The Thaw

 

 

a pilgrimage of reconciliation

 

“I, who give with my hands what I can, who receive both insults and the warmest of greetings, sing to the heart, which from the darkest abyss is reborn in the light of Meaning.”

 

“The Voyage,” Silo, Guided Experiences

 

It’s been a long time since I fulfilled my purpose with the species. I have had babies, and they have grown and fled along their own paths, and left me with the old man. And now, as we prepare for the Pilgrimage, the journey to the great Aconcagua for the three “Days of Spiritual Inspiration” this May of 2007, word has come from the Master that it is a good time to reconcile – with ourselves, and with others.

 

Actually, I don’t think I have much to reconcile about. Reconciling means letting go of resentment – and I don’t feel a lot of resentment. My life has been good, fuller and fuller. Of course it’s not perfect – I still fear losing my loved ones, that’s the main bone I have to pick with Life. I don’t fear my own death so much, since I know from a past moment of lucidity that we don’t really die, and this gives me infinite hope. But I still fear losing my children – they are more part of me than my own body! Perhaps it’s simply instinct, the imperative of carrying on the species… I don’t know. I just know it’s a major problem.

 

But that fear doesn’t have to do with reconciliation, I think. Fear isn’t resentment. I don’t feel a lot of resentment. And if I don’t feel much resentment, what’s to reconcile? But just to go with the flow, I agree to take a look.

 

 

 

I ask myself why this thing of reconciliation, why now, before this pilgrimage – and it occurs to me that is what one does when one is about to die…

 

Someone sends us notes for a workshop on reconciliation, with the suggestion that we make lists: what mistakes have I made – toward myself and toward others? And then see what resentments are connected with those mistakes. They also say that beneath every resentment lurks a failure. So dig up the failures, and then make a plan for reconciliation. Also make a list of your virtues, and see which of them can help you carry out this plan.

 

Sounds like a workable formula, but there are a couple of things that bother me about it. The notes remind us that reconciliation is a two-way street: it’s not just forgiving someone, it means procuring their forgiveness. I don’t feel good about this. It sounds fishy  – what if I’ve lost their address?

 

Also it galls me to ask forgiveness. I can forgive, being a generous type – but asking forgiveness means admitting I once tried to hurt the other person. Which I really don’t remember doing – not intentionally – since I was ten years old and hit my brother on the head with a toy gun…

 

And finally, I’ve always been annoyed by this idea that you can hurt others. I don’t believe we can hurt or be hurt. I feel in my stomach that this is a pitiful concept, a manipulation of the psychotherapy associations of the world. We are Gods. I believe this like I disbelieve in death, from rare past  moments of lucidity. Of course I don’t experience it in waking life – far from it. But I do believe it, and I guard the memory in hopes that one day, when my time comes, it will help me pick the lock to Eternity.

 

On the other hand, as I begin my lists, I have to admit that there are a few people I do resent a little. I can see them there, affixed on the pages of my life, stuck like bugs on pins, frozen in Time. I keep them there, pinned down with my resentment, to deal with when I figure out how. Sometimes I resent them because of what they did to me, sometimes because of what I did to them, and because of the guilt they make me feel…

 

 

A little history about my life.

 

I have learned to function despite my chronic condition of being frozen, which I developed early in life.

 

All during my childhood I was practically immobile, outwardly. Look at me funny, or look at me at all, and I would hide, turn inside out. At home with my family, I came out more – but the only place I was really free was inside, where I could do whatever I wanted without anyone knowing. Sometimes I left clues, in stories or pictures.

 

Of course I longed to come out. And over the many years, I learned to manipulate my body in the world like a puppet, standing back from it, behind the scenes.

 

I had a pretty nice life as a puppet. Things were pretty smooth. I began my list of errors with “being quiet.”

 

 

We are setting out from California for Punta de Vacas six weeks early, to make a tour of several places in Argentina, where Jorge was born and raised. But we are starting in Peru. Jorge has always wanted to go to Machu Picchu, and now he has found a cheap ticket, and we are going. I am worried about the altitude, but once he decides something, forget it, it’s happening.

 

We fly to Lima, and then to Cusco, the center of the Inca Empire, 12,000 feet up in the mountains. From Cusco we take the train, an old train from the 30s, full of tourists. The mountains are golden. We chug up the canyon, ever steeper, following the river Urubamba, that plunges and cavorts and surges down the narrow valley.

 

The train leaves us finally at Aguas Calientes, a ramshackle tourist village jammed at the foot of the ridiculously tall mountains, teetering on the lip of the immense, hectic river. Urubamba! The name shouts the same way the river leaps and surges.

 

The next morning we take the bus up the mountainside to Machu Picchu, the citadel of the Inca maidens, the Virgins of the Sun.

 

Machu Picchu is incredible. We spend the day hurrying after the guide, and he is excellent, explains what the names mean in Quechua, tells us how the Incas were able, with water and fire, to tailor those immense granite blocks to fit into each other as if they were holding hands…

 

But we want more time, time to sit, to contemplate, to drink the place into our core. So we go back the next day without a guide. Someone tells us to be careful, a man was lost here in the ruins for two entire days not long ago. Overnight, alone in this stone labyrinth. How could someone get lost in this place? It’s not that big, perched on top of these vertical peaks, an area that cannot be more than a few square blocks all in all…

 

We walk slowly, wending our way among the ruins, taking our time. The place is magical, built for princesses, daughters of the Light. The stone dwellings are constructed above broad green lawns, and you can see where the legendary hanging gardens, once dense with orchids, were suspended from steep terraces over the void… How many gardeners fell to their deaths here?

 

Finally we reach the Sacred Stone, where seekers from all over the planet come to meditate.

 

I remember Karl, the Swiss fellow we met last week at a meeting of the Message, when everyone was late and he endeavored to teach us the importance of Being On Time. This was annoying because he was right – everyone was late. Of course this was not a problem for most of the people in the meeting, since in Peru, being on time can mean coming up to an hour after the stated time. Someone said the government was trying to remedy the problem by passing a law that everyone has to synchronize their watches…

 

But Karl was also a kind and sincere man, a lover of Machu Picchu. He told us he likes to take people there to “feel” the stones, to sense the spirit of the place.

 

And so, there at the Sacred Stone, a great upright slab of granite, twice the height of a human being, I tried to do the same. Feeling only slightly conspicuous, we meditated. Jorge stood facing the stone, resting his hands on its surface. I sat, leaning against it in its shade, its cold heat penetrating my back.

 

First you have to get quiet, to relax deeply. And then open up, extend yourself into the spaces between the atoms, the vast spaces where the energy is generated…

 

And in this space inside myself, inside the stone, I noticed something that took me by surprise. In this austere place of  rock, I felt the touch of something warm, personal – a Kindness. A Benevolence – vast, deep, joyous, exhilarating, but also gentle and caring. It was the Being of the place – an eternal Being – profound, timeless, without fears, without death.

 

I gave thanks to it, and to myself, and we stayed there, quiet, a long while.

 

 

Back in Lima we have twelve hours in the airport. Miguel, a friend and fellow Messenger, comes and picks us up and takes us to a meeting of the Community of the Threshold, a group of friends who do volunteer work with people who are dying. I am still full of the experience of Machu Picchu. We share experiences, and I tell them about our new book, Experiences on the Threshold, that is just coming out.

 

Then Miguel proposes that we do the guided experience “Death” – the one where you find yourself in a great dark theater, and they weigh your innards.

 

I’ve never this experience liked much – it’s too heavy, and too close to home. But OK, it is probably appropriate, since we are working on the theme of reconciliation, and this is, after all the Community of the Threshold. So we close our eyes, and Miguel reads, and we follow along, each of us in our own inner labyrinth… Finally we come to the part where it says,

 

Have your guide lead you to the grotto. There you can go no further until you pay the price to the hostile forms that guard the entrance. If, finally, you are able to enter the grotto, ask your guide to cast light to the left and to the right. Ask your guide to bring the torch close to the large marble bodies of the statues of all those you have never been able to forgive.

 

I look – and the only statue I can see is my mother. She is there, frozen solid. I cannot even touch her. I cannot even begin to forgive her.

 

And I had thought my work with reconciliation was going to be easy!

 

We open our eyes, the others comment on their insights. I tell Miguel that I wish he hadn’t chosen that one. But there it is, I have my work cut out for me. That night I begin writing about my mother…

 

 

We catch our flight, to Buenos Aires – delightful city of deep avenues and gentle old buildings under lofty trees… Walking down the street in the humid warmth, I feel like I am in an aquarium, a fish swimming down a corridor of green.

 

We stay with Roberto and Carmen, in their tall old house, and they invite us to participate in the “fire workshop.” Making fire, like the primitives, by striking stone against stone. I’ve never quite understood the importance of this. Yes, I am interested in things of the spirit, but I just don’t see the connection. But everyone is into it, it’s said to be a preparation for the “disciplines” – which theoretically I would love to study, since they are said to offer liberation, relief from suffering – so again I go along with it, go with the flow.

 

We buy quartz and pyrite from a store that sells semi-precious stones. We have to select our stones personally, so that they fit us. I choose a pink quartz crystal half the size of my fist, and a similar-sized chunk of pyrite, a mass of bronze cubelets jammed together every which way. I also buy turquoise earrings.

 

That evening we climb to the top of Roberto’s house, to his rooftop workshop, and there we find a mob of twenty or so friends. They’re all our age. Oldish. Where are the young people? I know there are numerous young people in the movement here, but I guess they make their fire separately. I feel like I’m in an age ghetto.

 

Some have brought boxes and bags of fire-making materials – different kinds of wood and brush – in addition to their personal stones. Everything is jumbled together on the plastic tables. I hear people talking about “hongos” – mushrooms? No, fungus – it’s the same word. I am feeling uncomfortable. I don’t know most of these people, they are friendly but I have never been good at social mingling with strangers. Besides, this is all in Spanish, which I speak, but which is not my language. I hope we begin soon. I bumble around, smiling at people, forcing myself to make a few words of light conversation..

 

Then I notice that people have already begun, without warning. It’s not the kind of workshop I’m used to, where someone tells you what to do. People are sitting around the table striking their stones together – pyrite in one hand, quartz in the other – over a piece of fungus. The fungus seems to be a kind of lichen, and they are saying that it’s not very dry, since there’s been a plague of rain here – global warming. But some are dry – you have to find them. I do my best, choosing a lichen and wedging myself in at the corner of the table, placing the lichen in front of me and striking my stones together above it.

 

How hard can it be? Sparks are flying everywhere. Everyone is concentrated, intense, sweating in the effort to create unneeded fire. Silent. The sharp crack of stone on stone,  bash bash bash… My stones make sparks too. They fall on the lichen and die…

 

This goes on for some time… Until suddenly someone cries out “Ahhhhh!!!!! Oooooh!!!” and begins madly blowing on her lichen. Her neighbor joins in, blowing and holding the lichen up, and I see that they are working together. Everyone else stops for a moment to marvel at the birth of fire, and the creators blow and blow, and even I feel a jolt of exhilaration. Fire!! A tiny flame, they fan it and puff at it, adding bits of plant fuzz and straw, blowing, gasping…

 

The rest of us, inspired, go back to striking, striking, others now working together too, while wisps of smoke arise from the lucky lichen. The flame grows, and the creators slowly rise to their feet, as if by necessity, bearing the Fire, so precious, fragile, the flame is surviving, they parade it out into the night…

 

Everyone continues their efforts with renewed enthusiasm. We are all becoming dirtier and dirtier, scraps of stone flying everywhere, sparks falling and dying – but here another catches, and the same ritual repeats, gasps, joy, exultation! Inspiration!

 

I note with dismay that my stones are destroying themselves. My lichen is covered with a layer of glitter, which would keep any spark from catching, even if the lichen were dry enough. I suspect it is not – at least that’s a good excuse. I am beginning to feel disgruntled, disgusted. Tired. Striking and striking with no result.

 

At least Jorge is having a similar result. But it doesn’t seem to bother him. He is always buoyant, no matter what – he flows naturally in the social waters, mingling and talking so effortlessly, delighted in this bath of friendship…

 

For me it is an effort, and I begin to feel like I haven’t felt for years – the way I used to feel as a young person, socially clueless, mute, useless, swamped in mute resentment – resentment over what? Not about failing at making fire. This is the climate that always overwhelmed me in social situations in my childhood and youth – where my mom would be on top of the world, the center of everything, and I would be on the side, paralyzed, nothing to offer.

 

I am deciding that I don’t like this fire workshop. Maybe, I hope, it’s not a requirement for spiritual success. Maybe it’s one of those things that you do only if you like it, if you have an affinity for it. But here I am, I have to continue. I struggle away silently, my face covered with grime, hope dying.

 

Finally I can’t stand it any longer. I stand up and slip away, no one notices, of course, since I am invisible anyway. I go back to our room, where I sit on the bed. How can I be feeling this way? This is something of the past. I’ve been able to navigate the social waters quite well for some time now, although admittedly it’s only easy when I’m with friends – but I’m learning, I’ve been learning. And now it’s as if I were back in grade school, the other children jeering at me for my shyness…

 

Back in the workshop, by the end of the evening, seven people have managed to make fire. Luckily Jorge has failed. We blame it on the dampness of the lichens.

 

I’m glad it’s over. At least, I think, I ended up with some nice turquoise earrings…

 

 

The next day we go to visit La Reja Park – the first of the Parks of Silo’s Message. We take the train to the outskirts of Buenos Aires, and then a taxi through the poor suburbs.

 

The last time I was here was two years ago, in 2005, for the opening of the park. The place was overflowing with thousands of people, colorful, buzzing and seething with friendship and high spirits. But today, unlike most days here, nothing is going on. It’s a holiday, and people have fled the city, they say.

 

The taxi drops us outside the gates, and the place looks small and empty. The white cupola reminds me of Disneyland. But it is a place of pilgrimage, something remains here, in the place itself, empty or full. We pay the driver and walk through the gate… the gate into another time, another space.

 

Everything is peaceful, a languid place of grass and trees. We see two people drinking mate at a table beside the old house that has become the multiuse center. We approach them and learn that they are caretakers, they live here. We are welcome to visit everything – the fountain is not running, but everything else is open, available. Everything is quiet, even the mosquitoes – I’ve only been bitten once. We wander around the grounds, everything peaceful, warm…

 

At last we enter the Hall, the white dome, empty inside except for the three concentric circles of benches around an open center space. We sit without speaking, to meditate. Still perturbed by last night’s abject failure, I am looking forward to it.

 

I bring down the sphere, the globe of light, into my heart, let it expand… Well, every meditation is different, and this one is nothing special – no explosions of comprehension or bliss. I probably have too many expectations. But at least it brings me some peace…

 

After a while I open my eyes. I shift my position, to make the bench creak, so Jorge gets the signal and finishes and we can leave. He is still deep into it, a little smile on his face. He usually takes longer than I do – he has more patience, does everything more slowly. I imagine, jealously, that he goes deeper…

 

Finally he opens his eyes and smiles at me with the gentlest affection – and I am suddenly filled with outrage! He is patronizing me, feeling sorry for me, he is always the most successful at meditating, goes much deeper, has fabulous inner peace. And on top of that, the mosquitoes are biting me, and not him! I sink into bitter fury.

 

Of course I know this is my own insanity, I don’t want to contaminate him, so I smile frigidly and get up, and we leave the hall. He says he is going to the bathroom and I tell him I’ll wait for him in the hall. I can’t leave myself in this funk.

 

I go back inside, sit, and call the Guide. This time I ask more strongly – please help me out of this embarrassing, denigrating funk – here we’ve come to La Reja, the first of the Halls, this holy place where everything should be a breakthrough – and I am tumbling backward down the slippery slope of resentment, furious with my well-meaning beloved husband… it’s ridiculous! I don’t know what to do with this situation, all I know is that I feel like a furious child, unable to move or act, melting into the background, just watching everything, existing only in an private imaginary world, full of resentment about this situation that I have been forced into where everyone sees me as someone to be pitied and cared for…

 

Finally I get a small answer: Just accept it. That’s the way it is. Accept yourself, love yourself as you are. All this is your contents – the up and down, good and bad, despicable and heroic – it’s all me.

 

Ah – so maybe it’s ok. I hadn’t thought of that, so busy fighting it. Maybe I can’t change it – and maybe I don’t need to. Maybe that’s the thing of failure, why Silo says his message is for the failures, not the worldly successes…

 

Well, at least something – that’s a relief. I open my eyes. When Jorge comes back, I am cheerful, and we leave the park to go have lunch.

 

 

The next day, back at Roberto’s house, Norma comes to visit. She is a dynamo of caring, she has been working with Silo’s Message with young people in the poorest of neighborhoods, and has a great warmth and a fearless good humor that I respect. We have tea on the roof, and Carmen, sweet and buoyant, comes to join us. I tell them about my experience at La Reja – about how I have gotten some peace finally by just accepting certain things about myself, ways of being that have made me suffer. By not trying to change what I can’t change.

 

They look at me funny when I say that. They don’t buy it. Reproachfully, they insist, “Of course you can change!!”

 

And I’m back where I started. So I have to change after all… I feel chagrined. I don’t know what path to take.

 

 

When he was a little boy, Jorge used to go with his father to a monastery near his town, where they would spend days while his father meditated and prayed. There was a park – a beautiful, lush green park, with many fruit trees and fish ponds and animals, and the monks made everything they needed to live – it was like going back to the middle ages, he said. They made their own sweet wine – hidromiel, honey-wine – and he remembers getting riotously drunk on it because his father, lost in meditation, was not watching, and the little boy drank what he wanted. The monks never spoke, but they sang every day – Gregorian chant. It was paradise.

 

When his sister tells him that place still offers rooms to pilgrims, Jorge jumps at the chance. So after Buenos Aires, we take the bus to the little town of Victoria, to spend some days at the Abbey. We arrive in the midst of a mosquito invasion, but it is a lovely, gentle countryside, rolling and green, with the flooded Parana River simmering in the distance. We take a taxi to the monastery, a few kilometers outside of town. The place has changed, Jorge says. A new colonial-style church faces the road, with the monastery buildings behind it.

 

The monks greet us in their long black robes, very friendly. The place has an impoverished, shabby air that I remember from Catholic schools in the US. The cheapest of everything. They lead us down a dim hallway to our room, which has a window looking out over the park. Everything simple but comfortable enough.

 

Here, at least, is an interesting opportunity to embrace our roots. Neither of us is Christian any longer – but Christianity permeates our lives, we both grew up soaked in it, Jorge Catholic, I protestant. Neither of us has great memories of our Christian days. At Jorge’s grade school the monks would wring their hands in delight describing to the little children their all-but-inevitable doom in Hell. And our country-club church simply spewed a cheery and solemn blandness every Sunday…

 

Besides that, the monastery is a quiet place to meditate. I am still working on this thing of reconciling with my mother.

 

The night we arrive, I have a dream. I am in a tall house, a great complex, with many people – a place run by a tyrant. Those who misbehave are sent to the basement. I am sent there, along with several others, and we are all indignant, upset and angry. We begin looking for an exit from this trap.

 

Suddenly a door opens and there’s a parade of people from upstairs waiting to enter, everyone dressed up in outlandish costumes. I think they are there to hunt us down and punish us. But then my eye is caught by a woman with an ingenious costume that makes it appear that her head is on a silver platter, with her tiny arms coming up out of it too – very peculiar. She is looking at me, and I am captivated by her eyes – and we connect with the sweetest stab of laughter, my heart is pierced – and I realized that everything is reconciled, all is supremely well.

 

I wake up thinking of the perfect word – which I fail to write down – freedom? energy? But the important point is that what is needed is accomplished with a laugh, a heart-beam, a direct connection – no need for recriminations or explanations…

 

 

I decide to really get down to work on this reconciliation project, and finally make a list of my own virtues, and add several pages to my mistakes. That’s where I find the kernel – in the mistakes.

 

It leaps out at me, startling me completely – like a monstrous winged serpent flapping suddenly out of the peaceful woods. It’s a mistake I made when I was very small – one that set the pattern for my entire life.

 

Like any infant, from the time I was born I saw my mother as the source of all warmth and life. She was the Active Principle, who procured the universe for me, and loved me without question or pause. But besides that, as I watched her from her arms, and later as I toddled about her giant legs, I noticed her particular way of being in the world. She was outrageous – outgoing, dynamic, energetic. With her huge smile and her reckless warmth, she could talk to anyone, anywhere.

 

Here’s where I find the mistake – the point at which, taking the easy way, I stepped blithely through the wrong door. If she was so active, I decided, I had to be passive. If she was the source of everything, and I wanted to keep receiving everything, I had to be someone who needed everything, someone helpless.

 

And so I began life passive – and that became my approach to the whole world. I always told myself I had no choice – but it was by no means a hardship. I luxuriated my warm bed.

 

But now, here with the monks, I finally notice what I’ve done, the fork in the road I took so long ago. I write:

 

I have just seen, buried very shallowly across my entire life, like a layer of manure, a pervasive resentment against all other people – for seeing me small, for judging me less than they, for seeing me silent, invisible.

 

And under that resentment, sure enough, is my own failure. Failure to be and do what I and how I want. Choosing to remain silent, to do only what is safe – not to speak out, not to make enemies, not to tell the truth. To let other people have their way – especially the men!

 

But who says I cannot act as I wish, cannot change myself? In reality, only I myself.

 

I resented my mother for acting the way I wanted to but didn’t dare, and my father for acting the way I didn’t want to, but did anyway, because it was easier.

 

My dear mother, you came up first in my reconciliation – and I finally see why!

 

You were an exemplary mom, an exemplary human being! You gave your all – and whatever your problems, they were not from any ill-intention on your part 

 

How clear it is now – my resentment of you came out of a  mistaken assumption, which happened also to be a very comfortable one. I thought that since you were the fount of all good, all joy, warmth, love, hope, brightness, that in order to keep receiving all that from you, I had to be someone who needed it. So I couldn’t be those things myself – I had to be passive, not active – to keep being taken care of, to keep receiving your love!

 

And that became a habit. I got stuck in being passive, not only with you but with everyone – and even while I suckled on your energy, choosing to rely on you and then on others, instead of developing my own active self, I began to resent you for it, because it was easy to think you made me that way. I didn’t see that it was truly my choice. That out of fear of losing your love – or fear of blaspheming by pretending to the throne! – I chose to remain the lowest of vassals – a nobody.

 

That was why I was only active at home, with my little brother and sisters, who were even lowlier than I. Outside our home, always passive, I built up resentment because I knew everyone saw me as clueless and impotent. And I said to myself that you and everyone else had stolen all the active roles, and I resented you all for keeping me trapped in passivity – voiceless, chicken-hearted and lily-livered.

 

And that’s why all through my life the few people I couldn’t stand were masters of action – because they stole my thunder, did what I could not, reminded me of my failure.

 

That’s also why I chose to let others have the final word in everything from finances to every-day decisions – where to go, what to do… which still is my tendency at this ancient age of almost 60!

 

An added twist: I’ve found an ingenious way both to rebel against you, who were outspokenly feminist,  and to fight covertly for the same cause, with which I identify. Preserving your resentment toward your father, toward all men, I’ve found a sneakier way to get back at them: I’ve adopted the traditional role of female subservience, a perfect stance from which to resent  the hell out of men so as to punish them. They think I’m all sweetness and light, and then I bite!

 

Such twists and turns! You used to complain to me about my father, who, like me, chose to be passive to keep your love. If only, you lamented, he would make a decision, be firmer, more aggressive! Hearing this as a child, I piled up even more resentment: not only were you forcing me to be passive, but now I was doubly damned, because you despised that passivity!

 

 

The next step, that shows me how deep my resentment really goes, kicks in when I can’t find my daughter. She is a white girl living in a poor black neighborhood in Oakland, with only a bike for protection. True, she has a black belt in jujitsu, but against guns…? And now, here in Argentina, I can’t find her. For two weeks she hasn’t answered my emails or my phone calls.

 

My panic, I later learn, is hardly justified – she was perfectly fine, just busy at work… But down here, so far away in Argentina, I don’t know that, and my nagging worry makes me face my old nemesis: my terror of losing my loved ones, whom I think are mine to keep.

 

It’s not long before I notice the big one, my resentment over this fear: I resent Life itself, for putting me in this pickle!

 

It doesn’t matter that I’ve had clear and profound experiences of the unreality of death. Whenever I have reason to fear for my children’s wellbeing, I am seared by this fear that strips my bowels. I used to have the same fear about my husband – now, perhaps because of our age, I am more reconciled to that parting. But the children – I have to survive in them! And I resent this inescapable terror.

 

And the underlying failure here? Most likely just the old bogey – my failure to let my loved ones go, to give them freedom. Freedom that is not even mine to give!

 

But then I look even beneath that, beneath my resentment of the tragedy of life. And there I find another, more fundamental failure: my failure to accept my own freedom. My failure to agree that I am fine by myself, on my own.

 

Because it looks to me like we are indeed alone, and therefore, in a certain sense, free. We may do our best to enslave each other, but we always escape from each others’ clutches – because we are born alone and we die alone.

 

So I have to be OK on my own.

 

And since I am not, I desperately need a Guide, and all the Gods I can find.

 

And so I write myself some more instructions, reminders:

 

It hasn’t occurred to me till now that this illusion of separation, of needing to possess others, may be ok – a natural step in our evolution. That it is precisely the work of this consciousness, incarnated in a flesh body, to recognize that all life forms are both free and indissolubly connected.  That if we are one, there is no separation – and if there’s no separation, what need for possession?

 

But until I awaken to this truth, let me have compassion for myself – because this body perceives that we are separate.

 

I know there is a great Love powering everything and everyone – a great love far beyond my illusions, a great kindness…!

 

In my crippled condition, I look for the failure underneath the resentment.

 

I fail to rebel, to step out, to be Free, to fly – and to recognize that others are free too. I am utterly  unwilling to deny the lie. That is my failure: my complicity with the lie.

 

So how do I reconcile with this profound, fundamental failure 

 

Clearly, the only way is to understand the Mistake, and step forward.  But  since, here in this trap I’ve set for myself,  I have no idea HOW to move forward, all I can do is ask for a boost!

 

Oh my Guide, oh Gods! How much longer am I going to endure this optional Hell

that was not imposed on me by anyone but my own evolution

 

by my naïve perceptions

 

from the eyes of this growing organism

 

this body

 

the Body, holy font of the One God?

 

of the learning, growing gods

 

 

 

Oh let me disarm

 

the panic button

 

of my mistaken heart!

 

 

 

Let me say

 

“I release you”

 

to my phantoms

 

to my past

 

to the children I bore and protected but never owned

 

 

 

Let me say

 

“you are Other

 

you are Free”

 

knowing without a second thought

 

that I can never lose that essence

 

that connection

 

that identity

 

that unbreakable lifeline between us

 

that is not physical

 

That beam of certainty

 

that you and I are born and live together

 

in my heart

 

Contemplating how I am going to free myself, I feel like I am standing in two worlds, one foot in the world of suffering-possession-separation-limitation, the other in the world of the free, joyous, awake.

 

And now I notice a peculiar thing: that I do believe this suffering world is a punishment. For some sin (original?) imposed by a God in whom I do not believe!

 

God is punishing me for something by trapping me in this suffering, no-win illusion where I want but cannot have, because Death always takes.

 

This assumption itself is just cause for resentment!

 

I was never born

 

but gestated

 

60 years in silk

 

unable to move

 

my arms or legs 

 

 

Escape from the cradle

 

means

 

giving birth to myself

 

in a different body, form, mind, habit

 

self-concept

 

action

 

 

 

even a new name

 

with more dignity, more oomph

 

 

 

it means inventing a bigger world

 

embracing more

 

taking on more of the world

 

inhabiting my body as if I were

 

the driver

 

the one in charge

 

 

 

 

From Mendoza we take the bus up into the mountains, following the silver Rio Mendoza, up toward Punta de Vacas Park, the Historic Park of Silo’s Message.

 

The bus driver, who has hung stuffed animals all around inside the bus, is playing leapfrog with the other buses and trucks, passing them around the snaking curves. We drink mate, passing the gourd from hand to hand, and I contemplate the mountains as they open before us, welcoming us into their arms.

 

Resplendent

 

saturated with light

 

these mountains receive me

 

 

 

Bigger, more abundant

 

warmer

 

than my little helplessness

 

 

 

I am lost in their beauty

 

they pull me to them

 

like a tide

 

 

 

I was frozen inside

 

Warming now in the new sun

 

I pray to the gods

 

to thaw me to the core!

 

 

 

Unfreeze

 

my inner being

 

with waves of light and warmth

 

jiggle me free

 

let me dance

 

and laugh

 

and act with love

 

in the great world!

 

 

 

The bus careens ever upward, into the light. Passing enormous, pointed red rocks, I remember them clearly from childhood dreams…

 

jagged pinnacles

 

a red nightmare in my brain

 

dry terror of

 

perilous heights

 

sickening drop into

 

unknown abysses  

 

 

 

now a spectacle of beauty

 

that tears

 

open

 

my heart

 

 

 

 

We arrive in Punta de Vacas three days early. These days we spend with friends – Daniel, Miriam and Quim – for a last ditch attempt at reconciling before the Master arrives.

 

What do we want to experience here? Daniel wants to study this thing of the illusion of the “I” – who is this fake who needs to reconcile?

 

The mornings we spend helping clean up the park, where builders are still working night and day. One day, after picking up trash for hours, we climb to the Mirador – the lookout – the highest point in the Park. From here you can see Mt. Tupungato, white in the distance, and the three rivers, and the three mountain chains that meet here like the spokes. Afterwards, sitting on the hillside, we meditate.

 

expanding the sphere

 

I break a membrane

 

into something broader, impersonal,

 

a grand kindness

 

 

 

today, for once, I don’t pretend to ask

 

while manufacturing an image

 

of what I want

 

today

 

I don’t know what I want

 

I don’t have the answer

 

 

 

so, opening myself to the Guide

 

to the Forces that Be

 

I say just

 

that I want to be available

 

I want to be used

 

to do my part

 

 

 

and I feel my body changed,

 

the walls falling

 

energy circulating

 

as I partake in the surging

 

molecular

 

interchange

 

that we are

 

 

 

 

And then the Master arrives, and ten thousand friends from ten thousands places in the world, and the Three Days begin. One by one they pass with a great quiet, a great peace, in the midst of endless movement, endless circulation, and each day is distinct, a jewel more beautiful in than all the others. Each day I am overcome by weeping, by an intense joy. Everywhere people are laughing and weeping and hugging…

 

On the first day, walking up the dusty hill toward the monolith, I finally meet Hugo – Hugo, with whom I have been working blind, through email, for what – two years? – compiling stories from friends about accompanying the dying with Silo’s Message. Only twice before have I met Catalina, our other collaborator, joyous woman who has accompanied hundreds in their transit. I have not yet even seen our book, and I have never met or even spoken by phone with Hugo. We recognize each other from photos and fly into each others’ arms, laughing in pure amazement and disbelief and gratitude – after so much time! He gives me two copies of the book, Experiences on the Threshold, one in English, the other in Spanish, and we hug and hug, in the sweetest astonishment.

 

Down by the book kiosk, where dozens of books and CDs by siloist friends are on display,   Jorge and I see the Master in the midst of the multitude, greeting each person who approaches him, hugging hundreds and hundreds of people… We place ourselves in his path to intercept him, and he hugs us with the same warmth and recognition he gives everyone. After hugging him I stand nearby, basking in his simple kindness…

 

And I notice that it seems the Gods have heard my request. It’s not so hard as I expected. Getting free, letting go, is not a giant wrenching that takes daring and willpower – it’s more of a jiggling, a loosening, that happens gently, effortlessly. I find that I want to know every one of these people – each so unique, so full of Story. Words come out of my mouth like birds, happy and free – I see what I want to say without quenching it, say what I feel, ask what I want to know…

 

Ceremonies everywhere.

 

In an instant

 

a noisy lunch room

 

transforms into a temple.

 

 

 

And even in the bathroom,

 

where someone has left sprinkles

 

on the toilet seat – holy water!

 

 

 

 

In the evening, after the third day is over,  I see the Master, our friend Mario, at the hotel. He is handing in his keys at the desk.

 

I have never felt comfortable approaching him – I’ve always been afraid to do the wrong thing, to arouse his disapproval.

 

But I am so glad to see him that without thinking, I grab him and hug him, and thank him. He thanks me back.

 

And then I remember that I have a question.

 

Earlier today I tried asking him, when we gave him a copy of our book. It’s a technical question about another book I am working on. I asked if I could ask a question – and he said no, he was not answering any questions, because then he would have to think and he would no longer be enjoying the day!

 

But now the three days are over, and this is my chance – so I take the plunge and ask him again. This time he listens, and gives me an answer, and I am satisfied, and not even embarrassed.

 

That evening, having dinner, remembering everything this man, our dear Master, has done and the way he is, his great love and huge patience for all these friends, hundreds of thousands all over the world, I am moved again to tears. He has given his life for us. I remember the Buddhist story of the Monkey King, who made himself into a bridge for all the monkeys to escape from the mango tree when the hunters were coming – and I feel so strongly that the Master is our Monkey King – even though he has never condoned self-sacrifice…

 

I remember what he said this afternoon, the talk on reconciliation he gave, the revelation we have all been waiting months for, the talk we hoped might crack open the human condition and let us all escape! Playing along, he had warned us warned us, two days earlier in his welcome talk, that it would be “a little heavy, but it has to be done”…! And now he has given us not what we expected – but what we needed.

 

Yes, many of us were expecting big things from the Master on the third day – miracles, great incomprehensible acts, resurrections. But he’s never gone in for that kind of thing. Instead, he simply passed us the ball.

 

It was a brief talk, begun with chuckling amazement just at being there with all of us in these “extraordinary circumstances.” He went on to speak about the great theme of reconciliation. To our great relief, he set straight an old misconception: reconciliation, he said, has nothing to do with forgiving or forgetting. Imagine – forgiving would mean that one person was morally superior to the other! Of course, it’s a step up from revenge – ! but it’s not the same as reconciliation. Nor do we want to forget. Forgetting would leave us unable to reconcile, because reconciling means understanding what happened. It means seeing the other person and yourself with compassion, as beings who both suffer and rejoice. It means understanding what happened between you and the other person – or between you and yourself – and accepting it, and moving on.

 

Reconciliation is not easy – but it is the only way to move forward.

 

Finally he gave us his blessing – as always, not telling us what to do, but leaving us with an image, a suggestion, a direction. In closing, he reminds us of some words from “The Voyage,” a guided experience he wrote years ago:

 

I return to the world with my forehead and hands luminous. And so, I accept my destiny. There is the path and I, as a humble pilgrim return to my people. Filled with light, I return to the hours, to the daily routine, to the pain of humanity and to its simple joys. I, who give with my hands what I can, who receive both insults and the warmest of greetings, sing to the heart, which from the darkest abyss is reborn in the light of the yearned for Meaning.”

 

And Silo’s talk was over.

 

Afterward we gathered in groups on the hillsides, marveling at what we had shared, eager to talk – but before we could linger, the Wind came, so fierce and insistent that we all had to pack up everything and leave before the storm. The Wind threw us back to our places, our homes, our towns, carrying Silo’s Message, our hands and our foreheads filled with light.

 

 

When we got home to California, it was a let down. Not a crash, but a subtle decline into less than bliss. I noticed it when I went back to speaking English. It disappointed me, left me with a mild sense of self-judgment, as if after all, I was going back to being the same limited person I had thought I had left behind.

 

Before sleeping, as we lie in bed, Jorge kisses me tenderly and happily goodnight. I don’t feel like responding in kind, limited and vaguely disappointed as I am, and therefore annoyed with him and myself. Finally I comment to him that it looks to me like there’s been a pendulum swing, after so much bliss, back toward normality – like what a manic-depressive experiences. “Do you understand?” I ask, not expecting him to…

 

But, “Yes,” he nods, “of course. We are going back to the hours, to the daily routine, to the pain of humanity, to its simple joys…”

 

“Oh!”

 

His answer stuns me. Of course! What a relief. I see it – everything falls into place, down to the last detail. Everything fits – even the return.

 

“Thank you,” I kiss him, my reluctance gone. “Of course, that’s it – you’ve comforted me.”

 

And so I accept my limitations, and my Destiny, and go to sleep, joyful that I have returned to my people.

 

 

Trudi Lee Richards

 

May 2007

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

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