Meeting on the Bridge: Healing the Chasm Between Humans and Nature

Tracey Besmark

I know two big, beautiful dogs who I pass on my way to and from my travels into the world. But my heart breaks when I drive by. They are chained up, and in the year that I have gone this way, I have never once seen them off their leashes or being exercised or patted. Yes, they have dog houses and water and food, but they are lacking the freedom to be dogs and lacking a basic need of all living creatures: warmth and love.

Sometimes, as I drive by, I burst into tears of anger and compassion and feel myself chained, too. What is being done is legal, and there is nothing I can do. I almost can’t bear the pain. So, in my efforts to not feel anger toward the owner, who ignores even my salutary wave, and to see how I could spiritually alleviate their pain, I undertook a shamanic journey to seek answers.

As a practitioner of core shamanism, when I need sacred guidance, I go on a “journey.” When one journeys, she alters her consciousness by listening to monotonous drumming and connects with spiritual guidance in the forms of power animals or teachers. Beautiful answers, healing information, and creative ideas are often the result, and while the journey may be allegorical or metaphorical, I have found that it is always profound and revealing.

As I set out on my journey, I held my intention in my heart “What can I do to help those dogs?”

I reached my teacher and he said, “My dear, do you want to see the childhood of the man who owns them?” Surprised, but trusting as always in his wisdom, I said, “Yes.” Horrified, I watched the man as a boy being thrown around a room by his burly father; I watched him slapped, pushed, yelled at and humiliated into a small dark corner of his own soul.

I felt a new understanding of and compassion for him realizing that in his treatment of the dogs, he was only mirroring his own fragmentation. I thought: we are all so wounded, no wonder we wound the creatures with whom we share this planet. I asked my teacher, “Why are humans and nature so separate? Why have we humans done such terrible things to the earth—and consequently—ourselves?”

In response, my teacher took me back in time to show me where the original fissure occurred—to a very primal state of human existence where people gathered and hunted. In living close to the earth, they knew they were a part of the earth, not removed from it.

Then I saw a bolt of lightning come from the sky and strike a small child dead. The distraught parents held their dying child and shook their fists at the sky. Next, I saw a fire consume a small band of people who were trapped in a small dwelling while their panicked fellows vainly attempted to save them. Last, I saw earthquakes and tidal waves wipe out human lives instantaneously.

In the pain and anger of loss, these people turned their confusion on nature— and began to slowly “get back at” her—to dominate, to subjugate. I said to my teacher, “What can I do to help?”

He said almost matter-of-factly, “You need to do a soul retrieval for the human race.” In disbelief, I thought, Oh, is that all? knowing that what he was asking would be painful and intensely challenging. But, because I love the universe so, and because I completely trust my spirit teacher, I knew that I must do what he was asking. Soul retrieval is a healing technique whereby the shaman journeys for another with the intention of bringing back lost soul pieces to restore wholeness.

Thus, we began our descent. We spiraled into the earth, deeper than I had ever journeyed before—to the earth’s core. We arrived and entered a swirling chamber —fiery and acidic. In a prison cell, I saw the Soul of Humanity, who appeared as a tar-like, human-like being, both sad and confused, holding the bars of its cage. Outside the cage, I had to duck to avoid being bombarded by little gargoyle-like demons.

My teacher said, “There is much you must do here. First, you must understand that those ‘demons’ are all split-off pieces of the human race. There is much soul loss here, much confusion. You must heal these pieces with compassion.”

Knowing what to do, I called on divine love to come into me—and it did, as a shaft of white, healing light, through my head, down into my heart, and into my outstretched hands. Before long, I was sending this compassion to all the demons, and they changed into child-like beings, happy to be drenched in light.

I gathered them all together and took them to the Soul of Humanity and blew them, one by one, into that spirit body. After I had finished, the Soul of Humanity had also changed. Now, what appeared was a half-man, half-woman, aglow and smiling. And the cage bars fell away. I felt such relief, and my teacher instructed me to take Humanity to the realm of the Sun, who in this journey was indeed God. I joyfully flew with Humanity and my teacher to the Sun, who stood as large as a house before us. The Sun was pleased, and I sighed with relief, thinking my work was complete.

But my teacher turned to me and said, “Now, you must retrieve the Soul of Nature, as well.”

Exhausted and frightened, I said, “Can I come back tomorrow and do that?”

But he looked at me with seriousness and said, “You cannot do half of a job; you asked how you could help, and this is the way.” I knew he was right; if I really was committed to being an instrument of spirit, I must do what was asked of me. My years of journeywork had also taught me that I am never given more than I can handle.

Taking a deep breath, I said, “Okay. Let’s go.” We traveled to the ocean and dove deeply. Down and down we went; as we dropped, it grew darker, thicker. I felt fear rise up in me as I followed, knowing we were getting close to our destination: the broken Soul of Nature.

At last we reached the bottom of the ocean; in front of us was a swirling, vertical vortex pulling us inside itself. As I felt myself sucked inside, my teacher said: “This is the pain of the earth. You are entering the place where the shattered, disembodied soul pieces of every cut tree, every slaughtered animal, every poisoned river and suffocated fish have gone. Go with courage.”

I found myself inside a deafening, tormented scream. I felt, not heard, a million voices screaming in me, through me, and I became the scream. Forgetting who I was, or why I was there, or how to get back out, I became that horrific pain. If my teacher had not pulled me out, I may never have broken free. Shaken, I asked, “How do I help this?”

“Call on the Creator,” he said. “Call on love.” So, together, he and I floated there, outside this swirling mass of millions of nature’s lost soul parts, and we called on the love of the divine, which again came into our heads, into our hearts and powerfully poured from our hands in shafts illuminating the vortex. Soon the vortex slowed in its spinning and became dreamy, backlit clouds suspended in the water.

Through tears of gratitude, I watched as a beautiful woman, dressed entirely in green, her clothes made of grasses, reeds, and leaves, came toward us from the other direction, with opened hands.

“I am the Soul of Nature,” she announced weakly. But I am depleted and very sad. I came because I knew you would help me.”

Intuitively, I went to the cloudy vortex and held out my hand. I invited the now-calm lost pieces of nature to come to me so I could return them to their true home, inside the green goddess, the Soul of Nature. They came in a chain, into my right hand, through my heart, and out my left hand which I had placed on the chest of the Lady. I held the space until my teacher said, “It is done.”

The Soul of Nature, my teacher, and I journeyed to the Sun where the Soul of Humanity still waited. The Sun smiled, nodded down at us, and said to the two characters, “Now you are both here; this is good. For too long, you have been separated by lack of kindness and blame and disrespect. It is time this game of pain ceased. It is time you began to forgive.”

At that, I expected Nature and Humanity to rush toward each other and embrace warmly, ready for reconciliation. But instead they eyed each other warily, fearfully, with trepidation. It occurred to me that it would take much time to mend this friendship; the lost trust would take a long time to be regained.

The Sun knew this and simply held them there in the gaze of his shining rays. And he built a great bridge, there in the heavens between Nature and Humanity, and said, “Humanity, you alone are not responsible for walking all the way to Nature’s side. Nature, you alone are not responsible for walking all the way to Humanity’s side. You must meet in the middle. You must come together—that’s the only cure for the pain.”

Slowly, they walked onto the bridge from either side, little steps, each looking longingly back at the where they had come from, both unsure. But at last, they came to stand before each other, there in the face of the Sun. With much caution, each put out a hand to the other. Their hands finally came together in a tentative grasp.

There in the sun, the vision was glorious: the earth goddess with shining eyes in her flowing gowns of green and the Blakean half-man, half-woman, hair tousled and face gentle there in the golden glow of God’s light clasping hands, and beginning. Beginnings are all there are, it seems, and I was witnessing a spectacular one.

My teacher said, “This work is now complete. This is the first step in healing the gap between Humanity and Nature. Much more must be done, but what has happened today is of great importance. Watch for the signs around you that will tell you of the impact of this day.” We then returned to our special place, and I came back into my body.

I was exhausted but uplifted. The clock told me my journey had lasted over an hour (most journeys are 15-20 minutes), and I was wiped out the rest of the day but filled with blissful gratitude.

This journey has changed much for me, and to honor it, I am telling this story. The time is here, now. It’s time to forgive each other, forgive the earth, forgive the Creator, and learn to be compassionate towards everything that exists. So, I ask, how can you meet nature on the bridge? What can you do to help manifest the vision of us all living in a world where we no longer imprison ourselves or the earth, where we completely bare our genuine light and take each other into the full, honest embrace of true lovers? When you answer those questions for yourself, please don’t keep them to yourself. Instead, make them manifest; bring them forth. Make them part of your life’s work; make them your unique gift to the universe. . .

The day after I took this journey, I drove past the dogs. The owner was in the yard with a wheelbarrow, and my heart swelled with compassion for the chained dogs and also for him. Just then, he looked up, our eyes met, and he lifted his hand in a friendly wave. That was the first time he had ever made this gesture. With tears forming in my eyes, I waved back.

Tracey Besmark has been practicing core shamanism for nine years. She is a graduate of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies’ (under the direction of Michael Harner) Three-Year Program in Advanced Shamanism and Shamanic Healing. Together with her husband, Emery Vaillant, also a shamanic practitioner, she is co-creator of Spirit Hollow, a center for shamanism and spiritual ecology in Shaftsbury, Vermont where they live and conduct private healing sessions, trainings, vision quests, sweat lodges, and seasonal ceremonies. Tracey is interested in helping to heal the gap between humans and nature and in using sacred song to help all beings shine their light.

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