My good friend, Nancy Hendrickson strongly recommended that I go on an inner journey. Specifically, she suggested that I go to the heart of a stone and there talk to the Hierophant of the tarot and ask him about what the stones are trying to teach me just now — because clearly they are trying to teach me something.
The stone whose heart I'm going into was given to me by another good friend, Jerry George of Curiosity Press. On a visit to Tibet, the Roof of the World, Jerry found several small, smooth, pieces of jade and had been surprised to find those particular stones in that place — he knows his geology and they would not have been expected to be there.
Where had they come from? How did they get there? No one knew. He brought several them all the way back to the USA, and for thirty years now he has carried one in his pocket. I carried mine in my pocket or in my purse. (Why do so many women's clothes not have useful pockets?) Then a terrible thing happened — I lost it. It must be somewhere in my house, but I cannot find it. I feel bereft and ashamed, guilty of being careless of its well-being and special value — unless it ran away, which is also possible.
But tonight I realized that, of course, I still carry this precious stone in my heart along with many other stones — the standing stones of Calanais, the stones of the blessing cairn here at home, my outdoor altar at home, the cairn on Dun I on the Isle of Iona, Castlerigg stone circle, the huge lump of white quartz that I brought home in Scotland and eventually had to leave behind because the movers refused to try to lift it, and so many others, large and small. I can only begin to acknowledge them all. They live in my heart and sometimes I feel them murmuring in tones too deep, too slow to hear. Trees and other beings live there too, but tonight it is the stones who wish to speak, especially the small Tibetan stone that I have mislaid but that is still with me.
So I begin this journey at the gate to my own heart. At this moment, it is a small wooden gate with hinges that squeek their own song, swinging loose in the wind. It opens itself for me, and I freely pass through.
The path to the stone is grassy — greenly aromatic, gentle underfoot. The stars in the dark sky above are shining brightly, and soft breeze lazily plays with my hair. Ahead in the darkness the stone rests on the ground. Although the stone I was given is quite small, here it is its true size, as big as a cottage. In front of me there is a door, the door to the heart of the stone. The door is small, just big enough for me to enter. All around its frame, rune-like symbols are carved. The door swings itself open for me, and as I enter in, I see that it is a someone's home. A bright fire burns on the hearth. On either side of the fire, turned so they both face each other and the fire, are two comfortable armchairs. I sit in the one on the left, and as I do, I remember that the dark column is on the left side of the High Priestess tarot card, so I am sitting in the yin, receiving place.
Faint shadows move in the other chair in the flickering light of the fire, and gradually the hierophant becomes visible. He is dressed like the pope, but in a shimmering cloth that seems to be all colors at once, even white, even black. I am distracted, fascinated by that cloth for a while and when I come back to the present moment, I see that the shadows have solidified, become someone visibly real. He grins at me, almost mischievously, as if inviting me to enjoy his neat arrival trick. Without moving, he is here, as if he had always been solidly and really here.
I rub my nose and apologize for having entered uninvited. He both acknowledges and dismisses my apology with a casual wave of his hand. "The first pope," he elucidates didactically, "was Peter — and as you may recall "peter" comes from petra and means "rock". He was the foundation rock of the church. I am not that pope, but I am the foundation, the true rock of the earth. Now, why are you here?"
I'm not sure of the answer — is "I was told to come" a true answer? My mind is a blank. Is this going to be one of those journeys? The ones that go nowhere? I think of leaving and coming back later, but know that only rarely do I come back to the same place again after leaving it. Catch the moment or let it go... which? I feel more like a butterfly than a rock — how do butterflies communicate with rocks?
I rise from my chair and sit on the floor at this honored teacher's feet.
"On these journeys of yours," he prompts me, "you usually ask, what do I, the guide, need from you — remember?"
I nod. I've only been making these intentional spirit journeys for a little under 50 years in this life — you'd think that by now I'd remember how to get back on track when I get lost. Why do I feel so confused?
Ummm. Because I'm not grounded. Here I am, sitting inside a stone, talking to Stone, sitting on the stone floor, and I am not grounded. I try to "sit like a mountain" as I do when I meditate. Not working — I'm still fluttering. How about sitting like a tree, roots running deep, leaves moving in the breeze?
My spirit self stubbornly persists in randomly floating like a butterfly. Why?
The hierophant's intense dark eyes pin me in place, my invisible, intangible wings still fluttering. To him, to all Stone, I am like a butterfly — light, floaty, ephemeral. As permanent as a mayfly. It dawns on me that I can be nothing else! To the deep stone, I am impermanent, even evanescent. Fizzy me. I stop trying to be grounded like a stone and instead rise gently in the air. The stone I feel most like is a reverse meteor rising slowly up through the air, slipping free of gravity, burning in my moment of bright insight.
I have spent all of these years trying to be grounded. What am I, what will I be if I let myself go free — ephemeral, short-lived, momentary... floating? This is so relaxing. There is no effort in floating. Being a grounded, practical doer is so effortful... and exhausting. I remember with a feeling of d'oh! that I learned once before, long ago, how relaxing and healing it was to just float, just be free, be diffuse and unfocused. I even made a "meditation technique" of it and taught it to others. (At the right time in the right circumstances, this is a valuable skill — but it is not a substitute for meditation nor for being well earthed in the other right circumstances.)
At this realization, the rigid Stone around me melts and becomes Tree, branches waving in the breeze, roots reaching into Earthmama. Yet, though I may sit like a tree to meditate — usually — I am not a tree, not rooted. Mobile. Bouncy sometimes. Sometimes I flop down on Earthmama, my heart energy connected with hers, sometimes I float on her waters or sit in the branches of trees, drifting, swaying with the wind.
Looking for my right place between the states of stone and vapor, I find my own specific gravity, the place where I am at home — the place of perfect balance, effortless, free, not holding, not releasing, just being. Sensing, noticing that this point changes moment by moment, like the balance of a surfer on a wave. The surfer, too, is in a medium where he neither sinks nor rises above — his natural happy place is on the boundary between. He bobs with the waves and with his own breath, a complex single movement flowing from many natural forces.
I have earth within me, solid bone, flesh, and bonded blood, and I have air and spirit within me, boundless. There is bright fire and flowing water too. All of the elements are part of me. My natural place is to be just as earthed as I need to be to do what I need to do at this moment. That's it. That's all.
Yet at other times I may need to soar freely to listen — to catch the messages that waft between the stars. Or at other present moments it may be time to be between the ebb and the flow to rest in my own specific gravity place — to rest, to restore, to recover, to recuperate, to regenerate, to re-create. Being connected to the universe, to stone beneath and stars above, is important. But it is equally important to allow Self to just BE, to rest, silent, not rigidly straight, not effortfully rising, but a living stillness that is in constant motion floating on the waves of the breath of the universe, letting my own breath be what it is and find its own harmony.
Can you imagine being heavy, dense, solid like a stone? Can you imagine free-swimming in the sea like a fish, propelling yourself with small movements that are barely more than a thought? Can you imagine floating free in the air like an eagle soaring on the uprising currents? Of course you can! You can imagine all those things and everything in between and even lying on nothing, totally free of gravity, in the infinite realm of space. Naturally some of these imaginings will be easier, more comfortable for you than others are. This is where your specific gravity comes in — it is the point at which you float without effort. Without doing, you simply are... yourself. At peace.
The paragraphs that follow here were added later for this web page. I didn't think about this at the time of the inner journey, but it's very relevent. We'll come back to the inner journey at the end.
So! It's important for you to discover where you can rest without effort. And then it's important for you to practice the other feeling spaces until you become fluent and able to rest in any of them. Why? Well, sometimes we need to be as hard and as heavy as diamond, as iron. We need to stand firm and strong. Other times we need to be light and airy and easily able to avoid energy coming at us. I remember once I was teaching in London, and at the end of the class I was introduced to a friend of one of the owners of the building in which I'd been teaching. After two days of constantly "reading" my students for their needs and staying firmly balanced on the earth, I'd finished my work and let go and relaxed into a light, floaty restful state. But this man, who had said he wanted to meet me, was an energy bully — all sweetness and light on the surface, but clearly enjoying both the raw power he had and happily using it to push people around. As I prepared to leave, he asked for a hug. Without waiting for my answer, he reached for me — but instantly I dropped down into what I think of as Big Tree State, strong roots deep in Earthmama, big heavy trunk solidly resting on her — only my topmost branches lithe and free to sense the subtle winds. So he grabbed at me and tried to yank me close, but he couldn't move me. He was depending on psychic energy and I was practically being Earth. I didn't resist — I didn't need to. He just couldn't move my energy at all.
After a bit he let go and stepped back, a very odd, slightly fearful look in his eyes. With an uneasy effort at a laugh, he turned to his friend, and said, "Wow! Usually psychics are totally ungrounded, but she's like a rock." He had expected to be in control, for me to experience his power and whatever he choose to do with it. His friend, who was tuned in enough to know pretty well what had happened there, had a small smile on his face. I realized that, to the friend, this partly had been a way of testing me — and as far as he was concerned, I'd passed. As far as I was concerned though, he had not passed. Good people don't allow other people to play power games like that with their guests.
But the important thing here is that I was able to take care of myself, to avoid letting someone do whatever he wanted with my energy. He could have drained me if I'd acquiesed. He could have left me feeling exhausted and in tatters, if I'd allowed it. And I was able to easily stay in control of my own energy because I've practiced and practiced for many years. Trees have helped teach me, stones have helped, mountains have given me lessons. The upper air was always easy, but I had to learn and practice all the ways of connecting with Earthmama because many of them were not naturally comfortable or simple for me.
You might be that way. Or you might be the other way, strong in your earth energy but weak or uncontrolled in the air or the water. Whichever it is, we all need to be comfortable with the full range for several reasons. One is that you never know when you'll need one of those states, as I did above, and not have time to practice and prepare. Things can come at us suddenly. It pays to be ready.
Another important reason for practicing all the various states of groundedness and floatingness is that the reason we are naturally imbalanced is because we are blocked somewhere in our own energy body. Blocks in the lower chakras will make it difficult to access earth energy. Blocks in the upper chakras make it hard to connect with airy spirit energy. Blocks in the middle, the heart chakra, make everything difficult, including our ability to interact comfortably and joyously with others. So this gentle practice of the natural magic of being comfortable at all levels, with all elements becomes a kindly way we heal ourselves of old fears and traumas. And if we want to do this (I certainly recommend it), we need to take a kind and compassionate approach to it.
So, first of all, if we wonder where our blocks are, these exercises will tell us. It is simply wherever we find it most difficult to rest comfortably. And not only will the exercises tell us that, but they will also great facilitate healing the blocks, the fears, the trauma.
If practicing "floating" at different levels is hard, do it without pushing it. Each time allow yourself to relax a little more into the difficult place. Don't fight it — fighting it makes it stronger. Relaxing into it makes you stronger. Think of the block as being like a lump of old stone, friable and aging. Think of the flow of energy, whatever energy you're focussed in — earth, water, air, spirit — simply washing away the surface of the stone.
With luck, this is a slow and gentle process. However, sometimes a larger chunk of that blocking stone may break loose and uncover some of that old stuff in a fairly raw state. If this happen and you find yourself (as is perfectly normal) reacting with strong emotions to old — or even recent — events or memories, you may need to seek skilled help. In fact, I'd strongly recommend that anyone doing this or any other spiritual work have a support team — which should include someone who can do energy work, someone skilled in spiritual counselling, and a friend who will just sit with you when you need it, not trying to talk or advise, but just willing to just be earthed and sit together in silence while you try to rest back into your own point of balance.
Back to the inner journey:
Tension is about holding an unnatural, inappropriate, or unskillful way of being. We know it is unnatural and unskillful because it requires tension to hold us there — how simple is that? Relaxation is about consciously letting go of that tension by focus and attention ("at tension" — isn't that sneaky?) Both are doing. Peace is the place between, the point where nothing is needed, no action at all.
Wei wu wei.
How could I have forgotten that?
Everything around me dissolves, becomes esse, being, even the man who is Stone. Nothing is left but a smile that isn't even there.
Copyright © 2015 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.