Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. September looks at honesty.
I love cedar swamps. In them, it is easy to find the god of my understanding. Perhaps because they contain so few human tracks. Perhaps because I find it easy to get lost in them.
There have been times in my life when I felt as though I were lost in a cedar swamp in a fog on a moonless night. I had been walking on a raised logging road but wandered off. Now, I had no idea which way to turn to find that road.
Tall trees covered me in shadows from starlight smothered by fog. No wind. There was absence of reference.
My eyes blinked to no avail. There was nothing to see, nothing to feel.
No, not true. I could feel something deep down inside.
Cedar swamps have pitfalls. There are holes between the tree roots, deep holes filled with water and sometimes covered with floating plants. It is easy to step in one so deep your foot cannot find a bottom. It is an interesting experience in daylight.
How can I find my way out, assuming I want to. I have heard Tom Brown Jr. say that you are only lost if you have someplace to go and some time to get there. He attributed it to his Apache mentor, Stalking Wolf.
Have you ever had no place to go and no time to get there? Funny thing about such a condition. It is conducive to comprehending spirituality.
“Religion is for people who’re afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for those who’ve already been there.”(Vine Deloria Jr.)
Lost in that cedar swamp in fog on a moonless night is an opportunity to get honest with one’s self. I can feel my way with my feet. I can reach out for the next tree. Or, I can take a deep but gentle breath, exhale, and ask for help. If I want to get out of the swamp, I can ask a simple question. “Which way should I go?”
No answer. Spirituality is not easy like that. It is simpler. For the primitive spirituality of gut feeling, all that is required is a simpler question: “Is this the way?”
I face a direction and ask that simple question and wait for the feeling in my gut. My gut is tight. That translates, “No.”
I turn (clockwise because my question is a prayer and I honor the customs of my Native American grandteacher, Stalking Wolf) and ask the question, again. I do not utter the words, only feel the question in my heart.
I have a friend, a veteran of WWII, who shares a quote from one of his teachers. “Prayer is a sincere desire of the heart.” If my wish to find my way out of this swamp is a sincere desire of the heart, it is prayer.
Honesty is a raindrop. Spiritual honesty is honesty from the heart, such as a teardrop.
I turn and feel the question. I wait for the answer. Any release of that feeling of tension in my gut is, “Yes.” That is the way I step, again and again, until I step upon the road.
The honesty required is, first, to admit I am lost; second, that I no longer want to be lost; third, that on my own, I will stay lost. Then, I have to get viscerally honest. What is the sincere desire of my heart? Finally, I have to be honest enough to accept my gut feeling to sense that release of tension.
I love cedar swamps. I do not mind being lost in them. But, I do not choose to wander into them on foggy, moonless nights.
Sometimes the tracks we need to find are in our own hearts. Happy tracking.