“Enter the room of self-knowledge first, instead of floating off to the other places. This is the path. Traveling along a safe and level road, who needs wings to fly? Let’s make the best possible use of our feet first and learn to know ourselves.” ~ St. Teresa of Avila, edited by Mirabai Starr
What drew me to this quote instead of another? I felt like a magnet attracted to my mate … why? What unique quality held my attention?
Perhaps it was the grounded-ness of the message, the wisdom of placing my feet and soul firmly upon Gaia’s nourishing breast, squishing my toes into Her muddy puddles, and scuffing my feet along Her dusty trails to discover my own clogged emotions and powdery thoughts that puff up from under each moment’s footstep.
This is basic, this is feeling Gaia in ourselves, in our bones and upon our skin, knowing our Self in Her and She in us.
Many spiritual constructs focus upon the transcendent ignoring the beauty and peace, the thunder and lightening, of earthly experience in wisdom that She offers with such diversified bounty. We have all the time in the world, so why not partake of each delicious space? And, in so doing, we open to every nook and cranny within ourselves.
When I relish the path of my feet stepping into the foundation of self-knowledge, then I can move forward honest and compassionate. I have to love myself, warts and all. I have to know who I am; what is my nature, what drives me forward or holds me back. Knowing myself first, then I am able to open to others along with their blemishes because we are similar, we are all related in earthly experience.
I love to fly, of course. Don’t we all? I enjoy the freedom of lifting my wings and soaring to distant views, the cathedral mountains and majestic canyons. I thrill to the speed of a dive with wings tucked, then the strength of an impetuous climb. But where does this get me without first traveling the “safe and level road” to absorb its profound lessons? How long can I remain upon the constantly shifting air currents without free-falling, if I don’t know where I came from or how my wings were formed? How do I know when to fly and when to nest?
I feel blessed to have landed firmly on the Gaia Path when I felt called to seek a spiritual path out of a ‘dark night of the soul’ that enveloped me early in my third decade. There was no looking outward to a far off light to ‘save’ me–I had left that falsehood behind in my youthful 20s–rather a window opened in my own heart and I saw that She had left a candle lit, waiting with warm embrace for me to come home.
And She provided a companion to re-introduce me to this familiar resonance, someone I trusted. With my first glimpse of Gaia’s face, as revealed in a transformative text, I recognized Her. She was everything I already knew and I fell into Her with joy! She was my yearning heart and beloved mountains and furry animal guides who slept by my side. She made Herself at home within my heart and we spoke of deeply hidden secrets; guilt and shame, joy and laughter, grief and madness, delight and peace. I knew myself because I knew Her intimately. She hid nothing of Herself from me, and as I saw Her, I saw my Self.
I strode into Her cool cave of renewal and rebirth without fear of the dark for She was me.
“And you who seek to know Me, know that your seeking and yearning will avail you not, unless you know the Mystery: for if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.”
~ excerpt from The Charge of the Goddess by Doreen Valiente, modernized by Starhawk in The Spiral Dance (this book was also the above-referenced ‘transformative text’).
And the exquisite revelation of Gaia is that she is not only the ground beneath my feet, she is also the transcendent cauldron of creation, so whenever I have questions or am ready for “floating off to the other places” then I need look no further than Her, and holding hands in my heart, we rise together.