Global Consciousness

Film Review: Beyond

Beyond charts the quest of photographer Joey L. as he seeks religious ascetics in Varanasi, India to include in his series on Holy Men. Each morning before dawn Joey L., his assistant Ryan and filmmaker Cale Glendening make their way down to the Ganges where they remain until dusk. They roam its banks to find just the right light and spot to capture the core essence of the sadhus who willingly agree. But first something else must occur.

This is not merely a documentary about shooting images. It’s just as much on the importance of relationship, understanding and respect. Only by sitting with the sadhus, hearing their stories, sharing a meal does the deeper meaning of their chosen life emerge through film and photography. Trust develops. With a sensitivity unusual for one this young, Joey L. is given to portray them and their rituals in a way that austere beauty is clearly spoken. This is so particularly of the Aghori who are little understood by outsiders and often feared.

In the end, the filmmakers speak candidly about their experiences, how aspects may change who they are, and what they consider to matter.

I was truly moved and fascinated by this film⏤to the point I’m still thinking about it a couple of days later. The cinematography was beautiful and the photography exquisite. For more examples, view the websites of Joey L. and Cale Glendening.

Watch Beyond streaming free on Vimeo. 43 minutes.

Categories: cultural interests, Film Review, Global Consciousness | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

What the Jungle Knows

When so much has been charted, made dry and predictable there are those drawn to what is uncharted, unanticipated, not quite so visible. By venturing into these places, material and nonmaterial, we learn of ourselves⏤what we’re made of and can truly be. A quest for lost treasures. An ascent is one thing. But the point when we grow wings and fly is only probable after the great descent and excavation.

The classic 70s film Chac: The Rain God contains a powerful illustration of such a journey. On the surface level, it’s about a Tzeltal Maya village in the highlands of the Mexican State of Chiapas whose rain-starved crops are devastated. Led by the cacique, their village chief, a small crew of men seek a diviner who will petition Chac, the rain god, to have mercy on them and send moisture to the land.

Insert the deep structure … Such a diviner—a Holy Man—is not easily found. He lives far from the village, a personage unknown: a foreigner at best, a witch at worst. But the need for such intervention is so great, they attempt to hold their fears at bay and proceed. When the diviner is finally found, he demands a price.

Being a Holy Man, he knows there must be a payment, an investment signaling commitment, for a coveted desire to materialize. He exacts a journey into the jungle, a place well feared by the highland villagers. The jungle is not just the jungle … but the Underworld where things are hidden and unfamiliar, waiting to reveal themselves to a vulnerable passerby. In the shadows of a ceiba tree, an owl shapeshifts to human form and slithers down a branch. Was mysticism extending its offer or was it merely a trick of the mind? They come across the dreaded Lacandón Maya, who call the rainforest home, and wonder if they’ll make it out alive. Or was the threat just a legend? Who in the group will persist? Who will fall away? Who will find it possible to walk at the edge of reality across a waterfall?

A few months ago I read Exploration Fawcett, a book compiled from Col. Percy Fawcett’s manuscripts and field notes on his quests into the Brazilian Amazon searching for the Lost City of Z. It was first published in 1953 by his surviving son Brian. Whether his father and eldest brother found the site they sought remains a mystery as they did not return. But their undertakings in the jungle, told through Percy’s own words, contain the same central elements I describe above. Others sought to replicate his journey and found their own, documented in David Grann’s book on the same subject, also a newly released movie.

There is no shortage of such books. I’ve read many of them: Wild, Tracks, To the Field of Stars and others. Whether the expeditions were initiated as spiritual journeys, that’s what they became. Each one has its own special challenges depending on the physical environment. But the central theme in all of them speaks to the human hunger toward personal potential that challenges of the journey inward bring.

More than anything, here I focus on The Jungle as a metaphor containing the lost city that was not at all lost. But merely waiting for rediscovery once we step outside the comfort zone.

***

You are invited to join us on these upcoming journeys that range from the highlands to rainforest places. Click the link for more information including detailed itinerary, photos, travelers’ stories and more. A portion of tuition tax-deductible to help preserve Indigenous wisdom traditions.

I offer you an intimate opportunity, unlikely to be found on your own, engaging with Indigenous spiritual leaders and healers who serve their people — with the intent that we are all transformed and carry the beauty home.

October 24-November 3, 2017: Spiritual Travel to Peru. Registration discount until June 23. It is a privilege to sponsor a special program focusing on sacred traditions linking the peoples of the Andes and the Manu rainforest.

January 18-28, 2018: Spiritual Travel to Chiapas, Mexico. Registration discount until August 28. Immersion experience in Maya cosmology, medicine, arts and sacred ways of the Living Maya in the highlands and rainforest.

 

 

 

Categories: Global Consciousness, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Unearthing of the One Tribe

Early morning as it was drawing to a close, I reflected on our journey in the lowlands and highlands of Chiapas. I don’t quite know how to describe what I was feeling in this time of unearthing. Some mixture of great gratitude and overwhelm. Not overwhelm in the way I may sometimes feel it at home when I have too much to juggle at once. Rather it was the sense of overwhelm that comes when so much has happened of a sacred nature. You can bathe in it…even though the deeper meaning isn’t yet realized. But my mind’s attempts arising nonetheless.

Words broke through in staccato—bullet points. My hand flew to jot them down. Each one came illustrated with examples from the Maya people themselves.

Sacrifice

The religious officials in the Chiapas highlands carry cargo, a term to describe the responsibilities they take on to maintain their traditions, to care for the saints, to make sure the processionals occur as they have for many hundreds of years. And house the saints well between times so they will receive the prayers of believers. Carrying cargo is a burden taken on for the sake of the community, done through community. Tasks are divided and shift to others from year to year. No one person can do it all. The strain is too great on family finances and time away from the fields. These are not paid positions. They do it because, if they didn’t, a way of life that connects all things would otherwise disappear into the ether from which it emerged.*

Don Antonio

Don Antonio signaling the start of the balché ceremony.

For some, the sacrifice is ongoing. I always think of Don Antonio Martinez, the last Lacandón Maya Elder still holding the rituals of his people, faithfully feeding the gods, laying down the prayers to create balance in their rainforest home. His is not an easy life when others have turned away to foreign religions or the influx of material things, when he is nastily pressured by converts to give it all up. I’m guessing he hangs on because he recognizes his soul would otherwise suffer, and he cannot find it within himself to abandon the gods.

Humility

For me, a clear measure of an authentic spiritual leader or healer is humility. If their ego isn’t making pronouncements, they can approach their work with compassion. Connection to the person in front of them, and their community, is genuine.

Don Xun Calixto, Tzotzil Maya of San Juan Chamula, is a profound example of that for me. Over and over, I’ve witnessed his ability to put his fingers on a person’s wrist, someone he’s never met before, and listen to their blood. Then with gentle words tell them the exact nature of what they need to let go in order to heal, his words confirmed when his patient bursts into tears as he holds them in a comforting hug. The care and precision in which he lays the altar, and how he sinks to his knees and utters the prayers to carry the healing. Or the relief a patient displays when he tells them they can put fears aside because they’ve already overcome their trial.

Don Xun

Don Xun listening to the blood.

Today we don’t think of political leaders having humility, the opposite so often true. In ancient times though, Maya kings and queens were spiritual leaders and protectors. Indeed, they were seen as gods incarnate, walking among the people, making personal sacrifices. Humility displayed itself in the bloodletting rituals they undertook upon their own person. For the kings, thrusting a stingray spine through the penis; for the queens, through the tongue. Their blood dripped onto a paper then burned, taking the blood prayers for good crops to the heavens.

In the Popol Vuh there is explicit counseling against narcissism and pompous behavior. Seven Macaw, a demon parading as a god, claimed to be the sun and the moon. He terrorized the people and puffed himself up with jewels and arrogant proclamations. In doing so, he gained the attention of the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, who noted his evil and summarily took him out.**

Courage

Depending on the nature of an affliction the people consult different types of healers. An example would be Doña Maria, a curandera who attended us during this recent journey. Her prayers will cure an earache or get an innocent man out of jail.

Doña Maria

Doña Maria making her initial prayers before beginning clearing sessions.

But when someone thinks the ailment involves the supernatural, particularly witchcraft, they will go to Don Xun. And if he diagnoses soul loss, he will be called upon to descend into the Underworld, through trance or dream, with a dire mission. Not an undertaking for the faint of heart, Don Xun must wrestle the person’s soul away from the Earth Lord. In this process his prayers return the patient to wholeness.***

Don Xun

Don Xun laying an altar.

Persistence

In the face of great adversity, I witness quiet persistence, strength and faith in the person of Don Antonio in the tiny village of Nahá.

Emerging from the 1990s genocide in Guatemala and Chiapas, the Maya have not been defeated. Particularly the Zapatista Movement in Chiapas is alive and well. Nonviolent marches protesting treatment by the Mexican government regularly occur. At the entrance of villages, signs proudly declare a people in resistance. While behind the scenes, Zapatistas are not merely complainers but have actively established their own Indigenous schools, clinics and pharmacies using traditional ways.

Integration

Throughout the Indigenous communities of Chiapas, I am consistently reminded of a way of life that integrates spirituality into everyday life…and the grounding that brings. As I’ve returned to my geographic home base in the US, I’m also reminded just how fragile that way of life is with the forces active to destroy. I am aware of the soul loss within this nation ⏤ including my own. And the need to pull together, so that we do not feel as though we are merely one…but the One Tribe.

♦♦♦

* Outward appearances may confuse outsiders into thinking Catholicism is being practiced in the Maya highlands. This is not the case. Instead the saints have been converted. Each one carries the meaning and stories the Indigenous people have given them, and the spirit of the forest permeates the church with trees (pine boughs), mist (copal incense) and fireflies (a multitude of candles).

**The Popl Vuh is the K’iche’ Maya creation story and historical references originally documented in Maya hieroglyphics, transcribed in the 16th century.

***One of the worst curses perpetrated upon someone is due to envy. One person seeks to usurp what another has and, through witchcraft, captures the soul and offers it to the Earth Lord. In the Tzoltil Maya religion, the Earth Lord rules the Underworld and owns all the natural resources. The Earth Lord, represented as a greedy ladino with a cowboy hat sitting on a bull, may grudgingly provide, but may also take away on a whim. In Chiapas when a shaman of Don Xun Calixto’s stature engages with the Earth Lord it is not done through hallucinogens or alcohol but, as described, through trance, dreams and prayer. These undertakings are every bit as real as anything in the material world involving battles and danger.

♦♦♦

All images in this article ©2017 Carla Woody. All rights reserved.

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Categories: Global Consciousness, Gratitude, Indigenous Wisdom, Maya | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Hopi Qawinaq: Our People the Hopi

In March 2016 Maya Daykeeper Apab’yan Tew was sponsored by Kenosis Spirit Keepers as a guest on the spiritual travel program on Hopi. He was quite taken with his experience there and just sent me his thoughts. I want to share them here to show just little difference there is between any of us at the core level.

Apab'yan Tew

Maya Daykeeper Apab’yan Tew communicating to Hopi Land through his flute, March 2016.

There has been always a problem to determine what is Mesoamerica as such.  A territory? A cultural frame? A shared philosophy between related languages? Is it an absurd idea coming from a researcher’s desk? Maybe it’s just the obsession to try to classify everything!

When eating corn,  beans and chilis in the house of a friend, I feel no distance in my heart. Moenkopi, deep in what is now the modern United States, is ⏤for me⏤the town next to where I come from. But what am I saying? I’m from Guatemala! Let me say something: I no longer care about classification. The Hopi people are also my people.

We speak same way about the wind, the water, the air. We treat the bird, the snake, the rainbow, the rain…with respect. The living and the dead. Nobody knows where the link begins for us although Hopi elders retain their oral history about that. I believe what they say! Now, I ask my own elders: Did our brothers…some brothers…go to live far to the north?

I’m waiting for answers. And I will tell you what it is said here in my heart: It will come that we are the same people. Beloved and respected elders will speak  to us all again.

⏤Apab’yan Tew

Join us for our March 15-21, 2017 Spiritual Travel to Hopi: Sacred Guardians of the World to experience what Tat Apab’yan relays here.

Categories: Global Consciousness, Hopi, Indigenous Wisdom, Maya | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Reflections Forward

Q'eros

Q’eros. Photo credit: Carla Woody

Inclement weather prevailed. Mist drifting into the small valley out of nowhere lending invisibility to what was just a few feet beyond, then dissipating equally unannounced. Splashes of rain turning steady through the night, chill creeping into the bones. Snow in the high mountains. Rays of sunshine breaking through. We soaked up the warmth when we could.

This was the backdrop for four days in the Hatun Q’ero village of Ccochamocco in the Cusco Region of Peru. People in my group kept asking, “Is it always like this?” No. The last time it was mostly sunny with a brief snow shower. We played outside in light jackets with the children and freely roamed the land.

This time we were clothed in as many layers as we could stuff under our heavy coats. Mufflers. Hats. Gloves. Meanwhile, nothing altered much for Q’ero waikis (term for brother, sister or friend). The children still wore sandals with bare feet as did the adults. Layers of sweaters, yes. Heavy coats, no. Bare legs on the girls and women. Their homes: tiny one-roomed huts of local stone with thatched roofs, dirt floors, most having no hearth inside with appropriate ventilation. These things have changed little over the centuries in this high Andean village at nearly 15,000’.

More fortunate, we were housed and fed in the large room of the new community hall that sported a wooden floor. No heat but solid walls and roof. The waikis brought plastic, alpaca hides and blankets from their own homes for us to place under our sleeping bags, barriers from the cold seeping in through the ground.

That was the background. The foreground was this…

The men busily cooking in the entrance room designated as the kitchen producing three remarkably tasty meals a day from simple ingredients. Their constant laughter punctuated the air.

Despacho ceremony

Despacho ceremony. Modesto Machacca Apaza breathing prayers into a coca kintu (prayer offering). Photo credit: Cécile Sother.

A communal despacho ceremony where we all placed prayers for family, friends, global consciousness…our own path… the bundle later taken and burned outside—somehow in the pouring rain—by my compadre Modesto, the father of my godson. But not before, by their request, we visitors formed a tight circle which the waikis entered singing, touching our hearts and hands, wiping down our bodies to release any last vestiges of heavy energy that may have remained. I can think of no words to describe the love in which these actions were given. The transmission remains imprinted in my soul.

Face painting

Lisa Flynn of Santa Fe, NM with her face paints. Photo credit: Cécile Sother.

The children…of all ages. Bright. Curious. Well-behaved. Raised to be happy and free. It shows. There were always at least a handful among us. Sidling up to one or another of us. Reaching out a hand to be held. Lots of laughter during face-painting or hair-braiding time.

Carla Woody

Communing with the mountains and my morning coffee in Ccochamocco. Photo credit: Cécile Sother.

What to say about the land? It’s not in the background. The very terrain, dotted with alpaca and sheep, dramatic, sweeping: Its vibration permeates everything. I know I’ve brought it home, reinforced once again.

Every moment there was filled with magic against the backdrop of hard living—at the level of survival—unlike anything any of us visitors have experienced in our own lives. This was the true initiation presented on this pilgrimage that began in Bolivia…preparing us for its culmination in Ccochamocco, where the highest concentration of paq’os—Andean mysticsreside. Where, in their tradition, an alto mesayoq is chosen by the lightning itself to work with cosmic energies. Where a pampa mesayoq undertakes many years of sacrifice and apprenticeship to learn the ways to honor the Pachamama (Mother Earth). Where the community lives in ayni, sacred reciprocity.

The morning after we returned from Ccochamocco to Cusco I awoke with intense feelings and recognition that I shared with the group as we closed our circle:

I’m feeling much gratitude this morning. After a hot shower and having slept in a warm bed with a good mattress…instead of the hard floor on top of an alpaca hide and a blanket to keep the cold at bay. Q’ero waikis have such fortitude to live in extremely difficult, unpredictable  conditions—subsistence—and yet theirs is also a life interlaced with laughter and sheer joy. It’s also evident to me that their connection to the Pachamama, Apus (sacred mountains) and community is their source. Our culture has much to learn. After yet another reminder of their ongoing gratitude, I can’t help but be humbled again.

And I can’t help but think our initiation, the opportunity always orchestrated by the Universe to be accepted or put aside by each individual, is in what we choose to focus on and how we integrate what we’ve been presented.

Tomorrow I will have been home a week. I’ve only ventured outside my home once to get a few groceries. I placed all other life on hold as I can do little but stare at the distant mountains and landscape outside my own home. Integration has its own way with everyone. This is mine. Tomorrow I begin re-entering my daily life, lunch with a friend and a meeting in town…and see what else the Universe has in store.

***

With many thanks to the gracious, courageous people who joined me in this pilgrimage, making it possible. I continue to be honored by your trust.

Heart of the Andes 2016

Heart of the Andes 2016 bringing together Q’ero, Aymara, Hopi and Maya spiritual leaders, and other intrepid travelers. Pictured here the 3rd day of the pilgrimage after ceremony off the waters of the Island of the Sun at a hidden sacred site. Photo credit: Stacy Christensen.

Categories: Global Consciousness, Indigenous Wisdom, Q'ero | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Film Review: From the Heart of the World and Aluna

The Kogi of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta on the coast of Colombia were not as well known 20-plus years ago as they are now. The documentary From the Heart of the World had received critical acclaim and enjoyed extensive showings in the 1990s.  By the time I wrote a review in 2008 the film had become difficult to find. The DVD was gifted to me from one of my readers. I’m sharing this review again for those who are not familiar with the Kogi or weren’t able to see the film before. I recently discovered that it’s now freely available on You Tube. Its sequel Aluna is available on Netflix.

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From the Heart of the World

From the Heart of the World: The Elder Brother’s Warning
Documentary Film by Alan Ereira
Produced by the BBC

This compelling documentary filmed in 1990 is about the Kogi of Northern Colombia who call themselves Elder Brother, descendants from the pre-Columbian Tairona. It contains a clear message to Younger Brother ⎯ westerners ⎯ about the havoc we’re collectively creating and how we need to take care of the world. The Kogi live high in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a microcosm of the world containing a range of climates from glaciers to jungle — and it’s dying.

Elder Brother warns that the underlying network keeping the Earth in place is being torn apart and they want the whole world to listen.

The Great Mother is the mind inside nature… [With your mining] You are taking the Mother’s heart… She is being stripped to pieces… You’re bringing the world to an end. This looting will destroy it… We are not mad at Younger Brother… but you must learn.

The Kogi believe their role to be caretakers of the world.

If we Mamas didn’t do our work, the rain wouldn’t fall from the sky. The crops wouldn’t grow.

They spend much of their time in ritual and prayer. They live sequestered, virtually unreachable, yet knowledge of the state of the world comes to them. How can we not hear their message?

There’s also an amazing similarity to me between the Kogi of Colombia, the Q’ero of Peru and the Lacandón Maya of the Chiapas rainforest of Mexico that echo similar sacred beliefs, teachings of respect and some common experience. All three left their original homes and isolated themselves about four hundred years ago with the coming of the conquistadors. To me, there’s an uncanny resemblance between the traditional clothing and even some facial characteristics of the Lacandones and the Kogi.

In alignment with one version of the Condor and Eagle prophecy, the Kogi speak about Younger Brother being given knowledge of the machine and sent away across the sea from the Heart of the World (where Elder Brother lives). Of course, Younger Brother later returned and infiltrated the Americas. The jungle at the base of the Sierra Nevadas has been destroyed much as the Lacandón rainforest has been decimated.

Elder Brother is separated by altitude as are the Q’ero who have managed to keep their traditions largely intact. However, the Lacandón jungle didn’t prove dense enough to keep others at bay. Hence, their traditions are suffering near extinction.

I want to direct you to the Tairona Heritage Trust which contains history on the Tairona and Kogi. For folks who have worked with the Q’ero, you’ll be interested in the article on the use of coca in South America, also used by the Kogi in ceremonial function and otherwise.

View From the Heart of the World streaming on You Tube.

 

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Aluna 

Aluna: Produced and directed by Alan Ereira

 

Some 20 years after The Heart of the World was released Kogi Mamas initiated contact with their friend Alan Ereira living in the UK. They were worried. Younger Brother hadn’t heeded their warning. The state of the Earth was in ever-increasing danger. They asked their friend to help them put together a film. Speaking about Younger Brother

 

We are incapable of being changed by being spoken to. They now understand that we learn through our eyes, not our ears.

 

 

The film traces the Kogis’ journey to lay 250 miles of golden thread from the mountains to the coast, showing the interconnection of the natural world to the devastating environmental impacts at the hands of Younger Brother. Indeed, in this film they are showing—not telling us. All but a small percentage of the dialogue is in Kogi. There are no subtitles. None is needed for us to understand the clear message.

If you would like more, Alan Ereira generously shares his intimate diary here.

Aluna is available streaming on Netflix.

 

 

Categories: Film Review, Global Consciousness, Indigenous Wisdom | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Grace of Ayni: How a Young Q’ero Man Journeys to Maya Land

There’s a point in spiritual development that—if we’re going any further—we recognize something so important that it will guide us the rest of our lives: It’s not all about us. It becomes a natural act to give back in whatever ways we can, large or small. Every time we do it’s an act of gratitude done—not with thoughts of getting something in return—but purely because it’s ours to do, representative of a deeper calling. I’ve written about ayni before, a practice embedded in the way of life in the Andes and other Indigenous cultures. Ayni is a Quechua word loosely translated as sacred reciprocity, a way of living within the universal law of balance and flow.

Ayni travels anywhere in your life: family, friends, those you know little or not at all. Acknowledgement to the Creator, Mother Earth, the ancestors and guides—those seen and unseen—comprising all the threads of this tapestry we call existence. It’s the validation of your presence in its make-up, a particular insight to global consciousness.

The practice has long been a focus in my personal life through what I’ve learned by consistent contact with Indigenous ways. I’m especially invested in exposing participants of my spiritual travel programs as I can—by writing about it, speaking of it and embedding automatic ayni within tuitions that goes to help support the spiritual leaders and their families who have offered their hearts to us. And it goes into the communities to benefit people the travelers have never met.

I make this point because it’s not a natural part of Western culture, which is particularly evident lately. We must be taught that ayni is ours to embrace so the world becomes a better place. In the last few years, I’ve become much more vocal about all this. I talk to people about standing beside me in this work. It does take a global village. Through Kenosis Spirit Keepers, we’ve created Kinship Ambassadors recognizing individuals who are supporting our initiatives in various ways. Our Kinship Circle acknowledges collaborative organizations we’ve worked with to jointly further our common missions.

A wonderful thing has unfolded over the last few years, something that makes my heart sing. Folks are stepping forward to support or completely sponsor areas of the work. They understand the value through their own experiences. I cannot begin to tell you how much it means that they are joining with the vision. This is ayni in action.

With this preface, I want to share a story leading to the most recent occurrence. During the 2014 Heart of the Andes program, we visited with Q’ero friends in Ccochamocco. We spent our days in ceremony, surrounded by the children, awestruck by the power of the land. Ccochamocco is a small, isolated village high in the Andes at 14,500 feet. Residents live in stone huts, with none of the most basic services we have, their alpaca close by. Life is hard there. Yet in its simplicity, in ayni with each other and Pachamama (Mother Earth), the Apus (sacred mountain spirits), Mama Killa (Mother Moon) and Inti (the Sun), these are some of the most peaceful, connected people I’ve experienced. Power is delivered through their natural reverence for all things. We can learn a lot from them.

Our first day in Ccochomocco, a young man made the point of introducing himself to me. He was 17 years old at the time. His name was Santos, son of my old friend Don Domingo, a respected paq’o (shaman or traditional Wisdom Keeper) that I’d first met 20 years before. A few years ago he passed suddenly under unexplained circumstances, a tragedy his family still struggles to endure. It was evident this young man was suffering his father’s absence. He stayed close while we were there, and proclaimed he would follow in his father’s footsteps to undertake the path of the paq’o himself. He meant it. It’s not a light commitment. It’s one of endurance and duty to community, in service to the Cosmos. He set aside his given name Santos and took on a new one: Salqa. In Quechua, Salqa (or Salka, another spelling) means ‘undomesticated energy’⏤the word given to the chaotic energy of The Great Mystery that distills into pure intent.

The next year I arranged a pilgrimage starting outside La Paz, Bolivia and ending in Cusco, closely replicating the initiation journey of the first Inka couple Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo. Directed by their father-god Viracocha, they sought a most holy place to build a city—a place of the sun and navel of the world. As part of this program we sponsored five Qeros and one Hopi along the path of their origins. I made sure that Salqa was invited. I felt it important that, if Salqa was going to commit himself in this way, then it was key for him to know, at this young age, the place of his spiritual origins.

He was thrilled to be part of this journey. Innocence and humility are part of his make-up. He was so eager to learn. Janet Harvey, a return traveler from North Carolina, remembers him this way:

Salqa and I stood listening to our guide describe the significant areas at Raqch’i, the temple of Wiracocha. The guide mentioned one place as the ‘ushnu.’  “Isn’t that a word for ‘navel’?”  I asked. Both of us checked the guidebook he had purchased to find this place on the map. Instead, we became transfixed on the photo of a sculpted image of Viracocha. One of many moments shared with this young/old, playful, wise, curious, creative, helpful, encouraging (for those of us hiking UP the steep path), smiling, thoughtful young man.

During this 2015 pilgrimage I experienced a vision during despacho ceremony that will shortly come to pass in 2016: Qero, Maya, Hopi and Aymara journeying together all the way from Bolivia culminating in Ccochamocco in the high Andes of Peru. But secretly I also held another vision: to bring a Qero paq’o to Maya Land in 2017 to meet those relations in their home environment. A Hopi Wisdom Keeper is already slated to join us there as normal. I had no idea how this would come to pass but have learned to trust and set it aside. The details were not mine to arrange.

This May, out of the blue, I was contacted by another return traveler inquiring about the possibility of sponsoring Salqa on the Maya program in January. Terry Waters of Colorado told me she’d intended to set her reasons for making the suggestion down in just a few paragraphs…and wrote a few pages instead. They were heartfelt. In part, she wrote:

…During our ceremony in Raqch’i Salqa so powerfully expressed himself, clearly from his heart, in the English he’d just learned. His words will remain in my memory. It was like music to my soul…Our Q’ero friends planted blessings in my heart that just keep growing, and I experience this young man as a fine representative of his people, someone who will do great things and impact many souls.

Salqa Apaza

Salqa (left) breathing prayers into a kintu during 2015 despacho ceremony outside Cusco. Photo courtesy of Diane Grupe Marshall.

As ayni took the lead, things were on the wind and developed quickly. In just a few days it was settled. A group of women who traveled with Salqa in Bolivia and Peru bonded together to sponsor him to Maya Land this coming January.

Salqa Bolivia

Salqa Apaza (foreground) on the Island of the Sun, Bolivia, during the 2015 Bolivia-Peru pilgrimage. Photo courtesy of Diane Grupe Marshall.

Diane Grupe Marshall of Montana shared with me:

Salqa is so kind, compassionate and mindful of his traditions. But he’s also becoming aware of today’s challenges and need to preserve those Q’ero traditions.

Maya Daykeeper Apab’yan Tew has agreed to act as his “spiritual father” during the entire January journey. Indeed, he’s delighted to take him under his wing with great anticipation. Since Tat Apab’yan will be on the Bolivia-Peru journey in September-October, they will have opportunity to make a connection in advance. Such mentoring will be a blessing to witness, and I know will add so much for all of us as we hold the space.

As for Salqa, he accepted our invitation and wrote:

 It is a magnificent idea! I will be preparing for such a trip from this early time. I would like to share our customs and traditions…Andean spirituality of the Nation of Q’eros. I am happy to read this message! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to travel and get to know other countries and get to know the Maya brothers. Greetings from the distance and many hugs for you.

Ccochamocco

Q’ero village of Ccochamocco in the Cusco Region of Peru. Photo courtesy of Carla Woody.

And so…this is the story…how the young paq’o Salqa Apaza will make history by being the first of his people to share traditions with Maya leaders in their home communities in Chiapas, Mexico.

And how the grace of ayni has a life of its own and travels on.

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You are invited to join us on this important, history-making journey, January 18-28, in Maya Land, and support the tutelage of this young Qero Wisdom Keeper. Be part of the global village.

 

 

Categories: Global Consciousness, Gratitude, Hopi, Indigenous Wisdom, Maya, Q'ero, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Book Review: Into the Magic Shop

IntoTheMagicShop

My attraction to read Into the Magic Shop was generated through Krista Tippett’s On Being interview called The Magic Shop of the Brain with neurosurgeon and author James Doty, MD. I had no idea who he was. But sincerity flooded his voice as he spoke about the need and effects of compassion. To have a medical doctor speak in this way is so unusual⏤given the hurried, sterile treatment patients in this country normally receive. When Krista asked him to speak of the ritual he underwent prior to neurosurgery, he had me. Rather than having a nurse prep the patient in the operating room he does so himself. After the patient is anesthetized, he shaves the surgery site himself, saying it connects him to the patient as a human being and grounds him in the procedure he is about to take.

From the book:

It is a ritual I do. And as I slowly shave the head, I think of this precious little boy and go over every detail of the surgery in my mind. I cut off the first bit of hair and hand it to the circulator to put in a small bag for the boy’s mother. This is his first haircut, and while it’s the last thing on his mom’s mind now, I know it will matter to her later. It’s a milestone you want to remember. First haircut. First tooth lost. First day of school. First time riding a bike. First brain surgery is never on this list.

What were the influences that made James Doty who he is today with an outlook and behaviors so unusual in his field? He was born into a troubled family where he received no support. He felt alone. He had low self-esteem. But one day he wandered into a magic shop and found his saving grace in an elder named Ruth who was visiting her son, the owner of the store. She saw something in this boy and invited him to return the next day and every day for the next six weeks. She promised to teach him.

…I know how to turn a flicker into a flame. Someone taught me and now I think it’s time that I teach you…It’s going to take a lot of work and you’re going to have to practice the tricks I teach you even more than you did your thumb trick. But I promise you, what I’m going to teach you will change your life…

This is James Doty’s memoir and includes a long learning curve as many spiritual journeys do…because he neglected to include one of the most important teachings Ruth gave him. Ultimately he remembers but not without many trials. And when all her teachings finally took hold, the most powerful magic happened.

Today Dr. Doty is the Founder-Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education⏤of which the Dalai Lama was an original funder⏤and clinical professor at Stanford University School of Medicine.

In many ways Into the Magic Shop reminded me of an all-time favorite book: Illusions by Richard Bach. I always held that the story must be true; Donald Shimoda must have been a real person. I longed for it to be so. But Into the Magic Shop is…without a doubt.

I highly recommend this book. Available on Amazon and elsewhere in print and e-book.

 

Categories: Book Review, Compassionate Communication, Global Consciousness, Healing | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

A Vision Comes

On the second day of our time on the Island of the Sun in Bolivia an opportunity presented itself. Local Aymara spiritual leader Mallku Roger Choque offered to take us to a closely held sacred place, one little known to outsiders where even few locals venture. The ancient ceremonial purpose of the site off the Island of the Sun was verified some decades ago when archaeologists found ritual artifacts on the lake bed at its base.

Clearly, this was another gift being handed to us. The first gift occurred the day before when sponsored Hopi guest Suhongva Marvin Lalo had discovered the Hopi migration petroglyph on a huge stone slab at the ruins of Puma Punku, outside La Paz—significant validation of the Hopi migration path. My spiritual travel group also included five sponsored Q’ero Wisdom Keepers making this journey to return to their Inka origins, as well as participants from across the US and Canada.

Given the cue by Mallku Roger we descended from the high point where we were lodging to the boat below. Not long after we headed out, waves washing behind us, this Aymara paq’o, or medicine person, laid a large weaving out on the floor of the boat’s front interior. Crouching down, he removed items from his bag. Soon it became apparent he would be leading a despacho ceremony, a prayer offering. Others squeezed around the altar, getting as close as we could in that cramped space.

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Mallku Roger Choque. Photo credit: Carla Woody.

And a memory surfaced, one of being on a boat and, so much the same, engaged in despacho ceremony the previous year on a private journey with a few friends. But that time we had been leaving the Island of the Moon, ancient site of the Mystery School for Inka priestesses. And after our prayers were all placed in the despacho, and it was tightly wrapped, I was beckoned outside to the boat’s back deck. The package was placed in my hands. I remember standing, watching the waves recede as we plowed through the waters. Raising my hands I released the bundle to send it arcing over the waters. Time slowed down. It seemed to hover for a few moments before slipping into the lake…and some kind of energy was emitted. We all felt it. I tried not to engage my mind then about what it might mean, if anything.

I came back to the present as one of my Q’ero friends stood before me offering me a kintu for the Pachamama—Mother Earth—coca leaves in proper placement. Taking them into my own hands, I began breathing my prayers into the coca. Another kintu was given for the Apus, the mountain spirits. My friend came back to receive the kintus that would be placed in an earthen vessel, along with the others. I gazed out at Lake Titicaca, so incredibly vast, then turned my attention back to the ceremony.

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Despacho ceremony on Lake Titicaca. Photo credit: Carla Woody.

And in that split second, a vision distilled. I say vision but can I say a precise image appeared? No. It was more a sense that something was being woven together. Can I say that I was given a commandment? No. But I was receiving a precise direction. It produced the feeling of something inside settling and becoming solid. A calling I didn’t question. But it still involved asking permission. I sat there with the knowledge.

By then the boat had approached our destination. But first the vessel that held all our prayers and blessings was lowered carefully into the shallow water and came to rest.

That night after dinner I asked Hopi, Q’ero and Aymara spiritual leaders if they would gather in circle with me. I told them of the vision I’d received during ceremony: to invite Hopi, Q’ero, Aymara and Maya Wisdom Keepers on a pilgrimage in 2016 nearly replicating the one we were making this year from Bolivia to Peru with one difference. The culmination would be on Q’ero. While others have brought different traditions together in various locations on a much grander scale, the direction I’d received involved a journey of an intimate, humble nature. I felt that others across the lands who would assist in holding such a space for this pilgrimage would emerge to support it. I asked the Wisdom Keepers if they would tell me what thoughts they had. One by one they spoke agreeing wholeheartedly with this vision.

Only Mallku Roger was silent. When all had finished speaking their piece, he turned to Marvin, our Hopi guest, and said in a strong voice, “I see your pain. And I have the same pain. Your pain is all our pain.” He gestured around this circle of his Indigenous brothers. “We are to help each other. I will never abandon you. We will never abandon each other.”

He spoke at length on the Eagle Condor Prophecy, then turned to me. I swear his eyes bored into my very soul and wouldn’t let me go. “This is like a weaving. We cannot do this alone. There are those who are connectors, people who help. Your vision is correct.”

In that moment, the last vestiges of doubt that periodically played inside my head over the years about the work I’ve dedicated myself to…when I’d get tired…when my faith got called into question…when it seemed like I was swimming against a tidal wave with little forward motion…dissipated.

Later I wondered if last year—when I slipped the despacho into Lake Titicaca—something had been set into motion. One more evolution. Each time it’s never about predicting what is to come as a result. One can’t. But it is about engagement…full engagement to the calling.

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To read about the discovery of the Hopi migration petroglyph at Puma Punku and more background, go here.

To learn more about the 2016 Heart of the Andes spiritual travel program in Bolivia and Peru, the intimate pilgrimage honoring the Eagle Condor Prophecy as noted in this writing, go here.

 

 

Categories: Global Consciousness, Hopi, Indigenous Wisdom, Maya, Q'ero, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

An Integrated Life

Living in a Western culture your life is compartmentalized. Maybe not across the board but largely so unless you’ve made a concerted effort to change what’s handed to us. That means creative expression is separate from work, which in turn is isolated from spirituality. Possibly the closest overlap may be spirituality relating to family or relationship. Or if you’re in a creative field of work where your deeper needs may be unleashed. Such disconnection results in dissatisfaction—an underlying sense of emptiness and lack of freedom that snowballs over time. Containment. I’m quite sure it wasn’t always that way but probably began with the Industrial Revolution and a move away from the land and community. The fact remains: it’s undeniably present. People attempt to fill the hole with ways that don’t work and are often quite harmful.

I had two reminders recently that initiated this post. A young woman from Los Angeles came into The Gallery in Williams, an artist cooperative where I’m a member. I happen to be on duty. When we struck up a conversation, I identified myself as one of the artists.

“I’m an artist,” she said then gestured to her partner. “But he’s a fine artist.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“He’s a full-time artist. But I work in a corporation. If I ever have time, then maybe I can do a little something.” Her shoulders slumped, and I could see she rarely had the time or energy left over to devote, given her hours and pressures at work.

Full moon over Bolivia. View from Island of the Sun, Lake Titicaca. ©2015 Carla Woody.

Full moon over Bolivia. View from Island of the Sun, Lake Titicaca. ©2015 Carla Woody.

I told her I used to live the same way. But over time I made conscious decisions to realign my life to what I believe, care about and what gives me energy rather than takes it…that it’s truly possible…that I had to do it for my own wellbeing or suffer the consequences. She asked for my contact information and said, “You’re going to hear from me.” Whether I do or not, I sensed we weren’t just making small talk. In those few moments, possibility created a crack in a previously closed space. And as Leonard Cohen said, “That’s how the light gets in.”

The issue: We don’t have many role models within our culture for those who lead an integrated life. I feel fortunate that I’ve had ongoing influences over twenty years. But it didn’t come from my own culture. I began to understand there was another way to live because I witnessed it within traditional Indigenous communities, especially those where I’ve spent consistent amounts of time. That’s how I know what I’ve seen isn’t isolated. Spiritual beliefs aren’t relegated to one day or a few minutes a week. They permeate everything: the way fields are tilled, the manner food is cooked, how children are raised, the things they create, and how communities interact.*

All is soundly grounded in such a way that gives life meaning and depth throughout. I have so much gratitude for this exposure, which has taught me the “how.” After a time of repetitive experiences, I consciously began to change how I live my own life. In the beginning, it seemed radical and difficult. Now it would be so to live any other way. Any aspect of my life organically dovetails into another.

Modesto

Modesto, long-time Q’ero friend and father to my godson, making prayers to the Pachamama (Mother Earth) and Apus (sacred mountain spirits) during ceremony outside Cusco. ©2015 Carla Woody.

I’ve just returned from this year’s spiritual travel program in Bolivia and Peru. Our Hopi program is coming soon in March, an opportunity for a solid week of witnessing what I discuss here. So my thoughts on integration are very present.

In closing circles I’ve heard concerns from travelers whether they’ll be able to experience the same depth at home. Of course, you can. Any deeply spiritual experience lives inside you always—no matter the form of its delivery. It becomes part of your identity and can be readily called into consciousness if you need a reminder.

I’ve also heard comment about withholding such spiritual consciousness, as though it would become tainted, if carried over to another aspect of life—usually work. Why would you want to keep it in the closet? That would cause internal conflict. (Understand I’m not talking at all about proselytizing, a different matter entirely I find an offensive intrusion.)

When you live through your spiritual values, there’s a trickle down effect shaping who you are in the world, what you believe about yourself and others, how you approach matters, what you create. It doesn’t even involve talking about those values. Yet, all shifts. It’s often visible to others as well. Even if they can’t put their finger on the difference.

I long ago realized folks come to engage in these journeys for reasons they may not be able to articulate but are present throughout all the same. It may play out in different forms but the desire for clarity, resolution and integration are primary and inform re-entry home.

We’re all tested all the time. It comes down to belief about possibility, choice and knowing the “how to.” It means staying strong so you can walk through life with grace. It means knowing the full sense of your birthright and giving yourself a chance to own it.

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*That doesn’t mean influences for Indigenous peoples to get off track are nonexistent. There are, mostly coming from Western ways. If they give in to them, the same angst occurs and harms wellbeing…maybe more so because their blood knows another way.

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Invitation: Join us for our December 4-5 Spirit Keepers Series in Phoenix where Eli PaintedCrow, Yaqui-Mexica Wisdom Keeper, and I offer a primer on ways to walk in two worlds—Indigenous and Western—and live through spiritual values. Donation basis.

Categories: Global Consciousness, Gratitude, Healthy Living, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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