Yesterday, a small group of us had an experience, that was outside of the everyday routine, and resulted in a more relaxed and peaceful time. We went to a spirit horse place that was profoundly influenced by ancient and indigenous experience and wisdom. This event linked with previous reflections on the importance of angle of vision, the eyes through which we look at life. It tied in as well with ways in which we uncover our real self beneath the clutter of life, realize our underlying connectedness and belonging, and find ways to name our experience.
Last time, we spoke of uncovering our true self underneath the images and labels that are imposed from outside. We suggested that if we allow ourselves some time in silent solitude, all kinds of thoughts and images can emerge that, so to speak, cover and hide from ourselves who we are beneath it all. Our surface busyness can push us to go through life without real purpose or even awareness. I recall a Peanuts cartoon where Lucy responds to Linus by saying that she didn’t think we were supposed to accomplish anything in our lives, but just to keep busy.
Another thing that struck me was that while we are bombarded by all sorts of information and often misinformation, by the mass media and the internet, what is important is to uncover the angle of vision, the mindset, the point of view–in effect, the eyes through which we look at everything.
At the same time, another approach to solitude is allow time for the experiences we have take root in ourselves, rather than rush from one thing to another. This busyness leaves everything on the surface, and nothing becomes digested and assimilated so as to become part of us.
At this peaceful place, we were told, among other things, how these spirit horses were almost entirety eliminated. These horses were wild in the sense that they roamed freely for as long as 10,000 years ago, but had an affinity with humans. We spent time with them and they approached us and really liked to be petted, especially around the neck area. Their gentle friendliness was very striking, and fit well with the recognition that they had never been saddled or “broken.” One fascinating happening occurred when the indigenous person struck the drum and chanted. The horses gathered around him. Through our time in this area, another horse also gravitated to a young child who was part of our little group.
It was a tangible experience of connection with and belonging to the natural world. This is a contrast to the common cultural assumption, hopefully one that is waning, that sees humans as are apart from, superior to, and dominant over, our natural environment. It called to mind a favourite expression: we need to come to view the universe not as a collection of objects to dominate, but a community of beings to reverence.
Another thing that struck me was the comment of the indigenous person that their language was one of verbs rather than nouns, that everything was in motion. If I had even a small glimpse of understanding, it called to mind two things that had previously resonated with me. One was that, in a particular western North American language, instead of it being said that the grass is green, it would be said that greening is happening over there. The language was one of movement, of process, rather than something static. I had a similar experience, seeing totem poles at a University of British Columbia museum. It seemed that the figures were in motion, one creature turning into another, reflecting a time before shapes were solidified. Perhaps more than anything else, it illustrated how everything is connected. I recognize that this can be a misunderstanding of the complexity and diversity of these magnificent creations.
The explanation of the feather also resonated strongly.. One side, we were told, is smooth, while the other is rough, illustrating both the joys and sorrows, the good times and difficult periods, that we all experience throughout our lives. It was, for me, an instance both of an understanding of life itself and of the interconnectedness of everything. It calls to mind the words of scientist Brian Swimme, that the stars are our ancestors. It also reminds me of the words, attributed to 19th century Chief Seattle, that all living creatures share the same breath, that the earth does not belong to humans but humans to the earth, and that whatever we do to the earth we do to ourselves.
There is a folk tale in the Grimm Brothers collection called The Three Feathers. In this story, an aging king wishes to decide which of his three sons is to inherit the kingdom. He blows three feathers into the air and the sons are each to follow the feather to complete a task. One feather blows east, another west, and that of the youngest son, regarded as not too bright, simply falls to the ground at his feet. As I interpret this story, the feathers as part of the bird, stand for our “highest”aspirations, but only at a small or beginning stage, as simple, barely perceptible nudgings.
The feather falling to the ground, suggests that what we are looking or longing for is right before us, and that it is a matter of becoming present to where we are. Instead of going off in all directions, we need to be present in depth, to make the journey inward. The youngest son notices a trapdoor in the earth, opens it, and the story unfolds. True renewal of life comes from attending to our own inner spirit and its longings, from realizing the relational dimension of everything and the interconnection of all that is, and from a sense of responsibility to all these connections.
Among other things, what may emerge from the encounter with other, especially more rooted cultures, is, hopefully, an openness to allow them to modify and expand our own horizons, to offer more creative ways to name our experience, and to provide a deeper sense of connection with all who share the same breath with us.
May you learn to trust your own experience, to be aided in naming it truthfully and in depth, and in all things to become more aware and convinced of your own worth, and your belonging to this earth, and to experience the friendship that reinforces both of these.
July 24, 2022