Maia Toll
Most of my teens and twenties (and some of my thirties, too) were spent searching for someone to teach me the mysteries of the universe.

I pictured a manuscript buried in the rare books room of a library in Oxford or Cambridge; or an underground society dedicated preserving the spiritual wisdom of ancient seekers; or maybe some Indiana Jones style adventure which would prove to the Powers That Be that I was worthy of being let in on The Secret. Words like “initiation” and “vision quest” would perk my ears, but ultimately, each trail led to the next dead end.

Sound familiar?

Like you, I was hearing the usual (and rather trite) truisms: “the answer lies within,” “you already know everything you need.”

Um, no?

So I continued in my search for my personal Yoda or Mr. Miyagi…

There’s another popular axiom: be careful what you wish for.

You remember The Karate Kid, right? The Kid goes to Mr. Miyagi to learn karate. The kid— Daniel— thinks karate is a good way to keep his butt from getting kicked by the neighborhood bullies. To him, karate is about being powerful through muscle strength. Mr. Miyagi has the tough job of teaching him that karate’s really about being powerful through inner strength.

So Mr. Miyagi has The Kid painting a fence. And the kid is annoyed, pissed off, ready to call the whole thing bunk and bullshit. This is the school of sage-craft that I come from, too. It’s the chop wood, carry water— or, in my case: dig roots, pluck berries— school of wisdom. And it’s frustrating as all hell.

I think about this often as I navigate the ins and outs of teaching and leading communities based on gathering wisdom. Students come searching for secrets— the secret of happiness or health or wisdom or power. What they want is a reading assignment or a lecture that will get them to this rarified place. But readings and lectures merely give information— head knowledge— which is pretty different from wisdom. Wisdom lives beneath your skin: in your heart and blood and bones. It’s body knowledge. And it’s a harder path.

Wisdom involves things like chopping wood and carrying water. Or painting fences. Or digging roots when it’s forty degrees and raining incessantly. It means taking the time to let your body assimilate the information you’ve stuffed into your brain.

When we take the time to learn with our heads and hands, we come into communion— into relationship— with the world around us. This coming into relationship is a back door to the heart and its deep well of knowing and intuition… which is the stuff of wisdom… the vision part of the quest.

Our culture encourages us to learn in a linear fashion; we do something once, and it’s “been there, done that. What’s next?”

But once doesn’t lead to mastery.

Think about it: how much more would you see if you sat in the woods every day for a year versus for an hour one afternoon?

It’s easy to do a thing once, feel mighty proud of yourself, and move on to the next thing. But think of all the sounds you never heard, the wind that never brushed your skin, the scents of spring or summer or autumn that you missed.

Which means we skim the surface of lots of stuff but rarely go deep.

To most minds, repetition = boredom. And yet repetition is a necessary component of pretty much all the Mystery Schools, from Kabbalah to Karate.


On the surface it’s about discipline. Disciplining the body and disciplining the mind. Minding your teacher even when it all feels like bunk and bullshit. But it goes deeper than that. If you can get your mind to stop chattering about how annoyed it is, how much you paid to attend this school or training or class, how your back hurts and your nose is running…

If you can quiet that chatter, something else begins to happen.

You come into your body.

You come into knowledge of the world around you.

You come into relationship with the elements pulsing under your fingertips.

And that, that space of connection, is where true power lies.

Because at heart, every school of witchery is about your will, your intent. It’s about being able to taste truth in your bones and envision realities yet to exist. Click To Tweet

It’s about knowing yourself so intimately that you know what is not you… so when you hear a voice rising from the jumble of your being, and you know quite clearly it’s not yours, you can then look around to see what out there in the world is trying to communicate with you.

And in that moment, life is glorious.

But then the noise rises up again…

… and it’s back to chopping wood and carrying water, performing the daily discipline of communion.

Perhaps your vision quest starts right here. Join a real life, online “school” of magic & mystery…The Medicine Keepers Collective may be the next step in your journey.

Big Hugs—