You must have beginner’s mind, breathes the modern day yogini, face serene, eyes soft. Quiet chanting through the speakers and the faded scent of incense create the ambience of wisdom.
Beginner’s mind, you think, yes…
But thinking is not the same as doing.
I ask only because I said beginner’s mind, yes for years, unquestioning. Chanting in my head I have beginner’s mind as though that would make it true. Which is not to say the things you tell yourself don’t have an influence on your reality, but if you tell yourself something you don’t actually understand, your consciousness has nothing to shift toward.
The beginner is The Fool from the tarot deck, merrily traipsing toward the next adventure. People like to say The Fool has no plan, but how can that be true? She has a sack over her shoulder, she’s packed for the journey. Packing indicates intent, even if it’s a foolish one.
The Fool by Gregg Hierholzer www.gregghierholzer.com
It’s not the lack of planning that’s foolish, it’s the plan itself which seems pie-in-the-sky or ill-conceived to someone who “knows better,” who’s been there, done that or read every study ever written on the subject.
The Fool is in beginner’s mind. She knows nothing about what is supposed to work and what isn’t… so she goes for it, one hundred percent.
When I was teaching second grade (many moons ago), I worked at a cool private school in Brooklyn, New York where we wrote our own curriculum. Not only were teaching degrees not necessary, they were actually discouraged. The Head of the Lower School believed teaching degrees were the death of the natural-born teacher.
Being so deemed I was given a second grade classroom and told to educate them.
The joy of sharing my loves with the littles? Amazing. And at the time (and to this day) I loved the arc of story as described by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero’s Journey. And so I decided: my second grade classroom would be studying the hero’s journey in both story and movie.
Our blackboard became a giant timeline where we mapped plots and characters. We huddled on the rug watching Willow and Star Wars. Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Snape were psycho-analyzed. The final coup d’etat: each child wrote their own hero’s journey story. The shortest was 40 pages long. Okay, 40 of those pages where the picture goes on the top and the writing on the bottom… but still: 8-year-olds happily writing 40 pages!
At a Lower School meeting toward the end of the semester, we went around the circle and each teacher spoke to what had been happening in their classroom.
We’re studying the Hero’s Journey, I began.
Multiple faces gaped at me. Dana blurted That’s too complex for second graders. They don’t have the cognitive ability to grasp those sorts of patterns.
Maybe I looked startled, maybe smug, but my answer was Really? ‘Cause they already did.
And this is beginner’s mind.
Beginners don’t know what they can’t do. They don’t know what the cognitive ability of eight-year-olds is.
It’s a moment when your heart is passionately wide open. You don’t have to do a risk assessment because risk is a concept of culture; it’s mental not emotional. You don’t check the studies or the surveys…
You step merrily off the cliff.
What I mean by journey is any growth process that starts with The Fool, which is why in the Tarot deck it is not even the first card but instead designated with a zero. Stepping off the cliff is the action which leads to the first step.
And I recommend doing it at least once a year.
What Fool’s journey have you been on this year? Tell me in the comments below.
Oh, and my favorite flower essence for fear of the unknown: Aspen. It’s okay to quake a little as you move closer to becoming who you are meant to be.
My teacher in Ireland used to say:
use the tools until you don’t need them anymore.
“The tools” are essential oils and flower essences, teas and tarot cards, crystals, and malas and rosary beads.
They are the candles you light to hone your focus, the breathing exercises that calm your mind, and the shells and stones on your windowsill-alter reminding you what you are made of.
“The tools” help our physical selves connect with our inner-wisdom, our energy bodies, our souls.
This Jewish girl has owned rosary beads and Kwan Yin statues, citrine points and oracle decks…
… because they help me to connect with the deepest parts of me.
Running the rosary through my fingers brings me peace not because I am saying Hail Marys but because I used my beads during an intensive weekend on the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco; their soothing regularity puts me on my path, a gentle reminder of rhythm in my daily life.
An object is just an object until you infuse it with meaning and energy…
… or, sometimes, we come across something that someone else has infused and the object feels a bit alive, like it has being.
Think of your grandmother’s favorite necklace or the small spade your mother used all summer in the garden…. feel don’t think. This is something your heart knows, even when your brain protests.
“The tools” are touchstones that provide a sensual experience which help you to stay grounded in your body as you do your spiritual work. And make no mistake, wellness, done this way, is spiritual work.
Which is why I think of this path that I walk, that you walk, as The Earth Path.
It is a path not only of respect for the planet but of embodiment, of knowing we are made, not just of star-stuff, but of earth matter.
“The tools,” they don’t make you spiritual and they certainly don’t make you well.
And, no, you don’t need them.
But they can be a reminder, a doorway, a focus point, a mirror, and a connection to your inner-wisdom and your own true self…
… because turning inward and finding you is the best path outward into the greater mystery.
(And that, ultimately, is what you need to be spiritual.)
With big hugs,
You’re hard-wired for wonder, for pausing to study sunsets and the afterglow of lightning flashing through the summer sky.
It’s really that simple.
And yet the same hard-wiring which allows for so much joy can also lead you on a merry chase for meaning, to drowning in mundania with no mystery in sight.
As easily as we’re entranced by the wondrous, we become depressed and disconnected when we fail to recognize it.
When we fail to recognize it.
I’m not exempt. After the umpteenth time sucking my thumb in the abyss of Why-The-Heck-Are-We-Even-Here, I’ve come back with this basic truth: sometimes we have to allow life to have meaning.
But how? How do you reconnect, plug in, get into the flow, read the signs… when you’re smashed face-down at the bottom of the well?
Let me tell you a story:
Years ago I took a writing workshop with Tom Robbins, who wrote one of my favorite novels, Jitterbug Perfume.
During Q&A I mustered my fan-girl courage and asked: What do you do when you have nothing to write?
And Tom said (I’m paraphrasing here):
You show up. You show up at the same time, the same place, every day. You don’t go to the coffee shop or the library, hoping the muse can find you. You sit at your desk and you write. You’ll be sitting there working whenever she deigns to join you.
This same advice holds true when you’re connecting with the deeper mysteries of life—you show up.
You feel disconnected because you don’t give yourself a time and place to connect. Or you do it sporadically; if you only meet Mystery in the woods for the summer solstice, then that’s her only chance to connect with you for the whole year.
Church, synagogue, and the mosque are meant to be places where we reconnect with the greater mystery, but for many of us these institutions no longer spark the magic-meter.
Connection is deeply personal.
For me it’s tapping into the universal symbols of the collective unconscious. When I engage at this level, I feel like I’m backstage watching the mechanics behind the show, supported by a crew and cast, buoyed by hard work, joint venture, and the laughter of the after-party.
When I unplug myself from the deeper layers of my psyche, I start to lose my way, feeling disconnected and despairing. I feel alone… and sometimes I even forget how to love.
We have so many tools for tapping into the Universe, the Divine, our God-selves. For years I had to wrangle my East-Coast-Intellectual-Snobbery as it attempted to put the kibosh on tarot and astrology, dream-weaving and journey work.
But when I get truth-and-bones honest with myself, these visual tools are my best way in.
I can’t ignore the innermost part of me that longs for connection and that can see the fine filaments of kinship running from myself to all things, giving meaning to this crazy thing called life.
Making time for Mystery is not only making time for me, it’s making time to make life matter and to remember…
Floral Support: Essential Oils are a perfect bridge. Use them when you are connecting to Mystery, whether you meditate, read tarot cards, walk the labyrinth, do journeywork, journal, garden…. Choose the scents that allow you to sink deep into yourself. My favorites: lotus (incredibly rare), palo santo, and vetiver.
If you knew that a meeting with Mystery was your key to health and happiness, that you were hard-wired for wonder and needed a daily fix, how would you get it?
Tell me in the comments!