What Does “Beyond 101” Look Like?

And how can I recognize it when I encounter it? [Looking for a different take? Here’s another post of mine on the subject from August 2020.]

Part of the “recognition challenge” we may face is that “Beyond 101” can vary so widely from person to person. (That’s a good thing.)

Stick with Druidry long enough — as with any path with heart — and you’ve already entered “Beyond 101” territory. Maybe slipped in without even noticing. Almost certainly no welcome committee, no flags or fireworks. Of course, if that’s true of you, then you’re probably not asking what Beyond 101 looks like, because you’re busy doing it. From time to time, though, you may well ask the question as you stand on this side of the border, just like the rest of us mortals.

If I start by looking at some of the practices I list in “Druiding without (an) Order“, I can get a first approximation of what at least some of the “Beyond” landscape may look like, because that’s where those practices lead to. Druidry helps us grow into ourselves, to bloom and blossom in season.

And if I look at my own singular and not-particularly-representative journey, much of what I discover, to use another suitably Druidic image, is a spreading root system. One thing leads to another — “knowing how way leads on to way”, Robert Frost puts it.

So these are two directions this post will take, or two themes: where beginning practices may point us, and what I can conclude from my own “decade in Druidry” and forty years on another path.

/|\ /|\ /|\

Druidry starts where we do.

Druidry eases us open to encounter.

In some ways, Druidry takes us through the musical of our own lives: “I love you, you’re perfect, now change“. So do most spiritual paths worth the walking which connect us to an Other or Others. One difference is that Druidry acknowledges changes will happen regardless, because they’re characteristic of our existence here and now. Life initiates us without our say-so. And so we can learn to sail the winds of change, or be buffeted more than needs to happen. (Sometimes it looks like both at once.)

Druidry points us toward the natural world as a guide and image for what living is like, what it can be, where it can take us, and how to experience all these things more richly and deeply.

Following the first path of the 13 starting points from my “Druiding without (an) Order” post above, if I “learn the trees and plants, birds and animals of my region”, I may well become an herbalist, a healer, an environmental activist, a workshop leader, a teacher, and so on. Druidry can help me activate potentials.

If I opt for “Path Number 2”, and set about learning all I can about a subject, self-taught perhaps because no one else exists who can teach me, or because my life has taken a turn away from the class-and-credential route others may follow, such knowledge will again take me where I may not have foreseen, into encounters with people or places or ideas I wouldn’t have imagined before I began. Druidry can help me navigate new directions and opportunities with its tools and practices. In the process, I may learn to appreciate and value the difference between head-knowledge and heart-wisdom.

Some who turn to follow Path 3 will become Bards: singers, musicians, performers others recognize for their art. Some may remain inward Bards, alive to word and song, but unknown except perhaps to partners, family, close friends — and sometimes not even to these. (Perhaps only a garden, or god or goddess, knows what the awen says to you.) Or this path may lead variously to a life of travel and performance, to teaching the instrument of your Barding, to supporting the rituals of your group or grove with word and melody and chant, and so on. What will you do with the song in your heart?

With just these three paths, you begin to see some of the varied forms that Beyond 101 can take.

Almost always, Druidry will help enliven in us the impulse to explore more than one path, though a particular path may call more strongly, and become a dominant theme during a lifetime. “Beyond 101” is, often enough, a series of “taking up a new direction”, but with the wisdom of the practice of one path there to guide and guard you, and to deepen as it does so.

And what of following more than one “larger” path, Druidry and Christianity, or Druidry and Medicine, or Buddhism and Druidry, and so on? As with all our close relationships, they will enrich us, train us (and strain us!), taking us to new places.

I’ve discovered over time how if my practice of one path goes dormant, or even feels lifeless, exhausted, or at some frozen stopping-point or impasse, the other path can help, may paradoxically intensify, compensate, engage me in new ways, or open up insights into the other path. Walking two paths has reduced the blind spots I might otherwise experience on either path. That’s rarely a comfortable experience, however desirable it seems from the outside — and proves to be.

Druidry, like any other path, can’t “save” me — but my practice of it can.

Often when we seek something “beyond 101”, we’re looking for inspiration, kindling, a pathway through an apparently lifeless winter landscape. Or some indication of what’s going on, what’s shaking loose, where to put attention and energy — or where to conserve them. Divination remains popular because we want to “know the future” — not so completely that no surprises remain in life, but so that the pace of change doesn’t swamp and overwhelm and drown us.

Those in our groups and groves and circles of friends who frequent the terrain beyond 101 may not immediately stand out to us. They may fall silent around the talkers and gossips. They may sit off by themselves with one or two others, or they may seem “perfectly normal” or utterly quirky and eccentric.

C. S Lewis wrote in his Space Trilogy: “I happen to believe that you can’t study men; you can only get to know them, which is quite a different thing”. In our quest for Beyond 101, frustrated at our capacity to sense the terrain ourselves, we turn to those who look like they walk it, or claim to do so. Then we may strive to imitate them, reading their books, attending their workshops, in some cases lingering with them to swim in their charisma, catch their vibe.

The paradox arrives in our discovery that the tools they provide, the models and examples they put before us, if they are worthy teachers and mentors, ultimately show us not who they are, but more of ourselves, and how to fulfill who we are — slowly, slowly — becoming.

/|\ /|\ /|\

Image 1: Pexels.com; image 2: front yard

%d bloggers like this: