I pedal at a snail’s pace past the proud saguaros and the sidewalk cracks, watching Jason pull the bike trailer full o’ little girls up ahead. Peering into a desert wash, I notice the giggling bodies of two young children, performing imaginative play among the prickly pears and mesquite trees, oblivious to the 100 degrees of sun beating down upon their Volcom tees. I am reminded of leisurely summer adventures through the woods, under the canopy of Missouri skies.
I huff. I puff. I attempt numerous coping techniques (learned during labor!) to take my mind off the fact at hand: she ain’t what she used to be. My body, that is.
And this is harder to swallow than the swig of warm water I’d just swished in my mouth.
For every pump of the pedal I made, she made three; her legs like an anxious cranking of a jack-in-the-box toy. I was about twelve – awash in mall bangs and NKOTB-dom (shout out to Jane!) – and she was a sweet and determined 8 year old with golden locks. To replace the BMX and the banana-seater, my father had purchased each of us new mountain bikes and had this goal in mind: bike a 40 mile trip with the family by end of summer.
And so we “trained”, riding the Katy Trail a couple of times a week until we were comfortable at 10 miles each time. My little brother, only one year younger, would join me in rowdy chants and songs to help the time pass. I’d show off by riding “look ma, no hands!” style. My Dad would blow a whistle and in an instant we’d trade places in the formation: two by two on the trail, a gang of four bikers. Atop his Schwinn, he’d glide effortlessly to the rear position and I’d slide into his place front and left. We’d stop occasionally for snacks and hidden-in-the-bushes pee breaks along the trail. There was eye-rolling, skid-outs, whining, and a few caterpillars who met their fate under our tires.
We met the goal that summer, zooming by German wineries and generational farms. Parking our bikes on the covered porches of farmhouses-turned-deli’s, we chomped sandwiches and sipped sodas until our bellies were heavy. Our journey ended at the river late that afternoon, faces pink with sun and pride. Crammed between tangle of wheels and gears, my brother and I rode in the back of the pickup truck, wind muffling our laughter, until we arrived home. Most likely, we honored childhood tradition by lowering the truck gate and letting our legs dangle in the breeze on the last few miles of the gravel road.
It was so clear, that morning in the shower, about two weeks into our “training”. I hiked my leg onto the edge of the tub to give the stubble a quick shave. As I began to slide the razor over my calf, an unfamiliar bump hindered my path. Craning my neck, I inspected my leg: a leg that included a muscle where none had been before! Intrigued, I contracted it by arching my tip toes on the tub edge. Again and again, I watched the long and lean muscle bulge out from my calf. Fascinated, I studied it from every angle and even noticed how it was more pronounced in my right leg than in my left. Suddenly, this goofy family affair had become worthwhile in my teenage mind. Suddenly, there was reason to keep getting out of bed on those misty mornings as as I watched my step-mom pack the cooler that would be wrapped in bungee cords on the back of my dad’s bike.
For the first time in my life, I was proud of the strength and conditioning of my body, of the way it all seemed to work just perfectly. The only time I would come close to this ecstatic feeling would be 17 years later as I clutched the handles of a wooden birth stool and pushed a daughter from my womb into the hands of her daddy.
Without practice, the calf muscles that went on to look so good in tattered cut-offs at NKOTB concerts, shrank and hid beneath the layers of skin brought on by years and potlucks and cubicles. I do miss them. Especially on days like today, when I pedaled the bike a mere 2 miles to a friends house and felt like I just couldn’t do it another minute. As my breath spiraled with anxiety, the thought that I couldn’t enjoy the simple pleasure of riding a bike as much as I did even only 5 years ago weighted me down even more. I heard the squeak of joints that needed oiling, felt the ache of the seat in my glutes, and attempted to mask the slight struggle to keep air flowing effortlessly to my lungs.
Where have the days of carefree wandering for hours on bike gone? Those crisp evenings of cycling through the city streets and coasting the hills?
I have given my body over to the cycle of growth, birth, and sustenance twice. She had heaved children through aisles of cookies and bent to wipes food from the floors. She has become accustomed to frequent night wakings and the careful maneuvering of spine to share a bed with my girls. She sags, drags, tweaks, and creaks. I am grateful for her health. But damn, I miss her resilience.
While I’ve never been athletic, there are three things my body has done well, according only to my standards: snow ski, bike, and birth. The first two have already proven to be greatly diminished in their enjoyment and performance. I can only hope that the third -if I am so lucky again – will greet me kindly at whatever condition my body is in at that time.
And so, I ponder: “Wouldn’t it be beautiful to rid ourselves of these physical bodies, even for a day? To move effortlessly through life, to not have to work so damn hard and use so much energy just to put feet to floor in the morning?“
Yet, I believe it to be possible. I have felt the lightness of a non-physical body that can move through walls and float in an instant to mysterious destinations. I’ve been privy to the knowledge and understanding that our thoughts can literally guide our actions: think about going to visit your friend in Washington and end up there in the next moment. Seriously, no Wonder Woman cuff needed.
I have written of my first astral travel, an event that occurred the very night I found out that my womb teemed with the magic of Indigo. I’ve risked sounding kooky and freaky and “off my rocker”. And I’m willing to risk again to tell you of my recent astral travel. Because the experience is just that good. And because perhaps it will spark an understanding in someone else that we are truly limitless, that existence is indeed possible beyond the confines of our physical body. I write this as a record for me but also in the hopes that someone else will find it and realize they aren’t crrraaaazy.
Really, “astral travel” is a fancy way of describing a type of out-of-body experience (OBE). It is like dreaming except it is no dream; it is a physical separation from the body you’ve come to know and “love” (or loathe?) into a realm in which endless possibility exists. I know, I told you it’s kooky. In the book I’ve just finished reading called “Journeys Out of the Body”, the author had often been asked he knew that he was truly experiencing an OBE instead of a vivid dream or hallucination? He says that you are just as aware of “not dreaming” as you are when you are awake. This rings precisely true for me.
I go to bed late, during the middle of a electrical storm, complete with awesome lightning bolts that fire up the entire night sky. Indigo, Kaia, and Jason had already been fast asleep for quite awhile.
I awaken in the astral realm, not remembering the moment of physical separation from my body like I felt during my first experience. Immediately, I am aware I am experiencing the astral (OBE), and become excited and anxious. I tell myself, over and over, “to stay with it” and it requires an enormous amount of mental energy. It is night time and am hovering inside the great room of an empty and quiet house, almost at ceiling level. I have the feeling I am in the Midwest but am completely unaware of whose home I am in. The “hovering” sensation also requires continuous energy, although not physical energy. Just a solid focus and concentration.
The great room is surrounded by floor to ceiling windows and I can see the night sky out of them. I am keenly aware that the home has been abandoned and an eerie feeling creeps over me as I notice crude stick figure drawings on the wall. They appear to be drawn in blood and I wonder momentarily if something awful happened in this home. I become frightened but then immediately tell my self “This experience should not be scary. Perhaps the drawings were done in red crayon, by a child”. After a few more moments of looking around I decide this isn’t the best place for me to be and that I want to leave.
I tell myself to go visit my Dad’s house in Missouri (I have told him that if I successfully astral travel again that I will attempt to visit him at his house, perhaps moving an object so he realizes I was there). Instantaneously, I appear on the front lawn of his home (my childhood home as well). I am overwhelmed with shock and surprise that I made it there so easily and that I am indeed standing there, staring at the house. I was facing East and remember the windows and the white shutters and the vegetation surrounding me. This is no dream. Again, it is night and eerily quiet. In retrospect, I wonder if the sense of sound – or at least mine – is not needed in this realm. This time, I sense I am at ground level and not hovering, although I don’t feel the weight of any kind of physical body touching the ground. I tell myself to go inside, into the living room, by the fireplace and am excited about the prospect of finally making it inside. I repeat this about three times but I am being blocked mentally and cannot make it inside the house. It is almost as if there is an invisible physical barrier preventing me from entering. Frustrated, I finally realize that something “isn’t quite right” about the house but can’t figure it out. Suddenly, my “vision” goes blurry and I see can see nothing but fuzzy black and white lines (exactly like I did in my previous experience) and hear the same white noise I heard previously.
Back now in my physical body, I wake up with a short gasp and without moving I notice Indigo laying peacefully by my side (I bring her to bed to nurse when she wakes up at night). It is early morning. I lay awake for a few minutes, processing the experience and can’t wait to tell Jason. Still tired, I fall back asleep and this time drift into a dream in which I relayed my entire astral travel experience to a good friend. After leaving that dream, I seemed to be in the astral realm again where I was “flying” at a high altitude in the clouds – and near some hot air balloons – with a midwife acquittance of mine. It was very brief, and we were giddy with laughter, almost as if testing our flying ability and realizing how unbelievable it felt.
I awoke from that when Jason got up for the morning. I swiftly told him about the astral travel experience, and he said “I knew something was going on”. When I pressed him om what he meant he said “There was some crazy energy going on last night. I couldn’t sleep because of it, and with the storm and all going on, I just knew something was happening. It’s like the storm opened up some kind of portal”. I told him how I couldn’t get into Dad’s house and was puzzled by the difficulty. Immediately, Jason said “But, Leigh, remember that your Dad just told you how they recently had the entire roof redone in different tiles and part of the house was re-bricked. You probably just didn’t quite recognize it with the changes!”. Of course he was right, that even just a slight change in the look of the house could have been enough to warp my sense of complete recognition and trust in the astral realm.
When I relayed the dream to my Dad just days ago, he too said the same thing before I could. “Yes, Leigh, that cedar shake room was all you’d ever known. It was the crown of the home. Plus, I repainted the front door”. Could it have been that I was to attempt to enter through the roof, and seeing as thought it looked different, didn’t feel confident?
How interesting that my Dad called the roof the “crown” of the home, like the crown chakra of one’s head. From a source on the web, this chakra is described as such: “The Crown chakra is about wisdom and being one with the world. When this chakra is open, you are unprejudiced and quite aware of the world and yourself.The view from this chakra includes seeing one’s Self as the single consciousness creating all, and paradoxically, thus connected to all, like a dreamer dreaming a dream and realizing that all that is perceived is just an extension of their own consciousness.”
I have wondered if indeed my magical Indigo has something to do with my two astral travel experiences (the first time I was pregnant with her, the second time she was by my side).
I don’t know what to make of the experience except that it was truly awesome (in the original sense of the word) and powerful and its memory is held in every fiber of my being. I revel in the knowledge that our physical bodies don’t bind us to universal existence and oneness. I am ready to travel again and hope to visit friends and family and cosmic places I cannot even fathom (if you see me, don’t be scared). But that’s kinda far out. Maybe next time, I’ll actually just aim to make it inside my Dad’s house.
Or see if astral bike riding is possible.