I read all the books. I had many teachers, many paths; I had my moments of Satori's and stretches of Samadhi. But when I was turning 60, spiritually I became very dry, on a plateau. I began to pray intensely: “Something must happen!” I imagined a New Teacher who would give me his/her Juice!
Well, I had my yearly health checkup and the Dr. reported: “ You have cancer, a tumor as big as a fist and I saw spots on your liver as well, probably stage 3 or 4. You need to get into chemotherapy right away!”
Shock! Panic! Denial, Anger, Terror! These were my emotions. I retreated into my imagination. In my mind's eye, I put up a large canvas tent for refuge. Let me explain – Years ago I bought a 16' by 16' Army Surplus Tent and pitched it behind my late ailing Mother's home, while I took care of her (she was suffering from dementia). She had been an Army Battlefield Nurse near the Front Lines during WW2. This seemed to help her remember things about her past and she spent many days speaking of her experiences with the brave ones: healer, healing and dying. Cancer became my battlefield, the tent-- my struggle with healing. I wrote and wrote everyday, while I underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Alone in the tent, poetry began to flow:
“Rainy Sunday Afternoon
At the Tent
Resting by the Fire
Worn Out From All This Intensity
Listening to Healing Rain Drops
Relaxing on Warm Soft Canvas”
This was the beginning of The Little Shack of Insight. I looked Death in the Eye and It said “No more bullshit!” “No more lies!” and repeating again and again: “Authentic! AUTHENTIC!”
I remembered the quote of Castaneda's Don Juan: “Death is the only wise adviser that we have.” I made Death my ally, my New Teacher.
Slowly I began to heal and Death did not take me... Now, 4 years later, inspired by recovery, I had an insight that I needed a grounded place for meditation, creativity and sharing musings of what my confrontation with Death taught me. I am converting a small shed into my Little Shack of Insight, on an 8 acre track surrounded by forest.
A Teacher once told me “All of us live in a Wilderness with no path, just the one we make.” I began my own unique journey from the spiritual plateau I found myself on and began a mountain climb to freedom. I became a Pilgrim like the film hero Jeremiah Johnston. To those who are not familiar with the film (and let me say now, despite the violence played out at times, I see and experience this film as a story of spiritual experience and awakening!) Jeremiah is a battered war veteran in the 1800's. He leaves everything behind to become a Mountain Man in the Wilderness. His first year in the Mountain Country is very harsh, but he meets the elderly and eccentric Del Gue, nicknamed “Bear Claw,” an experienced Mountain Man who mentors him on wilderness living. As Jeremiah survives, in spite of tragic loss, Bear Claw returns and the conversation goes like this: “These are the finest sculptures” (the wild beauty surrounding them) “and there ain't no laws...and there ain't no Asylums...there ain't no Churches except this right here...and there ain't no Priest...except the birds...on this Great Map of the Magnificent!”
I hope one day to hear my inner Bear Claw tell me as he told Jeremiah, “You come a far Pilgrim.”
I will respond, “Feels like far.”
“Was it worth it, the trouble?”
...and like Jeremiah, with new acceptance, in the clarity of Awakening, I will answer: “What trouble?”
Build your sacred space, your refuge, find your own path in this Wilderness. Follow it like your life depends on it: Because it may bring you to your very own: “Great Map of the Magnificent!”