Meditation

The Prayer Journeys of a Singing Bowl

Ton Akkermans has had a life-long interest in blacksmithing and lives in the Netherlands. Decades ago he had a memory of ancient Tibet where he made gongs and singing bowls. With this remembrance came the understanding of exactly how they were made in that long ago time and their use. The process was a prayerful one of deep intent—not casually hammered out—for the task he’d been given was a sacred one. Monks carried them as part of their spiritual journey, an ally for meditation, a way to release prayers through vibration when sounded. Sometimes they carried the same one all their years. It held the memory of their spiritual evolution.

Present-day Ton makes the bowls and gongs in the old way and, along with wife Carolina, teaches others. The bowls are imprinted with particular frequencies needed now, a vision toward global healing.

But I knew none of this until my dear friend Hilary Bee, a spiritual teacher in the UK, sent me a note this past July. She reminded me of the beautiful bowl she’d shown me in February when she’d been in the US for a visit. She mentioned Ton’s work, that he’d empowered his students Gabriella Kapfer, Heather Smith Cowen and Quentin Cowen to help further his vision. Thus the Peace Bowl Project of Resounding Earth was founded with a mission, as Hilary told me: “…to make bowls as an offering to the Earth herself, to assist with ushering in a new era of peace and harmony, similar in concept to the Japanese Peace Pole project; and have these entrusted to bowl keepers in different parts of the world…” She said she’d been invited to go to Scotland in September as one of the seven who would make the first of the bowls. The European Sanctuary of the World Peace Prayer Society  supported with the offering of their site.

Then Hilary asked me to be a bowl carrier.

She’d like to make the bowl for me, that my way of talking about the work I do—as a sacred container—was a clear sign to her. I realized in that moment what an honor she’d offered. But, truly, only later did I know to the extent. Of course, I agreed.

She’d asked me to send something for her to tune into as she was making the bowl. After sitting with the request for a while, I put together a package with items representing the Indigenous peoples I’ve worked with most: a Hopi prayer feather I’d been given to carry, an image of Lake Najá with young Lacandón Maya men in their traditional dugout canoe, and huayruro seeds from Peru. I intended to bring the singing bowl to Peru to be part of ceremonies there during our October-November journey in Cusco and Q’ero, and on to Bolivia where I was going afterwards.

Singing bowlWhen I opened the package I’d received in the mail, the energy that issued from it literally took my breath. The bowl and its covering fairly shimmered in their beauty. Through a Skype conversation with Hilary, I learned how deep her own process was. Every indentation in its make-up was an inlaid prayer. There was a network of meditators holding with the intent of the bowls’ forming during that time. Several in Hilary’s teaching circle sent their own bowls along in support. And a young woman named Manuela hand-felted the carrier bag. Her daughter Mayaan made the trim while partner Mark carved the wooden button to close it. Folks across countries gave support. It was then I really began to understand the nature of bowl carrying and just how much had gone into the making. Our conversation was emotional.

I knew that the bowl is not mine. It belongs to everyone.

I sent out an invitation for people to send their prayers. They would be carried in the bowl and resonance released at each ceremony. A number of people responded. Upon my return I wrote to Hilary.

The bowl was present at all ceremonies and circles, sounded separately by everyone, including each paq’o.* After the formal group closed I went on to the Islands of the Sun and Moon with a few folks and a Quechua-Aymara paq’o [Hermógenes] …where at the Temple of the Virgins on the Island of the Moon…after an offering and sounding…I felt the Pachamama breathe beneath my feet. I’m quite sure it was in response.

Despacho in Cusco for a safe journey up to Q'ero.

Despacho in Cusco for a safe journey up to Q’ero.

The energy of this journey was extraordinary for many reasons, a big one certainly due to the singing bowl … and all the prayers spoken and released along the way.**

During despacho ceremony in the home of my Q'ero friend Modesto in the village of Ccochamocco.

During despacho ceremony in the home of my Q’ero friend Modesto in the village of Ccochamocco.

Perubowl-3

Gi Thomas passes the singing bowl to Doña Carmina.

I have never carried a mesa in the traditions of the Andes, even though I’ve been part of the teachings for twenty years.*** I don’t sing Native American songs or hold Maya fire ceremonies. I hold great reverence for Indigenous ways, but I’m sensitive to co-opting traditions that weren’t given to me, or that I have no concrete proof I was born or adopted into. My own lineage was hidden and lost to time.

Perubowl-4

Altar offering at Puma Rock on the Island of the Sun with Hermógenes Romero Sanchez.

But in Bolivia Hermógenes began referring to the bundle I carried to each sacred site and placed on his mesa during offerings …as my mesa. And I realized that I do have a mesa. It was given to me, coming up through time, crossing cultures. And it carries a voluntary responsibility, perhaps one now made visible that I’ve felt for a very long time. This is my grounding.

P1050533-2

Offering at the Temple of the Virgins on the Island of the Moon.

No words suffice for my gratitude toward Hilary for her generosity, spirit and friendship, and all the people who hold the vision of worldwide filaments of peace and healing circling the planet … resonating …

***

 Anyone is invited to send prayers at any time. Just send them to me in a private email. The next journeys this singing bowl will make are to Mayalands in January and Hopilands in March, finishing the year with a return to Bolivia and Peru. But it’s always available and sounded during my own morning meditations.

*************

*Loosely translated, paq’o means shaman in Quechua.

**Hopi Wisdom Keeper Harold Joseph was sponsored on this journey, an emissary of his religious leader on Shungopavi, to seek prayers from Q’ero spiritual leaders for the continuity of Hopi traditions. Harold stopped  a number of areas along our journey, marking the path and laying prayers.

***A mesa is the medicine bundle of a paq’o in the tradition of the Andes.

Categories: Gratitude, Healing, Meditation, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Energy That Finds Its Source

Sometimes it’s powerful to change things up in your geography, to experiment and see how you may further engage creativity…and The Muse. In the last several months, I’ve done just that—albeit unknowingly—and have been fairly astounded at what has unfolded.

I meditate first thing in the morning, usually before dawn. Over the last thirty years of doing so, it’s set the stage for my days and provided a consistent segue for insights, higher guidance. But I’d never considered using it as a tool for my artwork. It happened accidentally.

I would undertake my daily ritual in the back room, sitting cross-legged with straight back, always in the same spot for as long as I’d lived in this home, an anchor to the process. One morning for no apparent reason, I chose to meditate in the front room. Whenever I feel complete, I come back with “soft eyes”…slightly defocused…slowly returning, integrating the state with my day ahead. That morning my gaze came to rest on the easel and canvas I’d been painting for a while. And suddenly I experienced the piece in a whole new way. I saw things I hadn’t seen before. I felt a previously undetected presence, perhaps waiting until I’d opened a door and it could reach through and guide me. I’ve continued this change in geography while keeping my long-time meditation ritual. My artwork has more depth and meaning. I feel the intent of pieces is coming across in a way I’d just hoped for before. I had the beautiful feedback from a couple from Canada who approached me—after seeing My Magdalen Heart in person—saying they’d experienced the piece literally speaking to them.

The Inner Chamber

The Inner Chamber
Mixed media on canvas
©2014 Carla Woody

People have puzzled over the creative process for eons. Some ascribe to a belief that the source of creativity rests within the self absolutely, which places enormous pressure if you find not so much coming through. Others are certain it comes from another source, perhaps a higher power. Author Elizabeth Gilbert spoke eloquently on TED regarding this controversy.

I believe it’s a combination of the two. First, I have the choice to say “yes.” Then it’s a matter of showing up consistently, having faith that something will be delivered…and being patient with the process. I recognize that I’m a vehicle. I’ve chosen to develop certain skills. But, for me, there’s no mistaking when I’ve tapped into another realm entirely outside myself that moves beyond the mundane. My senses are heightened and the energy moves—whether through brush on canvas, fingers on keyboard…whatever the art form—to find ground. There’s a distinct collaboration…and it’s something else again when your subject matter starts communicating with you. Strange as it seems, that’s how it’s happening for me these days.

When I was writing Portals to the Vision Serpent my practice was to begin writing after meditation, at least five days a week for at least three hours at a time. Again, I didn’t realize at the time I was accessing my craft through an altered state of being. It was as though I watched a movie and wrote down what unfolded in front of me. One day I reached a point in the book where I needed to get a main character down to the rainforest of Chiapas, Mexico but had no idea how. Within a few days, a completely new character stepped forward to introduce himself from the shadows where he’d been hidden. It turned out that he provided the way; the novel moved on.

The poet Mary Oliver said, “…The part of the psyche that works in concert with consciousness and supplies a necessary part of the poem—the heart of the star as opposed to the shape of a star, let us say—exists in a mysterious, unmapped zone…Say you promise to be at your desk in the evenings, from seven to nine. It waits, it watches. If you are reliably there, it begins to show itself—soon it begins to arrive when you do. But if you are only there sometimes and are frequently late or inattentive, it will appear fleetingly, or it will not appear at all…”

If it hasn’t yet happened for you in the way you desire, I believe it can. It means opening yourself up, stepping outside your comfort zone, changing up your geography. It’s an agreement you make…an intent you hold…and then let go.

Such an energy finds its reciprocal Source.

Categories: Arts, Creativity Strategies, Meditation, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution, The Writing Life, Visual Arts | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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

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

Book Review: Confessions of a Pagan Nun

Confessions of a Pagan Nun

Kate Horsley’s fascinating novel is about an adept caught in the shifting landscape of the Pagan Religion and Christianity in 6th century Ireland.  Not only does it document the times, but also allows us a real taste of the struggle those based in the Earth Religions endured.

Perhaps even importantly, Horsley leads us into the heart and mind of one so troubled, with the internal conflicts she faces between what she knows as her soul’s truth and the instinct for physical survival. This tale is as haunting and bittersweet as it is joyful. Readers may come to find relevance for their own lives in weighing the prices we pay for the choices we make.

Available via Amazon and other bookstores.

Categories: Book Review, Indigenous Rights, Meditation, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review – Fleeting Moments of Fierce Clarity: Journal of a New England Poet

Fleeting Moments

L.M. Browning has written a volume about spiritual travel, not in the sense of exotic adventure, but in leaving the familiar inner dwelling, while staying close to home, to discover what is true. She lets the reader know that difficult circumstances accompanied her through much of her young life, alluding to sacrifices and betrayals. But that’s not where she leaves us. The purpose of disclosure is to let us know where she’s been and where she’s come to this point: unstintingly honest having found strength in vulnerability. Gratitude for the small things. Connection to place.

She frequently mentions the Transcendentalists. In reading the poetry and introductory essays, I can easily imagine the author walking by Thoreau’s side around Walden Pond. I’ve traveled to some of the places named. But even if I hadn’t, her use of language makes them immediate. And there’s a feeling sense that speaks to an inner space common to all of usif we choose to know it.

 As I grasped the old wrought doorknobs, I shook hands with the past.

 Celebrations of nature and history are used as vehicles urging toward spiritual travel, to shed what is meaningless and embrace greater freedom. There are examples on every page. I’ve chosen this one, reprinted with permission, to include here.

The Truce

 

Pluck a strand of wind

And listen to the trees quiver.

 

Run until your heart pounds

And watch the stagnant surface

Of the pond ripple.

 

Throw back

The suffocating blankets of false comfort

And let yourself feel the renewal of the rain.

 

Only when we overcome

Our fear of being along,

Can we come to know the company

That is always with us.

 

In surrendering, we are cradled.

In accepting, we are able to impart.

In kneeling, we stand taller.

 

Gather what is worthy of your devotion

And never betray it.

 

So that, in the end,

You will know that,

Though you be small,

You poured out all that you are

Into what is greater

 

And in doing so,

Became part of it.

 In this thin volume much is said. You’ll not want to hurry through it but rather take a page or two and linger, much as you might to inform meditation practice. Fleeting Moments of Fierce Clarity has been given the distinction of Finalist, Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the Non-Fiction Regional Category.

Available in trade paperback, e-book and audio formats via Homebound Publications, Amazon and other online or retail bookstores.

Categories: Book Review, Healing, Solitude, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Reflections on Fire and Allies

We all need allies—fellow travelers on the path—to connect with deeply. This is especially so when words don’t express what takes you beyond the everyday life to the one that has no form. Yet your allies do understand and can add their own stories that place you on common ground. I’m truly fortunate to have such people in my life. It’s not by accident. I’ve cultivated them, or we’ve cultivated each other, over time. This is a post that shares such a foundation.

Last week near dusk—the Hour of Power—my long-time friend Yaqin Lance Sandleben and I ventured into the forest. Yaqin is a Cherag, an ordained Sufi minister following the Chisti Sufi lineage of India. A number of years ago, we would meet periodically to meditate among the pines. This time was different though. We felt called to offer prayers in the wake of the Doce and nearby Yarnell Hill fires. We got as close as we could without overstepping the areas the Forest Service had closed to re-seed the burned places. Yaqin shared his own insights later with a message to his community. With his permission, I’ll share excerpts with you.

Granite Mountain

“Granite Mountain is a sacred mountain to me, and to many others. As a friend says, it is our mount Kailash, our Mount Meru.   It is quite different than the other mountains in our area and has an ancient old growth forest on top.  The fire, the day it began,  was whipped into a great frenzy by strong winds, going from less than a hundred acres to over 5000 acres burned or burning in one day.   The smoke was towering over Prescott.  I knew that at some point I would have to go to the mountain and meditate.  Seek understanding…Naturally when we meditate, we may hear many voices and ideas, and part of our awakening path is to develop discernment.  I pray for that wisdom.”

The area is filled with rock formations. We made our way to one of them and settled in, Granite Mountain rising up before us. Yaqin was quite content sitting next to a fallen tree while the black ants that covered it made a beeline to me. I finally decided it was an invitation to go elsewhere. I’m glad I did.

Close by I noticed a ponderosa pine so large it towered over any of the others in the area. A Grandfather. All the others were much younger. When I got closer I noticed the most curious thing. Its trunk was newly charred at the base and every bit of ground  within a fifteen foot radius was burned. Yet the other trees and bushes in the area weren’t touched, only small places of brush damaged. We were a distance from where the fire had been raging. I silently questioned if a spark had been carried on the wind.

I was drawn to to this Grandfather like a magnet. Its energy was extraordinary. I wrapped my arms around it, put my forehead against its trunk. Then moved to place my back solidly along its line of support. It had stories to tell. After walking slowly around its base I sat down on my haunches and gazed up at its high branches. That’s when I got the real sense of what it is to be stationery and know a threat is approaching that you could do little about—except perhaps to attract it. And it seemed to me, that this Grandfather, with all its resident energy, drew the fire to protect the others.

I knew I could share my impressions with another ally Mike Weddle, who lives in Maryland, initiated in the Kaqchikel and K’iche Maya traditions as an Ajq’ij, or Daykeeper and Spiritual Guide. He wrote back to me.

This is the way of the Ajq’ij, to pull the enemy near,

to resist using your power to cause them harm, to turn them into allies.

And shortly on the heels of Mike’s message, Yaqin shared this in his community message: “I settled into meditation and breath.  After a while, I began offering prayers of healing.  I practiced with the Medicine Buddha, offering healing. I felt intuitively that fire was a natural part of the life of the forest, causing harm to some beings, such as trees, birds, insects, and animals; but also a kind of purification, a natural cycle of life.

“I began asking questions to the Universe, at first about fire in the forest around me.  The first impression I received was a koan.

The memory of fire remains but not forever.

Fire 1 “As I sat and breathed, I felt this had more than one level, including describing the workings of the human heart, and that further contemplation is called for. When I opened the query again, gazing at Granite Mountain, I received a second, though quieter impression:

The mountain remains but not forever.

“That thought echoed down the halls of eternity. I continued meditation and breathing. After a while, I asked the forest beings, the invisible ones, whom Inayat Khan calls the ‘unseen beings,’  about the fire and whether it damages them or what their relation is to the fires, and I got a clear impression, a vision.  I saw that within the raging fire,  there are invisible fire beings, who are with the fire itself, and are a part of it, as other invisible beings are a part of the forest.  Perhaps they tend it, as it has been said that invisible beings tend every growing thing.

“I asked the invisible beings around me if they have fear or suffering with the fire, and the answer came fairly clearly…

They are our brothers.

Fire 2…’they’ referring to the invisible fire beings.  I am not sure gender is actually a part of their existence, maybe it was just how my mind interpreted the answer. I continued mediation, also watching large black ants wandering around a fallen tree, and the rock on which I sat.  Sometimes they wandered on me.  I could see a few smaller ones going into a hole in the tree, coming back out with very small pieces of wood from the hole they were digging tirelessly.

“I then asked the question: Is there a meaning to the Sacred Mountain in the heart of Prescott burning?  And I heard these quiet replies.”

The Mountain is.

Fire is.

Categories: Healing, Meditation, Sacred Reciprocity | Tags: , , | 1 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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