The Mists of Time
Some mornings I went outside to see the mist, up close and personal, and just as I would arrive at its edge, it would suddenly disappear from view, almost as if it had never been there. A strange shadowy afterimage would remain. At other times, I would look on with astonished eyes as the mist changed directions and moved away from me, visibly retreating from my presence. It would glide along the tree line, withdrawing itself from my overly analytical stare. In truth, my precocious and unrefined piercing gaze was exiling me from the teachings of the mist. I am reminded of the words of the beloved Irish mystic, Connemara poet, and nature-priest John O’Donohue, who states:
"There is an unprecedented spiritual hunger in our times. More and more people are awakening to the inner world. A thirst and hunger for the eternal is coming alive in their souls; this is a new form of consciousness. Yet one of the damaging aspects of this spiritual hunger is the way it sees everything in such a severe and insistent light. The light of modern consciousness is not gentle or reverent; it lacks graciousness in the presence of mystery....When the spiritual search is too intense and hungry, the soul stays hidden. The soul was never meant to be seen completely."1
The soul possesses an ineffable intelligence that cannot be controlled. Like the mist, the soul, we might say, has a mind of its own. It cannot be forced, directed, or squeezed into a box where it does not belong. It cannot even be fully seen or perceived, for the soul is a timeless, feathered thing that flies in more worlds than one.
We can see, in tangible ways, the choices that the soul makes in service of itself. When a person is treated horribly, physically or emotionally assaulted, for instance, a fragment of his or her soul may slink off to a hidden unseen place where it cannot be harmed. In shamanist traditions this phenomenon is called soul loss. The soul knows what is needed for survival and returns, again, only when conditions are right or when someone engages in the work of inviting its fullness home. In this way the soul preserves itself. The soul’s brilliance has allowed for this useful mechanism to ensure the continuity of the consciousness of the living person during his or her life, and sometimes even between lives.
All too often, however, when the soul elects to hide part of itself, it does not return very easily. When this happens we can say that although some external survival has been ensured, a condition of exile has also been created. It is an exile from the flowing awareness of peace that is our birthright. Our lives are meant to be steeped in peace, yet when we are living within a state of soul loss our destined unfoldment toward a life of peace is postponed until we have become whole again. We feel “beside ourselves” until we are reintegrated after a harsh experience or trauma. This is as true for whole groups that have survived a trauma as it is for individuals.
A Word about Exile
Exile is that undeniable sensation of being cordoned off from what is most essential to our souls. Perhaps we have become exiled from our childhood memories because of things that happened when we were young. We may be exiles from a basic sense of joy in our lives. Sometimes our exile is characterized by our sense of being a stranger in our own families, not able truly to share who and what we are without being criticized or judged. Family, in the Celtic sense, is meant to feel like a warm hearth fire, a downy nest of repose, and yet all too often our families contain the fiercest of blades that slash at the peace of our souls.
For many of us a kind of exile may lie at the very heart of our lives. It is an exile many people feel in the twenty-first century.
It may express itself as an exile from nature, from ancestral traditions, from cultural homelands, or from spiritual lineages. Sometimes these lineages and traditions appear to be lost forever without the potential of reclamation, so the exile feels even more poignant.
Autumn Mists by Cosimo IV Mancioli
In a very similar fashion, many people feel a dynamic sense of exile from an even closer domain than cultural homelands. They feel that they have been exiled from the interior lands and borderlands of their own spirit. No longer knowing the entrance to this realm or the routes of navigation once inside, they become exiled from the holy realm of the inner worlds. This is a profoundly sacred world in the Celtic tradition, one that those on Celtic spiritual paths actively seek to work with daily, because it is understood that our inner landscape is one entryway to the spiritscape of the Otherworld.
An old therapeutic axiom in Gestalt psychology, which also lies at the very heart of shamanism and contemplative mysticism worldwide, suggests that the healing of a wound must come from the blood of the wound itself. In other words, the healing of an emotional or psychospiritual wound is brought about precisely by entering into its terrain, not by avoiding it. In this way, healing our exile from our inner world comes from entering that inner world in search of the healing life force we need (the blood within the wound).
The healing of our exile from the life-affirming expressions of our ancestral traditions comes from opening ourselves to these traditions of primacy in the same way that our ancestors did, whoever our particular ancestors were and whatever unique spiritual traditions may have shaped and sculpted them. And, last but not least, the healing of our exile from the natural world is linked with the practice of entering into a full and loving embrace of her and, once again, acknowledging the healing power of the primal land.
The healing of the soul of the earth and our relationship with her does not come about by closing ourselves off or by separating ourselves through our definitions, categorizations, and Latin nomenclature but rather by opening ourselves, dynamically, to the mysteries of the spiritscape of nature in a soulful and experiential way. To rediscover the sacred world we must reenter it, with wakeful physical and spiritual senses.
I sometimes think that when we experience soul loss or soul exile it is as if we have had our ancient citizenship revoked. We no longer have diplomatic status to travel freely into the inner sanctum of our own deeper senses or our deepest levels of knowing about the world around us. When we are in this condition, we sometimes need to do what friend and African shaman Malidoma Somé calls “setting up a squawk.” We must set up a squawk and call the soul parts home.
A Note from Noelle Renee: I offer you this amazing film in time lapse photography now of Mists over San Francisco. You must click on it and watch it in full-screen HD to get the full benefit of this masterpiece of what I feel is “spiritual filmmaking”.
“The Unseen Sea” by Simon Christen.
I won’t be posting for a few days. I will be working on my thesis. I was inspired to do this post by a comment on my last post from a blogger friend, Meri from Meri’s Musings. She was remarking about the significance of mists in celtic spirituality and legend. I couldn’t let it go. This post is what resulted. Thank you Meri.