Monthly Archives: June 2014

Book Review: Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

200px-QuietBookCoverPeople are often surprised when I say that I’m an introvert. They’re fooled by the fact that I’m articulate, do public speaking, work with groups and engage socially. They assume that I’m an extrovert. I can do the things I do because I’ve arranged my lifestyle to support my biological make-up and preferences. I love to engage when they’re things I care about deeply—BUT I retreat to regenerate myself. Whether you lean toward introversion or extroversion primarily has to do with how you expend your energy and the way you renew it.

However, our culture values extroversion. There must be something wrong if you’re not talking: You’re secretive, have nothing of value to contribute and probably not so bright.

As a child there were countless times when I heard I was “too quiet.” Not by my parents, who are also introverts, but mostly by teachers, causing me to retreat even further into my inner world. As a teenager, it was even more hurtful, especially when it came from friends. All that input translates to: You’re not good enough. It haunted me for a long time.

 Indeed, your biggest challenge may be to fully harness your strengths. You may be so busy trying to appear like a zestful, reward-sensitive extrovert that you undervalue your own talents, or feel underestimated by those around you. But when you’re focused on a project that you care about, you probably find that your energy is boundless. – From Quiet.

Later in life I have often been called “intense” as though something is wrong with that as well. But by the time I heard it the first time I’d begun to value my own sensibilities and could translate the meaning to “passion.” And the years I worked in a corporate environment…meetings were my most dreaded activity. Those who were most vocal blathered on saying nothing. It was an effort for me to keep in my seat. I wanted to jump out of my skin and flee.

Author Susan Cain has gotten a lot of play in the media since Quiet was published in 2012. It’s been on the bestseller list for many weeks running. Nevertheless, I didn’t know about it until I was perusing my local library for CD books to accompany me on a recent road trip to Utah.

I’m writing this review for those who missed this important book like I did. Whether you’re more introverted or extroverted, Quiet contains highly useful information for valuing both preferences. It also contains data on biological differences and distinctions of introversion. If you’re an introvert, it cites numerous studies and other pointers that will validate your value. If you’re an extrovert, it will help you understand the many introverts around you. I was horrified at one story about two extroverted parents who sought psychiatric intervention and medication for their introverted child. When one psychiatrist found the child to be normal the parents moved on for the next opinion.

My most transformative experiences have never happened in groups. That said, there is extraordinary energy that builds when groups entrain to strong spiritual intent, kickstarting a process of opening. Then integration comes through balancing the internal and external. That is the premise underlying any retreats and spiritual travel programs I sponsor.

The highly sensitive [introverted] tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk. They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive. They dream vividly, and can often recall their dreams the next day. They love music, nature, art, physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions–sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear. Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments–both physical and emotional–unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss–another person’s shift in mood, say, or a light bulb burning a touch too brightly. – From Quiet.

The quote below was quite interesting to me. Such practices don’t just occur in Evangelicalism. I’ve personally had experience of being expected to utter prayers and entreaties out loud while in sweat lodge and other ceremonies, although not as common. I remember the first time it happened I was shocked at the intrusion on my privacy in a spiritual setting. To me, such things are so sacred they’re not pronounced aloud. Of course, the leaders didn’t see it as an affront. Now, if such a thing occurs, I pass to those who want to speak these things out loud and remain comfortable with my own way.

Evangelicalism has taken the Extrovert Ideal to its logical extreme…If you don’t love Jesus out loud, then it must not be real love. It’s not enough to forge your own spiritual connection to the divine; it must be displayed publicly.

 There is a compilation of quotes for the book on Goodreads. Ultimately, this is the teaching of the book.

We know from myths and fairy tales that there are many different kinds of powers in this world. One child is given a light saber, another a wizard’s education. The trick is not to amass all the different kinds of power, but to use well the kind you’ve been granted.

There’s also an excellent TED talk by Susan Cain giving an overview. Quiet is available on Amazon and elsewhere in print, ebook and audiobook.

Categories: Book Review, Compassionate Communication, Creativity Strategies, Healthy Living, Personal Growth, Sacred Reciprocity, Solitude, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

In Memoriam: Don Miguelito – Paq’o and Spiritual Guardian

A star shines more brightly now. A week ago I received word that Don Miguelito—pa’qo and ever-present guardian of Salk’awasi—transitioned this planet and took his place in the sky.*

I write this to honor him. He touched a multitude of people, both literally and figuratively, in his 90-plus years. For sure, all the people who traveled with me in Peru will not have forgotten him. Memories of him are carried within us.

Maria and Miguelito

Doña Maria and Don Miguelito, 1996.
Photo: Carla Woody

Looking back I realize the many things I learned from him over the years. I never knew the kind of things that are common if we’ve known someone long: his last name, if he’d had a wife or children, if he was born in the village of Mollamarka above where he’d lived. He was a solitary fixture, sometimes appearing in front of his small adobe, hand in his coca bag, when visitors arrived at Salk’awasi. Watching.

But I did know that witches from the small village on the next mountain made their way over to consult with him periodically. We called him Miguelito, an affectionate diminutive, which did not at all express the power he held. Although, it did note his small physical stature. I’d be surprised if he’d brushed 58 inches. He did not demand recognition as some do. He was not flamboyant. He spoke few words. Yet, if you paid attention, you’d be aware of the teachings he conveyed.

If you were fooled by appearances, you’d think he was the gardener. In worn, simple clothing, we’d see him raking one of the many paths that wind through the compound with a handful of branches. He built magic ‘rooms’ where given opportunity by a fallen tree and nearby vines to drape. He kept the flowers

Miguelito 2011

Don Miguelito, 2011
Photo: Bobbie Owens

neat. In his last years, he tended them less. The land suffered his absence, going back to nature—perhaps symbolizing Miguelito’s own symbiotic journey. Nevertheless, he touched the Pachamama, Mother Earth, and created sacred containers, leaving his imprint on the land that will never dissipate.

It was only during certain times that his outward appearance gave a hint of who he really was. We would invite him to the circle. He would come—always at night—dressed in full regalia: brightly colored poncho and hat, carrying his mesa.** We’d make sure he had a small table on which to open his mesa, candlelight and pisco to refresh himself. Contained in his mesa were coca leaves for divinations and smooth black stones that had been struck by lightning. He used them for limpia.***

Miguelito had been struck by lightning himself—twice—a known shamanic initiation in many indigenous traditions. He ran his lightning stones over our bodies removing hucha, or heavy energy.

His coca readings were spot on, seeing things in us that we needed to attend to in order to further the journey and foretold futures perhaps not even a blip on our own radar yet. The coca leaves told him so. My own first experience with Miguelito is forever emblazoned in my mind. I was a real newbie, not really knowing which end was up, feeling my way on an invisible-to-me path. I wrote about it in my first book Calling Our Spirits Home. A bit is excerpted here.

Miguelito was bent trance-like over the leaves, sifting them with his gnarly fingers, muttering under his breath…he picked up a few coca leaves and began chewing them…he spit them out on the table. Moving his hands…he seemed to be noting where the pieces fell…he began to speak…Stopping, he turned and looked me directly in the eyes as though searching for something…Miguelito’s words [translated from Quechua] seemed quite unlikely to me. ‘That storm we had the other night?’ I nodded. How could I not recall it? I had started awake in the middle of the night…Lightning lit up the room from its savage dance across the mountaintops right outside my window…’The lightning was for you and its filaments are inside you now. I’m surprised that it was for you.’ No more surprised than I was, unclear of his meaning…Abruptly, he got up from his chair, came over to me and started rooting through the hair on top of my head with his fingers. ‘Ah, there’s where it went in.’ Seeming now satisfied with his finding he sat back down.

Miguelito 2009

Don Miguelito, 2009
Photo: Shelley Wolfe

He went on to tell me of the work I would begin to do, a large part of it bringing groups to Peru with spiritual intent. That was in 1996. Indeed, the reading held true and has evolved from there to include other Indigenous traditions and countries. The last reading I had with Miguelito was in 2011 when he told me that my work would continue to be difficult. This was not something I wanted to hear but recognized what is typically so when anyone is going against the grain of the status quo and mainstream culture. My intent is in holding the challenges lightly.

Miguelito was not afraid of being blunt. In fact, he used no filters in advising what was causing obstructions. Sometimes I saw people wince. It was always interesting to me in that the same issues would come up for the person to deal with during our travels. He also instituted healings. I wrote of one in the recent post Collective Resonance and Healing how the jungle absorbed a woman’s chronic condition.

He was often out in the dead of night. Perhaps he was communing with the mountains, stars and planets, perhaps spirits that best showed themselves in the wee hours. Now he may show himself in just that way.

On June 23rd I wrote my longtime friend Oscar Panizo and told him of the news none of us wanted to hear. He wrote back, “The glaciers are melting and the times are a-changing. Salk’a energy is returning home.”

So he has.

The Coca Reader

The Coca Reader
Oil on canvas
©2011 Carla Woody

*****

*Paq’o is the word for shaman in Quechua. Salk’awasi is the ancestral home of Peruvian mystic Don Américo Yábar. Salk’a means undomesticed energy. Wasi is place or house.

**Mesa is the Spanish word used for medicine bundle.

***Limpia is the Spanish word used for rituals working with clearing energy in and around the body.

Categories: Energy Healing, Indigenous Wisdom, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , | 15 Comments

Your Identity in Metaphor

The instructor introduced an icebreaker. State your bio in six words. She asked for volunteers. Mine popped out.

Intrepid traveler living in two worlds.

Her eyes widened. Not the kind of thing you’d typically hear in a county courthouse jury room during child welfare training. But my fellow mediators didn’t miss a beat. They know me—at least to an extent.*

Metaphor seeks lodging in our interior differently than cursory words. Language when used at that level connects with the unconscious mind in such a way that it can inform wider awareness, indeed even act as a guide and attract the experiences that fulfill its significance. It is especially meaningful when it emerges through your own process rather than given to you. It’s an invitation I offer to folks I’m mentoring and who participate in spiritual travel programs: Note what metaphor takes up residence.

Apparitions

Apparitions
Mixed media on panel
©2014 Carla Woody

The afternoon icebreaker generated quite a degree of self-reflection that night. We weren’t asked to use metaphor but my mind naturally gravitated toward what it’s used to these days. I thought back to a time when I was asked to use metaphor, to reach inside and discover what emerged relative to spiritual path. We had already been in retreat several days, experiencing teachings and ceremonies. So I was not in the everyday world. I went off to be alone and sit with the tasking. I’m sure I wrote it down in a journal that has since been lost to time. But I’ve never forgotten what came.

 I am the crane whose wisdom runs swiftly under water…and rises with the waning of the silver moon.

It’s been close to 20 years since I attended Nine Gates Mystery School. It was a powerful experience during a time when I was radically re-aligning a life out of alignment with my deeper values. My core wisdom, that which we all have, did not show itself much back then. It lived in that watery place but did compel me to engage in opportunities that would bring me clarity, even if it seemed off base at the time. It’s a refinement process that wouldn’t have taken nearly that long had I my own spiritual mentor. In those days such a thing wasn’t prevalent.

I can’t tell you exactly when the revolutionary path—the chaotic one—smoothed out to the evolutionary one and found order of a sort. But I look up all these years later astounded to find myself an elder grounded in a life that conveys my values. For this I have gratitude.

That night of reflection I realized just how fully the metaphor from Nine Gates predicted an unfolding. I’ve felt something else hovering on the horizon for some time. It appears that an updated metaphor popped out at the slightest invitation, in an unlikely environment, emphasizing one meaning of “two worlds.” I can only wonder what else is in store—seen and unseen—and welcome it.

*****

An invitation to you:

Sit inside your deeper identity. Listen. Allow a metaphor to emerge.

 *****

*I’ve been doing conflict mediation as a sideline for close to 30 years, the last 16 of them in that courthouse with a few cases a month, when I’m in town, to keep me on my toes.

Categories: Creativity Strategies, Gratitude, Meditation, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Film Review: Sunrise/Sunset

Dalai Lama

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
Photo courtesy of his official website.

No, this isn’t an Ethan Hawke/Julie Delpy movie. It’s a 2009 documentary about a typical day with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. He allowed Russian filmmaker Vitali Manski and his crew to shadow him around Dharamsala, India, where he lives, from the time he arose at 3 a.m. until retiring for the night. It’s a peek that’s intimate and reassuring. I concluded that, in some ways, this holy man is no different than many of us. He is seen going through his morning hygiene, saying prayers and walking on the treadmill. He likes the BBC. I like the BBC. And yet, his life is not like any of ours. He elects to spend five months away from the world in meditation. Then, the rest of the time, every minute of his waking hours is scheduled: offering teachings, traveling, attending meetings with world leaders. His is a life of contrast.

The film also points out paradoxes. First, he teaches nonviolence as much as Ghandi did. But his living compound has a fence around it; a troop of guards accompany him wherever he goes to ensure his safety. Secondly, he is sought after by heads of state yet has none of the traditional power they would attempt to garner.

Teachings are sprinkled throughout the film. I noticed the same thing that the filmmaker stated in the last part of the film: The Dalai Lama’s words were simple. There was nothing new to me in what he said. But they caused the filmmaker to view the world differently. This reinforces my belief that simple teachings are most useful, true and provide a foundation for living. If we think we need more, or must have complicated practices, then we’re merely distracted and avoiding the spiritual work.

The only thing I found curious in any part of the documentary was the Dalai Lama’s solution to the world’s overpopulation problem: “more nuns, more monks.”

Watch the 72-minute documentary free online courtesy of Culture Unplugged.

Categories: Film Review, Meditation, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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