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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 .

It was six months later that my next-door neighbor came to tell me she was going to sell her house. I felt the house was much too large for my vision at that time. but for this writing I will attempt to separate the two. 4 . My start in the practice was slow due to many factors -.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. 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. The vision has always been to assist people of all ages in creating their own vision through health. 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. It would change the focus of my life forever. nature. creative investigation and open opportunity to experience all of the above.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. In the early 1980s I took a course in Reiki. Universal Pathways is predicated on vision. At that moment. sheep.

we learn. 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. we are real. planted the Celtic zodiac. May it be you. we play.Within the first two years we put in the labyrinth. we retreat. Who are we? All who come and find something of value. developed a peace garden and a meditation garden. We laugh. we cry. Welcome -- Mary Browne 5 . The library continues to expand. Universal Pathways is now viewed as home to many groups of people.

TESTIMONIALS .

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

 Further. 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. I later learned that what I thought was henna was in fact permanent tattoo. In back of the little house off the deck the outdoor sacred spaces continued to expand outward. Mary likes to walk the land barefoot. the numerous eclectic sacred symbols throughout representing  so many lands and traditions all coming together in one tastefully crafted symphony. past the barns with the chickens watching us curiously. Another stairway leads to the upper meditation “cave room” which boasts another mural which astounds your senses. the countless book cases filled with sacred literature. letting us know she’d be waiting for us in the central class room when we were ready to return.  I would come to know that this is an essential aspect of Mary’s character. Everywhere we looked we saw beautiful perennial flowers decorating the sacred gardens and accenting the buildings. with a gleam in her eye and a youthful giggle of glee.ture her spirit so well.            When we returned Mary. is something that exists to be shared by all who would come with respect and appreciation. Steve. 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. the pathways created with interplay of gravel and fragrant thyme. 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. 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. I just get to pay the taxes. the land.  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. the fundamental belief that Universal Pathways.  Downstairs again we found another reading retreat and nearby a devotional room where all concepts of deity are welcome. You know you just walked up a flight of stairs but conversely find yourself transported deep within the earth. With each place we visited Mary shared with us stories of her life’s work building this amazing sanctuary with her husband. asked if we’d had fun. “Go play!” she said to us. I’ve heard Mary say. feeling nurtured and energized by the land as she walks. and her children. each reflecting a blending of the mundane and sacred.  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. our tour was only just begun. “I don’t own the land.  I think I asked her if I could move in at that moment. 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. the little house.  My child self was fully enthralled in the beautiful artwork. We walked past the 8 . A mural in the stairway reflects the artist’s view of the rolling hills and countryside and the Browne family farm.” I know she means this from the heart. However.  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.  My senses were tingling as we explored the many rooms of the house.            Our tour of the grounds continued over the lawn. We walked past the beautiful peace garden and approached the full sized labyrinth.            Mary led us out of the little house. that the land is not something that can be owned.

was also an artist committed to the tireless work of manifesting their combined vision. however.            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. 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. I believe that is where we met Steve for the first time and had the first of many conversations. The transition at the top of the hill from the darker cooler cover of the trees into the bright. like Mary. when we met Mary’s husband. a natural mikvah. We followed a pathway beneath a flower laden trellis and entered a borderland between cultivated space and woodlands. a little removed from the other trees. 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. warm. trees. that we were in the presence of a great artist with an eye for beauty. We knew. Again. 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. 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. Of the many trees in the perimeter of that space one stands out as the queen of the hill. Steve. As the sun started to move lower in the sky Dee and I began to think for the first time about time. In the east.  After a few minutes the path opened into a large clearing which held a fire pit in the center. 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. A fitting focal point which mirrored the larger circle of flowers and trees which defined the border of the grove. 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. When you meet her yourself make sure to ask her about that one.main house and several more gardens of both vegetables and flowers. and beauty everywhere you looked. The air in the vicinity was cooled naturally by the waters and the breath of the cave. ivy. 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. 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. cleanest pond I’ve ever seen. the area was graced with flowers. The mystical source of the stream on the property was a small cave in an enormous rock wall. He. and a circumference of flowers. There we found the dragon flies and frogs happily enjoying the beauties of the largest.  Later. It was like walking into another world and felt to be a very appropriate place to honor the spirits of sky and fire.            This was just a taste of the wonders of the landscape. 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 . it was apparent that he was the perfect man for the job. openness of the fields with the sun shining in the clear sky above was magical. We sat on the terrace at the main house and enjoyed more conversation and refreshments. stands one of the largest white Birch trees I’ve ever seen. She is truly amazing. 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.

I have also been blessed to find not just a location for retreats. In time the members came to know each in their own way the special magic that is woven at Universal Pathways. by every definition of the word. This is a place in the world that is truly. but a vibrant spiritual community. I found people who are 10 . home. 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. 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. though many since have taken place there.Cattails in the autumn our enthusiasm was hard to control.  I have been very blessed to find a community of people who don’t all think alike.

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. Those left behind in the mundane world know better than to expect me home on time.  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. however.  Here people embrace and value hard work and honest efforts but do so with respect. I’ve come to know and love the trees of the grove. NY The bridge over the creek 11 . a light heart and always a spirit of play. The sense of peace and grounding one can experience on this land is nothing short of therapeutic. and of course the White Lady of the hill. That has never changed. It never happens.friends but not only friends.  Usually. 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.. when it is time to finally leave. though it’s always with a little sadness I remind myself how wonderful it is that soon I’ll be coming back! Allan P. Albany. We are ultimately a family in its truest sense.

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

Pathways share an understanding and respect for one another and for their surroundings that is uncommon. in the world today. but it’s even more wonderful to realize you can have it as an adult as well.    Amy Curious donkey says hello 13 . 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. It is a wonderful experience to have had a special space as a child. and much needed.

later attending a Mennonite Summer School. It is a place and a space of Grace and True Beauty.What Universal Pathways has meant to me for the past 15 years or so is a spiritual home.. Maeve Noonan of Ballston Spa Serenity within reach 14 . K. At 19. from Native American  to  Wiccan -. and I tried various places in between." she was right. Another friend at my Ordination at Universal Pathways said "this is where you belong. I was born into the Lutheran Community and raised a Catholic. But for me that way too was {as in the spiritual quest} some of it fit but seemed to claustrophobic.This may sound trite but I have been looking for such a place since I was 6 or 7. from History to Archaeology and Art History.  It sounds academic and for a while I tried to wear that hat too. 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..all had something for me to clothe myself in. but did not fit my soul. 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. but at 7 I was attending Seventh Day Advent Sabbath School.

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

or by the monthly moon walks.  Those offerings are more than simply the sum of its parts. and not just read about. and visit a few other countries.the connection to something bigger than myself. the fire circle.  My experiences at Universal Pathways continued to broaden. or what Celtic events are celebrated. or during a rainstorm. the people.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 pond.  Yes. where I was introduced to Mary and Steve Browne. as I allowed myself to open to all that it has to offer. Kurt 16 . 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 in my somewhat twisted expression. the classes.  Walking the thyme lined labyrinth in bare feet with a gigantic full moon overhead must experienced. are all incredibly rare and unique experiences that I have been truly blessed to be part of. all add to the magic and majesty that is Universal Pathways. the labyrinth. 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. it has become much more than a place to take classes .  Wandering the over 400 acres in snowshoes. part of this is the land.   For me. the water. and there are only a few places that have such a visceral and primitive connection for me. nature itself . and a sanctuary of this magnitude must be experienced and felt.it is the land.  The title is quite illuminating – Universal Pathways!  Words are often not adequate vehicles to express inner spiritual experiences.   Thank you Mary. 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. that has just come from an underground cave. or ducking into a pool of water. the grove. as a spiritual douche. Love. and this is the only one that is a short car ride away.    I have also been blessed to travel throughout the United States. but all of that natural beauty has been enhanced by the vision that Mary has brought to the table – the numerous gardens. lovingly referred to as a mikva. much like has been done for thousands of years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kate Laity. I know that I have a home in Universal Pathways and a door that is always open to me. All brightest blessings on those who cross the threshold. She has opened her home to me so many times. Scotland 26 . We have drunk wine and shared the truths in our hearts. listened to my wild dreams and made me breakfast from her own chickens’s eggs. 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. May you share the gift that is Universal Pathways. Hudson NY & Dundee. laughed and cried.

All works remain the copyright of the individual creators. A. photos except for those of Mary and Steve and those otherwise attributed are © K.2 April 2013 27 . Laity Version 1.