The world’s best Patheos Pagan Channel Editor has reminded me that, since my book is done-done-done and sent to Llewellyn, that maybe I should get back on this horse. Actually, he didn’t say that, exactly, but that’s what I got out of his nice note. ♥
So, I’m going for the low-hanging fruit with this first post in a veeerrrrry long time: an excerpt from my book. This is the opening of Chapter 1: A Worthy Endeavor.
Take a moment to stand and stretch, to look around you at the setting. The walls are of cherry wood, polished to a smooth shine. There are tall built-in bookcases, full as they can be with all sorts of titles, the leather bindings and old paper giving off a warm smell that permeates the room. Through a door, you can see a glimpse of a small kitchen, rosemary and sage and lavender hanging in bunches from the ceiling, fresh peaches in a hand-thrown bowl on the table. Make yourself easy here. Relax.
What is the Secret Country of Yourself?
It’s a bright bonfire on a full moon night.
It’s a meadow shining with Spring’s first sunrise.
It’s a river of dreams and a mountain of adversity and the greatest story never yet told.
It’s an imaginary world and another dimension and a different astral plane.
I just made it up and so will you. All of these are true.
Simply put, the Secret Country of Yourself is your personal sacred space within. Whenever you close your eyes, you are in your own Secret Country. Everything you experience that is not happening in the physical realm (which I like to call the shared reality) is happening there. Your daydreams and night dreams and wild fancies are part of it. Mythologies, ancient and modern, are part of it. When the muse calls with a song in the middle of the night, the caller ID reads “Secret Country”. When you receive an idea for a new theorem, the return address reads “Secret Country”. It’s the birthplace of inspiration.
This is a new magickal technology that is as ancient as imagination and it’s creating itself in me and you and all who care to join us. It is a spiritual practice and a religious experience; it’s a science and a craft and an art.
The Secret Country of Yourself is secret because no one else can possibly know what happens there. The lavish landscapes, the learning/praying/dancing/loving, the unique magick that is striving to be born from you each moment…these are the settings, the plots, the characters. The Secret Country is secret because there are no words to describe the entirety of what you will find.
Will you be alone? Yes. Will you never be alone? Yes. Like cells in the body of God, organisms in the ecosystem of Gaia, or notes in the music of the spheres, you are differentiated from all others, and you resonate with all others. Every bit of you has been something or someone else. It’s so exciting!
But I hear you asking, “Is the Secret Country really-really real?”
Try this: close your eyes for a moment. See the room described at the start of this chapter. See the other folks who have come together for this teaching. See me speaking to you. You are in my classroom in the Secret Country in this very moment. Is it real for you?
Everyone’s Secret Country is a little bit different, but there are commonalities. We all have something that passes for a home of light and darkness, a place for learning, a space for spiritual communion. We all hold within us aspects of the classical elements of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. But this is only the beginning. The unexplored places within you are infinite and once you learn how to navigate the terrain, you can spend the rest of your life exploring your own beauty.
All the aspects of your life are represented there: family, home, work, spirit. The institutions you love and hate in the shared reality are also within you. You will find parts of yourself that you’ve imprisoned, that are completing advanced degrees, that are healing other parts. There is so much more to you than you can ever know.
The Secret Country may be populated by your favorite fictional characters, or the gods of your religious path, or both. I encourage you to keep your eyes, your mind, and your heart open to receive wisdom in whatever form it appears. Guides and guardians from your personal traditions will help in your work. Gods, Orisha, Lwa, djinn, devas, faeries, and angels are some of the entities you may meet.
And the Secret Country is a living, breathing, growing place, where life goes on, even when you’re not actively paying attention. It has some qualities similar to the ‘mind palace’, or what one of the characters in John Crowley’s Little, Big, describes as a ‘memory house’, with this twist: “…the greatest practitioners of the old art discovered some odd things about their memory houses the longer they lived in them … it was discovered, for instance, that the symbolic figures with vivid expressions, once installed in their proper places, are subject to subtle change as they stand waiting to be called forth… also, as the memory house grows, it makes conjunctions and vistas that its builder can’t conceive of beforehand…”
The characters continue their own journeys, meet each other, make connections, and gain experience. They love and fight and make music and art, which you may choose to bring forth into the physical realm. You are the doorway to your own Secret Country, the point where the two realities intersect.
Most importantly, the Secret Country is a place where you learn to become a stronger, better person wherever you go. Understanding your value, facing your fears, connecting to your gods and spirits, and seeking knowledge, all help you to act more skillfully in all areas. Spending time in the wilderness inside of you gives you new respect for the planet you live on. When you bring all your experiences together, they provide a good foundation for a life lived in service to yourself and others.
Let your travels in the Secret Country be an inspiration to light a candle, write a letter, put your arms around a thing you love and protect it with all your fierce might…
From the forthcoming The Secret Country of Yourself: Discover the Powerful Magick of Your Endless Inner World by Yours Truly (to be released December 2017)