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.