July 15, 2023



This morning I was meditating and became aware that the blackness surrounding me had subtly changed and I knew that I was back in the Imaginal. I thought I was sitting before a campfire but then realized the soft, golden glow was coming from within me, not from an external source. In front of me was a humanlike creature. It was grinning in an amusing, lighthearted way. It’s features reminded me of the troll dolls with wild hair and glowing eyes that were somewhat popular in the U.S. in the 1990s. However, this creature did not have glowing eyes and, while obviously friendly, did not appear caricatured. She–I believe it was female–smiled, watching me. She seemed fascinated not so much by me but by the glow around me and something else. She reached out with a small, chubby hand and touched me. Her fingers came away dripping with honey. She tasted the honey, delicately lapping at her fingers with a pink tongue, and, realizing it was tasty, grew excited and licked it all off before reaching out and getting more.


Does this mean that I’m covered in honey? I realized that my body must look very strange and I wasn’t even exactly what you could call human any longer; I appeared like a forest spirit, more earthy and plantlike than human, I think.


The glow surrounding me intensified as I gazed out from the blackness, seeing that I was seated under a looming cliff that was almost a cave. Before me was a darkened forest. It was beautiful midsummer and moonless. Suddenly, some of the light surrounding me took off, speeding out to illuminate the forest. Startled, I realized that I was covered in “firefly bees” - insects that appeared to be bees but that glowed like fireflies. The trees of the forest were soon garlanded with tiny golden lights as the bees spread out, alighting on the branches of the trees. It was breathtaking and gorgeous.


The forest was filled with troll-like creatures like the one seated in front of me and they looked up at the softly glowing trees in wonder. Like the girl-troll, their bodies were diminutive and covered with black fur. Only their faces were bare and their features reminded me humorously of middle-aged women of Eastern European origin.


The ‘girl’ took my (sticky) hand and led me through the forest. We soon reached a rushing river filled with glowing blue water. Though raging with a fearsome torrent, the river’s waters were completely silent. I’d seen this river before and recognized it as the equivalent of the River Lethe, a soul river or maybe a boundary of sorts. To enter its waters is to forget everything from your life.


I could see across the river to the far side. It was the complete opposite of the land on my side, being incredibly barren and cold and blue. I would say it was wintry but even that doesn’t convey the depth of its chill. The ice there was even colder than frozen water and reminded me of frozen methane. This was a world of certain death which no living creature could enter. And yet I knew that was where I had to go. I guess this was the equivalent of Absolute Zero?


I bade farewell to the troll girl and her clan and stepped into the raging river. Strangely, I felt nothing as if it was completely still. In fact, it was more than still, it was deathly silent and weightless. Such is the nature of soul rivers.


It didn’t take me long to ford the river because of this weightlessness and I emerged on the other side, looking behind to see the forest still illuminated by the golden bees. I called out for them and they followed me, buzzing furiously across the river. They did not, however, fan out across the barren, frozen landscape and instead instantly clung to my body for warmth. I smiled because they were so darned cute and had to resist the urge to pet them.


The landscape before us was forbidding. It was like being on the surface of a glacier with its blue ice cracked and scattered. It glowed with an icy, blue light. Ahead, inside a glittering crevasse, however, there was a warm, golden glow like the one emanating from within me (and my bees.) We headed in that direction.


We picked our way across the treacherous terrain, entering the crevasse. Rounding a corner, I was soon face to face with a human woman. I recognized her as one of my own, one who walks the Bardo realms of the Imaginal. She was older and scrappy, clad in tattered robes and skins. There was something very engaging about her and I felt at ease. In her human life, she was clearly a rebel who didn’t take the orthodox route and who didn’t care what others thought. Further, she didn’t care about appearances or beauty, rather looked for what others couldn’t see. In short, she was obviously a shaman. I couldn’t tell what race she was, other than she was clearly indigenous. First Nations? Native African? Native Asian? Anything is possible because shamanism seems to be a mainstay of many indigenous traditions. (Truth be told, I’ve met more shamans in the Imaginal than people from any other tradition.)


I greeted her, bowing. I was curious about her but she didn’t seem inclined to get into niceties. “I’m like you, yes,” she agreed, “but also not like you. Different routes, same destination. Now let’s go. We have work to do.”


Despite her terseness, I didn’t take offense and knew that she liked me and was just as curious about me as I was about her. She didn’t, however, want anything to distract her from her work.


She turned toward the fractured wall of the icy crevasse behind us and her golden light melding with my own. There was a triangle of ‘black ice’ before us, the depthless black of the Absolute. We pushed through it as if it was water. As we entered, I was immediately overwhelmed by depthless sadness, hopelessness and despair. The sensations were overpowering and tears started pouring from my eyes. 


The Absolute blackness was, well, absolute and I couldn’t see anything. It was also solid like a dense crystal. This is atypical and speaks to the solidity of the ‘prison’ inside which a soul was locked. Despite this solidity, though, I could easily feel the presence of the woman who was trapped here.


The shaman was holding my hand and squeezed reassuringly. I knew then why I’d been called here: It was my heart. The shaman’s dominant center was probably the belly but it’s hard to tell exactly; I just knew that she wasn’t a ‘Heart Center’. It’s not that she lacked compassion, just that her heart wasn’t her dominant center.


Our combined light eventually had an alchemical effect on the black crystal and it shattered. Fissures of glowing blue light shot through the crystalline framework holding the woman’s soul captive. As the darkness cracked, the shaman and I gave her a chaste kiss on the lips before embracing her, the shaman in back of her and me in the front. Being in front, I could see the woman’s face and attire. She was clearly African and wore a beautiful blue dress and an ornate blue headdress. It was a funereal headdress, probably the one she’d been buried in. 


I should point out here that I’m still not sure if she was a human or a god. Her presence, even entombed as she was, was very powerful and I remembered my Imaginal journey of a few days ago when the trinity of African gods had asked me if they could call upon me for help. Was this one of their own or was she simply a very powerful human being? I still don’t know.


I couldn’t get a read on the reasons behind her captivity in the black crystal, just knew her sadness, heaviness and hopelessness. The glow emanating from the shaman and me bathed her body in golden light and her eyes opened, revealing white pupils. She was clearly blind, more like a zombie than a living human.


“Don’t worry,” the shaman said. “Call out your totems.”


I knew that she meant the firefly bees. Instantly, they emerged from their shelter (hive?) within me and poured out, penetrating deep into the dead woman’s body. I could see golden points of light moving around inside her wherever they went. At the same time, three golden snakes detached from the shaman’s body. One curled around the dead woman’s neck and the other two curled around her wrists. They sank their fangs into her flesh but, rather than poison, they injected her with the living light of Being.


The woman awoke, her eyes turning the color of honey amber. She smiled at us, recognizing who we were, and she moved. A soft, blue light emanated from within her as the firefly bees and snakes withdrew, returning to their respective humans. The three of us moved through the crystal–now rich blue–and outward toward a glowing white opening. I recognized the whiteness as the color of the Crossroads and knew that the Woman in White was waiting for us.


The Crossroads was wintry this time and the forest was covered in snow. The Woman in White had a totem of her own, a white wolf. She greeted the three of us as we approached, appearing this time as a woman of African descent, clad in white robes. The ‘blue woman’ knew her and was overjoyed to see her, running over to join her and the wolf. She was obviously ready to continue her journey, wherever it might lead.


Much like other times during these journeys, I was a total, blubbering mess. (The curse of being a Heart Center!) The three women seemed amused by my crying but they also knew there was no comfort to be given. I wasn’t sad exactly, just overwhelmed by the potency of the feelings surging in my heart. These journeys are so rich, so vibrant, so full and also, at times, heartbreaking. I was at my limit.


The Woman in White bowed to us before departing with the ‘blue woman.’ The shaman and I watched them walking down the trail until they were swallowed by the icy fog. We were silent. I could tell that the shaman was trying not to laugh at me. I’m sure I must have made quite a sight! Also, I knew that she was more experienced than me and I’m sure had racked up many, many more visits to the Imaginal than I have. Still, I could feel her fondness and appreciation for me. And I felt the same towards her. She didn’t say anything before leaving; she merely bowed and disappeared into the mists. I stayed there in that misty Bardo until my meditation timer rang ten minutes later. The whole experience took less than ten minutes of ‘clock time.’


***

 

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