Gai Lawson, British Columbia, Canada
As a student of Eckankar, I have an understanding of how the Mahanta, my spiritual guide, often shelters me under his umbrella of divine love and offers me respite from the sometimes frantic world around me. This divine love supported me when we relocated last year.
We moved across the country to a semiarid region. Our neighborhood is in a grasslands area with sagebrush and other small shrubs but no big trees. We can see the forest far off in the distance, higher up on the mountains across the wide river valley. The sun really heats up the hillsides where we live, as there is no natural shade.
That summer we had extreme heat, which was very unusual, and I wondered what effect this would have on the animals in our area. We are fortunate to live by a gully with lots of wildlife—deer, coyotes, marmots, many birds (including chukars, bald eagles, crows, ravens, and a variety of small songbirds), mice, rattlesnakes, and so on. I knew that the birds could fly to water or shade, and the bigger animals could find water, but I wondered about the mice and other small creatures.
We had seen an official government sign at a local hiking trail, warning people not to disturb or harass rattlesnakes. Our neighbors also told us to be careful of rattlesnakes in the area. Often, a neighborhood social-media site would post notices of where rattlesnakes had been sighted. If the snake stayed, a local snake expert would remove the creature and transport it up into its natural territory in the hills, where it could be safe from people, and vice versa. People tend to react sharply with fear when it comes to these Souls in snake bodies.
One very hot afternoon, I decided to pick some weeds out of a potted tomato. I carefully stepped across a raised garden bed into a shady area, reached for the small weeds—and froze. I was nearly face-to-face with a rattlesnake! Then I relaxed, became very still within myself, and simply observed this beautiful creature as it rested in the garden border, in the shade of the garden shed. I carefully moved away, while staying in the shade. I continued to watch the snake, just as it watched me. The delicate coloring, its skin patterns, the shape of its head and sinuous body—it fascinated me.
I did not feel alarmed at that point. Instead, I felt curiosity, as I had never seen a rattlesnake. Perhaps the snake had never seen a human. As we continued to watch each other, I felt a sense of trust and camaraderie within the stillness of the shade. I had a sense that the snake was just resting in this sheltered area for a while to cool down and avoid the heat of the direct sun.
I felt wonder at the snake’s visit, seeing its beauty and noting how it was so still and calm around me. I felt a surge of love and gratitude for its visit. The ECK, Divine Spirit, was showing me how the snake, one of God’s small creatures, could find shelter in the shade, much as I find shelter within the umbrella of the Mahanta’s love.
—Photos by Gai Lawson