The week before last, despite a mountain of work to do in preparation for the launch of my Mastery Classes in September, I attended a short course at the Schumacher College in Devon presented by the contemporary philosopher and “sacred activist” Charles Eisenstein.

The course was designed to explore the ideas and notions in Eisenstein’s latest book The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible. This is a work that acknowledges this time of social and ecological crisis as being symptomatic of the Western mind’s “Story of the People” breaking down. He suggests that our senses are awakening to a New Story, a narrative that expands and includes the wisdom of all of the Earth’s peoples, one that will underpin a

… new kind of civilization, an Age of Reunion to follow the Age of Separation.

The coming Age of Reunion will reawaken the Western mind to the interconnectedness of the World’s ecosystems and of all life at a deeper spiritual level of existence. It requires us to recognize, honor and include the stories told by our indigenous peoples, and to examine fully our perception of the world through our belief systems. As Eisenstein remarks,

… we can say that the ecological crisis—like all our crises—is a spiritual crisis… encompassing all aspects of our humanity.

This was what drew me to attend the course. By connecting with Mr. Eisenstein, with the people of Schumacher College, and with my fellow attendees, I was sure I could reinvigorate that spiritual sense of interconnectedness within me. I was certainly due some human connectivity after many days focused only on my internet connectivity.

An arachnid welcome

On arrival at Schumacher I was warmly greeted and promptly shown to my room in one of the dormitory blocks. Keen to meet my course compatriots, I quickly unpacked my clothes for the four-night stay, hanging up my shirts in the open wardrobe next to the single bed. This done, it was time to check out the bed.

I pulled back the duvet cover to discover a small spider sitting on my pillow.

Now… I must confess that sharing my bed with a spider has never been at the very top of my to do list. Let’s say I’m a little nervous around spiders. I will however exhibit a blasé attitude if confronted with one with a leg span of up to an inch; but any larger, with its bulbous body becoming clearly recognizable from its legs, has me scrambling for the bug-catcher-box-on-a-yard-long-stick-thingy, kept in the utility room. (Spider management tip: Capturing a spider in the aforementioned contraption and then holding this at arms-length will provide you with enough distance between you and it should it decide to leap back at you upon release.)

The spider on my pillow met with my blasé response. I nonchalantly brushed it onto the floor and triumphantly watched it scurry off to hide under the wardrobe—“Farewell my little friend.”

It had been a long three-hour drive to the college, so I decided to change my shirt before going to the main building for lunch and introductions. I took my rather fetching lilac pin-stripe shirt from the wardrobe and slipped it on. As I begun fastening the buttons, I looked into the mirror in front of me.

My heart stopped.

This may have been because clinging to my shirt, directly over my heart, was a spider the size of a woman’s glove… or even a small man’s glove. It was seriously hugely massive in a really big way.

The fight or flight response took over my immediate actions. Even before finishing the discharge of my campus-awakening cry of horror, I had whipped off my shirt, pulled open the window, and was frantically flipping and flapping the shirt for all it was worth above the flowerbed below. I’m sure I heard a ‘thud’ as the beast hit the ground before finding its feet, grabbing a rock, and hurling it in my direction.

Traumatic interlude over, I was able to quickly don my shirt—along with my cool—and head off to the main building. Inside, I steered myself towards the hubbub of voices in the dining area. There were a lot of people milling around the drinks counter. I could do with a stiff drink I thought… but alas, I had to make do with cup of tea.

The symbolism of spiders

Tea in hand, I sat at a table next to a woman who was passionately disclosing to a neighbor her reasons for being at the college at this time. Essentially, she was on a mission to raise awareness of the plight of the Amazon (the river and its rainforest, not the company) in order to protect the region from further deforestation and denuding by logging and farming companies. Karina Miotto is a Brazilian national devoted to the well-being of the Amazon. She explained to me that she was an environmental journalist fed up with reporting on the saddening events that are still happening in the Amazon.

… I have been working in a new way of doing journalism. I promised myself I’d never write about negative things again. It is necessary to know what’s going wrong, but the positive things needs space too! That’s why I committed with myself to only write about what is inspiring, useful, informative and positive. I also started the Reconnection Amazon Rainforest Project, where I take people to the Amazon and do deep ecology with them, so they will be able to open their hearts to reconnect with it.

Suitably impressed by her passion and vigor for positive change in her spiritual home, I remarked that her efforts to bring people to the Amazon on experiential retreats may be thwarted by the most common phobia in the global populous—the fear of spiders. “I believe they can be quite large in the rainforest and a tad scary for that,” I said. (Clearly, my mind was still wrestling with recent events.)

I then began to regale Karina with my tale of two spiders. I laid particular emphasis on how bravely I had fought off the attentions of the second one—bigger than any you might find in the Amazon.

Karina interrupted, “Are you aware that for the people of the Amazon there is a deeper meaning behind the appearance of certain creatures in your life?”

“I’m aware that indigenous peoples attribute symbolism to the natural world, do you know what spiders symbolize?” I enquired.

“They represent connectivity,” she said, “they build webs of connectivity.”

“Ah… very interesting. I am primarily here to connect with people who are of a similar mind to my own.” I said.

“Your spiders story would suggest that you will be successful in making connections,” was her reply.

Arachnophobia – symbolic of our fear of disconnection?

Part 2 of 2 will be posted tomorrow…

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