(to hear a song by Erik Balkey based on this vision, click here).
I found myself walking down a steep trail into a valley. The going was very rough, and I was concentrating solely on keeping each foot placed securely ahead of the first on the slippery ground. As I walked, I noticed the tougher the going, the tenser I felt. The muscles of my legs, shoulders, and neck ached with the accumulated stress of holding myself stiffly, afraid I would fall. I looked at the landscape and could see nothing but barren slope leading to a desert-like valley below me. Forbidding dark clouds closed in above me. It was very clear to me it would be impossible to return the way I had come down, but the way forward was little more inviting. I was suddenly aware I had entered the valley of the shadow of death, and I was afraid.
I stopped on the path in the most secure place I could find, stretched and looked around. It then seemed I had reached the flat plane of the valley. I could see a multitude of gray shadows of others, plodding and struggling through the valley. Many of them walked as if they were very heavily burdened, although no one was actually carrying or dragging anything I could see. I thought, "What a hopeless, loveless existence," but could think of no alternative. With a sigh, I continued plodding along. As I walked, I lost sight of the others. Each step became more and more difficult. I began to feel as though I were pulling a heavier and heavier weight behind me. I felt compelled to go on pulling, but it was clear I had no valid reason to continue. Still, I persevered. Finally the weight got just too heavy and I fell.
My first inclination was to struggle back to my feet and continue somehow. But deep in my being, I suddenly heard the shouted command, "STOP!" I just stopped struggling then, and allowed myself to drop to the ground. I could hear a voice instructing me to relax.
"Relax the tension around your eyes, and allow your eyes to close. Let the muscles in your cheeks melt into peace. Let your scalp and the back of your neck just let go. Breathe deeply and allow your breath to relax your shoulders, back, and chest as you exhale. Let your arms and hands fall limp. Let your hips, pelvis, thighs, calves, and feet become one with the ground. Allow yourself to rest here."
I don't know how long I slept. Sometime later, I heard the same melodious voice whisper, "Now just look up." I opened my eyes and was blinded by a light so bright I had to blink away my tears before I could focus. The steep walls of the valley were covered with jewels glistening in the sunshine like the stained glass windows of a magnificent cathedral. Deep cuts in the walls showed lush, verdant gardens with great stands of trees and gorgeous flowers. This was easily the richest, most abundant place I had ever been. I turned my attention to the valley floor and saw it, too, was rich and prosperous with life. Beautiful, sleek, healthy animals played near streams of clear, musically running water. Food grew at hand and nothing was lacking. Light beings moved gracefully through the valley, stopping here and there to rest, laugh, and play. I had gone to sleep in hell, and had woken up in heaven!
I looked up again at the hillsides, so lustrous and bright. I felt dazzled and thankful for my deliverance.
"It's incredible, isn't it?"
I turned and saw one of the light beings reclining beside me in the grass. I asked where I was.
"Where you have always been," he replied. He directed me to look outward across the valley again. This time I could see the gray shadows of the multitudes moving haltingly through the rich landscape. Each was dragging an invisible load. Each was seeing only the next gray step of the shadow he was casting on the garden. I started to jump up to tell them where they were, but the light being restrained me.
"I'm afraid it doesn't work that way," he said with compassion.
Later he said, "Now there is someone we may be able to help."
He started moving quickly away from me. I followed, noticing I, too, was skimming lightly over the ground, never quite touching it. With astonishment, I looked down and discovered I was a light being myself. He laughed.
We halted beside the barely discernible gray shadow who had collapsed on the ground. A cold chill settled over me as the sun suddenly disappeared and the clouds gathered. As the shadow struggled to get up, I heard my friend say softly, but commandingly, "STOP!"
The shadow seemed to hear, and allowed himself to drop back to the ground. The light being began reciting the relaxation instructions. As the shadow closed his eyes and started to relax, the sun came back out and seemed to shine brighter and brighter. Finally, the clouds disappeared entirely. I could see the shadow had become another light being. I heard my friend issue the final instruction, "Look up!" and the former shadow became as dazzled as I had been by the beauty and richness of the valley. We all played together and rejoiced for awhile.
Finally, my mentor took me aside and told me it was time for me to try to help on my own. I wandered blissfully though the valley, determined to help the first shadow I saw fall. I saw a woman stumble, and flew to her side. As I reached her, the clouds had come in again and I was very cold.
I shouted, "STOP!" She was not ready to hear.
She forced herself up and tried once again to pull her heavy burden. I tried to help her, but I realized she couldn't see me. I didn't have the strength or the will to help her pull the invisible load. I found myself unable to see her then, and continued walking. I put one heavier step in front of another, feeling hopeless and abandoned.
Time passed. Each moment got more difficult. With a sense of gray relief, I fell to the ground. As I fell, a voice within me whispered, "STOP!" I recognized a warm feeling of relaxation spreading from my face to my scalp to my shoulders, and all the way down my body. As my feet warmed, I opened my eyes and looked up. I was again dazzled, but this time the brilliance was familiar, and I knew I had come home.
When I turned and looked, my mentor was smiling at me. He gave me a hug.
"I'm glad you're back," he said. "The whole valley was saddened when your light dimmed. But you come back quicker each time it happens, because you remember yourself to stop, relax, and look up when you fall the first time."
"Why don't we just stay here once we get here?," I asked, confused.
He smiled, and said, "Our valley is not complete until everyone's light shines as brightly as possible. You can try to stay here and play without helping others, but as each helper light goes dim, you will find yours diminished. You will only be able to brighten it by helping a shadow to the light. You would last for awhile, but eventually your light would be too dim to sustain you. You'd go back to the shadow. And you'd have forgotten how to help yourself when you fell."
I asked him, "The only way to stay here is to help others relax into the light?"
"Yes," he answered.
"And the only lesson you need is stop, relax, and look up."
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Copyright 2000 Connee Chandler
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