I have a confession to make. As a rule, I don’t enjoy guided meditations. I usually don’t connect with the imagery and would rather just meditate on my own. However, I am always a bit envious of those people who have success with guided meditations; who see themselves in beautiful locations and who heal wounds or have cool experiences. But rules are made to be broken; even mine.
Last week I had a cool experience. Regina Rivers, of Rivers Healing Arts in Pittsburgh, came to Great Conjunction to talk about the Shamanic Three Non-Ordinary Worlds and to lead us on a journey to the Lower World. I was excited to hear Regina, she’s a wonderful speaker, but I had no expectation for the journey other than to sit in the dark with my eyes closed for a while.
Regina told us what to expect and laid out the framework of the journey – imagine yourself somewhere in nature that you are familiar with, find a hole and go down it, walk down a tunnel and come out into a sunlit field, observe and talk to anyone or anything you meet.
I knew exactly where I would begin. Behind the house where I grew up was a small well and pond. I spent countless hours there as a kid; it was one of my favorite places. I even knew what the field in the meditation would be, a dry lakebed filled with amber grass with an old wooden dock at one end and beyond that dock was a forest. I dreamed of this land so many times when I was young, I knew it like my own back yard.
Before we started our journey, Regina told us that the journey probably wouldn’t go as we expected, but to try and allow it to unfold in its own way. I felt a moment of trepidation but brushed it aside.
Regina began to drum rhythmically and I imagined myself next to the pond. It was sunset in my vision and felt a bit ominous, so I imagined it bright and sunny. I couldn’t make it stay that way and I remembered her saying, “This isn't going to go the way you expect.” I climbed through the hole in the wall, but the path was level and there was no way to go down. Very quickly I was in the field and the tunnel had disappeared. It had been years since I visited this place in my dreams. The air was clean and warm, the grass smelled fresh and alive. There were a few changes. There were hills in the distance that I didn’t remember and the grass was higher and harder to walk through, but I made my way to the dock and was joined by a cat and a dog.
“No, I’m a cat,” said the cat in a tone that made it clear she thought it was a ridiculous question. “We’re your companions.” The dog laid down and the cat dove into the grass after a mouse, “I hope that mouse wasn’t my spirit animal,” I thought.
“I will be your guide,” said a tall, red haired woman. She stood at the end of the dock, near the start of a forest path. She told me her name and I asked where my usual spirit guides were, the ones I have met over and over and worked with for years. “There’re not in this land, I’m your guide here,” she said.
Honestly, she was freaking me out and I was ready to bail, but suddenly we were by a stream. I knew this place too, I had dreamt of it many times, the field was upstream and waterfalls were downstream. More than once I dreamt about nearly drowning in those rapids and waterfalls, awaking in a panic and tangled in blankets.
This was a calm part of the river though, the surface was as smooth as a mirror and she had me look at my reflection. I saw myself busy and shifting, never still… and then she pushed my face into the water.
I felt her strong hand on the back of my neck and knew I was about to go into the water again when I thought, “Ok, I’m out of here.” I was immediately back in the room, listening to the drum beating with quiet chanting in the background. For a moment though, the vision fought back and I bounced from the riverbank to the lecture room.
As I lay on my mat, quietly contemplating my visions, I listened to the sound of Regina’s steady drumbeat and the quiet background chanting and I had a strange moment of uncertainty, “When did the chanting start?” I couldn’t quite make out the words, but it was multiple voices chanting in a language I couldn’t understand. The sound was clear enough that I was almost sure it was a recording Regina had started after the journey began. It wasn’t. As the drumming ceased the chants faded away.
I was a little shy asking about the chanting during our discussion afterward, but I wasn’t the only one who heard it. “Sometimes the drum sings,” Regina replied.
It’s been four days and the memory is still fresh and clear. I wish I could tell you I was changed forever, but I wasn’t. My dreams have been clearer and more vivid. I feel like I have been reminded of parts of my spiritual journey I had forgotten and let fall by the wayside. I am also reminded that our spirit guides change when we need something different, even when what we need is a little scary.
More than anything I am so very grateful that I have the opportunity to experience such a wide range of spiritual teachers. It is easy to get stuck in a rut – “this is my spiritual journey, this is the way I do my work” – and forget how much more there is to experience and learn.