What I learned from the Wise Man, the Fish, the Bats, the Bear, the Snake and the Elephant

At the conference I attended, one of the workshops was on Shamanic Healing and Shamanic Journeys, and my Mom recommended I go. So the facilitator explains what a shamanic journey is and says, "We're going to do a little practice. I recommend going down, so pick a place in nature and find a hole in that place in nature and go down it and see what you see." And then she started drumming...

I was walking up and down Boone Hollow to a cave I love, aptly named Hell's Hole. It's really name is Miller's Pit #2. I went to the torpedo tube and crawled along my belly until I got to the breakdown room / skylight room in the cave. This is a cave I know well. In the breakdown room, I went under a huge slab of rock that I'd always wanted to investigate but never had.

Under there was a little wise man with a bald head and a white cloth. He was in a room in the cave with a big fire. The fire wasn't for warmth, it was for light. I knew the man was a kind man, so I asked him, "why do you live down here?"

He replied, "This is my safe place." It made sense to me, although it seemed like he could get lonely.

I asked him, "How can I make my heart not hurt for Malawi anymore?"

He looked at me and said, "let's go see the fish."

We went out into the cave and up into the potholes in the waterfall which are a gorgeous shade of blue. We went over to the side and through a small hole in the wall and into a small room with still water. In this little room lived a large cave fish. I asked the fish, "why do you live here?"

He replied, "This is my home. It is my safe place."

I asked him, "Don't you get lonely?"

He said, "I am connected to the water, and water is all over the earth. Everything that is in the water, all of the sharks and corals and fishes, and everything that touches the water, all the
tree roots and deers bending over to drink, is connected to me. I am not lonely because I am connected to everything."

I asked the man again, "How can I make my heart not hurt for Malawi?"

He said, "Let's go see the bear."

We went out of the room and back over the waterfall to the skylight room and flew up into the skylight. On the way up I touched the worms and the ferns and the damp soil and said hello. When we got to the top of the skylight thousands of bats flew out of the cave around me. I asked the man, "they live here, why do they leave?"

He told me, "This is where they sleep. It is not their safe place. You are their safe place."

Wow. Really. That's exciting. I've worked with bats and studied them and cared for them. One of the bats told me, " You are our safe place because of your kindness and gentleness you show all living creatures." The rule in my house is 'all life has value'.

The bats flew away in broad daylight and a bear came running at me. It was running and growling. I stood still and it ran until it's nose was at my nose and I could feel its breath blow my hair as it roared in my face. The man asked me, "Why did you stand still when this bear was running at you?"

I replied, "It is a good bear. Even though it was running at me and growling, it is a good bear and does not wish to cause harm." The bear walked away.

Again, I asked the man, "How can I make my heart not hurt for Malawi?"

He said, "Let's talk to the snake. Most people think that snakes are evil and you yourself have seen poisonous copperheads at this cave. But you know that snakes are not evil. Don't you?"

I said, "Yes, snakes are clever and wise." I knew that because I worked with some kids who taught me what they thought about snakes. Now when I see snakes, I think of them with those kids views, they are clever and lucky.

I asked the snake, "How can I make my heart not hurt for Malawi?"

The snake said, "Your heart is heavy because you do not share the burdren."

I thought about what he said. Someone else once told me that I was weighed down because I didn't think about sharing the load. She was talking about something else when she said that to me. But I do talk about Malawi and how things were there and what I learned. I realized that I only talked about it with people in my life right now and not the people who were in my life in Malawi.

I liked the fish in the water, so I decided to become a drop of water. I went into Boone Hollow creek and first into Hells Hole and then into Casecade Cave as a drop of water and looked around. I even went up the waterfall and into Casecade the hard way. Then I came back out into Boone Hollow, down to the Mississippi and out into the ocean. I crossed the Atlantic ocean, went into the ground water and came out of the water pump in Mpalale, my old village. I came out just like a cartoon person comes out of a faucet.

I spent time with the people in my village in Mpalale and realized I lost contact with them because I didn't know what to say, or how to explain why I left across the language barrier. Then I realized, to that family I could say, "God told me to go back home. And God told me to write you a letter now" and it would make all the sense in the world. I love that culture. So I spent some time in that village and then realized I needed to go to Linyangwa village in Kasungu, the place I was supposed to have lived. When I got there I was standing out in an open field and an elephant was running towards me. The same elephants I had been afraid would tear me limb from limb when I was in Kasungu, or all of Malawi really. It was running towards me and when it got to me, it hugged me with it's trunk. It hugged me so hard my feet came off the ground. And then I went back to the village and saw the people who would have been my family and neighbors, and the woman who was my friend and we sang and danced. I always loved the singing and the dancing. It was my safe place. I looked around my old house but it made me sad so I went back to the singing and the dancing and the people I had only known a day or two and back to the music. In Malawi, singing is really the only way to worship god. To this day, it's the most pure honest form of worship I have ever seen or heard. And then it was time to leave and travel in my head back to the present in Waterloo, Ontario.

Cool, huh?