June 28, 1996
I am in the tunnel again and excited to be back in the Earth with Bear. It has been a few months since I’ve seen Bear, and I don’t always understand the full meaning of the messages I receive from her, but I feel them change me. I know they are profoundly transformational and significant to my life journey, not just to the place I am today. I want to understand where I might be going.
Once again, the tunnel seems to continue forever. However, the passage does not twist and turn this time but drives directly into the Earth, and it is no longer tight and restrictive. It grows more spacious the deeper we go. As we advance, we come to where I can eventually stand erect, and still, the tunnel continues to expand. We continue into the darkness, walking next to each other, Bear moving slowly and deliberately down the path and me, trying to see any message at all in the space around me. In all of my efforts, I see nothing but dark emptiness.
Eventually, as the tunnel continues with no indication it will enter the Lower World, I climb onto Bear’s great back and ride for the rest of our time together. I wonder how much the space around us will expand and why. My impression of the tunnel is that it is a transitional space between the middle and lower worlds. I wonder why it has become so significant and what this wandering through the Earth could mean.
Finally, Bear stops in an enormous cavern. From here, the tunnel branches into several other tunnels. It is definitely something I would consider a genuine fork in the road. Each of these passageways would carry a unique message, maybe a different life entirely. I am grateful Bear is here to guide me. If I were left to choose my direction, I might not be able. I would worry too much about what I might miss.
Bear stops before one of the tunnels, and I climb from her back. Cool air caresses my face as I come to stand next to her head and look down the passage she now studies. I look to her and then back to the tunnel, and eventually, I understand. She is directing me to move forward alone.
As in my previous journeys, I am a bit thrown by her guiding me to continue on my own. I understand it is her way to put me in the hands of another teacher, but we have not reached the lower world, and somewhere deep inside, I feel there will be no teacher waiting for me. I worry I am being asked to travel this tunnel without a guide. Fear settles into my belly as I begin to realize what I am being called to do.
I stand for a moment, stroking Bear’s neck and looking into the darkness beyond the cavity’s opening. Pulling my gaze from the tunnel, I look deep into her eyes. They are kind and comforting as I search them for some kind of clarity on why I am to do this. All I see is that I can no longer deny the inevitability of my situation.
Wrapping my arms around her broad neck, I bury my face in her soft fur. It is my last desperate attempt to reach for a moment of comfort before using the faith I have found in her teachings to pull myself from her and finally step into the tunnel. Chill air drifts across my skin as I step beyond the cavern. A shiver climbs up my spine but doesn’t let go when it reaches the top. It sits instead upon my shoulders, not letting me forget my fear. A short way into the tunnel, I start to doubt my decision to move forward alone, and I turn to look back for some final reassurance. Bear is gone.
“Don’t panic, Linda. Bear would not put you in danger. You know you are safe.” After some careful reassurance, I take a deep breath and turn again to face the tunnel in front of me. I know I cannot go back. I must move forward and, by the look of it, travel even deeper into the Earth. The trail continues on a downward slope, opening wider and wider as it goes until it is so great a cave, I can no longer see its walls or ceiling. Eventually, I wonder if I am in a cave at all anymore. Black extends beyond me, and I get the sensation of floating in space. The only thing that makes me believe I am still underground is the stillness. There is no breeze, and as I look up, there is no night sky. Other than these two details, everything around me is empty space.
The trail I walk is worn. There are rocks here and there along the edges of the path, but it is mostly hard-packed earth. I am not sure where I am going, but I know I am terrified. I feel vulnerable and exposed. I can feel the presence of things around me that I cannot see, and while I cannot see them, I know they can see me. This realization settles into my stomach like a stone. I wonder why they wait and what they want. I wonder, but I do not really want to know. I don’t want to discover what they want or why they want it. What I really hope is; I don’t come to know anything about them at all. However, I fear I already do. I sense they are the things I’ve spent my entire life fighting, the things that like to hide in the dark.
I continue forward, praying for the come-back-call, when I notice something waiting ahead of me, on the path. As I get closer to where it waits, I see it is snake, and my worst fears are confirmed. He is standing in a striking position. I am devastated by the warning. I know I cannot return to where I entered the cave. The only way out of this tunnel tonight is to travel beyond snake. I must ignore his warning and move into the I am told to never go.
The fear builds within me as I slowly near the place where snake is coiled upon the path. I cling to the faint hope of him striking at me and preventing my passage through the tunnel. I would rather face his venom a thousand times over than the fear of what might lie beyond him.
As I come to stand before him, he slowly lowers his head and moves to the side of the trail. I feel him saying to me, “Go if you must, but you go alone.”
I know I must. I know I am afraid, but I trust in Spirit, and I will not lose what may be my only opportunity for this kind of message. I hope I am ready to receive it.
After passing snake, the atmosphere around me darkens. I wonder how it could be any blacker than it was just moments before, but the air itself has actually become darker like it is incapable of holding any light. It is almost like a black fog has settled upon the trail, and I wonder if it wouldn’t consume me over time if I were to stay here. I understand I am now entering a world I never expected to know, and I wonder if I will regret wanting to know what exists beyond the snake and the places from which he is sent to protect me.
As I move along the trail, I continue to feel like I am being watched, but by something more than just curious about my presence. It is something welcoming me, eager to use any advantage my ignorance presents for its own gain. It watches, and it waits.
My heart pounds hard in my chest, and I keep turning to look behind me, expecting to see someone following me. When I turn, there is no one, but a presence is there. I can feel it. I also hear movement along the side of the trail, and I am not comforted by the sound. These are not teachers who follow me, watching my progress. The sound I hear is of predators, stalking me, waiting for an opportunity. Their steps mimic my own, and I try to peer through the darkness to know what they are. I understand I would only regret the decision to look if my attempts were actually realized, but I cannot help but stare. A thought comes to me as I recognize this concept. ‘The monster you know is better than the monster you don’t.’ One day, when I am older and wiser, I will understand this is not true, but today I am sure I need to know who I face.
Through my curious seeking, I fail to notice where I am. My eyes are locked on something, some sort of shift in the atmosphere. It is like a different kind of darkness within the mass of shadow around it. Trying to comprehend what it could be, I unconsciously shift my direction to bring me closer to it. As I do, I hear the voice again from my near-death experience clearly speak to me, ‘Do not stray from the trail.’
Like Little Red Riding Hood on the way to her grandmother’s house, I immediately adjust. My movement is followed by a loud scream far in the distance, and I realize, by the lack of resonance, the tunnel is far more expansive than I initially envisioned. I look all around me, trying to get a bearing on where the screamer might be. When nothing follows the howl, I heed the warning and carefully direct my feet to the center of the path.
Continuing to move forward, I wonder if my fear is being tested. I wonder if this journey is to test how strong I can be in the face of it, and I am determined to meet the challenge before me. I will not yield to my fear. I will succeed.
As though it has come to challenge my thought, I notice a creature planted on the trail ahead of me. I don’t know what it is, but I can see it is blocking my path. It does not appear aggressive at the moment, but I definitely know it is not there by coincidence, and I suspect it is probably not my friend. Something has put this creature on my path to drive me from the trail, and after the warning I received, I know I can’t risk what might be waiting for me beyond the rock borders.
It doesn’t seem to be aware of me yet, so I stop to gather my thoughts and make a plan. I need to be patient and figure out how to proceed. Inside, I sense I do not want this thing to realize I am here, but how do I move forward without awaking its senses.
An image of Deer passes through my mind. I hear the story of Deer speaking to me, ‘Deer found his path blocked by a monster, but Deer did not run. Deer loved the monster until it ceased to be.’ Deer is the giver of unconditional love and is my right-hand totem animal. I understand now. I did not come to this tunnel alone. My animals are always with me.
Connecting to Deer, I send his love to the monster. I become the story of Deer, and I search for all of the beauty I can find within this beast. Then, I send love to the unlovable. I become unconditional in my faith, and I love the monster who would consume me. Calmness settles upon me, and along with the beast, all of the fear leaves my being as deep within me, I hear the clear, familiar voice again, ‘No matter what you do, you will be protected. You can go anywhere, and you are protected. You can descend yourself into the recesses of hell to heal the foulest of beasts, and you are protected.’
As the message settles comfortably into my mind, I am returned to my body, and my journey is over. I am a little stunned by my transition. It takes me some time to find my way back to my senses. As there was no come-back-call, I lay there on the floor for a while alone, wondering over what the whole experience represented.
Eventually, I abandon my attempts to analyze what is impossible for me to understand, I finally become fully centered in the group. At almost the same time, I hear the come-back-call. So, I wait for the others to return. I attempt to share my experience with the class, but I am not met with the response I expected. My teachers are angry, and I get no support from my fellow travelers. I am misinterpreted as rebellious and egocentric and am told, “You are lucky to have come back unharmed. If you ever try this again, you may not be so blessed. You should consider this the next time you feel above the rules.”
Still saturated in the powerful support I felt in the canyon, I am amazed by the rage and how they close their minds to something that was given to me by Spirit. I know they are wrong. I was guided past snake, and I was meant to receive the message of protection. I did not choose my journey. It was where Bear took me today, and I was taught; though there be no other person in this world who will protect me, Spirit is there. I am not alone in any world. Now, I want to know who it was protecting me and why I would be shown I can journey to these places.