Rebirth into Infinity
All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness
is the secret of everything.
~ Swami Vivekananda
Those who read this newsletter know I’ve been on quite a personal journey, both figuratively and literally. On September 3rd, I stepped onto one of two 21 foot long rafts along with 27 other people to travel 280 miles down the Grand Canyon. I’d never camped more than one night, I’m not a great swimmer and I prefer to travel mostly alone. I consider myself a land animal, preferring to hike or walk but the opportunity to float down the river was far too enticing to decline. I joined a group of various healthcare providers to raft the canyon, earning continuing education credits along the way through camp-side presentations and discussions. The topics included “Flow Theory”, Integrating Nature into Therapeutic Practices and “Fascination and Thought”. Prior to arriving at the orientation the night before, I did not know a soul with whom I would spend the next eight days.
The first day included an early morning five hour drive to our launch point at the east end of the canyon. The Colorado River runs from east to west as it winds between the stone walls. Most people believe that the river cut the canyon, but in fact, it was actually built as tectonic plates shifted and moved over several hundreds of millions of years, exposing twenty-seven different layers of stone. Layers range from tens to thousands of feet thick and each tells a story of the time it was created. The oldest layers (Vishnu schist) is dated to about 2 billion years, which is less than half the age of Earth itself.
Why is this important? Because I love evolution and I got to watch it pass by me stone by stone, layer by layer for eight full days. I was in my own kind of heaven.
We all slept under the stars, no tent, only cots. The canyon was under heat advisories for the first several days, and no one really slept in their bags, opting for a light sarong or simply sleeping in shorts and a light t-shirt. The crew, led by a female veteran of the river, made all meals for us, but we were responsible to unload and load the boats, set up our own campsite and attend group talks. We got on the river by 8 a.m. each morning, stopped for hikes and talks in side canyons, then settled back into a new camp each evening as we made our way down the river. The rapids in most rivers are rated from 1-5, 5 being the hardest to maneuver. However, the Grand Canyon rates their waters from 1-10. Each day we passed through rapids that ranged from 2 to level 9. The bigger the rapid, the more you generally drop which ranged from just a few feet to up to twenty five in some places (not all at once, just from start to finish as you passed through the rapid).
By the time I’d gotten on the river, I was ready for the action, sitting at the very front in what we called “the hood ornament” position. Needless to say, I was drenched multiple times a day and received various bruises as I was thrown around the boat. We all squealed and laughed with delight, holding on to ropes or other handholds as we made our way through the waters. The river guides talked us through each upcoming challenge, warning us of potential dangers. While most of the other passengers were there for the adventure, I was there for my rebirth. I didn’t know what that would mean, but each day that passed provided more insight into what was occurring within.
Day One: I was cautiously excited about getting on the boat. As soon as the canyon walls began to pass by me I entered a state of pure awe and left all fears behind. As a newbie camper, I had to quickly learn the art of setting up camp, but felt like I mastered it rather quickly. I had no choice if I wanted to attempt any sleep at all. While I succeeded in setting up my cot, I failed at getting sleep the first night. I laid there nearly all night trying to adjust to my new conditions, all the while taking in the incredible and unobstructed night sky. I saw numerous shooting stars while laying there, which made it less enticing to actually close my eyes. Just before daybreak, I had the thought, “I’m in the fricking Grand Canyon!” and despite my sleepless night, I reveled in the awareness that I really WAS laying there on a cot at the base of my favorite place on earth. My own kind of heaven suddenly got even better.
Day Two: I had wonderful conversations with many of the other adventurers in between getting drenched by the waters we entered. Mid-morning, we stopped to do a hike in a side canyon. I chose to stay back near the boats while all others moved on so I could have some time alone by the river, something I wouldn’t have for the rest of the trip. The group was gone for about an hour and a half and I drank in the roar of the river as I sat on a stone with my feet in the creek that fed into the Colorado. I pondered what was to come and at one point glanced down to see a stone with a naturally-etched heart in it. Somehow I knew everything would be okay.
That night I did fall asleep after a while but woke around 1 in the morning. I lay there observing the stars, realizing that my mind was not just quiet, it was empty. I had no thoughts. The only thought I had was that I had no thoughts. It was amazing. I simply looked at the stars above me, noticing multiple shooting stars drift across the sky overhead. Eventually, I did drift back off to sleep but woke again around 4 a.m. when I could once again watch the stars.
Day Three: I switched boats and rode with the male river guide who had worked the waters for nearly 32 years. His name was Duffy and it was clear he loved his work. I asked him a ton of questions, including whether he had lost anyone to the river—he answered that two people in different years had died on his watch. He averaged about two helicopter rescues a year, but had already surpassed it this one with four so far. He had one more trip down the river after ours and hoped he didn’t add to his tally.
That night I again noticed that very little was in my brain. I wept with joy and overwhelm every day, but this time tears came with the awareness that nothing really mattered. Nothing. As I watched the stars, again, some shooting through the sky, I came to the awareness that we really are all just specks of dust compared to the vastness of what was right before me—the billions of years of evolution and the millions of galaxies that were likely out of view. I didn’t feel insignificant, I just felt like nothing I’d thought or worried about prior to the trip mattered any more. I felt profound peace in my blissful void.
Day Four: The day started out as a bit of a bummer. Those who sat in the middle of the boat the first three days wanted to sit up front, having watched and heard how much fun we all had had. I’m generally not a backseat driver—I want to be in the action. But I felt I needed to sit further back to give others a chance to enjoy what I already had. Feeling a bit pouty, I settled in, only to realize that it was exactly
what I needed. Without being on the front line of action where both splashes and constant conversation took my attention, I could sit back and really take in the canyon walls. I immediately started crying. I breathed in the stone layers, the contours, the ridges and colors. I watched the sky as well as the bob of the boat over the rapids. I just soaked it all in while others got soaked with direct hits from the stirring waters.
I began to recognize formations above me that I usually saw from the rim. I got excited because there was something incredible about knowing I was passing below what I had only seen from overhead. It felt like the human condition was meeting the soul. They merged and everything came together. While many get to see the views from a human vantage, only those who go deeper experience the soul of the canyon—and their own soul as a result. After seven trips to the rim, I can remember nearly every formation and where it is in the vista. Now I will remember their placements from my view point on the river. At one point later in the day, the boat driver cut the engine to go to the front to talk to the group. He pointed out the two pedestrian bridges that hovered over the river, each connecting different trails that linked the north and south rims of the canyon. As the engine stopped, the boat slowly turned around, heading backwards down the river. As we turned, I realized that we’d just made it about halfway through the canyon and as I looked at where we’d just been, I felt a deep awareness that I’d just left the womb. I sat quietly, not hearing a word the guide said and just watched the river in reverse, leaving that part of the canyon behind. Again, I wept, knowing I’d never be the same.
I slept almost the entire night without waking. Newborns do sleep a lot and I was very content. I woke around 4 a.m., an hour before the crew started stirring to make coffee and breakfast. I’d come to know that the “coffee call” happened around 5:30 a.m. each morning and I loved the hour before when the dawn slowly came. I watched the stars again and saw eight shooting stars within about 45 minutes. As I watched through what I now call my blissful void, I had the experience that everything both collapsed and expanded at the same time. I felt nothing, but felt everything. Everything ceased to exist, but everything was very present. It is a surreal feeling and I can still feel it to this day. I hope I never lose touch of that simultaneous opposition of experience. It reminds me of what the American astronomer, Carl Sagan, used to say about black holes—energy converges and expands at the same time into the unknown. My existence had done the same.
Day Five: Having been rebirthed, I wanted back in the action. I sat in the front of the boat again and allowed the waters to “christen” me. With freshened eyes, I saw everything more clearly. I was more connected with myself, nature, the world and the cosmos than ever before. That evening one of the other passengers and I stood talking just after dinner. She was interested in the spiritual work I do for others and as I explained I could see light beings lining the rims of the canyon walls around us. This has happened several times before when I’ve been called to do sacred ceremonies in other countries and also last year when I was at Mount Shasta on a vision quest. Peruvians call the energies within the mountains “Apus”—“Mountain Spirits”, each mountain being named accordingly. This night there were hundreds of spirits surrounding us in that canyon, welcoming and protecting us as we made our way down the gorge. This was clearly a sacred night and also a sacred journey.
Days Six: The day was spent enjoying my blissful void. We hiked a beautiful side canyon to a waterfall, where we rested and cooled off for quite a while. I sat alone to take in the energy of the falling water, splashing off in the cool but clear pool beneath, which contrasted the mud of the running river. That night just as we got ready for dinner, a major wind storm blew through the canyon, blasting us with sand. Later came lightning and our crew prepared us to take cover in the case it came close to us since they didn’t want us to be laying on our metal cots when the storm arrived. They instructed us on how to lay close to the ground wrapped in our tarps while avoiding contact with the metal rings. Funny enough, I looked at the moving clouds, noticed they were moving perpendicularly across the canyon and fell soundly asleep. Somehow I knew the storm was going the other way. Few slept that night worrying about the storm—some sitting down by the boats in case they needed to hop aboard. At that point, I figured Spirit would let me know if I needed to take cover. All was well.
Day Seven: I sat in the middle of the boat once again, wanting to take in another full day of absorbing the canyon walls. We had a different kind of excitement back there as a scorpion emerged from somewhere behind us and crawled across the mat on which we sat. The swamper (the boat driver’s assistant) thought he got it off the side of the boat, but about 45 minutes later, a woman sat just a couple feet away on the raft started howling. The scorpion found its way up her shorts leg and stung her three times in the groin. We had to stop the boat mid river for one of the medical providers to examine the wound and applyointment to neutralize the stings. After lunch a woman just beside me found another scorpion hiding in the lining of her life jacket as we settled back onto the boat. She was able to shake that one overboard. Again, although I didn’t want to find one in my own gear, I really didn’t react. My “nonexistence” was helping me to stay peaceful in the moment.
Day Eight: This was our last day on the river. We traveled about twenty miles through the final rapids toward our drop-off point where a speed boat picked us up to ride the remaining forty miles to where the river meets Lake Mead. This was an unexpected treat as I didn’t recall this being part of the journey when I read the information. I LOVE speed boats and the experience of viewing the remainder of the canyon walls at that pace was truly an amazing conclusion to the journey.
Lots more happened than I could ever share in this newsletter. Every day was a blessing. Each one also brought its own adventure, including a puncture hole in one of the pontoons just as we approached a shore for lunch, a broken rotor after passing through a rapid, one of the passengers falling and cutting the entire front of his right leg, a seventy-five year old passenger falling out of the boat (coming up joyfully saying “That was great!”), a rattlesnake sighting right by camp one night and passing by a group who awaited a helicopter rescue for an injured passenger. We were all viciously attacked by flies who bit our legs and desperately wanted our food. (I asked the guides what the flies ate when humans weren’t around because they were ravaging us so badly.) One woman woke to the brush of fur on her leg, not knowing exactly what it was. Bats swooped just over us each night as we slept (I love the little things and know they were just eating bugs) and large fish jumped in the river throughout the night. Although I was glad to know all in our group were relatively unharmed, I knew all was well.
Unfortunately, the day I returned from the trip I learned that someone in another group died on the river when their raft flipped. Four others were injured and taken by helicopter to hospitals. Half of the remaining group chose to leave the trip out of shock of what just happened and fear of what might if they decided to stay. I still have a difficult time sharing my excitement about the trip since the man who died will never be able to share his own. May he rest in peace knowing that others will appreciate life even more from this day on.
It wasn’t until a friend and colleague asked me about the trip about two weeks after my return that I was able to put a final word on what I experienced. As I gave her a brief summary, she said, “It really sounds like you were one with nature.” I stopped and said, “No, I was one with everything. I felt Oneness for the first time in my life.”
It was then that I knew I’d reached a new level of consciousness and had a way to explain it.
Oneness is a state of being unified or whole, not just with oneself, but with everything. In the Post Script to my book Soul Health: Aligning with Spirit for Radiant Living, I describe a conversation I had with another author just prior to publication. She asked me what I thought we were evolving toward—I answered “To Oneness”. Although I don’t think I’m done evolving (I wouldn’t have been spared by the river if I was), I do believe I got a taste of what the end of evolution looks and feels like. My blissful void allowed me to merge with the world around me in such a way that I got a glimpse at what it feels like to be on the other side. Everything converged. And everything expanded. It was powerful and profound and I know I’ll never be able to truly explain how I feel. I just know I’ve changed and will always feel different.
The first time I visited the Grand Canyon was 1991, seven months after my father died. I took a helicopter ride through the canyon then. Now I got to see the canyon from far below. There is a sense of completion which fits my “rebirth”. I now know I’m on the right track. I understand soul evolution even more than I did before and I now know more about what I need to teach others. I also know I need to step into my power more than ever to facilitate others’ journeys. While evolution never happens as fast as us humans would like it to, I do know it always happens right on time.
I look forward to providing you more of what I know, because truly, there’s nothing better for me than to watch souls grow. I’m blessed and grateful for the opportunity to assist in any way I can.
Thank you for being part of my journey, prior to the trip, now and in the future.
Remember the magic happens in the unknown. It is time to embrace it even more.
Note: The video of the month includes a film highlighting the features of the Grand Canyon from both above and below. The soundtrack is done by an instrumental group named Tangerine Dream. Enjoy!