My Spirit Journey

Now I want you to get comfortable. Are you comfortable? Good. Let’s begin…

I’m walking in an open field, sparkling and swaying in the bright of midday. Then trees start bursting up all around me, sprouting straight from the ground to enormous heights all around me. And as they grow, their branches extend and weave around one another, like they’re trying to hold hands, forming this intricate maze of limbs and leaves all interlocked and inviting… a tree-climber’s paradise. There’s a cool breeze that rushes by and sends a light shiver through me. It’s chilly but invigorating, and it blows my hair every which way all over the place. I never could control my hair in the wind. A soft light peaks through the branches to create little spotlights on the ground, and I begin to dance among them, jumping from one to another like hopscotch.

Suddenly I’m welcomed by a swarm of bunnies bounding out towards me, eager to join in the fun. I laugh with joy, and take off running as they bounce after me, darting in and out of the winding trees. The trees seem to be telling me to come play with them too, so I start climbing. But the bunnies can’t climb themselves, so instead they all stop at the base of the tree, and look curiously up at me with their wide beady eyes. As they realize I’m not coming back down, they begin circling the ground beneath me, waiting excitedly for my next move. I start forward, climbing up and around the intertwined branches, as the bunnies bounce along below in the same direction.
Then behind me, I hear a low growl. I turn sharply to see a great wild cat walking carefully through the woods towards me. The bunnies immediately sense danger and quickly scatter, as the great cat watches them retreat. Then turning back to me with a satisfied expression, he continues to approach. I watch frozen in a combination of awe and fear as he climbs up the branches to me, wondering if he’s going to attack me. I’m about to muster the courage to run, when he turns his head and looks me dead in the eyes. I’m instantly struck by how gentle they are, and I am oddly no longer frightened.
Settling on a branch next to mine, the great cat says to me ‘Come with me.’ And off he sets, navigating forward among these crisscrossing branches floating high above the ground. I start to follow, but I’m so nervous that I soon slip and lose my footing, stumbling to regain myself. The great cat looks back at me and says ‘Don’t try so hard. Just walk like me.’ Grappling at his meaning, I lower myself down on all fours and begin trying to copy his movement. This is quite awkward though, because walking on my hands and feet means that my butt is sticking straight up in the air, and each step is a desperate lunge to reach the next branch before I lose my balance. I’m trying to imitate the great cat’s movement, as he instructed. But his steps so small and precise, that I have a hard time placing my own hands and feet in the same spots, and I find myself slipping and losing my footing again.
The great cat sees this, and pausing to let me catch up, he turns to me and says, ‘You don’t need to do that. See how unstable and unsure you are? Notice how I walk, not where I walk. Notice how I’m always balanced. Even when you are walking on the branches, try to stay balanced.’
I look down immediately to find my feet on the branches, and then glance ahead to the next branch, trying to calculate how I’m going to make it there in balance.
Prompted by this, he continues. ‘Being balanced doesn’t mean being exact with every single footstep. The point of balance is to observe everything around you and then decide where to move. Don’t focus so hard on the branches, or you’ll miss the trees.’
With that, he turns back around and resumes his forward movement along the maze of branches. This time, I stay back and watch him for a second, noticing now how his head stays erect and his eyes always scanning as he steps so evenly and carefully on each branch. I realize I won’t be able to do the same if I try to follow his exact footsteps. And so stepping a little to the left, I start moving carefully forward on my own new parallel path through the branches.
The great cat sees me do this and smiling, encourages me on with more nuggets of wisdom. ‘Make sure that when you land, you land even footed,’ he says to me. ‘Every step should be made with purpose and care.’
At this, I offer my first objection. ‘But how can I always be sure to land the same when the branches are all so different?’
He smiles and pauses once again, turning to address me with his full attention. ‘You see this branch I’m on? It’s very thick and sturdy. But the one there that I just came from looks much more thin and frail. Balance is not only about determining the best next step, it’s also about trust. Before stepping there, I trusted that each branch I chose would support me if I let it. I also trust that my body will take care of me in the event the branch does fail, and it will sometimes.’
‘That’s not very reassuring,’ I reply nervously. ‘How am I supposed to trust the branches if they might fail me?’
‘You need to believe in the strength of the trees,’ he answers, ‘but more importantly, you need to believe in your own strength. In the end, you have the ability to decide whether that branch is a good one to step on, and you can be just as able to catch yourself should you fall.’
I have a hard time accepting this answer, but I’m eager to get back to the exploring. So giving him a little nod to show I understand, and then turning back to my parallel path, I start to move on. The great cat sighs and shakes his head, but then resumes his own as well.
Side by side we continued forward, and up and down and sideways (since it’s near impossible to climb through branches in a straight line), and I begin to get more comfortable with this balancing act. In particular, I start to feel more graceful in my movement, which is a very unfamiliar feeling. We are so clumsy as humans. I’m always bumping into things. I stub my toe here, smash my finger there, always an accident of some kind. But this great cat, like the other animals of this forest, doesn’t ever bump into things or stub his toe. I’m beginning to understand and appreciate the grace of his movement, and the art of staying balanced amongst an uneven landscape.
The great cat can see this, so he starts to add a new challenge. He begins leaping a little as he moves between branches, letting his paws leave the branch for just a second before landing neatly on the next. I’m excited to see such playfulness from him, and I start trying to leap too. But it’s harder than it looks, and it requires so much greater focus that I start looking too closely at my feet and lose my balance again. And again, the great cat stops to advise. ‘Remember to leap in balance,’ he reminds me. ‘There’s balance in every step, in every leap, and in every landing.’
It’s almost as if his words open a new crack between the trees, and a new spotlight of sun warms over me, and I feel like I’m finally beginning to understand. I need to restore the trust in the branches, and in myself. I need to allow my eyes to focus on my nearby surroundings, and not so intently on either the branches themselves or on the far off horizon. Leaping is a much greater test of your balance. But much in the same way, it can also reward with even greater grace.
To start a leap is first to reach out my arms in front of me, as I push off from the branch behind me. But then, for a brief moment, I just let myself float and enjoy the moment in between. And if I can do that, if I can capture the thrill of it, and still maintain a balanced view, I know I will land down on the next branch with ease. It’s not about just trying to get to the next spot. If that’s all I want to do, I could just step there. Leaping is about letting go. It’s about being in the air and feeling grounded at the same time.
Not every leap is perfect either. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to fall. And as long as I can trust, I can stay gracefully balanced even when leaping around in a more insecure place. It’s easier said than done of course, but the key is to not worry about the things I can’t control. The great cat always knows exactly where he’s going. He may not know the ultimate destination, but he at least knows where his next step (or leap) will be. He shows me the value in focusing only on that which is in our line of sight, what we actually can impact.
Too often, we (and by we, I mean humans) are focused on this distant point on the horizon, a place we may never even get to. We obsess over so many things that we can’t change or do anything about. And it’s not necessary. All we need to do is focus on the next step, and the next step, and the next step. And the rest will sort of take care of itself. Nature has a way of taking care of itself.
And if I ever want to remember what all this has meant, if I ever need a reminder to stay balanced in the leap of life, I know I can go find a tree (or a forest if possible), and climb up into it, and just stay balanced there for awhile. And if I really need a friend, someone there to help remind me, I can come back to this forest, back to the place where I met the great cat, and he’ll still be there. But as he said in our parting, ‘You don’t need me to remind you. You just need the branches – the branches are the key.’ It’s not the great cat himself that is the message. Like the other animals native to that forest, it’s just in his nature to walk like that. It’s the surroundings of my own world, the observation of them, and my trust in them, which I will need to take with me.
And as I bid that forest goodbye, the trees whispered softly their parting words. ‘Play’ they said, just as they had when I first arrived. ‘Go play. Don’t forget to play.’ And I understand what they were there to teach me. I can be balanced, and trust in myself, and in the branches… and still play. I can play, and I can control how I play, but I can’t control how others play with me. I don’t need to worry about what I can’t control. Being able to let go and still be present is the only way to hold it all, the only way to play and stay balanced at the same time.
The great cat, and the branches, and even the trees themselves… they all told me and showed me all this. But the best part is realizing that I’ve had this knowledge inside me all along. The message here is to trust in myself, in my truest self that’s still got my back, even though I’ve ignored it for so long. When asked where I felt this exploration in my body, I immediately pointed to my stomach. And it makes sense. That’s my core, the center point of my strength and passion and energy. And it’s the nucleus of all that keeps me alive and well: what keeps my heart beating, and my body nourished, and my structure strong and sound. So it makes sense that I should feel this journey the most in that part of my body.
And listening to this part of my body, I also start to hear a very clear message coming from my core. Take care of me, it says to me. You need to take better care of me, so I can take care of you and help you stay balanced. And in the final moments of this magical journey, a poem (go figure) forms in my mind and repeats itself over and over, like a soothing meditative chant:
‘I’ll take better care of you
And you take care of me
And we will step upon this earth
Careful and carefree’

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