“That thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you is usually what you need to find,” says Rebecca Solnit, “and finding it is a matter of getting lost.”
In many indigenous cultures, during women’s moontime, the menstruating women gather together in a circle and journey through the underworld, deep into the spiritual heart of Gaia to retrieve nature’s wisdom to benefit their communities and their peoples. It was, and still is believed, that menstruating women were powerful shamans; their healing magic revered and respected in society, and much needed.
As my cycle changes and my body changes, so too is my inner terrain. I crave a nightly pilgrimage through the realms of myself; my mysteries, my grief, my delights and my connection with Earth’s power and the power of spirit beyond the boundaries of the starry sky. I am a pilgrim of unknown terrain, and I’m eager for repeat visits.
In the past, I’ve had profound experiences of communion with the healing energies of Papatuanuku (the New Zealand indigenous Maori name for the land, the mother earth figure who gives birth to all things, including people) and of energies and beings from other dimensions. Sometimes this is visceral; it is a conscious and embodied experience. At other times, it is through my dreamtime, particularly potent during my moontime.
Now, as I am moving through a challenging time in perimenopause, my traveller’s itch has returned. I want to explore my vast inner terrain again. I have an intent: to gain the knowledge my spirit is aching that I ignite again so that my remaining years in this life serve my soul to its utmost. It is a rich journey.
I like getting lost in this way, for this kind of journey is like leaving the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. Thoreau says, “lose the whole world, get lost in it, and find your soul.”
Yet, it’s not so much about finding as it is about remembering for, as another great thinker Socrates says, “you can know the unknown because you remember it.” And that is how it is for me when I begin a new adventure through that open door. It is a return home, a gathering of all the bits of me that are bits of the earth and bits of stars too. Sometimes, in the dark, it all feels disorienting. Some pieces of me have made a home in the dark, are comfortable there and resist being found. But I nudge at them, as would a curious animal, allowing them a scent of me so that they remember that they belong, that they have a home in me. And the home in me expands as I retrieve and embrace the lost bits of myself.
And we are all as big as all that we cannot see nor comprehend. There is so much to discover! At particular times, like transitioning through menopause, we are called to do this inner work. There is a yearning to travel, and we can.
Beginning the journey is as simple as lying on your back, one hand on your stomach, one hand on your chest (over your heart chakra). Breathe through your nose, just into your chest first, and inhale into your chest and then exhale so that your chest rests again. Your stomach remains still. Breathe through your chest five times. Then inhale and exhale through your stomach. When you inhale your stomach rises and when you exhale your stomach rests again. Your chest remains still. After five times breathing from your stomach, you will now inhale from your stomach and then into your chest. Then you exhale and your chest falls away and rests, then your stomach rests. Do that combination of the stomach and chest breath five times. And repeat. Five breaths from your chest, five breaths from your stomach, five breaths stomach and chest. Three repetitions in total.
Your mind will now be very still and calm. Bring all of your awareness to the point between your eyebrows, also known as the third eye. Continue breathing deeply, but naturally, while concentrating on the third eye. Do this for ten minutes. As you become familiar with this exercise, you can introduce an intention or you can ask your soul a question. Your heroic quest begins.
For me, a new field
It was like I knew Moses intimately, like he was in me and I in him, parting myself by day and by night, sifting through the silt of my deposited trauma—just sitting, sifting, stone
by stone. Some say I wanted to remove myself, bit by bit, like a contortionist,
some say. Like, she wanted to turn herself Inside-Out, they say.
Only after sitting just, listening for my heartbeat, sniffing for hints of acrid sweat—
do I now feel how stifled I am beneath the skin layers of dirt covers over.
I need a moment to hold myself in my hands.
And when I do I feel the dead willow branches around my neck, hung like strung beads.
I feel the stubborn stones and the arteries of rapids in me—
here alone, a stallion comes to nuzzle my armpit, to adore my smell,
quietly knowing it is me, returning.
I turn back from myself, gathering the stones, ready,
as if to scatter them across the fresh fields, marking my new home.
I feel like I am dying to something. I look up. Circling fiercely
are a thousand crows, throats open, crowding the sky.
I’ve lost my words, my tongue a slack muscle.
Writ upon my torso, raw—Herself divined, it said.
I circle in now, subsuming myself as a whole new thing
as quiet as the first swirling snow.
I smell my newness—
the sun blushed on my new skin.
I ripple in fields of wild grass—
silent as a foal.
Note: please seek help if persistent big emotions or thoughts you are unable to cope with arise. Sometimes, like I have, seeking therapy to help you process big things, is the best thing you can do to assist your wanderings into the wilderness and reconcile and integrate all that you discover.