The Inverse of the Summit

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White Peaks, Derbyshire, taken on a walking holiday

Most people who enjoy hiking know that getting to the top of a mountain can be difficult. But for those who are experienced, perhaps after about 40 years of climbing those mountains, we begin to understand that it is the descent that is actually the more challenging of the two. Sure, you become breathless as you make your way slowly up the mountainside, sweat on your brow and your legs muscles pumping.  But on the way down, you have to take special care, your balance comes into play, and one wrong move can leave you stranded on that mountainside awaiting rescue.

And it’s this analogy that I’ve come to understand as the integration of those rare moments of epiphany in our lives. Getting to the mountaintop can be the easy part; coming back home can be the more difficult. We got to the top, now we’re on our return journey, tired, but taking the memory and experience with us to internalise. Having the epiphany is easy – integrating it into every day is the more difficult part of the journey. It’s the inverse of the mountain’s peak, and once we’ve traversed this sometimes treacherous way, it’s then that we can find that lovely and level middle ground.

It doesn’t matter whether it was a small realisation or a grand epiphany that you’ve come to in your life; the really important thing is how to integrate it into your soul and your life. You can’t just have it and then forget about it – or, you could, but then what’s the point? The real point is to make it a part of your life, each and every day. To live the realisation, to make it a reality.

And it’s not easy. Our everyday lives can be so busy, and filled with a plethora of tasks and minutiae that can take precedence unless we are careful about how we manage our integration. It’s all good to go on a retreat, to meditate, to do pathworking or journeying work, even spellwork, but then it’s up to us to bring that into our lives as well, and not just let it rest “out there in the universe”. We have to make it manifest, we have to make time and integrate the work. We have to come down that mountain.

And it can seem dull and boring, all the repetitive tasks that we have to do each day, when we’d rather be receiving even more epiphanies. We have to do the dishes, clean the bathroom, cook our meals, teach our kids, feed the cats, mow the lawn, pay the bills, etc. We have to get on with the chores of the day.

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My little Kiri cat 🙂

But these elements, numerous as they are, form such a large part of our lives. So why shouldn’t we make them even more special, and give them more significance? Why can’t we internalise our hard work and let that inspiration flow out in everything that we do? It’s all a matter of perspective. On the summit, it’s easy to see all around you, to have that greater perspective. Scooping out the poop in the kitty litter box isn’t nearly as grand.

But that revelatory experience doesn’t have to fade with time. We can carry that in our souls, even when we’re running to the bin with a very stinky scoop of poop. For me, the act of service helps me to continue my revelatory experiences in everything that I do. It’s something that we’ve always taught at Druid College, and something which I’ve expanded even further in my studies and work with the Sisterhood of Avalon. That service, whether it’s working for your community or taking care of your stinky cats can be the thing that connects you to everything else. It is in those moments of interconnection that we realise that we are all a part of a greater tapestry of life, woven from many threads, stronger and even more beautiful when we support each other.

That larger perspective is carried in our hearts and minds, and into everything that we do, from the choices we make each and every day to the way we interact with people every single moment. And it’s not easy. Coming down the mountain there are loose rocks and stones that can trip us up or roll under our feet, causing us to lose our balance, wrench our knee, put our back out. But if we’re careful, if we’re mindful, we can hopefully get back to everyday life intact and in good condition to keep that momentum going. There are the pitfalls of losing our way, losing the daylight, losing the map or compass. But unless we’re really unlucky, most of us will make it back and into our nice, warm homes where we can integrate fully the experience. And it’s keeping that feeling in our hearts as we go about our daily tasks can be equally as challenging. That is the real inverse of the summit.

But once we have achieved that, then we find the level path that allows us a good vantage point, and is much easier to manage as well. We find that balance point in our heart and souls, and the way forward becomes more pleasant. So the next time you reach that mountaintop in your life, find a word that summarises the experience, something that you can recall when you are cleaning a clogged drain, dealing with a difficult neighbour, or sitting in a lonely silence. This is what you can use to make the vision real, to make the intangible, tangible. Manifest this in your life, and then all that work will truly be worth it.

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The valley where I grew up in Quebec, taken from the lovely and level trail of an old disused railway.

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Holistic manifestation – the nature of awen

In my previous blog post on my other blog, DruidHeart for SageWoman, I wrote about how we are never born, and how we can never die: we are simply manifest for a while in one form, and then we manifest again in another when the conditions are right. For me, this represents reincarnation, the nitty gritty basics of it and the science behind reincarnation.

Another aspect of manifestation is that we are not separate beings on this planet, or indeed in this universe. We cannot be, for we are all made up of different elements of existence. A human being is made up of non-human elements, such as calcium and magnesium, sunlight and wave, clouds and stars. All manifestation has a shared existence, for we cannot exist without everything else. This is explained beautifully by Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh in what he called Inter-Being. We cannot exist alone, we can only inter-be with everything else on this planet. It is a wonderfully evocative and holistic way of thinking that sits very well within my vision of Druidry. When we realise that we are not separate from the whole, we immediately act with a different intention, and live our lives filled with compassion and love instead of alienation and fear.

Our ancestors are with us all the time. Though their bodies may have long since physically disappeared to our eyes in the soil, their manifestation has not – it has simply changed its form. Energy cannot be destroyed, it cannot go anywhere. Neither can it be brought forth out of nothing. We are all manifestations of energy, energy that has existed on this planet for 4.54 billion years. This is a shared energy, one that we cannot claim as our own. If we cannot claim this energy as our own, how can we claim anything to be our own?

Ownership requires the belief that we are separate creatures. In our brief manifestation as human beings, we may think we own our house, our pets, our cars, however this is all illusion. We are only borrowing them, using them for however long or short a period of time before we are changed in form upon our so-called “death”. This death is not a singular, separate event, but merely a way to describe the cessation of a certain manifestation. Equally, there is no birth, simply the beginning of a new manifestation. The energy behind the manifestation is always there.

This shared energy is in the heart of the sun, in the rocky surface of the moon, in the wind and in the rain. It is in the bee and in the bear, in the holly bush and in the snow. The icicle is made up of non-icicle elements. The cat is made up of non-cat elements. This is what it means to have a shared existence. Not shared existences, but a singular shared existence.

If we are all a part of each other, we will see that if we fight with another person, we fight with ourselves. If we grieve for another person, we grieve for ourselves. If we act with love and compassion for the world, we also act with love and compassion for our selves.

The plant that has died is still there, in another form. It is still a part of our self as well, for we have breathed in its oxygen; we are in its soil as its soil is within us. There exists a beautiful garden in our compost heap. The sea is held within the sky. I am within a woman grieving in Palestine, and she is within me.

Keeping this thought close to my heart, I can reach out and touch the awen that connects the threads of all existence. That energy where soul touches soul, where boundaries fall way, where we are beautifully inspired by the acknowledgment of another being and seeing that being reflected and existing in our souls – this is at the heart of Druid teaching. Walking awake and aware in the world, seeing the connecting threads, seeing the shared manifestation and shared existence fills our souls with beauty and awe in the wonder that is the world.

May we be the awen.

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