same person on the other side. Who we were has passed away.

Just like the seasons, bat symbolism reminds us that our lives move in cycles. There are times when all the old must be sloughed off so that we can move our gifts into the world without distractions or obstacles.

Traditionally, shamans understood the necessity and periodicity of these “small” deaths in our lives. They created ritual and ceremony to facilitate and support this critical component of the spiritual path. Initiates were buried up to their necks, locked in caves, left in the woods, and abandoned in their own graves. We now affectionately call these ancient and painful rituals “vision quests” which can disguise the severity of the experiences.

Today, we don’t have such rituals for better or worse, but this does not mean that many people aren’t experiencing what is known as the shamanic death or initiation. These initiations are happening in the midst of life, cloaked in the mundane, but they are no less painful.

Bat spirit animal appears during these initiations when the world seems to be falling down around us. The loss of a job, a health crisis, death of loved ones, floods, fires, lawsuits, and so forth can be the outward manifestations of an inward crisis.

Upside Down and Clinging

Bat hangs upside down from the ceiling of the cave, clinging to the rough surface. This inverted posture could be seen as everything going wrong, but I see it as a defiance of gravity. Symbolically, gravity is the past. Gravity is what weighs us down and  keeps us from moving forward into grace.

Bat spirit animal says, “I’m not going to let that bring me down. I’m climbing as high as I can and riding this one out.” There is an intense tenacity in bat symbolism, more so than you will find almost anywhere else. Even when things are at their very, very worst and it seems like we won’t be able to go on, bat is the voice deep inside us that tells us to keep hanging in there. Bat symbolism is about not giving up, not matter how hard it gets.

Is this Ever Going to End?

In the Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson, they warn against stagnation and preventing the death-rebirth cycle from progressing, but there is an important component of bat biology that we must evaluate. Female bat has three ways to prolong her pregnancy. She can prevent the sperm from fertilizing the egg, she can keep the fertilized egg floating free awaiting implantation, or she can keep the very young embryo in a sort of stasis where it is not allowed to grow. She forestalls the development and birth of her pup until environmental conditions are more favorable.

Forbearance is another key component of bat symbolism. When everyone else is saying to get on with it, let go of the past, and start a new life, we don’t have to listen. We know when the right time is and we know when there is still more that must die. When we deny these truths it is no use. The cosmos provides more obstacles to slow us down anyways. Trust your instincts about the timing of your emergence from the cave.

Rebirth & Resurrection

Bats give birth to their young while hanging upside down. The babies come out feet, rather than head, first. This again speaks of the enormous strength and effort that is at the heart of bat medicine. Born against the pull of gravity, the force of the universe that pulls everything down, your new self is coming. It is a tremendous, heroic effort not to be taken lightly and worth every ounce of power you put into it.

At dusk every day, bats are born anew into the darkness flying out from the cave. That is why so many cultures associate bat with resurrection. We think being reborn into our new selves means we will come out into the light and have everything revealed to us. The trick of bat spirit animal is to remember that we are being born into the mystery. So much will be uncertain, but with bat spirit animal as your faithful companion you’ll be able to fly to new heights, hear the voice of the cosmos with great precision and have more freedom that you ever could have imagined.

 

Want to learn more about spirit animals?
Visit the Spirit Animal Guide

 

 

raven spirit animal

Spirit Animals: MYSTERIOUS RAVEN

Raven Spirit Animal

This beautiful black creature brushes mountainsides with wingtips. His black eyes drink in landscapes as subtle breezes hold him aloft. Raven’s undeniable determination is audible in the whir of his heavy wingbeats. On occasion he joins with a troop of two or three others to cackle at the wind and tease the beasts on the ground below. His voice cuts through the forest’s silence. It echoes like an inside-out gurgle of water down a seep-hole. His call is an invitation to other worlds. Is he calling those worlds forth? Or is he calling us to those worlds? This is for raven to know. He is incredibly clever. We admire him for his ability to use tools and solve puzzles. The trick is we haven’t even begun to solve the puzzles he creates.

Initiation into Mystery

Bringer of hidden truths, Raven spirit animal wanders the world over probing mysteries. He contemplates the unknown as the ravens named Hugin (“Thought”) and Munin (“Memory”) – the Norse god Odin’s trusted advisers. Odin is the god of wisdom and seeking. His wisdom is owed to the help of two intelligent ravens.

Ravens help us discover the the hidden treasures within our own mysteries, lighting up the unconscious. An Inuit tale tells of a raven tricking his way into a whale’s belly where he meets the soul of the whale and eventually feasts on the rich oil inside the whale. He carries two fire sticks with him that he goes to great pains to retain. Raven’s confidence in his ability to light up the dark helps us navigate the unfamiliar in life and in ourselves.

In other myths, raven is known for birthing the human race by coaxing the first humans out of clam shells. For us, raven spirit animal draws us out of our own protective shells and guides us through the mysterious unknown “out there”. He is an opener of doors for the mind and soul.

Raven spirit animal’s intelligence was passed down to humans when he taught people how to sow seeds and hunt. He is known in the mundane world for his ability to outwit other animals, use tools, and use complex communication. If anyone is going to lead you into cloaked and uncharted territory, cunning raven is a good bet.

Raven is depicted as a hero god who either created or helped create the world in stories of the Northwest Coast of North America. On the other hand, we find associations with death in Celtic and European folklore. He is associated with the decimated battlefield littered with the corpses he feeds on. Comfortable with death and the underworld, raven spirit animal helps us enter into that Great Unknown during important life transitions.

The Trickster God

Mythology surrounding raven shows him providing aid and causing trouble at the same time. He’s a trickster who causes hardship for humans and other creatures by convincing them to do foolish things. He’s just as likely to steal the light as bring it. However, raven’s conniving can also result in him putting things right again. An example of this is the Athabaskan myth of raven stealing the sun and moon back from a greedy chief who hid them away. Trickster energy can change the course of things for good and grant us valuable wisdom.

Have you ever had something go terribly wrong and later been grateful for the detour? In looking back do you now realize that there was a Divine hand in the event? Did what you learn in this experience make you all the richer? Or did the redirect take you to place better than what you could have imagined?

Remember when considering raven spirit animal, that you aren’t looking for ways he’ll bring you material wealth or outstanding recognition. Raven helps you know deep mysteries that help you breathe into the infinite.

Ravens vs. Crows

Ravens have wedge shaped tails and long fingers on the ends of their wings. This is how even the novice can tell them apart from their close cousins, crows. Crows have square tails and rounded wingtips. It is important to know one from the other because crows carry aspects of community, civilization, and play. They understand more of what it means to be in society.
(View article on Crow Symbolism here)

Ravens, on the other hand, are closer to the heavens, to solitude, and to wilderness. They keep company with clouds, hawks, bears, coyotes, wolves, and wolverines. They scavenge carcasses of big game. Raven spirit animals relate to what we experience when we spend time alone contemplating the big game, the big questions in life, and how we relate to this mystery.

 

Find your spirit animal workshop. Painting of red-tailed hawk.

Raven’s Illusions and Magic

So much is shared about this bird that engulfs mystery with his black coat of feathers. Jamie Sams and David Carson write in Medicine Cards: “If you have chosen Raven, magic is in the air. Do not try to figure it out; you cannot. It is the power of the unknown at work, and something special is about to happen. The deeper mystery, however, is how you will respond to the sparkling synchronicity of this alchemical moment.”

Ravens often come to assist me with ceremonies such as weddings and land blessings. I believe they are responding to the opening of the veil that occurs when we call in the holy. One particularly poignant raven encounter happened at a wedding ceremony I conducted for friends. As I was setting space and asking the guests to circle around the couple, two ravens flew directly overhead right through the center of the circle.

Ceremony involves working with what we call magic. Magic is simply an unseen force that adds power to a setting and it relies on the power of illusion. When magic is in the air surprising omens appear and events outside the laws of nature seem to take place.

Raven spirit animal, like a magician, weaves intricate illusions that causes us to see unbelievable things. When you have an experience you don’t think anyone else will believe, raven is often afoot. He helps shatter our preconceptions and shows us new possibilities. Raven spirit animal captivates us with tricks and causes us to question everything we once thought was certain.

Power is never created or lost. When you direct power to create the dazzling illusion, you’ll find that another area of your life seems to lose power or attraction. There is nothing wrong with this situation, just something to be mindful of.

The part of your life that now seems mind-numbingly boring hasn’t changed, but the balance has shifted. Give the illusion some time to fade away and things will seem less uneven. Ultimately, once raven comes to visit you will never be the same. Adjusting to this new world view will be your new task.

The Flight into the Dark

The path to enlightenment is the same road into the dark. Our ability to hold awareness allows us to persevere rather than tumble into suffering.

Can we tell if the darkness is our own shadow or if it the vast void stretched out before us? When does our shadow merge with the void?

How do we choose the unknown over our fear? Raven has the skill to navigate these currents, to steer through this illusory black hole, and come out more robust than before.

The next time you notice a raven in your field of view, pause to watch what he’s up to. Remember you can learn much about the illusion and the mystery of existence. If you’re luckily enough to notice and engage, raven spirit animal just might offer you some flashing insights.

For more information on raven symbolism and the spiritual path, read my article on the fairytale of “The Seven Ravens”.

 

Find your spirit animal workshop. Painting of red-tailed hawk.

The medicine wheel and the qualities of each cardinal direction.

Calling the Directions & The Medicine Wheel

Working with the Medicine Wheel

Honoring the directions within the framework of a medicine wheel is a common practice of shamanism found throughout the world and at the root of each of our ancestral lines. This prayer to honor the directions can be called a number of things depending on the culture and preferences of the person praying. Some say we are “calling in the directions” while others state we are “calling ourselves to the directions”. Others just see that we are setting up sacred space to do sacred work.

Regardless of the nomenclature, it is important to take a moment and reflect on why you have chosen to enter in to this practice.

Intention for Calling in the Directions

Are you worried about negative energy entering in as you open up to meditate or journey, so you feel compelled to set up protection around yourself? Do you wish to offer your gratitude to the seasons and rhythms of nature? Is it just because you learned it in a class and you’re trying to explore the power of the medicine wheel practice? Are you asking for help from all of creation for a healing? Are you offering yourself as a channel for the Divine? Would you like to call yourself back to center so that you can be your authentic self and be grounded in your being? Do you intend to set up a quiet space for meditation free from the chaos of the everyday?

The good news is that calling in the directions using the medicine wheel does all of the above and more. Your intent will shape the content and power of the chants or prayers you say. So take the time to reflect on your intent and then be willing to allow that intent to shift over time. The beauty of a shamanic practice is that it is personal and place based. Depending on who you are, where you live and what stage of your life you are in, calling the directions will look different because your relationship to nature will be different.

Directions of the Medicine Wheel

The medicine wheel can be broken into five or seven parts depending on your inclination, but always contains the four primary directions: East, South, West and North and a central point or axis.

“Above” and “Below” can also be recognized individually or not because the central axis is seen as inherently connected to these two spaces. As you determine what qualities, gifts, elements and power animals to acquaint with each direction of the medicine wheel I have a simple framework for you to start with.

  1. Path of the Sun: The medicine wheel is laid out in relation to the path of the sun. The East is the place of dawn (beginnings) and the West is the place of dusk (endings)
  2. Seasonality: The medicine wheel can be laid over a seasonal calendar which for us places spring in the East, summer in the South, fall in the West and winter in the North (see photo above). If you lived at the equator you would only recognize two seasons, rainy and dry, or if you lived at the poles you would recognize light and dark, so your associations would be different.
  3. Diurnal Cycle: You can also overlay the wheel with the a 24 hour clock with the East being sunrise, South being midday, West being sunset, and North being midnight.

Qualities of the Directions

To help you determine your own, unique blend of qualities to associate with the directions of the medicine wheel, I offer the following ideas that I’ve accumulated from studying a number of cultures and nature herself. You may see some qualities listed in more than one direction. Feel into the quality and see where it fits for you.

  • Qualities of the East: dawn/sunrise, spring, new beginnings, birth, infancy, mental body, element of air, seedling plants, new shoots, fresh start, innocence, play, childhood, the Sun or Mother Earth, blue, yellow, green, swords tarot suit, astrological houses 1-3.
  • Qualities of the South: midday, summer, adolescence, physical body, mature crops, abundance, element of fire, the Sun or Mother Earth, passion, drive, vitality, fullness, ripeness, maturity, red, orange, wands tarot suit, astrological houses 4-6.
  • Qualities of the West: dusk/sunset, fall, adulthood, emotional body, leaves dropping from trees, letting go, harvest, gathering resources inward, the void, discernment, element of water, the womb, the Moon, surrender, trust and faith, the unknown, black, blue, cups tarot suit, astrological houses 7-9.
  • Qualities of the North: midnight, winter, elder, spiritual body, frozen landscape, silence, communion with Spirit, element of earth, the Moon, death, union, intuition, complete understanding, being filled with the Divine, white, pentacles tarot suit, astrological houses 10-12.
  • Qualities of the Center: Heart of the matter, in the moment, timeless, ageless, integration of all bodies, openness, channel/hollow reed, grace, connection to above and below, trees, mountains, inspiration, rainbow, all colors.
  • Qualities of Above: Cosmic currents, collective unconscious, movement of the heavens, wisdom of planetary bodies, future, possibility, stars, galaxies, expanded consciousness, God, angels.
  • Qualities of Below: Planetary currents, collective history, ancestors, roots, creation, fertility, the womb, the cave, Goddess.

 

Want to learn more?
Read this article about How to: Prayers to the Directions

 

barn owl gracious wild

“Letting Go” from Gracious Wild

Gracious Wild is primarily about my relationship to two spectacular hawks, but other animals including one defiant barn owl contributed to the story as well. This excerpt from the book Gracious Wild tells about how “Papa Rhett” taught about letting go. I would also say, behind the scenes, that this owl taught me a lot about not caring what other people think. When you have supernatural hearing and sight like he did the truth is always there with you. Why bother trying to figure out another person’s version of the story? He was relentless in stomping out my self-consciousness. I loved this quirky beast and am happy to report that he is still alive and well and representing his kind in front of many audiences a year. Now on to the story…

For days on end there was this unnerving tension between us. I waffled back and forth between my desire for companionship and my complete distrust that anyone would ever want to accompany me along my path of discovery.

With his body language, Rhett seemed to mirror the same experience. One moment he would glare at me and chatter some rubbish, as if to say, “How dare you think you can talk to an owl like me?” The next moment he would take to delicately preening a long flight feather on the end of his wing. His head would gracefully twist sideways as his beak carefully zipped and caressed the barbs of the feather into place. I was swept away in the ballet of the moment until he noticed himself, turned to glare at me, and stomped his foot on the glove.

“Oh yes, that’s right, Rhett, how dare I fall in love with you,” I’d adoringly chuckle. And I did—fall in love with him, that is.

Over time I learned when to sidestep his grumpiness and when to meet it head on. We spent hours in the corridor of green grass that lay between the cages on the property. There he’d fly from my glove to the perch stationed at the far end of the lawn. I’ve been told that owls, for reasons I have yet to speculate on, prefer to fly from the glove to the perch, while hawks prefer the opposite routine. This reversal of roles was healing for me. I had to learn how to communicate to the owl that I was ready. I’ve been told that owls, for reasons I have yet to speculate on, prefer to fly from the glove to the perch, while hawks prefer the opposite routine. This reversal of roles was healing for me. I had to learn how to communicate to the owl that I was ready to let go, rather than beg him and bait him with food to come to me.

This letting go part was easier said than done. It took me weeks of standing with him on the glove, staring at the perch and waiting. The antics I went through to try and convince him to fly were, I’m sure, absolutely hysterical to onlookers. He seemed to gather the most pleasure out of watching me dance, cajole, coax, and whine. Certainly, there must be some key movement or cue that I’m just not doing right or at all, I convinced myself, and continued on with the arm waving and gibberish talking. It’s hard to tell what spirits I cursed or conjured or plain offended, but I just couldn’t get that sticky owl off my glove. This, keep in mind, was the same owl who apparently despised stepping onto my glove at the beginning of every session.

Eventually, though, my persistence paid off and, paradoxically, I was able to let go. Letting go didn’t just entail that I release his leash, point, and say “perch,” because I’d done that dozens of times before with no results. This was an entirely different way of working in the world. Like magic, as I turned to face the perch on this occasion I felt the cells in my body relax and tingle. As I opened my fingers to release my hold on his tether I felt energy lift up through my hand. As I raised my right hand to point to the perch I felt my intent and focus carry me to the perch, and without hesitation Rhett’s stare locked in on his destination and he lifted off. I stood, jaw dropped, and watched him glide like an angel inches above the blades of grass. Then with a whimsical flutter of the tips of his wings he lifted up and lighted quietly on the perch. Every time he left my glove from that moment forward, I had the same transcendental experience. In this way, my friend by default supported me in holding on to the lessons Thalia had brought me. By teaching me how to let go, Papa Rhett was teaching me how to consistently embrace the unknown and live in the moment.

Click here to learn more about Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks

Mustang Mare Horse

On Immediate Results and Real Consequences

Do you ever have the experience of immediate response from your environment? Do you know what it feels like have something shift so quickly that you’re overwhelmed with the results?

In the course of the last 24 hours my reality has been completely shattered and then repaired to its beautiful self. Some of you may know of the challenges I’ve faced with my 17 year old bay mustang mare. She used to be absolutely terrified of humans, and nothing in the human world, let alone riding, was simple or even possible with her. People don’t believe that now when they see how calm she is, how willing, connected and intelligent she is. Cherokee has been in my life for six years and I have invested hundreds of hours into the relationship. We had a brief riding career a couple of years ago until I ended up ungraciously on the ground twice. Neither of us are very good at working through anxieties over riding. So, we continue on on the ground, online and at liberty. She follows me around a grassy pasture now as I do chores. She comes to greet me and our visitors with enthusiasm and curiosity in her expression. She walks, free of ropes, by my side on our 38 acres. Still I want more.

So, when I had a vet offer to treat her state of mind with herbs, the temptation was too great. What if we could “cure” the last vestige of tension left in her heart? What if this was the “key” to being able to ride her? Wouldn’t this be phenomenal? Once again, I repeat an old mistake. So many times experts promised that if we just do these few things over and over or for this amount of time or repetitions that she’ll come around. So many times I’ve succumbed to the juicy quick fix that doesn’t involve me. Still I couldn’t resist.

We started her on the herbs four days ago. A few reports from my family members came that she was acting different. I saw it but was preoccupied. Then on day three (yesterday) when I had time to engage, I found a terrifyingly different horse. She regressed, literally, all the way back to five or six years ago. She was a fire-breathing dragon that jumped at my every move. Every muscle in her body was erect. Her eyes were as hard and black as stone, and there was no light left in them. Just like that, I lost my horse. All of a sudden our relationship was gone. I was absolutely crushed. Of course, we took her off the herbs.

I lost sleep over wondering if I’d ever get my best friend back. Would I have to start all over again? Could I really, really go through it all again? This morning she still shied from me, snorted and tensed up as I walked past her. She was wishing for me to leave. Then, just like that, it all went away. Tonight she slipped back into her current day skin as if yesterday had never happened.

As we stood in the pasture side-by-side calmly watching a cinnamon colored black bear wander across our property I felt safe with her. She watched the bear with quiet curiosity. All was serene. Really, it sounds absurd, but it’s true. Bear is about turning inward and knowing the answer is within the vastness of my being while staying open to the unknown outcome. Gosh this horse has been a test. How willing am I REALLY to listen to my own guidance and to trust that I am enough? This isn’t some fairytale, this is the truth, the hard truth with real consequences. Today I am so overwhelmingly grateful that the real consequences, the real answers were so extreme and so immediate. It’s not everyday we have the opportunity to correct our course so drastically and come out unscathed. This too is a gift and I am thankful.

lost wilderness of being

Lost Wilderness of Being

There’s a lot moving these days and the opportunity to shed projections and identities is abundant. The chance to move out of judgment and into our truth comes with what can be considered a high price tag. Just when we think we’ve let go of every pre-conception and belief that was important to us, the guard at the gate of our happiness ups the toll. In my own quest for joy and peace I came across the following stream of consciousness that has offered me comfort and contemplation:

Even though I did not know where I was going I still feel I have lost my way. I have lost my certainty of being me. There was no one to tell me I was long forgotten lost… forgot and lost the railway… imagination lays the tracks… tracks go one way. Steer the imagination and you are hopelessly lost.

Lost hope, lost will, lost self. In this state even the will of union seems too rigid. For in the end it’s a concept along the tracks that lead one-way to nowhere. In releasing to the process the process becomes no more. First the process becomes God, then compartmentalized, then loved, then lost… lost and forgotten.

The age old adage of “why?” Well then, “why bother?” To be free of the shackles, shake loose of the locks. But, this is not a revolution of expression. The cage door is opened, the bars are extinguished, but the bird remains. “Why?” This is not living out of hope or hopelessness. It’s just living in the lost wilderness of being.