THE FIRST ENCOUNTER
The scene: It is springtime in an ancient misty forest on a hillside. It is early evening, and the sun scatters a yellow haze across the forest floor. The stillness of the air is only broken by the distant sound of birds bursting with song. There is a pleasant odor in the air emanating from the aromatic mosses and soft brown earth beneath your feet and mingled with pine from the many ancient trees surrounding you. As you stand in the middle of this old forest, you begin to feel a deep sense of connection to this place, your home, your sense of belonging and unity with Mother Earth.
As your gaze falls gently upon your surroundings, you notice something of an irregularity in a rocky outcropping near you. Upon closer examination, it appears to be the entrance to a cave. “Had this always been here?” you wonder to yourself, “for surely if it had been so, I would have seen it before.” It is as though a magical door had opened in the hillside, beckoning you for exploration. With a feeling of curiosity, you examine the entrance and discover that it is indeed a cave.
Overcome with intrigue, you enter the cave, only to discover that the interior is much larger than expected, and although dim, the walls and floor seem to emit a pale-blue light that illuminates the interior. In this timeless place, you are caused to recall that the ancient Egyptians employed the use of precious stones and minerals in jewelry which would glow different colors depending upon who wore them. You wonder to yourself if the glow is somehow related to your sense of inner peace? You are filled with the kind of awe and joy you recall experiencing as a child when you discovered something new!
As your eyes adjust to the light, you notice a passageway that leads to another, smaller chamber, much the same as the first but this time with a whitish glow. Carved into the back wall of the smaller chamber is a strange symbol that, although you don’t recognize it, seems oddly familiar. Could it be naturally occurring? Is it one of those mysterious symbols left by some unknown shaman of a long-lost civilization? Perhaps it’s an expression of a forgotten secret or a map leading to a strange treasure. Almost instinctively, you place your hand on the symbol, and much to your surprise, your fingertips begin to tingle. You sharply withdraw your hand from this odd sensation! “What was that?” you exclaim out loud.
As if in response to your inquiry, you hear a gentle, feminine voice, deep within you, that softly says, “it is the Living Fire of the Gemrod that seeks your company.” “G-Gem-what?” you ask. “The Gemrod, dear another, and you would do well to replace your hand at once upon that spot, for the present moment does not wait, and once it has passed, it is not possible to reclaim, but only in remorse for what one might have done.”
Cautiously but deliberately, you place your hand upon the symbol, which now seems to sparkle with tiny flecks of silver. Once again, first your fingertips, then your hand, begin to tingle as if you had touched something electric, something powerful.
“What is this place?” you ask.
Again, as if coming from deep inside you, she responds, “this is the hall of awakening, for those who would be stirred from their slumber.”
“Who are you?” you ask.
“I am you, and you are me, and they are we and I, or at least could be if our purposes are aligned…” the voice explained, “…but for now, you may call me ‘Is,’ for you and I are not yet one in purpose.”
With your hand still placed firmly on the symbol, you sense a stirring behind you, like a gentle breeze, cool and vibrant.
“Do not turn around…” commands the voice, this time from behind you, “…for you must not look upon me until you have been balanced, properly conditioned, and cleansed.” “You may remove your hand now, but do not turn around. For, since you have summoned me, I am duty-bound to perform the Rite of Grace and Grant upon you, that you may be prepared for what may be your destiny.”
Upon removing your hand from the symbol, you notice a strange sensation moving up and down your spine, a pulsation that resembles the pressure one feels between two magnets when they are repelling each other. As this sensation builds, you notice a slight ringing in your ears which seems to be coming from the center of your head and radiating outward in all directions.
“Wh-What’s happening…” you exclaim but are interrupted mid-sentence by Is:
“Be silent now. All your life, you’ve asked questions without any effort on your part first to pay the price of understanding. A question at the wrong time informs the knower of the other’s station and deprives the enquirer of the fruit of struggle within oneself. If the knower answers truthfully, the enquirer may think it’s a lie. If the knower answers deceitfully, the enquirer may think it is the truth. Either way, it is useless unless the enquirer already has some understanding gained by personal effort. For, a question at an inopportune time thrice-deprives and only serves to injure your progress. It is better for you to ask nothing of another unless you have first done the work of attempting to understand. For, how can you measure the weight of truth without the scales of understanding?”
“Soon, I will recede,” Is says, “but not depart from you, for what is in me is mine, and what is in you is in me also.” “We will meet again when you have passed the first threshold, which in your language is called Understanding.”
As if enveloped in a cocoon of silence, you ponder her words. Several minutes pass, and you suddenly realize that the ringing in your ears has stopped, and the tingling has subsided, and you know that you are now alone. Cautiously, you look behind you, hoping to see this mysterious figure, but only the cave wall remains.
As you make your way back to the first cave and then into the open air, you are surprised to find that it is already noon the next day! “Was this a dream?”, “Did I fall asleep in the cave?” you wonder to yourself as you try to get your bearings.
After some time passes, you begin to feel hungry, and looking around, you notice a bush dotted with ruby-colored raspberries. “Yes, good,” you think to yourself as you take a handful and begin to eat while still pondering your recent encounter. “Something is different…in me…” you think to yourself.
THE SECOND ENCOUNTER
The Scene: Three months have passed since your strange encounter in the forest, and although you think of it often, the activities of day-to-day life has all but brought into question whether it happened at all. And yet, whether real or imagined, it has left its trace, its mark, within you, for since that encounter, you have noticed a feeling of insulation, a sense of distance building between your inner life and the outer world. At times, especially when you are among others, you have noticed that you feel as though you are awake in a world of sleeping people.
Moreover, you feel restless and wonder how so many people can feel content with just eating, sleeping, and working, day-in and day-out, year after year – just surviving. “What’s the meaning of a life like that?” you often wonder. And yet, you also do these things because you must provide for your physical wellbeing and those you love. This feeling causes a contradiction in you and sometimes even irritability because you sense that there is more but don’t know what to do to find it. “Well, no matter…” you think to yourself, as you muster the resolve to endure another day in servitude. “I must do what I must do…” you think to yourself while being half-aware that saying such things to yourself is but a coping mechanism against despair. “Thank God it’s Friday, and the weekend is almost here!”
You awaken the following day with a ‘spring in your step’ because a friend phoned you the night before and invited you to join him for a trip to the traveling bazaar that’s in town over the weekend.
You meet at the designated place and board a train to your destination. As the train slowly pulls away from the station, you feel a sense of anticipation building in you. You’ve always loved the bazaar, filled with the smells of all sorts of delicacies, vendors trilling over their wares, buskers performing extraordinary acts of juggling, magic, fire breathing, and the like. And, oh! The antiques! “What sorts of rare finds will I encounter?” you think to yourself.
As you look out the window, you imagine you are in a time machine that’s whisking you back to some ancient agora in the Mediterranean.
You’re startled out of your daydream by the words, “So… how’s it going?”. Amidst the revelry of your inner thoughts, you had almost forgotten that you were traveling with your friend. “Oh, pretty good, and you?” you reply as if playing a pre-recorded soundbite. “Not bad,” replies your friend, who then begins to recount every detail of his life at work, his family, and the new TV show he started watching. You nod politely and throw in the occasional “Oh!” or “Yes.” at the appropriate time as if performing a well-rehearsed dialogue to feign interest, even though you had much preferred your own inner thoughts.
The time goes quickly, and before you know it, you’re pulling into the station. The bazaar is a short distance from there, and as you walk, you can feel the excitement build once again. The smell of waffle cones and kababs informs you that you have arrived moments before you spot the entrance.
After walking the circuit once with your friend to familiarize yourself with the layout, you decide to separate and explore the areas that interest each of you the most. “Divide and conquer, eh?” proclaims your friend in his usual jovial manner. After deciding to meet back at that spot in two hours, you part ways.
“Now, where to begin?” “How about a bite to eat?” you think to yourself. “Those kabobs smell amazing!”
A short while later, and with your hunger satiated, you find yourself dipping into first one tent than another, “on the hunt for treasures,” you say. A beautiful Persian rug, an old sewing machine, an antique bicycle, a toy from your childhood, an old coin collection all gather your attention, but nothing catches your interest enough to buy it.
Suddenly, you spot an hourglass; simple, but beautiful. As you examine it closely, you notice the price sticker marked on the bottom: 142.85. “Wow, that’s expensive!” you think to yourself.
Just then, the shopkeeper, an old woman, approaches. “A timeless piece, yes?” she says with a slight whimsical smile. “You should buy it,” she continues, “besides, it’s my birthday – I’m 71 years old today, can you believe it?” she states. “Isn’t it beautiful?” she asks.