The West

Hatred glitters like polished obsidian funeral beads. A sharp and brittle shining jet-black shell. Its sharp edges cut. The hating heart wants to be cut, slashed with razor blades until every scrap of vulnerable human heart flesh is gone. Cut away to leave rib bones clean white, shining, curving open to empty cavern. A bowl of emptiness. Nothing left to steal.

The portal to peace is empty space. Heel turned sharply to walk away. Mid sentence. Words fall into the emptiness. Approximation. The real beloved awaits in the vast stillness on the other side of emptiness. Yes! Cut away and annihilate these false lovers. Sucking leeches stealing power. Dissolve into the black crystal waters of the night.

The west is the looks-within place. There is much that can be explored here. Issues of hatred and power. Questions of identity. Who am I? This is the question of the adolescent, and adolescence also lives in the west part of the wheel. The element is earth—think of a bear hibernating, earthing in her den. Darkness. The fall. The guardian of the west is the anima or animus. For a woman, initially it is her father’s view of her that she needs to wrestle with, to see through how she has been patterned by this view. Is it true? Who is she really? For a man, it is his mother’s view of him that guards the doorway to the west.

One exercise for exploring issues of the west is to take a night walk. Maybe even sing to your inner man or woman. Woo him or her. Once the parent’s wishes have been worked with, the inner figure of the opposite gender can become our lover—our true love. I don’t know how this inner lover plays out for gays, lesbians, and people of other genders than the usual two. The west would be an area to explore these questions, though. Who am I?

Another exercise for looking into the blackness of the west is to find a hole in nature and spend a few hours looking into it. If you dare, put your face right in it. I sought out a badger hole for this purpose on my last vision fast. It was clearly abandoned, fringed with cobwebs. I still didn’t dare put my face in it. I sat there a while. A big black beetle, almost two inches long, with legs an inch long, crawled out of the hole. Another beetle was crawling around on the sandy bottom. This exercise is bullshit, I thought. I want to see a badger. I spit in the hole. The beetle drank some of the spit.

Monkey Valley Accommodations

Monkey Valley log cabin overlooking creekThe Monkey Valley Retreat Centre has a log cabin with a wood-burning stove and open cooking-dining-living space. There is a 3-bedroom addition built onto the log cabin, which can accommodate up to 6 sleepers in beds and cots.

There is plenty of space for camping, and there is also sleeping space in the 5,000 square-foot barn. (Bring your own camping gear.) The top floor of the barn is a 1,200 square-foot open room with a wood stove for heat. This room can be used as a meeting space during inclement weather, and the wood floors are ideal for yoga.

Large groups can camp or sleep in barnThe facilities at Monkey Valley include outhouses and heated showers. There is also an old-fashioned claw-foot bathtub overlooking green meadows and the valley below.

The food at the retreat centre is delicious, healthy, nutritionally complete vegetarian fare, including eggs and dairy. Ingredients are organic when available. Please let us know if you have special dietary needs when you register. There are several campfire pits for marshmallow toasting and night-time gatherings.

Heated meeting space is perfect for yogaMountain evenings can get chilly here, even in the summertime. If you are camping, bring an insulated pad to sleep on (such as a thermarest) and a sleeping bag rated to -10° C. It is unlikely to be that cold, but this rating will keep you toasty at night!

For more pictures of the log cabin interior, see this virtual tour.

Wild women run

Wild women runOn a vision fast last year I claimed my big, wild woman self.

But desert ritual is just the beginning of integrating a new identity that goes counter to the training to be my parents’ obedient, pretty girl, smiling for the camera. And counter to our society’s messages about what women are supposed to be: compassionate, loving, quiet, small. There isn’t much room for wild women. But luckily, we have the strength and power to make room. To stand up, speak out. Anyway, I am still learning to let my wild woman run free.

I was at a half marathon on Sunday, and she ran with me. She shouted out “Woohoo, 10K!” at the half-way mark. And I heard a woman behind me tell her female friend “She’s got way too much energy.”

I know suppressive bullshit when I hear it, and this comment made me mad. Mad enough to beat my previous time by 8 minutes. Mad enough to run harder than I’ve ever run. Which is one way to use that energy.

But is this what a wild woman would do?

My wild woman shouted Replacements song lyrics when they popped into her head. At first, when these lyrics arose, she kept it to herself. But after the 10K mark, she’d had enough of suppressing her fun life energy. She shouted out “Take me down, to the hospital!” at the medics in the ambulance at the side of the road. And “Red light, red light, run it. Ain’t nobody watching, run it!”

And each time she broke the rules, stood out from the crowd, let herself express what was moving through her, a new surge of energy propelled her on. Real strength. Real expansion, right through the top of her head. Right into the quiet simplicity of nothingness.

My exploration into what it means to be a wild woman continues. For the record, she did it in 2:00:28!