There were at least as many pyramids as there were hearts along the journey that led us to one particular stone pyramid at the crown of the dragon. Too many to count, and probably a lot that were missed by our eyes. It seemed, though, like the hearts, more than a coincidence… Pyramids carved into the faces of stones, stones opening to their portals such as the one above, and rocks that had somehow fallen from Earth’s openings into perfect pyramidal shapes.
Guides continued to appear as we ascended the mountain. Soon after the chipmunk, a call rang through the canopy above. “It sounds like an eagle,” Sophia remarked, “I was told an eagle would be here today.”
We did not see the eagle, but days before I had seen an eagle twice in my travels. Three times in total this summer.
Followed by the eagle, was a yellow butterfly spotted by Deb. It was becoming a little uncanny. Not only were these common guides in my personal life, the eagle and butterfly are two of the totems in my Warriors of Light series. And it would get stranger from there…
Worlds started to collapse as the mountain watched us walk its body. So many watchers, I would later remark that I was grateful I did not take this journey alone.
After that rather shocking encounter with the rock face that looked like the head of a galactic being, we were constantly aware of being observed. Ents appeared in the taller trees and trolls below them. Some seemed happier than others about our presence and it was clear we were walking in a land that did not really belong to humans.
A land, we would feel every-increasingly, that was guarded with a purpose. And, was alive with forces that, well, seemed other-worldly. Unlike in many of the places I have visited in England, where the magic of the land was enhanced by an ancient sophisticated society that moved and placed stones with deliberation, here mighty stones formed uncanny alignments by the forces of Earth.
Yet there were so many similarities. The feeling of dimensions collapsing and realms mixing. The feeling of forces dormant and waiting to be reawakened…it was more than obvious a dragon lines ran through this land, and the three of us could not help feeling and seeing that the stars also had a special alignment with this serpent mountain.
And, even though we had not chosen to walk the path of the water lines, the feeling of the element was present. It was held in the body of the stones with whale beings seemingly embedded into the body of the dragon. Fire and water. Alchemy. I couldn’t help but think of how the magical hexagram was here. And I could only hope that the lines were still alive here, even though there were obvious disruptions. Most notably, the towers of metal we could not bring ourselves to linger near for too long (much less photograph) that several feet (thankfully) away from the crown.
Memory and intuition brought us to the crown even though we were walking an unfamiliar path to get there. The increasing pulse, pulling us to our destination to place our offerings and heed the land’s calling, whatever it may be. And if it were not for the wren, we may never have seen the eye…
We left at 9:30am. Three women, piling into my little blue car to fulfill a promise I had made with a dragon. And a stone. We had everything we needed, or so I hoped. To be honest, I wasn’t wholly sure what we needed, or what at all to expect. All I knew was where I needed to go and what I needed to leave behind.
My offering was wrapped in gold satin at the bottom of my backpack. A gift unearthed six years before at in a place where it shouldn’t be by my daughter. I couldn’t deny I would miss it, just as I had the Raven’s Crystal but this too was not mine to keep.
Inside the pack, with the pillar of selenite, were my snacks and water, some tissues, bandaids, my wallet, windbreaker, and three bundles of sage and lavender from my garden. There had been no more dreams or visions, aside from the returning memory of a journey with my two companions to the Mystery Hill where my daughter had found the offering years before. They, in turn had brought their own offerings, which later we would realize were perfect. Being led, like me, with few clues but with a willingness to discover whatever awaited.
The signs began to become obvious when we pulled the car into the base of the mountain. Although its electric charge was now at zero, the gas meter read 333 miles remaining in the tank. When I glanced at the sequence of 3s, then shared the number with my companions, it became obvious why we had formed a trinity for this journey. There had been a moment of guilt days before, followed by an extension of the invitation to others to join, but in the end we were left with the three I had envisioned. And, somehow we had settled, without knowing it, to embark on the day of a new moon, because it was simply the only day that worked.
Deb and I jumped out of the car to pay the park fee, get maps and make an inquiry.
“Can you tell us how to get to the Serpent Ridge trail,” Deb asked a dumbfounded attendant. I had an impulse to nudge her when I saw the look on the attendant’s face.
“There’s no trail by that name.”
“Yes there is,” Deb insisted, “readying her phone to pull up the evidence.
“Never mind,” I interjected.
I’m okay with not being considered “normal,” and perhaps a tad bit “crazy” by some people’s standards, but I saw no point in further alarming the poor woman behind the glass who seemed pretty close to making use of her own phone. To call the authorities.
“We saw it online,” I said. “It was probably just named that by some hiker, never mind.”
The car chugged up 2/3 of the mountain with some effort while Deb and I shared our experience at the gate with Sophia. Marking the beginning of a steady stream of jokes and much laughter that would carry us through to end of our day.
The air was colder than I had anticipated, and the sky threatened a rain that never released from the clouds when we disembarked from the overheated car. Resting nicely in a near-empty lot, we left the vehicle behind to eat lunch.
“What time is it,” Sophia inquired.
The next time I would look at the clock on my phone it would be 12:44.
“Should we take the slut trail or the slab,” Sophia wondered as she studied the map.
“Slot, Alethea, Slot!” That was it, we were doomed. I could have blamed the wind for the tears, but it was pretty obvious that the three of us had reverted back to childhood. Laughter would turn out to be the balm we needed as we descended into the darkened forest.
Our first guide was a familiar one. “I was wondering if you’d be here,” I greeted the chipmunk as it scurried from stone to stone beside us.
“Do you remember the chipmunk at America’s Stonehenge,” I asked my companions. They recalled its uncanny hoping to the stones where our eyes needed to linger. This one, though, stayed with us for just a short time. There was another guide yet to make its appearance. A guide that would make me think of Sue.
I took it as a good omen we were in the right place, but I think the old man who passed by moments later thought I was as looney as the gatekeeper did Deb. More laughter, of course, ensued.
The next being we encountered stopped us in our tracks. Nestled into the roots of two birches aside the path, it was impossible to miss.
“It looks like…”
“I had the same thought.”
All three of us, apparently, saw the same image encased in stone. And what we saw foreshadowed what was yet to come.
We sat in plastic chairs huddled around the flames my daughter had brought to life and talked about ghosts.
“What’s the scariest thing that has ever happened to you?”
I had four teenagers spellbound. Aware with each word I chose I could either feed their fear or help abate it. And what of my own?
Should I really tell them about ghosts?
The thought came and went. And came and went some more as I began the story about the woman in the two-hundred year-old dress seated at the piano with her daughter playing the keys of a past she could not let go of. But that was cheating, in a way. I had not seen her, only heard about her. So I told them how, before I knew better, I had evoked the spirit of another lost soul who wandered the hallways of my haunted school. Learning, in the process that he was a specter not to be feared, but to be pitied.
In turn they told me about their friends playing around with online videos to conjure spirits and enter into past lives.
“Didn’t you have an Ouija board,” my daughter asked as the mom inside of me came out to lecture about using care and caution, and how some things are better left alone and that’s why there are professionals…before I was cut off again.
But what’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you?
I wasn’t willing to go as far as the demons I had battled while my body slept…so I told them about the hair puller yanking me awake in the middle of the night.
“Oh my god, I would have lost it!”
I watched my daughter’s best friend nervously scroll the phone in her hand.
Had I said too much?
I knew she was afraid. And, she knew she could tell me to stop talking, or walk away. Beside her bed back home I could see the half-empty bottle of “Ghost Be Gone” spray I had filled several times for her. You need to learn how to do this yourself…I had told her more than once, but she had wanted just the crutch of the spray.
Without fear can we learn empowerment?
While I told some of my ghost stories, I thought about my four-year-old son calling me awake in the voice of terror, shaking me from sleep in the middle of the night. My husband, telling me to let him learn courage as I held his trembling body in my arms. I thought about my son, a little older saying, “I see strange colors in my room at night,” when I was just learning how to process the truth of his words.
Now fifteen, he sat beside me, slightly removed from my daughter’s friends, but not unwelcome tucked into the shadows of our circle. “Can you feel them?” he asked before he told us the story of being alone in the house with the dog barking at nothing. The cat staring at the unseen. His body knowing what his eyes no longer see.
How could I not seize each moment with care, handling it as best I knew how to, knowing that I was once that child in the dark?
My daughter’s best friend dropped her phone on her lap. “My grandma is always with me, but I don’t like it.”
I weighed each word on my scale of truth, aware that my scale of truth was not the same as others. I was raised on the belief that there was no soul beyond the body, but I knew enough from her stories and her mother’s, that she was not.
What would you have wanted to know? The inner voice kept urging guidance. So I told her about the grandmother who sent me the scent of roses to remind me of the love she struggled to show me when I could see her with my eyes.
“Have you seen The Conjuring?” she asked me, tipping the scales back towards fear.
I wasn’t even sure I knew what the movie was about, but I could guess from the title, as I told her I avoided all movies and books that sensationally evoked the darkest side of humanity. I see no point to them, although I’m sure others will vehemently argue their value. I’ve never seen much value in glorifying violence and we all know the adage, “What we feed grows.” I made a vow to myself long ago to grow empowerment over fear in each child, teen, or adult who came to me for guidance.
“How many dead people have you talked to?” another friend asked.
I don’t keep track of numbers like this, and after I reminded them that I wasn’t a medium by profession, I decided to tell them about the visit from the desperate mother. She had been dead only a week or so, but she was already worried about the adult daughters she had left behind. Her human brain, I would later learn, had long lost the ability to coherently remind them of her love, so she had chose to visit me, a somewhat forgotten friend from her daughter’s childhood, before I feel into sleep, to relay what she hadn’t been able to say before she had passed. The story also had an element of mystery. A ring lost to her years of hoarding, stuffed away in a buried box, she needed them to find. Which they did.
While the teenagers wrapped themselves in the intrigue of the story’s mystery, I hoped the were also thinking about how ghosts need not be feared like the ones in their movies.
“I couldn’t live in a house that someone had died in,” someone eventually shared.
So I told them about the man who had died in my children’s first home, before me moved in. Perhaps they were expecting to hear a tale of fright, but instead they heard another tale of love.
“You have complete power over what you let in,” I told them as I started to come to the thesis of my narratives.
They didn’t believe me. At first. But I persisted, even though I could tell I was starting to lose their attention. They were here for ghost stories, after all, and my nudging daughter knew I had an abundance of them.
Instead, we talked about shields of energy and intention, followed by more examples than they cared to hear of how empowered they each were before we finally crawled into our respective beds well past midnight.
I had a feeling they’d sleep well, even though we had spent the night sharing ghost stories.
It was 10am before I heard the first stirrings of movement from the bedrooms downstairs. The cinnamon rolls on the stove had already cooled to room temperature. I lit the flame under the frying pan and began to crack eggs into a bowl to whip them into a scramble.
“Oh that smells good.”
“I’m so hungry.”
“I slept awesome!”
“Me too! Even though I dreamed about ghosts.”
“Yeah so did I! I can’t believe how well I slept.”
Inside I sighed relief. I knew the outcome could have been different, but I was also careful with the scale I had been balancing with each word I let forth from my mouth. There could have been angry texts from parents of scared kids, and any number of unhappy outcomes, but instead I had around me five hungry teenagers eager to go about their day empowered from their night of ghosts.
I had taken a risk when I chose to face fear instead of shoving it back into the darkness. Usually I play the quiet role of the host-mom, choosing to stay in the background, careful not to hover or impose. That night, though, I had been invited to enter the circle around the campfire to play the role of storyteller and I chose to take it. There’s something about campfires. Being out in the night air where the darkness is cut by the flame in the center evokes the desire to tell stories. But not just ordinary stories. The embers stir that which is hidden, calling it to come out and be seen. Heard.
As those five teenagers faced their ghostly fears of the ephemeral world that no longer scared me, my own fears had played through me. My children are at the age of transitioning away from the protection of the hearth fire and the maternal chords are frequently tugged inside of me. Earlier that day, before we gathered around the fire, I had watched from the shore as my daughter and my son struggled to start our boat. Part of me was hoping they wouldn’t be successful, but persistence on their part paid off as they slowly pulled away with friends on board to tube and ski for their first time without an adult on board.
“Stop taking pictures and help me in!” My brave, determined 16-yr-old daughter, who had learned to drive the boat this summer, six months after she got her license to drive a car, was showing me her anxiety about safely docking to unload. And she was showing me she still needed me, albeit with the irritation of a teenager, and so I put the camera down and caught the rope to pull her in.
Before our long day of hiking, Dave and I drove up to Quechee, VT. We stayed at an old farmhouse with a long history. Built in 1793, The Quechee Inn at Marshfield was once the home of Vermont’s first lieutenant governor, Colonel Joseph Marsh. It’s now a lovely inn filled with rooms that hold the charm of its history. I almost wish we had seen a ghost…
After an early three-course dinner complete with wine, we headed out for a walk. Although I was hoping to discover the location of a nearby site purportedly containing ancient stone chambers aligned with the solstices and referred to as “Calendar II” on cryptic websites, it was apparently not meant to be. I am now quite certain it must be on private land, but if anyone reading this knows, I’d love to learn more…
Instead of searching for the illusive stone chambers, Dave and I headed out in search of Quechee Gorge. There is a trail on the road across from the inn that extends 1.4 miles from a pond to the famous gorge.
Mindful of the goose droppings littered throughout the parking lot, we admired Dewey’s Mill Pond quilted with water lilies.
A small trail through tall rushes winds through the waterways of Dewey’s Mill Pond and Ottauquechee River. While we walked, goldfinch flitted across our path and tree spirits quietly watched our passing.
It was an unexpected delight to find our path leading to the magnificent Ottauquechee Dam and Waterfalls.
As you can see from the photo, the water level was not high enough to cause an impressive waterfall from the dam, but the impressive size of the rock face is evident.
Each step of the path from the pond to the foot of the gorge is lined with beauty. Soon after the falls, the trail leads into a forest that only partially hides a sharp descent into the gorge.
At its highest point, the drop from Quechee Gorge is 165 ft. The couple of times I have been here in the past, the gorge and its surrounding areas were filled with tourists. It was a bit surreal and eerie to be alone for most of our walk.
One gets the most impressive feel of the height of the gorge from Quechee Gorge Bridge, which is lined with an arched railing and is posted with suicide prevention hotlines. From the pathway beside it, though, you can get a look at its underside.
Had it been springtime, or had we been in the middle of a very wet summer, the gorge would have looked much different than it did. Although signs warn of sudden rises in water from the release of the dam, we saw only a calm stream in the middle of its rocky bed.
Beyond the rocky bed, the water collects into a pond. Here we saw our first glimpse of visitors since we left the dam. A few teens were out for an evening swim. We left them alone and began our way back to the inn.
It was a lovely way to spend our evening. When it got dark enough, we tried to see the comet, but to no avail.
There’s a pose in EM Yoga that I call the “mother hug.” Lauren Walker, the creator of EM Yoga, refers to it as “cradling the baby.” The pose is simple, in essence. The arms are lifted to the sky, then wrapped around the waist, one crossed over the other. Eyes close while the body gently sways in its own embrace. The first time I hugged myself I wept.
Weeping is a natural side effect to the pose, as Lauren points out. Not many of us love ourselves unconditionally, and the act of self-hugging requires a surrender to this love of the self despite our perceived imperfections. It also requires the willingness to love the self despite not feeling wholly beloved. It’s as profoundly vulnerable as it is healing. The asana represents the element of Earth. The Mother energy.
In the pose, you are both the baby and the mother. You are the beloved and the one who gives love unconditionally.
A couple of weeks ago, I found myself on a (different) massage table inside the belly of a whale. As you may have guessed, it was no ordinary massage. While I lay upon a heated mat of amethyst, crystal bowls sang around me and tuning forks hummed into my cells. I was easily transported, and how I found myself in the belly of a whale, I cannot wholly say, but there I was cradled inside its womb.
I was not merely the baby, I realized, as I lay there listening to whale’s song humming inside each cell of my body. I was the child in the womb, but I was also the mother (whale) who rocked the child within. The mother inside the great mother, swimming in belly of Earth. There was no separation, only union. Three hearts beating as one. I never wanted to leave.
When I was a young child, I fell in love with the song of whales. Around my neck I sometimes wore pewter chiseled into the curve of a humpback whale and listened to recordings of its haunting song echoing through Earth’s waters. Whales pull us back to the womb to feel the unconditional embrace of the Mother.
It seems the whale has returned to me again. A few nights ago I dreamt of a beluga, and since that night it has appeared to me in images each day. When an animal messenger appears to you at least three times, it’s a good idea to pay attention to what it has to tell you.
Beluga whales live in Arctic waters, and perhaps it has appeared to me, in part because I am planning a trip to Iceland. They are white, an unusual color for whales, and are related to the narwhal or “unicorn” whale. They are also related to dolphins and can imitate the human voice. Belugas are fascinating, as all creatures are. And I have been wondering why the one has chosen to appear to me now, and not the beloved humpback whale of my childhood.
There is a solitary nature to humpbacks, which contrasts the more gregarious personality of the beluga. Each time I saw the beluga, in my dream and in the photographs that randomly appeared in the ensuing days, it was raised up vertically, peering at me, as though in greeting. The humpback, in turn, swam through my childhood alone in the dark depths of the ocean, its voice an echo unreturned. As a young child, I felt a kinship to the humpback whale and its song.
Perhaps the beluga is heralding a time of transformation. In my efforts to accept that I will not receive unconditional mother love from my human mother in this lifetime, I have slowly come to the acceptance that the mother love is always within. I am both the mother and the child.
This year has brought another layer of unfolding and acceptance. For the past five years I have made an annual trip to England, a land where I have felt Mother Love like nowhere else. It is a pull that travels though lifetimes, deeply encoded in my cells. Yet, circumstances have unraveled so that a trip this year seems unlikely. I have found myself somewhat surprised that this does not discomfort me more. And, so, I have found myself unwrapping not just the hold of one mother, but of the Mother. Not to reject it, but to feel the knowing that I am whole without the need to be held by the arms of another.
I suspect I am not the only one who finds the “mother hug” as complex as it is simple. I suspect that I am not the only one who has difficulty surrendering to the realization that the beloved is within. Whole and complete. The child and the mother in one form. To wrap your own arms around yourself takes trust in the knowing and a giving into love without conditions. To realize there is no need to look outside, but only within. One hug will not, in all likelihood, render you feeling a complete, unbroken circle. But, perhaps it is worth it once in awhile to give into the physical embrace of the self. To wrap our arms around our wombs and rock the mother and the child whole.
I have been tumbling backwards in my dreams. Returning to homes of childhood and their keepers. It is funny how the mind moves through the body and the body through the mind. There is a cycling through time that is nonlinear. We are spirals like the galaxy that holds us together. We are each tiny universes filled with cells and memories. The past woven into the present, threading into the future, spiraling inward and outward. We are each an ocean, contained and endless. Our waters swallowed into the membranes of our cells in one moment, and expiring in waves back to the stars. We are heaven and earth in one body walking the planes of existence.
Three nights ago, my bare feet found the sands on the edge of the sea. They walked endless shorelines, treading the line between solid ground and the sharp drop back into the vast womb of Mother Earth. My heart a tremble of fear and courage, yet I dared not step into the water. The drop too steep I knew the swallow would be whole. It’s no surprise that the Mother returned in other forms in subsequent nights as the ocean found containment inside the throat. Words still searching for air. How frustrating the spiral can be.
As the year turns into a new calendar, there is the calling to shed the worn, tired skins we wear. There is the calling to strip bare and return to the womb to rebirth the self new and fresh. Yet birth is rarely painless, nor is it usually easy. It takes concerted effort, a fair bit of strength, and a willing letting go.
I have been thinking of the excuses I hold tight inside the spiral. This false feeling of security in the futile hope that no more pain will ensue. No one really desires pain, yet the heart builds a fortress that splinters in the tearing down. Birth is always easiest when there is no resistance to battle through.
I think, perhaps, I should have dove headfirst into those dream waters, or let the feet follow the suck of the sand into the liquid abyss. Only then would I have known if the drowning would have swallowed my breath, or gave it back. Complete surrendering of our fears comes with trust, and the acceptance that death, in some form, will occur.
It is always, though, a love story. The question is, do we make it conditional, or unconditional?
When my children began approaching the dreaded years of adolescence, aptly marked by the death card in Tarot, I began to count my blessings. Look what I avoided, I thought. And, look what I saved myself from…
Like my own children, I wanted to be popular. I wanted to be liked and admired, and I was, until I wasn’t. One dance changed my life forever, and like many teenagers who plunge from the peak of popularity into the grimy sludge at the bottom of the social ladder, I thought my life was ruined forever.
Who doesn’t want to be popular? Who doesn’t want to be liked? Even as adults, we can struggle against the ideal of the outer, while neglecting the inner. Forgetting that to be liked for some superficial ideal does not fill the fountain of unconditional love.
Last night I found myself struggling for words to show my sixteen-year-old daughter that there is a freedom that can be found when you shed the desire to be admired for some outer ideal that someone else has defined for you. That when you strip away the layers of makeup and pretense, you allow your true self to shine through. I struggled, in part, because when I looked into her eyes, I saw a part of myself I still recognized.
In the reflection of my daughter’s tears, I saw the familiar face of fear. How could I show her, I wondered, that beneath fear there is strength, when I had not wholly found it within myself? As I sat opposite her on the couch, I began to call into question my own beliefs. Suddenly, I was not so sure that I had been fortunate to have found and walked, early in my adolescence, the path of the straight and narrow. I wasn’t sure I was lucky, because instead of following my own inner compass, I had followed the road-signs of rules defined through fear.
Sure, it was true I had, in the process of walking this path, avoided the clutches of promiscuity, drugs, and alcohol. I had avoided STDs, teenage pregnancy, and the wild loss of control of being drunk. Yet, as I looked into my daughter’s eyes, I realized that in that process of avoidance of the forbidden, I had held on tighter to fear than my truth.
I feared so greatly my world falling apart while growing up, that the only thing I could do was follow rules set by someone else in order to feel a tenuous steady state of security. Every time I started to veer off the course defined for me, I feared the rage of my stepfather and the loss of love of my mother.
My childhood was not conventional. I grew up in homes where marijuana was secretly grown, smoked, and shared under the radar of the law. I lived in a constant fear of the discovery of my parents’ many secrets to such a degree that I had no desire to break the law myself. Or most rules for that matter. I never really and truly played the role of the rebellious teenager because of fear.
Conditional love comes with great costs. My daughter has already discovered this. When I began speaking up to my parents when my children were young, she learned the rules of conditional love. She has lost a step-grandfather and a grandmother, not through death, but through conditions. I finally broke the rules and began speaking and living in alignment with my truth, and she, along with others, suffered the consequences. Many who read this will recognize how this pattern works. Truth often comes at the cost of great loss. As I looked into my daughter’s eyes, I understood the pain that she struggled with. How much she wanted to avoid losing the social foundation she had built under her feet. And, I also understood, in that moment, that although I was disappointed with my daughter’s behavior, I needed to set that aside and remind her that I loved her. Now, and always.
As I try to navigate the role of mother to teenagers, I call into question whether my “straight and narrow path” saved me from anything aside from danger to my physical body. I now walk on quicksand, unsure. How can I truly understand the need or desire to test the limits of freedom when I chose, early on, to hold myself in constraints?
I find myself in the role of parent, but also child. My daughter, seeking guidance from me, while I learn through her. She is living the role that I never did. Bold and defiant. Daring to break rules and stretch limits as she seeks to find out who she really is. How can I tell her not to break the rules if I don’t wholly understand the feeling of freedom?
At 46 years old I am feeling more limitless than I ever have before. Even as a young child. You see, I never had the freedom of a child unbounded by constraints. And, that is okay. One cannot change the past, and nor does one have to. The freedom to allow the self to break through the barriers of restrictions is not conditional to time, place, or age. It is, simply, you allowing yourself to be you. To really get to know the you that resides inside the outer representation of the self, and come home to that realization with joy.
“Whatever you’re doing. Keep doing it. You look good. I can tell you feel good,” were the words of a friend of mine as she left my morning yoga class. She also heard my words filled with fear one month ago.
“Do you fly a lot in your dreams?” another friend asked me a few days ago after she heard about my latest flying dream. There was a wistful note to her words, and I could see the look of longing in her eyes when I told her, “Yes.”
Many adults can remember flying in their dreams at night when they were children. I don’t. My flying dreams came later, in a steady regularity, after my own children were born. Their births, you could say, birthed my own inner child. But, it’s a been a slow birthing. It has not been smooth and effortless, and it certainly has not happened over night.
I chose the picture I did to introduce this post because to me it is symbolic of the myriad boxes we can choose to carry around in our lives and try to fit ourselves into. There’s not just one, but for most of us there are many. The box of the perfect child. The perfect spouse. The perfect mother, father, sister, brother, grandparent, student, athlete, coworker, employer…you get the picture. So many boxes to contain the essence that is you. Shaped not by your own will, but the will you have given away to another.
Yet, we are not meant to live inside the confines of a box, nor are we meant to jump from one box into another depending upon circumstances. Although we reside in a physical body for a limited amount of time, we are limitless beings here to experience the essence of our truths. We are here to grow and evolve into being. To love and to move, ever more freely into the breath of joy.
The boxed self might conform to a specific ideal, but it is never your truth. When we close in the sides and seal the edges, the light inside is trapped. In an effort to constantly please and conform to a false ideal that is not our own, you not only suffer, the world suffers. Herein lies the irony of the “perfect” self. Although we may believe otherwise, no one is served by the confines of limitations. The free soul living in truth shines with a brightness that ripples through time, space, and age. It is never too late to become it. It is never too late to step out of the box and fly.
Go ahead, give it a try. Imagine your self as a limitless being. Feel it, see it, know it. Joy is yours to find. Reach inside and grab ahold of it. Then, let it go. Feel the expansion that is you. Wholly and completely. Let self limiting believes slip away with the breath. Let old restrictions free their tangle until only you remain. Breathe into that light that is you and know it as truth. Take a good look at you and remember who you are, so when you forget, you can bring it back.
I was a little apprehensive when I agreed to teach a fall yoga series outdoors, continuing the summer mornings in the field into the chilly lazy dawn of autumn. Cold is not something I relish, and thoughts of ice-tipped blades of grass pulled me inward to the comfort of the hearth fire. Yet, I have found that agreeing to walk the path of potential discomfort often yields the greatest and most unexpected rewards. As the heart opens to trust, magic unfolds. And so, after a brief interlude of transition, Tuesday morning yoga in the field continued at 8:30am.
The sun crests the canopy of pines ever more slowly as the days shorten in length. Unlike during our summer classes when we nestled into the far corner to avoid the boiling sun, on the first day of our fall session we laid our mats near the parking lot in the hopes of catching the first rays whenever they chose to stretched their languid arms over the tree line. There were just three of us, a trinity of yogis. Where were the others on the list? I wondered until I let worry give way to the flow of the elements and the dance of the body that is yoga took over.
Midway through class, we straightened our spines into balanced as the sun broke the cold of the morning to bring its golden face above our crowning bodies. It was not planned, yet perfectly timed. In these moments, time stills as we open to the embrace that is life. It is beautiful to bear witness, and even more beautiful to take part. One cannot help but breathe more deeply into the space of joy and the knowing that the self has been brought out of the shadows into unity. Separation slips way and division dissolves. In the imperfection of the individual dance, once finds the perfection of Life.
We are now three weeks into our fall session, and each Tuesday I wake to meet the habit of reluctance as I check the weather through the gray light of the waking dawn. Donning the increase of layers on all but my feet, I sink into the knowing that my soles will soon meet the bracing grass. I don’t know what will await me, but so far I have been lucky. Frost has not yet spread ice over the land.
I like to arrive at the field down the road from my house early, allowing for the quiet stillness of solitude as I drink in the morning air. Realizing, as I stand amid a frame of pines and listen to the soft pulse of nature around me, that I would likely not be outside at this hour practicing yoga if I had not said yes to another class in the field. Realizing, that instead I would probably be sitting with my computer on my lap, occasionally looking out at, but not a part of, the natural world surrounding me.
Our yoga classes are full now, after the first week of transitions and coming back to the fall of routine. We form a semicircle of unity, each bringing our individual light to the breaking dawn and finding warmth in companionship as we stretch our bodies into heat. Inevitably, the sun rises over the treetops at the moment when our faces lift to feel its warmth. Nothing is preplanned as destiny takes over. Yesterday, in our moment of raising our eyes toward the blue beyond, a flock of two dozen geese or more flew overhead. They were flying low, having just come from the pond below, bringing the element of water to the sky as we stood upon the earth and and warmed our skins to the sun’s fiery rays. You don’t get moments like this indoors inside four walls with windows and a floor that separates the individual from the pulse of the living planet.
There was lingering yesterday, as we rolled mats and folded blankets. There was reluctance to put on shoes and hoist our belongings back to our cars to resume our separate lives. Pairs formed to talk while the cells on the surface of skin drank in the sun’s warmth. No one was in a hurry to return to the daily actions of the mundane. For a few more moments the living, breathing present was embraced as the gift it is, always open to be received.
The air is thick with the dying breath of summer. It is holding on before its final surrender. For several weeks, it seemed as though fall had arrived early. Heralding its victory over the fiery season by banishing the heat in mid August. Today, though, it has made a retreat. Or has it asked summer for one final chance to play the game, knowing that it will soon be declared the victor, once again?
This inevitable dance of the elements cycles with the ever-turning wheel of life. Our bodies spin with the seasons, and we can resist or we can give way to the spiral journey. I am not sure I could live comfortably without the outer world mirroring the inner. My body is used to the seasons. I was birthed in the element of earth, but water is where I find home. Winter always calls me back to the inner, but before it does, I must heed the gifts of the seasons that come before it.
Summer’s abundance can overwhelm those that are comfortable in stillness, yet it can also spur us into action. The embers of stagnation are stirred back to life as new growth moves its tendrils into the light. The kinetic energy is fired up and things get done. This summer, I passed the days carting teenagers around, teaching a couple of yoga classes, and working on our home and gardens. I made eleven photo albums. Memories of every family trip we’ve taken outside of New Hampshire are now nestled into the shelves in our living room. I also painted. And sanded. Ten doorframes and six doors that were once stained a deep brown are now brightly donning one layer of primer and two of paint. There is a palpable shift in the energy of our home. And in me. Darkness has moved out of the comfort of shadows.
My birthday arrives in the final weeks of summer, at the time when school starts up again and there is the return of routine. I don’t actually like my birthday. It’s not the getting older that draws reluctance and melancholy, but rather the memory of rejection. Each year, at this time, I am reminded of my yearning to be beloved.
I felt the pull of fall early this year, around the same time its breath of victory filled the air outside. Before my birthday, I dreamt of levitation. The weightless freedom of no gravity. I lifted my body with ease off the ground, and brought others up with me. One by one, I felt their weight before I urged its release. “See,” I told them, “how easy it is to let go.” Earths, by nature, care for others more than their selves.
When my birthday came and went, I realized I had not let go fully of the weight that would be free. I recalled the frog from the same dream, and how it had clung to my skirt like a parasite. Transformation is often sticky. We must remove the glue from the habits that hold us down before we can lift those wings into a new realm of living. We must understand that only we can choose the release. That we must die to the old to give way to freedom.
The pictures I have from my birthday don’t reflect the day after. The mourning that came after the heavy weight had settled back in. They don’t reflect the struggle with rage and grief as the old pattern tore free in a messy release.
We like to see the beauty of fall, forgetting it is also ugly. Summer’s flames burn the leaves into brilliance before they curl into brittle shades of brown. The last of the ripened fruit that is not consumed for nourishment and more growth, turns mottled and moldy as it slowly decays back into the ground.
The return to Earth to be re-birthed requires a decay. The transformation of what once was must give way to what will be. The seed that comes forth from the decayed body of the fruit does not see the light that it reaches for. It simply trusts that it is there. It knows that one day, as it is feeding and growing, it will break through the darkness to feel it.
Yesterday, I had a woman I barely know over for tea. During our conversation, she told me that when she looked at me she could see the beauty of the work I have done to heal. So I told her about my birthday. Not to refute her, but to show her that I am not done yet. That perhaps I never will be, at least in this life. This is, after all, why each of us are here. To walk the wheel in the spiral inward, back to the light that we are. We might walk it in spurts. We might linger long in the shadows, but the wheel, like the seasons, will keep urging us to turn into the return.
My new friend also told me she could tell that I loved myself, a reflection of this inner work. It is not easy, always, to be our own beloved. To truly love the dark and the light. It is, though, necessary. We can search endlessly for our ideal of the beloved outside of us, and to hope to be beloved by another, but the one true, complete beloved, must always come from within.