Sacred Reciprocity

Of That Time in Iran

“I think you should open it,” my dad gestured to the bottle of Camus Napoleon Cognac, still in its original box after all these years. His face was poignant, holding mixed emotions: doubt, resignation, a touch of sadness.

Camus CognacIt touched me, too. Dad is 86 years old and had held this bottle for 38 years, patiently waiting. He’s sentimental and loyal to his convictions. He holds things inside. Nearly every year for at least 25, he’s said to me, “We’ll wait until Ahmad comes back.” He kept it tucked safely in the bar. Now it sat on the top. It took something for him to do that, to make that final decision, waiting for me to come home for Thanksgiving.

“I think so, too. It’s time,” I said.

In May 1978 I traveled alone to Iran to work on a project called Peace Log, a collaboration between the US and Imperial Iranian Air Force, that acted as oversight to Lockheed’s fielding of F-16 jets. I was 24. I was to be there for six months working on Doshan-Tappeh Air Base outside Tehran.

Don’t ask me what I was doing. It was many lifetimes ago. It had much less to do with the logistical work I would do than the call to adventure that had been roiling in my blood. I’d applied for the job not really even knowing where Iran was, other than it sounded exotic. I was just following a strong urging. The internal conflict produced from being in a line of work that went against my values hadn’t yet gelled. And as much as I wanted the adventure, I hadn’t figured into the equation my extreme shyness and the huge gap in age between me and the US people I worked with. I pretty much holed up after work and read books.

But it wasn’t long before I met Ahmad, an Iranian captain a few years older than me, who worked in the same complex. He asked me to dinner. That was more complicated than it sounds. There was a strict order from the Iranian side against fraternization. And within a couple of weeks after my arrival we were suddenly under martial law with strict curfews and all the riots and bombings you’ve read about. The Shah was falling.

Nonetheless, Ahmad and I began to see each other a few times a week. It was like a grade B spy movie. I’d leave the apartment building where I lived with other US work personnel, located on one of the busiest boulevards in Tehran, walk nonchalantly a few blocks over where he’d pick me up in his car and whisk me away.

If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have seen the things I saw. We hiked the mountains surrounding Tehran. He took me to Isfahan with its extraordinary ancient architecture. For a weekend we went to the Caspian Sea with his cousins and friends. One time we had to travel through Qom, the revolutionaries’ stronghold, and he brought me his mother’s chador to wear so I’d be safe. But mostly, we talked. He would teach me basic Farsi and I would correct his English as he asked. We roamed the bazaars, had meals together and developed a quiet bond.

Iranian MiniatureIn the middle of my assignment in Tehran, Ahmad had to accompany his general to the US. He was gone a few weeks. They had business in different sites. One was Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio, outside Dayton where I lived at the time. He visited my folks while there.  They had him to dinner at their place. That’s when he gave Dad the cognac. For my mom, he brought an exquisite Persian miniature, an Iranian art form. My folks enjoyed his visit thoroughly. The next day Mom took him shopping.

That day in November, right before Thanksgiving, when I was slated to fly back to the US, he accompanied me to the airport for which I was so grateful. I only realized later what a risk he took being seen with me in that environment. It was chaotic and dangerous, people clamoring to leave. Somehow he parted the seas. Or at least it seemed that way. I showed my documents and was granted passage. In those last moments, we said little. But we both cried.

In January 1979, he managed to call me. There was a lot of static on the line. I remember our conversation was brief. We may have been cut off. That was the last time I heard from him. Ever.

My dad doesn’t forget kindnesses personally granted him. Neither do I. Over the years, I’ve thought of Ahmad countless times. Wondering what happened to him, where he was. Did he survive the revolution? I’m afraid he didn’t but don’t want it confirmed.

After the fact, I realized just how little I really knew about him. Somehow I got the idea he was from a well placed family, and that his allegiance to the Shah was questionable. Although he never came right out with either of these.

A few years ago, I did a google search to see if I could turn up anything. I was shocked when I was greeted with listing after listing of a man by the same name identified as the father of modern Persian poetry. I was disappointed when I reviewed photos that told me he wasn’t the one I sought. But still a strange coincidence. My Ahmad was much younger, of course. So perhaps a namesake or family relation.

The cork broke in two and crumbled into the bottle; it was dry. I took a sip of the cognac, and it took my breath away. It was so strong. Perhaps as strong as my memories that without Ahmad wouldn’t have been so rich.

If I could, this is what I would say to him:

I hope you’ve lived a long, healthy life filled with love, family, children and work that nurtured your soul. You were of such significance to me at a time when I was young, naive and scared, not of my surroundings, but of myself. You provided a safe haven and wanted nothing in return except friendship. I’ve never forgotten it.

I mourn that I cannot find my photographs from then. But I can offer these words from a poem by Ahmad Shamlu that speak, for me, of that time in Iran.

The sea envies you
for the drop you have drunk
from the well.

 

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Categories: Gratitude, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , | 10 Comments

Book Review: Quantum Creativity

There’s an annual tradition I hold as a year closes. I find something to read that I think will set a meaningful frame for my personal transition into the next year. This time I found that in Amit Goswami’s Quantum Creativity.

Quantum Creativity Image

You may remember this author as one of the researchers and physicists featured in the documentary What the Bleep Do We Know? Dr. Goswami was also a senior scholar in residence at the Institute of Noetic Sciences and has taught at Pacifica, Philosophical Research University and elsewhere as well as written a number of books for the layperson on quantum physics related to consciousness.

If you’ve ever had the experience…

…of teaching and suddenly find that something has overtaken your vocal chords and words are being delivered at a depth you wondered afterward where they came from…

…or you’re writing a book and find it all laid out in front of you as though you’re watching a movie and realize your job is to merely scramble and write it all down as fast as it’s happening…

…maybe you’re painting and enter a space where the subject matter itself seems to be directing your brushstrokes and effect of the colors you use…

…then you realize this is one of the great wonders of the Universe.

The experiences I mention are mine. But most of us have had such things happen to varying degrees. And it brings a sense of true reverence and awe to the creative space. When it happens to me I know I’m touching something much larger than myself. That I’m somehow communing with the Collective Unconscious. I define these occurrences as one of the Great Mysteries. And I want to fine-tune my capabilities to open that portal more so.

I don’t know that it’s possible to call upon such a gift by will. But I am sure we can all develop ourselves to be in a state of readiness for when it does insert itself.

In Quantum Creativity Goswami goes a long way in explaining the quantum physics that informs the creative process.

…when subtle energies engage with consciousness, then creativity is possible, even likely. In their quantum aspects both the brain and the mind consist of possibilities from which consciousness can create the endlessly new…The presence of consciousness in itself does not cause potentiality to actualize. Collapse [manifestation] occurs when an observer with a brain is present as well, with the intention to look…

 He also confirms that having a consistent intention to look is like exercising a muscle. It develops strength to support the endeavor. It supports the wisdom of ritual. You have to religiously show up with your readiness. It’s not a sporadic thing, not something for dabblers.

There’s also the argument for daydreaming, mind wandering⏤something many of us were probably chastised for in school.  And for time in nature or meditation. Creativity shows up in the space between the thoughts.

Consider the composer Richard Wagner’s account of his discovery of the overture to Das Rheingold. Wagner came home after taking a walk and went to bed, but could not sleep for a while. His mind wandered through various musical themes and eventually he dozed. Suddenly, he awoke and the overture of his famous Rheingold came to him in a creative outpouring.

 As much as this book is a primer for quantum physics in general it also offers the relevance to the creative process specifically and how to set yourself up to receive it. If you want to enhance your own process, then this is a book to assist your development. Of course, you still have to do the work involved yourself. The first step is showing up for that exhilarating ride.

Quantum Creativity is widely available in print and ebook. Here it is on Amazon. Highly recommend if you’re interested in self-development of any kind.

 

 

 

Categories: Creativity Strategies, Sacred Reciprocity, The Writing Life, Visual Arts | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Selfless Work of an Unheralded Saint

In The Grace of Ayni I began with these words…

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.

Don Sergio Castro is the epitome of such an altruistic person. Quietly, he goes about his humanitarian healing work with Maya communities in Chiapas. For forty-plus years he has continued in the face of severe hardships and little funding support. Through Kenosis Spirit Keepers we do what we can to alleviate his funding worries so he can attend to the important work he does. But so much more is needed.*

In July Dr. Mike Weddle took the time to visit and work with Don Sergio. I want to share with you his impressions.

As a board member of Kenosis Spirit Keepers, I recently visited the healing practice and wound clinic of Sergio Castro in the town of San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico. The clinic is partly funded by an adjacent museum of traditional dress, and the funding often comes up short. On the day I visited, there was one group waiting for the museum tour, and another group, the constant line of patients with diabetic ulcers, burns, gangrene, and skin infections. It was clear that Sergio was torn between the wounded, and the paying customers he needed to treat the wounded. As a physician, I pitched in so that he could devote some time with his museum group.

This resulted in an invitation to do house calls with him in town and in the rural hills that surround the town. Some of these people he attends to every day. I can’t reasonably describe what I saw. Maybe I could in a hospital grand rounds, but not here, to a non-medical audience, who would find such descriptions horrific. From my work in Guatemala I know well the hidden people, the paralyzed, the stroke people, and infirmed, that live in the darkness of back rooms of the houses you walk by, or houses you see dotting picturesque hillsides. We saw a child who in the U.S. would be in a hospital burn unit, and a diabetic man who would be in an operating room. We did surgery at the edge of a cornfield. It was a privilege working with him for this one day, but he is there every day. It’s hard to imagine what these people would do without him.

museum clinic

Dr. Mike Weddle (left) and Don Sergio Castro (right) at the textile museum-clinic in San Cristobal de las Casas.

Don Sergio

Don Sergio Castro tending to a patient in the field.

I have personally witnessed the patients waiting for Don Sergio’s care at his museum-clinic. But Mike’s descriptive words of working with Don Sergio in the field…just take my heart. He brings to mind Mother Teresa. The difference: Don Sergio has no church behind him; no rich foundations sustaining his work. Yet he continues because he must.

Thank the gods there are such people in the world.

*****

*Read more on Don Sergio’s work and view the documentary El Andalon (The Healer) here.

During our January 2017 Maya spiritual travel program to Chiapas we will visit Don Sergio and bring donations of simple medical supplies and support funds. These monies come from tuitions for travel program and any other donations. if you’d like to help, go here.

Categories: Maya, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Unborn, the Ancestors

Little girl…little boy. You, the leaf! You, the new branch! Listen to me. Listen to this song I have. A word I have…a speech. You must be dreaming. You must be sleeping. Are you tired? Can I speak to you? Are you tired? Are you dreaming?

I want to talk to you. I have a word from my heart to you. Would you want to talk to me? Would you want to move?

You are the reason my heart is alive! You are the reason my life is complete!

In a lilting voice he gently coaxed then paused, just as his lineage had for centuries. He sought a cue, maybe movement, to let him know he’d made a connection.

From the beginning of March, I’d traveled with Maya Daykeeper Apab’yan Tew to Kansas, Hopi and elsewhere around Arizona. Between journeys I was privileged to host him in my home. Now we were in the last days of the month, he stood—delicately poised in traditional dress, eyes half closed, an arm lifted, hand upturned—at the front of the room. The rest of us seated, in a meditative state.

Huichol composer-musician Xavier Quijas Yxayotl played his flute softly in the background, his music framing Apab’yan’s words. Monita Lynn Baker joined in with just the appropriate bit of percussion. I’d invited Xavier to our Spirit Keepers Series gathering at North Mountain Visitors Center in Phoenix to reconnect with Apab’yan. They hadn’t seen each other in 25 years. Their ritual music-dance teachers were friends but both had long passed.

Apab’yan had spoken at length on K’iche’ Maya worldview—originating from the Guatemalan highlands—and his responsibilities as a Daykeeper working with the Cholq’ij calendar. During the course of the evening he revealed that he’d acted as a traditional midwife for the last 16 years. He had a patient with a difficult pregnancy, the baby in a questionable position, awaiting his return home. This mention naturally led into the singing speech we experienced, the intervention meant to guide the baby to reposition on its own in utero, to align correctly with the birth canal.*

The song ended. The room was silent, the energy palpable. I think we must all have been touched in ways indefinable. Perhaps there was something enlivened that had been asleep. Or a dream grounded into this reality. Perhaps there were aspects we each may have carried into this life from our mothers and fathers—inner vulnerabilities—that were soothed, shed. This was a perfect portal to usher us into the fire ceremony the next day.

North Mountain Visitors Center abuts the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. The beautiful grounds are pristine, belying its poignant past. It was here, from the 1890s until 1930s, that many Native families camped, attempting to see the children taken from their homes and subjected to forced assimilation at the Phoenix Indian School. Interspersed were the tuberculosis camps in the early 1900s for those seeking the curative properties of dry desert air.

We gathered, in the shadows of the small ampitheatre, and Apab’yan consecrated an altar space where he would guide the fire ceremony. And it was here that he would call upon the ancestors. In his own words

Everything is alive. Everything has a form of communication. Everything has meaning and belongs to a natural system.

The Maya ceremony consists of preparing a ceremonial pyre. It is called a gift but also a payment in the sense of reciprocity. The K’iche’ ceremonial pyre is not a bonfire; it does not burn a long time. It does not need to last. The importance has to do with what happens while the fire is active: There must be a dialogue.

As normal, those assembled took part in the building of the altar, some given special roles. One held the fire stick. Some were called upon to make the first lighting. Two others to pass out candles. And the fire began to burn. Puffing on the ceremonial cigar, Apab’yan called for the Grandmothers-Grandfathers to be present. He made the prayers. Placing candles, we made our own prayers. At long last, the fire started to die down, the conversation coming to completion.

But not yet.

Apab’yan went over to Xavier and Monita, whispering to them. After asking me to lead the circle in holding space, those three walked into the desert. And then…on the air…from the distance…we heard flute and voice rising and falling…singing to the land…to any lingering ghosts of sadness…offering up prayers. And some strange force blew through. It overtook my body. Ever so slowly, involuntarily, my body began to arch backwards until it was in an impossible position. Held. For what seemed like forever. Until it let me go. When I opened my eyes, I saw the Diné woman across the circle crying.

When they re-entered the circle, Apab’yan knelt before her and asked her to ritually bless him with burning sage. That image and the power of it sticks in my mind: Diné woman, Maya man.

The ceremony now closed, the sense of what occurred remained. A communal undertaking. Correctly done. Even as I’m writing this now, I’m feeling into the sacred space…all over again…we all created. I imagine it still hangs in the air in the ampitheatre, the people who pass through wondering what has touched them.

I’ve been in powerful ceremonies before. Fire ceremonies, too. But none ever as compelling as this one. Perhaps it was the culmination of all the energy accumulated from all the ceremonies over a month’s time, carried with us…from Hopi…to private land outside Wichita…to private and public sites in Tucson and finally in Phoenix. And some particularly precious energy remains within my own sanctuary.**

With much respect and gratitude to Apab’yan  and those who showed up in these ritual circles. The journey continues in January in Maya Land with the strength we gathered in March. Anyone drawn is welcome.

Below I’m adding a piece written by Pam Hale Trachta with her own reflections.

 The Power of Ritual and Ceremony

The smoke from the copal grew thicker in the room, as Apab’yan fed the small container fire with the granules of incense, and his prayers. People seated around him and behind him prayed too, mesmerized now by the hypnotic chanting in the Mayan language, punctuated by English phrases so we could all track where the prayers were being directed.

The room was darkened in order to suggest the atmosphere of the caves where this water ceremony is usually performed. A bowl of water resting on the table received the blessing, and participants would eventually be offered sips of it, as in communion. Finally, roses were dipped into the water and used to shake drops of water on all those gathered.

It was a potent blessing, because the intimacy and power of ritual transcends cultures, language differences and even philosophical details. Spirit is Spirit in any language. And the language of Spirit is ceremony.

Water Ceremony

Water Ceremony at Tacheria Interfaith School of Spiritual Direction in Tucson. Photo: Pam Hale Trachta.

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♦♦♦

 * Apab’yan Tew is likely the only male Maya midwife that exists. He knows of no other. Indeed, it’s not traditional. It occurred because, when he was a lost young man wandering in the Guatemala highlands, a Maya midwife took him in. And before long he assisted her in the process. He became her apprentice until he began to birth babies on his own. He remains readily sought after as a midwife. When in the highlands he does everything from the beginning: talks, sings, moves and delivers the baby. In the city, he prepares everything until the point of delivery then sends the mother to the hospital for final delivery by a doctor. This was the case recently in Mexico City. Apab’yan and the mother were able to bypass the difficulties of the pregnancy. She successfully delivered a baby girl.

**With many thanks to the following people and organizations for hosting us and making the March beauty possible:

  • On Hopi: Charlene and Harold Joseph;
  • In Kansas: Lonetta Lollar and John Brack, and Belle Dessa and the Great Plains Earth Institute;
  • Elsewhere in Arizona: Pam Hale Trachta, Frank Williams and Tacheria Interfaith School of Spiritual Direction, Leslie Spencer-Snider and North Mountain Visitors Center, and Cindy Heath.
Categories: cultural interests, Gratitude, Indigenous Wisdom, Maya, Sacred Reciprocity | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Café Amazonia

In any journey there are times that stand out. Those moments are such that we hold them close, call them up periodically…to experience them all over again. They’re precious. Usually it has to do with points that exhilarate or stir in some way. But sometimes it’s at completion when pausing…to take stock and appreciate.

Janet Harvey has participated in my spiritual travel programs three times and alludes to more. We’ve now been back from the recent initiation journey coming on three months. It began in Bolivia and moved deep into Peru, all the way down to the jungle, before ending in Cusco. Yesterday Janet sent me a poem she wrote. As I read it, I was immediately back in Manu at Pantiacolla Lodge sitting on the cabaña porch listening to the night sounds. With Janet’s permission I share her poem and hold you catch even a bit of that balmy night and a taste of the rainforest.

Cloud forest

Into the cloud forest of Manu.

 

For You
 
Two chairs and a wooden box
A candle and a bottle of wine
Porch cafe for two in the Amazon
We converse to the hum 
of the generator,
tell stories,
as a third pulls up a chair,
watch the kitchen staff 
walk to and fro on the raised walkway
from kitchen to lodge and back
Voices and laughter cross between
A few lamps glow in a vast darkness
The generator hums.

cabaña café

Private cabaña café

Borrowed glasses raised
to a journey well done
We toast the day 
and the night
and all that was and is and will be
as the lamps blink off;
the hum is gone. 
Now the time of  
the velvet Silence 
before the jungle awakes
and we depart
for shadowed sleep.

 

Jungle compound

Jungle compound.

©2016 Janet Harvey. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

***

Janet Harvey is a family mediator and chaplain who nurtures her curiosity and wellbeing by immersing herself in daily adventures and periodic spiritual journeys. She explores the dimensions of experience through photography, drawing and writing.

Categories: Gratitude, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

********

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

When the Fire Speaks

cave ceremony

Cave ceremony with Apab’yan. Photo courtesy: Apab’yan Tew.

Apab’yan Tew is an Ajq’ij, a Day Keeper, traditional dancer, musician and spiritual guide of the sacred K’iche Maya tradition from the village of Nawalja’ in Sololá of the Guatemalan highlands. His ceremonial work most often takes place in caves, engaging with resident energies of the natural site and timing of the TzolkinCholq’ij in K’iche’—calendar in conjunction with needs of communities or individuals. His gifts evolved from childhood until he ultimately answered the call through a series of difficult shamanic challenges.

Apab'yan in ceremonial dance. Photo courtesy: Apab'yan Tew.

Apab’yan in ceremonial dance. Photo courtesy: Apab’yan Tew.

In the last few years, Apab’yan has become an important, integral part of our Maya spiritual travel program. Being a spiritual guide himself, he’s able to connect with the other Maya leaders and healers in such a way that provides even deeper openings for all of us.

To extend a brief introduction on the Maya worldview…here’s an excerpt of an article I wrote in which he’s quoted, drawing material from an interview we had, speaking eloquently about natural laws.

We cannot be who we must be without the land. Another principle is that the body we have is not really ours. It is lent from the Mother Earth herself. So if you create any kind of danger to your body, you are also hurting the Mother Earth. What the Earth produces and what we produce is part of the same cycle, the same system. We are not separated from the Earth—and the Earth is not to be thought of as just another provider of goods. The term that is used in the West is ‘natural resources’ as something to be taken, something to be transformed. For us, we don’t use this term. We use the term ‘elements of life.’ It is our life! It is not a resource…

…It is our purpose not to take more than we can give back. But it is also our purpose not to change. We must not touch what is not ours. It is not ours from the beginning. It is ours to have a dialogue…

For this additional article I’d asked Apab’yan to offer a summary on the Maya fire ceremony of his homeland, a very special engagement—a portal really—probably unlike what most of us would have experienced as a fire ceremony.

Fire altar

Fire altar before lighting. Photo: Carla Woody

Everything is alive. Everything has a form of communication. Everything has meaning and belongs to a natural system.

The Maya ceremony consists of preparing a ceremonial pyre. It is called a gift but also a payment in the sense of reciprocity. The K’iche’ ceremonial pyre is not a bonfire; it does not burn a long time. It does not need to last. The importance has to do with what happens while the fire is active: There must be a dialogue.

When the fire starts to burn, the sky and the earth begin to speak. The clouds are speaking. The wind speaks. The birds talk and sing. Everyone…everything…participates in that moment.

It’s only the human being—especially the adult—that needs to be pushed to believe this is possible. I must repeat again and again that it is possible to understand everything… anything…to just hear, feel and communicate in that unique moment.

Nothing—apart from humans—offers so much resistance.

For millennia selected specialists dedicated to maintaining culture and spirituality have continued the work of consultation, healing and reading messages of the form of intelligence that is not human. It is translated through what is seen in the moving flames, not in a human scale. What is hidden in the past, present and future can be accessed by the cadence of the voice and poetry of the ceremonial language.

Ajq’ij is the name given to the specialist, woman or man, devoted to the study of time measurement and time as a substance.

The fire is alive, speaks and does so with discernment. That is, it allows negotiation because it is listening, too. The sacred fire opens up possibilities. One can review decisions, consult your own heart, enter into an affinity with nature, interact with the ancestors, experience communion with the universe.

I am inviting you to be participants in our ceremonies and travels.

For any reader skeptical about the potency of the fire and Apab’yan’s ability to call forth and read its messages: During a fire ceremony in our January 2015 spiritual travel program in Chiapas, Mexico he said to the group, “The fire is speaking.” Indeed, to my eyes it appeared to suddenly be dancing. After a few moments he continued, “Carla, this is for you. The fire says in a few months you will be going on a very long journey, not a normal one.” He went on to tell me what the fire had to say about that journey.

I had not told Apab’yan that at the end of April I was leaving my home to walk the Camino Francés, the ancient 500-mile pilgrimage that begins in Saint Jean Pied-de-Port on the French side of the Pyrenees and culminates in Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. Certainly not one of my normal journeys… and the fire’s advisement related to it turned out to be true.

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I join Apab’yan in inviting you to join us for Entering the Maya Mysteries in January 2017, an immersion experience in Maya cosmology, arts, medicine and sacred ways of the Living Maya. A very special journey with authentic spiritual leaders who serve their communities and the opportunity to participate in religious festivals and ceremonies in Maya rainforest and highland villages. I’m so pleased that once again Apab’yan will be accompanying us sharing ceremonies and teachings throughout. A portion of tuition is tax-deductible to support a Hopi Spirit Keeper traveling with us and Don Sergio Castro’s humanitarian healing work in impoverished Maya villages.

For more on Maya worldview, and that of other Indigenous traditions, read my complete article Seed Intelligence: Indigenous Perspectives and Our Collective Birthright originally published in Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) Farming Curriculum developed by Honor the Earth for Tribal Community Colleges, 2013.

To listen to my complete interview with Apab’yan go to You Tube.

Categories: Indigenous Wisdom, Maya, Sacred Reciprocity | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

In Remembrance: Mary Magdalen

My Magdalen Heart

Prophet Series: My Magdalen Heart
Oil with gold leaf on canvas. by Carla Woody

Today is Mary Magdalene’s Feast Day. A few years ago I created My Magdalen Heart as one of my Prophet Series, an oil with gold leaf on canvas. This artwork pays respect to Mary Magdalen who has been denied recognition for her true role by the traditional church, and honors all teachers who go quietly about their service with humility.

The original artwork now lives in Albuquerque with a woman who’d had a relationship with The Magdalen since childhood. She came into The Gallery in Williams where I show my work and fell in love. I happened to be in The Gallery that day. She told me her stories with misty eyes and left very happy. It was emotional for us both. I later received a note from her thanking me again and said, “We put her in the place of honor over the fireplace. I was afraid the painting would get lost because of the size of the fireplace, which is huge. But she commands the room and her eyes follow me everywhere.”

I felt so blessed to received this communication, just as blessed as when I was painting the piece…because it felt that Mary spoke to me as I was doing so.

In Sophia’s Children Jamie Walters writes: Who was Mary Magdalene, really?

And why is this question important at all given that we’re talking about a woman who lived 2,000 years ago, and about whom we have only slender references?

Read more on Jamie’s blog.

Categories: Arts, Creativity Strategies, Gratitude, Healing, Sacred Reciprocity | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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.

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*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: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Spiritual Integrity and Preservation

In 2009 an important tradition began, first started by Hopi elder Harold Joseph who accepted an invitation to accompany me on my spiritual travel program Entering the Maya Mysteries. As his religious leader’s emissary, the purpose was to reconnect with relations, those from Hopi migration paths. When I make these invitations on behalf of Kenosis Spirit Keepers, it’s without expectation of outcome. I’ve come to know that as long as we within the circle hold the container sacred…what fills it is rich, often with significance I never could have predicted.

The effect Harold had on Don Antonio Martinez, the last Lacandón Maya elder maintaining his timeless traditions, during a very vulnerable time is well documented in my article The Last Spirit Keeper available for download here. Equally significant are the indications Harold saw during our travels through Mayalands that validated his people’s oral history and common thread with these relations of the south. At certain sites he made offerings and prayers. Over these years several other Hopi Spirit Keepers have replicated what Harold started.

Don Antonio Martinez and Harold Joseph

Don Antonio Martinez and Harold Joseph at the Lacandón Maya village of Najá in 2009. Photo credit: Darlene Dunning

This coming January, Merle Namoki, Sun Forehead Clan, from Shungopavi, Second Mesa will continue the tradition, strengthening the bridge of relationship and respect, laying down prayers. A few years ago, Merle said to me, “…We all need to pray to keep our Mother Earth and Father Sky in balance…”

Mike Weddle is a member of the Kenosis Spirit Keepers’ board who, for more than twenty years, has immersed himself in the sacred ways of the Maya of Guatemala. In his essay Are the Maya and the Hopi Two Branches of the Same Ancestral Tree, he compiled examples of common practices linking the two. He also talked about the protectiveness that Hopi people have over their sacred traditions—in order to preserve them.

The intent I hold for spiritual travel has remained the same from the start. It is not to co-opt Indigenous traditions. It is to offer respect through our presence and to hold space that these sacred ways continue. Merle stated the need so well. If in the process we visitors are deeply touched—and we are—we bring this difference home. Who we are in the world is influenced…and felt by our families, friends and communities. Core spiritual elements are strengthened.

The anniversary of an important date is coming up for me. In late Spring 2008 I held my breath as I opened an envelope from the IRS…and exhaled with great relief to see that Kenosis Spirit Keepers was given status as a charitable organization, our nonprofit extension. It was signed and dated October 15, 2007.

Kenosis Spirit Keepers logo

In this post about the continuity of traditions, I also want to express much appreciation to those who have made donations over the years, and certainly to those who have traveled with me…holding reverence, making the circles and sponsorships possible. Through your spiritual integrity, this work continues. Last but certainly not least, the folks who have served on the board since the inception of Kenosis Spirit Keepers, worked hard and assisted with direction and decisions…I have gratitude.

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If you are drawn to support connections between the Hopi and Maya peoples, join us January 18-28, 2015 in Chiapas, Mexico for Entering the Maya Mysteries. A portion of tuition is tax-deductible to support the travel of Hopi Merle Namoki and the humanitarian healing work of Don Sergio Castro in impoverished Maya communities.

To read more about the unusual occurrence that inspired the founding of Kenosis Spirit Keepers see The Ninth Evolution of the Spirit Keepers Journey (with video).

To learn more about the Maya worldview, listen to an excerpt of my interview with Tat Apab’yan Tew, K’iche Maya Daykeeper, who is part of the Maya spiritual travel program.

 

Categories: Gratitude, Hopi, Indigenous Wisdom, Lacandón Maya, Maya, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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