Here I said: here where you stand
And stop, and let everything go still
Feeling your breath as you glance down
Is the ground that is everywhere
— John Ramsay
In life we experience periods of rest when our life is in balance, and periods of restlessness when an intuitive stirring strikes midnight. We are forced then, to admit that our golden carriage is turning into a pumpkin...our kingly armor is rusting and refusing to move. When like Sisyphus the boulder we've successfully pushed uphill finally reaches the summit, only to roll back down again, we have to change...or be changed by forces beyond our control.
The Gnostics — First Century Christian mystics - believed that ultimate truth is found within ourselves, rather than without, through intercession by human beings clothed in priestly robes. Gnostics asked initiates to ponder thoughtfully life-altering questions: From when do you come? Unto what do you speed? Still today, contemplation of such weighty considerations provides insight, self-awareness and enlightenment.
When my life reaches a tipping-point, I’ve developed a self-reflective system: journal, meditate, contemplate, go to Barnes and Noble...or an Indy Bookstore, like The Twig in San Antonio. I love Amazon. It's quick and easy. But there is something so ancient and inspiring about the smell of books, the stuffed chairs, the sense that the answer to all life's questions are right there if I'll just rummage and pore, read and reflect. For the sake of transparency, I should admit to a sort of Ouija Board book search...heretical as that may be. Philosophy, Religion, Self-Help, Travel, Memoir, Fiction, whatever section draws me intuitively, I drag books off the shelf and pile them beside a comfy armchair or pile them on a table, feeling like a kid in the library. Cloistered with a grande soy mocha - no whip, I let my heart lead, turn the pages and dream big dreams. The voice of reason usually tells me that these books will lead to a cul-de-sac. But I carry out an armful, intuitively knowing that when I’m ready for the next step, voila, the exact subject, the precise book I need already sits on my bookshelf.
A few years ago with my family out there living their lives - and well...phew! - I began my walkabout to explore just how far I could push my boundaries, how much growth I could eek out of my life, and answer those big questions: Who are you? Where are you going? In the process of rediscovering myself post child nurturing, I unpacked the life I've lived so far: Retraced my steps with people, places and things. Connected with long-lost family members. Facebooked others. Played with ancestry.com. Had my DNA done - 2.9% Neanderthal! (For real. So that explains it!) Got lost in foreign cinema. Pored over maps and travel journals...in search of answers to questions now thoroughly activated and rattling around in the basement of my psyche:
Does my/our affinity for other cultures, and other historical times, source from actual DNA inherited through ancestral roots? Is our wandering quest the result of unresolved past-life memory? Or nudges from the collective unconscious, as Carl Jung, seminal way-shower of the inner way suggests?
Salmon know when it’s time to swim upstream. Penguins return to their breeding grounds. Even homo sapiens — like you and me - experience creative longings which instinctively drive us toward reunion, and sure fertilization.
Whatever the root cause of heartaches, ancient and new, and heart-longings for the life we've never lived, mining our unconscious - no matter how long it takes - will eventually lead us home to our bigger story. And hopefully add grit to the terra firma that supports life-enforcing changes, a firm standpoint, sure navigation for the next course of years. I do believe. And so I shift....
At the outset of my journey-time, The Spiritual Traveler, by Martin Palmer and Nigel Palmer, ended up in a pile of new books on my coffee table. This soulful travel guide overflows with helpful information about the nature of pilgrimage, and experience of personal truth: “There are two ways of experiencing and entering a sacred space, or discovering the sacred.... We can observe, or we can become a part of it.”
Which comes first? Realizing that we are a part of the people, places and things we encounter on our journeys, or re-member-ing that they are all parts of us? The Spiritual Traveler, one of those many titles that landed intuitively on my groaning bookshelf was right there when I was ready for it. A beam of light shining on the stages of a spiritual journey to find parts of ourself. Even, and maybe especially, the ones we didn't realize were missing. Travel is always this to me. The places where we find parts of ourself that we actually couldn't do without. There is infinitely more to travel than place. It's about the people we encounter! And this psychospiritually enlightening book, breaks the experience of discovery into ah ha moments and sensible pieces.
~ The first stage of travel involves meditating on what it means to be a spiritual pilgrim, a great deal more than logically traveling from point A to point B, in our minds or on the ground.
~ In the second stage we read the road signs, and see that journeys take on a personality all their own.
~ In the third stage we become aware of our companions, and the magic, both positive and perplexing, that connects us.
~The fourth stage relates to the historical matrix we absorb and its social, spiritual, and political implications for us personally.
~The fifth stage is about losing our role as observer, and becoming a part of the landscape, part of the story.
~In the sixth stage we develop visionary appreciation of the mystical surroundings, as seen through spiritual eyes.
~In the seventh and final stage we see ourselves, and every experience we encounter, as one with the Infinite, whatever name we use to describe the Creative Source of All That Is. Spiritual beings in human form, as pilgrims we open to our soul in mystical ways which are potentially mind-boggling, but imminently transformative.
Bags packed, awareness in place, I’m ...on the road again, it's good to be on the road again... swept along in an evolutionary spiral...not so different I'm guessing, at least emotionally, from journeys across the ice floes that my Neanderthal ancestors took. In my physical travels, I ached to walk on sacred European ground where my ancestors once stood. To awaken deep memory. To reclaim cell and past life memory, to expand my sense of who I am....and what my life is about.
Where are you today? Are you with me? Taking a first imaginative step toward your gnostic, intuitive truth, however outrageous and inconceivable it may seem? Every journey begins with a dream....