March 30, 2007

 I had mentioned my Breitenbush retreat in an earlier post, and I’d like to tell you more about it. I experienced the mother of all epiphanies–at least where my life is concerned, at Breitenbush.

I went to Breitenbush for the purpose of attending the Inipi, or sweatlodge, which is a purification ceremony in the Lakota tradition. Over the months preceding my retreat, I was experiencing a profound letharghy–spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I had become so disconnected that I was convinced that my soul had left. I was nothing but a shell with a nervous system. I reacted to my environment, but didn’t participate in life. I had stopped dreaming months ago, and had stopped writing as well. Not knowing what else to do, I reserved a cabin at Breitenbush and a spot in the Inipi. I needed a hard, spiritual ass-kicking, and the sweatlodge seemed like the logical place to get it.

 I understood when I booked the time at Breitenbush that if my period started, I wouldn’t be able to attend the sweat. My cycle, at the time I made the reservation, would have not interfered. But just days after I booked, my cycle changed, and this put me in a precarious situation with the timing of the sweat.

The drive to the retreat was tense. I had never suffered from anxiety on the way to vacation. It felt like I was driving to work; I knew this wasn’t right. So, along with the depression, anxiety, disconnection, I stressed about my period starting. I really needed to be at this sweatlodge; I couldn’t stand the thought of driving all that way, needing the ceremony as badly as I did, and then not being able to participate. I considered attending no matter what; but what if something went wrong during the ceremony? The sweat leader would start looking for the menstruating woman responsible. Worried I’d be found out if I participated while bleeding, and angry that I’d be excluded, I was caught  in a frustrating ethical dilema.

So my first day there, I alternated between intending that my cycle wouldn’t start until after the sweat, and trying to figure out whether I wanted to chance it–if it started mid-ceremony or something. I went down to the river, killing time before check-in. The labyrinth is next to the river, so I set upon its path. As I walked, the path took me closer to the center after one turn, then led me further away from the center at another. I had stopped two or three times
thinking something was wrong with the path, that I should have been closer to the center by now.

Then it hit me: I was trying to navigate a path that didn’t need navigating. The labyrinth was perfect in its design, and all I had to do was to follow it. All Ihad to do was to keep going forward, and I would not, could not, fail to reach the center.

I realized at that moment that I waste a lot of time navigating, second-guessing, plotting my way through life. All I have to do is keep going forward.

I got through the ceremony unsinged but not unchanged, and my period didn’t start until the next day. I worried and wrung my hands for nothing, because in the end, it turned out fine. I  understood after the whole thing was over, that the hardest thing we’re asked to do in this life is to trust that we don’t have to know what to do. It’s a simple truth when you hear it rattling around in your head, it’s a profound realization when you feel it in your bones for the first time.

 That’s the difference between believing and knowing.


To My Readers

March 28, 2007

Now that I’ve posted  through the fourteenth station, the progression of this blog reads backwards unless you scroll or go back to the first post right off the bat. In book form, this series would be read properly, from the introduction through the stations in their numerological order. OK, it may be presumptuous to believe that they’ll be read that way, but at least they’ll be printed in order.

This is not to say that the way we experience the lessons of each or any of the stations exactly in the cardinal order from 1 through 14. I don’t know. It seems that they stair-step nicely to higher levels of understanding, but we all arrive here at different levels and capabilities and such. Someone may come into this incarnation at 7 or 10, and others, like me, start at the beginning: afraid, confused, deluded.

Anyway, my wish for you is to get whatever you need at this time from any of the posts you read here. I hope to upload pictures of the stations at the Grotto at some point as well.

Thank you for visiting,


Station XIV: Moving Forward In A Circle

March 27, 2007

Energy never ceases to exist, and it moves from one conveyance to another. In the last station, Jesus is buried in the selpucher. He is seen being laid onto a slab, his crown of thorns leaning against the step. The lemniscate is conspicuous in the twisted thorns, a reminder that life is eternal.

Jesus won’t just be laid in the tomb as is. There is preparation necessary before he is considered “buried”. The body will be bathed and annointed with oil, wrapped in linens, including a chin strap. Here, the pilgrim prepares as well. The soul is getting ready to reappear, to struggle once again toward awakening and to help others along the way. The message of this station is clear in its Roman numbering. The ‘I’ sits between X and V. In between transcendance and matter/mater, is the ‘I’. Here is where the journey really begins.

Station XIII: Casting Off the Shell

March 27, 2007

This station continues the work of the last, casting off the ego-riddled shell from the everlasting spirit. Jesus body is broken and lifeless, him arms hang limply as he is taken down from the cross.  Perhaps this is the fourth fall, the literal detachment, of soul from body, of body from cross, of self from a linear destiny.

Thirteen breaks down to four, which vibrates around matter and the physical. This station has brought us back to the root chakra, and by this time, we understand that the soul has survived– it is the spirit, our god-spark that throbs in us and through us. Forever.

Station XII: What Has Died?

March 27, 2007

“It is finished.” These were Jesus’ last words as he died on the cross that afternoon at Mt. Golgotha. His ordeal was over, his suffering had ended, he had given up his ghost. His family and devotees were left to deal with the reprecussions–the dangerous stigma of being associated with a convicted traitor of Rome.

As I’ve tried to absorb all the implications and messages of the stations over the last two or three years, I’m never sure what to make of the final three. They seem redundant, superfluous, and empty. By the time I’ve listened to 10th station, I feel like I’m done. Transcendance is the pinnacle, the culmination, and there is some difficulty with the symbolic, numerogical, and chakra correlations with these last stations.  It’s entirely possible that the messages of these last three events are beyond my understanding at this point, but I trust that each has a lesson which resonates with some aspect of our human experience.

So if Jesus has physically died in the twelfth station, what has died in the pilgrim’s experience? My thought is that this represents the death of the  delusion of ego. The dream of separateness has ended here, utterly. Our experience of polarities and opposites and taking sides and perceived persecution–it is finished.

 For a period of about six months last year, I had stopped dreaming, or remembering my dreams. I retreated to Breitenbush for reflection and to attend the sweatlodge. I began dreaming immediately after my stay there. I dreamt that I was walking through the wooded part of the Grotto, and came to a cliff. I needed to step down the cliff to reach the elevator in the plaza, and in the dream, I had done this many times before, but this time I was afraid. I didn’t trust my footing, and thought I would fall. I imagined falling off the edge and disappearing into the dense brush. No one would find me. So I didn’t advance. I had the same dream about a week later, and realized after waking, that my fear wasn’t of dying or being hurt, but of disappearing. This was exactly my fear in the dream I had of Sara’s death three years earlier. It occured to me later, that if I didn’t fall, and I reached the elevator, that there was still no guarantee I wouldn’t disappear in the elevator, or wherever the elevator went.

Life would seem to be an experience of distinction, and death, extinction. We expend time and energy in our differentiation to  maintain the illusion–through illness and affliction, persecution or achievment, gain or loss.  If we haven’t prepared and softened to the prospect of disappearing, dying is the abrupt confrontation awakening us from this dream.  Delusion disappears into awakening, fear disappears into love, and the individual disappears into the whole.

So here is II, polarity on the enlightened side of X, transcendance. Our navel, or second chakra is opened and vibrant and while it’s still concerned with the emotions, polarity, and magnetism, we are drawn like iron shavings back to our source, and the force of three is at work here–fruitful union, merging–creation. The union of life and death begets liberation, the Phoenix from its ashes.

We feel something irresistible at this station as we are drawn to oblivion and the all.

Station XI: Affixed to Our Purpose

March 23, 2007

Jesus is nailed to the cross in the eleventh station. What happens to Jesus here is excruciating. I can feel my own fingers flinch when I think of the spikes being driven through his wrists. I can imagine the irritation of  rough wood scraping and leaving splinters in the flayed, raw flesh of his back. This is the point in Christ’s ordeal that is too awful to imagine. While the circumstance in the historical crucifixion is brutal and gruesome, something amazing is happening to the spirit at this station. The pilgrim becomes perfectly aligned to their life’s purpose–the self becomes indistinguishable from the ideal. The condemned man and his cross become one fixture, and the pilgrim and her source become inseparable in this melding.

The Roman numeral gives a sense of what is happening.  Looking at the numerical progression of the last three stations, IX, X, and XI, notice how the ‘I’ moves. It transistions from being on the verge of transcendance, disappearing into its heart essence, and finally emerges on the other side of the transformation. Numerologially, 11 breaks down to 2, and as a master number, it’s a 2 with a loftier vibration, so to speak. In the second station, you’ll remember that Jesus accepts his cross, and at that stage his cross, his purpose is external, it is something outside of him, separate from him, and also a thing that oppressed and burdened him. Now, instead of having to carry his cross, it carries him. Instead of crushing the deluded self, it has raised up the transcended and awakened soul.

We trudge through the dream of separation, where our circumstance is heavy, and awake transformed, liberated in our understanding of our true essence, our powerful core, uplifted by who we really are and all we are capable of.

This is our Wizard of Oz moment, when we understand that we’ve always had the ability to go home, that we can go anywhere, manifest anything just by believing that we can, and wanting it that much.

Station 11 has brought us back to the third chakra, located at the solar plexus. The energy at this vortex keeps us focused and aligned with our goals and desires. If we see our goals not as something outside of ourselves, having to chase them or having to suffer to earn them, but rather feel them as being apart of our lives in this very moment, then we experience miracles at every turn.

Station X: Revealing Our Essence

March 21, 2007

In the biblical account, the tenth station depicts one of the many ways that Christ is humilated during his ordeal, by being stripped of his garments. He is facing the viewer, as he was in the very first station. His expression is nearly identical, but more resigned than afraid. He is weary of the whole affair, understandably. His robes are being torn off of him by soldiers, and in this particular representation, his left chest is exposed.

The Roman numeral X numbers this event. This is transcendance, with no ‘I’ anywhere in sight. This is the moment when one has released the outer trappings of physical existence, and has let go of transitory matters and affectations. And like Christ, , one discovers that when the illusory is stripped away that the heart is revealed; this is our essence, our glowing, pulsing God-light. Is it any surprise that on our way back down the chakra trail, we land at the heart here?