Archive for 1 April 2016

Thirty Days of Druidry 11: The Further You Go

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As one of my teachers says, “The further you go, the fewer maps are available to chart the path.”

We can start with the literal. Most spiritual teachings have intro books. Why aren’t there more written guides from people who’ve gone beyond the basics? (This is a common Pagan lament about the endless proliferation of “Paganism and Witchcraft 101” books. Along with this glut is a rival dearth of anything beyond a very select handful of titles that address the needs and lives of people who could compose their own 101 guides.)

Partly this because fewer people actually travel there, beyond the harbor, past the breakwaters and out into the open sea, and even fewer talk (or write) about it. Some practice the law of silence. The universe has a way of teaching humility. Others may make a show of invoking silence, too often to build a cloak of marketable mystery around themselves. And many more may be at something of a loss to talk of the increasingly subtle awareness and insight and discovery that comes from long practice. Add to this the passage of time and the changes in jobs, health, family obligations, marital status — “where they’re at in their lives.” But you can often sense something of the lived experience from the atmosphere such folk carry with them. Their silences can be worth more than others’ speech. Their presence can be soothing and healing. They’ve learned to serve, to give back, even if (especially if) it’s not in obvious ways. If they’re not yet recognized elders of the tribe, they’re well on their way to becoming them.

For many, their experiences are singular enough and grow out of sufficiently unique circumstances and backgrounds and preparation that it would also simply take a long time to explain to others why they now do what they do, and how they have shifted their practices and their understanding accordingly. In some sense, any comprehensible account of their paths would amount to a full spiritual biography. The tests they apply now are often different, too, from those of the past: Does it work? Does it build? Does it open rather than close? Does it foster and nourish life? Does it respect necessary cycles of change, death and rebirth? Does it answer what a god or spirit or guide requires? Does it give back?

And really, this is (mostly) as it should be. We make our paths by walking, and the farther we go, the more we walk uncharted ways. The questions themselves change as we go, we learn to turn inward for answers largely because no one stands around handing out pamphlets with anything useful to apply to our own life circumstances and understanding. One question that emerges is this: “Will we leave maps and signposts behind for others?” If someone asks to be our student or apprentice, how do we answer? And do we share what we can?

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