The Long Tide

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The little things

By heart, I’m a seeker by nature and an adventurer of inner and outer landscape by heart. All my life I have engaged in practices that supported my quest for deeper experiential knowledge of life, the meaning of it, and my particular role in its unfolding. Ever since my sixtieth birthday two years ago I had a hunch that a new understanding was waiting for me, somewhere.

And here I was on a vision quest in the red rock country of Southern Utah, with a group of likeminded seekers, eleven of us and a handful experienced guides. We spent a few days in the basecamp in preparation for a four-day fast during which each one of us would spend three days and three nights alone in the wilderness, following a tradition of many indigenous cultures and world religions. I hoped that this arduous ritual grant me a vision for a deeply connected life.

For my solitary time I chose a spot on a narrow shelf high above the sandstone canyon floor, with a cave large enough for my gear and for me to stretch out on the even, sandy grounds. This was my first night out.

I woke up with a startle, suddenly wide-awake, listening. Lying motionless on my back I tried to make out a very subtle sound. It was pitch black around me. Turning my head to the opening of the cave I could see a few stars between the clouds on a moonless sky. The sound must be come from sand drizzling onto my sleeping bag. What could possibly cause this, I wondered?

I rolled onto my belly, my hand easily finding the headlamp nearby. Turning it on I let the light travel over the ceiling three feet above me. And there it was: a single ant was crawling upside down over me, releasing grains of sand. I felt my heart take a leap in awe of such small feet breaking down rock and found myself smiling at the companion in the night. How amazing to be in a place so quiet that drizzling sand would wakes me up. Watching the ant diligently moving across the ceiling until disappearing into a crevice, I was suddenly aware of my physical largeness, my clumsiness in the ways I move across this earth. Will I ever be able to walk again with ease, carefree?

I let the lamp’s light wander around the cave some more. Just next to my face, I found another small, quiet creature, a caterpillar shuffle over the edge of a big boulder near the entrance. I wanted to touch its hairy body and extended a finger toward it, expecting the animal to quickly withdraw from me. To my utter surprise, the caterpillar arched its back into my finger. I held my breath not wanting to disturb this delicate connection. Finally she lowed her back and moved on, nonchalantly. Never would I have expected such a tender mutually desired meeting and felt deeply moved.

The caterpillar disappeared and I looked around some more. I noticed the large sandstone boulders that blocked most of the entryway. Glancing up at the ceiling, I understood that these boulders had dropped down from there. The cracks in the sandstone above gave me an idea of the forms, shapes and sizes of the boulders that’d drop next. Falling they would easily kill me, no doubt. Not a bad place to die, I thought, for this Swiss woman so at home in this cozy cave in the astonishingly beautiful desert of the American Southwest. Not a bad time to die after the intimate meeting with an ant and a caterpillar.

Then I remembered that big boulders split off from the mountains by the forces of water and ice. This was is a dry spring night well above freezing. Feeling safe I turned off the light, tucked myself tightly into my sleeping bag, ready for a few more hours of sleep.

Waking up I let myself linger in the twilight zone between dream and wakefulness contemplating on the visitations of the night. The encounters reminded me of the work I do: Cranio-sacral therapy, the subtlest of hands-on healing work. When I lay my hands on my client’s head and wait long enough, the walls and barriers that have been created in the body as a result of trauma soften enough that I might be able to listen with my hands and fingers to the different physical structures in the head. I hear the stories of those structures and lean about the relationship thy keep with each other. Marion Woodman, the famous Canadian psychologist put it this way: “Once the body is listen to, it becomes eloquent. It is like turning a fiddle into a Stradivarius.” Under my touch, when their body learned to trust I can feel my client arches toward my contact, and how this gentlest of hands breaks down defensive walls and allow the body to experience a long forgotten physical freedom of pain and tension.

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