Leaning Back

The moon is shaded behind dense clouds when my journey-buddy and I settle in. We converse for a while, getting to the crux of what it is we want to ask, setting our intentions before letting the drum take us to the spirit world.

I’ve been struggling with faith for months. The meaning of it eludes me. The practice of it evades me. Panic sets in whenever I review the circumstances of my life. Reading books is only helping me understand that this isn’t an intellectual issue. Steadfast journal-writing only spirals me in and out of comfort. Singing, toning, tapping: nothing shifts the weight. I’m feeling lost, discouraged, stopped in my tracks. I don’t know what’s best to do. Worse, I’m beginning to entertain notions that I might be a fraud. What spiritual guide or teacher has no faith?

So, it comes to me: Ask. How important is it for me to have faith? What are my road blocks to it?

The drum sounds, warm and true. My spirit world mentor stands before me. “Do you trust me?” he asks? “Yes, of course. Implicitly.”

“Then,” he says, “trust in what you know.”

“You mean guidance?”

He nods, and a file drawer opens in my chest. It’s filled with folders whose headings are the many ways I receive guidance, and they are stuck with reminder notes: stay in the present, the only time we can really know. “Trusting in what you know allows you to have faith in the unknowable,” he tells me.

Then, he kneels behind me. “Lean back,” he says. “Whenever you are holding your breath, over thinking, lean back.” I lean back and feel all dread melt from my body.

I remember a poem from thirty years ago.

First Lesson – Phillip Booth

Lie back, daughter, let your head
be tipped back in the cup of my hand.
Gently, and I will gold you.  Spread
your arms wide, lie out on the stream
and look high at the gulls.  A dead-
man’s float is face down.  You will dive
and swim soon enough where this tidewater
ebbs to the sea.  Daughter, believe
me, when you tire on the long thrash
to your island, lie up, and survive.
As you float now, remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.
The full measure of my being is held.

I also remember some years ago, taking a class on pruning for aesthetics. The instructor had trained with a bonsai master and practiced the art of revealing, through pruning, the authentic expression of trees and shrubs. One of the key ingredients of the process he taught was what he called the dance. Study the plant, look at the structure, see what needs to come away. Step in. Make a few cuts. Step back. Repeat. If you make too many cuts at one time, you can get lost.

The way forward is such a dance. Gather direction. Take action. Lean back. Repeat. Minute by minute. Mundane tasks or making art. Running your business or doing your social life. The arc of your life is unknowable. Surprises are in store. Even miracles. Lean back. Trust.

Since my mentor’s instructions, I’ve been a bit obsessive. “Really? You want me to use all the mushrooms in this dish?” (And, of course, it was delicious).

I’ve also exercised my will and tested his guidance.

One evening, following a particularly fruitful day, I wanted to watch a movie. I felt a nudge to check the last things off my list instead, but it was nearly 8, and I was feeling a bit full of my oats. So, I watched the movie. It was a good movie. I was entertained, engaged. But when it was over, I felt bland and vaguely disappointed, as if I’d chosen to stare at the ceiling when I could have been to a gallery. I tried laughing at myself, and yet, while getting ready for bed, I felt the edginess of panic creep in.

Even though my superior mind finds it a bit hard to believe that some of the things I’m guided to do could have any bearing on my sustainable future, my wise body is free from terror’s grip.