The tradition of Building Spiritual Strength was a gift to me from the animal kingdom and laid the groundwork for future therapy. Retelling the event will sound like a fantasy, but it did happen. It was a day like all the others, I was hiking, trying to escape the memories…

The raven, perched in a mesquite tree, made an occasional melodic comment “Grok-Croool.” A second Raven landed and watched the first. The first examined the sky. I followed its gaze to the red rock bluffs and then above. I couldn’t see anything but blue sky. Of course, that raven could see things I couldn’t. My curiosity became knowing. My doing became being. Moments came and went and merged. I was on holy ground. The first raven made a final one-syllable comment, “Gra-a-a-ak” and took flight. The other Raven shrugged its wings and followed.

A bald eagle flew low over the hill that separates my garden from Oak Creek. The Ravens swoop in – not playing. The Eagle evaded and reached for more sky. The raven’s harassing seemed chaotic at first but then I saw their dance was not random. It moved the eagle further and further from the earth and away from the hill where the ravens liked to sit and watch. The noble-heroic eagle was transported from the realm of the raven, restoring balance and integrity to this place and time.

As their purpose was fulfilled, each raven made swooping turns, glinting silver in the morning sun, then returned to its place of watching. The gift of Raven-Magic was given and received. Thus, I became a watcher – ever vigilant for breaches of balance and integrity.

The practice of watching animals without judgment or expectation deepened my connection to the world of spirit and revealed a healing path. On that path I watch myself the same way I watched the ravens. This practice is a way of Building Spiritual Strength.  Most importantly, Building Spiritual Strength is now my chosen way of healing the Moral Injury inflicted by the violence of combat.

When my unquiet mind fills with Memories of combat, Neither my reaching, wanting, or heroic deed nor any meditation, medication, or therapy will relieve the torment born of trauma. For that I remember – Ravens are silver, not black.

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