By Arundhati Bhanot July 2003 What is the difference between the tourist and the pilgrim? The former sees, the latter connects. Here are insights on how visits to centres of energy can be made truly enriching Heal the EarthMartin Gray, anthropologist, photographer, explorer and author of Places of Peace and Power, who has visited over 600 sites in more than 40 countries, has evolved his own technique to connect with the spirit of the earth and direct healing energy back into the planet. Gray says that he received the vision of a simple meditation and breathing technique on top of Mount Hesperus in Colorado, USA. This technique involves three in-and-out breaths: • As you inhale, visualize taking in the celestial energy—the spirit of heaven—through the crown chakra on top of the head to the heart chakra. As you exhale, visualize having obtained the energy from your own heart and then send it down through your root chakra (at the base of the spine) down to the earth. • Next, visualize taking in terrestrial energies—the spirit of the earth—from your root chakra into your heart. As you exhale, visualize that you have added energy from your heart and are sending the energies through the crown chakra into heaven. • With the third breath, visualize taking in both the terrestrial and celestial energy into your heart. As you exhale, visualize sending all your energies—celestial, terrestrial, and your own, out in all directions, encompassing everything that surrounds you. Gray recommends using this three-breath technique at least ten times and assures that ‘‘the more you practice, the greater the connection you experience with the living earth’’. Sheena Singh, who organizes spiritual tours in India, relates an experience at the base of Mt Everest. She was contemplating the southern face of the mountain when: “I clearly saw a sadhu with his hair knotted on his head; maybe some great rishi, or was it Lord Shiva?” For the past 15 years, UK-based psychic healer Helen A. Shik has been leading tours to sacred places in Europe, the Americas, Egypt and Asia Minor. She recalls one moving experience on the island of Lewis in Scotland, when she led a group of tourists through the Callanish stone circle, a pre-historic installation of rocks. Helen stayed behind to pray. Suddenly she fell into a trance. Later, she noted that “the tall stones had human features”, and that she felt their guardian energy. “This was the meaning of being a pilgrim and not a tourist, who simply uses but does not give back the respect,” she says. Power spots, places of intense energy, are becoming tourist destinations with visitors hoping to combine leisure with life-transforming experiences. Tales of extraordinary visions, ailments magically healed and inner calm, along with the breathtaking beauty of these locations, evoke an urge to head to these ‘soul centres’. But can any visitor experience the heightened energy of these places? Or do we need to sensitize ourselves first? Can rituals such as fasting, drumming and chanting, or even use of hallucinogenic herbs act as catalysts? Do we need the guidance of spiritual masters? Where to Begin Basic preparation is required before starting out on any journey, particularly one that is expected to effect soul connections. Reading relevant books on the subject, acquainting oneself with the history and mythology of the place, and interacting with those who have visited it before can tell you what to expect and open your heart and mind to the energy emanating from the sacred spot. Let us see what preparations were made in earlier times. In the Native American tradition, visiting power spots was a part of sacred rites. An adolescent boy or girl having come of age would have a session with an elder or a shaman in preparation for the vision quest. Rituals such as bathing, cleansing rites, fasting and offering prayers formed part of the ceremony before setting out. The neophyte would have to walk for many days, hoping to receive a vision of guidance. Many of these customs and rituals may form part of a visit to spiritual destinations in order to derive more than what a casual visitor can hope for. In India too, fasting, chanting mantras, bathing, and making offerings to the fire are traditional rituals associated with awakening the self for a journey to a higher plane. These are also performed for the auspicious beginning of a pilgrimage. Go with the FlowDr Jean Shinoda Bolen, professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of California Medical Centre, USA, says: “You should be willing to go along with whatever you may encounter. Pilgrimages invite synchronicity. You should be willing to take advantage of whatever opportunities that might suddenly present themselves.” This may require a keen eye for detail, being alert and perceptive towards the surroundings and most importantly, the ability to be silent. For it is only when we are silent that we can flow into contemplation. Paul Devereux, an authority on the geophysical aspects of sacred sites, strongly believes in adopting a ‘multi-mode’ approach by using the heart as well as the mind, by knowing and feeling. Knowing means having the complete knowledge of the mythology, archaeology, history, geology, astronomy and geomancy of a site. Feeling means to intuitively tune into the spirit of the place. Be Receptive Affirmations under a spiritual guide are effective means of training the mind to become receptive. Affirmations are simple positive statements that you repeat to yourself. Through constant repetition your subconscious mind picks up the messages and starts believing in the suggestions made. Affirmations infuse a strong sense of faith in the mystical powers of the energy spots. Visualization is another mode of channeling—transporting a person into another dimension—in which a guide urges you to imagine a pleasant site, a glow of light or a rainbow in the sky, which may serve as a transforming experience. MeditateMany leading spiritual guides and people undertaking a pilgrimage vouch for the power of meditation. Sitting on the ground, eyes closed, hands folded, focussing on one’s breath, is a simple meditation that can evoke heightened states of consciousness. Michael, who organizes tours to the Angel Valley Ranch in Sedona, USA, conducts many sessions of meditation for the participants. The participants are given instructions on how to make contact with the earth. Most of them have unique experiences of having rediscovered themselves, shed their grief, and having found a sense of direction. Lisa Morehouse from Hicksville, New York, USA, who undertook a tour to Sedona with Michael, says: “I felt lovingly reconnected to the source of all that is, with an understanding of my spiritual power and a will to use it for the highest good.” Activating the chakras enables you to directly derive energy from the power spot Sense Like a Shaman Ardent visitors now seek the spiritual guidance of shamans on journeys to power spots. Shamanism is about reconnecting with nature and shamans can move into altered states of consciousness with ease. Shamanism emphasizes cultivating personal powers through the awakening of the unconscious mind. One of the core beliefs of this tradition is that the human mind can manipulate energy to result in faster healing. In his book, The Urban Shaman, Serge Kahili King explains the principle of Huna shamanism: “Energy flows where attention goes. Be focussed. Keep your intentions, objectives, goals and purpose in mind.” Shamanic states can be induced in many ways, the most common being through monotonous rhythmic sounds such as steady drumming, chanting and dance. There are many stories about the magical powers of shamans, the most notable having been documented by Carlos Castaneda. He writes about his encounter with disembodied spirits, shamans in the form of huge wolves and death as a silver crow. All this happened after he came in contact with Don Juan, a Yaqui Indian sorcerer said to possess occult powers. Castaneda recounts his encounter with Mescalita, the god of peyote (a hallucinogen), on three occasions. In the beginning of his apprenticeship, Castaneda describes how Don Juan taught him to find his own ‘power spot’ or sitio, which was “where a man could feel naturally happy and strong”. In Don Juan’s native Mexican tradition of sorcery, there are two kinds of power spots—good spot or sitio, and bad spot or enemy. According to Castaneda, the “sheer act of sitting on one’s spot created superior strength”. Open Your Chakras Chamba Lane, a psychic spiritual practitioner, has traveled the world over to more than 100 countries and spent three years studying the energy schools of Tibet, Nepal and India. He has been guiding tours to the power places of Peru since 1994. His extensive tours and years of research and spiritual pursuit have enabled him to develop a foresight on how to receive energy from power spots. He recommends—first use simple techniques to feel the universal energies in our chakras. Once you feel the energy in your own chakras, you can derive the energy from the power places more directly. For others waiting for a simple turn of events, Lane suggests that one arrives as empty of thoughts, emotions and feelings as one can be. Ask the place how it wants to be honored—with a flower, a pebble or an open heart. Request for what you want. Listen. Receive.
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