|Painting by Pablo Amaringo|
Early moonlight dances above us, an international crew of inner explorers, taking a slight detour from our regular yoga practice. Tonight, we surrender ourselves to another force, plant-life goddess spirit, divine vine, nurturing mother/destroyer.
Candles are lit. We are dressed in ritual white, participants in the sacred. We sit cross-legged, each on our own white virginal beds, from which she will lovingly kill or cradle us. In the ceremonial center are flowers, singing bowls, a rain stick and two re-used plastic water bottles: one brown, one a deep purple, tonight’s sacred tea.
Slowly, we each step into the sacred circle. And take a seat before the gate-keeper, who lovingly serves us in the tea ceremony. We share one cup and each take a drink.
I whisper to the cup in my hands: I love you, thank you, I surrender to you…
The night evolves, and an event becomes an experience. Signs of the lady arriving, first, so subtly like a waft of perfume, the quality of light changes. The candle glow becomes softer, more fluid, more and more vibrant. Then: lightness in my own body. The music, inviting the good spirit, is amplified in my head, in my pores, stereo sound from deep within my inner ear, deep within my marrow.
When she really comes, I feel her heave. She will not let me go softly, there must be some intensity, some grand entrance into her realm. The invitation comes with initiation. There must be some form of sacrifice, some discomfort as exchange. And the bitterness of the plant comes up. And I instinctively hurl as I feel her power magnifying. We are equipped with buckets and angels, guardian helpers who clear the mess before it has time to register. It is all so very very soft. So very very loving.
So it begins: The journey. Though the medicine is different for everybody, we share something, the space, the music, the masters of ceremonies, the sacred circle, the thread of ritual, the mystery of this sacred plant and its incredible power coursing through our veins, revealing herself in a myriad of ways, each so unique for every participant.
The first drink and I am aware, so completely aware of every fleeting thought, every fleeting movement. I am aware of my own process of thinking. I see with some strange up-close distance my own thoughts and how I-think-too-much. And I can feel her try to loosen my mind’s iron grasp, but for my own learning she allows my mind’s eye to be present, lets it sit in on the proceedings, lets it watch and learn.
Then thoughts and the thoughts about thoughts dissolve and melt into the mental ether. Waves of thinking about thinking lap against my shore, I feel it so continuously. Also continuously, they fade, so quickly into the white-sea foam, before they are absorbed into the porous sand. My mind’s eye is like a drain. Like a dream in a dream, a thought in a thought, each impression is so ephemeral, there is no catching it. I delight in watching the movie of my mind, as if sitting from some distant viewpoint, the sweeping ebb and flow of the sea.
Then she starts to dance. I craved for this, to connect with her through Inner Dance, a moving meditation and healing modality from home that I feel also comes from the source of all things. I trust that she knows best the language in which to communicate with me. And this first night, she comes to me in a form I understand, her serpentine wisdom first appearing in the soft waves of my fingers and fingertips, then my wrists and my arms. My joints are jelly.
I am shy, at first, uncertain. I flit between being relaxed and being tense. Movement and rest. Lightness and heaviness. Am I the one moving or am I being moved? Have I really surrendered? Or am I willing some kind of movement?
My fingers seem to move involuntarily. Or perhaps with more willingness then they are accustomed to. However, each thought is like a lead weight and my arms sink back down into the mattress. But the music! the music is a snake charmer and my wriggling arms cannot resist the dance.
This back and forth makes me laugh. Literally, I cannot stop myself from laughing out loud at this play between the body and the mind, the music and the divine presence. It is so delightful to feel the fluidity of energy, because ultimately I cannot stop myself. My hands, my arms, my being wants to move. I am awed by the miracle of it. By the joy in movement, which is a testimony to life pulsating. I feel my mouth, my face, my body, my atoms smiling.
I am breathing like always and, yet, in a way I have never experienced before. I feel so fully the connection between body and breath, breath and the mind, the mind and the universe. Each breath is life, each is expansive, each is joyful. I feel the world around me shiver at each stroke of my lungs. As I inhale and exhale, I feel truly connected. Each burp, each yawn is an expression of this breath that fastens me to the landscape, the trees breathe, and their prana is visible, they are glowing palms cloaked in northern lights.
I want to see the moon. I want to see the moon. I want to stand beneath it as it waxes into near fullness. But it takes time to stand. The intention of bathing underneath her moonlight is lost in the act of being in the present. The present moment, itself, is relentlessly awesome. Breathing. Observing light. Shaking from somewhere deep within. Feeling my serpent hands and arms swimming the rivers of my light body. The now becomes incomprehensibly present, I realize how limited my awareness is of this.
Then I remember the moon. This time, I feel stable enough to stand and walk. I feel the attentiveness of the helpers, one of whom offers me his hand and leads me down the steps to the garden. I don’t need the help but I’m so happy to have it so beautifully offered. (Later, I feel so much gratitude upon realizing that another helper was there with me in the garden, watchful but unobtrusive). And then I am in the garden, the moon above me, so radiant, so motherly, so connected to the proceedings, another aspect of the divine feminine. I feel exhilarated by my own femininity, my own creative power. I recognize it.
But as beautiful as it is in the moonlit garden, I miss the circle, I miss its energy, I miss its music. And soon enough I am called back to it. I feel it instantly, the intensity of the journey concentrated within the confines of the circle. The tea is there. As is our conductor, who from his own mattress, sits so steadily, watchful, vibrating his own expanded energy, the soft invisible tendrils of which buoys our varied journeys. He is now a shaman. His face is different. And I wonder if he recognizes me.
The music changes and the rattling of ancient bones wakes something deep within. My right wrist emulates the old rhythm. My hand hugs an invisible shaker. Outside the circle, someone walks with a real one. And the energy shifts.
By the second drink there are no more thoughts about thoughts. No more thinking. I am simply being. My body is possessed. I have relinquished control. It feels like I am meeting myself without any of my old cloaks, without any of my baggage. I am so light. My arms are like feathers. And the dance continues, weaving up and down my spine. My heart lifts from my body and the energy travels in soft undulating waves that rise and fall to the music, until I am writhing like a sea serpent. I feel so totally alive. And I am so happy to feel it.
Once again, I crave for the moon. And off I go into the garden where I continue to dance. This time, I feel the connection to the circle, to the plant, I am overwhelmed by a sense of familiarity. I know this feeling. I know this process. Something deep within an ancient wisdom understands. I feel empowered. And hungry for more—this draws me back to the circle, where eventually a third dose awaits.
During the first two drinks, stillness is elusive and movement is constant. But I recognize that there’s something restless in it, even as wonderful as it is, there is some attachment, there is a part of me that wants rest –but greater is the desire for activity. I cannot stop.
Until…a more quiet energy comes with the third and final drink, completing the bell curve of the journey, what comes up, must come down. The energy does not disappear; it draws into my body. I am able to lie down, close my eyes and just breath. At some point I feel grounded enough to join those gathered around the bonfire. But I realize I am not ready to be with people, not ready to talk or relate, the plant is still with me, and I feel we need quiet time together. I return to the circle, the music is gentle now, as we come to the edge of the evening’s main event.
Maybe I sleep. Or maybe I float into some half sleep. I don’t really remember. It just feels good to be in the safety of the circle, where the last bits of fairy dust still twinkles before us. The next time I open my eyes, I feel like am back in my body. I drain my bowl of vegetable soup at the fire. And then retire to bed, succumbing finally to the need for real repose.
In the morning, we share once again around the circle. And thus we learn more about each other’s journeys. How different they are. How complimentary. How easy some are and how difficult the journey is for others. No experience is the same. But all are filled with love. Even the hard ones come with some profound lesson. We all feel grateful for having gone through it.
It’s been 5 days now since the tea ceremony. I’ve gone through all sorts of motions since then: I’ve hungered for more of that expansive light, I’ve mourned the return to the day-to-day, and I’ve also marveled at how miraculous the everyday really is. Some people say that the journey is a life changing experience. It’s hard for me to really say. I’ve been changing so much over the last couple of years that trying to identify change is like trying to take a clear still picture from a moving vehicle. Everything seems to feed this living whirlpool of change. But I can say for sure that the experience has shifted my perception. And that, I know, will have long lasting effects.
The journey gave me a tangible experience in which I recognized the trappings of my own hyperactive mind. It showed me the beauty, the wonder and the joy of surrendering to flow and how light I could feel, how integrated and alive I felt when I was being true to that nature, to that ever-dancing creative feminine energy that exists within me, that is a part of my essence. I need to trust it. I need to trust myself. I was also reminded that being true to my femininity also hinges on my ability to balance activity with quiet, movement with stillness--yet another reminder to carry on in this quest for yoga, for union, for oneness.
It’s good medicine, one that teaches surrender, wholeness, and trust. It serves as a mirror, it shows unrelentingly all the false layers, as well as true beauty. In many ways, this journey is a part of an interconnected web of eye/I-opening experiences. Each are unique, but each echo similar lessons. And every new lesson just gets louder and more powerful, more insistent. This experience fits nicely into a chain of wondrous events that pushes me to grow, to evolve. Ultimately, they all work together, conspiring for transformation. Yoga, for me, continues to create that stable foundation in which I can then freely explore. And I am filled with wonder and gratitude to find tools and portals that compliment my yoga practice and support the great and universal Journey that we all are born to go on.