Spiritual Evolution

From the Archives: A Life Experienced

How do  I Iead into what I want to convey? Isn’t that always the underlying unconscious question? These days it’s not so much what I want to express but how. What is the conveyance that will provide the depth I seek…to the point…without rambling? But really, life is rarely to the point if you think about it. By necessity rambling is required for learning, isn’t it? For me, the circuitous route has proven to be the most interesting, serendipity the gift most enlivening, what’s off the beaten path most fruitful.

Now going into the second year of the pandemic, it’s fifteen months since my usual life came to a screeching halt—the same as nearly everyone’s on the planet. A force much greater than any of us took over. We’re left with how to mediate uncertain ground. I haven’t been home this long in more than twenty years. My lifework involves a lot of travel.

What I’ve noticed though is my rambling hasn’t gone away. I’m just covering other-than-physical ground more deeply than I have in quite a while. The space and silence provided the opportunity to do so. Hence, the questions and ruminations I mentioned. I fully recognize what’s ahead to be a different personal landscape than the one I’d been traveling—and have come to realize I don’t regret it. In fact, I welcome it. There’s a point when what was once off the beaten path becomes a well-traveled road.

Over this last year I’ve been through a conscious sorting process. The core elements I consider most important haven’t changed. The intent I hold remains solid. It’s more about opening to other or even wider, spacious ways to engage them. It’s the process of coming to comfort within uncertainty—knowing there was never any certainty anyway and all is transient. It’s possible whatever way I end up may not look outwardly different. Who knows at this point? However, I intend that inwardly it will hold spaciousness. I’m bringing my intent to ground by speaking it here. The process I’ve been undergoing is very much about the present and future.

A curious thing happened several weeks ago. In the middle of the night I awoke with a start. I rode into wakefulness with this thought: I’ve been on the planet for 67 years. Soon it will be 68. It’s not like I don’t know this. But I’ve never thought much about my own age. I’m fortunate to be healthy and, through long ago choices, living the kind of life I never could have dreamed up. I hold a lot of gratitude for that. I’m guessing most people think about their longevity, but I really  hadn’t paid it much mind.

I have been holding the thought, borne through that middle-of-the-night prompting. Things going the way they do with me, this next piece happened a few days later. I can’t pinpoint how this occurred exactly, but a music video appeared in my social media feed. I actually watched it. Not typical for me. It was a song by the Avett Brothers called  No Hard Feelings. I’d never heard of them. The lyrics, the way they sang it and the images in the video touched me so deeply, I listened to it several times in a row and have continued since.

When my body won’t hold me anymore
And it finally lets me free
Will I be ready?
…Will my hands be steady when I lay down my fears, my hopes, and my doubts?
The rings on my fingers, and the keys to my house
With no hard feelings

…When the sun hangs low in the west
…And it’s just hallelujah…

This poignantly beautiful song caused me to do something I urge the people I mentor to do but hadn’t done in some time.

Acknowledge yourself, where you’ve been that brought you to where you are now.

Recapitulation of a life, I looked back over time. I’ve been holding this process lightly for a few weeks now and imagine it will go on for at least a few more. I recognize that I’ve done a lot of wandering of various sorts over most of my life, and was never lost. Even though, there were times when it felt so. I couldn’t have told you what compelled me until a decade or so ago. Finally, I realized there’s an energy I follow that has not let me down when I’m faithful to it. I’ve experienced some things most people have not. Some I can’t explain. I’ve had great joy in my life, also devastation and deep loss. What I’ve come to is this: It’s all been perfect. Every bit has brought me to this point in time. I feel blessed by it all.

One of my favorite things to do is have a meal with friends and afterward linger, usually over a glass of red wine, and relay favorite stories of experiences past. That I’ve missed a lot through the pandemic. (Although it’s transferred to more writing and artwork as my narrative.)

Some years ago, I was doing  this very thing with a few of the intrepid travelers who came with me to Chiapas on my Maya program. We’d been hanging out after dinner at Don Mucho’s, an open-air restaurant at the rainforest compound outside Palenque called El Panchan. (It holds so many of its own stories a book was written about it.) One of the women said to me, “You need to put all these stories together and call it Tales from Carla’s Table.” This memory came back to me during my life review, and I made a decision.

I’m not ready to slip my physical body as yet. But who knows what the future holds? However, I have a body of work that spans about 30 years, and experiences older than that. A lot of it has been documented through books, essays, a mentoring program and audio teachings. Some have yet to be written down. I’ve been fortunate to have engaged with a good number of people who let me know they’ve benefitted through the programs I’ve sponsored, private work and writings.

All this meandering narrative to come to this point—an announcement—and I appreciate your patience. I’ve already started to archive all of it in one place, including my book Standing Stark in serialized chapter form with the others to follow. I have Dr. Mehmet Yildiz to thank for his generous support. Dr. Yildiz  is the founder and editor-in-chief of Illumination and related publications on the writing platform Medium. He took me on as a writer and welcomes my reprints.  You can find my author page here.

All will be available to anyone who desires for as long as Medium remains online. I hope it may be of benefit.

K’iche’ Maya fire ceremony, 2018. Photo: Carla Woody.

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Categories: Contemplative Life, Gratitude, Spiritual Evolution, The Writing Life | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

A Home in the World: A Case for Wandering to Find Solid Ground

A Home in the World first appeared in Medium.

Jack Wheeler in the Matsés village of San Juan, Peruvian Amazon. ©Tui Anandi/Xapiri.

I had been listening to this young man for the past hour recounting significant aspects of his life’s story — a pilgrimage really — moving over the past decade. We were sitting in the upper level of Xapiri, his gallery a couple of blocks off Cusco’s main square, with Amazonian art all around us. He was winding down.

I’d been enthralled. “That’s incredible, you know.”

He offered a sardonic smile and said in decidedly Oxford English, “Yeah, that’s the brief story. There was a lot of randomness in-between.” Jack had a delightful way of laughing at himself that was attractive. But there were elements beyond his charm that spoke to greater substance and make-up.

Earlier that morning I was having breakfast in the tiny café of the family hotel El Balcón where I had long lodged my spiritual travel groups to Peru. A young North American woman, interning in hospitality services there, sat down across from me. We’d talked several times about what we were both doing in Cusco. This time she said, “I think you should meet Jack Wheeler. He’s got quite a story.” She gave me just enough to pique my interest and directions on where to find Xapiri. I took a chance that Jack would be there during my free time, and he’d be open to telling a complete stranger his personal history on a moment’s notice.


For a limited few, the trajectory of their life is laid out with certainty — and they’re quite satisfied with that. Satisfaction is key in this distinction, being bred in the bone to the extent they wouldn’t have it any other way. For the rest of us, conscious of it or not, we must seek our grounding. We know we’re not there when there’s an underlying feeling of discomfort, the rumblings of angst, a sense of just passing time, filling a slot, or waiting for something to happen. The tragedy of settling for the uneventful life is not discovering who you are. That’s not much of a legacy to pass down.


Jack had led into his tale, “When I left college, I wanted to follow one of the normal careers. I started working in a bank in my home city of Birmingham. It’s called the second city, London being the first. I’d worked there for two years. Although I was successful with promotions and really good money for my age, I definitely wasn’t happy. So, I started to travel. I took three months off and went to Peru, the first place I visited. I was twenty years old. At that point, I had no idea what I wanted. I was lost. I was traveling just because I wasn’t happy in England.

“But still I went back there. After a few years in the bank, I started a business with my older brother Tom. We worked hard, and it took off within six months. For many people it would appear to be a dream come true, creating something and being your own boss. But again, even though I was making money, I had no fulfillment — like it was at the bank. It wasn’t feeding my soul. So again, I decided to travel,” Jack punctuated his story with chuckles.

“That was about 6 years ago. I had a big, big trip where I traveled for a year…from New York all the way across the Americas…Central and South America, all the way to Patagonia. Big, big travel. Amazing travel. But looking back now, it was ticking boxes. I was going from place to place, spending a week in each place. It was enjoyable but not getting deep. It was more a standard backpacking trip.”

Jack Wheeler in the Amazon. ©Tui Anandi/Xapiri.

I pointed out to him a lot of people stuff their discontent instead of doing something about it. So much depends on outside influences and belief in what’s possible. There’s also the question of risk, stepping outside what’s familiar. Typically, if someone is going to answer what Joseph Campbell spoke of as a Calling, it’s after they’ve got more years on them, and the sacrifices have mounted up. I was speaking from experience.

“I think I was lucky to realize it at a young age. I put it all down to the traveling. At the beginning, the traveling wasn’t so deep. I wasn’t yet involved with Indigenous cultures. It still opened my eyes! When I came to Cusco the first time, I stayed in an orphanage volunteering for three months. I saw humanity, and it woke me up a little bit. The idea for Xapiri didn’t come at that point. I didn’t yet understand what I needed for fulfillment. It was a slow process. But I realized I couldn’t handle all the money and success back home.

“After the three months? I went back to England. Yeah, the story’s crazy!” With this last admission he produced a subdued bark, a commentary perhaps at the expense of his not-so-much younger self.


It’s seldom understood in the moment. But wandering is rarely aimless if we’re engaged, alert and open to possibility. A sorting process occurs beneath the surface, a recognition of what fits and what doesn’t. It takes putting ourselves into new, sometimes off the charts, experiences. In this way, we get hits over time, self-correcting so that when the full unveiling comes, it’s like we knew our passion all along. It’s no stranger to us. What at first may seem accidental, becomes the realization of personal destiny.


Pekon Rabi, Shipibo master artisan, preparing her cotton loom. ©Tui Anandi/Xapiri.

“My brother had relocated to Sweden. I went and spent the summer. I got back involved with the business in a different role with the idea I’d get more connected. But again…I didn’t. Yeah, I traveled again.

“This was a common theme. I was always traveling as an escape looking for something, I guess. It was on this travel when things began to click. I was in Venezuela and then Brazil where I had contact with the first Indigenous communities. I suddenly realized this is the work I wanted to do — to be involved with Indigenous people.

“At this point there were still no projects, no idea to work with the arts. Only later, I stumbled into this art gallery called CANOA in the town of Paraty. It was founded by Nina Taterka who was doing amazing work with over fifty ethnic groups in Brazil. A few months later I met her son Tui Anandi who became an important part of Xapiri from the beginning. He had all his experience having grown up surrounded by his mum’s work. Now Tui is a great friend, Xapiri partner and photographer for when we visit the communities.

“The moment I walked into Nina’s gallery, I knew I needed to be involved,” He nodded emphatically. “Somehow I persuaded her to listen to me. We had some meetings. The initial idea when meeting her was to show this Indigenous art to a European market. We made the shipments, sending the art work from Brazil to England…and that’s how Xapiri was born six years ago now.”


There’s an interesting thing that happens once the seeker finds life purpose. The traveler comes to rest in the comfort of self-knowledge. Seeking goes to the wayside, and they find solid ground, even if it’s invisible in the moment. Having sought outside the box, all manner of potentials will become apparent that heretofore were hidden. The more clarity existing within your intent, the more those elements will naturally come to fulfill it. Synchronicity becomes a common occurrence. It’s not that blocks don’t appear, but we recognize alternatives to skirt them, an important part of the learning process. In this initiation, a foundation is built.


I was curious how Jack gained entry into the Indigenous communities in the Peruvian Amazon. I knew he had some help initially from Nina when he was in Brazil. Beyond that, he would definitely enter foreign territory where some remote ethnic communities would have had little to no contact with Westerners. It could be sketchy to just show up — without invitation. Even with an invite, it was a fearless move. Jack had to harbor such strong intent that he was on the right track. At any rate, a lot of people want to do things but don’t have the how-to, especially given the unusual path he had chosen.

“I can give a few examples. The way these relationships start are always different with each community. You’re right. In the beginning, I had this connection with Nina in Brazil. She was the first person to introduce me to some communities. The first expedition we went on was to visit the Asurini people of the Xingu river six years ago with Nina and her photographer friend, Alice Kohler. It was because of their relationships we had the invitation to go in.

“Since then it’s been Xapiri — the team and me — creating the connections in many different ways. The Matsés are the most remote community we work with, as an example. For sure, they had very little contact with outsiders coming into their territory. A number attempt to get into their land but don’t succeed. Once they get to the military outpost on the border of their lands, they get no farther. You really need to have connections and invitations. How it happened with the Matsés was through a nonprofit called Acaté Amazon Conservation. They’ve been working with the Matsés for about ten years and have created many amazing projects with them.

“Acaté is a nonprofit that does super work. Their cofounder Christopher Herndon sent me an email at the beginning of Xapiri five years ago saying we’ve had some meetings with the Matsés women, and they want help selling their arts. Chris and I connected on our first conversation, and we agreed to begin with sending a few bracelets created by the Matsés women to Xapiri. That’s how the relationship started — very slowly. I think we had ten bracelets in the beginning. They started to sell. We asked for fifty bracelets, a hundred bracelets and so on. I would say over the first year that we were building this trust, with both Acaté and the Matsés, from repeat orders. Soon, it developed by asking Matsés men to make many lances and arrows, to keep it fair with the women.”

Matsés ceramic making. ©Tui Anandi/Xapiri.

“We started to hear stories. There were still some elder women making ceramics in the remote villages. Slowly, more of their arts appeared, their baskets, bags and so on. On that trip we also made direct contact ourselves. It became this beautiful project where we were selling through Acaté. After a year when this trust had been established, we had the invitation to go visit the Matsés. It was from the Matsés leaders and the nonprofit. The first time we went in was three years ago. We started having a direct relationship with the Matsés creating media documenting how they live, telling the stories of their lands. With the Matsés, it happened slowly with the help of the nonprofit. Now I’d say we’re really close with the Matsés. We were there again in 2019. Every time we go, we present our work to different villages and communicate what we’re doing.

“With other communities, we’ve made contact through recommendations from friends. Tui and I have done long expeditions into the jungle. We’ve gone exploring. Three years ago, we went from Manaus in Brazil to Peru to the Colombian border to Pucallpa. This was a three-month trip where we stopped off and visited different communities and made contact with different nonprofits. We were working out which nonprofits we could partner with on the ground to help us. That’s how we made contact with the Shipibo in Pucallpa through the nonprofit Alianza Arkana. On that trip we made contacts ourselves with the Ticuna on the border with Colombia. Along with that, a lot is happening in communities near Cusco through direct contact and through friends we meet in the gallery.

“Puerto Maldonado, the capital of the Madre de Dios region, is considered the entrance into the southern Amazon jungle. In this region, you have the Yine. By visiting that city, we’ve had contact with some of the leaders and had invitations to some of the villages. It’s lots of trial and error. Lots of the connections we make never materialize. The communications are very difficult. Lots of times there are no phone signals. It’s really face-to-face relationships and building trust in person before anything develops. We try to make many relationships and a few stick. So now we’re working with ten different ethnics. That’s how it is.”

When lifework comes together bit by bit over time, especially when focused on the everyday process, there can be a tendency to take the journey for granted. I asked, “Do you ever look back and wonder how in the world you got here?“

“Of course. There are often these moments in Matsés land, and you’re spending the whole day in the canoe. These are the times you reflect. I look at Tui. It’s five years ago we were just dreaming. We were just following our passion, and now we’re doing this really important work. We have to pinch ourselves! It’s emotional these moments. It really is — all this hard work coming together. Spending time with the communities, this is what it’s all about. Back from these expeditions you feel like different people. We’re ready to put all this energy into the work back in Cusco and what we do day-to-day. Waiting for the next expedition and time with the Indigenous… It’s the cycle. It’s beautiful.”

Xapiri Gallery in Cusco. ©Tui Anandi/Xapiri.

I wondered about the effect Xapiri has had on the Indigenous peoples within their focal point.

“The sheer number of people we’re supporting now is well over one hundred artists. These artists are normally the only people bringing money into their families. I can’t tell you how many phone calls Xapiri gets from Indigenous people asking us for support. For instance, someone is asking for two hundred Peruvian soles for medication because a family member is sick. We send this money and know within a month they’ll send art as a return. There are these examples where we’re supporting these individuals who have no other option when they get sick or want to send their grandson to university. Without Xapiri’s platform, it really wouldn’t be possible. They call on Xapiri as the trusted people they know who will help. On a very simple level, we’re supporting many people now.

“What’s so important now is engaging the Indigenous youth with our work. It’s the grandmother making her art and selling. Then it’s the granddaughter seeing this, and she wants to know how to make the basket or the bracelet. She gets connected again to her culture and this can bring a sense of restored pride. If we can keep doing this — getting the young people engaged in the culture — that’s the biggest thing Xapiri can do is connect with the youth.

“It’s proving to be one of the hardest things. But when it’s working, this is one of the most important things. These traditions will continue…the art, language, medicinal plant knowledge. It’s all connected. If the Indigenous are strong and connected to their culture, they will continue these aspects. That’s presently one of Xapiri’s biggest missions. It’s for these pieces of wisdom to continue. If we can help support that…that’s our mission.”

One of the important aspects of finding our place in the world has to do with recognizing resources and undertaking subsequent strategies as a result. Frequently, people overlook the most preeminent resource of all. Acknowledging their own capabilities, whether innate or learned, creates a stronger foundation. It’s something to count on. Self-acknowledgment builds baseline confidence to move ahead — even in the dark days.


I wanted to explore this with Jack. “I love your story. Also, I recognize there’s something within you. You possess capacities that allow you to put things in place and be so successful. Starting out, even when you were back in England, everything worked like clockwork for you. I think that’s an important point because some people will stay in a job because it’s lucrative, and they’re able to do it. For you, that wasn’t enough. You’re adept at creating relationships as well.”

Jack considered the past. “I agree. One of my greatest strengths is in relationship-building and the small steps we’ve taken to get to this point. Those first years in England where Xapiri was born, that was the foundation. I read book after book on history and different Indigenous matters. You’ve got to make connections with different activists, nonprofits and anthropologists. That was the base, doing my research. Without that time, Xapiri never would have taken off in Cusco. Throughout these past years, there have been these careful steps. Very slowly, but building it in a careful and really deep way. Every relationship we make is sincere. It’s aimed to be super long-term and sustainable. It’s not something we’re doing for a few years. I know it’s long-term because it’s such a passion. That’s why I’m happy to move slowly and do it right. I know that if I keep taking these steps for ten, twenty, thirty years…we can do some amazing things.”


In such a way spiritual identity is developed. It’s more than a public face. Like Indigenous peoples who maintain their traditions, connections to their communities and ancestral lands, roots run deep. Everyday life is lived through deeply held beliefs. There’s no compartmentalization. Any task or direction is reinforced through sacred threads they hold as generative. One thing is woven into the other, creating wholeness.

That morning I introduced myself to Jack, there was a specific prompting I received in my early morning conversation with the young woman who suggested I meet him. Not knowing his story exactly, I was quite familiar on a personal level of the elements it might contain. I was curious as to what compelled Jack specifically to undertake this venture. It could even be considered a holy one. Such rites of passage always involve risk, unfamiliar territory, uncertainties and potential failure.

All who submit to the journey will have their own details within the elements just as Jack did. One thing is certain. If the intrepid explorer follows their intent all the way through to its true and logical destination, they will experience a quickening. It will allow them to find — not merely footing — but grounding within their own finely tuned home in the world.

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

Spiritual Travel to Peru: September 2021

Special Announcement

Spiritual Travel to Peru: September 10-20, 2021

An Intimate Pilgrimage from the Highlands to the Lowlands

In December, I was honored with a formal invitation from the traditional Matsigenka village of Shipetiara, located in the shoulder area of the Manu Biosphere of Peru, to bring a group for an immersion experience. I have opened a spiritual travel program in September 2021 and am now taking registrations.

Photo credit: Tui Anandi, Xapiri.

It is a privilege to sponsor this special program focusing on sacred traditions linking the peoples of the Andes and the rainforest. A portion of tuition is tax-deductible supporting the Xapiri Matsigenka Storytelling Project, and sponsoring a small group of Q’ero paq’os traveling with us.

Photo credit: Cecile Sother.
Photo credit: Carla Woody.

This should be considered a pilgrimage of respect for sharing traditions and experiencing nature. Intrepid travelers understanding this honor and willing to take the COVID-19 vaccination to protect these Indigenous people, who have little to no contact with outsiders, are welcome.

Our group will be understandably limited in size…but not depth and beauty to carry home. Go here for more info and to register.

This program is co-sponsored by Kenosis and Kenosis Spirit Keepers, the nonprofit arm of Kenosis. I founded both, the former in 1999 and latter in 2007, and have been sponsoring spiritual travel programs for more than 20 years.

Categories: Andean Cosmology, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Dream Last Night

I remembered a dream from last night. This is significant because I typically don’t, if I dream at all. I suppose I must though. It’s common knowledge that we all dream most nights. But in this case, I awoke from it—for a few seconds—and observed to myself, that’s peculiar. It’s unclear if anything happened before or after that short clip, but I promptly went back to sleep. It was a few hours after I got up that I recalled the dream.

It’s in times of heightened awareness that such recollection occurs, and there’s a clear message. The messages come in other ways, too, just as it did a few minutes ago, and I’m compelled to write about it. I was reading Rilke’s The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge when suddenly a passage popped out from the page.

But scarcely a day passes now without such an encounter. Not only in the twilight; it happens at midday in the most crowded streets, that a little man or an old woman is suddenly there, nods to me, shows me something,  and then vanishes, as though all the necessary were now done.

It was upon reading these few lines that my dream last night plucked itself out of the depths and advanced in my memory. I’m guessing it will stick with me as others of importance have remained just beneath the surface, at the ready to be called up in great visual detail, unfolding second by second, loosing the visceral response to be reviewed, reminded or having marked a passage.

Here are a couple of the latter sort from the mid-1980s that I’ve kept close and celebrated over the years.

I see myself scurrying away on a path straight through a thick dark forest. I’m wearing one of those medieval capes with its large hood on my head and carry my cat tightly in my arms. It has a fairy tale look. Suddenly, I hear loud crashing from the right, and I see a huge white stallion running through the trees at breakneck speed headed directly for me. It screeches to a halt a few feet in front of me and begins to leap over and over straight up in the air. I stand there and watch it.

It was a short time after that I began to paint again after a 10-year hiatus.

I’m in an old mansion fallen into disrepair, standing at the bottom of one of those sweeping staircases. When I look up, I realize a third of the steps had fallen away. The staircase doesn’t reach the next story.

That was a repetitive dream that lasted for some years. But finally, it shifted. The staircase reached the next story. When I got to the top of the stairs, there was a wide hall that seemed to stretch endlessly that led to other halls, stairs and unusually interesting rooms. By then I’d begun to make major changes in my life that ultimately brought me to where I am now. This dream took the other one’s place as repetitive. It still visits every several years and is always welcome.

I’ve also had dreams that play a part in admonishing me, but also acknowledge. Its tendrils extending into daylight hours with synchronicities like the one last night. My favorite involved a relationship with the playwright Eugene O’Neill.

So, my dream last night…

I’m associated in this dream, meaning in my body looking out of my own eyes. I reach into my mouth, grasp the incisor at the lower left and pull it out. I hold it up, astounded. I go over to a wall mirror—that magically appears. When I open my mouth rather than a gaping hole where the other one was, strangely, I see another tooth that must have been just behind that one plucked out. It’s already half grown.

That’s it. I can imagine its message but will be alert, engaged and experience its unfolding. I also acknowledge this one isn’t just for me but also the Collective.

Categories: Contemplative Life, Gratitude, Spiritual Evolution, What Warms the Heart | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Staying Too Long at the Party

Years ago, a client sat in my office telling me about a problematic, repetitive situation. Coming to the end of her story, she said dryly, “I stayed too long at the party.” I looked at her. At that point, I’d never heard that expression before. But doesn’t that just say it all? Hoping for a different outcome, you find the same loop—familiar old patterns delivering you to the well-known destination.

What seems like a lifetime ago we were ushered into this extended retreat, which could seem artificial if the pandemic and its outcomes haven’t been all too real. There’s been forced isolation, times when our best and worst individual aspects likely emerged. I bet there hasn’t been one person who hasn’t examined their life during this period, evaluated to some extent, and now looking for the future to be different … better … somehow. Suddenly, it even seems like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel—that more freedom may be in the foreseeable future.

If there’s something you want to change…headed through this liminal space…coming out the other side with a difference, it’s totally up to you. There’s no magic to make it happen. But there can be an alchemical reaction if you undertake this part of the journey with intent. To take some of the mystery out of the process, I want to offer you something. I’ve pulled this piece from my Navigating Your Lifepath Manual.

♦︎♦︎♦︎

Reformation

Alchemy can be defined as elements recombined to create new forms. When beliefs are re-formed, arising out of what was, a rebirthing takes place.

Resistance is necessary as a form of progression. In order to resist, the mind has to consider something new. Otherwise, resistance wouldn’t happen. Imagining something new begins to create substance. The greater the level of resistance, the more potentially profound the new creation may be ─ and out of the comfort zone. The more rigid we are in our own thinking, the more inertia we will experience against moving forward.

To create, we must push through the membrane that separates what we’ve preserved as real to the newly imagined reality. Becoming aware of our own thought patterns that contain the status quo is paramount to the process.

What are the faces of inertia? Fear, confusion, doubt, apathy, overwhelm are some.

The creative impulse is always within us. How active or dormant it is depends on the strength of inertia. The resistance or membrane we must move through is really about our self-image, the beliefs we hold about the nature of our own operating identity, what we hold possible for ourselves as individuals.

Resistance guards the doorway against freedom of choice.

The combined focus of heart and mind distills energy in such a way that it becomes an attractor. Random events and possibilities are vibrating in the ether, but are drawn into a person’s reality depending on what they hold in their mind…with laser-like precision. Two people can be in the same situation and experience it differently because their separate realities are divergent.

When faced with a challenge does your mind go to thoughts of: Opportunity? Barriers? The great possibility? Perpetual limitation?

The desire to evolve is innate. Therefore, we are all predisposed to be facing ever-present conflict, the degree of which is up to us. It depends on the lens through which we view change, our own level of awareness and what we give focus.  In our evolutionary process, when we step off what has been the beaten path, we throw things into chaos until a sort of order begins to settle in. Too much order and we become entrenched and unmovable. Order will seek disorder until order occurs. Then the cycle repeats. This is the natural progression. In order to create we must dispense with the idea of separation, any thought that we are separate from our creation. Otherwise, the past, present and future folds over on itself as one and we’re likely to remain inert ─ until a new pathway is envisioned. Then even the past can change depending on your perspective. Former victimhood can be converted to that of spiritual warrior.

Insight comes in the hiccup that deletes autopilot.

Categories: Contemplative Life, Creativity Strategies, Personal Growth, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Special Announcement: Re-Opening Private Sessions

About a decade ago I scaled back significantly on my individual work with people so that I could concentrate solely on my spiritual travel programs and work with just a few people at a time who needed intensive mentoring through my six-month Navigating Your Lifepath program. Prior to that, I had a full private practice and offered periodic spiritual retreats and classes locally, aside from what I mentioned previously. As my spiritual travel programs grew exponentially, involving extensive out-of-country travel, I could no longer offer what I had previously. Hence, the regrouping.

Enter the pandemic. I now have space again to work with folks who wish to focus on specific areas for short-term sessions.

Beyond that, a curious thing happened. Within a 10-day period, I received several inquiries from folks wanting to know if I was available to work with them. I consider the timing and frequency of these requests a signal there’s a clear need in this time of uncertainty and confinement. So, I am once again making myself available.

Over these years most of my clients have been outside this area, even outside the US. I have long worked successfully by cell. Zoom can also be incorporated. Sessions are up to 90 minutes normally with 2-3 weeks apart to let the effect of the work unfold.

If you’re interested, just get in touch to discuss parameters and right fit. Best to send an email first to cwoody (at) kenosis.net to set up a time to talk. Below you will see my philosophy and approach to transformational work. You can also view my bio.

A Systems Approach

We have internal systems—mind, body and spirit—and external systems, the ones in which we live and work. To address only one part of the system and not the others leads to disconnection. To include all parts of the organism leads to wholeness.

Processes

We collaborate using integrative processes that are complementary to any traditional personal development,  allopathic or other holistic paths of treatment.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a precision educational process for change.  It allows understanding toward how individuals code and store information in their minds and how these thoughts and beliefs are manifested in communications, behaviors and the body. NLP techniques can transform or expand life beliefs and create new choices for richer living.

Guided Imagery and Hypnotherapy allows the mind to engage in inner healing specifically tailored to individual issues whether spiritual, mental, emotional or physical.  Working with the whole person, its effectiveness is well documented and has led to its wide use among traditional and non-traditional health practitioners.

Energy Medicine methods employ the body’s bioelectrical field to locate and release mind/body traumas. While sometimes used, touch is not necessary to influence someone’s energy field. Energy work can also speed the recovery process from surgeries, etc. It creates pleasant sensations that treat the person to feelings of unity and relaxation. A normal part of Indigenous healing rituals across the world, mainstream western medicine has also finally validated this modality.

Relaxation Techniques such as meditation or self-hypnosis are introduced as needed in order to provide clients with ongoing practices toward self-mastery and spiritual development.

Spiritual Travel Program allow travelers to enter  a cocoon of intent, engage with the resident energies of sacred sites and rituals that create shifts in consciousness they can take home. See our offerings for more information.

Areas Addressed

✦ Living through your Core Self

✦ Transforming limiting beliefs

✦ Realizing life dreams

✦ Enhancing relationships

✦ Eliminating phobias

✦ Easing life transitions

✦ Maximizing self-esteem

✦ Facilitating forgiveness

✦ Releasing grief & trauma

✦ Letting go of old habits that hold you back

Holistic Health

Symptoms are an indication that something is out of balance. State of mind will affect the immune system and may eventually create physical symptoms if not addressed. The integrative processes discussed here have a track record toward healing or alleviating such health challenges as:

✦ Allergies

✦ Chronic pain

✦ Digestive disorders

✦ Weight issues

✦ Gender specific complaints

✦ Chronic fatigue

✦ Respiratory problems

✦ High blood pressure

✦ Stress or trauma related ills

I work with those who are open to discovering all aspects of themselves, creating harmony in their lives…and want to own who they truly are.

Categories: Healing, Healthy Living, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Return to the Center

I’ve come late to Linda Hogan’s writing. I’ve now read two of her books – Solar Storms and People of the Whale –  and in the middle of a third – Mean Spirit. I can’t help but know what is apparent. The message they hold is for all time, but especially now when we’re called upon to pay attention and determine how we shall live. We are called upon to be distinctly cognizant that what we do matters.

The common theme has to do with the clash of cultures. One honors the Earth, all ways of life, and practices a sacred sense of reciprocity. The other is intensely focused on accumulation that can’t be satiated and complete disregard of all life…for the benefit of a few. One is life-giving. One is depleting. There’s no subtlety and here no overlap. It’s the Great Divide for purpose: Pay attention. Heal.

The books involve Indigenous characters who experienced separation from traditional ways of living to varying degrees, and those who remain in touch. Through outside western influences, they’ve had their birthright nearly or completely destroyed. Through manipulations, they’ve borne murder, blurring of identity and loss of homeland. Hogan points so well to the insidiousness of these shenanigans that caused people to fall away from their True North over time, almost without noticing.

What I so appreciate about Hogan’s writings is her willingness to dive deeply and excavate struggle, confusion and collapse at the individual and communal level. But equally she leads the search for a way out that also involves struggle and confusion.  But the shift involves direction aimed toward – and does produce – a return.

The Mythic Journey Engaged, Finisterre. ©2015 Carla Woody.

In People of the Whale, certain sentences popped out to me over the course of the novel that, just in these, told the whole story.

They do not feel the spirits that once lived in the fogs and clouds around them. The alive world is unfelt. They feel abandoned...

For every inch of skin, there is memory...

He was waiting for something to open, but it wasn’t the door...

…they are answers to questions not yet even asked...

…he hears the sound of birds and it is as if behind the human world something else is taking place...

There is just a breeze of something living, like the breath of the universe...

Then he sings an old whale song he has never learned...

Tradition had been waiting their return.

It’s of Mythic stature and, of course, this is what we now engage.

Categories: Book Review, Global Consciousness, Honoring the Earth, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Art and Energy

There is something about Marshall Arisman’s paintings that is…alive…like they’re going to spring right off the canvas.

I’ve never experienced them in person, and if they have this effect on me only by looking at a computer screen, I can only imagine what it would be like to see them in person.

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Marshall Arisman: An Artist’s Journey From Dark to Light, 1972-2017 Exhibition at the School of Visual Arts, NYC.

I first stumbled across Marshall’s Sacred Monkeys series on the web years ago, and I couldn’t tear my eyes away. There’s something electric that wanted to draw me into another world where I wouldn’t emerge the same as when I entered—should I give myself over to the urge.

Then, I saw one of his bison. Recently, I learned it was from his Cave Paintings series, which explained my own response to it, but I’ll tackle that more later.

Some of his work is quite dark. I really cannot look at the Frozen Images collection, which is a statement on gun violence. His work has a visceral transference across the board, and some of them show us things we probably don’t want to see in ourselves, in other humans, or contained in otherworldly dimensions. Clearly though, this artist is offering this opportunity.

I’ve returned to his website periodically through time to see what’s new. I finally realized that I’m curious about the man himself. Who is this man who’s able to create such artwork? At least, part of that question has been satisfied.

On my latest visit, I noticed a documentary had been uploaded. A Postcard from Lily Dale is about the grandmother who figured so prominently in his life and art, and also showed some of his personal and artistic development. The film premiered in 2014 at the SVA Theatre in New York City. Within some of the high points I note, I’m also including a personal commentary because they ground my own experience.

Louise “Muddy” Arisman was a gifted psychic, medium, and Spiritualist minister. At the age of 10, an old woman appeared to her, overtook her hand, and Muddy began to produce automatic writing. She went on to find the first church dedicated to Spiritualism in Lily Dale, now billed as the largest Spiritualist camp in the world, located an hour south of Buffalo, New York.

One famous story involved a reading she did for Lucille Ball, who had been told she was a terrible actress and should give it up. Muddy told her she would marry a Cuban bandleader and have a wildly successful career as a comedian. The museum in present-day Lily Dale documents it all.

After Marshall’s birth, barely placed in the hospital nursery, his grandmother saw his aura and proclaimed he would become an artist. Muddy was a healer who read the auras of her clients to identify blocked energy and medical issues. This is the woman who Marshall spent weekends with as a child. Naturally, Muddy was a strong influence, even though his own mother believed all she professed was witchcraft.

As Marshall began to make his way as an artist, Muddy advised him that creating art develops intuition and opens the third eye. Beyond that, she said, “The energy you put into your art will live in your art as long as it exists, giving off an aura of its own.”

Hearing that statement validated for me what I secretly knew. The depth of exchange I experience in creating pieces of art is a sacred conversation that isn’t lost, even at the completion of the process. It becomes contained within the work and exists as an energy, which is an inherent aspect of the story it tells. Only this makes sense to me personally when viewers comment on the emotive nature of a work. The piece isn’t static; it conveys something.

Marshall began to see auras himself when he attended a talk by Jiddu Krishnamurti in 1978, at Carnegie Hall. Listening intently, he suddenly began seeing the speaker’s aura. In disbelief, Marshall rubbed his eyes, yet the visible vibration remained.

I had similar experiences in the mid-1980s when I attended an experiential weekend workshop conducted by scientist Valerie Hunt presenting her work on the human energy field. During a break, we came face-to-face as she exited the bathroom and looked directly into my eyes. At that moment, I felt as though she’d uncovered my soul.

I saw a strong yellow-gold field around her upper body. I was stunned at the time, blinked, and blinked. The impression didn’t go away, but it widened my capability to view the energy fields of others in the room. I had the same powerful experience with spiritual teacher Ted Andrews. The image of vibrating emerald green along his arms still lives in mind.

Marshall began to include his interpretation of energy and auras into his artwork in 1990. It must have been shortly after that when I first came across his paintings, and it explains to me now why I’ve found them so powerful: there’s a transmission.

When in the Dordogne of France, he secretly put his hand over a bison and felt heat coming from the cave painting, which is 12,000 or more years old. He proposes what he read in a thesis to be true. The walls of the caves provide a curtain separating the material world from the spiritual world. With the help of an invisible guide, the shaman crossed through the wall to another world, and after returning, he recorded his experiences in the form of paintings on the cave’s walls. In this way, the members of the tribe could place their hands over the cave art and receive the agency of the journey.

It was evident when I entered Les Combarelles and Font-de-Gaume a few years ago that each was a sacred space, a church of sorts, embodying the ritual transference of things unseen. The energy that permeates these places nearly overwhelmed me.

With this, I’m compelled to wonder if Marshall Arisman himself hasn’t made many explorations through the veil and then, upon returning, recorded what he saw and felt it, so that we could acquire the knowledge.

Muddy relayed a secret to him long ago:

“Learn to stand in the space between the angels and the demons.”

I’d say Marshall mastered it. Muddy said she was blessed with astral light and undoubtedly passed it on to her grandson.

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Watch A Postcard from Lily Dale on Vimeo streaming for free.

A Postcard from Lily Dale is a film that’s interesting on a historic level, a snapshot in time of the spiritualism movement. But more so, it’s a tribute that tells of the lifelong reverence that Marshall Arisman holds for a grandmother who so influenced his life that he still calls her mentor, teacher, and friend.

***

Art and Energy was originally published in the Elephant Journal on July 14, 2020.

Categories: Creativity Strategies, Film, Spiritual Evolution, Visual Arts | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

An Offering from the Heart

A  couple of months ago, the newly established Museum of Beadwork in Portland, Maine sent a call out for bead artists to participate in a very special project, which would become part of their permanent collection.  It was an invitation to a community undertaking. Artists would create a design of their choice on a six-inch square hard surface. All the squares would be put together in such a way to form a visual quilt.

The potential of such a project caught my attention. Decades ago in a college art class, the instructor assigned students to shoot black and white photos of the urban industrial landscape that were later cut up, pieced together and mounted on a large collective board. It produced an interesting piece of art. I’m quite sure the outcome was intended to probe the depths of a philosophy—because that’s who the instructor was—and open our sensibilities. I wish I remembered what we unearthed, quite unknown to us at the start. At any rate, the memory of that assignment, the process and result, stayed with me all these years and came to mind again after I received the call for bead artists.

I sat with it. I considered participating but nothing as far as design came to me. And frankly, I  work much larger than the criteria allowed, and it felt restricting. But then I thought about haiku and the six-word story. In their brevity, just the framework, much is left open to the reader’s interpretation.  And isn’t that what art is at its best anyway? Something evocative that touches you? Through which you can have an experience?

That still didn’t produce a design of any juice for me. Finally, something did. I focus my writing there frequently, and especially now.

 

…liminal space, the territory that holds the material and imaginal realms equally…until they come together as one.

—Excerpted from Liminal

 

In the last month I’ve written of immediacy and the process we’ve collectively undertaken one way or another produced by the pandemic: This Pilgrimage We’re On and Move Slowly Back Into the World.

Of course, I’d also want to commemorate my own process in a piece of artwork! But it’s even more than that. Within a rite of passage, it would become a sacrament. An invocation, an intent to release into the world held lightly by community. It takes on power. With shape, color and symbols, as the piece may speak for me, others may find their own meaning through what is left unexplained. The fashioning of form, the placement of each bead is no less a prayer, the embodiment of spiritual practice set into it, ultimately to be released to those who may feel and see, those who open their sensibilities to be touched in that way.

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Offering from the Heart. Bas relief mixed media, 6″x6.” ©2020 Carla Woody.

I finished my Offering from the Heart. Now it’s getting ready to travel across the country to finally find its placement in the community project.

An idea occurred to me after my own piece was completed. This really is a momentous time to make visible what comes from the core. While I usually don’t accept art commissions, I would be glad to do so for anyone wanting to mark their own rite of passage in this way. An intent to move into form, remembrance of a loved one, a blessing to release whatever it is whose time is past. The expression would be yours to formulate and provide me as the well from which to draw. The heart—being the carrier of love and resonance—and the square—as consciousness, Mother Earth, foundation—would remain the common elements. A piece to take its place on your altar, hang on the wall, or include in ceremony. I’d welcome any sacred items, symbols or anything else that would further personalize and would be possible to include within a 6”x6” or 8”x8” format.

See my artist website for detailed images, options and pricing.

Categories: Contemplative Life, Global Consciousness, Healing, Spiritual Evolution, Visual Arts | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Spiritual Travel and the Vanquishing of Dryness

It’s normal for a state of connection to wax and wane, to sometimes experience great spiritual presence and other times less or none at all. We’re human and influenced by so much swirling around us. That’s so even with a strong, consistent spiritual practice. Mostly, if we attend to it, we can weather the ups and downs. But when the absence of connection extends itself for months or longer, when instead there’s an ongoing emptiness, flatness…life feels brittle and sense of purpose becomes lost or heavily questioned…it begins to affect every aspect of our life.

When this happens, we’re actually receiving a special calling…not to succumb…but to evolve…to expand and deepen. I can say this because it happened to me.

In 2011, I traveled to northern Scotland with good friends Phoebe and Paul Hoogendyk from Australia, Jo Elliott of New Zealand and Lucinda Brogden and Doug Easterling of the US…in December. Prior to that I’d felt cut loose for quite a while. I may have hidden it well from others, but it was there.

I’d had a long ‘empty’ spell with my painting, and I was unable to get excited by much, akin to what’s called spiritual dryness. We went in December—Isle of Skye, Isle of Lewis with final destination the Orkney Islands. Paul had had a strong message that time of snow and strong, snatch-your-breath winds was the span to complete a ceremony in a long string of other ceremonies Phoebe and he had undertaken across the world. We especially spent time at standing stone circles.

That spare landscape did something to break me open. For years, I’d often call myself a monk. At some point in our travels, I’d decided that probably wasn’t a metaphor I wanted to embody—at least with some of the elements it contained. At the Ring of Brodgar, a place of significant lightning strikes, I spontaneously undertook my own ceremony, putting my back against each of the 27 remaining standing stones and ‘released my monkish ways.’

When I returned home my creative energy was so strong, I turned out a series of paintings in a flurry dedicated to the Druids, embodied in the stones, and landscape of Scotland.

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Callanish Croft. ©2012 Carla Woody.

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The Disguise. ©2012 Carla Woody.

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Winter Solstice ©2012 Carla Woody.

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The Visitation ©2012 Carla Woody.

These are the words I ascribed to The Visitation.

At a certain point in human time The Light appears, inviting us all to join our ancestors. In the next phase of the journey, the body is no longer needed⏤thus vacated. Our imprint on the landscape is left behind as legacy, as memories and deeds, touching those who will come after us. Connection endures.

The Callanish Stones on the Isle of Lewis in northern Scotland inspired this piece. When I visit such places, I see the stones as Druids who were transported en masse, through ceremony, leaving the physical remains as a testimony to timelessness.

Simultaneously, I picked up a barely begun manuscript for a novel, I’d put away in a drawer 7 years prior. The story fairly flew out of me, as a movie in my visual field. I merely had to write it down. Portals to the Vision Serpent was finished 3 months later.

The ‘dryness’ had left me through that journey in Scotland and has not returned to block my creative urge or sense of spiritual purpose. Paul was directed to hold the ceremony they had come for, and we others were to witness, at the very edge of the sea, right outside the isolated house we’d rented. A few months later, there was a discovery. Archaeologists had found another stone circle covered by water, just off the shore, where our final ceremony was completed.

From the point where I am now in my life, I look back on that journey and all it personally produced with amazement.

When you receive a strong calling, in essence you’ve been chosen. You’re being directed by a higher sensibility to depart the places known to you—through conditioning, mindset, outgrown choices, geographic location and culture—and strike out…to open up to the wider world beyond the point where you’ve been rooted.  You’re being asked to enter a land foreign to you, to partake of things outside your usual influences that strive to keep you tethered in the same old place. You need a disruption.

In order to take this step, time and space must be set aside from the ‘normal’ life, to the point it becomes sacred. It must be something finite, not a glancing thought or empty promise you make to yourself that you’ll get to it someday. It must be something clearly intended and acted upon so that it becomes a spiritual journey, in whatever form it may take, wherein you give yourself permission for everything to be presented that will usher you through the threshold, producing an evolution over time. Perhaps one never even imagined…until you look back on the path you’ve taken and realize who you are now.

***

On another personal note: I’ve been sponsoring spiritual travel journeys for 20 years for those who are drawn to take a leap through the threshold this way. Leading these programs and making my own pilgrimages  has led me to consistently deepen my appreciation for the human condition—including my own—and informed the choices I’ve made. I’ve found myself undertaking things I never even dreamed of and live with great gratitude for the outcome.

As you’re drawn, here are upcoming spiritual travel programs.

Spiritual Travel to Bolivia and Peru: The Heart of the Andes, October 17-30, 2020

Spiritual Travel to Chiapas, Mexico: Entering the Maya Mysteries, January 18-28, 2021

For other spiritual travel programs, go here.

Categories: Creativity Strategies, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel, Visual Arts | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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