Walking the White Rhino Trail is an experience! Our group of five adventurers left the kombi and the base camp behind and, heavily laden with backpacks, food and sleeping gear put our safety in the hands of our two Zulu guides, Mandla and Jabulani. After scrambling downhill for five minutes we took off our shoes and waded through a muddy White Umfolozi, where crocodiles abound. Although Mandla guided us through the shallow part of the river we nevertheless felt uneasy. We also had no idea that our able guides forgot to pack the soap and the coffee and that we had one toilet roll between the seven of us for five days in the wilderness.
The wilderness for me meant sitting high on the rocks overlooking the Black Umfolozi and watching a herd of more than 200 elephants, playing and cavorting in the river as they leisurely crossed to the other side. It meant stories around the campfire in the evenings or during our tea (alas no coffee) breaks during the day hikes through the bush. One of the stories that particularly struck me was that of the 'wag ‘n bietjie bos” and its significance in the Zulu culture. The bush in question has two thorns, the one straight and the other hooked, and is notorious for its stopping power especially if one is in a hurry and gets hooked properly - disentangling its grip takes a while! The Nguni people call this thorn bush the tree of life; its scientific name is ziziphus mucronata. In the Zulu tradition a branch of this bush is used to take the spirit of a dead person back to its home so it can rest in peace. The family member must take a branch to where the person died, hook the spirit with the curly thorn and then take it home with it. If this involves a voyage by plane, by train or taxi, the family member must buy a seat for the spirit next to him/her and put the branch on the empty seat. If this is not done then, according to Zulu folklore, ill luck will follow the person and the spirit will not rest in peace.
One of the necessary ingredients of being a part of this School in the Wilderness experience in Kwazulu Natal is being on watch at night to protect your fellow hikers from the wild animals which are prowling around. As there were five of us trailists, we each had to stand watch for an hour and a half every night. I was the first one on watch the first night out, at a relatively early hour in the evening but it did mean that by the fourth night I was awakened - from a hard and uncomfortable bed on rocks - at two o’clock. One had to watch that the fire didn’t go out as well as walk about every five minutes with a torch to look for interlopers to the campsite. It is during these 'dark” hours that the mind can play a lot of games. On the third night keeping watch I was about to waken Mandla (both our guides carried guns) at his sleeping spot about 10 meters from the fire after the second mighty roar by the king of the animals (that sounded about 50 metre s away), when he turned over and said: 'Don’t worry, he is just greeting his brother. They are about a kilometer away”. Every creaking twig serves to unnerve you in the darkness of the enveloping bush. I have no idea what we would have done had a herd of those big elephants decided to visit our campsite on the rocky edge of the gorge!
On his tape entitled 'Fear, Anxiety and Worry”, which is part of his Office Tape series, Dr David Hawkins shares his technique of dealing with fear. He says: Do not resist the fear, be like a willow tree, bend with the wind; surrender. He illustrates this by telling of his encounter with a rattlesnake while hiking up in the mountains of Sedona in Arizona where he lives. He opened the door of a mountain hut and there was this huge rattlesnake, poised to strike at the intruder. He knew he had split seconds to save his life and instead of reacting in fear, he used his knowledge and completely surrendered to the moment, feeling an incredible peace over come him; he felt as if an invisible Presence presided over him and the rattlesnake - as if they were one. He said the energy field around them must have been near to 600 (the level of Enlightenment) and he could feel the Presence of the Divine in this togetherness with the rattlesnake. Nothing happened; both he and the rattlesnake were caught in this peaceful non-threatening state. If he had reacted in fear, the rattlesnake would have certainly struck him.
Most of us think that by being fearful and watchful and protecting us against that which we fear, we will avoid that which we are fearful of. On the contrary, it does not help to fear, it actually hinders. An energy field of anxiety, which is very low on the scale of consciousness (Fear calibrates at 100 whereas Love, its direct opposite, calibrates at 500), in reality attracts the very thing that one fears. Many of us are also governed by fear when it comes to relationship issues. We take refuge in our head and come up with the most wonderful illusions and reasons why we should not surrender to the field of Love. We are scared to open our hearts because we fear pain, we fear rejection. But it is only when our hearts are open that we can truly give the gift of intimacy, only then that we can be truly vulnerable and grow in love. Grace, an aspect of the unfathomable intelligence of the universe, can also only be bestowed on us when our hearts are open.
The truth is that everyone needs our love. By giving with an open heart we keep the abundance of universal love circulating in our own lives. This higher and beneficial energy field acts as an attractor pattern and it drives way all remnants of fear. Instead of listening to the illusions and wrong perceptions of our past, we can truly overcome fear by love. The mind needs to be stilled, the heart needs to talk and heal itself so that nothing prevents us from loving and living in the heart. Fear stifles us, it keeps us from experiencing the fullness and abundance of life lived in the divine light. That what makes you feel alive, do that - the world is in need of people who are alive, who live and love effortlessly. President Theodore Roosevelt once used this analogy in a speech: If you have a piece of string you cannot make it go forward by pushing it, by using force; it just crumples up. But if you draw it, it follows where your hand is leading. Each one of us has this mission, to act as an attractor pattern, to create an energy field of love and joy, to shift the consciousness of our current reality from one where we are brainwashed to fear almost everything to one where we are fearless and drawn to the Light.
I come back to the thorns of the 'wag n bietjie bos”. The grip of the bush is less if one does not move too fast. By taking time to smell the roses, to enjoy what has been given to us from the beginning and not to run after that what society dictates, will bring us closer to our natural state; that of perfect peace. The radiance of Creation all around us will then shine forth in all its beauty and the thorns of fear will be unable to hook us. It is not what we have, or what we do; it is simply who we are. After five days in the bush, with no soap or shampoo, dirty and tired, it was only the essence of each one of us that shone through. The rest was really immaterial.
My thoughts are summarized in the story of the old Cherokee Indian who was teaching his grandson about life: 'In each of us there is a fight going on inside of us. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. The one wolf is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self pity, false pride and ego. The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, generosity, compassion and honesty. This same fight is going on inside of you and inside every other person too”. The boy thought about this for a minute and then he asked his granddad: 'Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee smiled and replied: 'The one you feed”.
This article has been published in Kindred Spirit, November/December Issue 2006, page 26-28 (the UK's leading magazine on Mind, Body and Spirit matters).
This article was also published on the Odyssey E-zine, April 2007.