Anne Hillman from, A Dancing Animal Woman: A Celebration of Life



I did not know I was on a search for a passionate aliveness. I only knew I was lonely and lost and that something was drawing me deeper beneath the surface of my life, in search of meaning. There is a hunger in people to touch those depths; to know that our lives are sacred; that our hearts are truly capable of love. It is a yearning to be all that we can be. A longing for what is real.

For me it was the nagging emptiness in my midsection. I think that hollowness often propels us on the spiritual journey, though at that time, I didn’t know what a spiritual journey was. But as I entered adulthood, I began to ask with an urgency what that might be, of people whom I thought should know. I talked with ministers and teachers about God and death, and asked about rituals and parables. Again and again I circled the questions of meaning and purpose like a beast tracking its prey. I was stalking the real.

I brought books about philosophy and psychology home from the library, but what I found did not feed my soul. Instead, I was left dry and depleted by responses that had no relevance to the wonder and ecstasy and fierce exaltation that I knew in my bones had a kinship with holiness. Some ancient memory of silence and mystery stirred in me still, and had laid bare in fragile moments of beauty and firelight and acts of love. But these religious and psychological frameworks offered me coded interpretations, theories and metaphors,which never met me.

The spiritual journey is a creative journey. It’s about birth. It calls us past the boundaries of convention. It tests our willingness to see life in a new way and our courage to express it: for new ways of viewing life in the face of what is commonly accepted. We become new, and in this ongoing birthing, we bring new forms to life as well. Life itself has become a creative act, full of vitality and richness and passion.

This is also the story of how my soul found me, and it was a wild soul. I wasn’t prepared for how wild it was. This soul speaks different languages than I. I am used to thinking in sentences and paragraphs and she speaks in colors and sensations I don’t have a name for. Indeed, the greatest challenge of the journey entailed learning how to be receptive to her messages. These promptings were not disembodied channelings; they were grounded in my flesh.

It is her presence, there, that provides the missing link. It is there in the unity of passion and utter stillness that the spirit gazes out of our soft wild eyes. Thus embodied we look around and discover that we are no longer lonely. We belong. Like running a finger along the edge of a single Mobius strip, we see that inside has become outside and outside has turned inward. We have found the tender connection between our own lives and all that is. For the spiritual journey ultimately leads to something larger that self – to the eternal, to all of life, and more tangible, to the earth. …through moist sand and warm air currents, through granite and birds of prey, deer and iris, butterflies and tarantulas.

Integrity is the utterance of the universe, calling us out of our loneliness and isolation to depths within ourselves we have not yet dared. The promise of Integrity hints at our bereavement. It gives us a premonition of a deeper, more encompassing reality. Integrity is not an achievement, but a gift. It cannot be taught, but it can be embodied. One cannot be exhorted in Integrity but the hard choices for truth ease its emergence. Integrity calls us to creative fulfillment but that fullness comes out of a void.

If I am aware, each moment is an experience of membership. Unaware, I might not notice the hawk, now circling low outside my window. But if I let it arc into my awareness, the hawk and I are suspended together in a fleeting, fragile moment. When it dives and disappears, I turn to the north. A flock of small birds crests the cypress hedgerow behind the house. The slender green branches at the top nod slightly. The unmown hay below is still.

Membership is offered repeatedly, a tapestry of sunlight and shadow, texture, creatures and earth. In such a moment I feel embedded. I realize I am not merely alone but also integral. In that more resonant state, I am enriched by an abundance of information from the surrounding display.

There are quiet and exquisitely subtle moments in sexual intercourse, when partners are utterly resonant, no longer trying to affect anything for self or other, beyond knowing whether one or the other is the experiencer. At such times our awareness of separateness fades and two beings become one, held momentarily by a sacred bond.

At mid-life I was in the midst of a fast paced and stressful career. Structured for success, I had reached the peak of attainment and at the same time was consumed with fear. The dream offered a mode of being in direct opposition to my own: It offered descent – I had always moved upwards; it offered a quest – I had always been searching for answers; it asked me to enter the unknown – I had spent a life time craving security out of what I knew and what I could control.

Yet I discovered that I had to learn to welcome and honor that helplessness, for in those moments when I gave up, pieces of truth gradually emerged.


I feel tremulous
throat full
(is it tears or song?)
before the approach of something
unseen and long forgotten.
as if I were about to be known


If we are to experience our embeddedness, however, we must first become embodied. To function as an integral part of the whole, we first need to descend into our bodies, begin to inhabit them, and so doing, find what we have lost in the dark.


Right now I feel a bit like Job: “I have been holding forth on matters I cannot understand, on marvels beyond me and my knowledge.” This mysterious path in to reality leads us down from thinking into feeling, through sensing and instinct, dream and intuition in to the story of the cosmos of which each of us is a part. It is a journey of reawakening, each layer more subtle and more informative, rich with language of the universe.

On this journey, we redefine what it means to be human. We recognize that are al indeed receivers and that we are intimately related at every level of being. We discover that we are not masters, but members. In the most humbling sense, we are integral parts of the whole. Only from this position of humility do we discover that our roots are already in place: in our bodies, in the earth and in the ongoing story of life.

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