The secret country of yourself is your unique inner cosmos. Your visions and dreams happen there; it is the birthplace of inspiration. There you may engage with your past and future selves, dance the fire with your spirit guides, connect to the archetypes that make up your personal pantheon. The possibilities are endless!
There is no requirement of belief in the secret country of yourself. Whether you are a strict polytheist, or a hardcore atheist, or somewhere in between, this journey will hold gifts for you. You can bring your rules with you, if you want; otherwise, you simply learn to trust your own sensibilities, to seek your own path, and engage respectfully with those you meet. There is some preparation required for this expedition. You learn to become a fit traveler by taking care of your responsibilities, owning your own complexes, and committing to living according to your own ethics. There are prayers and rituals to help you untangle difficult situations and to protect your precious self. It is a practice to stay ready for whatever awaits you in your inner world.
To make the most of your travels, you can make maps and create a travelogue to record where you went and when, who you met there, what time of the moon it was. This serves as an excellent tool to look back on your experiences and all you will learn.
And when you are ready, it is time to embark. I have an itinerary that is more than a list of places; it is a program of learning and growing. Each place you visit has lessons, challenges, and treasures for the traveler. It's very rewarding!
Here are the places we will visit:
- The Sanctuary
Everything begins and ends in the Sanctuary. This is your personal, private, sacred home on the astral, or in your mind, or however you view the internal landscape. In the Sanctuary, you learn to connect to that part of yourself that takes the longer view and helps you to find what is useful in every difficulty.
In the Sanctuary you learn that you are a precious gift to the Universe, that you are wanted and needed right here right now, no matter how broken and imperfect you feel. You are perfectly imperfect. Come here to be held in your wholeness, your holiness, to know yourself sacred.
The Sanctuary is beautiful. It is the ultimate in comfort and delight; all your favorite music is here. Your favorite foods, your favorite styles of furniture, it's all exquisitely suited to your joy and fulfillment. Every journey is begun here, and you return here when you are finished. Enjoy!
- The Shadow House
The Shadow House has the unique property of being *not* the Sanctuary, but very closely linked to it. They are not two sides of a coin, or even two ends of a continuum; they are connected to and feed each other. These two places make up the heart of the secret country of yourself. In one, you find the greatest peace; in the other, you purposefully choose to engage those parts of you that are difficult, dangerous, wounded, spiteful.
In the Shadow House, you might find a shadow of a time you were abused or when you were an abuser. You might find shadows of racism, misogyny, and other cruelties. You might have been the kid at the center of the circle of tormentors, or you might have been a tormentor. All of these experiences live in the Shadow House and await your attention.
Much of the work done in the Shadow House is rooted in simple listening. You might go in looking for a particular shadow situation, or you might simply go in willing to hear what needs to be told. Either way, the keys to this kingdom are courage and compassion; courage to face what needs to be faced, and compassion to treat yourself kindly.
- The Temple
In the Temple, you connect with something larger than yourself. Whether you view the gods (or God) as "real" or as a convenient fiction, in this place, you can engage with the All, the Source, or if you are an Atheist, simply "Nature." The Temple is a place for worship, solitary or in groups. Some folks like to co-create a Temple and visit there together.
Your Temple might look like a traditional church, or a grove of trees, a circle of stones, or a bonfire on the beach—any place that puts you in mind of connection to whatever you perceive to be bigger than your singular self. Some folks find that their Temple looks like a yoga studio or a rock concert!
I said before that there is no requirement of belief in any area of the secret country, but there is actually one: the belief that you are a worthy creature and your joy and your service are valuable and required. And that is sometimes a very hard thought to consider! Those you meet in the Temple can help you with that.
- The School
At the School, you find the teacher, the books, the paints and brushes, any and all accoutrements of learning. There are the labs: engineering, biology, chemistry; there are the studios: art, theater, music. There is the most delightful library, which holds every book ever or never written. When I was writing The Secret Country of Yourself, I would sometimes go to the library and hold it in my hand, reading sections for inspiration.
The School reminds you to keep learning and growing throughout your life, to be a student and a teacher. The movement of information between people is just as important as the movement of acceptance or affection or any other intercourse. We have an opinion, we test the theory, we choose to reframe our thinking if new information becomes available.
The keywords of the School are creativity and curiosity. These two qualities represent the openness that is required for one to see problems and try to solve them. It's the "what is this?" and the "how can we change it?" that underlies all inventions and art. Bringing something new into being is a talent we can hone in the School.
Then, after you've spent time in all these civilized places, it's time to travel through the Gates of Magick, into the Elemental realms. Of course, having spent time in the School, we surely know that there are many other elements in the periodic table, but here you visit the four classic elements of magick. Each of these has its own blessings and difficulties to bestow. Think of the candle flame and the forest fire, the cooling breeze and the hurricane. These are powerful places and in the secret country, you may learn to see the beauty in all these ways.
- The Realm of Air
The Realm of Air is first on this part of the tour. Here you learn to gain perspective on your life; from a bird's eye view, problems can look very small. Here you also learn to appreciate your body's relationship with Air. Breath is so very good, yes? You've known Air since you first appeared outside of your mother's body, and it is a part of you. Your precious lungs take it in and distribute the oxygen through your body that is required for your continued existence. You can change your pattern of breathing, but your body will not let you stop breathing for long. Smart body!
- The Realm of Fire
The Realm of Fire teaches of transformation, of hunger and satiation, of immutable change. Fire is electric and it leaps across your neurons carrying messages of movement and inspiration. It's hot here, and heat causes molecules to spread out and even become agitated, hopping about. Fire makes Air's ideas into something new, something excited, something that will bring about serious change. Fire will cook your food, keep you warm, give you light, or burn down your house. A powerful ally, and one with which to be careful!
- The Realm of Water
Visiting the Realm of Water provides a delicious refreshment after the Realm of Fire! It is cooler, and all thirsts are quenched here. The rivers and streams are beautiful and dangerous, but they teach you to go around obstacles, and sometimes find that your slow, persistent "going around" has worn away what was blocking you. Your heart has been pushing water around your body since before you were born! Water is the vehicle for every good thing that your body needs to transport: air, food, nutrients. Also, it is the womb that cleanses, heals, and untangles troublesome situations.
- The Realm of Earth
The Realm of Earth is the final destination in this wilderness adventure. Here you feel yourself as the creature you are, not much different from all the other creatures who call Terra home. You come from the earth, you are fed by the earth, and you will feed the earth when your time of living is done. This is the most powerful lesson of this part of the journey: all things rise and fall and rise again. You can take comfort in seeing this play out in the course of the earthly seasons: planting followed by tending, harvesting, fallowness and rest, and then planting again. Flower to fruit to seed to flower.
Now, it is time to move into the cosmic realms. Something within and beyond our world calls to you.
- The Heart of the Universe
The Heart of the Universe is the farthest we can imagine. It is the center of infinity, if there could be such a thing. It is the place all things began: a bang so big that there is nothing that was not generated by it. The power of it is unimaginable and ineffable. In this place, you learn that you are eternal, that your story goes on, no matter what happens to your fleshly body. You may choose to return again and again, or you may choose to dissipate into the All, or simply into your component parts, depending on your beliefs.
- The Heart of the World
Here, in the Heart of the World, you are reminded of your sweet singular self. You chose to move on from eternity into a place where you are constantly reminded of your mortality. Eating! Breathing! Other human stuff! Here you will be reminded that it is a choice, and a worthy one, to become embodied, to drink wine and eat a rare steak and make love. None of those things are possible when you are fully focused on the eternal. Pleasure and pain are the hallmarks of this place, beauty and dread, hope and love.
- Your Own Bright Heart
And, finally, of course, there is the return. Beyond your experience with the Sanctuary, even, there is a deeper-seated knowing that arrives in your being when you "get home" from all these travels. From where you stand, in your life, you may turn to any direction and call forth aid from those allies you've met in the magickal realms. You can look back on experiences you've had in the Sanctuary, the Shadow House, the Temple, and the School, and feel yourself more confident, more centered, more attuned to your desires and your purpose.
Many blessings on your journey!