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The Laws of SpiritA Tale of Transformation
By Dan Millman
New World LibraryCopyright © 1995 Dan Millman
All right reserved.
IntroductionMEETING WITH A MOUNTAIN SAGE
We sit together, the mountain and I, until only the mountain remains.
- Li Po
Over the years, for health and enjoyment, I have oft hiked into the wilderness near my home? up the narrow deer trails and down forested hillsides covered with oak, pine, and manzanita - wandering as impulse has taken me along the mountains leading to the coast.
On one such occasion, some years ago, when my family was away for a long weekend, I rose before dawn and set out without a plan except to climb at leisure and explore new country. The mountains, no more than a few thousand feet high, still had enough rises and dips to hide any A sight of civilization, evoking a sense of mystery and wonder as I imagined myself a hundred miles from anywhere.
The rolling hills reflected the peaks and valleys of my own inner life. At the moment, I felt lost in a valley filled with shadows of doubt, My life had fallen into an orderly routine. So on this particular morning I took with me into the hills an unspoken desire for excitement, for insight, for change. I was soon to discover the truth of the saying "Be careful what you ask for; you might get it."
On this morning, low clouds had drifted in from the coast to settleover the wilderness, and after I had hiked up some distance I found myself in a fold between the hills, enveloped in a fog so thick I could see no more than a few feet ahead. The air became cold and still, and I soon lost any sense of direction. Hearing a stream somewhere below, I kept it behind me, thinking I might climb up out of this shrouded valley.
I soon came to a plateau nestled beneath some ancient oaks just above a steep drop? off. I had, quite by accident, approached the plateau from the only possible angle - a narrow path between a wall of boulders. As I climbed around one of the massive stones, the fog disappeared to reveal a tiny hut standing before me. I approached and tapped lightly on the door.
To my surprise, a resonant voice rang out with unexpected warmth, as if I were a long? awaited guest: "Do come in, Traveler, come in!" And so, wandering off the beaten path of my life, I opened the door and found the sage, sitting quietly, smiling up at me. For no reason I could discern, goose bumps appeared on my arms.
She sat with a feline grace, erect yet relaxed, balanced upon a cushion of leaves on the earthen floor. She was dressed in a green tunic. Maybe she thinks she's in Sherwood Forest, I thought.
Her eyes held my attention - almond eyes, hazel colored, illumined by rays of sunlight shining through a crack in the wall - eyes set like jewels in a face of smooth olive skin, crowned by short brown hair that gave no clear sign of her age, race, or culture. She seemed to be surrounded by a bright field of energy, which I assumed was a trick of the light.
I began to feel oddly disoriented. I lost my bearings in time as well as space: Was this a primeval ram' forest, a hillside in Shakespeare's England, the Scottish highlands, or a mountain abode of the Chinese immortals?
"A long time since I've had a visitor" she said. "I'm glad you have come, for I have much to share. And I need your assistance in a mission of great importance."
Was she lost? Did she need a guide? Puzzled but intrigued, I only said, "That sounds interesting."
"I believe you'll find it so," she replied. "But first you'll need some training - to prepare you."
"Prepare me? Uh, if this is going to take more than a couple of hours, I'm not sure I have the time."
"You have both less and more time than you imagine," she said - a strange response judging her odd but harmless, I decided to play along and see where this led. She gestured for me to sit down. "Make yourself comfortable, Traveler; I know why you have come and that you have journeyed far."
I was about to tell her that we were only an hour's hike from my home; then I sensed she was referring not to my morning's walk, but to the long and winding path of my life.
Abruptly, my mind was flooded with countless images, impressions of many different times and cultures. I had a strange sense that they were somehow connected with her. Then doubt entered my mind? Surely, I thought, she's just a reclusive woman and I'm weaving an adventure where there is none.
"Who are you?" I asked,
"A reflection in a quiet pond," she said. "A ray of moonlight on a dark night, as young as the morning dew and as old as the Earth. All things are in me, and I am in all things. Beyond that, Traveler, I cannot say, for my life is as mysterious as yours. The only difference between us is that I live in the embrace of a Spirit to which you are just awakening."
Speechless at first, I finally asked, "What should I call you? Do you have a name?"
"A name?" She looked genuinely surprised. "I've had so many names, I hardly remember."
"Well, what do you call yourself?"
"I hardly ever call myself," she replied with a smile. And that was that.
"Well, where do you come from?"
"I venture forth from the past and the future. I live in the eternal present. We've lost and found one another time and time again. I've worked with you in an old gas station and walked with you through the Hawaiian rain forest. I've lived in great cities. I've sat in high courts under arched domes lined with silver and gold. I've known the comforts of hearth and home and the solitude of the mountain monastery. I've labored in dusty fields, known the risk and riches of high enterprise, and felt the cold lash of poverty. I've walked beneath jeweled canopies of stars, through shadows cast by moonlight. I've traveled the seas, won and lost fortunes, known health and illness, pleasure and pain. And I have found treasures that would dazzle your eyes-luminescent silks, opals as large as fists, and sparkling gems of every color-but I would share with you the greatest treasure of all, a gift that grows in the giving and never loses its luster."
As she continued, her voice was the voice of All People, shifting like the wind, blowing through dusty hallways of history and places of radiant light. "Magic is alive in the world, Traveler. I intend to share with you the secrets of alchemy."
"Like turning lead into gold?"
She smiled. "Playing with minerals is a mere chemist's trick. The alchemy of which I speak can transmute the baser elements of your life - the fears, confusion, concerns, and difficulties you encounter - into the gold of freedom and clarity, serenity and joy. The laws of Spirit are the secrets 1 would share."
"You refer to `Spirit' - do you believe in God? Do you have a religion?" I asked.
She smiled. "You don't have to believe in the sun to delight in the warmth of the morning light. It is simply obvious. That is how I know God. And as to my religion," she continued, gazing into the distance as if remembering times past, "I've sat in the shining temples of the Israelites and under the glorious spires of the mosques of Islam; I've knelt in the great cathedrals and bathed in the light of Christendom; I've sat in the sweat lodges and passed the pipe, lived as a shaman on the African plains, meditated in Buddhist temples, and inhaled the sweet aroma of incense on the banks of the Ganges. And everywhere, I've found the same Spirit in all religions - a Divine Will that transcends time, belief, and culture - revealing the universal laws that are the treasure of God."
"Can you say more about these laws?" I asked.
"I intend to," she answered. "Within the mystery of life, the universe operates according to laws as real as the law of gravity. Woven into the fabric of existence, reflecting the primal intelligence of the universe, these laws of Spirit direct the mechanics of the universe - the movements of flowers reaching toward the sun and waves thundering to the shore. They govern the movement of the Earth, the cycle of seasons, and the forces of nature. To their songs, even the galaxies dance."
With a puff of smoke and a strange whooshing sound, a small pile of branches and twigs in a circle of stones between us ignited, as if the flames had lit themselves. "Merlin taught me that," she said, her eyes twinkling. Even in my present state of awe, a skeptical part of me thought, Well, maybe it's Merlin, and maybe it's lighter fluid!
Then as we watched a thin plume of smoke drift up through the hut's thatched roof, she resumed speaking: "The laws of Spirit point to the innate order and intelligence of the universe. They transcend concepts, customs, and beliefs. They form the basis of all human morality. Constant as the movement of the planets, they apply not only to the mechanics of nature, but to every aspect of existence. They can guide you through the shallows and reefs of your life the way the stars and compass guided ancient mariners on their course.
"Certain laws," she added, "have special relevance to the practical affairs of human life. The books and teachings of religion touch upon these great truths - simple, powerful principles for finding inner peace in a difficult world. Those who follow the laws prosper and find fulfillment; those who ignore or resist them meet consequences that instruct them on their journey of awakening, so they can one day find peace in the light of higher understanding."
"Where did you learn these laws?" I asked.
"They reside inside each of us as a vast storehouse of intuitive wisdom. And they are also revealed everywhere in the natural world." Then, standing swiftly and gracefully, she walked to the door and beckoned me to follow. "Come, Traveler; let the mountains be your classroom."
I resolved to remember whatever laws she might teach me - these "treasures" she referred to - in order to share them with my children, and perhaps with others who might be interested. But I hadn't begun to realize their full impact, power, and magic. Even so, I knew something unusual was afoot when I stepped through the doorway of the hut and found myself a stone's throw from a large, placid pond I had not seen before.
Excerpted from The Laws of Spirit by Dan Millman Copyright © 1995 by Dan Millman
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.