Trust Your Path
by Brenda Cann
It’s about hope...
Twenty-two years ago I boarded a plane for Europe and embarked on an unexpected journey. Perhaps it was symbolic that my baggage missed the plane and I arrived in London, England divested of my “things”... just me... standing alone in a foreign landscape. I had just finished my Bachelor of Arts and my plan was to take a year to travel and work in Europe before beginning graduate studies. But there are the plans of the person and the plans of the soul. While there I “contracted” pneumonia and thus began the real travels, an eighteen-year journey through Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).
I use the word “contracted” deliberately as I agree with Caroline Myss’ belief, “That each of us is guided by a Sacred Contract that our soul made before we were born. That Contract contains a wide range of agreements regarding all that we are intended to learn in this life.”
There is no question that the illness was my great teacher. This is not to say that I didn’t struggle with it. In her book, Women Who Run With the Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes about “...the great teacher we have been saying we want. ‘No, not this teacher!’ We shriek when she arrives. We want a different one. Too bad... The interior teacher surfaces when the soul, not the ego, is ready... and thank goodness, for the ego is never fully ready.” Mine certainly wasn’t. At first I felt like I was dangling on the edge of a cliff and hanging on with my fingertips, desperately trying to pull myself back up onto the solid ground of my “real life.” Eventually however, I let go and dropped to sit at the feet of this new teacher and the first thing she taught me was… surrender.
The lessons were numerous. There was Ego Dissolution 101. Overnight I had been stripped of all my externals. I was more or less confined to my home, lost friends, went from earning a First Class Honours degree in English Literature to being unable to read the simplest book. I no longer had an answer to that common question, “What do you do?” Everything by which I had defined myself was gone. “Who are you now?” CFS whispered, “Who are you really?”
The most valuable lesson though was the way the illness pushed me beyond my mind. Without my intellect to help me navigate the way, I groped like a blind woman and developed new ways to see, honing intuition instead. The course load was heavy, there was no recess or summer holidays and as year followed year, I had begun to think CFS fell under the category of lifelong learning and there would not even be a graduation.
Enter teacher number two... Malta.
Seven years ago my mother went to a retreat in the Kootenays and fell in love with a CD she heard there. It had been recorded in the Hypogeum in Malta. She ordered it and it arrived with a simple brochure offering pilgrimages to Malta’s 5,000-year-old temples. She had no idea when she showed it to me that she was setting her daughter on the path to healing. I had barely heard of Malta and could not have pinpointed it on a map. However, I looked at the brochure, looked at my mom and said, “We’re going.” It was the most illogical statement I have ever made. I was too ill to leave my house, let alone cross the Atlantic, but the pull to go was irresistible. So, I took my backpack off its dusty shelf for the first time in almost twenty years, the same backpack I had taken on that initial trip to Europe which had started me on my journey with CFS. It was empty except for one thing, a butterfly ring that I had forgotten I owned. Illness had been a metamorphosis, a passage from one way of being to another, and now it was time to fly again.
Even on that first trip, my arrival in Malta felt less like an arrival than a return. I felt like I was Home and, as in any true home, had the immediate sense of being looked after. I had no greater expectations than maybe having one good day during my month-long stay. However, I was amazed to find that within a week I was remarkably better and in much less pain. I had forgotten what it felt like to be able to move freely. Malta reminded me. It is impossible to encapsulate my experiences in Malta in a paragraph. That first trip alone is a book unto itself. Suffice to say that I visited Malta twice more, each time experiencing the same dramatic improvement.
Eventually I decided to come for a longer period to see if I could recover completely.
People ask me what it is about Malta that has helped me heal. First it is important to understand that the illness itself was healing, taking me from who I was to who I could be. What has happened on this island has simply been a continuation of that process, as if I have been learning about the next phase of healing, one which blessedly has included the clearing of CFS symptoms. I think of Malta as yet another teacher, one who has the answers and guides me with hints and support but makes me do the work... and I have had to work. I have learned it is not enough to recover from the physical symptoms of illness. Just as I had forgotten what it felt like to be healthy, I have now had to let go of the memory of being sick. The emotional, mental, and physical patterns that accumulated during twenty years of illness have been coming up for release. Fear (that my legs will give out, that I won’t be able to sleep) has had to be replaced with trust.
As for what makes Malta extraordinary... there is the cleansing sea, the warmth, the endless golden light, the supportive nature of the Maltese people without whom I would not have made it this far. However, there is something more, something deeper, a strong spiritual energy that has run like a supportive backbone through this land for millennia. From the beginning, I was drawn to the ancient temples. I would say I sit at them for hours at a time, except at the temples there is only timelessness. They lift me out of the “now,” holding me above my struggles so I can see them from a higher perspective. The temples take me further out of my mind to a place where all is possible. It’s about hope.
Brenda Cann was raised in Saskatchewan and has been living (and temple sitting) in Malta for the last three and a half years and is currently writing a book about her experiences on the healing path. She recently also created the website www.maltaspirality.com to introduce more people to Malta and its temples so they too can awaken to their own possibilities. Visit the website to subscribe to her blog or join her facebook page.