I first took Reiki Master training in May 2012 in Glastonbury, England ~ legendary as the Avalon of King Arthur, ancient sacred site of Goddess worshippers and Druids, crossed by powerful lei lines, bubbling with sacred springs, blooming with holy thorn trees, early centre of mystical Christianity and current magnet for anyone interested in spirituality and healing. It's a pretty magical place.
Having arrived the afternoon before the course started, I was eager to explore the High Street and especially to climb the Tor ~ the high holy hill on the edge of town. I ate lunch in one of the many vegetarian-friendly restaurants, peered in the windows of shops featuring stained-glass angels, healing crystals and esoteric books, and felt immediately, happily at home.
My whole time there felt like a constant series of little miracles, and I was about to experience the first: Fully caught up in the pulsing positive energy of the place, smiling my head off, I thought how much I would love to do some chanting while there. Not just quietly in my mind, which I do most of the time anyway, or even out loud on my own atop the Tor, but in a group of people, with music and intention. Now THAT would be perfect!
The hand-drawn map I had showed two possible paths from the town centre to the top of the Tor, and since one of them started right across the road from where I was staying, I chose that one. I walked up the little lane, and what to my wondering eyes should appear, right at the end, just before road became footpath, but a small ashram ~ an Indian traditional spiritual centre. And a poster on their noticeboard advertising Bhajans, the exact type of call and response devotional songs I was just wishing for! AND, it was scheduled on Friday night, the only evening that I knew for sure I had free. Jai Sri Krishna!
Now even happier and more at home, I climbed over the stile at the end of the road and continued along the path, winding up the hill among trees and fields of sheep. The next bit of magic arrived presently, in the form of an apple orchard in full bloom. A pretty sight, yes, but magic because the very word Avalon means Isle of Apples. It's true, I'm really here!
I was expecting a procession of pagan priestesses to appear around every bend. But if they were there, I couldn't see them. I did meet one young woman with swirly skirts and dreadlocks, but she was clearly deep in communion with the apple blossoms, so we just smiled and I continued on my way.
My way then came to a cow pasture, lovely dark animals peacefully grazing. There was a creature-proof gate, a sign indicating that this was indeed still the footpath to the Tor, and the path itself continuing through the pasture. So on I went, now out in the open and with a gorgeous view of the Tor and the recent Christian tower at the top, a mere 600 years old or so.
Up ahead of me there were two beautiful black cows standing directly on the path. Just as I started wondering how exactly I should deal with that situation, which way I should go around them, and just how far, they both looked up and took an interest in me. Something in the way the closest one was sizing me up made me take a more mindful look at all of them. Ah, not cows. City kid, here I was standing in the middle of a field of young bulls.
And two of them were headed straight towards me, apparently quite intent on finding out just what I was doing on their path, through their field. They seemed inquisitive rather than angry, and I've never been scared of animals of any kind, so I just stood where I was. My arms were hanging non-threateningly at my sides, palms towards them, offering love and Reiki. They were clearly accepting it, as the flow was very strong. They were very big. And very cute. One of them hung behind the other, like a shy little brother. Both had their heads tilted with curiosity.
The big brother had clearly never experienced Reiki before - nor perhaps a stranger dumb enough to stroll through his field. He walked right up to me, and just as dogs and horses often do, started sniffing my hands to find out what this Reiki stuff was, and just where it was coming from. It was quite a thrill sharing energy and having my hands snuffled by this gentle giant. Just a little more magic.
But then I made my mistake. In offering Reiki to animals and inviting them to share our energetic space, we must respect their free will, and always allow them to decide if and where and when to initiate physical contact. Since the energy is equally effective hands-on or from a distance, there's no need to touch them at all, unless they put themselves into our hands. Well, cattle are domesticated animals, and here we were having a lovely time together and he had just touched me, quite a bit and enthusiastically, so I assumed that it was ok to touch him. I gently turned my hand up and around and tried to stroke his nose.
Leap-back-Stamp-Stamp-Snort! Head lowered.
Uh-oh. (No horns at least.) Not accepting any Reiki now.
We each took a few deep breaths. I started backing slowly across the field. We kept constant eye contact. After I'd gone maybe 3 metres/10 feet, he started matching me step for step, little brother close behind, escorting me out. The field seemed about a hundred times bigger than it had on the way in. They did not charge me, and once I was close enough to the gate, they stopped and just watched to make sure I was really leaving.
I was very grateful for this lesson in humility and respect for the boundaries of others. It could have been a much harsher lesson. And I still got to watch the last of the sunset from the top of the Tor, via the long way round.