“We see and hear what we are open to noticing.”
Jerome S. Bernstein
At the end of my last post on Living in the Borderland by Jungian analyst Jerome S. Bernstein, I said that I would write more about people who are Borderland personalities. These individuals have a heightened sensitivity to “transrational reality, ” and this post will be an effort to illustrate how that works.
This is possible for me for two reasons. First of all, I have a number of friends who dwell in the Borderland much of the time; and secondly, I have had a few experiences in what might be termed its frontier.
The true Borderland personality seems easily to access an alternate reality that probably most of us inhabited for a time as children. Those were years when we had imaginary friends, when we could “see” in ways that we soon shut down, when we “knew” things that we would have to disown in order not to be considered odd. As a result, the Borderland dimension may not be as remote as one might initially imagine.
Many of these experiences came to us as we played in the natural world. This was the case with a close friend who realized early on that rocks and trees had voices she could hear, and she can still access that wisdom at will. Perhaps many of us could if we learned how to listen–and to feel.
The Borderland personality sees nature as sacred and has an “I-Thou” relationship with it. Some people come in with this sensitivity in place, and some develop it through exposure. I would be one of the latter, and it was a Samoyed that guided me into communion with the natural world over about ten years of daily morning walks in beautiful, wild settings. A walk with a dog is very different from a walk alone; and everywhere we went, Cassie seemed to show me wonders.
Early in our time together, I became interested in shamanism, which caused me further to open to the idea of an animated and communicating consciousness in nature. I had always enjoyed the outdoors, but now I became an acute observer, often with a camera in hand, and began to “read” experiences and images that were sometimes archetypal in nature.
By the time I left my marriage and moved with Cassie to Santa Fe in 2005, I was very attuned to nature and to the idea of a non-ordinary reality accessible to the initiated. So when the Realtor who examined the hacienda-like home I had to sell told me that “the energy” on it needed to be cleaned up, I didn’t blink an eye. He referred me to Lena Stevens, co-founder with her husband, José, of the Power Path School of Shamanism.
I knew about some of the trouble on this property. Someone had “arrested” in the front hall of the main house, two rescued dogs had had a fatal fight in the garden, and there had been another bad fight in the hot tub. From neighbors I learned about the caretakers’ wild parties. They seemed to change during their residency, and it was feasible that they had been infected by bad energy of some kind.
When Lena came to cleanse the property, she told me that the little casita where Cassie and I were living was not troubled. However, she identified an area in the garden in back that seemed to be infected by what she referred to as “unresolved grief.” It could have been the result of virtually anything, including historic violence between Spaniards and pueblo Indians.
After Lena had performed her rituals, she told me about two trees that were the “guardians” of the property. One was a giant elm in the front; and in the garden, standing almost like a post in a coyote fence, was an old cottonwood. She suggested that I take a moment someday to thank these trees for their protection.
A few days later, the moment seemed right for the simple ritual. I first climbed up into the raised bed around the elm, put my hand on its trunk, and expressed my gratitude. Then I went through the little gate into the garden and approached the cottonwood, which was not huge like the elm or distinguished in any particular way. This time, however, the moment was entirely different. As I put my hand on the trunk, emotion welled up in my chest, and tears began to fall.
I was taken totally by surprise, and how do you explain this? It was as though my touch had connected me psychically with the tree and its emotional response to events unwillingly witnessed. In fact, I would thereafter think of it as “the witness tree.” There was no question in my mind that the tree had been profoundly affected by something.
You never forget an experience like that. I soon hung a bird feeder on the cottonwood that was known as “Madam” by the groundskeeper (another Borderland personality), and many cheery birds came. Perhaps the bales of spring seeds Madam released during the next two years that Cassie and I lived there were an expression of thanks for the clearing Lena had performed. I like to think so. I like to think that Madam experienced a healing.
So I offer this memory simply as an example of a Borderland experience. Those who dwell in this transrational reality have a very different level of awareness about what we are doing to the world we live in. They don’t don’t need science to explain it; they can feel it. How ironic that we must hope, for our own sake, that their troubled numbers will grow daily and lead to a larger awakening.