The next few days were like a fog for me. I didn’t know
how long I had spent in the cave with the midwife. My thoughts lay heavy
on those experiences, which left my whole life seeming out of focus. I
dreamed about the Many Breasted Woman each night. She was familiar and
comforting. I knew her well yet I could still not remember from where or
how. Deep in the night she sang to me and told me about her home and her
It was March and spring was already showing itself in the meadows and
forest floor. New green grasses were everywhere and delicate tiny
flowers of white and pink and red. It was difficult to take a step
without injuring them. The Sun was out. The sky was crystal clear and
the air fresh and warm. I was back on campus and walking to all my
classes and it seemed a shame to go indoors and miss it all. As fate
would have it though, finals were in a few days. I couldn’t afford to
lose any class time.
Integrating my new experiences into the rest of my life was always
difficult, and the last few days even more so. Time with the Hetakas was
so intense. It was passionate and vital and riddled with the unexpected.
It always pushed me beyond my limits, while my conventional life was
predictable, redundant and ordinary. I felt I was splitting in two. I
wanted to somehow blend the two, to enrich each of them with the other,
to live one through the other. But I didn’t know how.
It was Friday and I took the long path around the campus through the
meadows and forest to my English composition class. We had spent the
entire quarter writing hundreds of small assignments of descriptions.
They ranged from single sentences to paragraphs and now to several
pages. I had written about everything from the smell of burnt toast to
the sound of an old troubled car. I was running out of ideas to write
about. As I entered the classroom I hoped the instructor had something
else in mind for us to work on.
I had no such luck. He assigned us a complex description, five to six
pages long, to be ready to hand in on Monday, and as was the case with
all his assignments, we were not allowed to work from anything that we
had already written. I was drawing a blank. I couldn’t think of anything
new to write about.
Then the thought occurred to me to write about some experience I had had
with the Hetakas. My mind was always on events that had taken place with
them over the years. These were the things in my life that propelled me
and inspired me from a very deep level. If I was supposed to draw from
the best of my life experiences and try to capture their moods, feelings
and surroundings, then it made sense to try to write about some of these
as well as the domestic events. The instructor was the only one who ever
saw the papers and if I took the event out of context and changed the
names of any people or places, what harm could that do? Would that still
fall under the rule for silence about anything concerning the Hetakas or
their traditions? He wouldn’t really know what I was talking about and I
would have an opportunity to try to express something that was important
to me. I was also very curious to see if I could tell a story even
partially as well as Domano. There was a sense of challenge in the
The more I thought about it the more I wanted to try it, and the
guiltier I felt about possibly breaking the rule of silence. Perhaps
this would be a way to help integrate the factions of my life. I was,
here again, trying to catch any opportunity to interact with or think
about my worlds that would help the two influence and highlight each
other. But actually I’d had very little success.
Well, I would have to give this serious consideration. As soon as class
was over I was due at an appointment with the Hetakas. Perhaps I would
ask them about the question and settle the whole issue.
I arrived at their home on schedule and the Sun was shining in through
the curtainless window onto the wicker bench where I always sat. The
Hetakas were as friendly and casual as ever. Domano was in the kitchen
fixing French roast coffee and Chea was in the bedroom folding laundry.
She hollered at me to come in and help her. I really wanted to sit in
the sunlight while it still shone in through the window but I went into
the bedroom to give her a hand. I hadn’t been in that room very often.
It felt like a very private space.
Chea turned her head to smile at me and then reached over their bed and
pulled up the window shade. These were the only two furnishings in the
“There,” she said and hugged me. “That should take care of your worries
about the light. Hello, young one. You’ve been doing well.”
The golden light covered me and flooded the room. It was like a shot of
vitamins. I soaked in as much as I could while I helped Chea fold the
laundry. I had no idea they had so many clothes. I’d always thought of
them as having so few possessions, living the austere life. To look
around their sparse apartment I would never have guessed that hidden
back in the closets were all these things.
“What did you find in the cave, Kay?” Chea spoke without looking up.
I couldn’t breathe for a moment. I didn’t know what to say. I tried to
catch her eyes to perhaps get some idea of which part I should talk
about. All the many events of the quest jolted around in my head and my
stomach and I didn’t have a clue which one was the most important.
I folded the T shirts. There was only the sound of the fabric moving and
this old woman’s breathing.
The feeling of the cave was still strong in me. Chea opened the window
and the musk from the ground outside had the same smell as the wet air
in the big cavern. Since the quest I felt different inside my body
somehow. My mind was very active with concepts and memories, but
thoughts as words and sentences were not fighting to crowd out
everything as they had in the past. It was as though they had less of a
grip on my muscles and organs. They weren’t digging in and festering
there but rather drifted lightly on around and through.
I pulled a pile of socks over to my side of the bed and copied the way
Chea had rolled the others.
She still had not spoken. Thinking of the burning in the cave now with
her focus on me made my innards roll. I did not feel afraid, it was more
like a nervous anticipation that I could put no words to. It just
tumbled through my gut and faded into a dull buzz. I thought about the
fear that I had had when my body was burning.
“Chea,” I finally said. “I was so terrified in that cave. I’ve never
felt that much fear before. I don’t think that I will ever be that
afraid again. Ever.”
“Hmm,” she still did not look up.
“It feels as though I won’t ever have to be that terrified again. That
was like the grand finale.
The first prize in the fear contest.”
“And you won, did you?”
“I think so,” I answered. She glanced up and we laughed. I loved the way
the wrinkles on her face softened and turned up around her eyes when she
laughed. There was just a small slit left for one dark eye to peer out
of. It caught the sunlight like a prism.
“Chea...” I hesitated to bring up what was really bothering me about my
experience. “This is going to sound really bizarre. I had a really
bizarre reaction to my fear in there. I mean, I’m really shocked at it.
It seems kind of sick, you know?” I knew that I should tell her and
perhaps she would help me understand. But voicing it seemed to give it
even more realness. “When I was burning in the cave and unable to move,
I didn’t just feel fear. I felt all kinds of pains, and...pleasures. All
kinds of things in my life that had been intense and important to me.
Horrors. Sensual delights. My god, Chea, even sexual feelings. And they
didn’t even seem weird at all at the time.”
I looked at her for a reaction. She remained her usual stone faced self.
She was silent, waiting for me to continue.
“The fear was so consuming. And the loss! I was so miserable. I hurt in
my body and my feelings more then I ever thought possible. And at the
same time came all these other feelings. Enjoyable feelings and
sensations. They were separate, but somehow there was something
connected about them. At the time it was so natural feeling. It seemed
like the most obvious and natural response in the world. When I thought
about it a day or so later it looked a bit masochistic to me. Is that as
perverted as it appears?”
Chea’s face remained plain except for the slight raising of one eyebrow.
“Is that all?” she asked.
“That’s not enough?” I smiled a little trying to avoid the seriousness
that I felt about it.
She didn’t laugh. Her face was still unchanged.
“No. That’s not all. I...uh.” I coughed and cleared my throat, and
thought, Oh, what the hell. Here it goes. “While I was in the middle of
feeling all those things, I felt my Song. The stronger, the more intense
the experience was, the more intense my Song was. The more intense the
ecstasy of the Song was. Even in the midst of the most horrible pain and
terror! I felt so alive! Chea. It was as though I was feeling my whole
life’s aliveness all at once. It’s as if everything there is about me
that is alive cried out all at once. As loud as it could, crying out its
sorrow and desire and pleasure and its pain and ecstasy. I hated
it...And I loved it.”
Chea grinned and nodded at me knowingly. Her eyes became transparent, as
though I could see into their darkness to somewhere deep inside her.
“Yes. That is the way it is. That is a secret about Humans. At the
bottom of the most tragic of pains there moves the Song. Always. The
more intense the pain, the stronger the Song is felt; but not everyone
identifies it as such.” She looked satisfied and proud for me.
“But that doesn’t make any sense to me. Your Song is your joy. A feeling
of passion. It’s beautiful. How can we feel it in our pain? That’s a
“Not really.” Chea picked up a stack of shirts and walked to the closet
to put them away. “The Song of a thing is like its signature, its
identity. This aliveness has a feeling to it. And everyone’s ‘feeling’
is different from everyone else’s. It is there at the heart of a thing,
with all its life’s events and properties coming from it. Like a well
spring. Whatever we experience, there underneath it, almost as if it was
hiding, but so alive, sings our Song. You see, even through great tragic
pain one can come to find their Song, their center, their passion. If
they can grab it and hold on, they can ride the waves of pain, like an
anchor in a storm, a light to steer by. They can come to truly know
I had no idea how to think about this concept. It seemed foreign to me.
I was going to need much more time with it.
“There are many roads to ka ta see, to the balance. Sometimes we need a
more drastic one. Be careful not to judge the paths to god. It might be
the one you are standing on.”
I laughed and looked down at my feet. “Speaking of god, there was
something else about my Song that I noticed, Chea. I don’t know why I
didn’t catch this before. You and Domano never mentioned it and that
kind of makes me wonder why, ‘cause it seems so central, so basic. Well,
when I felt my Song, and sometimes it was pulling me toward my center,
it felt like a calling out to Creator, I think, like a cord that I can
talk to Creator on.”
“Ah!” She nodded slightly.
“Why didn’t you tell me before?” I just stood there and kept holding the
jeans that I had started to fold. “It seems like kind of an important
thing to know.”
She took the pants from me and finished folding them. “You would not
have learned it. It is a knowing that one has to come across for
themselves, or it never has any reality or power. This understanding of
sending your voice into the Great Mystery, of what prayer really is,
this is yours now, never to be shaken. You have lived it. That is true