I pass on this essay because it honors dreams, quiet listening, and promises of healing:
In memoriam, Pamela and Elizabeth Mayer
I have a recurring dream in which I find another room in my house that I hadn’t known was there. Once it was a perfect little pantry off the kitchen; in one dream I only discovered it by noticing an unfamiliar window at the back of the house; one time it was a 3-room attic I had to crawl to get into. Each time I awaken from these dreams, I realize that taking up residence in the new room means entering another phase of my life.
In this week’s dream I discovered another bedroom, dusty with piles of old bedsheets and quilts littering the floor. It was a total mess and I’d have to clean it up before I could sleep there.
When I awoke it was clear the dream was telling me to clean up my act from top to bottom, and not a moment to waste.
So, during this quiet time of rainy days in Vermont, I will hunker down and take it on, sifting through all my internal rubbish piece by piece.
I’ve started making a list – a pretty distasteful enterprise, to be sure – and it includes things like the need to self-justify; childish greed; judgments on just about everything; jealousy; vanity – not meanness, I am happy to note, but certainly pettiness.
I suspect that most of us carry around similar sins, and like me, try and hide them. But right now I’d like to try and bring each one of mine into the light, and feel deep into the humiliation of seeing my worst self – no holds barred.
It hurts. But I also find it refreshing to stomp around and shake out those dirty sheets, sneezing from the dust and opening every window to give the room a good airing.
I’m very curious to know how I will use this new room in my house and how I will furnish it. It’s a bedroom, so I imagine I will do some sleeping and dreaming here, but what else?
I’m thinking it might make a good sanctuary room, a space for lighting candles and offering up prayers; a place for quiet reflection, for healing.
Just yesterday I got a clue for this, taking a rain-walk with a friend at Manitou, a forest sanctuary I helped create many years ago on the land of a beloved friend 20 years my senior, Pam Mayer. Pam’s daughter Lisby, a good Berkeley friend, had brought her mother to meet me when she was visiting California, and we sort of fell in love. She was 79 then, and we couldn’t stop talking. So I spent the next summer working with her at this blessed land in rural Vermont, and it changed my life.
My job there was to get to know Manitou’s 235 acres intimately by walking them daily and, as a healer, feel for those places I sensed to be healing sites – like acupuncture points in the landscape. That was where we would site gathering places for community programs.
During those weeks of solo wandering in these dense woods, I came upon a large rockfall that, on closer inspection, seemed to be the ruins of an ancient chamber. I recognized the components: gigantic capstone; stacked-rock walls; deep, hidden ‘cave’ – even though it was completely collapsed in on itself.
Man-made rock formations like this – even intact ones – can still be found around New England, and are often referred to as Indian root cellars, although I suspect they are much older than that, and considerably more mysterious. So it wasn’t a complete surprise to come upon a ruined one in these back woods, but amazing that Pam hadn’t noticed it before.
That day, alone in the woods, I scrambled up the rocks to the broken capstone, sat down and drifted into a doze. Right away I heard a ‘message’ inside my head:
‘Look for a glittering stone, it said. ‘Listen well…’
What was that? I began to listen hard!
That evening I called Pam in high excitement, and over the next few days we came back there together. No, I wasn’t crazy, as both of us were receiving ‘messages’, astonished by the relevant wisdom that came through to each of us. We spent hours each day in the silent woods that summer, surrounded by birdsong and spinning spiders, listening and talking softly of what we had heard. They were teachings, simple but profound, and bonded us even more deeply.
It is many years ago now, but I have followed every instruction I heard there: indeed, I found the glittering quartz stone that first day, and subsequently had a rather remarkable healing with my mother.
We were told in detail what the larger, more cosmic work of Manitou entailed, and what each of our places was in that process. If I had expected to hear something grandiose for myself, I received the opposite. I was told that my work was to confront my own fear and negativity with love and optimism in every way I could think of.
“Start there. The more frightened you are of what is happening in the world,” I heard one day, “the more you must search for the positive aspects, even the humor, in that fear. Use your fear!”
I was urged to learn how to love by looking for the Grand Design of the Universe!
“What is the glue that holds the world together?” I heard one day. “It is love! Know how to love, and you will know just how vast the world is that you live in.”
The ‘voice’ was gentle but uncompromising, and did not tell us how to do what we had to do. That was our job. What it made clear was that our physical world was informed by a much greater reality than we imagined – that only our hearts could intuit the enormity of the invisible, encompassing universe.
Of course I have rarely spoken of this directly and out loud, as it is not the language most of us speak, but at this historical moment in the world when the climate is changing disastrously and the Democrats are as infantile as the Republicans, I think it may be time for me to speak openly of what I learned.
(It is actually why I write these brief, upbeat pieces on serious subjects.)
So let’s try this:
Our little solar system with its tiny jewel of an endangered planet we call “Earth” is only one small part of an invisible, conscious Cosmos of multi-dimensions within and beyond Time and Space. This intricate, but ultimately simple Cosmos has been called by many names in many traditions: ‘God’ is one way. ‘Love’ is another.
The largest, all-encompassing pattern informs the smaller patterns, down to the motions in our cells, in matter itself, and all levels are in perfect balance with themselves, with one another and with the Cosmos.
Everything that we humans do – both individually and as a species – requires that to remain healthy we must reflect the ultimate intelligent pattern of the Cosmos, and that is what we are here to learn. When we deviate from that template, we create mayhem.
Two days after taking my rainwalk at Manitou, I was surprised to run into Pam’s son Mike in town! I didn’t even know he lived here! We decided to take a walk together in the Manitou woods on my last day in Vermont.
Meeting just before sunset, we wandered the trails, catching up after years – actually, we had only met a few times years ago – and told each other stories of Pam and Lisby, both of whom had since died, Lisby leaving several years before her mother. We stopped at the spot Pam had called “the In-Between Place”, between bog and forest, and as the woods grew darker and darker we found ourselves grieving their loss together.
We wept in each others’ arms, unburdening a shared sorrow that few others might understand, as Lisby and Pam had lived on different sides of the country and had quite different communities. Except for family, most people knew either one of them, or the other, but not both. But I had intimately known both of them, and so had Mike.
The Manitou woods sheltered us in our grief, holding us in balsam-scented darkness, absorbing our tears.
These woods were and are healing sanctuary, still fulfilling Pam’s vision for the land. At that particular moment in time it was a healing container for 2 of the people most dear to her, and I imagined her gazing at us through the dimensions, absolutely delighted!
Mike and I wept until there were no more tears and then we laughed at ourselves, relieved. Before we left the woods Mike gave me a big bear hug so strong I felt my spine crack in just the spot that has needed readjustment for weeks.
A healing joke!
The land heals, and often in unexpected ways.
Please remember that!
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“Whatever else happens, either everything is a miracle, or nothing is.”