“I’ve been here before,” she whispered under her breath. She stepped through the rocks and moss and cushiony undergrowth carefully. The trees were gallant and tall. Birds chirped from far away and sunlight glittered through canopy cracks, trickling down to reach the dead leaves and rotting trees below. Familiar and foreign, the landscape seemed to welcome her with outstretched boughs and tiny twig-like fingers; reaching to embrace her and lead her home. It was a happy, unsettling feeling. Butterflies in her stomach.
“Wonderful,” a warm women’s voice said over her. “Now touch, interact, this place is only as real as you make it!”
Anava reached out her hand to touch a small fern growing beside her. The deep green leaves were soft and variegated into thousands of tiny jagged lines. Up and down the spine of the fern she moved her fingertips, savoring the feathery lightness. The leaves then began to sway in a light breeze – she looked to where it was coming from, the Northeasterly direction, and closed her eyes to feel the tiny swirls on her cheeks. “The wind started to blow just now. It’s heavenly,” she whispered again softly, as if to herself.
“I feel it too. And your prickly skin – it’s quite cold here!” The voice laughed, and Anava did too – yes, it was cold. She was feeling hot, so the cooler air was refreshing and felt so great on her skin. She smiled and held her hand out to the sky and wind.
“Exhilarating,” the voice stated. Anava smiled wider and nodded her approval. She had been waiting to come here, she finally decided. Or perhaps, this place was waiting for her. Either way, the feeling was mutual. It was as if a dream had materialized before her, a dream that had no discernment or shape prior – only a feeling. A puff of air on a warm autumn day.
This was the embodiment of a homecoming. She let it sink in, and tried to memorize it all. She might not ever return. In the space of a moment, she suddenly fell full of doubt.
“No – Anava! Stay with it!”
It was too late. Anava felt the trees start to crumble like cake washed away with the rain. The sun light faded, and the birds silenced. She opened her eyes in a jolt.
Rana was seated before her, eyes full of sadness and forehead furrowed. Her warm voice had been guiding her throughout the journey, but now she looked cold as ice.
“I’m sorry Rana, I – I suddenly felt like I would never see this place again. I began to mourn it in my heart as soon as I thought it. I’m sorry for letting that overtake me so quickly.” Anava wrung her hands and clasped them in her lap, nodding her head down in apology. Ah – she had never made it so far before! And she ruined it with a moment of self-doubt.
“Anava, no – that was wonderful! I have no doubt you will be there again. You will see – have faith in your agency. You are quite gifted. Know it in your heart,” Rana reached over and took her hands in hers and kissed her on her crown. Ana lifted a little, knowing Rana had such faith in her. But it was still unnerving. They had been working through this for a year – and how suddenly it had dematerialized in front of her eyes. How one rogue feeling could swing in and unseat so much hard work.
Rana seemed to feel this same thought coursing through her. She pulled back and put her hands on Anava’s shoulders. “Feelings are powerful, Ana – and you mustn’t let them run the show. YOU run the show, and YOU choose the feelings with which to run it. That doubt is powerful – and although it is fine to feel it, and be with it, and comfort it and let it run its course, while you are in dreamtime you have to guard the gates. Be vigilant. You cannot let that doubt in, or it will take over. In dreamtime, you must imbibe pure confidence. Do you understand?”
Anava looked deep into her eyes. They were hazel, and blue at the center. She suspected they had seen so much in her lifetime, and had traveled far and wide and back again. She felt empowered and comforted by Rana’s guidance and eyes and reassurance. It was as if she was her own mother.
“Yes,” Anava squeaked softly. She cleared her throat – “Yes!” she said again emphatically. No better time to start practicing this confidence and swagger she would need.
Rana smiled. “Alright my girl – that’s it for today.” She rose from the rug where they were seated and stretched her hands high. Her gold bangles tinkling as she moved her limbs – bracelets, ear charms and ankle charms. Rana always sounded like a music composition as she reached this way and that, and walked across the room. Like bells calling from another world.
“Thank you Rana,” Anava rose also, and held her hands at her heart and bowed in thanks. Rana bowed in return and left the room, her gown flowing behind her in a glowy daze. It was a misty blue color today, with some intricate knotting and lattice-work. Anava suspected she handmade all her gowns, as she never saw anything like it in the market or in any nearby city.
Anava turned and grabbed her study book and side satchel from the chair at the other side of the room. They met weekly at Rana’s home – a large manor house that was painted in white and constructed from marble, stone, and mason’s mud. It was always cool, but today the meditation room was hot for some reason. Ana suspected it was due to the depth of their session. She had overhead others discussing how difficult it is to keep people cool while they are in dreamtime – this was why they desired to conduct sessions at dusk.
She started out of the porch and into the gallery, where she ran into Rana’s son Ren.
“Hi Ren, good day?”
“Yeah. Great.” They clasped hands lightly in greeting. Ren looked distracted.
“Are you coming to ceremonies tonight? I heard the others discussing leader Soan’s desire to start initiations – isn’t that exciting?!” Ana tried to override Ren’s distraction. He didn’t seem fazed.
“Yeah. I heard. Not sure if everyone’s ready – but should make it interesting. Maybe I’ll just watch, I don’t know if I’m there yet.” He smiled and shrugged and started to turn away.
“What! No, that’s not true Ren – you are being ridiculous. You are ready.” Ana reached out and gave him a reassuring smile.
“Maybe. But not ready enough for private lessons.” He cocked an eyebrow and kept walking.
Anava stopped in her tracks and watched him walk away. So that was it. Her coming here for lessons. She knew something was bothering him lately. But that would mean… Rana wasn’t giving Ren lessons? Her own son?
Ana suddenly felt incredulous. She had assumed this whole time that Rana would have been coaching them both. Ren was a great student, why in the world would she invite Ana for lessons at her own home and not to her own flesh and blood who lived under her roof?
She frowned as she stalked out and onto the winding path back home. This was not a good feeling. This was not how a wonderful session with her beloved mentor was supposed to end. This wasn’t right.
Did she even know Rana?
You don’t, she answered herself.
Keep going to Part 5