Yesterday as I awaited a flight to Bristol from Glasgow, I spoke with a lovely woman from the Isle of Lewis about the state of the world. We were of the same opinion about materialism, the Brexit/Trump idiocy, the decline of the progressive worldview we had both thought sacrosanct, She asked me where I had been and when I said, Iona, her face softened and and she sighed. There are no words, she said. And I of course agreed. We also agreed that something of what the world needs is the experience every pilgrim to the holy Isle reports.
So I have a few words for this wordless experience. Getting there like a good labyrinth walk, was a shedding. Somewhere on the train or the ferry or the coach, I began to let go of being an American citizen. I let go a layer of being a recognized teacher, I let go caring about the weather, my myriad relationships, in short, many identities sloughed off. When I arrived, it was blessedly still and warm day. The light on the water, the blues of the sky and sea, the spring green emerging everywhere– all was a feast of the senses. Even the squawking rooks added to the bird song. Ah, I thought and felt, knew, this is Presence.
I tried to make sense of it… is it the ratio sheep to humans? the years of pilgrimage since St.Columba arrived in the 6th century? The presence of humans engaged only in art, gardening, prayer,service, sheep rearing and not the usual activities?
Unlike many sacred sites with strong stories, Iona’s struck me as beside the point of how it is there–how you breathe there, how near to your own light essence you become.
My most precious moments were walking the landscape, seeing the changing colors, smelling the big horned, caramel colored hairy cattle, feeling the rocky shore , contemplating the poignancy of lambs so alive . I prayed and meditated and played my flute, but beside those spiritual activities, or even in spite of them, I found a ground of being I met with great gratitude.
So the return, like the walk out of the labyrinth, necessitates some conscious resumption of the layers of the world. I am about to teach two workshops, I am mother, friend, therapist, wise woman activist in this world, I take those identities back, but deep inside, I know the stream of light I hold in my being has been strengthened and witnessed by this holy Isle,