Bowing At the Thresholds

Salt Spring Island Teepee by Ian Mackenzie

I’m not sure how common it is to sleep in a teepee.  If you’ve ever had the opportunity, you may have already heard about thresholds.  I learned this by becoming a student at the Orphan Wisdom School in the Ottawa Valley.  I’m telling you about it because I think the oldest cultures on our planet hold the stories and teachings for how we in modern times can make the most of our intelligence and gifts.

It was unclear how many others were there already asleep because I arrived in the dark.  However many were there, few stirred with the night as cold as it was.  Once I lay down and felt the semi-frosted earth, I thought surely the quiet must be from everyone clinging closely to it, hoping not to lose any accrued heat.  After shuddering through a half-sleep, I peered out of my bag, which now in the light I could see I must have covered with every garment of clothing I had brought.  Five or six lay sleeping around me.  Then, out of one sleepy eye, I looked just in time to see a prayerful image.  A young woman, undoubtedly one of my teepee mates who must have gone out to pee,  knelt stooped under the flap of the teepee’s doorway, her head lowered to the earth.  After a moment she arose and returned to her spot on the ground near me.  Later, I saw the same young woman pause before entering another structure, the Ger, a polygonal dome nomadic Mongolians and Siberians live in.  Again she knelt, only this time, she added a loving caress and gente kiss to the single board that marked its threshold.  Somehow her loving gesture did not seem out of place.  It looked natural although I had never seen it done.Screen shot 2014-03-11 at 12.25.20 PM

Raised in my Jewish ancestry, I had seen many touch and kiss mezuzot, talismans that mark doorways of a house, and in orthodox homes, every room.  With secular beginnings, I had never had the mystical reasons for this ritual described to me, but as often happens in Indigenous teachings, the roots to Judeo-Christian customs are often uncovered.

It was later that day when someone said, “touching one’s brow to the threshold says, “I know that this shelter, womb, and inner sanctum once and continually again births me.  That although I steward what I am given, I know I am on the receiving end of my life, my abilities, and my circumstances.”” Bowing says, “I know I have crossed from that world into this one, that this doorway, fashioned from the life that brought me here, despite all my forgetting to bow, remembers me and continues to birth me, my people, this place, and our lives. I’m remembering you remembering me.” I had never thought of it this way, but wow, yes.

After performing the gesture several times, and feeling the relief at having permission to physically acknowledge my privilege, I got to thinking: There are physical thresholds, tangible ones we see and walk over, and there are temporal ones, marked by the steps of our unfolding.  The temporal are no less palpable.

Thresholds create the fulcrum around which our internal state changes, around which we evolve, and get initiated. Sometimes you only notice you have crossed the blessed plank once you have already committed to your next birth, evolution, or initiation.  Not having remembered agreeing to the crossing, you may only realize it’s happened after the door has already closed behind you.

The call may innocently start as the urge to act, write, dance, poeticize, sing, plan a business, or listen to a voice that’s begged you to let it surface, often years old.  These beginnings seem to rise up out of the invisible, while simultaneously piercing the membranous bubble of your better judgement, your routine, and your knowns and assumptions.  

You’ve somehow said “yes” to your side of the call and response, one you didn’t even realize you were hearing, only to be the last to know.  Then as you’re coming to, there it is in front of you, the covenant that’s moulded between you and that which has come for you.

Kneeling Woman With Sunflowers- Diego RiveraSo, whether you’ve crossed through or over and whether it’s come because you’ve grown the capacity, or simply because you too have decided there are no more good reasons to wait, because of the crossing’s rarity and definitely because of its poignancy, you’re brought to your knees. Your bow is not a ritual gesture, but a rightful buckling, one earned by your willingness to see.

There haven’t been many in my years, these gorgeous captures, where the Universe stalked my best intentions, luring me in the better direction only to pull off it’s cloaking devices at the last second to say, “it’s me, and I’ve got you in my crosshairs”.  The shortlist would include: detecting my vocation, finally saying “yes” to my man, the right man, hearing the words that would later become my book…truly, there aren’t many.

As I count down the weeks until the release of my book, The Secret Life of Babies, the culmination of one of these “captures”, I count the number of thresholds I was carried across and the number of times I unknowingly said, “yes”.   I bow to touch the invisible woods of my temporal doorways, and the summer days years ago that witnessed the book’s beginnings, and the trails my dog and I ran along every morning who patiently whispered “you must”, and to the filtered light and fig tree outside my window who seemed to dote on every word when I could not.

To all your urges, to every door that chooses to witness your possibility, to your faith to listen, to agree, to form the covenant with the unseen pressing at your back.  May you be taken by your precious offering, and the great breath who breathes us all.

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