Lessons From Spirit
When the letter arrived announcing that Tom would be offering an experimental course in advanced awareness, I resolved to put in at least a year of concentrated dirt time before attending any more classes. But the letter said that it would be several years before the class would be offered again, if ever. I knew I had to take it.
The focus of the class was developing spiritual skills which are of use in the physical world; aids to tracking, survival, and nature awareness. Since I had never taken a philosophy class, my exposure to The Spirit was limited to reading Tom's and traditional Hawaiian religion (Huna) books, and to my Aikido training. I was not a complete neophyte, but nearly so.
The first few days of class, we tried to send out the spirit to locate tracks, scout unfamiliar areas, and to meet and exchange information with a partner. After locating a track by spiritual means, we tried to sense from it what the animal had been doing when it made the track, and what it was doing now. With the aid of Spirit, we had to Walk the Log. My success with all of these was limited.
Midweek I experienced a turning point. In an exercise to develop the "Active Spirit," we each went to an unfamiliar trail and had our spirit walk ten feet ahead of us. We then had this "Active Spirit" expand itself into the broader "Aware Spirit." The Aware Spirit allowed us to feel directly what was going on all around us, the way Grandfather knew that the rabbit had eluded Tom's deadfall, but that Rick's snare had caught it. Next, we were to walk up the trail and meld with it, thus becoming the Spirit. Tom instructed us to go through the process three times.
Earlier in the day, I had had poor success sending my "Scout Spirit" forward on the trail to locate and lead me to a track. This afternoon, , though, each time I became one with the spirit, I felt as if there was a pair of hands on my shoulders turning me in a particular direction. By walking in the appointed direction and repeating the exercise, I eventually came to a relatively fresh series of deer tracks and an accumulation of scat.
It was my first unalloyed success of the week.
The real payoff came that night, following an exercise in the Aware Spirit. We sat on Spirit Hill from about 9pm to midnight. During those three hours, Tom was to walk past us, sending up very subtle concentric rings, which we were to try and detect.
It was just after dark when I took my position on the hill. I wasn't comfortable with it, so I walked a few feet east, settled in facing the opposite direction, and expanded my senses as broadly as I could. At some point, I nodded off. Around eleven o'clock, my head snapped up and I had a mental image of Tom stalking close to me. I found out the next morning that this was when Tom had passed me. Chalk up another success.
After the exercise, I stood up and stretched, but since I had changed position I became confused about where camp was. Listening for other students heading in, I heard someone tramping noisily through the brush and started to follow them. Suddenly, I was surrounded by silence, as if enclosed in a sound-proof bubble. I knew the class couldn't have instantaneously mastered inaudibility; we had only begun working on it that afternoon. It was eery.
I panicked. Walking a short distance in one direction, I stopped and thought, "No, this can't be right," and charged off on another track. Before long, I was thoroughly lost. Getting my wits about me, I looked at the stars and listened for the sound of the thruway to get my bearings. I tried to remember which way I had walked out from camp. Since I wasn't sure how far I'd gone in my panic, and in which direction, I couldn't figure out where I might be in relation to camp. I sat down and sent frantic mental messages to Tom. After several minutes of sitting quietly, a thought came to me: This is a class on using The Spirit to aid you on the physical plane. I'm in a physical jam. Perhaps I should give this spirit stuff a try before asking to be rescued. I stood up and told my spirit that I wanted it to direct me back toward camp. The hands on my shoulder turned me to the right. Not fully trusting it, I asked, "Are you certain this is the right direction?" The Spirit turned me 180 degrees, and I felt discouraged. I told my spirit that I really needed Its help and that I didn't mean to distrust It, but the whole thing was so new to me. I told It I needed clear and unambiguous signals, and that I would trust it to show me the way. The hands turned me to the direction they had originally faced me.
Walking I came to a fire-break and again asked The Spirit for directions. It led me to a narrow road which had a few sets of human tracks on it. I thought that these might be from classmates, but I couldn't be sure. I followed the tracks a short distance. They led to a road which contained many sets of tracks. I felt reasonably sure that these would lead me back to camp, but it was dark and I decided to wait for first light to follow them further. I was still new to The Spirit, and decided not to take any chances of getting completely lost that night. I stuffed my sweatshirt with oak leaves and laid down to sleep.
At first light I awoke and picked up the tracks again. They all turned into a fire-break which I recognized and was sure would lead into camp. By 5:30 I was back in my tent, with time enough to sleep two more hours before breakfast. I felt elated.
Reflecting on this experience, I am convinced that none of it was accidental. The way I was suddenly enveloped by silence and became completely disoriented did not seem possible. I believe my spirit was trying to teach me a lesson.