You may as well know now that I am prone to “odd” or what some would call mystical experiences. No more than many, and far less than some I am certain, but I cannot do much justice to The Amber Road without letting you in on a few of my secrets. That being said, this is not a blog about religion, faith, or even God for that matter. For the big questions I tend toward a more secular spirituality, lean Zen, and don’t go in for Dogma much, despite being raised a Catholic. Sorry, my religious friends, more power to you. I grant a wide-open space for anyone who finds what works for him or her so long as it harms none, and I hope you’ll do the same for me.
I have finally embraced the idea that I am “highly intuitive”, mostly because it explains a lot, but I still hold that everyone else is as well, if they only pay attention and explore it. The following story is excerpted from an old journal entry and details my first experience with The Kachina Woman.
A Kachina (kah-chee-nah) is a spiritual being central to the religious life of the Hopi Indians, who live in the arid highlands of northern Arizona, and have done so for twelve hundred years. The “Kachina Woman” is a particular spirit said to inhabit a rock formation of the same name in Boynton Canyon, near Sedona. This first visit of mine has inspired a number of others in the years since, and has offered me some powerful insights. Since it is my intention to share a few of the more recent insights, it only makes sense that I begin at the beginning.
Before we head back to 1996 for this story, let it be said that I do not have a “Belief” in past lives, rather I hold an “Openness” to it. Belief is a strict and stringent concretization of a perception that I try hard to avoid. Blame it on my practice of the creative process, but I would rather embrace ambiguity than do battle with conflicting ideas that I will never understand anyway. It doesn’t matter whether we see “past lives” as a returning on a great wheel of existence, or an active subconscious, or a parallel existence, or the shared Now of a Multiverse, what matters are the lessons and insights we gain from their stories, if we allow ourselves to be available to them, and that we use those lessons to better our experience of life here and now. Fair enough?
Other than the Kachiona Woman herself, the other character in this story is Nancy, my first wife. If you’re going to be divorced, it’s best to do it twice so that you can use a number rather than the “X” prefix, which is no way to refer to a person. Nancy and I spent a good deal of the 90’s exploring all manner of spirituality, and that lead us to Sedona and the Hopi.
I love the Sedona dessert, and the red rock canyons, the sweet pinch of conifer in your nose and the bare blue sky. I could walk it until I drop, which is what Nancy and I tried to do that week on our quest to walk all of the energy vortexes that abound in the area. The New Agers will tell you that they are earth mother energies, and the scientists will tell you they are magnetic fields generated by iron deposits in the rock. I don’t much care, I just feel better here, more connected, and strangely at home.
We made our way up the canyon to the base of the Kachina Woman. The formation itself was a tall spire set apart from the cliff face at the very end of the canyon wall. It had a roundish mass of stone at its peak, which made a sphinxlike head, and gave the vague appearance of a human form. It was easy to imagine a presence inside the rock.
When we reached the base, I set my pack down and Nancy and I sat with our backs to the rock and began meditating.
I am no master at the art of meditation even today; I do okay, but I was certainly less so then, so I was completely unprepared for what happened. Never before, and nowhere since, have I ever had a more immediate, visceral, and impactful connection to something outside myself. This place is my little mecca.
I closed my eyes, slowed my breathing, and following the Hopi aphorism, “Keep the top of your head open.” I prepared for the usual vague dance of thoughts and impressions, uncertain of what was merely my imagination and what is not. Instead, I felt my consciousness suddenly drawn up into the spire of rock like smoke through a flue, imbedding me in the red stone. It was a force quite outside myself. My vision was clear and waking. I looked out over the canyon from the top of the spire, high above the man seated against the rock below.
I was with a very powerful presence, wrapped in it in fact, unmistakably real and distinctly feminine, but larger. I made my greeting and asked if the Kachina Woman had any messages for me.
“Many roads,” she said. The words were loud and clearly audible in my mind. Her communication was a mix of spoken word and emotional impressions.
“Many roads?” I asked.
“You have traveled many roads”, she replied, referring to many past lives, and that I was an old soul. Yes, it sounded corny to me too, but it was part message, part observation. I felt her regard me with some openness and acceptance. I responded in kind, trusting, and was taken further into the rock. I was enfolded in its arms, embraced, cradled as in a mother’s arms, and felt such a solid, peaceful serenity!
“Do you remember me?” she said with a meaningful curiosity. The feeling is impossible to describe in words, a safety and belonging deeper than bedrock and so familiar! “Yes I do remember you,” I said. The Kachina Woman was showing me my connection with a more expansive realm than I could have imagined possible. It was deliberate, instructional. I was in school it seemed, only I felt like a toddler at a Doctoral dissertation defense.
My analytical nature took over, as it often does when I am fearful that I am becoming “embarrassingly New Age.” I thought about how long she had been in this rock, the millions of years it took to form this canyon, and the improbability of the whole thing. Here I was, in the presence of a great spirit playing with the Tinker Toys of intellect, I should have been embarrassed about that.
I no sooner held the thought out to her, than she showed me her age. My mind expanded across time, silent ages, sand and wind over stone. Then, briefly, she allowed me to glimpse the ages she had passed. My consciousness stretched needle–thin as though forced through a wormhole. I saw before me every instant of countless millennia, every minute detail of every moment, drawn out in an impossibly long line. This line had no perspective, no vanishing point, I saw all of it, and it was endless. Each instant I saw singularly, and I saw every instant simultaneously, at the same instant, the original instant, the perfect Now. She did not sit for ages inside a rock. Her mind exists outside time. She had always been there, and it has always been the present. I experienced a moment well beyond my mind’s reach, she had granted me a part of her “ageless mind” in order that I could know it. It hurt, I must tell you. I do not retain this experience directly; rather I retain the impression of it.
Now fully sober, and still reeling from the experience of being afforded a glimpse of the unknowable true nature of time. Again, ouch! I put away my intellectual Tinker Toys and decided to go for broke. I asked her what my purpose in this life is.
“It is yours to find,” I appreciated the candor of her answer, the celestial equivalent of, “go fish.” What was I expecting? I tried again, choosing my words carefully.
“How can I come to know this purpose?”
“Through faith, trust, honesty, and truth to your Self,” she replied.
“How about a hint as to what my life purpose is, if you care to offer one,” I ventured.
“It is who you are.” She answered.
“Whatever that means,” I thought. “Okay, thank you. I’ll have to chew on that, but later.” I decided that it was much better to let her offer information rather than my asking insipid and shortsighted questions.
I relaxed, refocused, and invited her to send me a message of her own choosing.
A vision came immediately into view. I was looking at a cliff face of red rock, though not quite as red as the Sedona rock. In the side of the cliff face was an angular cave. A long flat ledge extended from the base of the cave and gently sloped away from the entrance. A small promontory on the ledge held the figure of an Indian warrior. Just inside the cave entrance could be seen an Indian woman and an infant child.
The Indian was a warrior, and those in the cave were his wife and daughter. The emotional impressions came: He lived on this rock, she was his whole life, and the child was the gem of his life. I gathered that this was one of my “many roads.” My attention kept coming back to the rock. It was so vivid. Its color and texture stood out. It seemed alive.
“Fine, I thought, another Indian past life. What’s all this with Indians?” As I said this, I felt I knew where it was going, and I didn’t like it. Greyness came over the scene like a mist, and I knew I would see what befell the family next.
“Nope. No thank you! I’ll have none of this.” What approached hurt in too familiar a way, pain like an old wound rubbed raw again.
A few noisy climbers jarred my concentration just then, and I used it to wriggle free of the arms of this vision like a panicked rabbit. “Nope, nope, nope.” I opened my eyes and sat forward to get up, and felt decidedly uneasy. It was as if I still had part of my consciousness inside the stone.
“Oh no you don’t,” I heard as an unseen hand grabbed me by the back of my collar and physically yanked me back against the wall hard enough to whip my head back and smack it into the stone.
“Oww! Fine, show me! (as if I had a choice)”
The first thing I saw was the mist clearing. It wasted no time to reveal the woman and child lying across the sloping entrance; their bodies slit open, gushing blood onto the rock, a dark deep red flowing over the stone. The warrior was there. There had been an attack and he had failed to protect his family, his one greatest charge. I felt the man’s rage, sorrow, and isolation. I knew his shame and self-hatred had only vengeance and anger to act upon, there was no redemption.
I had seen plenty, and I was livid for being forced to see it. “Yes, yes, betrayal and abandonment! I know this place; abused women, dead mothers, absent children. I’ve seen this play! So what!? So I am supposed to have lived another life as some poor bastard who lived these things and they have significance for me this time around too, I get it. Big deal!! I know my demons Kachina Woman, tell me something new!”
“You are the rock.” Her voice was soft, absolute, and breathtakingly kind.
“I’m the what? I thought I was the warrior guy?”
Slowly and very patiently, she repeated, “You are the rock.”
She then showed me an impression of the rock ledge and mountainside holding, supporting, and cradling this family. A new door in my understanding began to move on its hinges. I asked her to show me what happened to the warrior.
The scene returned with my knowing that with vengeance as his only remaining purpose, he had found his battle and he had lost it. He was lying on the same ledge, cut open and dying. His loss and despair was incomprehensible, I pushed with all my strength to keep it at arms length. He had failed in his sacred charge to protect what he loved; he failed himself, and even failed in his useless vengeance. The emptiness in him was vast.
There alone, his blood flowed over the same stone. In his final agony, buried in his shame, he became distracted by the sparkling in the red stone. He watched his own blood pool and flow into view. He became absorbed by the contrast of his red blood and the redness of the stone, and thought how beautiful it was. He was glad to die, glad to be rid of his life that now held no meaning for him. As his strength faded, his anger gave up and let go. In his final moment, he embraced surrender. He himself thought it strange, but he rejoiced as he died, and in his agony thanked in his heart those who took his life.
Stories have happy endings, I thought, but life sometimes does not. I watched then as his spirit arched up from his form. Behind him, from the spot where they perished, the spirits of his wife and child also rose. Once beyond the earth, they were rejoined. I saw the three glittering spirits embrace, swirling in an ecstasy of reunion. They seemed to merge into one shining mist, and then they rose again, up and away from me to some higher place.
“You are the rock”, she said again.
The epiphany landed, “Oooooh..” I finally caught the leap in understanding that she was bringing me to all along. I am not the man who lived these events, I, the truer, deeper self she knew me as, am like the rock that held these lives, kept them, created them. The man, the entire family for that matter, was an aspect of me. I am not a character in my past lives; I am the rock upon which they play out their pageants, the foundation; deep, solid, whole.
This was the purpose of her playful question, “Do you recognize me?” She was asking if I could see her as she sees me; the greater self that I am. Her message was planned from the moment I sat down. She answered my question about time to show me how much greater the breadth of existence is than the tiny one I thought I knew. She wanted me to know that all of the pain I knew had a purpose and a meaning, and that I was the one who chose it. There is no such thing as a victim.
The Kachina Woman made me aware of a whole new truth. Once I am able to see myself as she does, my whole sense of reality changes. I create my own meaning, direct my own life purpose, and it has all to do with who I am. How can I come to know this purpose?
“Through faith, trust, honesty, and truth to your Self,” she said.
My poor mind was stretched to its limit. I had to leave. I thanked the Kachina Woman for her wisdom and patience. She seemed pleased with me. I slowly drew my consciousness from the spire, and gathered myself back into this my current pageant.
I have since that time began a practice of trying to see others the way she saw me, and I have gotten pretty good at it. We all walk through life carrying a collection of luggage in the form of fears, doubts, anger, questions of self worth, inhibitions, insecurities, mistrust, misconceptions, projections, lies, and a sense of separateness.
In my work as a director and teacher, it is my job to cut through the luggage to discover the artist inside. In my relationships it is my job to see most clearly the person I love. It is easy to get lost in all that garbage we tote around, unless you know how to keep your focus on the prize.
It’s not that hard to do. You just find them in a quiet moment when they have no one to perform for, and watch their eyes. Then look. Don’t look into their eyes, because that makes you an active player, watch them when they are not looking at you. The hardest part is not to see through your eyes. We all look at others through the lens of our own expectation, perspective, and judgment. You’ll have to learn how to see through your own greater self first.
If you do this, you will see them as their original self, in the same way we see a child, before all of that luggage is acquired. If you can do this, no matter who it is, you will be rewarded with a view of an absolute and perfect beauty. Once you have this picture, you will find all the patience you’ll ever need to deal with the luggage.
I don’t try this with everyone; I will pick and choose when the need or desire arises. I think if I tried to do this with everyone my head would explode. My only caution is to be prepared for something quite powerful, and don’t mistake it for something else.
If there is a word for people who can see everyone this way, it must be Greatness. This is its architecture.
For we mortals, I know for certain that there is a word for setting yourself aside in order to see through to the truth and beauty of another.
It is Compassion.