I just returned from a wonderful private retreat in New Mexico, Santa Fe to be exact. I was with a group of like-minded people and we had a wonderful and magical journey. I recall an experience I'd like to share with all of you.
We were hiking in Bandelier Canyon, and climbing ladders straight up a cliff face to see an Indian Kiva and cave where sacred ceremony was held, and sometimes still is, I believe. Anyway, we were headed there to do a rite of passage ceremony ourselves, and when it came to be my turn to climb the wooden ladders, I began the climb pretty sure I'd handle it just fine.
About half way up, the height really hit me. The steep wooden ladders, yes they were attached to the rock face, but still, they were long ladders and once about half way up the face of the cliff, I realized just how little separated me from the ground. The wind picked up and rain clouds floated in and out of the sunlight, threatening to rain on us as we climbed each ladder rung higher and higher. Three times we came to little crevices where you could rest, and let others pass if you needed too.
I was wiped out physically half way up. I was shocked how much physical effort it took to climb these ladders...although really it is not quite that shocking considering the incline angle and how far up we had to go. I had flash backs of climbing inside the Great Pyramid at Giza. The angle was the same, maybe even a bit steeper, and besides the fact that we weren't closed in and surrounded by tons of solid stone, I was hanging off a almost sheer cliff face with nothing but my feet and hands keeping me there on wooden ladders.
Half way up the longest ladder, I paused. There were two people behind me, and everyone was respectful of the time it took each person to climb and offered help whenever they could. I was out of breath and my arms and legs were shaking. I wasn't sure I could go another step, but I knew I had no choice because I could not at this point go back down.
As I stood there, I looked at the sheer rock behind the ladder. Just focusing on breathing, getting my mindset straight so I could tackle the second half of the climb, I felt a certain kind of focus set in. Getting ready to keep moving upward, suddenly I noticed a red hawk feather floating down the rock under the ladder I reached in to grab it, letting go of the ladder rung, I reached and felt the feather float through my fingers on downward towards the person below me. She yelled up, was that yours? I said yes, and realized it was gone.
Then my attention was quickly brought back to the fact I was hanging off this cliff face, reaching for a floating feather, only hanging on with one arm! I quickly regrouped and thought about how much I wished I had been able to hold on to that feather. I knew the sign it represented, and the Native Elders who were with us knew it as well.
I finished my climb, and as I sat in this extraordinary huge cave with beautiful niches, and a kiva in it, I pondered how they managed to climb this to do ceremony. I thought about the feather again. I was sad I could not have caught it. I had to let it go. It came back into my awareness again when one of the elders who was behind me on the climb up, said they had seen a red-tailed hawk flying in circles over us as we climbed! The feather had fallen off him and floated down directly under me as I climbed the ladder. What are the odds? Pretty big..... Again I thought about the feather.
Climbing down was another story, as it had started to rain slightly. The thunder boomed around us, but the rain never really opened up until we were all off the face.
A few days later while in a water blessing ceremony, we were asked to look through a clear piece of crystal we had brought, I had not brought one, but on the bus one of the other participants had handed out pieces of clear obsidian, and I had thankfully taken a piece she offered, mine had some streaks of black in it and it was see-through and that was the directions.... you had to be able to see through it.
So when it came time to look through our pieces, I noticed one of the black streaks looked exactly like a feather. I smiled... the feather had come back to me. Over the course of the few days since that experience in Bandelier, the feather had crossed my mind several times. It had been such a powerful medicine sign for me, and I wasn't able to hold on to it. Feelings of unworthiness had crossed my mind over days time.... what was the lesson?
As I stared through the obsidian, I got it. The feather had come back because in my trust that I would be taken care of by the bigger picture, and forces that be, I was gifted this piece of obsidian. In my trust and innocence I trusted this piece was what was needed for the ceremony. I didn't over think it. I got out of my own way. And because I did, the feather came back, although in a different form, it was back none the less. I laughed and even though I knew that cliche, what we love comes back to us, and when we let it go, it will come back etc etc....I still needed this sign. Personally speaking, letting go recently of several major things in my life, which has been hard to do, I knew the saying, but the doing was still a challenge. I was looking for my personal signs while on this pilgrimage, and this was one of them.
I knew we were throwing our pieces into the water as part of the ceremony, so I knew this feather would have to be let go of too. But the sign was still solid for me. I got it. I laughed to myself....
The tighter we hold on, the more it eludes us. Letting go of even the most powerful of experiences, although one of the hardest things to do, is always for a reason. A lesson, a teaching that we need in our life at timely moments. A reminder I was in need of then on the side of the cliff, and in life right at that moment. The fear we face in letting go of some of the most precious things and moments we have in our life, can be crippling and can keep us in a constant state of attachment and fear. But when we move through that, and truly let it go, then it comes back to us in ways never expected.
It is like a constant cycle of regeneration, new form, new light, new versions of the same lesson. I was taught on that journey to watch for the signs, I have always made that practice a center piece to my way of life, but now so even more I must say. On that journey I crossed paths with someone that was meant to take the space of someone who had just left my life...as doors close, others open. There were many facets of this lesson that spoke to me in different ways throughout the week.
I think of all the things I have collected throughout my travels, my shelves are full of trinkets and rare collection pieces I have brought home from around the world. I began to go through them when I returned, choosing pieces to give away, items that I would never have parted with before now seemed excited to be headed to new homes.
As I cleaned off one shelf, dusty from all the time that had passed....there in the back of the corner was a dust covered feather from some long forgotten adventure. This one I put in a special place to hold on too, for now.