How is it we
To wonder at
The might of the mountains
The surge of the seas
The roaming of the rivers
The awesomeness of the oceans
And circling of the stars …
While we pass ourselves by
Without ever wondering?
– “St Augustine’s Prayer” (1)
If there is one great lesson I’ve learned from the wonder of travel, it is the truth of the Hermetic saying “As Above, So Below”.
Nature has been my great teacher.
I remember one of the first lessons that the Earth presented to me. It was a time in 2005 when my eyes were newly opened to Life. I had taken a job in a tiny countryside village an hour north London.
Blissfully, I had my daytime hours free to wander in the green fields along the stream where white swans swam and reeds swayed.
I was a bit delirious with the renewed perceptive abilities of my senses, and would often meander through the fields singing Amazing Grace. Synchronisticly I was living in the very village where “Amazing Grace” had been penned by John Newton 233 years earlier. His bones are in the ground there.
My meandering took me one day to a small wooden bridge arching over a stream. I stopped in the middle of the bridge and gazed down at the water. The water ran smooth and I could see my reflection gazing back at me.
Then a breeze blew up and the water became choppy and I could no longer see my reflection. The colours were there, a rough form was there. But sunlight glinted off the ripples and there was no clarity reflected back at me.
It didn’t matter how hard I looked or how much I concentrated, I could not make out my own form.
And such, I realized, is the nature of the mind.
Now perhaps you have heard this metaphor for the mind in dharma talks or read it in a book. But to be there, with the water, with the mind, with reflection and ripples, with clarity and obscurity. It becomes an embodied experience.
The cells of your body get it. It sinks in. Amazing. Grace.
It made a lot of sense to me at that time of life. I sensed that the wind that was causing ripples in my own mind were the intoxicants, the media, the rat race, the overstimulation of “normal” life.
I had been asking that question “Who am I?”. But of course I had not been able to see it for all the wind and ripples, the tormented waters.
And it made sense that now, when I was off TV and radio, off the toxic stuff, free to walk in the green fields in the midday sun, that I could finally get a glimpse of my own true reflection. To see the pieces of the picture coming together as the waves calmed and flattened.
And this is perhaps only a small part of the meaning of the metaphor of the mind as a lake. And my lake was a stream. But at least now I knew something of it from my own lived experience.
So as an extension of the ponderings of “St Augustine’s Prayer” above… How is it that we might journey to wonder at our own might, our surges, our awesomeness, our circling? Our roaming?
There was a sweetness in this time of lone journeying and introspection. For years I preferred to travel alone or with just one friend.
It can be a bit odd to sing to the trees, follow a butterfly or profess deep love to a clod of grass when you are in a group. I needed some time with the Earth alone.
Then in 2010 I signed up for my first group tour, a Transformational Tour to Arizona and California. This took my practice of Earth connection to a new level.
Being with like-minded spirits, connecting as a group to sacred sites, receiving deep teachings from inspiring people. It was better than I could have expected.
My fellow travellers became like family. I learned so much just from the conversations with them. Even more ways of seeing the world. We were there to support each other as we went through our stuff. We shared all of those little delights that come only from travelling to an unknown land.
And oh so many laughs.
I was hooked!
Over the next four years I did seven more journeys with Transformational Tours. I delved into an Earth Healing course on country. I even volunteered on a couple of amazing pilgrimages in the north of Australia as cultural liason, bush cook and driver.
I would always go with little or no expectation. And always magic unfolded in ways I couldn’t have expected if I’d tried.
I learned more songs to sing to the elements. I learned more about how to listen to the butterflies and birds. I learned how to deeper love the sweet Mother Earth. My soul-family became more extended. My inner and outer worlds expanded with a certain beauty and grace.
My heart swells with gratitude on recollection of these most precious of moments of life.
Reference: (1) The Magic of Metaphor, Nick Owen.
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