Medicine Walk - Reflections
A little under two weeks ago I wrote about the Medicine Walk that I was planning to embark on. The time that I went out on the walk coincided with a week when family were all away. Because of that I returned to an empty, quiet house. It was an ideal environment to sit and reflect on the experience in the wilderness of Haleakala crater. I’ll with you share some of those reflections here.
With an empty house, I had more time than usual to sit, reflect and journal about the walk. I found myself spending some time writing or reading and then going off to do something else. I didn’t force the reflections, with a pen in my hand I just allowed what came up to flow onto the pages. A few days into this process I asked myself if I was being indulgent? Was this the introvert in me who spends time in his head and is perhaps over thinking things now? I answered myself with a “no.” The words were flowing and I would let them keep coming until I felt complete. As I write this, I am unsure how far I will take my sharings of the walk. This is nothing against you, the reader, but perhaps it will emerge that some experiences are better kept for those with whom I can have a face to face conversation?
Rites of Passage
In an earlier post I mentioned that rites of passage work consists of three stages - Severance, Threshold, and Incorporation. For the purpose of this discussion I would like to add an additional stage to precede these three - Preparation. I’ll speak about my Medicine Walk in the context of these four stages. As you read about these four stages within the context of my walk, look for parallels for them in aspects of your life. There is no substitue for going on on your own solo, whether as a Medicine Walk or a longer wilderness trip. However, being able to hold aspects of your life within this framework can help to give them structure and direction when it feels as though these are missing, or when you are struggling to find purpose and a way forward.
Preparation really started when the idea for the walk was planted in me. I was musing over how solo wilderness work might look in working alongside Introverts and HSPs. What might it offer? An email to a trusted teacher and friend who works within this field and with whom I shared some of my musings, sowed the seed for the Medicine Walk.
As the day approached I could feel the anxiety build in me. It was one thing to speak about the walk, another to go on it. I was excited to set off, but also as I looked at my daily routine I realized that for one day that would be broken in a very different and real way.
I checked out maps of the area that I would be walking through. I looked into anything special that I should know about Haleakala National Park - weather conditions, walking conditions, facilities available. I arranged with a couple of people that I would contact them when I returned from the walk. The day before I ran through an equipment list and lay everything out for the next morning. This did not include a camera. I was there just to be and experience, not to try and capture.
I set the alarm and went to bed.
Severance happens as you leave your home and drive to the trailhead. It is a small death, a leaving behind what is familiar and giving up of yourself to what lies ahead.
I wasn’t sure how to take this, but my alarm did not go off that morning. Thankfully my mind appeared to be in anticipation of what was happening and I woke up around the time it was meant to sound. I got up, did a last run through of what I needed and in the early morning hours headed up the mountain.
At the summit I walked to the trailhead which I took as my Threshold. A rainbow formed near to me in the early morning mist. I said some short prayers to request guidance for the walk ahead and gave thanks to those who were supporting me in this endeavor.
And with that I set off.
Threshold is that space between the old, that which is no longer relevant in your life, and the new, that which is to be born. It is crossing of a Threshold from that which is familiar to you, to a dream place, a place of possibility and meaning. Like exploring a dream, we just have to be open to what might be present, to what might show up.
This is the part in which I will be more quiet in what I share as I explore and process the experience. Save to say here that I set off in a cooler atmosphere than I had left at sea level. The cool air was welcomed for clarity of thought, though the solar radiation was strong as I was now at 2 miles in elevation. The early morning mist burnt off to reveal extraordinary vistas.
The descent into the moonscape of the crater was mesmerizing - for the silence (so quiet that all that you could hear was the ringing in your ears), for the crunch, crunch, crunch of boots on the cinder sand (though it is amazing how even in that environment, a head full of thoughts can drown out external noises!), the scale of what I was walking through (it was really very difficult to take it all in), the aliveness of the barren landscape even though I was walking through a dormant volcano (the petrified rocks breathed with the life force that threw them up from the bowels of the earth, the frozen paths of lava flows capturing time in space).
And in all of this nothingness there was a current life clinging on to what nourishment was offered - some plant life (including a threatened species, the Silversword), a few birds, and I saw a beetle - though barrenness prevailed.
My way back to the Threshold took me through an area that was more lush. Although lava was visible, vegetation had taken hold and started to break down the sharpness of the landscape. The clouds came in and as I climbed the long and tiring switch backs out of the crater, rain fell intermitently and views were obscured. I was transported back to the landscapes of South Wales, my home for 17 years.
I crossed back over the Threshold and gave thanks again to those who had guided and supported me through this experience. I walked back to the car to rest, contact those who were waiting to hear from me, and eat before driving back down the mountain.
I fell asleep early that night.
With the walk complete, I returned to my everyday life. This is a time to reflect on what lessons have been brought back from the walk and to see how they might be brought into your everyday life. “What has been born? What is new? What has been left behind? What gifts do you have to share?”
It can also be a time of “coming down to earth with a bump”. The high of the experience is replaced by the mundaneness of everyday life. Share your experiences with trusted confidants. Tread carefully for a day or so. Perhaps you have brought something back from the walk. Perhaps an image reminds you of your experience. For me the omnipresence of Haleakala on this island, whether visible or shrouded in cloud, takes me back to where I was on that day.
I will continue to expore the outcome of the walk, and am continually grateful to those who have kept this form alive.
The Four Stages in Daily Life
How do you see Preparation, Severance, Threshold and Incorporation manifesting in the activities of your day to day life? As I alluded to earlier, at a fundamental level these four are a play of change that is never far away in the continually evolving nature of our lives. Being able to hold change, which at times can be scary or appear to lack meaning and context, within a framework can give us strength and courage to carry on our way. It gives us permission to let go of the old and embrace the new as our lives move on and we grow.