If you had a true and credible source for knowing where your life was headed next, would you go to hear it? Would you listen? Would you even want to know? And what if what you heard absolutely sucked? Would you go back for more?
Each Fall I go to Sedona to walk the desert, climb the canyons and buttes, dodge the vortex kooks, and visit my sacred spot to ask the questions whose answers I can find nowhere else. For me (and I don’t know why this is) the Kachina Woman formation is more than a place to meditate. It’s like having my own secret door to another dimension. [more about the Kachina Woman] The peaceful and transcendent voice that speaks to me there is no simpering angel; sometimes as a beautiful goddess, sometimes as a blunt old hag, she speaks the bare and unvarnished truth, whether I’m ready for it or not. I don’t find her, she finds me, and if she’s not done she won’t let me leave—no drugs, it’s quite remarkable.
I go searching for answers not about career or fame or other mundanities, but about my journey. Last year, my questions surrounded relationships. I had decided to engage a bit more with others and was curious and hopeful about what my new direction would bring. The answers I received were profoundly disturbing. So much so that I returned the next day still fighting her for “clarification,” which is code for “a better answer,” which never came.
I kept this to myself and set out from there determined to change my fate nonetheless–if fate it was. Who knows, maybe it wasn’t a sacred gift of insight from a higher source; it may have been an undigested bit of beef, a fragment of an underdone potato. I tried so hard to make things work out the way that I wished despite what I’d heard, and only now at the brink of my return, is what the Kachina Woman said a year ago finally making sense.
At that time, I was already well into another personal reinvention. This one was about becoming a more accessible and genuine person. Usually, these deep and ego-threatening transformations require a motivation roughly equal to that of chewing off a limb to save one’s life. This one, the effort to tear down the inner walls and personal veils I had settled into for so long was born of sheer boredom, I was just so fucking sick of staring at the inside of those same old walls. I was doing pretty well too, it felt completely right. My expectation was that if I became a more accessible and genuine person, that I would attract people of like nature or perhaps draw out some others. This didn’t happen.
As I became more able to think and behave in a way that was more true to myself, I was less and less responsive to the subtle prompts and the blind or subconscious acquiescence to the will and expectations of others that I had not noticed before. This endeared me to precious few. I lost instead of gained the connections I so wanted. I have quality friends, a few, and my external life of work and worry and joys and kid-raising went quite well, better than average in fact. But my internal life, well… I’ll say this: I am fortunate that when I look back on a difficult time, the good stuff tends to bubble to the surface of my memory; of this past year I remember very little, and the stuff I can call up, I will not revisit.
Those things that were in my power to do for others benefitted many, however, and those powers were enhanced by my new outlook—a credit for them not I, but that is the way of that.
If you practice insight long enough and bring an openness to it, you reach a point where you can begin to see things others cannot, and understand things in a way others are unable to. This does not mean that they are bad or stupid or inadequate, it just means that they haven’t the resources yet to see or understand. If this sounds like hubris, realize too that there is always someone wiser and more insightful than you, we are all links in a chain and it is neither good nor bad, right nor wrong—it just is. It is not a consummation devoutly to be wished, however. There is no greater agony than seeing a truth and beauty in something or someone that another cannot yet recognize, especially when you have to watch them suffer for the lack of it. It is the most potent kind of aloneness there is.
What the Kachina Woman said to me when I asked what new connections with others I could look forward to, was this,
“You will walk your path alone.”
“What!? huh? Whoa whoa. No, that’s not what I’m asking. Yes, I know that we all existentially walk through our existence alone, but what I’m asking you is what new connections are out there for me, you know, friendship, love… c’mon, I’m more open and accessible now. Tell me of those who can ‘walk alone with me?’ ”
“None. You will walk your path alone.”
(Knuckles on live mic sound) “Thunk thunk thunk… Hello… are you there? Is this you or a bit of underdone potato?”
(Condescending and incredulous stare as if to say, “Do you really want me to say it again?”) “You will…”
“I HEARD YOU! …dammit!!”
The visual she gave me (and these are ultra-vivid and kind of cool) was my “path” symbolized as a trail such as those rocky trails that wind up the side of the red rock canyons there, it climbed up the face to the summit, then extended off the ground and arched away into the sky as if the ground were Photoshopped out of the picture, and there it hung in the blue. I was high on that path looking down into a beautiful valley covered in intertwining paths stretching into the distance.
“No no, I want to be down there, see. Why can’t I be down there with all those others??”
I tried to jump off my path and get down to the valley myself, but I couldn’t.
“Okay, how about another path up here, huh? …a path parallel to mine, you know, one up here.
I looked around and saw only empty sky. With great effort I forced my focus back down along the path to where it met the ground and saw other paths chaining around mine for a short distance but then angling off in other directions and out of my field of view. My heart sunk.
“Fuck! I don’t get this, it doesn’t make any sense!!”
Her tone then changed completely. She reached out, cupped my face in her hands, stared directly into me, and in an overwhelmingly sympathetic and tender voice, as if speaking to a child, said slowly,
“You… will… walk… your… path… … ALONE.” (It seemed as though she teared.)
When I returned the next day, all I could get out of her was that if I focused on being myself and shined that “light” outward; others would see it and find me—along with an unspoken “eventually”. Great, I thought, I climb a mountain and all I get is bad news and a corny Internet meme.
It was only a day or two ago, as I began to think about my trip back to Sedona, and the demoralizing personal failures and grim internal bruising I endured this year, that the truth and meaning of her words finally came into focus. The process of becoming more genuinely YOU and opening that self to your current life will mean that others will react to your not acquiescing to their false perception of you, a perception you yourself created for them. They may not have the recourses yet to understand you in a new way. Some never will, and others may not like what they see. Some will misunderstand and misinterpret your intentions, or be blinded by your honesty. Still others, however, will find in you everything that you actually are and love you for that, and it will be worth the wait.
It is what it is. Some stories do not conclude–they just end. Some karma is never recognized. Some beauty is never seen. Yet we walk within a vast orchard of ripe new experiences. Of the great secular trinity that shapes our existence; Destiny, Causality, and Free Will, free will can be the most tragic. The idea that we possess the power to deny, ignore, and refuse the very truth we seek though it’s lying right before us, terrifies me most. Further, what if ALL the truth and beauty we will ever need is always and everywhere around us? All of it there for the taking BUT for our ability or our willingness to recognize it, and the courage to reach for it.
The desert has a stunning beauty all its own, it is bliss to me. It has no labels for you, no projections or expectations, and it asks nothing. You find there only the truth you bring with you. I look forward to returning to the Kachina Woman and her Dirty Harry 44 Magnum pointed at my nose, and I’m feeling lucky this time.
The visual pattern the Kachina Woman showed me fit like a blueprint over the pattern of experiences I had this past year, and that pattern is now complete. Don’t you see? She knew. She knew what would happen. She also knew that I did not have the resources yet to understand it and that it would absolutely suck for me. She knew and she told me anyway because I asked her to.
Did hearing her prophesy make any difference? Did I really need to know? Maybe so. Maybe I tried harder, maybe I was more aware, more prepared for what might have otherwise driven me to despair and reversed my course—giving up on openness. In the end, I learned that those times when we feel as though we are stepping down into the abyss, we’re actually taking one very difficult step upward.
And that’s why I go back.