I walked the land and walked the wheel today. I’ve been wanting to do a ceremony at the wheel since my last visit a few weeks ago, when I received a very special message in which a spirit guardian of this land blessed me to move on and leave the land in his care. Yesterday I showed the property to a couple who are preparing for a major lifestyle change to move from the city to the country. It was a wonderful afternoon, visiting with these great folks, telling stories about the land, and hearing about their hopes and dreams. They spent some time walking around on their own, and some time with me as tour guide. Sadly, they turned down my offer of homemade brownies, so I’ve been eating them all myself!
So this morning I headed down towards the medicine wheel. I first came to my little personal wheel, which feels like one of those small altars that people pray at to prepare themselves for visiting a major shrine. There was that sense of sacred preparation, as I stopped at the little wheel. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to do; whether I’d even walk the big wheel. But I brought some sage and matches along, with the intention of performing some kind of ceremony.
When I got to the personal wheel, I had to smile, for I could see that yesterday’s visitors had aligned the stones, which frequently become misaligned due to animals stepping on the wheel, or perhaps little insects, or even the wind blowing. The wheel had a slightly new configuration. At first I was going to put it back the old way, but then I realized, no, this new way is right. I accepted the change as something the new owners would do, and that it is time to let the change happen. So I guess you could say the sale was definitely on my mind. I decided to smudge myself and the wheel and offer a prayer here for the change. I lit the sage, and smudged myself from head to toe, then offered the sacred smoke to the spirits of the seven directions.
Kneeling before the wheel, I thanked the spirit guardian for his message to me, and spoke what was in my heart about selling the land. Why my guidance was telling me it was time to move on—to create a solid foundation for myself in Vancouver, so I can focus more of my energy on developing, growing, and bringing my gifts to the earth and my people. That I can’t afford the money or energy to keep two homes going, and I have clarity that I want to be in the city. The certainty that I choose Vancouver over Monkey Valley has not wavered since I first was able to admit it, around 2008 when I noticed my joy when returning to Vancouver, and reluctance to go back to Monkey Valley at the end of my visits to the city. I have checked in with my heart frequently since then, to see whether that feeling has changed, but it hasn’t. I’ve become more clear about it.
But it is always hard to let go of something we love, so part of my process had been to start to turn my heart away from Monkey Valley. Now I noticed that this movement had softened. As I knelt before the wheel I acknowledged my love for the land and my appreciation for the many gifts I have received. I reflected on my journey of healing and growth that has unfolded while I’ve lived here. My life has opened up in so many ways while I lived here. I learned to connect with nature in a new way, I went to Naropa and got my master’s in ecopsychology, I became a vision fast guide, and I learned about the medicine wheel. I also became a yoga teacher while I lived here, and became involved with various groups that advocate for protecting the wilderness. I did the Bearing Witness retreat at Auschwitz, and brought healing for my family’s multi-generational suffering through that work and through some of the wilderness work. This makes me cry now, seeing how much my heart has softened and expanded while I’ve lived here, to be able to turn towards healing others’ suffering as well as my own. [Pause to get tissue.]
And of course the biggest change in my life, which informs all of these other changes, is that after buying Monkey Valley I resumed being a student of the Diamond Approach. This morning I was reading the chapter on the pearl in John Davis’s The Diamond Approach: An Introduction to the Teachings of A. H. Almaas. The pearl is the personal, unique, individual part of our true nature. The part of us that grows and develops as we integrate life’s experiences, our impressions of our essence, and our understanding. No doubt the reading impacted my train of thought as I knelt at the wheel, for I could feel how I have integrated these many things I’ve been talking about into my soul. I was also shaped by the various struggles and challenges on the land, like how to prevent the water from freezing in the winter, what to do when a tree changed position and was now blocking the road, and all the various aspects of polishing this rough diamond into the beautiful place that it is. Plus the inner challenges of living alone in the wilderness, with lots of time for facing myself. The various inner and outer challenges have helped me to develop my will, steadfastness, courage, strength, and confidence. As well as the heart qualities I mentioned earlier.
After reflecting on these many gifts that have shaped me during the past 13 years, I thanked the land and the spirits of the land. Then I turned my attention to my wish for the new owners, whoever they might be, that they will be equally blessed. That they will be able to appreciate the land, and be impacted by it the way that I have. It seemed to me this could already be happening, through the simple act of placing some small stones in a circle. I felt a light basic trust that things will unfold in the perfect way. My final wish, of course, was that this land be protected and cared for, and all the creatures who live here. May it be so.
This seemed very complete and fulfilling, and I had only gone a few hundred yards from the house! So I continued down the valley, stopping now and then to take pictures of things that I saw. Soon after the medicine wheel I came to a viewpoint where I could see the beaver lodge where the beavers who have shaped the valley live. As I continued southward down the path, I saw a little tree stump that had been carved by beaver teeth. I’d marvelled at this stump with some earlier visitors to the land. This time I noticed nearby the full tree that belonged to the stump. It was dragged a little distance away. It is truly amazing what a beaver can do!
Then a little further down the path I came upon a beaver skeleton, which yesterday’s visitors had discovered. I looked at the bones with interest. There was the spine and rib cage, and a little further down the path the jaw bone and teeth. The beaver’s spine curves differently than the human spine. This was very interesting to see. Because we spend much of our time upright, our upper back curves out towards the back, whereas the beaver’s spine seems to keep curving towards the front of the body in the chest. I wonder if that’s better for swimming and for walking on all fours. The beaver’s front teeth were quite amazing—almost an inch long, and yellow, with very sharp edges. There are four molars on either side of the two front teeth, and their pattern is very interesting. I wonder if this particular beaver was quite old and so its molars were worn down more than usual, or if all beavers’ teeth look like this.
Since it was a day of ceremony, I brought out the sage and smudged the bones, and said a blessing for the beaver’s spirit, and the spirits of the family it leaves behind. I felt a sense of wonder for how the beavers have shaped this land. Since I have lived here they have carved out many new channels of water along the creek, and they control the creek level meticulously, through their ceaseless labours of cutting down trees and branches and reinforcing the dams. They seem to be tireless workers. It has been wonderful to learn about them through seeing the results of their efforts over the years. I reflected that the beaver is a symbol of Canada, and this made me feel proud of our country too.
Presently as I continued down the path I came to the full-sized medicine wheel. I walked around it in the usual clock-wise fashion, pausing at each of the directions. I saw the stones that my friend Keith had placed on a stump near the north door of the wheel. He had only placed the white, yellow, and red stones on the stump. I set them in their proper places, and found a piece of black bark to complete the fourth direction. I wondered what it was about the west that he missed that stone. Was that what he was working on, that summer we all built the wheel? I paused to notice little things near the wheel, like some hidden violets. They reminded me of the Arabic word sirr, which means secret. And there was a lone brave mushroom pushing up through the grass.
I wasn’t sure until now, but I decided I did want to walk the wheel to mark this transition time. I paused to ask about which doorway to enter the wheel from. I realized it is still spring, as the summer solstice is occurring next Friday. The east, the direction of spring, is associated with death and rebirth. That seemed fitting for marking a transition, so I decided to enter through that door, which is the traditional doorway for entering the wheel. Usually I make an offering of sage smoke before walking the wheel. I reached into my bag for the sage, but all that was left was burnt stems. I decided to make an offering of the stems, and walked the wheel from east to south, west, north, and back to east, leaving a stem at each direction and the between-directions.
Arriving again at the east doorway, I greeted the spirits of the seven directions, and thanked them for watching over this land. I invited them to be with me as I walked the wheel. Then I stepped into the east. I straightened a branch that marked the edge of the east pathway toward the center of the wheel, and then sat cross-legged, facing the doorway. Since I had already spent time at the small wheel, I felt my mind was now empty, so I didn’t need to bring any particular issue or question into the wheel. I was open to just being still and silent, and seeing what would come.
I sat in the east with my eyes closed, sensing my connection to the earth I was sitting on, and listening to the birdsong all around. I straightened a little until it felt like my spine was in alignment over my sitting bones. I felt open and spacious, and realized that there was no pain in my neck. It has been sore frequently over the past few months, since a minor car accident. I had noticed a pattern in which I felt pain-free and aligned after a session with my chiropractor or massage therapist, but then the pain would come back after certain activities. Just last week I decided to try an EMDR session to see if there was some trauma stored in the nervous system from the accident, which was speaking to me through this recurring pain. My EMDR therapist had taught me a technique for filling my neck with white healing light and then allowing it to make the micro-movements it needed for its own healing. I had done this the past two days, and as I sat in the wheel I felt that the EMDR work has been effective, I can wrap up the work with the chiro, and after a few more weeks of massage, wrap up the ICBC claim. All of this went through my mind very quickly, and I came to the part about settling the claim, and a friend’s advice that ICBC has to pay for my full medical bills, though they are only paying about 25% right now. My friend said that if I discuss bringing a lawyer on board, I will be able to get the full payment that they owe me because it is no-fault insurance. I have felt a reluctance to tangle with ICBC and get into some kind of adversarial situation that could bring negative energy into my life. As I sat in the wheel I decided I would just ask my adjuster for the full reimbursement and see what she said. Hmm, as I type this I am noticing some tension in my neck—I’d better pause and do the neck stretches my chiro recommended! Clearly just the thought of dealing with ICBC brings tension!
So that seemed like a complete wisdom that came to me unbidden from the east, about my healing and wrapping up the claim and various treatments. Perhaps moving from the “death” of the accident to the “rebirth” of the healing and moving on. Feeling complete in the east, I thanked the spirits and walked to the center, bowed to the space in the center of the wheel, and then walked into the pathway of the south. Here I greeted the spirits of the south, and took my seat once more. I reflected on the qualities of the south—the place of summer, of the child, of the red, and of the mouse—close to the ground and seeing all the details. This reminded me of looking at the mushroom and the violets, and how I am feeling like the mouse right now, connected to the intimate details. I also had a flash that the system of the four directions has a correspondence to the four centers we use in the Diamond Approach, and probably other systems use as well—the body (belly center), heart, mind, and the moh (the fourth center, which opens above the head once the lower three centers are open and integrated). It occurred to me that the south could be associated with the belly center, the west with the heart, north with head, and east with the moh.
As I focused on my belly center, it came into my mind that the south is the place for lovemaking—the lusty passion of the red. And I thought about various men I have been dating recently. I re-entered the dating world in April with an openness and not-knowing—open to possibilities, and letting go of some of my preconceived ideas of what my partner must be like. As I considered the men I have met, I had a sense of integrating some new learnings that have occurred through my interactions with them. A wonderful hand massage came to mind, and how blissful (orange pleasure) the experience was. It was a lived, direct experience of how two people can communicate through touch. A lovely thing to learn. What the spirit of the south said was “when you meet the one who is right for you, you will know it.” I was clear that I don’t have that knowing yet. But it seemed like the time in the south had ended with a clear message, and it was time to move on. I thanked the spirits of the south, walked toward the center, and then into the west.
I had seen the stones of the west when I entered from the east. This is an interesting aspect of working with the wheel—there is a west of the east, and an east of the west. They call to each other and resonate along the axis they form. I have always felt a special connection with the west, and I have also done some very powerful, magical work in the east. That pole seems more lit up for me than the north-south axis. So I had a feeling of coming home as I entered the west. The looks-within place. The black. The darkness of going into the depths of the psyche. What richness!
I sat cross-legged, and greeted the spirits of the west. This time, as I sat with an empty mind, I focused my sensing in my heart center. (Trying out this new idea that there is a correspondence between the four directions and the four centers.) I had the feeling that I needed to lie down on the ground. I moved a branch back to the side of the path, and stretched out with my feet towards the west doorway and my head towards the center of the wheel. I felt myself relaxing into the support of being held by the earth. I opened my eyes to look at the sky, and saw a partial parahelic circle around the sun. Oh my god! As I watched, it formed into a complete circle around the sun. The edges of the ring around the sun were golden and orange. What a miraculous blessing! As I laid there, sensing my heart, it filled with warm golden honey, and I had a sense of blessings pouring down on me from the sun. I was tasting the sweetness of my nature, and the sun was participating by showing me to myself. I knew, through the direct experience of tasting my sweetness, that this was me. I alternated between looking at the circle around the sun, the tree that was partly screening the sun itself so I could look at it with one eye, and then closing my eyes and sensing the blessings pouring down and the honey sweetness of my nature. When it seemed the knowing was complete, I sat up. I opened my eyes again and saw a small black stone, flat and smoothed by water, right beside me on the ground. I remembered placing the stone there some time ago. I picked it up and it was hot from the sun, like a living creature. I flashed on the missing black stone from Keith’s arrangement, and thought maybe I would put it there. But it seemed that the stone was coming with me to remind me of the gift of the west. (Which, you may have noticed, contained the golden sun of the east!) I put the stone in my pocket, and thanked the spirits of the west. My heart felt very full as I walked toward the center of the wheel, and then entered the pathway of the north.
I gazed towards the north, and greeted the spirits of the north. I smoothed away some grass that was covering one of the white doorway stones in the north, and then I sat down cross-legged facing the doorway. This time I opened to experiencing through the head center. I focused on the third eye in the middle of my forehead, and opened my awareness into emptiness. Immediately thoughts and insights started to flow. The first was the confusion between north and west, white and black, because in the system of the lataif, white would be the belly center (solar plexus) and the head center is black. I just let that confusion go, as it seemed it was not useful in trying to map all these systems together. I thought of my phone call yesterday with my mom, and how she had commented that I have shared a lot about my changing home situations with her over the past few years. It seemed natural that there would be a deep connection between mom and home in the psyche. She has helped me with my past two moves in Vancouver, and she reminded me during the phone call of how I helped her with a recent move. In the psyche it seemed home and identity are very closely related, and since mom is linked with the earliest sense of self and of home, naturally she would be a part of that. Then I reflected on how dad is also linked to home—literally with Monkey Valley, as my inheritance from him helped me to buy it. But then also that he is part of the earliest memories of home. Then I reflected on the beaver and home, and how the beaver’s activity is all focused on building and regulating its home. I imagined that the beaver worked itself to death maintaining its home, and I reflected how I wish to have a sense of ease about the security of my home. I don’t want to work another 20 years to pay the mortgage. (Well, who does? LOL.) Knowing that the early impressions of mom, dad, and home create the structured sense of self that becomes the ego identity, and which is only a partial truth about who and what we are, I am wondering what is true about my beliefs about home and my need for a certain kind of home for a foundation in the world. It seems I have had a fixed belief about this, which keeps me stuck in a certain way. Additional insight arises (as it so often does) as I write about this. For this particular question it feels like an openness to not knowing and to discovery. That feels like a spacious freedom in my mind, and at the same time I feel a pulsing in the third eye like the diamond guidance is operating there, ready to shine like a miner’s light on anything I look at.
As I sat in the direction of the north, I looked north again, towards the house that has been my home at Monkey Valley. An additional insight arose, that I have integrated the ways of working with nature and the Diamond Approach ways of working into my soul. It is hard to describe in words, but there was a sense that the many things that opened up to me as I learned about them while living at Monkey Valley, these ways of learning and being, are part of who I am now. I will carry them wherever I go (unless it is time to stop carrying them, I suppose!). I don’t need to live here to have these ways of knowing. It is truly okay to move on. I won’t be losing what I have gained here. This seemed to be the final gift of the north, the final insight.
I felt complete in the north after various insights about home, parents, beavers, and this deeper understanding about how I have integrated and metabolized the teachings of the land into my soul. I thanked the spirits of the north, walked to the center, and paused there to thank the beloved mystery of my heart, the center of the wheel, the seventh direction. I felt a sense of being at the center of my experience and radiating out in all directions, and saw the sun was still raining blessings down upon the wheel. I walked along the pathway of the east, thanked the spirits there again, and then stepped out of the wheel through the doorway of the east. I felt very complete, quiet, content, and fulfilled as I walked clockwise around the wheel to go back to the path.
As I continued my walk I was struck with wonder about the simplicity and wisdom of the medicine wheel. How spending time being open and receptive has brought guidance from each of the four directions every time I have walked the wheel. It occurred to me that the wheel serves as a method for focusing awareness, using the perspectives of each of the four directions, to gain understanding. Like pulling information from an amorphous mass of undifferentiated knowledge, and letting concrete understanding emerge from the four particular perspectives.
It’s more than that though, because nature definitely plays a role. Nature participates in the unfolding or revelation. Through the influence of all the myriad creatures all around who are part of the wheel; the grass and flowers and weeds, the stones and branches and dirt, trees and pinecones, birds, wind, sky, clouds. All of these impress upon the soul, at just the right moment, to aid in the understanding and in the delivery of the messages. And I also feel that the presence of the natural world helps the person walking the wheel to open up to receive the understanding. Nature opens us and softens us.
Thank you, Dorrie, for all the support you gave me while I learned and grew here. And for the green shirt I am wearing today.
May all you readers know the blessing of connecting to nature and your true nature.