Today I went for a walk out in the trails. This is something I crave regularly, but my weekly schedule doesn’t allow for me to hit the trails in any realistic time. Even my weekends lately have been full, crammed with extra events and meetings and all of the career-building mumbo-jumbo that goes into being a self-employed breadwinner in our patriarchal society.
To be quite honest, I had had a rough morning. Actually, a rough weekend - and maybe a rough past six months, considering. Granted, I live a very blessed life, and daily I count my blessings for the roof over my head and enough money to pay my bills on time and feed myself, and even a little extra to continue my yoga journey. And yet, some pathways we journey through aren’t so hard on the physical level, but challenge our psyche and our soul and our spirit in a myriad of other ways.
So when I stepped on the trail, I was looking for something. Connection, a sign, guidance. Fifteen minutes into my walk I remembered from my training that priestesses are trained to walk silently, so as to not disturb the nature around them and that they may assimilate easier. I made a decision to walk as silently as possible.
Just the simple act of becoming aware that nature might be happening around me - it was as if I opened myself up to signs. First, I saw a spider as big as my hand - the sure sign of the Queen of Death, the scorpio, the archetype that says live and let die. The season of the fall, the turning of the leaves - we are quite physically stripping ourselves down to our bare essence, preparing for the longest eighth of the year and stripping away our identity with it. Hello Spider, Hello Queen of Death, I see you, I muttered to myself.
Down the trail another ten minutes, I looked up to see a deer tail sweeping and galloping off the trail and away from me. I missed its face, but as I continued silently on, I got the eerie feeling that Spirit was trying to connect with me through nature, and I was hell bent on receiving the signs. Must continue silent walking.
Another ten minutes on the trail and again, a fleeting deer tail running away from me on the trail. Definitely a sign, I could tell, and just as I was thinking if I saw a third one I would know for sure, it hit me. Have you ever had the experience of a memory coming back to you so strongly, but you’re not quite sure where it comes from? It’s a visual and a sensory experience of a place that resonates so strongly in your mind, but you’re not quite sure where or when you experienced this event - or maybe it was a dream, or a memory from another lifetime. Like the deer, it was fleeting, running away from me, and I couldn’t quite catch it.
The memory is of a trail, somewhere else. In the midwest? In the States? In the astral plane? I can’t quite know for sure. But, there was a distinct line between the trail that was covered in trees and the trail that led to an open field. The trail that was covered by trees led eventually to some cabins - maybe a village, maybe camping cabins, I don’t remember for sure. It’s a slippery memory. But the trees had these potent red berries on them. They leaves green, and the trunks low to the ground, and the contrast of green and red together sticks out viscerally in my memory, almost like I can transport myself back there just by closing my eyes.
I continued walking and I tried desperately to capture the memory, and remember where and when it was, but, like the deer, it wasn’t to be caught. Again, a sign from Spirit? Hard to tell.
It’s fall, and so leaves were all over the ground, a canopy of fall colors and the memory of all that we’re losing. Behind me was a woman and her dog, and every once in a while I could hear the jangling of his collar, all the while death scenes splayed out in front of me. A rotting tree stump. Two trees fallen and crossed together on a third, making a five pointed star. Vines that had lost their essence and hung limply on trees.
My senses heightened, I walked into a more narrow part of the trail, where the forrest grew more thick on each side. Beneath me was sharp rock, patterned in ways to anchor the feet but slippery with a damp rain from the night before. I entered this cave and was immediately struck by the feeling of energetic aliveness here - in a heightened, alert way, not in the calm, yogic studio way. As I traveled down this narrow path, there was a rustling to both my right and my left. I peered into the woods, hoping to catch a glimpse of another deer, a surefire sign that Spirit was speaking to me, since three is a potent spiritual number. But, there was nothing to be seen.
And yet, the rustling continued, on each side. As I traveled down this long stretch of trail, the rustling followed me, and I had this heightened sense that I was being followed. Watched. Guarded, hunted, I’m not sure. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. The energy grew thicker to my right side, but still I couldn’t see beyond the thick stretch of trees directly covering the trail edge.
As I watched myself become more fearful, I wondered at my hypocrisy. In tantra we are taught to run towards the dark - feel the fear and run into it. In the darkness is where your power lies. And so, although my pupils were dilated and my sensory awareness heightened to all signs of potential danger, I spread my fingers wide and opened my palms. “Spirit, I am here. I am open. I am open.”
As soon as I had the thought, a bird shrilly screamed, and I turned a corner to see a dead tree right in my path. Sticking into the trail as a reminder of the death that was sure to come; death of what, I’m not quite sure. Death of ego, death of grasping, death of the life I had known - the message was clear, but the content still in question.
I made it out of the narrow part of the trail, and it opened up wide. The forrest became much less thick. As my vision stretched further, I saw the emptiness and the death that was taking place around me. Insects started to scream - cicadas singing their way loudly, the sound of the forrest coming alive where before it was deeply quiet. Flashes of red - berries, small trees with bright red leaves - colored the decay of the woods and haunted me. So much like this slippery memory that I couldn’t shake.
When the insects died down a bit further down the trail, the wind picked up. And birds - so many birds - started taking flight, from the forrest floor to the tops of the trees. Where were all of these birds coming from? They were everywhere I looked, and I was immeshed in an Alfred Hitchcock special being delivered right to my sensory awareness. There was no doubt now that Spirit was communicating.
After a few more windy turns, I came to a rocky cliff, where there she was. The deer, the third time. This time I saw her face, and we locked eyes - and just as soon as we did she scampered away. That’s when I saw the second deer. And as they ran, I recognized - a third, too. Three deer, on my third sighting of the day.
The trail split and I headed back towards the trail head. Spirit messages were becoming less intense as the forrest grew less thick, and I started to walk the more traveled trails, but still I was alert.
Right as I passed by a trail marker, just fifty feet away or so, was the biggest stag I have ever been so close to. His antler’s marked his dominance and he stood so secure and confident. It was a marvel to witness. When he heard me nearby, he ran.
Two more times, I saw this stag on my walk back to the trailhead. And, on the third time again, I saw the family. The mama deer that followed the stag’s every move, and the baby that was lightyears ahead.
When I finally exited the trail, I left knowing that I had been in deep communication with Spirit, and although the context of the messages are still unclear, the messages themselves have never been louder.
When you enter the woods, do you hear messages from Spirit? How do you open yourself up to receive guidance - is it through meditation, through communion with nature - what portal is most potent for your spiritual awakening?
While I meditate daily, there’s something about the nature connection that feeds a part of my spirit that isn’t accessed otherwise.
I think Sacred Spirit-walk Sundays will become a weekly excursion.