Listening to Mountain, to Self, to Cosmos
by Karen Kudebeh
In June of 2004, I immersed myself in listening: to Mountain, to Myself, and to Cosmos. When I first heard that Brian Swimme and Kerry Brady were coming to Estes Park to conduct the Cosmology of Mountains retreat, I knew I had to be there. My heart sang out YES, but my rational mind had to conjure up good reasons for taking time, spending money, and turning right around– immediately following a family vacation– to “retreat” once again. Well, the Universe prevailed, and my rational mind found three very good reasons for attending.
First, I had been given a nametag, “Mountain,” several years earlier at an Earth Literacy Immersion. I felt compelled to keep and display the nametag on several occasions since then. Whenever I did, unusual events/synchronicities would take place. I definitely wanted to know more about my name as Mountain.
Second, a friend of mine: Bob Prater, appeared to me in a vivid dream several years ago that shook me to my core. In the dream, Bob brought Brian Swimme to my home and announced that he had come to show Brian the timespirals I had created. (In real life, in the 1990’s, I had shared with Bob my “unique contribution” to telling the Universe Story: a series of spiral timelines illustrating the evolution of Earth, Western History, my own genealogy, and “seven generations into the future.” Bob was thrilled to see these timespirals and asked me to show them to his friend, Brian Swimme. My life got busy and I never followed up.) Back to the dream: I searched all over the house for the spirals and discovered they were buried under tons of paperwork; I had no way to access them and I had to announce to Bob and Brian that I simply “was not ready.” The realization that I really WAS NOT READY was a huge disappointment to me, but at the same time it was the truth. Three days later I received a call from Bob’s daughter announcing that her father passed away…during the very night I had that dream. So in 2004, I still had a promise to keep, and that was to show Brian the spirals.
Third, the location for the retreat, near Estes Park, brought to mind a strange premonition I had four years ago. On this particular occasion, I attended a lecture given by Robert Keck, author of several books and resident of Boulder County, whose home I knew to be somewhere between Lyons and Estes Park. Keck was just starting to describe his wife’s experience building a medicine wheel on “their mountain” when I was suddenly filled with an absolute certainty: that he was about to tell us a story of a mountain lion. That’s exactly what he proceeded to tell us: an amazing story of how a cougar showed up on their mountain three distinct times, each time walking off “their mountain top” in a different direction. East was the only direction cougar had yet to walk, and… suddenly, I was filled with another absolute certainty: that I would be there on that mountain when cougar would show up and walk east. Several times in the years subsequent to that presentation, I asked Bob and his wife, Diana, whether cougar ever showed up for the fourth time, and each time they assured me he hadn’t. Two months before the Cosmology of Mountains retreat, Bob Keck passed away. I called Diana to see if she’d be willing to have me visit “their mountain” following Swimme’s retreat; she was unavailable, so I sensed my premonition had yet to play itself out.
The Cosmology of Mountains event finally arrived. Mary Romano and I commuted between the Estes Park site and a cabin above Lyons. We left the retreat site at about 11 pm the first evening to drive back to Lyons. About 3 miles from our cabin (which is very close to the Keck property), our headlights caught a mountain lion crossing the road directly in front of us, traveling …East.
Still in awe at the sighting, we entered our cabin, closed the door, and suddenly were aware of a bird hitting our front window, HARD. It was nearly midnight! We had no context for this strange behavior. It was an adolescent bird flying out of its nest located on the porch rafters, swooping around, seemingly to get our attention. The next morning, the first words spoken at the convened meeting concerned how fearful we humans are about descending into the journey of Soul. A quote from Rilke was:
This is what the things (of Earth) can teach us: to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness. Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.”
Mary and I knew immediately that Mountain had gifted us with two animal helpers to send us on our journey.
Each of the next four days was devoted to experiencing and integrating one of four powers. Day 1 was Allurement (the power of attraction/gravity); Day 2 was Transmutation (the power to change the self; the universe molding us); Day 3 was Emergence (the power of creativity) and Day 4 was Radiance (the power of magnificence; how the Universe communicates). With the little bird falling to earth on the eve of day 1, we were introduced to gravity/allurement. And on each of those four days, we were sent forth into various locations in Rocky Mountain National Park, to be by ourselves for a few hours to learn from nature. Here are exerpts from the journal I kept each day.
Day #1 Allurement: attraction
I knew I had enough time to climb up to a stunning outcropping of granite high above the mountain meadow. But I became aware of a battle between my left and right brain. I wanted to be led/allured by nature rather than decide where to go. Just then, three beautiful elk intercepted me and let me get close enough that I knew to follow them. They left me at a tall rock and then ran off. I felt a need to explore and embrace this rock, and found a large protruding handhold. Since I was alone and felt so free to express myself, I reached high above, grabbed the rock, and then yelled out: “I AM MOUNTAIN!” In that very instant, the outcropping broke cleanly off into my hand, and I was left with the words still echoing in my ears. I was amazed. Mountain– through its own action– had just shown me who I was. It also revealed that all the granite and trees and tiny stones around me are Mountain, the sands at all the beaches are Mountain, and We Are One.
Day #2: Transmutation: power to change the self.
I chose this time to hike to a most unusual rock formation, accessible only via a horse trail through private property and finally into the Park. For over an hour, my nostrils were filled with the stench of horse manure. I couldn’t get away from it. Every diversion along the trail, where I might be able to get away from the smell, had a NO TRESPASSING sign stuck on it, with a cabin and a 4WD close by. I was in tears. Finally I sighted a deer and with gratitude I was able to welcome a “wild creature.” Except that when the doe drew near, both her ears were tagged. The mark of Man was everywhere. I sensed desolation. The trail was revealing to me just what I’ve given up in my life by staying on the “straight and narrow!” More tears and feelings of regret. And I ran out of time before I was able to reach the goal of my hike: the stunning rock outcropping within the Park. Talk about a metaphor for my life! I finally acknowledged that THIS is the time for me to truly embrace my uniqueness, to get off the “beaten path.”
Day #3: Emergence: creativity
I climbed high up on a hillside which was teaming with life. Such a diversity of plants! They were demonstrating what it takes to go from a SEED, to becoming a FLOWER and then to BEAR FRUIT. When I sat among them, I knew that the pain I had experienced the day before was preparing ME to be “more of an offering to the world.” I was reminded that biologists are beginning to look for “extremophiles”– the life forms that can exist under the harshest of conditions– as possibly having the greatest potential for healing other life forms. The plants taught me about the following attributes that enable THEM to survive in a harsh mountain climate:
- accept the rules of the community
- seize the moment; there’s always opportunity; there is ONLY NOW, thus no mourning the passage of time!
- celebrate diversity as life-giving; diversity is WHY there’s a place for all of us here, now.
- keep an innate sense of joy and play
Day #4: Radiance: communicating magnificence
Left brain speaking:
There’s a resonance, a reverberation that accompanies an encounter with … just about everything. If we can commit ourselves to a depth perception, we’ll be fascinated by life and in love with the Universe/our own uniqueness. There is a radiant presence in a tree, a rock. In order to fully acknowledge and experience OURSELVES as that presence, we can apprentice ourselves to the natural world. Find a rock that radiates that presence!
Right brain speaking, after I had found “just such a rock” the week before, at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico:
“Oh, Amazing Layered Rock of swirls and circles, dips and hills,
Blacks and whites and reds,
Life forms in bright white specks and jet black dots,
Rings within rings,
Every surface a texture.
“No such thing as flat nor smooth,
Shadows and shadings,
Light playing with you, upon yourself,
And nearby twisted tree carcass, shadowing upon your side.
“If I were to paint you, I’d have a palette of twenty hues of blacks and browns and beiges,
grays and soft-to-bright-white.
No matter which square inch of your surface I choose, all these colors are represented here.
Oh, were I to have a magnifying glass! Where each of your tiny, rough protuberances were to become the size of you.
Aah, the worlds yet to unlock and explore!
“I met you from afar. My eyes were looking for Rock, and my felt sense started to awaken as I named many places upon the trail. There you were. Down a steep slope, your massive structure sheered in two, inviting me to use my yoga muscles to pull myself up, balance, and then over and onto your perfect sitting surface.
“Canyon wren called out her greeting of “Welcome Home!” and then she hopped and flew nearby in full knowing that I would stay seated here awhile.
“I am suddenly awe-stuck, observing my own bare leg, with its beige coloration, brown spots and tiny black dots/hair stubble like black lichen!– mirroring your OWN skin.
Identical shading. One body meets and melts into other body.
My body accidentally punctures your skin, and your sand-blood flows.
“We are alike, you and I. And I feel such overwhelming gratitude.”