The dream came on late Tuesday night. She was talking to me.. a weak tender voice not quite like her usual voice. Kind of broken.. with a bit of a high pitch. She was giving me important spiritual information and her form was like the floating form of feminine liquidity. Of course, what she said made sense in the dream and I promised myself I’d remember it, but when I awoke, I did not remember.
She too had had a dream that same evening – similar in many respects as she had been talking to a group of people in her dream passing on information from her soul and she felt that since I had heard her talking that I would be one of the people who would continue to be able to receive messages from her when she in fact had left her body.
I sent a card writing my thoughts about our friendship:
Dearest Elizabeth: This card reminds me of you. The ‘Monet” blending of the colors, the flowers in full bloom. You spoke in your phone message of feeling like your life force was leaving 3 times in the last few weeks and so whether you go sooner than later or later than sooner, I would like you to know I have cherished our friendship, our many talks, the depths and heights of vulnerability we have shared and your insights stimulating mine and mine yours. You have always been a vibrant cheerleader of my talents and I so appreciate that love. I will never forget my walk to your Vision Fast site and the Hawk feather I was gifted with on my return. I have your wonderful letters and some of your poems and I will re-read and remember the vibrance and stimulation of our conversations. When I purchased this card for you, I purchased one for myself as well as it will always bring back the colorful memories of you and the soft intensity and honest of our friendship. Love you Dearly my Friend… ❤️
P.S. It was a twist of luck and fate that I just happened to find the enclosed photos from our Vision Fast together in 2003. The photos say 96 but that is incorrect. These are yours to keep as I also have a set. It sure does bring up a lot of emotions looking at them.
I met Elizabeth on that Vision Fast in the fall of 2003. On a Vision Fast you end up with a ‘partner’ by means of the area you end up spending your personal alone time in. As I headed out from Base Camp on our first day out on the land in Death Valley, Elizabeth was behind me headed in the same direction. I came upon a wonderful site with a tree and some soft ground on which to lay my sleeping bag and in the distance was the amazing mountain range above Bishop, CA. I had pretty much decided that this was going to be where I would spend the next 4 days and 5 mights fasting and searching for my Vision. As Elizabeth came up upon the site she knew it was her site and she informed me of such not knowing that I had already claimed it. Since she was older and hobbling along with a hiking stick and couldn’t really go much further in search of a site, I surrendered the beautiful site to her and I continued on my way at least another half mile closer to that mountain range in the distance.
The time alone in nature on a Vision Fast is crucial to ones connection to the elements outside of ones body and the voices from deep within the layers of unconsciousness that seem to slowly rise up and present themselves to the conscious mind as the long days and nights hang and at times never seem to move. Hours spent staring at the stars in the black darkness and listening with an acute ear toward any monster that might be coming to get you in the late night hours; along with the gnawing hunger in your belly as your bones attempt to get used to the hard ground beneath the thin camping map and sleeping bag. Nobody said this was going to be easy and it’s not but in my own experiences in life, nothing worth gaining comes without an ‘uncomfortableness’ and sometimes downright searing pain that seems to force change. Being ‘green’ at the beginning of any journey in life is the best way to take it on because once you know the hardships of a journey, it’s rather hard to want to embark upon it again. However, I ended up going on 6 more of these Vision Fasts and I do feel there is at least one more lingering in me. But I digress….
As I was saying.. the time spent alone is crucial but instruction in strong safety procedures are given by the guides before the ‘fasters’ head out and one of those is the stone or ‘buddy pile.’ In the case with Elizabeth and I, each morning I would visit our designated site where our buddy pile was to be built and place a new stone in the pile to let her know that for the last 12 hours I was doing ok. In the evenings she would come to the buddy pile, see mine, and place a new stone there to let me know she was ok and so it went for the length of our time out on the land. We never saw one another unless one of us did not leave a stone and then that was cause for a visit to our buddy’s site to make sure they were ok. On my first visit to the buddy pile, I did not find Elizabeth’s stone and so I had to make the trek to her site to make sure she was ok. I felt a bit of irritation at this as I had crossed the threshold into the ‘world of Spirit’ when I left base camp and wanted to stay there without human contact, but it was necessary and what if she she was not ok? There was that looming possibility and so I went. It turns out she was fine and had left a stone but I could not distinguish it from the other stones as they all looked alike that morning. She was touched I had come to check on her and after a bit of small talk, I headed back to my site. On the way back I found the Hawk feather I mentioned in my letter to Elizabeth. Great Spirit had given me many feathers but never Hawk. There are many messages in the finding of a Hawk feather but the one that is resonating and is so apropos after these many years is:
Hawk denotes union with All That Is. The hawk is a bird of the heavens, arranging the changes necessary to prompt our spiritual growth. Having this power animal can be bitter sweet. When accepting its presence in your life, you will be asked to surrender/give up anything that doesn’t honor the integrity of all life. Whether it’s an idea, feeling or action. Although hard work is involved, the rewards to be reaped are great, far outweighing this. (From Shamanic Journey)
The message in this paragraph now confronts me with the questions: Has my journey up to now “honored the integrity of all life?” Was I and am I still selfish, self-centered, dishonest, fearful? What does it mean to ‘honor the integrity of all life’ and what in my life must I surrender and give up in order to do that?
In answering the questions I was and am still selfish, self-centered, dishonest and fearful at times; and I certainly have only ‘honored the integrity of all life’ but only if it served my selfish needs. Yes I am at core a good decent individual but I like many formed an agenda at a young age to ‘get mine,’ which in my case was to be seen, validated, loved, appreciated, respected and discovered. Most of the time it was ‘all about me.’ ‘Honoring the integrity of all life’ would be for me in a nutshell, a stance of non-judgment, live and let live, continue to work on not taking anything personal, hold equanimity in all interactions, work to see all people places and things through the eyes of Love, learn to hear through the ears of Love, and speak only when it ‘serves.’ I learned this last piece of integrity from one of my Vision Fast guides, Joseph Angelo Lazenka. He suggested as we sat in circle to ask ourselves, ‘what serves,’ before we spoke. This was a tall order: To quiet the ego before impulsively blurting out whatever my ‘insecure, needy, full of self,’ personality wanted to say in order to be seen and validated and in this ‘blurting’ nothing was sacred! So all of this ‘surrendering and giving up anything that doesn’t honor the integrity of all life’ is indeed a tall order. But as the Big Book of Alcoholics says on Page 60.. ‘we claim spiritual progress rather than spiritual perfection.’ The important thing is ‘to strive.’ To become ‘aware.’ I truly believe that is the game here on this planet earth.. to ‘become aware.’ To ‘re-member’ ourselves back to who we truly were before the monkey’s in our heads grew into maddening voices of incredible authority and control. As Robin Sharma said: “The mind is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master,” and I my friends am still so much a servant to this terrible master in my head.
Elizabeth has been calling and leaving messages. I spoke to her earlier in the week and she was distant, a bit cold, and due to thinking about her life and the amount of time she had left… she claimed to be pulling back from the way she used to be. She spoke of pulling out of a friendship relationship she was having with a married man who’s wife did not like her but that the conversations had nurtured both their souls with the deep conversations they would have at lunch while the wife sat and stared at them both not engaging. I found her former ‘warmth’ and ‘friendliness’ missing as we talked and my heart felt like taking it personal as I had so enjoyed the emotional vibrance and stimulation of the many conversations we had had over the years. BUT I remembered in those moments Woody, my 2nd husband, who had passed on from cancer in early 2004. One day I saw him looking in the mirror. He then came out and sadly announced that his eyes were empty of love. At that moment, my soul knew his life force was draining and he knew it too. After that, I felt him slowly pulling away. He precious love could not be present for all my emotional neediness. The grief that began to subtly engulf me was all twisted in the fear of an impending reality I did not understand but as I look back I know now why that ‘pulling away’ had to absolutely happen. And so it is with Elizabeth.
We recently spoke again in great length about the Vision Fast photos I had sent…. our experiences and why the Vision Fast was such a powerful therapeutic tool. We agreed that never in any therapy we had every experienced had we had a more powerful experience than what had happened to us out on the seemingly barren land of Death Valley. Yes, seemingly barren, dry and weathered season after season by the hot burning sun.. nothing seems to live and yet in Spring massive Wildflower bloom! Just like the card featured above that I sent Elizabeth. In this time, before her death she has become a massive field of beautiful colorful wildflowers….
When is our ‘true blooming?’ Some might say in our youth. Some may say in our 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and most likely it’s different for each one, however in my experience, sitting here as I write this at 61, I feel the best blooming comes when the ‘self’ gets out of the way. When the ‘limited’ self, limited and choked down by weeds of selfishness, self-centeredness, resentments and 100 forms of fear, becomes free, that true self, now fleshed out with a stunningly poignant soul full of life experiences, can begin to blossom and BECOME what it was meant to be.
As our conversation continued Elizabeth spoke of her inability to ‘connect’ to that deeper peaceful soul self… feeling numb, lifeless, dull, not present in this moment. She questioned why. Why now? Why in the weeks before what might be her impending death, she didn’t feel a kind of joy, connectedness, a surrendering into what is. It was a perfect question for where I had just been the night before, positioned in front of the computer watching Daniel Schmidt – in his 2019 ‘Buddha at the Gas Pump Interview.’ Daniel is the creator of the award-winning film “Inner Worlds Outer Worlds” as well as the ongoing “Samadhi” series. In the interview as well as in his films, he talks extensively about Samadhi:
“Awakening to your true nature. … An experience of this moment, here and now, unmeditated by the limited self is called Samadhi in the the ancient traditions, which is awakening to your true nature beyond name and form. Awakening is waking from the dream of a limited self.”
As I began to share with Elizabeth about Daniel and his work and how he came to be doing it all through an experience in his youth with Vipassana Meditation, Elizabeth suddenly came alive… “I know all this,” she exclaimed as she began to tell me of her own amazing experience many years prior with Vipassana Meditation where she actually experienced the cessation of that ‘limited self,’ and for a short time became one with everything. We spoke for quite some time on this topic and her experience ran mysteriously parallel to Daniel’s. As she spoke, the realization that ‘this’ was how she should be spending the precious spare hours she has left on this planet, became glaringly apparent. To return to the discipline of quieting the mind…. quieting the maddening monkey’s endless useless chatter throwing us against the walls of ourselves leaving us feeling numb, lifeless, dull and bringing us to that peaceful state of equanimity or non-duality with all that is. To not sit mindlessly staring at the T.V. slumping further and further down into complacency but to move toward opening to ‘The One.’ God, Brahma, Great Spirit, or one of over 100 names of that great creative energy. It is said, if we take one step toward God, he will take 100 towards us and I personally have come to know this.
All this reminds me of a story of an elder king and his wife who were lounging around being luxuriously coddled and fed extravagant rich meals in a palace by their caring nephews and other family members who felt they were doing a good service for the king and his wife. They were becoming more and more lifeless in their daily living as their senses dulled and the pain and suffering caused by the hatchet in the kings heart from his past non-amended sins was slowly being forgotten. A Brother of the King came and found them in this pitiful condition and began to admonish them for allowing themselves to fall down into such a pit of sloth and suggested they retreat to the forest for penance, giving up all and sacrificing their life for the good of their people, which after some argument and resistance they did.
To walk with death on one shoulder is to live poignantly present in each moment. Elizabeth is living with her ‘present life’ on one shoulder and death pressing down on the other and in these moments she is vacillating between the physical pain of her existence and the inner knowing she must get back not to the forrest like the king but to the garden – same metaphor… same outcome. Elizabeth’s presence in my life at this time along with the work of Daniel Schmidt is no coincidence… these are but great teachers reminding me that I too must get back to the garden to cultivate, weed, prune, and nurture. For in this daily attendance is the gift of walking aware and awake . My very life depends upon it as Joni Mitchell shares so perfectly:
Woodstock by Joni Mitchell
I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him where are you going
And this he told me
I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm
I’m going to join in a rock ‘n’ roll band
I’m going to camp out on the land
I’m going to try an’ get my soul free
We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden
Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe it’s the time of man
I don’t know who I am
But you know life is for learning
We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden
By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation
We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves
back to the garden
© 1969; Siquomb Publishing Company
Credits: Image of greeting card entitled Sweet Meadow by Carrie Tasman (tasmanstudio.com) / Photo of Elizabeth by Christina James.