This time I was getting off a plane in Florida, with my big blue wheeled holdall, to be picked up and taken to Tom’s Philosophy 1 workshop. We were based in a Scout camp with a central meeting hall and eating space and cabins to sleep in. Nature was all around us, with Spanish moss hanging down from the trees. Our driver said we should watch out for Recluse Spiders and Black Widows in the cabins, and the Water Moccasins in the lake, “they will just grab your arm and chew their way up!”
The group was really diverse again, and the extra interest was provided by 4 Navy Seals. They wanted to learn advanced tracking and scouting skills, and Tom insists on Philosophy 1 as a requirement for these courses. They were great guys and provided one of the highlights of the week. All week they tried to climb the inside of the meeting hall roof to touch the high point, without success. On the last day a fifty-year-old man asked if he could try. They watched open mouthed as he climbed up, touched the high point and casually climbed back down. I met up with him the next day at the airport. It turns out he was one of USA’s most experienced and legendary mountaineers. You had to smile. If fact the whole of this week was like one happy family with lots of chats, impromptu drumming sessions on cooking points and lots of laughs.
There were no laughs about the pipe ceremony form that we practiced every day. Tom told us that he wanted us to learn the pure, unmodified pipe ceremony that Stalking Wolf taught him. In all his years of travel, “Grandfather” had only seen it performed correctly 13 times. We had to make our pipes, carving the bowls out of soapstone and making our own stem out of cedar. We were not allowed to join the two until we had mastered the form of the ceremony . It was during this time that I really felt the reverence and respect, for ceremony and ritual, that gives them power. It is a feeling I hope I pass on to my students.
The week was an introduction to the ‘Force’, the energy that connects us all. It built on the opening of the senses in Standard Class in building our sixth sense, our intuition. We were taught long form meditation which used the breath and the release of body tension to get to a relaxed body and a ‘clear canvas’ in the mind’. It is similar to Yoga Nidra. We practised this meditation a lot of times in the week. The aim is to brain pattern that clear canvas feeling so that you just need to take a breath to surrender all the chatter of our monkey brain. This ‘clear canvas’ helps us visualise with greater sensitivity and less judgement.
The visualising (journeying) exercises were outstanding. After a day of long form meditation we went on to visualise a landscape that we walked through until we came to eight steps down to the courtyard of a building, through the door of which was a beautiful landscape. We then did this visualisation regularly, in later classes, to the point where we had fixed our vision of the landscape and we could move into the different parts of it instantly. This was all part of the conditioning work.
Everybody had to find a sit spot on their own in the forest that surrounded the camp. I wandered until I found a nice tree with a low branch that I could sit on, with my back to the tree. It was on the border of the forest and a park, so I had a clear view in front of me. We were sent out to our sit spot every day to reflect and carry out exercises.
After a few days Tom started intuition exercises or pyschonavigation, sending our sixth sense out into the landscape, during a visualisation that we were led through. Before the first exercise we had to find the start of a path we had never walked on, in the forest. We had to just look at the start of the path long enough to be able to remember it. I found one by the lake, somewhere I had avoided on account of snakes! I then went back to the hall, did the long form meditation and then was led through a visualisation of a walk along the path, finding the start and being asked to notice how it changed direction and what plants were growing at different points and any other things we noticed. When we finished the visualisation, I went out to physically walk the path. I was amazed at the accuracy of the things I had seen while journeying. Everything I had seen was there.
We built on this with another exercise. This time we worked in pairs. The visualisation was of us starting at our own sit spot and walking towards our partners sit spot (which we had never been to). After a while in the visualisation a fog came down as we walked. When the fog lifted, we were 10 feet away from each other and we were told to look around to see any plants or landmarks. Having completed the visualisation, we set off to my partners sit spot and started to walk towards the part of the forest where my sit spot was. After a while my partner said “This the place we met.” I walked on 10 feet, turned around and it was. All the landmarks I had noticed in the visualisation were there. Wow! When we got back to the hall most of the others had a similar result. Two of the girls had seen two sticks forming a cross where they met in the visualisation and it was there when they walked together.
The next exercise was to visit each other’s beautiful place in the inner landscape that we had visualised. During this exercise we were asked to describe the door into the beautiful space, some landmarks and to give the visitor a gift, all without speaking. When we had finished both visits, we sat down and wrote and drew what we had seen. 100% hit. The gift I drew was a shell and my partner had given me a dollar shell with exactly the same shape as I had drawn! Wow! The sceptic in me was getting blown away.
Within the landscape we visualised, off one of the steps was a path which led to the space where we could communicate with something that we were close to or touching. Off another step there was a path which led to a space top communicate with distant things. We did a visualisation in pairs to visit each other’s house and again got a lot of the detail. My partner for this exercise was German and when he phoned home his wife asked him if he had visited, at exactly the time we did!
All of these exercises were designed to open up our intuition and to strengthen our belief in what we were noticing on our clean canvas. I had two later experiences which really grounded my belief and shut down my sceptic. The first was at a wedding where the best man came in white faced because he had lost the rings. I instantly ‘saw’ where they were and told him to look down the side of the passenger seat. One relieved best man. The second incidence was some months later. Sue and I were on a workshop in Holland. It was night-time and we were about to do a fire ceremony, but Susan wasn’t around. In the pitch black I remembered what Tom had said about Apache sensing deer. I turned in a circle until I felt I was facing the right direction then I send my intuition out in that direction. I got a vivid picture of Susan sitting on a bench about 100 yards away. I walked through the woods in that direction and there she was, on the bench.
My favourite experience at this workshop happened on the last day. We had been sent to our sit spots to do an open-eyed visualisation, where you overlay your visualised journey on the landscape around you. This left me in a very deep and peaceful state. Just as I was coming out of the visualisation, I noticed a movement to my right and there, about ten feet away, was a bobcat. We saw each other at the same time and looked into each other’s eyes. We had the same thought “Should I be frightened?” He stayed for 10 seconds and then turned and walked back into the forest. I went back and shared the story and one of the locals said, “I’ve lived here for 40 years and I’ve never seen a bobcat.” In my deep meditative state, I had obviously become invisible to nature.
Soon after I got home, I was running a native philosophy day for Adult Education. With a bit of time to spare, and on a whim, I took the participants out into the local park, led them through long form meditation and through the visualised landscape to the place where you communicate with things you can touch. The people who were touching sorrel felt the same sensation in their stomachs. Sorrel is good for the stomach. The ones touching the birch trees both felt really relaxed. Birch contains natural aspirin. One participant saw colours but got no feeling in the body. I asked her if she was a perfectionist. She was amazed and asked how I knew. She had chosen to lean against a beech tree which is the Bach Flower Remedy for anxiety caused by perfectionism. Her instincts were working OK.
To be continued…. The South