One of the places I have wanted to visit for a long time is Uluru… the haunting pictures of the rock, the aboriginal stories from the oldest living civilisation, the mysterious ‘Dreamtime’, the isolation of the outback… so what was my experience?
I sensed that part of the visit would be a passage from one part of my life into another – much as this trip has been, but at a deeper level. I sensed that somewhere I would learn something key to my purpose and destiny, for I do believe in those things – in, somehow, the calling and hand of God on my life. I sensed that there was something to learn, here, that would have a major impact on my understanding.
But it wasn’t where I thought it would be.
The first and pressing decision to me was whether or not to climb the rock. Part of me felt that this was truly part of my transition into the next part of my life – in the same way as the aboriginal youngsters would move from boy to man. And yet, as I looked into it, that isn’t what climbing Uluru was about – the rite of passage was ore around the base of the rocks, and a three year journey into the wilderness. And that, it seemed to me, I had experienced – three years of struggle, of hardship, of discomfort. Everyone who has lived a significant life on this planet has experienced this – from Jesus and Moses, to the disciples, right up through history. The people who have impacted the world have been those who have stared into the face of destruction and found that it can no longer hold a fear – can no longer limit them. The aboriginals knew this – the only way their men would prove themselves worthy of having a family would be if they demonstrated, in that harsh land, that they could fend for themselves.
And slowly, also, I realised that no place is more sacred than another – and every place is as sacred as another. Unless we choose for it to be different. Uluru is a sacred place simply because the Anangu have chosen for it to be so. It’s a good choice – visually stunning, completely unforgettable, a magical, wonderful, beautiful place. It’s etched with character – animals represented in the face of the rock in the Tjurkupa storyline, the ripples of a snake carved in the rock, the ashes of an ancient mythical fire staining the rock – so many creation stories (I will not call them myths, for that doubts their truth… and at some level, the aboriginal creation myths are true, revealing a deeper truth).
But, in truth, the world is what we make it. We experience the world through the filter of our beliefs. For many of us, Uluru is sacred. For many of us, Uluru is beautiful. For many of us, Uluru is magical. And I think that such places act as focii – points where we are drawn back to a deeper place, a more spiritual place.
Now, I didn’t say that all places were the same. Uluru has a huge, massive energy, and it feels as if the rock itself holds secrets and mysteries – truth that we can hear if we listen. I’ve found that in other places too – in Grand Canyon, in Kata Tjuta – and each of these also bring a huge sense of calming certainty – a real ‘groundedness’.
As I have blogged elsewhere, I chose not to climb. And, in the end, the climb itself was closed. And yet I still knew that something had changed inside, just being out in the bush. One of the girls on the trip handed me a clue that reinforced what I want to do – and, in truth, what I know that I love. I need to find out the reality of that, but the broad stroke picture is there. I found myself becoming far more the leader of that group than of others before, but also far more of a servant to that group too.
I did take on some of my shaman training – one of the things that a shaman will often learn is the concept of ‘grokking’ – taking on some of the characteristics of an animal, or of a natural feature. (The term comes from Robert A Heinlein’s ‘Stranger in a Strange land’). In Peru, they look at the three parts of man – the Condor, the Jaguar, the Snake.. and so I let the eagle within me soar to experience the heights of Uluru – to soar over the monolith, to experience the heights, while the Jaguar in me padded round the base, and the Python experienced the rock. Is it true? At some level it is for me. Because in watching the eagle in my imagination, I could at some level experience the rock from above – what it would be like to soar above it. In experiencing the Jaguar, I learned how to walk softly on the earth, to become more aware of everything around me, and yet poised for action. And in blending with the python, I learned how to be truly connected to the rock, to be close to it, and understand its lessons. Often we fail to truly experience what’s going on – and so these creatures helped me to know more truly what the experience was. In fact, I also put away my camera to more closely experience rather than attempt to capture the moment.
And I learned a little more about the power of story – how at a very deep level, story grips us, can hold us locked into where we are by considering our current stories as fixed – or move us into a place of creation as our new stories take us into a new place.
And so I found myself moving into a new level of teaching, even later that evening at the celebration party. And something, deep inside me, has changed – and it seems that I feel more in control of who I am, and what I am about, than ever before. Not dependent on the environment, on the place, or even on the others around me – but simply on my own connection to Tjukurpa – my beliefs, my Dreaming on this place – to Anangu – the people – and to Ngura – to the land, to the animals, to nature.
Am I wiser? More powerful? More confident? We will see.