by Crystal Hoffman
“It’s called trail magic,” B-man, my self-appointed mentor, an Appalachian Trail 4-time thru-hiker said as placed the tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, hiking chair, and led lights that I would need for my walk at my feet. He wanted only twenty dollars to cover the sleeping pad. I shook my head, “Are you serious?” He smiled through his full beard and pulled down his ball cap. He never took off his hiking clothes and walked six miles to work each day. I’ve never seen anyone more confident in gifting someone that they’d only known for one week and only seen three times hundreds of dollars worth of goods.
“All I ask is that when you get out there, you tell your story with as much excitement to every single person you meet, as if you were telling it for the first time. One day it will be your turn to make a little trail magic happen for someone. You’ll receive a lot of miracles out there. And you’ll earn all of it.” I didn’t know at the time that these would be the single wisest words that I’d hear for the next five months. I would meet curanderas, paleontologists, herbalist/naturopaths, medicine men, road women, neo-surrealist painters, yoginis, science and history professors, permaculturists, off-the-grid community builders, geologists, but none of these gifts from the universe were as great at the one that put me on the path to them. The one that gave me the courage to cut the cords, walk out of the cocoon, and begin living my myth, making my truth.
So like B-man, I’m leaving you all with some rules about, and hopefully giving you a little nudge towards, going out there on your own journey and making some trail magic yourself.
1. Stop Planning
Your good intentions and your movement forward against the odds alone are yours. What appears before you is going to be what you need to stay on the path. Sometimes that is loss, danger, suffering, ticks (*shiver*). Magic is not performed to make you feel powerful or to give you what you want. It is what you need to do the work that universe needs done. Only when you align your intentions with that of the universe’s will the world be magical, will the sky open on an overcast day just above your head, so that the layers of smooth cotton glisten like prisms, revealing the red, green, indigo of each particle of light as it streams to earth. Only then will each item laying alongside the road speak to you as a relic or lesson from your past or future self. Only then will you see your own name everywhere, will everyone be a prophet, will every buzz of the senses seem a blessing.
2. Recognize that giving is receiving and live it.
Learn to receive with as much grace as you give and give with as much excitement as you receive. The more you give, the more you leave behind, the lighter you become and the more easily you can fall into the flow of the grace of the universe. Act as though, even if you can’t quite see it yet, “I” and “other” are false concepts. Once you can see someone in need and simply act out of impulse and show compassion, then others will treat you in the same way. If you give someone a meal, some else giving you a meal becomes more likely in your frame of reality. Your neural pathways are honed for it. I gave away two-thirds of the things that I started with on my walk and nearly everything that was gifted to me found a perfect home with someone further down the road. Remember, we’re here as messengers. We’re here to keep the energy flowing.
3. Trail magic never happens when you’re looking for it.
This rule is related to the observer effect which happens on the quantum level. When the wave/possibility function of a particle is observed, it collapses into its mass function. Which means that all of the possible places where the particle could exist collapse into one space. On a very real level, before this moment the particle existed everywhere in the universe, bonded eternally with each other particle with which it has ever interacted (known as spooky interaction at a distance). Which means, the more time you spend looking at the absence of something, the more real its absence becomes. You have to leave room for the universe to surprise you, to rain blessings upon you. This means leaving your expectations open. When you do, the most beautiful blessings, beyond your wildest imagination will come flowing towards you.
Warning: Opening up that space means dedication, facing your fears, and yes, discomfort and sometimes all-out pain, but oh! oh! is it ever worth it.
4. Pay attention. Focus. Make each moment a ritual.
It takes focus to see our smaller deaths, which become the opening of space. It takes ritual. When you’re walking for the majority of your day it’s easy to make anything a ritual, a prayer: Recalling where you are in the morning. Brushing your teeth. Splashing your face with water from a cold stream. Taking a piss in the woods. Setting up your tent alongside the road. You begin to feel it meaning more, setting bigger things into motion. You then begin to actively interpret the code of it, follow it, and see the next steps laid out for you. You see how there is no empty space, that the air is filled with tiny living organisms, colliding, entangled, spinning particles. And they’re all a part of your world. And they all will sustain you, if you recognize it as a possibility. They’ll invite you in for a cup of coffee when you think you can’t stand the cold anymore. They’ll give you a place to sleep when you’re legs are aching. They’ll make you a sandwich for the road when you’re not sure how you’re going to get groceries for the next fifteen miles. They’ll hand you twenty dollars that you’ll discover you really need two days later.
5. Tell the story.
It’s all we get from our pasts. It must be told and retold from as many perspectives as possible. If we don’t, then the miracles fall off into chaos. The magic we experience in the world must resonate and mutate with the ages. The stories of magic must come from far and wide and diverge and intersect until they create every shape and color and continent possible for them to create. This is how we build bridges. This is how we slap mortar on the concrete blocks of our new cities. These stories are where we will be unified with one another fully. This is how we manifest heaven, re-enter Eden: We convince others that we can make our own. We’ve messed up the stories of our greatest magicians: Christ, Mohammad, Buddha, Moses–we stopped really believing in them. Meaning, we’ve stopped trying to live them ourselves. That can change, all you have to do is tell others how you did it, how you went for a walk one day and made miracles.
Crystal Hoffman is a yogini (Kundalini, Bikram, Vinsyasa) of ten years, an avid traveler and adventurer (lived twice in a war zone), a sun-dancer-in-training, a performance artist, and a sketch comedian. Her poetry has been published widely online and in print, and she has presented scholarship on women and spirituality in the turn-of-the-century avant-garde movements at national conferences. She spent five months walking alone across the country, writing poetry for strangers this past year.
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