Australia Day 2016 – Return to the Forest
Today is the day of reckoning from the snakebite of December 29, 2015. It is exactly a calendar month ago today that I was bitten by a snake, an incident, which has consumed a major part of my attention over the twenty-eight days and more intensely over the past sixteen days, once I was willing to accept that the culprit of the wound was indeed a snake and not a stick.
The past few weeks has presented unfamiliar challenges and new opportunities for growth. In the midst of facilitating a group of new staff members yesterday and while talking about the value of going outside of our comfort zone, I decided that it was time for me to reconcile with the forest. I had not been back since that fateful day and the mere thought of returning brought immediate and immense discomfort to the surface. I now have a greater appreciation for all the reasons why we become so good at keeping things at arms length, because getting up-close and personal stirs the very material that has had time to settle and the last thing that anyone in their right mind would want to do, is to revisit the cause of pain and anguish.
In preparation for the workshop I felt my spirit return after what seemed like an eternity without my customary levels of vitality. I’ve learned a great deal from the incident with the snake, a creature that is often misunderstood and labeled a dangerous predator, similar to the popular belief that sharks are simply in the water to hunt people down. This of course is ludicrous, yet fear can be a great distorter and when we feel unsafe our imaginations will run wild. If the truth were told, it was I who entered the snake’s territory and rather than considering the reptile armed and ready to attack, it is my belief that the snake was protecting itself.
There are a number of experiences I’ve been through in my life that I did not enjoy and would not have chosen, but I am of the belief that those experiences have shaped and have been valuable contributors to the person I am today. It’s a bit like leaving home to go travelling and opening ourselves to the adventures, triumphs and travesties that we encounter along the way. The important thing to remember, no matter how far we roam, is to fully experience life and the truth of who we are.
I made the declaration to return to the forest while in the presence of a number of other people so that the intention was held in solidarity with eyewitnesses, just in case I woke up feeling uncertain about the idea this morning. I did wake feeling uncertain and the systemic toxicity that remains in my body was uncomfortable, as was and the taste of poison in my mouth that I’ve been accustomed to over the past couple of weeks. The last thing I wanted to do was to return to the scene of the crime but it was important to face the fear in order to see the beauty on the other side, and so that’s what I did.
As I drive along the freeway to make peace with the snake and its environment I began to cry tears of relief and release of the tightly held fear and trauma I encountered and have been nursing. I was thinking about the things I’ve learned as a result of the snakebite like the value of helpful people and the outstanding service offered at the Hyde Park Health Care Clinic and the Royal Adelaide Hospital. As tears rolled down my cheeks I felt sadness welling in my throat for what I’ve been through. My energy levels remain unpredictable at this stage of my recovery. One minute I feel fine and the next minute I feel a wave of exhaustion and need to lay down. Yesterday I noticed oedema along my legs and upper arms so I will attend a Bowen session to assist moving the poison out of the fatty tissues and from my lymphatic system. I continue to work intuitively with essential oils and am attending network care sessions on a regular basis. Many days have been spent on the couch with little or no capacity to do anything other than rest. During the recovery period I have surrendered to the impulse to become reclusive and aware a new level of self-care. I’ve adopted the practice of ‘not-knowing’ what I’ll be doing each day to make myself available for the highest experience possible.
I arrived at the forest and at the edge of the lake the ducks greeted me. I turned around and saw utmost beauty in the simplicity of a tree with a bulbous base. I saw exquisite detail of life amongst the reeds and the refection of the clouds upon the water. A noise at the top of a tree caught my attention and I looked up to see a large piece of bark fall from the trunk and float to the ground, a gesture of shedding a layer that was no longer required.
As I walked along the path I thought about the energetic influence of fear and its subsequent disruption to the body’s harmonics. As equilibrium is disrupted we springboard out of the moment, ushered by an impulse that suggests the moment is not safe. We file the experience away for safekeeping and the next time we experience similar circumstances, our fear response is triggered as a survival mechanism and we relive the conditions of the initial incident where fear tried to save us. Harmony will be restored once we release the trauma and fully express the discordance.
As I walked along the track I passed a young woman pushing her child up the hill in a pusher and she said, “this last bit is steeper than you think”. And as the kookaburra laughed in the old gum tree, I was nearing the site of the snakebite. I could feel myself recoil as I headed to the place where ‘X’ marks the spot and as the woman aptly suggested, ‘the last part wasn’t easy’. Choosing to recover in my own way has challenged convention and it has encouraged me to consider the shamanic approach which includes seeking out my deepest fears. The fear of being isolated and misunderstood is certainly at the top of the list and yet they lose their grip as the value of non-attachment weighs in. The sunlight streamed through the treetops and I felt supported in my quest.
I felt a degree of concern pulsing through my veins and paid extra attention to the ground ahead. My child-like carefree spirit had been replaced with caution. Along the track I picked up a thick stick to use as a weapon, just in case. Another walker passed by and commented, “Are you expecting danger?”, and asked me if I’d seen a snake. “Not today”, I said, as a brave declaration as much as an answer to the question. I was acutely aware that fear was increasing with each step and then two delicate little birds frolicking in the grass caught my attention. Had I not become aware of what was happening right in front of me I would have missed the beauty of the birds. Fear has been consuming my enjoyment and I was determined to create something positive to restore my love of the forest and release myself from the fear that was strangling my sense of adventure.
Just as the lady with the pusher suggested, the last part was steeper than I thought and I picked up a bigger, even stronger stick, just in case. My heart rate increased and as I looked down, I had a vice like grip on the branch. Almost in slow motion I passed the spot and then felt an energy drain from my body and more tears starting to flow. I realised the fear had been forcing me out of the moment and the incident was now in the past and I could let it go. The fear of the past repeating itself began to subside and was replaced with a sense of relief and expansion.
I dropped the stick and started to skip. I’ve been teaching people for years that it’s not possible to remain in a bad mood when you are skipping, and it was time to put my own medicine into practice. Not that I was in bad mood, but I had lost sight of the inner elasticity that would ordinarily stretch beyond the circumstances and allow me to appreciate the moment. I skipped past another walker with their dog and noticed that I was exuding a big dose of freedom and no sign of self-consciousness. The mission was complete and I was free to go. As I drove away I was lovingly escorted along the road by a brightly coloured lorikeet that took that lead me in the victory march of liberation. I did it!
I read a quote recently that said once we come through a storm we may not recognise ourselves as we are forever changed, not by the storm itself, but by delving deeply within us to find what we need to survive. I haven’t been my usual self for the past month and maybe the self that I knew is no longer.
© 2016 Patricia Herreen