On Sunday, October 30th I participated in a Medicine Walk out in Kingsville ON at Camp Cedarwin. It was led by Dr. Denis Marier, ND, MA and Pat Andrews of Natural Pathways Forest and Nature School.
After sharing in Council Practice, each participant set off, into the forest to receive guidance on the questions they had come up with during our earlier discussion. I had an idea of what I hoped to learn…I was curious about how to guide my children as they approached puberty and this next journey of their young lives. I also was interested in learning what my next steps might be as I continue in my day job and yet expand my business at the same time. As soon as I crossed the threshold, and began my walk, I knew that I needed to be open to the experience as it was meant to unfold and decided to leave my specific questions behind.
The ground was mucky after a rainy start to the day so I was happy to have gone out earlier to purchase some rubber boots. Now that I was well equipped for the soggy path, why not thoroughly experience it? I stepped in boldly. I didn’t jump in or splash around as a young child might but I was not tentative either. I moved my feet around, swirling the water with my movement and watched it become muddy. I pressed my foot down firmly, enjoying the suction as I pulled my foot back up to take my next step. To be free of any concern of getting dirty or making a mess felt like freedom…
The next thing I decided to do was to go off the marked path. I could see yet another puddle up ahead and I was more interested in walking through it than staying on drier ground. I had to step over fallen branches and other obstacles along the way but in the end, it was worth having yet another opportunity to be carefree and young at heart.
Once my need to be playful had been satiated, I brought myself back onto the main pathway. Everyone else must have gone a different route because there was no one else to be seen. Perfect! I found myself wanting to go in the opposite direction of anyone else so that I might explore completely on my own, and enjoy the solitude for as long as it lasted. Soon, I came up to a bridge.
The planks were of different sizes and some were a little uneven. I placed my foot on the first plank and then the next. I looked down and noticed that there was really nothing beneath the bridge at all. No water, just a ditch. It remind me that as I crossed over into the next part of my own life journey, I would start out taking small steps as I calculated the potential risks ahead. Once I processed that thought I began to move more quickly across the bridge and felt that, in the end, if I stumbled along the way in my business development, the fall, if there was to be one, would only be a bump along the way and would in no way keep me from reaching my dreams on the other side.
I smiled as I continued on. Before we left, Pat had told us that we might come across a corn field. I could see it now to my right and felt drawn to go and check it out. The pathway didn’t go all the way to it so once again, I stepped over some branches and higher grass to make my way to the field on the other side of the trees. Once I did, I noticed that the field had long ago been harvested and what was left were the golden hued remains of the corn stalks that had once stood tall in this expansive plot of land. I looked around me and was in awe of the open space and yet noticed that all around the field were the trees of the forest acting like a security fence offering protection. I took a deep breath, spread my arms out wide and then turned to continue on.
I got back on the path and moved deeper into the forest. By and by, I came upon two signs. One pointed in the direction of the Propeller Building which Pat had told us would be our halfway point and the other pointed in the opposite direction to some other point of interest. Part of me felt that I should go toward the location that had been suggested but the other part just didn’t want to, so in the other direction is where I headed. I noticed mushrooms sprouting out of decaying wood and witnessed a small bird fly out from under a bridge as I was crossing it. The smell of the damp leaves was intoxicating and I began to feel warm in my jacket from the brisk pace I had set for myself.
All of a sudden…I started to wonder where the heck I was at. Just then, I came across two more directional signs but Pat had not mentioned either of these destinations. Which way should I go, I asked the Universe? I heard a voice in my head direct me to follow the path to the Humber Hut. Ok then, that’s where I will head and I hoped it would take me back to the meeting point.
I was also hoping to get back to the place we started out at by going a different path from which I had started from but at this point, I decided I just needed to get back by any which way. Denis had said that he would sound a drum beat when it was time to head back but what if I couldn’t hear it from where I was? What if I ended up being the last person back? Why had I decided to go off the path in the first place and stroll along without a care in the world? Finally, I decided to stop all the Ego driven mind chatter and just focus on getting back to camp.
Along the way, I came across a white stone that reminded me of those stones some people have in their garden. I have them in my backyard and even though I can’t stand them, we haven’t gotten rid of them yet. What I found interesting was that I had come across this single, common garden stone out in the middle of the forest. How weird, that it was poking out among the fallen leaves. Despite the fact that I usually want to throw these stones away, I decided to pick this one up and put it in my pocket.
I went up and down a couple of hills; moving quickly now since my pace had picked up in my desire to get back on time. I crossed another bridge and then found a grassy path that somehow looked vaguely familiar. I turned a corner and noticed a large plant that I was certain I had passed by earlier. It had stood out to me because it was covered in dark berries and it was bent down to the ground as if someone had snapped its stalk. It must be the same plant.
I hurried along and realized that I had found my way back to the pathway I had started out from and before I knew it I had crossed a new threshold slightly to the left of the one that had allowed me entrance to the forest at the start of my journey. With a sigh of relief, I slowed down and made my way back to the circle. I was third person out of seven to return so I was by no means late.
When everyone returned, we each had an opportunity to share the experiences we had on our excursion through the forest. After each story, Denis shared his thoughts on what the person had just shared. When I had finished Denis reflected that it seemed as though I had experienced an entire Medicine Journey from being a child all the way to an elder. I was puzzled at first as to what he meant.
He reminded me of the puddles I had playfully mucked about in. He told me that I had looked like a child as I shared that part of my story. The uneven bridge was like childhood as we start stepping out on our own and are hesitant to leave the helping hand offered by our parents but are, at the same time, emboldened to do it all on our own. Stepping out to the vastness of the cornfield was like being a teenager with the endless possibilities before them, wanting to go out on their own and pave their own way in life yet still thankful to have loads of support and encouragement surrounding them.
The thoughts that came into my mind, interrupting my carefree adventure, resembled the experience of being an adult and always feeling the sense of responsibility and the need to take care of all the “shoulds”. Finally, he asked me if I knew of the symbolism of the white stone. I told him that I didn’t. He pointed to the one that sat in the North spot of the medicine wheel in the middle of our circle. A white stone, he said, represented our elders. Ahhhh…how fitting. A complete journey of a lifetime in a 40 minute walk. The answer that came to me was that I would never fail as long as I kept moving forward because every obstacle along the way was simply something to learn from. I am guided always and all that I need to do is to believe in myself and my potential to do what I am on this earth to do. I don’t need to worry about my children or do anything specifically to prepare them, because it will all unfold as it should. What an amazing experience. I truly recommend that you do your very own Medicine Walk. Just set an intention and be open to seeing the signs and symbols before you.