“What the heart has once owned, it shall never lose.”
– Henry Ward Beecher
If you are in receipt of my previous newsletters,, you know that I’m back from leading my Scottish Highlands & Islands Odyssey and my fellow ‘Odyssey-ites’ (sixteen) and I had the most wonderfilled, magical, transformative time, ever!
Whenever I talk about the experience, people respond with a deep sigh and say, “I wish I could have been there.”
Therefore, I decided to share my day-to-day Odyssey experiences with you through a series of newsletters. Every few days, I’ll post an account with photos of our amazing adventure. Please click on the link below to visit my website if you would like to view any content that you may have missed, and please feel free to email me any questions or comments.
Lots of Joy,
October 3-11, 2014
Scottish Highlands and Islands Odyssey
(Odyssey– a spiritual quest of self-discovery; a journey home)
Wednesday, October 8th – Day 5, With a Little Help…
After witnessing a sunrise as beautiful as the previous evening’s sunset, we continued our journey to a destination that countless pilgrims had taken before us– the sacred Hebridean Isle of Iona. With great anticipation, we speculated on what we’d experience/encounter on the legendary Iona. Described by the ancient Celts as the ‘thin place,’ the place where the veil between Heaven and Earth is lifted and where mortals might catch a glimpse of the Divine, this is where our transformation ceremony would take place.
In 563 A.D., an Irish abbot and missionary who would later become known as Saint Columba, was forced to leave Ireland for political/religious reasons. He sailed to Iona and is credited with spreading Christianity in Scotland by founding the Iona Abbey which became a dominant religious and political institution in the country for many centuries.
Iona is where major feminine/masculine ley lines meet and where the energies of pre-Christian wisdom and Christian devotion merge to create an atmosphere of sublimely transcendent at-one-ness with the Divine.
I was especially excited because, in addition to visiting the isle’s ancient nunnery and Abbey, we were going to climb Dun I, the highest hill on the island. Just below the summit of Dun I lay the sacred natural well of Saint Bride (Brigid), or, as it is otherwise known, the ‘Well of Eternal Youth.’
At the Well, it is said that God meets you and takes from you the burdens that you carry and leads you to a new beginning touched by forgiveness and renewal as the weight of lifetimes is lifted from your shoulders, so that at long last, you will know the power and joy of freedom.
With Saint Bride’s permission, I intended to drink from the sacred well and take some of the blessed water home with me. I shared my plans with everyone and encouraged them to do the same.
Like countless number of pilgrims before us, we traveled the route from Oban by ferry to the Isle of Mull and then took a scenic but somewhat dizzying one hour drive across the beautiful Isle of Mull to just make it in time to catch another ferry for the ten minute crossing to Iona.
It was a beautiful warm, sunny day. As the ferry approached Iona, we got our first glimpse of the Abbey and our hearts and spirits soared as we felt Iona’s strong, serene energy welcoming us ‘home.’ Back on land again, we were met by the hotel’s concierge who drove our luggage to the hotel while we enjoyed a fantastic seafood lunch.
On the ten minute walk to the hotel, we stopped at the ruins of the nunnery and marveled at the energetic power of one of the few original Celtic crosses on the island. (When a couple of people tried to photograph it, it didn’t show up in the picture. The background did, but not the cross!) A few of us were able to get a photo of it, though.
After checking into our hotel, we set off on a tour of the Abbey. There aren’t words that can accurately describe the profoundly moving experience of being in the Abbey. It was so ethereal that we fully expected a host of angels to descend and escort us to the heavens. Spontaneous tears of Grace and gratitude rolled down our cheeks when we heard the sounds of the otherworldly song of the soul in the form of a melodic hum. “Do you hear that?” “Where’s it coming from?” we asked each other as we nervously looked around for the source of the music.
We knew it wasn’t a recording– it was too rich and moving to be anything but an in-the-now experience. And then our Pam, who’d been sitting in the Abbey’s nave, lifted her head and with eyes filled with the light of God, added words to the tune she’d been humming. We were all stunned! I’ve never felt anything like that before. In that moment I knew what the Divine ‘looked’ like– Pam singing and our hearts and souls returned to their pure state by the sound of her voice.
Then several others, including Louise, Maria and Jan sat with her and sang “Amazing Grace,” and that being my favorite spiritual, I just stood there and wept tears of joy! This was not only one of my favorite moments on the Odyssey; it
was one of my favorite moments in life. Prasad, indeed!
Later, after a visit to the gift shop, we headed for Dun I and St. Bride’s sacred well. The hill was beautiful with grazing sheep scattered all about it. Though the descriptions I’d read referred to the climb as a moderately strenuous one, I wasn’t that fazed because, although hiking the hills isn’t my go-to activity, when I set my mind to it– I do it well. Knowing that I was wearing my Merrell’s and that I’ve scampered up steeper and rockier hills in flip-flops, I began my ascent.
About a third of the way up, the experience of the hill and the climb pulled unbidden utterances addressed to a Divine being from me. Unbidden utterances like, “God– what was I thinking!?” and “Dear Lord, why is this so hard!?” among them. I was practically on my hands and knees as I inelegantly struggled with this so called ‘moderately strenuous’ climb. It was wet, slippery and secure footholds were hard to come by. I wanted to quit. I wanted to not be there almost as much as I wanted to get to the top. I wasn’t the only one struggling but I was certainly a great example of the embodiment of determination, fear, desire and regret. And I wasn’t quiet about it, either.
It was at this point that James, who was ahead of me, turned and asked me if I’d like some help. One of the reasons I love James is because he doesn’t make a big fuss– he just extends his hand. Which I gratefully grabbed on to. The good hearted, elegant, ever beautiful Heather took my tote bag and continued to scamper up the hill. At one point she wondered aloud about the wisdom of wearing her smooth soled designer boots for such a climb. She never stumbled, though.Throughout it all, in her designer boots, fashionable capelet and with her stylish hand bag held in the crook of her arm, she did what I wished I could do– she gracefully ascended that hill like she was out for a stroll along the Champs-Élysées.
But not without a comment or two, like her oh-so-true statement, “You know what this means, don’t you, Sheilaa– be clear in your intentions!” As I hurled a few F-bombs her way, I had to laugh at myself and the situation. It was both funny and memorable. When James later asked me what the meaning of my struggle was, I heard in my head, Paul McCartney sing, “With a Little Help From My Friends.” After which I heard that cool voice of the Devine once again say to me, “You see, Sheilaa, I told you I’d always take care of you.”
As a very independent person, I sometimes forget to let people help me. Talk about an unforgettable living lesson! Finally, with the combined help of my friends, James, Heather, Jan and God, I made it to the top.
Once there, James wanted to leave my bag on a table-like rock, and I protested, telling him, “I don’t want to do that because some sheep might come along and take it.” Julie A. asked, “Why would a sheep want a Ralph Lauren tote bag?” and I quipped, “Maybe to save itself a trip to the mall!” We all laughed, I relented, James put the purse on the rock and we went off to explore the summit and search out the well.
Oh my! The view from the top of Dun I is more proof that God does, indeed, have good days! The summit of Dun I is Iona’s highest point and you can see the whole of the island from it, and on a clear day, such as today, you could also see the Hebridean islands of Tiree, Coll, Rhum, Eigg and Skye. And on a really clear day, it’s said that you can even see Ireland to the south!
Here, at the summit, you get to experience having a fresh visual and spiritual perspective on life. Although I intend to return to Iona, I took it all in knowing that this would be the only time I’d ever have the opportunity to see it this way. As much as I loved being there, the price was way too high for me to ever make that climb again!
The actual location of the well wasn’t immediately apparent, but thanks to Amanda’s climbing skills and unflagging spirit of adventure, it only took us a few minutes to find it. It’s a beautiful little pool and just looking at it you could feel the blessings of renewal that the waters carry. I knew that this was the spot to hold our final ceremony so that we could each release all of the pain and constrictions of our past.
My guided meditations were in my tote and James went to get it for me. Even though he had some difficulty locating my purse, he eventually returned with it and we all gathered around the sacred well for the ceremony. Linda D. had thought to bring her drum and, as I spoke the words of the healing, releasing, renewal guided meditation, she kept time with a rhythmically (and I know channeled) matched beat. As I spoke, I looked at the Odyssey-ites gathered at the top of this sacred hill and I looked out over the seas at the beautiful calm waters and the islands in the distance and it was all I could do to stay in my body and not allow my soul to ‘fly off’ on the slight breeze that came up and carried away our old, outmoded belief systems, blocks and limitations that had held us prisoner for so long. I attribute much of my ability to remain grounded and focused as I conducted the ceremony to the power of Pam’s and Linda P.’s prayers as they held the space for us back at the hotel.
At the conclusion of the guided meditation, I sat down and the comedic and practical sides of myself announced as I put the guided meditation away and retrieved from my purse the empty water bottle and the towel I’d brought with me, “Now, it’s time to get the other thing I came up here for!” and I got up and headed for the pool of water. Everyone laughed, took their bottles out and began filling them, too.
Nicky knelt down and splashed the pool’s water on her face, only half joking that since it was the Well of Eternal Youth, she was assuring herself of a youthful appearance forever!
Although my original intention before I’d scaled the peak had been to drink the water, the sight of the brown (think weak tea) water convinced me that I’d be better off using it to anoint my chakra points, instead. I shared this with the others and they were all in complete agreement.
That is, all except Les, who held his full bottle up and declared, “It’s nae but water with a little peat in it!” and then to the expressed horror of the rest of us– he drank it! Even Nicky was shocked. We stood and stared at him for a few minutes and when he didn’t froth at the mouth, break out in lesions or thrash about on the ground, we felt reasonably certain that he’d probably make it down the hill and back to the hotel OK.
The sun was beginning to set and we hurriedly began our descent. To the dismay of Les, we chose a different route down. He kept telling us that the way we’d come up was the more direct route down. Our response to him was that we needed an easier, gentler way down and we didn’t care how long it took. Though we had a somewhat easier time getting down Dun I than going up, it was still an ‘interesting’ experience for all.
Once on the ground again, Julie H. and I spotted the small film crew we’d seen earlier on Mull. We wondered what they were filming and she confessed that she’d fantasized that it was a Liam Neeson movie they were shooting. I looked at her with a new appreciation– Liam Neeson, huh? I always knew we were kindred spirits but that admission proved that she’s truly a girl after my own heart!
After a superb dinner, we gathered in the hotel’s lovely lounge area and held a ‘de-briefing’ on our phenomenal day and journey. We shared our perspectives and spoke of the new lightness we felt and of our happy anticipations for the future. We again checked out the astrological synestry between Scotland and ourselves as well as Les and Nicky’s individual charts. I spoke about the meaning of our being on Iona on this particular full moon with an eclipse and about the meaning and power of such an occasion.
The full moon is the fullness of life’s expression and experience, especially on an emotional or spiritual level– a lot like a liquid filled bowl. A full moon eclipse (lunar eclipse) brings an opportunity to end or get rid of the old, outmoded, unnecessary elements in life– a lot like emptying a liquid filled bowl. What we had done was fulfill the promise of the Odyssey by being on this sacred Isle at the full moon and emptying that bowl that had once contained our pains, fears, harmful beliefs and negative past experiences. We’d freed ourselves of the hold the past had on us and could now decide on the lives we wanted from a purely positive and life affirming perspective.
We rightfully congratulated ourselves on a job well done and Linda P. took a photo of the full moon that literally brought the brilliant orb into the room with us! We loved being in that moment and all it symbolized and promised! And we really loved being on Iona and wished we could have stayed longer.
Knowing we had to be up early to get the ferries back to the mainland, most of the Odyssey-ites retired to their rooms for the night. James, Julie A. and I couldn’t, though. Not just yet, anyway. They went outside to stand on the hotel’s beautiful lawn in the moonlight and I joined them after retrieving my cloak from my room.
I made my way through the quiet hotel and out onto the lawn. As I approached them, Julie urged James with, “Tell her James, tell her what happened on Dun I!” Before he could say anything, Julie A. said to me, “Remember what you said about the sheep? You were right!” I turned to James and with an expectant tone in my voice, said, “Well?” He laughed nervously before he spoke, “Remember when I went to look for your bag on Dun I and I couldn’t find it? When I went back to the rock I’d put it on, I didn’t see it. All I saw was a ram lying on the rock. That’s when I turned my head and yelled to you that I couldn’t find it and you told me to keep looking because it had to be there. I turned and looked again, but still didn’t see your purse, only the ram was there. I called out again that I didn’t see your purse and you again told me to keep looking. The third time I turned my head toward the rock, the ram was gone and there was your tote bag, setting upright with the handles straight up! That’s why I had that strange look on my face when I brought it back to you.” Julie A., James and I all looked at each other in complete understanding (and amazement)– a sheep had taken my purse, only not the way I’d thought it might– my purse had shape-shifted into a sheep and back again!
Right about then, a movement in the sky caught my attention. At first I thought it was another big brilliant star, but then I realized that there were two stars and the brilliance I noticed actually came from each of the ‘stars’ signaling each other! Having witnessed this type of activity before in Sedona, Avebury, Stonehenge and Kauai, I knew we were meant to notice these particular ‘stars.’ I pointed them out to James and through communication with him, the beings on board the ‘stars’ gave him a message of peace and protection for all of us.
By then, Les had joined us and told us that to the east, west, north and south of us, there’d been intensely stormy weather that day. He also mentioned that it had been forecast that Iona would be just as storm bedeviled as her neighbors, but for some reason that the meteorologists couldn’t figure out, Iona was spared. He wondered aloud how that had come about. Julie A. smiled and looked at him and said, “Les, you’ve spent a week with us. Are you really that surprised that we’ve had such good weather today?”
Ahh– just another Wednesday night on the Isle of Iona! And with that thought, I bid the three of them goodnight and went up to my room and went to bed.
Hear ‘Amazing Grace’ by Aretha Franklin
Hear ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’ by Paul McCartney –
Thursday, October 9th – Day 6, Auld lang syne…