By Wendy Dudley
pulse tripled and my muscles tightened. Only two hours had passed on my solo
day in the desert at Ghost Ranch. And here I was, high on the cliff rocks,
facing a snake. I live in the foothills of Canada’s Rocky Mountains, so am used
to dealing with bears and cougars, but not a venomous Snake. My adrenaline
still rushing, my inner voice began to tell me I was fine, that this was meant
to be, that things were unfolding as they must. I was outside my comfort zone,
and I knew this is where we learn the big lessons.
Snake was the pinnacle moment of my week-long Choosing Conscious Elderhood
(CCE) retreat, held under the masterful guidance of co-leaders Ron Pevny and
group was well prepared for our solo. We had discussed our inner fears, and
what we needed to release, so that we could move forward in a more free and
learned how important it is to come from our hearts, and to speak our truth,
and how anything is possible if we overcome our self-limitations and remain
intent as our gateway, we opened ourselves to receive light and love, and
messages that can arrive through visions and from Nature.
by magnificent red rock cliffs and an oceanic sky, Ghost Ranch is the ideal
setting for the CCE retreat, as it is in Nature where we often come
face-to-face with our truths. With daily opportunities to commune with
the high desert environment, participants are washed with birdsong and the
beauty of the spacious and humbling land. Science has proven that being in the
natural world can take us into a peaceful state, where we often find clarity in
our focus, thoughts and intentions. Some may call this space the Field, the
Mystery, the Cosmos, God, or Spirit. The label does not matter.
What is important is that we hold this sacred space dear to our hearts,
for this is where we seek authenticity and our personal truths which help guide
us on our unique paths. It is for this reason that indigenous peoples sought
their life purpose through vision quests, when they left their villages and
spent time alone steeped in Nature.
wandering among the trees, along creeks, or in the mountains, we are reminded
that we are not separate from Nature. Rather, we are part of it. We are
all interconnected through a web of energy. And in doing so, we welcome
Spirituality into our lives.
is an integral element of the CCE program, whether sitting under a sea of
stars, hiking mesa trails, or simply meditating beneath a canopy of arroyo
cottonwoods. With loving and caring support by fellow group members, and
respectful guidance from the co-leaders, Nature also becomes our teacher and
in the outdoors, we learn that Nature is full of signs to help guide us on our
paths. We may find meaning in a particular bird, the shape of a cloud, or
an animal crossing our path. The CCE program teaches us to be open, to be
willing to receive and accept what is shown us.
so on this day, I was given Snake, symbolizing transformation since it sheds
its skin, casting off an old identity for a new one. According to many
cultures, it is also the sign of a medicinal healer, which mirrored my
interests in Medical Qi Gong, Shamanic work, and art therapy. Snake rested half
in shadow, half in sunlight, marking the importance of seeking balance in all
that we do. It also was stretched out, an indication of awakening from a coiled
state, as we move from karma to dharma. These signs of healing were significant,
as I had arrived at Ghost Ranch with broken trust. Through the letting-go
ceremonies and heartfelt group discussions in the retreat, I began to heal, to
feel I could trust again — as in trust myself, trust Nature’s signs, and thus
begin to trust others.
spending five hours with Snake — during which time I rattled to it and played
my flute — I walked up a windy ridge. I felt like I was wrapped in a ceremonial
blanket, as I gazed over the mesa and incoming rain squalls. I let the wind
rustle my hair, as the rain washed and cleansed my soul. In that moment, I took
back all the power I had mistakenly given away. I was now truly the co-creator
of the rest of my life, consciously aware that my path was a worthy one, and
that I myself was worthy. I felt my calling, as I received affirmation that I
was to teach and share my love of Nature through my practice of shamanism and
my painted drums which send out healing vibrations when played, echoing the
heartbeat we sense and hear when we are still in the womb. To know one’s sense
of purpose, and to answer it, is transformational and life-changing.
so, without surprise, when I returned to the rock I had shared with Snake, my
reptilian teacher was gone. Its lessons had been passed. My old skins were
was up there, along the cliffs, where the eagles nest and the ravens dip and
dive and dance, that my life began to take on a different shape. This could not
happen in a boardroom, or among the competing distractions of an urban
environment. This could only happen in Nature, in the truth of its songs
and chants and meaningful encounters.
modern-day spiritualists to monastic monks to native North Americans, many spend
time in Nature. It is the ideal environment for meditation, since the Earth’s
electromagnetic frequency is one that promotes relaxation and restoration.
When we are in Nature, the tendency is to synchronize with its healing
frequency, which also puts us into a state of increased happiness and
there is one animal that reflects the essence of the CCE program, it is
loving and gentle support, Ron and Anne assist Elders-in-the making with
shedding patterns, releasing what is no longer serving us well, and setting
intentions as to how we wish to live the rest of our lives. I left the
CCE retreat with increased awareness of the conscious state, which is where our
dreams and wishes reside, and awareness of the importance of a caring and
supportive network. I knew I would always embrace Life with passion, and that
our truth comes from deep within our souls. Others may guide us, but only we
hold the answers for our unique path.
an altar is part of the CCE program, and today, a Zuni stone carving of a fully
stretched snake holds a place of honor there, as does the CCE program that
allowed me to so fully transform, so that I may trust myself to become the
keeper of my own flame, knowing no one has the right to blow it out.
drumbeats and rattling, which welcomed each morning of our retreat, continue to
vibrate throughout my very being.