The Fall Sun, 27th July, 2014
I knew it was going to happen someday. It was always a distinct possibility given my regular practice of trail running: The big fall. And yes, it finally happened yesterday morning. The art of trail running is to be simultaneously "in the zone" like an active meditation and "on the lookout" for obstacles in your path that can be a painful if not deadly distraction. Sometimes they're tree roots, sometimes even a turtle or a wriggling snake. In this case, it was a big rock in the middle of the path.
As I try to get back to more of my beloved nature-based spirituality, I have been opening myself once again to signs from nature. And she gave me a big, unmistakable one. I soon felt myself flailing in slow motion though humid air, with a breathless, panicky feeling like I was drowning, and a second later felt myself plowing into the earth and vegetation beside the path.
This was a spiritual wake-up call.
I know this because I suffered only minor scrapes and swollen fingers. But spiritually it was a slap in the face—an exhortation to stop and really see myself and what's happening in my life. I decided to meditate afterward on the meaning of this rock that had tripped me up. The rock had always been there (this is a familiar trail), and there are many rocks over the past year and a half that I have navigated safely, even skillfully.
So what was special about this one, this day? It was determined to tell me something, but I wasn't listening. So, bam. Now I'm listening. And, ironically, as I staggered back onto my feet rom the bed of ivy (not the poison variety, thankfully) and did a quick damage assessment (not too bad, considering), I heard a voice in my head saying, "There's nothing wrong with you. You need to be who you are."
It seems all the issues in my life lately that have caused me and my loved ones pain all tie back to my low self-esteem issues. When good things—and good people—come into my life, I have somehow felt that I didn't deserve them. And this has sometimes caused me to make choices out of fear, or out of a desire to avoid rejection. Like so many things that trip us up in life, that rock in the middle of the path was probably obvious to everyone but me.
It's trite but true that we learn more from our failures than from successes. The lesson is not to avoid paths with rocks, but rather to be aware of the rocks and other pitfalls that abound.
This spiritual reawakening caused me to pay a long-overdue visit to Mystic Valley new age spirituality shop in Maplewood to buy a copy of a favorite book about animal totems (so that I can return the original to the friend who lent it). And while I was there, some pendants with Celtic symbols spoke to me. I chose the one pictured here, which symbolizes spiritual rebirth. The Celtic patterns with five knots represent the endless journey of life, from birth through successive rebirth.
And today I have reconnected spiritually with my animal totem, the Great Blue Heron. More about him in a future blog. But the essential point of Heron medicine is that we must always be on the lookout for opportunities. And that has helped me see my "trail running fail" as an opportunity to make a fresh start.