Mark and I have been working throughout our quarter century together to develop our ability to stay in love, more or less successfully, as we go through the roller coaster of life. We believe it is reasonable and worthwhile to strive to continuously direct our lives from a place of love and the wise perspective of the heart.
Meanwhile, we continue to reconcile opposing forces within us, and between us. This is a constant balancing act — it goes on and on. Over time, we have discovered that our challenging situations — whether within ourselves, in this relationship, or in our relations with any other human being — are truly opportunities for learning, personal growth, and deepening love.
The Vision Quest Experience
I entered the sweat lodge with the mindset of a spiritual warrior. I was sure that my vision quest would make a difference; that it would somehow truly contribute to making things better. My plan was to stay in for only twenty-four hours.
Sometimes a short quest is more intense because the experience is condensed. Such was the case for me: my challenges were exacerbated because I had difficulty practicing the teachings and using the tools I had been taught to carry me through even this short time of no food, no water, and no light. The result, by the time I left the lodge late the next afternoon, was a sense of inadequacy and failure. It was a very humbling experience.
The integration process took weeks longer than I thought I was committing to at the outset as I struggled to come to terms with what I perceived as my failure in the lodge.
Confusion often precedes clarity, and so it was in this story. Even a couple of weeks after the actual quest, my senses were still heightened, and my consciousness remained altered. I could not shake the feeling that the ceremony of the quest was not yet complete. My confusion manifested as self-absorption and my dissatisfaction affected how I viewed what was going on around me.
Dropping the Struggle
I tried to understand surrounding events through the filter of my personal journey. I could tell I was getting frayed around the edges of my psyche. I was engaged in a struggle I could not win — as though I was arm wrestling with myself. Only complete surrender — giving up any vestige of expectation or preconception of outcome, of my role in that outcome, of my ego itself — would achieve movement. I had reached the point at which my rational mind did not have the resources to know what was right and true.
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I remember when I finally got it — when I felt myself drop from relentless mental anguish to a heart-centered perspective. We were on the way home to Eugene from a trip to Orcas Island, when Mark turned off I-5 for a meal. I did not want to get out of the car, because I felt a shift was coming. I sat in the parking lot while he went in. I knew I required stillness and quiet to manifest the needed change.
Somehow, in that moment, I finally stopped struggling and allowed myself to relax. I had no idea what would happen. The highway noises and the people passing by became part of my inner world, then everything got quiet. I seemed to float in the stillness without an agenda. There was nothing to do but be. Allow. Surrender...
The Shift from My Will to My Heart
And then it came — the shift from my will to my heart, from ego to essence. It came with the help of a life-long friend who had died some years before. Peter was a poet who had lived in India for a time in the ’60s and studied with a master who had initiated him into a practice and way of knowledge that he held throughout his life, although he had difficulty reconciling what he knew to be true with what he saw around him and around the world. He had been at the births of both of my daughters, and we shared a deep bond of friendship.
He appeared in his usual quiet manner, reminded me that I was a true seeker of truth, and worthy of the life I was striving to create and the wisdom that was within reach. He then reached into my heart and touched something deep inside. It was as though he gifted me with a treasure that could not be named. The shift occurred instantly.
I barely had time to express my gratitude before he passed back across the great divide, leaving me in wonderment, and joy.
Although I had tried for weeks to get there, when I finally slipped into my heart center it was as though I had been there all along — my mind had been blinding me. Everything was different, though nothing had changed but my perspective.
Staying in the Heart Requires Vigilance and Attention
Peter has never returned, yet the magnificence of the state of total presence in the heart remains, though I cannot always sustain it. It is a place I have learned to revisit when I recognize I have strayed: if I relax fully, if I surrender completely, I am back, totally present, held in the soft caress of the compassionate heart, connected to everything and everyone, with respect and admiration for every living being. There is such comfort in being part of the larger tribe of all life rather than being a separate, isolated individual.
Since then, I have made it a large part of my practice to develop the ability to enter into heart-centered presence and sustain this as much as possible. My experience of surrender instigated a spontaneous leap into heart-centered awareness. Although powerful and transformative in nature, that initial revelation was only the beginning of a deeper exploration of the movement from will to heart. Regardless of how you get there, sustaining the level of presence required to stay in your heart demands vigilance and attention.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Bear & Co. (a division of Inner Traditions International).
©2011 by Nicki Scully & Mark Hallert. http://www.innertraditions.com
Planetary Healing: Spirit Medicine for Global Transformation
by Nicki Scully and Mark Hallert.
About the Author
Nicki Scully has been a healer and teacher of shamanism and the Egyptian mysteries since 1978. She lectures worldwide and specializes in spiritual tours to sacred sites in Egypt, Peru, and other countries. She is the author of Power Animal Meditations and Alchemical Healing, and the co-author of Shamanic Mysteries of Egypt and The Anubis Oracle. Nicki lives in Eugene, Oregon, where she maintains a comprehensive healing and shamanic consulting practice. Visit her at: www.planetaryhealingbook.com & www.shamanicjourneys.com.