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Of Earth’s Portals and Gateways…

April 19, 2012

“Here was a place where the veil lying between the worlds was thin…she need only step through the mists here, and be in Avalon.”Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer-Bradley

“This is the place that shamans have known of for millenia. They pass through the portals…moving between the worlds…This is the entire universe in which you’re destined to dissolve.” – Terrence Mckenna

“Walking is doing wonders for body and soul.  I’m completely focused on the present moment, for that is where all signs, parallel worlds and miracles are to be found.  Time really doesn’t exist.”The Aleph, Paul Coelho

I thought this would be an easy post to write as the canyon country of the U.S. southwest is my spiritual home – the place that resonates most deeply with my being. But in fact as I sat down I felt at a rare loss for words, and went in search of quotes from other (better) writers to help. I’m not really sure I can add anything to the quotes and pictures above, but I will try, as I do believe in the power of words to express the inexpressible (a koan for you!)

I’ve written about Nature Mysticism before – the ways mystics from all different spiritual traditions have related to nature, and the peace, beauty, and balance that time in nature brings out in us. I’ve also written about Planet Earth’s Chakras – a post I wrote just for fun and never imagined would become so popular. I also recently came across an interesting article about a research project on the healing powers of nature, which (among other things) confirmed that even just looking at pictures of nature can benefit your health. So even if the words in this post do nothing for you, hopefully the pictures will!

What I really want to talk about today is the magical gateways nature offers us – the places where the ‘veils between the worlds’ are thin, and we can slip through. This is the shaman’s art; and yes I know the word ‘shaman’ has been co-opted and romanticized and perhaps abused, but for the purposes of this post, I hope you will allow me to use it, as I do so with the greatest respect.

Although I use the word shaman, this kind of traveling, or shifting, is really talked about by mystics of every spiritual tradition – it’s not owned by any one. I view it as a byproduct of our natural fluidity – the fluidity of human awareness. Our awareness is really a spectrum, and we are shifting along this spectrum all the time – from moment to moment we are living in different worlds. Walking through the mists or veils at earth’s spiritual portals is really just an extension of this fluidity.

Some people ‘see’ these worlds in pictures, but that’s not the only way to experience them. They are a vibration, a feeling, a space or dimension that opens up – the way they will be experienced or processed by the ‘brain’ is different for each individual. Part of the reason I like chakra meditation in particular is because it helps develop our subtle awareness for just such experiences – it trains us to feel these shifts and distinguish them. Our chakras are themselves each doorways, and different places in nature resonate with each one – some places take us through the ‘heart’ doorway of love, others through the ‘navel’ doorway of power, still others launch ‘vision quests’ of the third eye.

The shaman’s path has gone a bit out of style in many spiritual circles today. Spirituality, at least as its culturally expressed, goes through phases and fads like everything else. In the 60s and 70s, talk of traveling and shifting in this way was very in (perhaps I missed my moment!) Of course, this was fueled partly by the interest in psychedelic drugs, but those were never necessary. The fluidity of our awareness is natural and doesn’t require anything to create it, although it sometimes does need awakening, and definitely needs grounding and training to sustain (grounding was what was missing in some of the spiritual talk of the psychedelic era.)

Nowadays, discussion is more about mindfulness, being in the moment, being present, and inquiring. I’m all for that. Now more than ever, we are conditioned to live outside the moment – in the past,  in the future, on the weekend, on vacation, when we get that new house, or car, or raise…And meditation of any type starts with mindfulness. But being in the moment – present awareness – offers us more than a pronounced appreciation of the here and now. As Coelho says in the quote above, in a moment, time ceases to exist. A moment is a doorway into eternity. A moment is a doorway into every world, every potential, and the light of Source itself. There are no limits on a moment, because our mind – and the order and perceptual framework it normally provides for us – stops.

If we are fully in the moment, if we are stopped, when we come upon a place in nature that functions as a portal, we can travel through. Otherwise, we might walk right by it. I watch thousands of people do this daily in my favorite National Park (Zion, which I visit several times a year.)  There is no better proof that we each live in different worlds even when we are in the same physical place than taking a walk through a place like Zion. For some, it is simply a photo op – a visual ‘place’. Others are impacted by the energy, but not sure what to do with it – perhaps they get giddy, or perhaps they go the other way, feeling anxious – threatened by their relative smallness. Still others feel or see nothing at all – they are locked in a human drama of some sort that prevents than from connecting, like a family squabble, or lover’s quarrel. And then some are stopped in their tracks, sensing or seeing the dimensions of light that are opening and closing where they stand.

Although these portals exist all around the world, and each of us resonate with different ones, for me it is the southwest desert and canyon country – which some find harsh and barren – where I best stop. In the most remote places, there’s no human reference point – no sign of culture, or even of sentient life (although of course a careful examination reveals all sorts of resourceful and resilient life…) There is really no sense of humanity at all. The base of these canyons and mountains are 250 million years old, and we humans are barely a blip in their history. We are inconsequential. Their existence feels independent of us, and even our worries about global warming, the environment, and the rest seem irrelevant. It is our own survival that is threatened, not that of these places. These places know that, and convey that, and strip away any semblance of self-importance.

Many believe the spiritual gateways are closing. This is in fact the whole premise of Mists of Avalon (the first quote above) – that the choices humans make en masse can close or open these portals, and that we have in fact been closing them for some time. And some feel that if they do close, a fundamental human opportunity will have been lost, perhaps forever. But pondering this is a bit like pondering the koan ‘if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there, does it make a sound?’ If we forget how to access these portals, do they cease to exist?

One could ask the same thing about enlightenment. If you’ve read a lot of my posts, you know that I use that word outside of any particular spiritual tradition – I don’t think it’s owned by Eastern traditions, or that there is only one way to find it. I view enlightenment as a fundamental human opportunity, that individuals from many different backgrounds and cultures throughout the ages have sought, and some discovered. Traditionally we are not really supposed to talk about enlightenment, because to talk about it is to diminish it, to define it, to turn it into a concept or projection – a ‘thing’ in the mind. And yet, if we don’t talk about it, will it disappear? Will the doorways to it close? As interest in spirituality (as distinguished from religion) grows, are we watering it down too much, to the point where we are letting the doorways to enlightenment close? Are we so focused on self-improvement, and ‘manifesting our dreams’, and social change, that we are walking right by the veils?

I don’t know the answer to that, but when I visit earth’s spiritual portals, I am reassured, and struck by how much more this planet gives us than physical sustenance. It is a beautiful, magical place, and opens us to the beautiful, magical planes in ourselves.

What are some of your favorite places? What do they show you and where do they take you? Please share! (And speaking of magical places, don’t forget to check out the Bali Essence website if you haven’t done so already…)

29 Comments leave one →
  1. Jamie permalink
    April 19, 2012 8:37 pm

    Love it! Where are all these taken? I feel like I am more of an ocean person. I think I know what you mean about portals, I feel that near the ocean too…

  2. justine permalink
    April 19, 2012 8:39 pm

    beautiful pictures. what you ask, about the doorways to enlightement closing, baffled me a bit. i haven’t thought about it in those terms – that by talking so much about spirituality, we may be watering it down and actually losing it…I don’t know, it always gets rediscovered, doesn’t it?

  3. April 19, 2012 8:44 pm

    Hi Jamie, These are all from southwest Utah: Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, Bryce National Park, Zion National Park, and Snow Canyon State Park. All taken on my latest retreat and vacation there just a couple of weeks ago…yes, I love the ocean too. It balances and clears me. And it does transport me too, but not quite the same way. But we each ‘vibrate’ differently, and resonate with different places for that reason…I think you commented on the interview I did with Chantal Monte in January – she talks about Bali being her place, which is partly why I wanted to go…

  4. April 19, 2012 8:45 pm

    Hello…as I clicked on this post you liked my post…simultaneously we were on each other’s sites. 🙂

    We have been planning on going to the southwest deserts since I’ve been unable to travel. It’s the trip we hope to take when I am once again well enough to do so. I’ve never been there so I don’t know how I’ll experience it.

    Otherwise the place I most connected with was Joshua Tree, another dessert, in California. I just remember feeling high the entire time. Connected.

    But any natural place can make me swoon. I do not believe the portals will close! They are there for those who can sense them. I’m not particularly familiar with these myths you refer to either, however…or what they are teaching. I did read the Mists of Avalon many years ago, but all I remember now is devouring it in a matter of a few days…it must have left a mark…but I don’t know what it was anymore. Perhaps I need to revisit it!

    Some of us are modern day shamans…I know the word has been co-opted, but it’s because we are so impoverished as a culture we need to borrow from others to understand our experiences. I am okay with this. Hero’s Journey. Shaman Journey. Path of individuation…it’s all good. I like being multi-lingual in things of the spirit.

    thanks for sharing your thoughts on your lovely trip.

  5. April 19, 2012 8:46 pm

    Hi Justine. Yes, I do think it always get rediscovered – that it only feels lost sometimes. But I don’t know – the traditions I am most drawn to are a lot about transmission – that others help show us the way. Not in words but by opening our own awareness through showing us theirs. This is part of what having a spiritual teacher is about, and part of what I do myself. So if there is too much emphasis on words, and talk, the transmission part can get lost, especially here in the West. And yet I am a word person! So it’s a koan of sorts.

    These places, these pictures, are another transmission of sorts, at least I hope so.

  6. April 19, 2012 9:40 pm

    Hi Lisa,

    I love, love, love this post!!! You’ve already taken away – my breath, my imagination, my awareness – with this sharing and discussion of portals, shamans, and enlightenment. These other worlds of what’s beyond us and what’s always right here on earth.

    You’re a woman after my own heart with your words of fire. For me, when I hear you speak or read your writing, you clear illusion and move us beyond the veils and into the dimension of “being”. Simply being and turning inward, breathing in a deep breath and becoming presence. So simple yet not easy.

    Presence IS the doorway or gateway and we can also find it in the canyons, mountaintops, rivers, and deserts.

    As you know, Bali is my true home! This is an island of deep dimensions and portals of light and also very real and grounded in Life. These energies have been created over thousands of years by the people who make offerings to the Gods, those who speak into the different dimensions and pull them in or down into this reality, and those who are connected and aligned with the heavens. This is a way of life for the Balinese, not a concept or perspective.

    Bali shows me gateways, portals, dimensions, and how to walk in-between the worlds. Bali offers a full spectrum of light to shine through. Her people show me wholeness and connection. They know with their entire being that the universe is alive – inside of them and outside of them – there is no separation between the two. Bali is a master at showing the complete circle between life and death, between spiritual and everyday existence, between nature and humans.

    Wanna travel with me to Bali?! LOL Let’s GO!!!

    “For me there is only the traveling on paths that have heart, on any path that may have heart. There I travel, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length. And there I travel, looking, looking, breathlessly.” ~ don Juan


  7. April 19, 2012 11:01 pm

    GiannaKali – I like this phrase ‘multi-lingual in things of the spirit’ – I definitely consider myself to be also, more and more as time passes. Mists of Avalon is a lovely book. I don’t think the portals will close either, but the idea that they can appears in different forms in a lot of different legends and ideas of the future, including in teachings on the ‘kali yuga’ in Hinduism/Buddhism and even how some read ‘Revelations’ from the Bible – that ‘end-times’ is really about the closing of doors between earth and ‘heaven’ (whatever you believe heaven to be.) In most, especially the yuga teachings, it is cyclical, so not closed forever, but definitely harder or easier for people to feel. And by most accounts we are in a time when it is harder right now. But they are there for those of that can feel them!

    I love Joshua Tree also. I hope you do get to the southwest. And your post reminded me I have been meaning to add your blog to my blogroll – I admire the work you are doing there, providing resources for people with mental health issues beyond pharmaceuticals (just spelling that out for anyone who happens upon this and is interested in the topic….) I will get you added tonight! – Lisa

  8. April 19, 2012 11:05 pm

    Beautiful Chantal! Yes, I can’t WAIT to travel with you and Bali and have you show me the portals there. I think that is partly what prompted this post, in addition to my recent trip. And I have been reading another Tibetan biography that talks a lot about this too – this idea appears in a lot of Tibetan legends and teachings too (although different words are use.) And your comment reminds me I need to get over to your new blog and also get it on my blogroll tonight! For anyone reading this, check out Chantal’s new blog at Devotional Beauty.

  9. Katrina permalink
    April 20, 2012 12:11 am

    Very beautiful, I wish I could visit there, I’ve found the Red Rock formations in Sedona, Az. are amazing. There are very intense energy vortexes there. There was one so intense that when I stood on it and looked up I could feel the earth moving under me while the sky was standing still.

  10. April 20, 2012 4:46 am

    Katrina – it’s interesting, Zion is on the north side of the Grand Canyon while Sedona is on the south, and they have many similarities although are also quite different…both definitely portals though. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  11. Rosie permalink
    April 20, 2012 4:55 am

    Sat Nam, Lisa. I am taken back to Utah with these photographs and your inquiries. I can remember moving through all the phases you mentioned – giddiness, anxiousness, and finally stopping. My daughter and I went some years back, not knowing what we were getting into. And today I can see her stopped in front of a large cliff in Zion and looking straight up into only what she could see but couldn’t convey when she brought her eyes back down. I am grateful for the reminders.
    By the way, your writing is excellent!

  12. April 20, 2012 1:31 pm

    When I was in Colorado, my inlaws took us to this place where we were on this out cropping of rocks. Just standing there looking at the view of the mountains was very powerful. I definitely felt something overwhelm me and wondered why others were not awed in the same way. Your post made me think of that and now I wonder if I was experiencing what you are talking about.

  13. April 20, 2012 1:36 pm

    Your writing, expression, intent, is so wonderfully good for my soul.

    And you’re my connection to the spiritual community of which you seem to have a profound understanding of – who knew shamanism came in and out of popularity?! lol

    So…. I have a belief that portals exist without human awareness, separate from us. So that they can never not exist. However, I also believe that our beliefs, mindfulness, awareness, experiences, etc, etc, strengthen forms, entities, portals, systems….. so with less people crossing over certain portals, the strength therein lessens. or perhaps a certain vibe lessens.

    likewise, i think that some places have gathered a vibe and continue to do so simply because of the created vibe. don’t know if i’m making any sense. But like with Glastonbury. The legends have drawn people, which have had interest in perpetuating them, and others have profited from it, and some just want to believe…. that there exists an enormously strong energy there. but of course that doesn’t mean the energy is worthless, just different, and not of portal variety.

    anyway, i think that nature is always open to us, if we come openly.

    (have you ever read ‘small gods’ by terry pratchett? i think you might like it/him)

  14. April 20, 2012 3:35 pm

    Hi Rosie, that’s a great story. It is amazing how kids shift – their minds and energy beings are so much more open to the vibration (not sure if your daughter was young or not when you went…) My husband and I are always so amazed to see how they shift. The whole way they play changes, and there is less conflict…they are all more naturally centered, even though they don’t really take in the sites (it’s all old hat to them at this point!!) And thanks especially for the writing compliment as when writing about something like this I always feel inadequate…

  15. April 20, 2012 3:37 pm

    Lena – yes, you were spinning through worlds! I think our subtle sense develops over time and you can have a better and better sense of these doorways opening and the multiple planes we live on…

  16. April 20, 2012 3:46 pm

    Hi Mon, well it may just be the ‘spiritual community’ I’m in contact with…one thing I’ve been realizing about the ‘friend of friend’ social networking world is it’s actually quite easy to get a myopic view of things. I really like what you said about the interaction between humans and place, and that there are different types of places in a way – those more empowered by human intention and some naturally portals. This makes perfect sense to me. I have a few books on sacred places, and some focus on ‘human’ sacred places – where we have built temples, monasteries, pilgrimage spots, etc. and others focus on the natural ones…sometimes they intersect, but I am more drawn to the natural ones, and yet I can feel the power in the others…but it is definitely different…

    I haven’t read Small Gods, will add to my list…I also just heard about this series on a Russian teacher called Anastasia, also very nature based, have you heard of it? Cyndi Dale was talking about it a phone class I was on last night, first book is called Ringing Cedars, looking forward to that one too…

  17. April 20, 2012 5:10 pm

    So many of my favorite literary images cropped up as I read this wonderful post, especially the wardrobe from CS Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. And I remembered another post I wrote about secret passageways to other places–

    And I would have to say that music often is another doorway to parallel worlds. Often in my work as a teacher of singing, I forget that because I am focused on the technical and practical matters of making music. It is through the work that something becomes organic (“natural,” as in the “Natural World,”) and therefore, a doorway.

    I experience the relationship you have with the southwest with a certain tree in our backyard. I admit that I hug it. The little boys next door have taken to hugging trees in their yard….

  18. April 20, 2012 6:37 pm

    Hi Cate, you are so right about music, it is definitely a portal to other worlds…and I know some people who actually feel they ‘hear’ music from other dimensions in places like this too (clairaudience). That is great about the tree hugging – perfect image for earth day! Will check out your post later, although I think I may remember it…definitely worth a revisit! – Lisa

  19. April 20, 2012 7:14 pm

    But I must confess, I would love to “feel” energy centers of the natural earth. During a trip to Sedona I thought for sure I would be able to receive the energy vibrations, I seem to be sensitive to everything else, but nada. zilch. I love to read about other’s experiences like some of those described here.

  20. April 21, 2012 11:38 pm

    Hi Cate, I suspect you did receive them, but it happened in a way in which you didn’t recognize them. Just from what I know of you from your blog, and your overall sensitivity and sensibility, as well as the way music impacts you, I think it’s probably impossible for you not to have felt the vibrations, but they may be very kinesthetic for you – i.e. felt in the body, not necessarily visually or mentally. Does that make sense? We each have different subtle body ‘profiles’, and I think artistic souls are often very kinesthetic – that is how their sensitivity manifests. It can be developed into other forms if someone wants, but we each have a natural way of experiencing these things that is unique to us…

  21. April 24, 2012 11:08 am

    “…how much more this planet gives us than physical sustenance.” I couldn’t agree more. The earth itself is like a body. But that body has a great soul just like every human. That soul is continuously giving unconditional love to all of humanity and wishing for us to remember who we really are and to awaken to our Truest nature which is one with her and all the universe. Even when we put her in pain she continues to give us food, air, water, love and her unending wish for all of humanity to realize our enlightenment.

  22. April 24, 2012 4:22 pm

    Messages from the soul -beautifully said!

  23. April 24, 2012 11:44 pm

    “A moment is a doorway into every world, every potential, and the light of Source itself.” I love that quote… Great Blog! JCB

  24. April 26, 2012 6:33 pm

    Thanks John, glad you liked it.

  25. May 4, 2012 12:28 pm

    Hi Lisa, that landscape you’ve posted pictures of just bowls me over. I can readily imagine the power in the land there – the vastness and magnitude. In some ways it reminds me of central Australia. But then again – these places are each so unique, and ultimately incomparable.

    I have regularly felt energy – really powerful and at times overwhelming energy – in different areas and landscapes. As a child I lived near an 8000 ft mountain. In fact, right at its feet among its prehistoric lava flows, (which is now lush dairy country, overlooking wild seas. The power there was extraordinary. Dynamic, and magnetic.
    Portals are something else though aren’t they? And that’s a discussion I’d love to have for hours – lol. I can feel a very strong energetic pull with the land – or not at all, (I don’t feel much of an energetic connection where I live currently. It’s very weak in fact). But I’m not sure if I’ve experienced a portal before, (possibly Uluru in Australia). Unless it’s been possibly connected to a person – and that’s a tricky one I suppose. Because that could be something altogether different. But when you speak of shamanism – I think this is what I’m getting at. That being around very unique individuals with great spiritual power can be a way of experiencing an opening – as though an energetic door has swung open and there’s all sorts of stuff flowing through. As though they are kind of like the key to a portal. I’m not expressing myself well here at all. And it’s getting far too long – lol. Sorry about that. Such a fascinating subject you’ve posted here.

  26. May 7, 2012 5:18 pm

    Antoinette- I so want to get to Australia, and New Zealand, to experience some of the land there. But what really interests me here is what you wrote about people as portals. I do think this is what shamans and gurus do. A true guru is a portal to enlightenment. Shamans are portals into many different worlds. And some individuals can be both, especially in traditions like Tibet that have a model for both. Very fascinating:-)

  27. May 9, 2012 1:57 am

    Hi! That post was beautiful and reminds me of the power of the forces of nature, like you said that have been here far before our existence. It’s an awe-inspiring moment to take yourself outside of time and glimpse the smallness of a human life, while still having reverence for the force of consciousness that allows us to recognize that.
    Thank you for sharing!

  28. May 9, 2012 4:56 am

    Thanks Nicole


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