Grace sat on a small bench, looking out across the Sonoran desert. Giant Saguaros stood as tall sentries on the hillsides. Barrel cactus, cholla, and ocotillo all added distinctive silhouettes against the sky. The creosote bushes and tumble weeds, like dusty brushstrokes, softened the floor of the landscape before her.
Looking to the horizon, she watched as the mountains turned red in the late afternoon sun. The desert sunset was a generous reward after the heat and dryness of the day. The breeze that signaled the approach of dusk stirred the dusty land creating layers of color in the sky above the rugged mountain slopes. Sitting through this whole extravagant display, Grace witnessed the full spectrum of yellow-gold through rust, expanding to orange and brilliant passionate red, fading to pastel pink and rose.
As the evening’s sunset unfolded, she felt her breathing slow and her mind relax. Another deep breath, and a wave of sadness brought tears to her eyes. One more deep breath and she was no longer sitting on the bench, but was being carried upward by her companion Hawk.
“You need a broader perspective on the things that make your heart sad,” Hawk told her. After circling the glowing Sonoran landscape, Hawk flew straight up, through the clouds and toward the field of stars beyond. This was a familiar way for Grace to move from the ordinary to the Mystery, from her daily life into the timeless Unseen world.
Hawk leveled off, and soared above a red rock canyon, deeply etched by wind and water over many generations of human lives. Down near the river at the base of the canyon walls, she saw a huge bonfire and a circle of people.
As they landed, Grace was greeted by an Elder Woman with silver hair, skin like a young cedar, and deep black eyes. “My ceremonial name is Koktswea,” the woman told her without speaking out loud. “Among my people of the Pacific northwest, names are sacred and only used on special occasions like this. I share my name with you because this is an intimate healing time and the eyes, soul and name open us to one another.”
Grace felt instantly connected to Koktswea and followed her to the circle around the bonfire. “These are The Elders of the People, a gathering of ancient wisdom keepers from the first peoples of your world, “ the words floated into Grace’s mind.
This evening, there were also many individuals like Grace, who belonged to the tangible world and were only visiting this land. They seemed to come from many places, speaking softly in various languages and having facial features reflecting the diverse regions of the Earth. “Seekers,” the word came to Grace’s mind.
Those who have held this space and performed this ritual for eons, work beyond all time and space. We send out the invitation and any time it touches your heart, you can come here to take part in this ceremony.
The heartsickness of regret, shame, discouragement and embarrassment is common in the human family. These feelings are fed by the repeated stories of the mind that distort memories with self-hatred and criticism and use them to punish. These stories generate the illusion that you have failed in your life and that you cannot do things right. You become chained to a distorted memory of your past and to a static view of who you are. This ceremony is offered to heal this pattern that creates so much sorrow and suffering.
I am here as a listener for your despair. I am solid, like the canyon walls, anchored into the loving nature of the Earth. Your energy will not touch my being, but will be untangled and flow free within you. You do not have to say anything out loud, nor even think through the stories of your life. Just look in my eyes and allow me to reflect the Love of our Creator to you.
As Grace looked in the eyes of this loving guide she knew that Koktswea could see all that was being released. This was not thinking with the mind, but feeling with the heart. There were no snapshots of memory, just the waves of emotion that had held the memories in place. There was no ‘life review’ or sense of sequence, no old stories bubbling up. Grace felt the flush of embarrassment and the bitter tears of regret. This was the first time admitted to herself how deep the wounded she felt by some of the things that had happened in her life and some of the choices she had made.
Throughout it all Koktswea’s eye remained calm, accepting, and understanding. The older woman could see clearly all of the pain of Grace’s soul. She trusted this process and knew the transforming energy flowing within Grace. There was nothing for her to do but stay right with this precious young woman. She was willing to remain with her for lifetimes if needed in order to aid her in breaking free of the stories and beliefs that tormented her.
When Grace was finished; all shame, humiliation, penitence and feelings of abject failure shared, the older woman invited her to sit in the circle with the other Seekers who had felt this same outpouring of hidden pain with their own listening Elder.
Several tall noble men stepped inside the circle, each carrying an empty wooden bowl in his hands. A man with an ageless face came to Grace and held the bowl near her heart. She watched as a viscous liquid, the color of old rust poured into his bowl. At first she thought it was blood, but was quickly assured that it was just the color of her sorrow and shame. As it poured from her heart it became a paint or pigment. The other Seekers had similar experiences, with each one’s heart releasing a different colored essence: a variety of the red, rust, sienna, orange, gold and tan that are familiar throughout the canyon lands.
When these heart pigments had been gathered, those holding the bowls flew up to the walls of the canyon, high about the fire circle. Each one took a brush, dipped into the bowl and began painting minute details onto the canyon walls. Each stroke shimmered in the waning sunlight and glowed with rich color on the surface of the rock.
One of the Elders spoke to the Seekers,
The shame, regret, guilt and failure that you have carried within you have been transformed. They can now add rich and beautiful highlights to sunsets and canyon walls, broad landscapes and wildflowers in the ordinary world, as they do here. The energies you have released have returned to their original creative state to become a priceless gifts to all creation.
When the painters had completed their work, it was time to close the ceremony. The Seekers were placed in an inner circle, with the Elders of the People facing them in an outer circle. As leisurely intervals, the Elders would move to face the next Seeker. Each Elder in his or her own way communicated deep honor, respect and gratitude to each of the Seekers.
In this timeless place, Grace could not tell if she looked into another person’s eyes for seconds or hours. Each encounter was like a wave of love, acceptance and joy pouring through every aspect of her being. At the end, all shared together in songs of harmony and thanksgiving for the healing that had taken place.
Koktswea gave her this final message.
You have carried the feelings of shame and failure within your soul. But if you had succeeded in any of the ways valued by the world, we would have lost you from your true work for another lifetime. We are so glad that you did not. Your work is before you. The glories of creation are there to beckon you on.
Grace hugged her and turned to go with tears of joy in her eyes. She walked back out into the field where Hawk was waiting for her. The great bird bowed its head and invited her onto its back. Soon they were flying back through the night sky, circling the familiar desert valley. She returned to her normal reality at that amazing moment when the colors were blooming like a vibrant bouquet over the Sonoran landscape. She sat back down on her bench and watched as Hawk circled once and then soared into the night.