By Judith Dreyer
Virtually all native cultures that have survived without fouling their nests have acknowledged that nature knows best, and have had the humility to ask the bears and wolves and ravens and redwoods for guidance.
Janine Benyus, Biomimicry Institute
I wanted to know “the woods” more: to be in the forest and know how to move within the forest and meet creatures unafraid. As a woman, I feel vulnerable. How can I learn to take care of others and myself if need be with only the resources at hand? In my travels, I had heard of Tom Brown Jr.’s Tracking School. As an herbalist, I was especially interested in his knowledge of edible plants.
Through a series of synchronistic events and encounters I heard of a wilderness school in Maine run by one of Tom Brown Jr.’s students. I spent one day at one of his awareness workshops and enjoyed it so I decided to enroll in the Basic Skills week held that spring. It involved sleeping in a tipi and practicing many skills in preparation for two days of hiking and camping out under the stars in the deep forests of central Maine.
Living so close to the land each day, in respect and love for the earth, heightened my senses. I had glimpses here and there of walking in two worlds – the physical and the world of spirit. The colors of spring were intensified. The air of spring was cool and clarifying. We followed the tracks of deer and moose. I felt our connection to all living things in my bones. And I dreamed.
When I returned home I found it difficult to be indoors. I was also exhausted. While it was a terrific experience, the new sights and sounds of the forest had kept me awake and that week had taken its toll on me physically. I needed to rest and replenish myself. Once home, when I found myself in the woods, I took every chance I had to practice seeing with soft eyes and staying grounded.
I am a dreamer. In the aboriginal sense, everything is part of the Dreamtime. There is no separation. In the Mohawk tradition, for example, you follow the energy of the dream – if you dream of getting a massage you go out and get a massage in the waking state. It is this understanding of no separation that I try to bring into my everyday life. Shortly after I returned from the Basic Skills week, I had a dream. I teach dream work and I followed the process that I use. As soon as I woke up, I recorded the dream:
The Dream: I had a sense of being with the head instructor from the wilderness school. We were working on a more difficult tracking exercise, at least for me. As I looked into the forest clearing I saw deer that shifted into a group of people – several men and one woman – doing a specific toe walk. They would put the ball of the foot down and then lift the heel quickly and gently from the ground. They were wearing moccasins. The woman was dressed like a dancer wearing black leotards with a black skirt and her hair was up in a bun like a ballerina. Men surrounded her on three sides. They did this walk in unison. I “felt” as if I was given a message and a gift by the deer people. They were showing me a specific walk that would help to camouflage a group walking in the woods if everyone did this together.
How did I feel when I woke up?: I felt elated, light-hearted, and I thought seeing deer shift into human form was pretty cool.
Reality Check: I did not know this form of walking in the woods. I did not experience any contact with deer when I went for a walk during the day.
Action: I wrote to the Wilderness School for verification. I was told that yes, in fact, there is a deer walk used in stalking and tracking in the forest. I was encouraged to practice the walk as given to me in the dream.
About a week later I found myself on a local trail. This little preserve is a place I had not visited recently. The main trail leads you away from a small pond into a wooded area that meets up with a stream. I found the rushing water of the stream soothing and decided to sit on a stump to listen. This gray, early spring day was overcast and chilly. Suddenly I caught sight of two deer. They bolted out of a dense thicket 100 to 200 feet away and began to run in a circle around me. They did this two or three times. Surprised and in awe of these beautiful creatures, I willed myself to sit very still, to become part of the pattern of the woods, and to observe. Then one of the deer stopped about fifty feet away. She looked around. Eventually she bobbed her head as she pawed the ground. As she bobbed her head, I blinked my eyes and in my heart, I silently told her that I was here as her sister. I came to “do no harm” as my elders often advised. My eyes were the only part of me that moved. Did she have a message?
I sensed she knew I was not part of the normal pattern of these woods. She turned. I saw her flanks quivering as if she was nervous or stressed. Then, she took deep breaths and let the air out with force from her nostrils. The sound was similar to a horse only there was no whinny. As I watched her leave, I had the sense she was showing me a useful breathing technique.
That spring, as I moved deeply into exploring the forest, I experienced a shift in my energy. Some know it as Kundalini. All I can say is that it was beautifully inspiring, very powerful, and it affected my heart chakra. I felt that somehow, here in these woods. I had received a gift from this creature. She showed me an effective breathing technique to relieve pressure I could feel in my heart if I was anxious. I tried it and followed this pattern over the next few days along with the walking step from the dream. I began to feel stronger. It was not easy handling the Kundalini power surge.
These two events occurred within a week of each other. Both contained messages from the deer. Both helped restore my health and energy. Both were wonderful gifts that came from connecting with the deer – one in the dreaming state, the other in the forest. Neither from books. The Dreamtime is all-inclusive. All of our experiences contribute to our deep knowing. We are not separate from Nature so if and when we pay attention, she offers us solutions and inspiration.
Later on, in the fall of that year, I attended a workshop for dreamers given by a dream shaman. One of the participants was a member of an ensemble that performed a deer dance that dates back to the 1100s in Europe. It’s enacted by a group of men acting as the deer. They walk using the ball of the foot and gently lifting their heels. There is only one woman involved.
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Judith Dreyer, BSN, RN, MS, received degrees in Nursing and Nutrition Science. She has taught at Western State Connecticut State University and focuses on holistic health including Western-based herbalism.
She is the author of AT THE GARDEN GATE.
Her website, podcast (Holistic Nature of Us), and blog are at www.judithdreyer.com
Her e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org
(copyright Judith Dreyer 2019)