“Holy places lie dormant for long periods because that which created the place
waits and watches for a time when certain historic moments occur and conditions
are set in place, conditions which allow wisdom to come through certain people
who will bring it forth into the consciousness of that era.”
– Joseph Rael aka Beautiful Painted Arrow
“All depth is interpreted.”
– Ken Wilber
Based on my experience, sacred places offer an opportunity for my inner self and the outer world to meet in peace, purpose and ease, a harmonious alignment of in here with out there. This began growing within me sixteen years ago when I peeled the rind of modern life away from my being and re-encountered the vast and mysterious plains first hand, their subtle flavours ashimmer across my skin and the sky. Every summer since then I have, to varying degrees, traveled the prairies and walked the trails that lead to Spirit. I’ve done the fieldwork, “put my boots to the ground,” as one friend reminded me.
With a quick mental count I can easily think of a dozen sacred places in Manitoba and a dozen others in Saskatchewan I have visited more than once, performing ritual at most of them. Sacred Places on this blog gives you a good overview of the types of sites in both provinces. Although a westward diffusion of changing culture is evident in site uses and designs, the common feature of them all is Spirit, or rather access to Spirit. (For a better understanding of my terminology and meanings, I recommend you take a few minutes now to read FAQ on my blog.)
Here’s what happened to me at Moose Mountain Medicine Wheel on October 9, 2010:
I rattle, sing my power song and spiral around the outside of the stone circle. Very quickly I feel peace and holiness surround me; every step, every breath, every glance is a miracle almost too beautiful to bear. I spiral in toward the centre where I am summoned to the nest at the core of the cairn. I carefully climb over the rocks to the centre. There, on a bed of rock, open to the heavens and the earth, I ask, with a wavering voice, “What?” Even before the answer comes, I am trembling and tears begin to flow.
Spirit gave me three clear and real directions at that moment, ponder points. I heard a soft but firm voice tell me I needed to go deeper into this, control my ego and write. While my body is on its knees, a weeping bag of snot, my mind is recording those instructions, already processing, and my spirit is soaring in ecstasy.
All three parts of my being are fully integrated and harmonic at this moment. Each transforms the others. There is no separation between body, mind and spirit, The One into the Many, the Many into the One. A state of bliss.
You can read my full report from this site here. I’m using my Moose Mountain experience because of its similarities to my contact with Spirit at many sites. It is common for humans to react emotionally when approaching Spirit. Getting that close to the Source is a rare occurrence. Tears are frequent at very powerful places like Moose Mountain as are spontaneous singing, dancing, gestures, sign language, clowning, solemn prayer or bouts of uncontrollable laughter. I nearly went off the edge of the hill rolling on the ground laughing at Wild Man Butte.
Although I have listed these safeguards before, I offer them here as a starting point for visiting sacred places. Because of the nature of the energy present at sacred sites, it is important to visit them in an appropriate manner. Ancient sites require of us a special attention; they require us to be wise in the present moment. Here are some basic safeguards when researching ancient energy. Smudging is a suitable cleansing method, either a small twist of sweetgrass or cedar inside your vehicle or outside, but not if it’s dry weather. This comprehensive list is by writer Maxine Asher. Adherence is personal but I have found #6, #7 and #8 to be most important to me.
1. Maintain optimum mental and physical health.
2. Practice interaction with vibrations at local ancient sites.
3. Do not preprogram information about the area you plan to visit.
4. Begin work in relatively untraveled regions.
5. Eat lightly before visits
6. Transmit less and receive more.
7. Never enter a site in ‘neutral’. Always manifest a positive aura of protection at all times.
8. Always discharge energies after leaving a site.
9. Systematically record observations and experiences.
10. Be patient in waiting for results.
11. Travel alone whenever possible.
12. Be careful in your handling of words and intonations at ancient sites.
I have found a sympathetic frame of mind and are ready to approach a sacred site. Presence, being in the moment is always the first and most important step when visiting sacred places. Most every report in Sacred Places contains a description of my arrival and how I prepare. It is important to honour the rituals when attending at sacred sites. For me this begins with sweetgrass, sage, and/or cedar smudging; being positive, protected and prepared; being patient, careful and open. I have learned to wait to be welcomed. Caution prevails at all times.
This little process of waiting brings me seriously into the present moment and holds me there. I must wait – open, alert, fully present. Eventually, the contraction of being loosens. I relax and feel welcomed. Thereafter, my approach to the site serves to increase my presence, which becomes natural and easy, flowing with the local spirits.
Rattling stirs up the spirits. My power song is my signature; I sing it at all sacred places. As I near the central cairn, enraptured by the beauty of simply being, integration is occurring rapidly. Body, mind and soul are utterly immersed in Spirit. The gaps between body, mind and soul are closing due to the singular purpose of my presence and Spirit. Transformation is underway, transcendence is very near. Ecstatic, I received the message at Moose Mountain. I am blissful, burning in ecstasy, tasting my spiritual nature. Paradise attained, Joseph Campbell would describe it as “The rapture of participation in a manner of being beyond time.”
Sacred places are portals where the veils are thin allowing easy communing with Spirit. I have used all those phrases to try to reveal what actually happens to me at sacred places. At this point language displays its limits but, in a word, what happens out there is transcendence, surpassing.
What is transcended and surpassed? Our broken selves, the three delicate aspects of being we each possess that thrive on being lovingly entwined but seldom are: body, mind and soul. Once integrated, access to Spirit opens. Culturally, the body/mind split is encouraged and exploited endlessly in media and advertising; healthy integration of all three is rare and disparaged.
What’s the process to get to transcendence, to integrate body mind and soul, to unity resulting in bliss? To understand this we need a firm grasp of consciousness, how it develops through our lives and where it can take us if we use our inner technology. It would be handy to have a map of our consciousness to trace these steps. Aha! Here’s one!
Ken Wilber Map #1
Ken Wilber Map #2
Take a long look at Ken Wilber’s Orienting Generalizations to Track the Evolution of Your Consciousness. Ideally, print off each page on a separate sheet and place page 2 to the right of page 1 extending the map horizontally. Designed to assist you in following the evolution of your and everyone’s consciousness from birth to the present and, potentially, beyond, the map shows the various stages along the path of personal growth. The higher you go, the deeper you go, the bigger you get. The map distills much of Wilber’s thought on the spectrum of consciousness, the potentials within each of us and the process to achieve each one. Our consciousness grows and develops upward so read each column of the map from bottom to top as if it were a plant growing toward the sun.
Each column represents some aspect of our being with the specific content of the column listed in bold along the bottom. Each stage and what happens there is noted by one of Wilber’s fulcrums, reading across the map. I included some modern research from Maslow, Loevinger and Kohlberg plus visions of the perennial philosophy from Plotinus and Aurobindo, thinkers separated by culture, experience and 1600 years. Pathologies and treatments required inclusion.
Study Wilber’s Orienting Generalizations, print them off, take them to coffee, get to know them and yourself…and everyone. Try to find yourself on the map. You are on there. We all are. Remember Map Rule #1: don’t confuse the map with the territory. You read the map. You live the territory.
In Part Two on Sunday, April 24, I will explore the spectrum of consciousness as it applies to shamanism (which begins at the psychic stage) and explore the nature and potential of each transpersonal stage. If you want to delve into Ken Wilber in more detail on the topics I’m discussing, I recommend his 1996 book, A Brief History of Everything available at fine bookstores everywhere.