UNIVERSAL PATHWAYS

A SANCTUARY WITHIN REACH
EDITED BY K. A. LAITY

UNIVERSAL PATHWAYS A peaceful sanctuary that’s within easy reach of your busy life in the Capital Region .

Steve and Mary Browne 3 .

sheep. The vision has always been to assist people of all ages in creating their own vision through health. It was six months later that my next-door neighbor came to tell me she was going to sell her house. 4 . It would change the focus of my life forever. Universal Pathways is predicated on vision. In the early 1980s I took a course in Reiki.raising children. vegetables and all of day-to-day living. My practice grew slowly and as it grew I realized there would come a time when I would no longer be able to practice in our home. My start in the practice was slow due to many factors -. creative investigation and open opportunity to experience all of the above.The labyrinth features the trees of the Celtic zodiac and offers a place for walking meditation ABOUT THE DREAM The history of Universal Pathways and the history of our home farms are an on-going weaving. At that moment. I felt the house was much too large for my vision at that time. nature. but for this writing I will attempt to separate the two. but Steve repeatedly told me the house was perfect and I could begin to widen my vision. So I looked at converting the carriage barn. I was advised by an architect that the carriage barn was not suitable for so many reasons and it would cost a fortune to remedy all the deficiencies.

Welcome -- Mary Browne 5 . It has become a peaceful reminder for those whose daily lives can push aside the real reason for accepting the privilege of life on this earth. planted the Celtic zodiac. we learn. We laugh. we are real. we retreat. May it be you.Within the first two years we put in the labyrinth. Universal Pathways is now viewed as home to many groups of people. Who are we? All who come and find something of value. we play. The library continues to expand. we cry. developed a peace garden and a meditation garden.

TESTIMONIALS .

knowing it will fail to do her justice. and I had arranged to meet with Mary and assess the property to see if it would accommodate our organization’s needs.            We arrived in the early afternoon. is such a wonderful mixture of qualities it is impossible to capture her character in a writing such as this. We were captured almost instantly upon meeting her by her warmth and generous hospitality. Dee. away from the business and busyness of mundane life. Mary.The first time I visited Universal Pathways and met Mary Browne was for the purpose of finding a location to host a spiritual retreat for an organization in which I am a member. Instantly we knew we had entered a wonderland where farmhouse meets library. herself. After a brief conversation of introductions she invited us to explore the house with words which cap- The white birch: where memories and memorial join 7 . surprised that the trip to Berne went much more quickly than we had anticipated. where spiritual sanctuary meets art gallery. On the drive to Universal Pathways we naively told each other that we could accomplish this meeting in an hour. She welcomed us into the “little house” where she runs her business. maybe two tops! We were hoping to find a location where our members could gather. At best I can offer you a few glimpses of her. My friend. We could not anticipate at that time that we would find all of this and so much more. with plenty of space for inner and outer exploration of their connections with spirit.

           Mary led us out of the little house. and her children. Mary likes to walk the land barefoot.  Downstairs again we found another reading retreat and nearby a devotional room where all concepts of deity are welcome. “I don’t own the land. I just get to pay the taxes. We walked past the beautiful peace garden and approached the full sized labyrinth.  My senses were tingling as we explored the many rooms of the house.  I’m sure our wide eyed expressions of awe gave her more information about our experience than any words we could muster as we struggled to express our amazement and excitement. with a gleam in her eye and a youthful giggle of glee. the pathways created with interplay of gravel and fragrant thyme. Already Dee and I knew we had found the place we wanted to hold our retreat and we had only begun to experience the magic of Universal Pathways. the little house. past the barns with the chickens watching us curiously.            When we returned Mary.  Further. A healing garden encased by boxwood and a chicken house converted into a little private indoor meditation space told us that the blending of mundane and sacred was very much a way of life here.  The dining room leads to a sitting room which brings you to a hidden stairway taking you to private spaces for Reiki and other healing work. A mural in the stairway reflects the artist’s view of the rolling hills and countryside and the Browne family farm. In back of the little house off the deck the outdoor sacred spaces continued to expand outward. I later learned that what I thought was henna was in fact permanent tattoo. is something that exists to be shared by all who would come with respect and appreciation. I’ve heard Mary say. asked if we’d had fun. letting us know she’d be waiting for us in the central class room when we were ready to return. the numerous eclectic sacred symbols throughout representing  so many lands and traditions all coming together in one tastefully crafted symphony. Everywhere we looked we saw beautiful perennial flowers decorating the sacred gardens and accenting the buildings. that the land is not something that can be owned.  My child self was fully enthralled in the beautiful artwork. the countless book cases filled with sacred literature.ture her spirit so well. Steve. the fundamental belief that Universal Pathways.  Simultaneously my adult mind couldn’t help but wonder at how this woman whom we had only known for five minutes was so trusting to let us freely explore and experience her treasures unescorted.  I would come to know that this is an essential aspect of Mary’s character. “Go play!” she said to us. However.            Our tour of the grounds continued over the lawn. her feet free of the burden of shoes and dressed only in the beautiful work of a henna artist as we walked across the soft grass. You know you just walked up a flight of stairs but conversely find yourself transported deep within the earth. Another stairway leads to the upper meditation “cave room” which boasts another mural which astounds your senses.” I know she means this from the heart. With each place we visited Mary shared with us stories of her life’s work building this amazing sanctuary with her husband. The perimeter of the labyrinth is graced with the thirteen sacred trees of the ancient Celts inter spaced with small stone benches for sitting in contemplation. the land. We walked past the 8 . our tour was only just begun. feeling nurtured and energized by the land as she walks.  I think I asked her if I could move in at that moment. she believes that the land responds to those who gather there and that it benefits from the people and their energy as much as the people benefit from the land. each reflecting a blending of the mundane and sacred.

A fitting focal point which mirrored the larger circle of flowers and trees which defined the border of the grove.  Later. He. warm. the area was graced with flowers.  After a few minutes the path opened into a large clearing which held a fire pit in the center.            Our journey continued along the stream through the woods until we came to a natural feature of the landscape that echoed with mystery and sanctity. and beauty everywhere you looked. stands one of the largest white Birch trees I’ve ever seen. and a circumference of flowers. however.            This was just a taste of the wonders of the landscape. a natural mikvah. The air in the vicinity was cooled naturally by the waters and the breath of the cave. that we were in the presence of a great artist with an eye for beauty. At the mouth of the cave the crystal clear waters of stream flowed over a bed of solid rock which formed a hollow large enough to hold an adult person. When you meet her yourself make sure to ask her about that one. a little removed from the other trees. I believe that is where we met Steve for the first time and had the first of many conversations. It’s a great story! And what an altar he built! I wondered at the feat of physical and mental strength it must have taken to move those giants now partly covered by years of moss. openness of the fields with the sun shining in the clear sky above was magical. Of the many trees in the perimeter of that space one stands out as the queen of the hill. It was like walking into another world and felt to be a very appropriate place to honor the spirits of sky and fire. We followed a pathway beneath a flower laden trellis and entered a borderland between cultivated space and woodlands. We knew. Steve. What we thought would be accomplished in a quick hour or two had expanded well beyond that in both time and intention! We really didn’t want to leave but realized how wonderful it was that we would be able to come back! As we later relayed our experiences to our friends in our organization 9 . ivy. In the east. trees. Mary explained that this was where she holds open celebrations for the eight seasonal holidays and that we’d be welcome to use it for our retreat as well. She is truly amazing. Mary told us the story of the day that she told Steve that she needed him to build that amazing altar in the far end of the grove and that she had the altar stone all picked out. it was apparent that he was the perfect man for the job. He was himself a giant of a man who under different circumstances might have struck the fear of the gods in me from his size alone. The mystical source of the stream on the property was a small cave in an enormous rock wall. As we walked back down the path to the main house Mary explained to us that the farm had hundreds of acres and that the retreat attendees would be welcome to walk and explore as spirit took them. How late was it? For the first of many times we experienced the timelessness of Universal Pathways and Mary laughed as she told us that tends to happen there. was also an artist committed to the tireless work of manifesting their combined vision.main house and several more gardens of both vegetables and flowers. when we met Mary’s husband. We sat on the terrace at the main house and enjoyed more conversation and refreshments. After a short time we returned to the grove and left behind the water spirits as we followed a path that wound its way up the wooded hillside. The perennials and annuals blended so smoothly into the woods as we approached the footbridge that took us across the bubbling stream into the grove that it gave the impression it must have always been this way. Again. There we found the dragon flies and frogs happily enjoying the beauties of the largest. The transition at the top of the hill from the darker cooler cover of the trees into the bright. cleanest pond I’ve ever seen. As the sun started to move lower in the sky Dee and I began to think for the first time about time. like Mary.

 I have been very blessed to find a community of people who don’t all think alike. This is a place in the world that is truly. I have also been blessed to find not just a location for retreats. though many since have taken place there. home. In time the members came to know each in their own way the special magic that is woven at Universal Pathways.Cattails in the autumn our enthusiasm was hard to control. In the years since our first meeting of Mary and Steve Browne I have been lucky to attend many events and gatherings at Universal Pathways. I found people who are 10 . but a vibrant spiritual community. by every definition of the word. There are so many wonderful spiritual traditions and perspec- tives represented in that community and the thing that makes it truly special is the loving acceptance and welcoming spirit everyone brings and the true appreciation for the gifts and perspective offered by each person.

the labyrinth. I’ve been fortunate to be reminded why it’s important to walk the land with no shoes! Time still slips when I visit there.. Those left behind in the mundane world know better than to expect me home on time.friends but not only friends. and of course the White Lady of the hill. though it’s always with a little sadness I remind myself how wonderful it is that soon I’ll be coming back! Allan P. I’ve come to know and love the trees of the grove.  Here people embrace and value hard work and honest efforts but do so with respect. however. The sense of peace and grounding one can experience on this land is nothing short of therapeutic. That has never changed.  Usually.  When life’s challenges come to visit as they do for all on this planet we stand firmly together and support each other offering what we can. Albany. It never happens. We are ultimately a family in its truest sense. This is a place where the land and the various inhabitants of the land are truly respected and revered as conscious members of the community. NY The bridge over the creek 11 . a light heart and always a spirit of play. when it is time to finally leave.

It might look different. The comfort. or maybe a spot to sit and think. It was a space that held magic. Maybe you went there to scream and yell and cry when you were upset and just wanted to be alone or maybe you went there to laugh and celebrate and smile just for the sake of doing so. Coming to Universal Pathways is like revisiting that space that was so special to you as a child. or feel. But no matter where it was. or just be. Maybe being in your space allowed you the security and quiet to problem solve or to completely lose yourself in your imagination. No matter where your space was or what you did there it was special to you. tangible or imagined it held a comfort that felt unique only to it. or even a space tucked away in the crevices of your imagination. A spot in the natural world. It may have been a secret spot that you never told anyone about. a man made structure. but when you close your eyes you may sense that it feels the same. whether it was big or small. Maybe it was a spot to escape for a while.Do you remember when you were small and you had a place that was special to you? It may have been a room or a tree or a fort. safety and magic are there and the people who gather at Universal The waters flowing from the depths of the cave 12 . or it may have been a spot you shared with people important to you or the world as a whole.

   Amy Curious donkey says hello 13 .Pathways share an understanding and respect for one another and for their surroundings that is uncommon. Universal Pathways has been that space for me and I am eternally grateful that I have been able to spend time there and be a part of the wonderful community that has been created. in the world today. It is a wonderful experience to have had a special space as a child. and much needed. but it’s even more wonderful to realize you can have it as an adult as well.

Another friend at my Ordination at Universal Pathways said "this is where you belong.  It sounds academic and for a while I tried to wear that hat too.. At 19." she was right. Maeve Noonan of Ballston Spa Serenity within reach 14 . but at 7 I was attending Seventh Day Advent Sabbath School. But for me that way too was {as in the spiritual quest} some of it fit but seemed to claustrophobic. and I tried various places in between. but did not fit my soul.This may sound trite but I have been looking for such a place since I was 6 or 7. What Mary Browne and Universal Pathways gave to me was a safe place or refuge to explore the compass and scope of my divergent beliefs.. It is a place and a space of Grace and True Beauty. later attending a Mennonite Summer School. from Native American  to  Wiccan -. K. from History to Archaeology and Art History. I once explained to a professor I defined myself as a Celtic Deist -it still holds true and Pathways gives me the place and the circle of friends who accept me as I am with no set boundaries or doctrines to define me.all had something for me to clothe myself in.What Universal Pathways has meant to me for the past 15 years or so is a spiritual home. I was born into the Lutheran Community and raised a Catholic.

  Larry Syzdek.  Apparently it's been nearly 10 years since I first drove up that driveway. Vischer Ferry.  We are the path. NY 15 . brings me energy of understanding. and we bring our small light of love. All the mystery falls away and I am within the light of joy and within the hearts of all who share. Our hearts lead the way.   We are the mystery.  The place has its own Presence -.  We are the future.  We are blessed with each other.  Come walk with us. and of course Mary and her family at the heart of it. I feel elevated to a new plane of humanity. that not only lights up the past but shows the way into the future. I was quite enchanted.   No journey starts without the first step. with many other Presences -.  I felt immediately welcomed. brings me the strength I need to carry my burdens forward. and to take that first step with the love and support of our spiritual friends.Dredged up some old e-mails in my attempt to figure out how long I've known about Universal Pathways. to mingle with each others light. of course. Ruth Olmsted. Vischer Ferry NY When we meet in a circle and speak from the heart. it's not off-putting or aloof.  There is space for all.yet unlike some other centers of spirituality that I've visited. to create a great bonfire.  Our mutual sharing. and by the time I had finished my tour of the Little House.and is filled.

 My experiences at Universal Pathways continued to broaden.How does one attempt to describe a place and the people that I have met there who have been so transformational in my life?  It started simply with a weekly meditation class at the “cave room in the little house”. the grove. all add to the magic and majesty that is Universal Pathways. lovingly referred to as a mikva. are all incredibly rare and unique experiences that I have been truly blessed to be part of.   Thank you Mary. as I allowed myself to open to all that it has to offer. or ducking into a pool of water. the classes. as a spiritual douche.  Walking the thyme lined labyrinth in bare feet with a gigantic full moon overhead must experienced.it is the land. and there are only a few places that have such a visceral and primitive connection for me. the people. Kurt 16 . the fire circle. nature itself . your body jettisoning upward as your lungs burst with a primal scream that drains the negativity and invites the love and understanding that such a place can nurture. or what Celtic events are celebrated. that has just come from an underground cave. and not just read about.the connection to something bigger than myself. the water.  Yes. where I was introduced to Mary and Steve Browne. and a sanctuary of this magnitude must be experienced and felt. Love.  The title is quite illuminating – Universal Pathways!  Words are often not adequate vehicles to express inner spiritual experiences.   For me. but all of that natural beauty has been enhanced by the vision that Mary has brought to the table – the numerous gardens. or standing in a circle of friends (some brand new and others known to you for years) with a large fire in the middle and sharing.  Those offerings are more than simply the sum of its parts. and this is the only one that is a short car ride away. the pond. it has become much more than a place to take classes . part of this is the land. and visit a few other countries.    I have also been blessed to travel throughout the United States. the labyrinth. or by the monthly moon walks. and the openness and respect that there is more than one way or path to that realization. and can not just be defined by listing what classes are held there.  Wandering the over 400 acres in snowshoes. or during a rainstorm. much like has been done for thousands of years. or in my somewhat twisted expression.

the fire circle.  As we walked and talked. so we made an appointment to go and check it out.  My first impression of Mary was that she seemed so centered and to be an embodiment of peace.  What Rufus didn’t understand was that there was so much for human brains to take in and process! 17 .  During our visit we toured the little house and the major features of the grounds. the grove and the pond. frequently running back to us as if to tell us we were being too pokey and slow.  Mary met us at the door of the little house.  My friend Allan and I were looking for a place to have a spiritual retreat for the Hudson Valley Pagan Network.Dee’s photo of the rabbit in Bart’s garden My first encounter with Universal Pathways and Mary Browne was several years ago now.  Another friend had been at UP for Morris dancing on Beltane and recommended we look into using space there. the white dog circled around the periphery and Rufus led the way. including the labyrinth.

as we read and explore books. the first of MANY we would hold there over many years. but my financial resources precluded me from entering the class until a little over a year ago.  My class is made up of myself and my very good friend.  I had aspirations of taking it.”  We made arrangements with Mary for rental of space for a retreat. As the years passed.  She is an example of actualized womanhood and a Mother Goddess here on Earth.  Time isn’t the same here. Mary is a healer. we came to know how true it was that time is something else entirely at UP. “That’s what happens here. a mystic and a friend. Mary just looked at us knowingly and said.  My gratitude to Mary is boundless. too.  When we expressed our surprise.  Every month I look forward to spending time in the company of Mary and Sheree. as her wisdom and grace have guided me through some very difficult spots in my life. Sheree.We went out.   Dee Coyle Tocci The pond catches the afternoon light as well as its own reflection 18 . a teacher. several women from HVPN began taking Mary’s Goddess Class.  And. a mentor. thinking that we’d be there for maybe an hour… several hours later we could hardly believe how long we’d been talking. and talk about the work of the Goddess and its’ relevance in the world today.

 I hope you will explore it for yourself! Jennifer Simon In the grove you will find the altar overgrown with moss and vines.  I crept out of the cave and plunged into the mikvah and emerged with a profound sense of rebirth.  I love to be at the cave when my friend. tangible work and my spirit is sustained by Mary Browne and Universal Pathways. is drumming! I have crawled naked into the cave to experience the womb.  Mary Browne is a teacher who challenges you to face your fears and grow--spiritually.  Mary Browne is my teacher.  I have yet to find this anywhere else.  Among my favorite places at Universal Pathways are the Grove. the fire pit.My name is Jennifer Simon and I am a student in the Women’s Mystery School at Universal Pathways. the cave and the mikvah. Kate.  Inside. as if it had always been there 19 .  The material we cover is fascinating and I feel well-fed on books I would never have imagined that I would buy.  The land is an enchanted place and I am always--yet never--surprised at the depth of my spiri- tual experiences when walking the land. I have spent time at retreats at Universal Pathways and this time is precious to me. the experience has been life changing.  I do not leave class each month without the feeling that I’ve done real. In addition to class. This is what Universal Pathways has to offer. let alone enjoy. For me. I was moved to tears in remembrance of my mother. emotionally and psychically.

wonderful people who share in my desire to continually grow and explore. So I went. and soon I will be putting in mini-trails in my backyard.  Walking barefoot surrounded by acres of natural beauty feels like a hug from Mother Nature herself! I always depart feeling somehow changed or renewed.sometime in midsummer. of stone and oak... everything has changed deeply. although there was a request for me to turn my cellphone on and to hold it close for examination. I take my son to Mary's when I can.  I have met so many kind. I will simply be. I told Mary. Something that was not a book. when I experienced something that will stay with me a long time. something. not a talk. but the tree and I and the rock had what I can only call a talk. to.something. that opened me to . I ended up on a rock. self-involved New Age navel-gazing. Time passed. beneath Orion's Belt. It was more like I was eavesdropping on a deep part of me talking to my two companions... looking at a very large tree. crazy. It may sound daft. catching every second or third word. I visit them occasionally in body. Flatlander The sense of community I find at Universal Pathways is refreshing and unique. to the nearby park when i can't.I was in my first year in Knight School. when I felt the strongest. Yes. not an idea. it's for me too . as well as a number of deep talks with Mary and the guys. often in spirit. laying on my back. a locus of nature-consciousness of the surrounding woods. Bean 20 . yet gentlest of 'tugs'. about my fifth month. late at night.  When I am not there. As Mary was releasing us on what I seem to remember as a sort of walkabout meditation (with some assignment which I can't remember). who nodded and said that this tree was a grandfather tree. I had finished a ton of reading assignments (something like 11 books in the first month alone). I received no commandments. where there will be little pockets of mini-wildness for my wild child. you weren't there.  It is the place I go to connect deeply with Nature in order to experience the wonderful healing powers of the Earth. I knew I needed to cross the road. but then again. to cross the field across the road from the little house. Lou. reflecting on time spent at Universal Pathways and the farm fortifies my soul. I received a sense of awareness of the awareness of leaf and flint. and you weren't me. and although nothing has changed dramatically.

but his spirit remains an indelible part of our memories and the land 21 .Rufus said farewell this year.

an experience not to be missed in any lifetime. the colorful flowers and the charming house. However. where people meet as strangers and leave as good friends. Their warmth and generosity enhanced the beauty around me and made it familiar. The trellis guides visitors onto the path. I can always tell those who are new to Universal Pathways. Mary and Steve Browne. clergical ordinations and even a couple of weddings. I have attended fire circles. I have experienced many different things here. Mystery School. It is a peaceful place where thoughts are easily collected and the tension of the world drifts away harmlessly in the breeze. One is made to feel welcome here.When first coming upon Universal Pathways one can’t help but admire the rolling hills of green. it is the look of delight and wonder in their faces that is the tell-tale sign. holiday gatherings. for me it became a completely different experience once I met the stewards of this wonderful place. magical and embracing. The spirit of community is strong here. over the river and up the hill 22 .

where time is flexible and there is more than meets the eye.  It brings everything that's important into focus. only yourself. and focus on the core of my being. e. and brings me to a time that is timeless.  Speaking of time. NY Universal Pathways is a place where I can be myself . the paths. and all other demands. the pond. It can cure what ails you if you still yourself.g. Schenectady.  You don't need to be aware of time.  I can shed all the external aspects and roles of my day-today life. mother. mystical place. Maryann Fairman. transports me to a spiritual place of being. committee-member. the open space. And listen. It can even be said that this is a sacred. my roles as a professional. It's like there is no time. the wildlife. the fields. it passes differently there. your inner self. and what is important to you and who you are It is also a place to 23 . volunteer. you just are. the forest. Mary and Steve Browne have created a place that is sorely needed in these modern times.  Mary  Browne embraces us as individuals and magically makes each person feel special and loved.my pure self. The place that is Universal Pathways..What will you find at Universal Pathways? Whatever it is you need. even if you are not sure what that exactly is.

but likeminded.  It doesn't matter so much as to where the wheel takes us. kindness. the turn of the seasons. There's no room or place for negativity. it's about making a difference in all creatures' (people included) lives and the world. only the positive. with all of us representing different spokes. take an active role in changing the world for the better. Mary Browne brings out the best in everyone and helps you to believe that you are special. She's the match that ignites the flame of hope. and the development of ourselves and being truest to ourselves and to each other. it's that it is turning. Those who find themselves at Universal Pathways may be very diverse in our day-to-day lives.  It's not about relinquishing control. and a willingness to share ourselves. fades and passes away to be reborn again 24 . love.  She also empowers us to make a difference. Sheree Hipwell Everything grows. with the cycle of the year. respect.share that experience with others who are different. and introspection. but we all share compassion. even if you don't believe it yourself at first.  She is the hub of the wheel that turns. mutual respect.

but even more so with the extraordinary people. When I head out to Mary’s I say. for classes. “I’m off to Brigadoon!” There’s something magical about the place and indeed. Steve and Mary Browne and their family (both born and acquired) and friends have established a space where it is possible to simply be. even when tears flow. An hour or a day or longer spent there can be carried with you when you return to ‘normal’ life.yet he is here everywhere you turn. I unplug from my 24/7 life without a backward glance. who was always ready to make the impossible manifest. I know it will be waiting for me when I return. for retreat from the busyness of the other world. From my first visit I connected with the place. like a lucky charm in your pocket. Any time of year the 550 acres of forest and farmland prove a joy to wander 25 . left this world last year -. Steve. sometimes the mist has closed behind me and I feel that I have stepped into another world. nurturing and support. So often Universal Pathways is full of people and always there is joy in their faces and voices. There is safety here. the big bear who said much without speaking a word. It brings us all back for seasonal celebrations.To come to Universal Pathways is to find sanctuary.

listened to my wild dreams and made me breakfast from her own chickens’s eggs. May you share the gift that is Universal Pathways. laughed and cried. Wherever I travel in the world.In Mary I feel I have a sister to whom I can speak without fear of judgement or distress. All brightest blessings on those who cross the threshold. I know that I have a home in Universal Pathways and a door that is always open to me. We have drunk wine and shared the truths in our hearts. Hudson NY & Dundee. Kate Laity. Scotland 26 . She has opened her home to me so many times.

All works remain the copyright of the individual creators. photos except for those of Mary and Steve and those otherwise attributed are © K. A. Laity Version 1.2 April 2013 27 .