First Steps

My Awakening to this Spiritual life, was sudden and complete. It wasn’t the start of my Spiritual Journey, that started before I was even born into this life.  It was the start of my learning-curve, of the knowledge of why I am here, in this life.  It was a choice offered to me by Mother Earth, a choice to go on a Journey with Spirit or to remain in my ‘normal’life and be, perhaps, fated to repeat it again!  This is the story of how it came about. How it occurred. For me, it’s important. Very important. A re-birth in many respects. The most intense thing I have ever experienced.
It’s a long tale, so grab a cuppa, settle in…….

I’ve been belly dancing for about 8 years now and most years I go to Bayar Bahram, Middle Eastern Dance and Music camp which is held at Bornhoffen in the beautiful Gold Coast Hinterland. It’s a PCYC camp, surrounded by mountains, set in a lush valley – it’s a beautiful piece of paradise. And it’s very close to Mother Earth. Ley lines maybe? Power. The feminine spirit energy in the camp is palpable.

At camp there is usually around 150 people who come together to celebrate the music, the dance, the songs and the great food of the Middle East. It is a community where the political tensions of the world are of no importance. For me, this camp shows how the world would be if love and not money was the driving force. People come from everywhere. People who traditionally war with each other, instead drum, dance and sing together. It’s a 5 day idyll.

Just behind the cabins is a meadow. It is the spiritual center of the camp. A place of beauty, peace, tranquility. Surrounded by mountains, fringed with trees, a place where the song of the birds joins in with the music of the people. A place of quiet celebration and contemplation.

Meditation was not something I consciously chose to do before my Awakening. I’d occasionally sit by the ocean, or a lake; under a tree or in my garden and relax, not realising I probably was falling into a meditative state. But when I went to camp, the meadow was one of my first places to go to. To just sit quietly, observe the view, breathe in the peace. Put my world, my life, into a place of serenity.

Last year was no different. My friends and I unpacked and settled into our cabin and in the early evening I wandered off to the meadow. I fell into a very serene mood, accepting of the beauty. My life was in a state of intense turmoil and my stress levels had been through the roof. It was good to be able to put that to one side.

Most of my life I have seen coloured lights. Swirls of colour that flow in towards me before moving off and the next swirl to appear. As a child I was frightened of these coloured lights that appeared whenever I closed my eyes. At one time I worried that they were because I had some terrible illness. I had learned not to talk about them and over time I have grown to accept them. They are just a part of me.

As I sat in the meadow, my coloured lights swirled towards me but this time they didn’t move off. They coalesced together and formed into a turtle. A black turtle with eight legs! I was fascinated. This had never happened before. I wasn’t in the least bit worried or anxious. In fact, I would say that my biggest emotion at that time was simply acceptance. Wow. A turtle. With eight legs.

As I watched, the turtle started to change. It started to expand, a hole forming in the center. The eight legs, the head and the tail turned into ten dancers. They were holding hands, dancing in a circle. It was fascinating and beautiful.

I don’t remember how the vision ended. Or waking from my meditation, but I do remember going to find my friend, Robyn, who has experience with ‘spooky stuff’ and telling her about this. She told me that Turtle is a Spirit Animal and represents Mother Earth. I was so excited.

(Some weeks later, I met a Shaman. When I spoke with him about this vision, he told me that Turtle also represents choices. At that time Mother Earth was giving me a final choice to accept her. Or to continue with my normal life).

Obviously I had chosen to accept. Over the next few days of camp, more choices were given to me and all these culminated 5 days later in an amazing experience – my Spiritual Awakening.

Camp was, as usual, amazing. A glorious experience of music, laughter, dancing, song, friendship and more. I don’t sing, can’t get past basic stuff in drumming and can’t play any other instrument so I normally focus only on dance. But this camp was different for me. The morning following my Turtle visitation found me heading not to the dance class I’d originally intended to participate in, but to a drumming session! Or more specifically a female percussion group.

The teacher, Karen, is a lovely lady I’ve met at camp in the past and this year she wanted to build a female group of percussionists who were to explore the Trance rhythms of Sufi and Zar. Sufi I’d heard of, but Zar was totally new to me. As I entered the room I saw, in the center, a big drum. Huge. And I became very excited at the thought of maybe playing it but I didn’t think I’d get much chance…..remember, I just can’t get beyond beginner level with a drum!

I started on my Darbuka drum, messed about with a frame drum but then ended up clapping along to the rhythms. Once we mastered the basic rhythms Karen set about building us into percussion sections. And I got to grab the big drum! Yay! Once I’d got hold of it, I wasn’t about let anyone take it off me. I would have fought for the right to use this drum. But it didn’t get that far. I’m pretty sure Karen saw how intensely I wanted to play it, and it was mine for the duration of camp.

Each time I played this ‘Mother Drum’ I removed my shoes and unknowingly grounded myself. I became totally lost in the experience. Each rehearsal became more intense. Until the final full day of camp. We had a rehearsal first thing in the morning. Then we were joining a Zar workshop where we were to play the Zar rhythms for dancers to participate, and finally we were going to perform that evening in the camp concert.

The early rehearsal was amazing. Shoes off, I became totally lost in the drumming. Deep inside myself, feeling the beat in my very soul. At the Zar workshop, the teacher, Päivi, first taught us what the Zar is. It’s history. Then we began to drum. Some of the dancers totally lost it and were very much under the influence of the music. And so was I. I completely left my body. I could feel it, see it, watch it beating the drum. Raising the tempo. I was ecstatic. Literally. I’ve no idea how long we played but slowly I came back to me. Breathless, a little confused. Not quite with it.
The afternoon was spent practicing Dabke which I was also performing. Dabke is a form of line dance and is often performed by dancers holding hands and moving in a spiral pattern…..another symbol for Mother Earth of course!

By the time the evening came around I was still a little off kilter, as if the world was canted. Muted, foggy. Very weird. I found myself almost cocooned, as if I were in a bubble although I don’t think my friends noticed anything. My two sets, drumming and Dabke were programmed as the last two sets of the evening. All I really wanted to do was go to sleep. I don’t think I had eaten or drunk all day, unintentionally fasting. Food and drink just hadn’t crossed my mind!

So by the time the drumming set was due on stage I was very tired, probably dehydrated, adrenaline flowing and just a tad spaced out. On stage I was in the center of the group and the plan was to start with Sufi rhythms and then move on to Zar. The whole set was only about 4 minutes. A friend captured the performance on tape and it’s easy to see that I was confused.

We had practiced the Sufi rhythms and I totally knew them, but for some reason I just couldn’t play them! In the video you can see me touching the drum with the beaters, but not really knowing what to do. So unlike me! It was as if I was being driven not to play that rhythm! My foggy brain just shut down. Very confusing.

And then we moved into Zar. I was on that stage, a part of the performance, for the first beat of the drum only and then I was lost. Absolutely tranced. Päivi was dancing and I was later told that she too was right out of it with me. Poor Karen wasn’t able to stop the set because she knew the dangers of bringing someone out of trance too abruptly, and so we continued. And continued. About 8 minutes I believe. I started to return to me by seeing Karen standing in front of me counting the beats, and I watched her as if she were a life raft, slowly returning and finally bringing the set to an end.

I needed to escape, but I had another performance set – dancing Dabke! I have no recollection of dancing, although I have seen a video of it, so I know that I was up there, on stage, performing. Not very well I have to say – I was as confused as hell!
As soon as I could, I ran out of the hall and took myself off to the meadow. All I remember of that exit was a very strong need to lie on the ground.

It was raining. It was raining hard. A small part of me recognised that and as I went into the meadow I headed towards a group of rocks thinking that they wouldn’t be muddy. But the strangest thing happened as I climbed onto them – I was thrown off. At first I couldn’t believe it. I must be going mad. Rocks don’t throw you off. So I climbed up again, or rather I tried. It was very definite this time. NO! And I was thrown right off landing on my butt! My mind was obviously very open at this point because I decided that I was being told in no uncertain way that I needed contact with the grass. So that’s what I did. I sat in the muddy grass in the rain and accepted.

I have never, ever, had an experience so intense. I can’t tell you linearly what happened, because I’m not sure that there was “time” in whatever place I was. I know it was in the middle of the night, but the sun was shining. I know it was raining, but I didn’t feel the wet. It was cloudy, but the stars were all around. I know that I hurt. Everywhere. Every cell was torn to pieces and eventually put back. The pain was blissful. I know I tried to give birth through my mouth. I tried to eject all that was no longer necessary. I grew into the Earth. I cried. I watched the grass grow. I heard the Celestial Ohm. I saw the planet turning. I felt the life of the trees. I Became, with Gaia.

I have very little memory of what happened afterwards. A few mental ‘snapshots’. My friend Robyn had kept watch over me and when she knew I was coming back to this world, she came to me. I could barely walk and she helped me slowly climb back to our cabin. I remember her sending me for a shower. I remember her talking me through aligning my chakras and building protection around me. I remember yellow custard for some strange reason. I am totally blessed to have Robyn as a friend. A sister of my soul. Without her on that night, and in the weeks that followed I would have believed myself seriously ill. My first husband had died of a brain tumour, probably as a result of Chernobyl. I would have believed that was happening to me too if Robyn hadn’t been there.  A guiding light, mentor, teacher, friend, SiStar.

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