In the early 90’s I was a yoga teacher, a house sitter, and a tour guide. It was a continuing evolution of trust and creative expression. Today I share a story from my experience as a tour guide. I learned how to do this by attending a professional school that did its training in the Beverly Hills hotel. It was actually quite a reasonable cost. Ted and Bill (not kidding) ran the institute known as ITMI. They were great, learned a lot, and began working part-time for a Santa Fe based company.
I had met a man on a group tour who returned the next year with his wife for a private tour. He was very conservative working as a regent at a Christian University in Texas. His wife was a bit younger and had requested a very special tour. She wanted a spiritual experience. After all, I was a yogi who both looked (turban & beard) and spoke a spiritual language. It seemed like an interesting challenge.
In truth, delivering a spiritual experience seemed like trying to deliver a rainbow. If it is raining, one might have an idea of where to look, but this is not a guarantee of success. Fortunately had an idea of where to look.
I very much enjoyed the Pueblos (southwest Indian villages), the many sacred sites, and the extraordinary beauty of northern New Mexico. Putting these three ingredients together seemed like a worthy beginning. I took them to San Ildesfonso Pueblo with amazing trees, traditional buildings, and famous artists including Maria Martinez known for her black pottery. It was a great beginning but a long way from a spiritual experience.
Next, we went to a sacred site called Tsankawi. Many amazing places of beauty, ruins, petroglyphs (ancient carvings in rock), and nature. The three of us walked around, sometimes sitting in a spot to feel the energy. I invited them both to join me in some chanting. She got into it but her husband held back. It was a noble effort, but nothing really happened close to a spiritual experience.
Then we went to Puye Cliff Dwellings. (the place where the rabbits run) It is a remarkable example of ancient cliff dwellings. One can get a sense of history, proportion, and possibilities climbing into the caves to look out onto the land below. No spiritual experience here. Above the cliff dwelling on top of this mesa (flat-topped mountain), hundreds of crumbling stone walls reveal where a small village once stood. At the edge of the ruins sits a Kiva, a ceremonial room built half below ground and half above ground and only accessible through a ladder in the roof.
The three of us climbed down the ladder, like entering a primitive cave. I had been in this special space many times and always enjoyed the feeling, but could this feeling somehow be transferred to this woman asking for a spiritual experience?
The three of us joined hands to begin chanting and just then a man appeared in the opening above us, saw we were about to perform some ritual, and asked if he and some friends might join. Knowing the purpose of a Kiva was about community and spirit, I immediately said yes. His friends began coming down the ladder. The wife was excited by this unexpected addition to our group. I could see the husband getting very nervous as people kept coming down the ladder. After more than a dozen people joined us in the Kiva, the man came down the ladder. As he descended, he threw a blanket over the opening, closing off the only opening to the outside. As the blanket went into place we could hear the rain begin outside with lightning and thunder. The blanket allowed a little light to enter so we were not in total darkness. This made the husband very nervous. I was amazed.
All the people who had entered had now joined in the circle holding hands with the three of us and then looked to me to continue the ritual they were now a part of. Inside I took a deep breath to overcome the shock of suddenly becoming the leader for more than a dozen strangers. I allowed myself to be guided and use my experiences from attending sweat lodges and other secret ceremonies. I informed everyone we would be doing three rounds to honor, call upon, and receive blessings from spirit. People in the group had already placed some sacred objects on a mud altar in the middle of the space. I placed my water bottle.
In the first round, we went around the circle giving thanks for something in our lives. Everyone kept it short and to the point. Some responses were profound, others funny, and some I suspect we’re only understood by the one saying the words. At the end of the round, we did some chanting to seal the words. In the second round, I invited everyone to ask for healing either for themselves or someone they know. During this round, there were many tears and powerful feelings. The beauty of the group acted as witnesses. At the end of this round along with the chanting, some burned or crushed the sacred objects from the altar. In the final round, we raised our voices to chant for a hopeful future for ourselves and the planet. I passed around the water bottle from the altar. Everyone took a sip adding a personal prayer for peace. Again more tears and joy and a feeling of having been part of something quite wonderful. (a spiritual experience perhaps)
As quickly as the group came down in the kiva to join us they were departing. The last to go up the ladder was the man again who had first poked his head through the opening. He did a quick look at the three of us, the shocked husband, a grateful yogi, the mind-blown wife. Then he was gone. The husband was feeling relieved that nothing bad he imagined had happened. I marveled at how spirit managed to show up to serve the time and space. The wife stood with a shocked look on her face and mumbled in a soft voice, “who what that man?”
As the group had left, the rain also stopped. I marveled at how it only rained during our time in the Kiva. We headed up the ladder and back to the car. This time the husband sat in front next to me and his wife sat in the back in a daze. The husband started asking all sorts of questions about who those people were; if had I arranged this; what really happened, and was any of this dangerous for his wife who still sat with a blank look on her face. I did my best to speak of these things in a language he could understand. Now he felt safe, he really wanted to understand. He managed a little.
We drove to this great Mexican restaurant in Espanola, not far from the ashram, called Matildas. We ate mostly in silence while the wife came back into this reality and started asking her own questions beginning with ‘that man’s eyes who looked at her. I did my best to explain what happened was a spiritual experience, like what she asked for. It happened because her sincere desire aligned with the possibility of life unfolding. Also something about her soul’s purpose and what we can do to keep inviting spirit into our lives. She was able to grasp some of the concepts and slowly was filling with gratitude for this wonderful spiritual experience.
It was not the first time I was asked to be a spiritual guide and certainly won’t be the last.
One might ask what can be done to keep inviting spirit to show up. One will find in all traditions the daily practice. It might be called prayer, devotion, meditation, or sadhana. It might include chanting, breathing practices, or other techniques. Done daily these practices build a kind of spiritual credit we can use to heal ourselves and others. Walking in nature, playing with a child, laughing, helping a friend also are useful ways to remember we are spirit having a human experience.
There is no guaranteed method for seeing rainbows, but one can practice and prepare. You just may find yourself in the right place at the right time and being open for a great experience.
The image is the actual Kiva from the story