(The beginning of this series starts here )
This summer I spent a few days with my brother and sister-in-law who live a stone’s throw from the Gulf of Mexico. The trip was their gift to me. We hadn’t seen each other in many years and had only a few days together. We spent our days in deep and quiet conversation. They also shared the abundance of the natural world that speaks to them and which gives them their connection and sense of place.
Each of us has lived a life of wide and varied experience. Listening, as we each spoke of navigating in these often turbulent waters, I understood the beauty in transparency. It allows the light to shine through…
The way in which the dialogues began was relatively subtle. There was nothing dramatic to announce their beginning. The opportunity for dialogue slipped in one day as if I’d asked a question that could be answered. What preceded the advent of the dialogues however, was a circuitous route through a serpentine path of personal healing.
For ten years prior to the dialogues, I had been homesteading on a densely wooded piece of land in the Finger Lakes Area of Western New York State. It was rough, riddled with springs, deep woods, and had never been developed due to its difficult and varied terrain. While homesteading I had been in intimate daily relationship with nature as I worked the land. It was a place of opportunity and safety for me as I began to open and begin to heal the sublimated wounds of a violent rape I had experienced twelve years earlier while living in the California Bay Area.
A serial rape, I was one of many. The rapist was never caught and although not named, I was in the news a number of times since I was the only one of his “victims” with children. I learned what it is like to become a cultural statistic. Perhaps it was the time. Perhaps it was the place. Perhaps it was a matter of circumstance or all of these, but I was immediately confronted with the stigma of rape. I didn’t know whether to be more stunned by the rapist or at nearly everyone’s surprising reaction. Though confusing, it was an eye opener. It became apparent that being vulnerable, or showing vulnerability, was similar to having a contagious disease no one wanted to catch, so I held tight and carried on. My daughters had both been toddlers with the needs of small children, my family lived thousands of miles away, and the crime had repercussions in my marriage and among our friends and neighbors. Life was complicated and I made the choice to give these concerns my attention. I felt that I had navigated my own response to the rape privately and well.
While living on the land however, I began having chronic respiratory problems. A wisdom tooth had been surgically extracted from my sinus cavity and wasn’t healing properly which then led to a chronic low grade infection. Simultaneously I also began having the symptoms of PTSD, which wasn’t clearly understood yet, and information about it was not readily available. I often had lucid dreams that began to feel invasive, and was disturbed and disconcerted one afternoon to experience a fever induced trance state which I knew was connected to the dreams. Even though I was seeing both dentists and specialists, this wasn’t something I felt comfortable taking to the medical profession and I was at a loss as to how to navigate in these unexpected and confusing realms, or understand their connection or significance. I knew a bit about transpersonal psychology though and recognized my PTSD symptoms were a spiritual crisis. Instinctively I knew that I needed somewhere I would be able to address this spiritually. However, I hadn’t yet connected any of this with the incident in California.
I read about a Native American Elder in our local paper and, considering that he might be more spiritually open to the combination of things I was experiencing, had sought his assistance. Through the Native American ceremony of the sweat lodge, I finally understood that my sublimated feelings concerning the experience of rape and its cultural repercussions was the cause of my spiritual crisis and I was able to address the range of emotions I carried from having experienced sexual trauma. Having retreated to the land with agoraphobic tendencies, in retrospect I think I also knew that I needed to be able to allow myself to be vulnerable once again while in the company of others.
Among the many personal lessons learned through the physicalities of ceremony, chronic illness and working with the land, I understood the necessity of becoming responsive to my own body’s signals in order to find and then maintain an emotional balancing in myself. I learned to follow the pathways of emotion as they physically manifested, energetically opening the wounds to be acknowledged and find their place in my life. Within ceremony, and as my day to day life became a spiritual acknowledgement of my relationship with nature, I learned to connect with a richer, deeper, more intimate Source that inspired healing. After a number of years of ceremony, and although grateful for all his help, I knew I had gone as far in understanding as I was able with the guidance of the Elder.
Living in an ongoing relationship with this piece of land was an extraordinary decade of learning for me. At the bottom of the page I’ve left a few poetic links about these experiences if you are interested in reading more.
Families grow and circumstances shift and when the dialogues began we had moved to more southern climes. I was now living in a small mountain city in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina. Although surrounded by nature, I was not in the same intimate daily contact. In some ways I welcomed the move. Homesteading is hard on the body and I had reached a definitive physical impasse. I no longer experienced bouts of PTSD and felt I had reached a level of health and healing I could maintain. Still, I wanted to find ways to further explore the spiritual relationship I had been building with the deeper Source I had recognized while working in nature.
It was a considerable change, now that I was living closely among people again, and it left me more open to experiencing new things. One day I was introduced to a woman who was training in shamanic practice who freely shared her experience with me. There was much she shared that seemed at least promising. I knew that shamanic practice was based in a relationship with nature and I was curious and remained interested in cultures that incorporated alternative spiritual states into their worldview, so I initiated an apprenticeship with a shamanic teacher who was attempting to integrate non drug induced shamanic practices with western medical and psychological modalities.
While working with the practices I was being taught, I again experienced an acceleration of altered states but I found I was personally accessing realms I felt no grounding in. It wasn’t long before these experiences led me from pursuing shamanism further. I was grateful for the experience but my answers were not to be found here either.
Continuing to follow the path of the intimate Source that I had recognized while working the land and through the sweat lodge ceremony, I began to feel that I was being drawn towards what I thought of as the responsive feminine mysteries, mysterious because I had no clear definition in mind. The symbology that kept recurring was feminine in that the feeling was responsive and supportive although I didn’t attach a gender in a human sense.
I knew my relationship with this intimate Source had led to my physical and emotional healing. I had yet to understand or clarify the difference between the altered or the inspired states I was experiencing, but I was now making a distinction and becoming more discerning. If all of this sounds confusing in its lack of definition…Well, in a way it was. I was finding myself continually in unknown terrain and navigating with a compass that was more intuitive than anything else.
There were life experiences I could call on for guidance though. Following the experience of giving birth to two children myself, I felt spiritually compelled to explore the originative mysteries of birthing in every aspect of life. Of how a seed, whether of a person, a living plant or an abstract idea is formed, birthed and then continues to grow. While working with plants as food and medicine, while propagating and raising hundreds of seedlings, I had experienced a commonality and responsiveness with nature facilitating these creative energies. I finally came to the conclusion that instead of looking for an already established spiritual approach to answer my questions, I would best find direction by placing my trust directly in Nature.
With little preamble, the dialogues began one afternoon while I was engaged in these considerations. I don’t remember having any cohesive thoughts or emotions initially. The experience was too improbable, too out of the ordinary for immediate reflection. I simply accepted the dialogues as I was led through the initial apprenticeship.
We traversed the fog of my own preconceived ideas of spiritual relationship, religious prejudices and conditioning, and any spiritual ideas or taboos I’d been attracted to or had adopted. While addressing my life long accumulation of spiritual persuasions, I gained practice in this more physical way of communicating. I was also introduced to the rules that were required for engagement. The rules themselves were uncompromising, and in their simplicity, oddly difficult to follow. However, by following the rules I was learning what is required to be present and responsive in the spiritual practice I learned to call Contemplative Resonance.
A distinct feature of the dialogues was their startling intimacy. I became accustomed to the understanding that everything about me was known in the deepest way, beyond even what I clearly understood myself. There was a flow and a naturalness to the communication that immediately engendered my trust. Who exactly was I in dialogue with? Who knew me so intimately? As they individually introduced themselves, I was informed they were the Divine Angelic Denomination of Light, although I was to learn later that designations themselves, that “naming” is a human inclination utilized and relied on in order to observe and categorize as a prelude to comprehension. Of those that I personally worked with, some were Masters that had been human but the majority I worked with were Beings responsible for overseeing elements of nature. I was given specific training to ensure that I was communicating with only these Beings in their realm of Spirit. This was also reassuring since I had no mystical tradition or human teacher to lean on for guidance and I had had enough of disconcerting experiences navigating on my own in unknown realms I felt no grounding in.
Ultimately, I was made aware that I was in dialogue with the Divinity of Nature but I didn’t know what to make of this. Within the context of the dialogues whenever I tried formulating an image or an idea of the Divinity of Nature I felt an unimaginable vastness. A velvet dark so boundless, so deeply without beginning or end… I experienced a very visceral response and the feeling this elicited was overwhelming.
Perhaps this is why we began slowly. As unparalleled teachers, understanding was built upon understanding tailored to my level of comprehension. It was a slow process of experiential integration. Various teachers introduced and named themselves as I was passed from one teacher to another. In this most improbable of situations, I held on to any familiarity I gained from their humor, their strict procedures, the tricks they played on me, which were all tests to discern if I was able to hold my own. For I was finding that this was a mutually co-creative way of communicating. I was expected to be physically discerning no matter what they should tell me. I needed to be able to recognize a reciprocal clarity beyond my own thoughts or emotional responses and I eventually gained ground in the practice of Contemplative Resonance. I learned to be physically resonant by literally making hundreds of mistakes, but more importantly, by being aware and understanding each one of them.
How did I encompass all of this? I was in totally unfamiliar territory, without familiar references of any kind to explain the experience. Demanding in every way imaginable, the dialogues were far from a blissfully transcendent experience. The absolute intimacy though, was undeniable and encouraging. The challenges of communication completely held my attention as nothing else ever had. Yes, it was an overwhelming experience but I felt extraordinarily alive.
to be continued…
Ceremony ….. The Deep has always loved me ….. One note
© Jana H. White
Artist: Truls Espedal