I feel like I've just been reborn. That's what happens when you get your connect with the Spirits of Place. And particularly when, like me, you've just moved somewhere and it's extremely magical, and you discover a path you can walk to from your new home that leads through the woods to the Sound. Living on an island, as I now do, water is an important part of the place. I knew I would be doing a lot with the water, but I didn't know I could simply walk down the lane and through the madrone and maple forest on this lovely little footpath and be immersed in a magical connection that feels timeless.
The lady at the honor farm stand on the road mentioned the path when I picked up some organic greens the other day, or I might not have noticed it. It's an easy saunter out the gravel lane, past some more horses besides mine and his two newfound friends, and across Vashon Highway, which most of the time has no cars visible upon it. The footpath then winds around through the woods, sloping gently down as the sound of the creek increases, the world falls away, and the view of the water grows more visible. Birds and water sounds lull you into an attentiveness that signals the Spirits of Place are aware of your presence. The trees begin to signal, the budding mallow and currants catch the light. Someone, as you can see in the photo, even planted daffodils near the trail by the Sound.
I'm settling in after the chaotic and strenuous labor of moving. My workroom is ready, but I was not. This morning I journeyed for myself, to connect and ground, and was told in no uncertain terms to chill and ground and go connect with the Spirits of Place. I was also advised to renew faith. So I did. I didn't know what I would find, or even if I had the strength for the walk. I've been pretty knackered, as the English say.
But the Spirits of Place fixed that. I don't even remember what the other worn-out feeling felt like now; a feeling of exhaustion I've had for weeks. Instead, I feel deeply connected to exactly where on this incredible Emerald Isle I live. I now know I have the perfect place to wander, for myself, and in which to work with clients who want to heal, train in shamanic practices, or both, to find their connect in nature and learn the ins and outs of interactions with Spirits of Place, nature spirits, water work, tree and flower lore, etc etc.
There's so much shamanic work to do in nature. It performs miracles for the human beings and the nature spirits love it too. They sure rebooted me. I'd be delighted to introduce you, and was so inspired by the trail and where you arrive at the end that I created a new service: the half day island visit. Or heck, come for a daylong intensive and build it into your studies and healing work, a fabulous dinner and deep dreaming sleep.
I wish I had a readout of my energy, happiness and groundedness levels before and after today's meeting with Spirits of Place to illustrate the power of such nature work. And it's not even work. It's a stroll with a natural heightened awareness. It's a giving and receiving of love and gratitude and beauty and delight. There's lots of oxygen involved, sun and shade and clean air, greenery and circulation. And the invisibles do their thing through the natural wonders all around.
For example, I was walking along, discovering it all for the first time, and I thought of a line that I couldn't place right away. Now the way leads to the hill... faintly recognizable, why did it pop up just then, just that little scrap? I knew it, but couldn't place it right away. The path didn't even lead to a hill, it was leading down a hill, but there was something just at that moment that popped it into my mind, so I explored. Then I got it.
It's a line from a very old Joni Mitchell song, one of her early ethereal ones. The song is called I Think I Understand, and I used to play it in my teenaged acoustic folk singer days as well as love to hear her recording. Then I got why it popped up now that I'm on the island. It was a gift from the Spirits of Place. Here's the full verse and chorus:
Now the way leads to the hill
above the steeple's chime
Below me sleepy rooftops round the harbor.
It's there I'll take my thirsty fill
of friendship over wine
Forgetting fear but never disregarding her.
I think I understand
Fear is like a wilderland
Stepping stones on sinking sand.
Feel free to hear it by clicking on the title link to a YouTube. I haven't thought of that song for decades, nor had I truly tuned into to the level of disconnect and, yes, fear that had sapped my energy for some time. As the Spirits of Place arranged for all of that to coalesce in my mind, body and spirit, the lyrics and melody came back to me and I got the reboot. Boom! Instant, delicate, gentle, complete. Aha. I don't believe that would have occurred were I not in that place.
A hummingbird is swooping and chirping and popping in agreement as I write this. it's another Spirit of Place happening. And I think I understand.
Truth is a pathless path, reminded Krishnamurti in his 1929 speech to dissolve the Order of the Eastern Star, a worldwide organization of thousands for whom he was the World Teacher. His speech gently but firmly and in no uncertain terms declared his considered opinion that following anyone would not get you where you signed up to go: to Truth, that is.
As a Power Animal, Cougar medicine means to lead whether or not anyone is following. This relates to Krishnamurti's point. Throughout indigenous wisdom and learned philosophy – east west, ancient, modern, religious, secular – the pathless path reappears, or rather continues to be present by its inscrutable invisibility. The spiritual path, the path of heart, the way, the soul's path, your life path, the path to Truth, to freedom, to enlightenment: all, um, sorta pathless, truth be told. Unlike the photo at left, which is quite a defined path, with very old hawthorn trees lining the way home.
This is the road to the Manor at Water Eaton, a path I was delighted to walk each day for nine months, in all weathers, in and out to Oxford for my studies a few years ago. While there, I studied many works of literature from the categories mentioned above. I walked many miles, carless, through well-worn paths in the ancient city, around the stone circles in Wiltshire, and in pursuit of the Pictish stones in the Scottish Highlands. In wider scope, my life is a series of pathless paths that I don't know I'm on before I find myself walking them. Where do they lead? This is a question each of us wants answered.
What Krishnamurti was getting at is at the heart of a leadership dilemma, and also a point of ethical consideration for people who help others, through many positions and modalities, including shamanic services. This little blog post can't fully fathom it, but it is something I'm contemplating. It's one of life's little whammies, so I say in a line from a recent poem. In this day of amassing followers, the ascendency of the very terms followers and following to new heights and ascriptions, there is a swirl of expectation and perception no less befuddling than in 1929. Leaders may run the risk of being defined by numbers of followers, by thumbs up or clicks or stars, by books sold, numbers charted, venues filled. With this comes the imperative to help others by creating titles and programs that promise results, that vow to give the secrets to individual freedom, success, and happiness in a nutshell, or, in the wildly popular numbering game, ten easy steps. A few sessions. A course. Krishnamurti begged to differ. Ain't no way, he said. I'm paraphrasing.
In working with a teacher, and in working shamanically, there can be a tendency to endow that position with a key they cannot possibly possess. With this often comes a wish to be approved and a giveaway of our own abilities. We do this also in love, in relationship, with world leaders, even with deities. To promise or be promised a path that is guaranteed to get us there, when there is no path. There are sign posts. There is experiential knowledge and knowledge transmitted through thoughts and words, through energy and received information; these can be very helpful for each of us walking the pathless path. That, and creating space within which truth can be found from within, is the work.
As a penniless young girl in the wilds, I would leave the campfire to make my way into the forest to the treehouse where I slept. I wore no shoes, and carried no light. The forest was thick and dark; there were animals who lived there and hunted at night, like the cougar. I had to walk slowly, using my bare feet for eyes. The footpath, made by deer, was very narrow and long, going up and down hills a quarter mile or so. I developed my 'night eyes' and ears, and calmed the fears darkness can hold. It was simple, really. Because of my bare feet, I knew, instantly, when I stepped off the path.