Monthly Archives: May 2013

Spiritual Travel: Destination or Process?

Some years ago I had an inquiry from someone who was interested in the Entering the Maya Mysteries program I was sponsoring; specifically he was enticed by a destination on the itinerary. He’d done a search and I was the only one offering the opportunity. “But,” he said. “I’m not so sure about this ‘spiritual travel’ stuff.”

Curing ritual image

Curing ritual in San Juan Chamula.
Photo: Carla Woody

How to explain something so intangible? In one respect, it contains elements of tangibility: sites and interactions. Invisible to the naked eye, perhaps unanticipated by the mind, are myriad ways to be drawn into the deeper journey that define these potentially uncharted waters—without conscious realization in the moment that you’ve taken the plunge. Hence, enter aspects that: may have no words or audible sound, cannot be held in your hands, your eye can’t get a bead on, can seem ordinary but aren’t. Yet it produces something akin to a lightning strike that splits the rough outer covering and creates an opening, a probable pathway — and a tangible result. There appears a fork in the road inviting decision. It’s not the territory for a faint-hearted tourist but the traveler of a different sort.

I personally welcome those unending layers and outcomes, only bits and pieces of the larger picture solidifying long after closure of the initiation. I’ve had the great fortune, maybe even destiny, to create such organic spaces, through many years’ relationship-building and travel with special intent: being alert to those people and places who offer themselves as powerful conduits. These elements being necessary to push the energy—our energy—to catapult us beyond places that have grown familiar.

My brand of spiritual travel is physically comprised of sacred sites, ceremonies and those who keep the rituals and stories. The travelers who show up to participate equally act as catalysts. An entrainment occurs and each one gains what they need to further the collective and their own journey. And we find out what it’s like to be at play in a field of mirrors: coming face-to-face with aspects that call out for healing and simultaneously create beauty. I personally celebrate it all.

God pot lighting

Lighting the god pots during a
balché ceremony in Najá.
Photo: Carla Woody

The question arises: do you have to travel to experience such initiation? In some form, you do. We are creatures of habit who tend to cling to a mindset that is familiar, even if not particularly healthy. You must be willing to move outside the container: to be fearless, to be open, to explore. You must embody courage to create a wider life. That’s travel.

The fast track requires putting the daily life on pause and dropping yourself into an unfamiliar environment to rediscover what you forgot. When people gather with this common intent, magic happens. They give themselves permission to explore parts of themselves they’re not so in touch with. Add exposure to Native peoples who inherit a sense of the sacred as an integral aspect of life—and a landscape of possibility appears.

When that happens it leaves an indelible impression and shifts who you are in the world. I frequently face a challenge finding words to express the profound value of the intangible elements running through the lifework I’ve chosen. I currently live in a culture that values the immediate result while ignoring the process that’s all-important in creating something of deep meaning that endures. My sense is that if we’re able to finally find comfort floating in the abyss, it will produce all that’s ever needed–beyond what we could imagine. But it takes travel. I’ll leave you with this quote from A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller:

And once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life; and you can’t go back to being normal; you can’t go back to the meaningless scenes stitched together by the forgettable thread of wasted time.

Author’s note: Those years ago I must have found the right words. I’m happy to report that the man concerned about the “spiritual travel” stuff has since traveled with me twice. And even more importantly, in the process, we’ve become friends.

For information on our upcoming “Entering the Maya Mysteries” programs, go here. For other spiritual travel destinations, go here. A portion of tuitions are donated to Kenosis Spirit Keepers for projects that help preserve Indigenous wisdom traditions.

To view other stories on the subject of “Journey” go to the Daily Prompt.

Categories: Energy Healing, Indigenous Wisdom, Lacandón Maya, Maya, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

New Book Announcement and Goodreads Giveaway

I’m so pleased to announce the forthcoming publication of my new novel Portals to the Vision Serpent on June 17, 2013. As a gift to subscribers, Facebook friends and Goodreads readers, I’m giving away 10 signed copies. The giveaway is managed by Goodreads. Go here, scroll down, and click to win through Goodreads until June 17.

Portals to the Vision SerpentDescription:

Preston Johns Cadell is tormented. He attempts to outrun discontent and the void in his heart. His mother is hardly around. His father’s origins and disappearance are shrouded by family secrets. His sole remembrance of his father is flying through the stars nestled in his arms.

Any comfort Preston derives is from an unseen advisor who teaches him of the invisible world. Now he is coming of age. Memories arrive from long ago when a brown-skinned woman cared for him. But she, too, vanished. Finding the buried remains of his father’s altar, Preston must answer the draw to his destiny, to discover his lineage—even though he has no idea how or where it will lead him.

Portals to the Vision Serpent is a Hero’s Journey into the realms of shamanism and the Maya world. Interwoven are the struggles of indigenous peoples to preserve their way of life and tragedies that often come from misunderstandings. Through a family saga of dark wounds and mystery, spiritual healing unfolds.

Published by Kenosis Press
ISBN-13: 978-1-930192-03-4
Soft cover, 282 pages

Editorial Reviews

“The search to find one’s True Self is a journey that often challenges cultural preconceptions and assumptions. Portals to the Vision Serpent takes this journey deep into the heart of the True People, delivering a story of longing and mystery woven like a story cloth between two worlds.”

— Sharon Brown, Publisher, Sacred Fire Magazine

“Bloodlines are story lines. In Portals to the Vision Serpent, Carla Woody invites the reader to explore the mysterious, ever-unfolding tale that each one must tell with our lives — one chapter at a time. Step into these pages. Invoke your true name. Re-member who you have always been.”

— Jamie K. Reaser, author of Sacred Reciprocity: Courting the Beloved in Everyday Life

and Note to Self: Poems for Changing the World from the Inside Out

Portals to the Vision Serpent is a transcendent spiritual adventure of a soul’s inner and outer journey into the rainforests of Guatemala and Mexico and brings awareness to the struggles of native people amidst the onslaught of cultural genocide.”

— Matthew J. Pallamary, author of Land Without Evil

Trade paperback available through Amazon, B&N and other online bookstores as of June 17. You may also order the book from your local bookstore. E-book available through Amazon.

Remember: Enter to win a signed copy through Goodreads until June 17.

Winners are determined by Goodreads.

While you’re there, I’d invite you to add me as a friend and write a brief review

on Goodreads and Amazon for Standing Stark and Calling Our Spirits Home if you’ve read them,

or put them on your bookshelf to read.

Categories: Giveaway, The Writing Life | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

A Tribute to Sue Woody

I’m fortunate to have my mother. All the years of my life she’s been by my side—even across many miles. Both my parents have. When they couldn’t fathom what in the world I was up to or, in some cases, why I’d gone to (truly) dangerous locales on the other side of the world…the belief in me was there even while worry may have been present. You can’t buy support like that.

Mom photo 1

Childhood years in Palestine, Texas.

 On Mother’s Day, this post is about my mom: Sue Woody. She grew up in difficult times and circumstances in the small town of Palestine in East Texas, an only child. She received little nurturing herself and later said to me that she didn’t know what she was doing as a mother to me. I suspect that most mothers feel that way. However, I believe she knew exactly how to raise me and acted on intuition. I am, in many ways, the product of the parenting I received.

When I was a teenager and wanted to paint my entire room shades of purple with stripes on the ceiling, not only did she say okay…she helped me. What mother does that? Mom always supported my creative urges. Dance in the early years. Five years of piano lessons. A sewing machine when I wanted to make my own clothing. Art lessons with a local artist.

 When I was fourteen I was hell on wheels, experimenting with everything. She knew enough to give me lead rather than rein me in. As a result, while I got into a lot of things—that she’ll never know about—I never got into any real trouble. I went to the edge, testing the waters, but always drew back. I can say this, knowing myself: If she’d put stringent restrictions on me I would have gone over that edge, just to rebel. Instead, I experimented with boundaries and stayed safe.

Sue Woody at 13 years old.

Sue Woody at 13 years old.

 I have many stories. Here’s a humorous favorite that reflects her pure belief in me. I’m also an only child. As my mom has gotten older, she’s been worried that I’m not in relationship. I’m guessing she’s still hanging on to the fairy tale about the white knight.

 So, a few years ago when she wistfully brought up her wishes for me, I told her this: “You know, it would have to be someone fully engaged in life. Almost an icon. Like Robert Redford.” I always say this tongue in cheek when someone asks about my status.

 But she looked at me seriously and said: “I think he’s available.” I had to give her the sad news shortly after that Bob Redford had gotten married…

Probably fifteen years ago we were having a deep discussion about life in general, how things unfold. She said to me, “I didn’t have the choices available to me that young women do today.” And that’s very true. Most women didn’t. Things have changed radically over the last forty years. The opportunities are now there.

Glenn and Sue Woody on vacation in Ireland in 2012, both at the age of eighty.

Glenn and Sue Woody on vacation in Ireland in 2012, both at the age of eighty.

 Someone once told me that I’m fearless. I don’t know how true that is across contexts. But I do generally feel safe in the world, at the belief level. The grounding allows me to venture into places in the psyche and geographically perhaps others wouldn’t go—willing to take calculated risks. Experiment.

But it’s doubtful I would be many of the things I am…if my mother…in all her inherent wisdom…hadn’t nurtured that spirit in me that wasn’t given flight in her. With love to you, Mom. I’m so proud and grateful to be your daughter.

Categories: Gratitude, Personal Growth, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Exit Strategy

Exit Strategy

Exit Strategy:

Leaving this Life with Grace and Gratitude

by Kelsey Collins

I spend a lot of time in cultures where elders are valued, ancestors are alive, and death is celebrated as part of life. In my own culture, none of those things are true. Instead, they are aspects that we attempt to tuck away, out of sight. We turn away from being reminded that we, too, will one day face what we’ve been socialized to deny.

Kelsey Collins has written an important book for any of us. This book faces the areas I mention—head on. With humor and honesty, she documents the intimate journey she took with long-time friend Bee Landis. This is a celebration of zaniness in a human form called Bee, her spiritual clarity and real-ness as she makes sense of life while her own comes to a close—something we can all aspire to. What’s equally important is how Bee’s down-to-earth, blatantly frank wisdom leads the author to consider the very questions she counsels others to undertake. There’s a transparency here that’s refreshing. In an era when self-help mentors direct us to declare what we want, to dare to name it, there’s an area I’ve heard none address—until now.

How do you want to go? What’s your exit strategy?

 The book is available through Amazon. To learn more of Kelsey Collins’ work with elders and hospice go here.

Categories: Book Review, Compassionate Communication, Healthy Living, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Juxtaposition

I live in a sparsely populated area, except by rabbits, coyotes, snakes and the occasional hawk or raven. I found it by setting intent and following my sense of direction across preserved land clearly marked with a “no trespassing” sign.

What I discovered was the pristine place that I’ve come to consider my sanctuary. There are a few houses up on hills at a distance behind me. Other than that, there are just lots of good-sized junipers, rocks and some piñons surrounding me. I have a clear view of the San Francisco Peaks and Bill Williams Mountain around ninety miles to the north. The sunrise and sunset on these mountains are the first and last things that bless my day. But the stars have their say, too. Without the interference of electric lights, galaxies seem to display themselves across the night sky and regularly take my breath away.

San Francisco Peaks

San Francisco Peaks

I’ve invested words in these few sentences for you to get a sense of the setting. It’s a place conducive to contemplation, and I’ve sought to include only those things in my living space that will support it. Simple, peaceful living against a beautifully stark backdrop where I face myself every day—and move to go beyond that.

You may think by living in a remote area you can hide out. The truth is that—at least for me—it’s next to impossible to hide. Paradox continually comes to my notice, unbidden.

It was late afternoon. I had been doing “finish” work still left over from building my home. Mindless things. Thoughts drifted in periodically. But I was fairly successful staying present with my paintbrush. Several hours working with my hands brought me a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day and a desire to kick back.

I have a penchant for dramatic films but instead chose a comedy from Netflix. I sat in a particular chair specifically because I could watch the movie but also have a full view of the Peaks heading toward dusk.

I relaxed, feet on the table, sipping a glass of wine. The slapstick humor wasn’t holding my attention. My eyes kept drifting over to the scene outside. The hills were turning the honeyed golden-pink hue they often turned. The ravens were beginning to speak about the coming night.

But the movie seemed to pick up a bit and brought my notice back just as the actors entered a bar scene. The music was raucous. The posturing game was taken to extreme, creating a sense of the plastic that was supposed to be funny. Instead, the filmmakers threw me an unintended question.

My vision suddenly played a trick on me and juxtaposed two separate images, as though I was holding the bar scene in one eye and the landscape in the other…at the same time. That event itself was rather strange and fleeting, but my response to it was more interesting to me and has lasted. It was as though I was hit soundly over the head with intense contrast and told to pay heed.

The rowdy, brittle bar scene next to nature’s beauty was so bizarre that it created a “does not compute” reaction in me. Once that cleared, a question surfaced: What is real?

The bar scene wasn’t real. People weren’t presenting their real faces. There was much standing in the way.

Sage in bloom.

Sage in bloom.

What about the other scene? It’s about as real as it can get, at least for me. I don’t have to see through anything to see the hill over there. I don’t think the tree is concerned about what I think about it. There may be properties of nature I’m not always able to understand and certainly can’t predict, but I find it to be unstintingly honest.

It seems to me that if we want that level of honesty in our own lives we can dare to ask for it. So, what is real?

This moment: That’s real.

The sensation on my palm as I pet my cat’s fur: That’s real.

Little Bit

Little Bit

My breath moving in and out of my body: That’s real.

That thought I had this morning? That comes from some old event in the past and doesn’t exist now. No. That’s not real.

That worry? It hasn’t happened. No. That’s not real.

What about the words I write here? They’re real—in my reality—for what I seek to communicate.

What’s real for you?


Excerpted from Navigating Your Lifepath.

See more musings on the forest for the trees on the Daily Prompt.

Categories: Healthy Living, Meditation, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , | 13 Comments

Lifepath Dialogues Gathering: Voice and Expression (Audio Archive)

Lifepath Dialogue Gathering

The Lifepath Dialogues Gathering was a local monthly gathering held in Prescott, Arizona. The intent was to build like-hearted community and dialogue about what truly matters. I chose monthly topics from my blog and hosted the evening with special invited guest(s) whose philosophies and work are relevant to the topic. The format involved my presentation of material to create a framework and interview of the special guests. This portion was recorded to share with the world community. Then we turn off the recorder and turn to intimate sharing.

The Lifepath Dialogues discussion will now continue in a virtual format. Periodically, I will interview folks world-wide who are involved in life-affirming practices and lifeways. The recording will be posted here. I invite your comments and questions always.

From the January 2013 Lifepath Dialogues Gathering

with many thanks to special guest host

Yaqin Lance Sandleben:
Voice and Expression
The complete unedited audio is about 40 minutes long. Click below to listen. I hope you enjoy.

This discussion inspired by  the post:
Voice and Expression
By Carla Woody
Author of Calling Our Spirits Home and Standing Stark
Founder, Kenosis and Kenosis Spirit Keepers

Yaqin Lance Sandleben Photo

Yaqin Lance Sandleben is a Cherag, an ordained minister of American Sufism following the Chisti Sufi lineage of India. He leads the Dances of Universal Peace, Universal Worship Service and offers guidance on the path of spiritual awakening. Yaqin lives in Prescott, Arizona, where he has practiced pharmacy for 35 years, raised a family, and served the community in different ways—mostly through volunteering.  His interests in religion, spiritual development, and the awakening process began at the age of 12 in the Christian Church.   For many years he studied well known and obscure paths of awakening.  He began meditating 40 years ago and embraced American Sufism 33 years ago.   He has also studied and practiced Buddhism with many teachers, including HH the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan teachers.  His Sufi connection has led him to India, to the shrines of saints, and to the study of Raga, Indian Classical music.

Categories: Creativity Strategies, Healing, Meditation, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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