Spiritual Evolution

When the Dream Just Isn’t Enough

I’ve just started reading Gloria Steinem’s new memoir My Life on the Road…and I’m held. Its grasp started with an excerpt on the jacket flap.

 When people ask me why I still have hope and energy after all these years, I always say: Because I travel. Taking to the road—by which I mean letting the road take you—changed who I thought I was. The road is messy in the way that real life is messy. It leads us out of denial and into reality, out of theory and into practice, out of caution and into action, out of statistics and into stories—in short, out of our heads and into our hearts.

 Steinem is now in her 80s…and she still travels. She writes how the word ‘still’ entered her life when friends would say: So you’re still traveling? As if it should have a timeline on it. It all started in childhood when her father would consistently throw the family in the car and take off cross-country to discover what they would find.

Reading just these first several pages is causing me to reflect on my own life—my own odyssey that has brought me to where I reside now…on the road…returning to ground the experiences at home for a few months or less before resuming.

It occurs to me that many of us need to be given ‘permission’ to travel, to step out of the comfort zone called home. I mean travel in the sense of journey…not as a tourist but to viscerally experience the land and people…to take a risk…to open your mind. It’s not a crazy or frivolous pastime. I’ve traveled in 31 countries and 35 US states. A good number are still on my list. The road is also in front of me. I’ve made friends and created deep relationships. I’ve gone places few venture—over and over.  Many have entered my bloodstream and reside in my heart: shaping my lifework, writing and art. Probably other expressions as well.

It’s my way of life: my choice. But my introduction was not unlike Gloria Steinem’s.

Both my folks came from a small town in East Texas. Neither had been exposed to other ways of life outside their geographical area but were well familiar with tough times. I think it must have been the need for more than just survival that initiated their leaving. My dad joined the Air Force not long before I was born. Within seven years we moved four times. But the big one that opened the road for me was our move to Paris for nearly five years. By that time my dad had become an attorney, speaking French with his Texan accent, defending GIs in French courts.

Passport Early

On our way to Paris.

My father had a place to go to every day, an office and colleagues. My mother didn’t. I put myself in her place and what it must have been like for a small town girl who spoke no French to step on the Metro, alone with her child in hand, and travel like any other Parisian in that big city. We did it consistently. I have distinct remembrances. Some of my fondest memories of childhood and adolescence are traveling through the Spanish and Italian countryside, a month at a time, and all the shorter trips as a family we were able to make, wandering the streets in tiny villages, eating unfamiliar food, hearing languages strange to my ear. This is one of the biggest early gifts my parents gave to me—curiosity and appreciation—even though I’m sure they didn’t realize it at the time.

After we returned to the US, I was stationery between the years 14-17. But ventured out after high school graduation to make the requisite trip to Myrtle Beach and the Smoky Mountains, my mom going with me after a friend pooped out. Then at 24 I moved to Tehran to work for six months…and I’ve been on the road ever since.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu, 1996.

I could never be just an armchair traveler, dreaming of the journey but never embarking. Obstacles? That’s just the mind creating distractions, attempting to keep you mired in the status quo. It’s a signal of being on the threshold, especially so the louder the internal dialogue. But if you move through your fear—however it presents itself…thoughts of financial scarcity, overwhelm, safety concerns, the myriad rationalizations—ahhh…there the journey presents itself.

When I started this blog in 2012, I posted Spiritual Travel: Destination or Process? which I originally wrote for my newsletter around 2005. I find it still to be true today…and more.

 

 

Categories: Personal Growth, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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 Maya spiritual travel program to Chiapas we 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 Grace of Ayni: How a Young Q’ero Man Journeys to Maya Land

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salqa Apaza

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

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

Salqa Bolivia

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

Diane Grupe Marshall of Montana shared with me:

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

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

As for Salqa, he accepted our invitation and wrote:

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

Ccochamocco

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

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

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

***********

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

 

 

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

Book Review: The Andean Cosmovision

AndeanCosmovision

This is a precious book on a number of levels. First, it is written by a Western man, a dedicated seeker on the Andean path through the teachings of Don Américo Yábar, who has consistently held intent to integrate his learnings back into life at home…and share what he’s discovered over more than twenty years. He touches on some of his struggles to do so coming from a Western intellectual perspective.  This honesty is important. It shows possibility toward core understanding beyond the mind and a way of incorporating it into daily living, an evolutionary process.

I can state these things with confidence having known Oakley Gordon over a very long time, witnessing his process as much as being a fellow traveler on the path. I know his heart. We were introduced to the Andean way through the same spiritual teacher, literally at the same time and place. He has also served on the board of Kenosis Spirit Keepers as Vice-President since our inception.

The book is a primer on Andean worldview. If you want more beyond the introduction, Oakley provides endnotes and anthropological resources. In this book though he writes to you as a friend would, not as an academic. It’s easy to take in and comprehend.

But ultimately it’s a guidebook, a how-to. It’s a compilation of meditations gleaned directly from Don Américo and exposure to other paq’os⎯a general Quechua term for healer, shaman or mystic⎯or created by the author from what he’s learned while in Peru. I don’t think another such book exists. This is important. From my own spiritual travel programs, people periodically express the fear of not being able to recreate the same state of being upon their return home. I share and show them how to do so. But The Andean Cosmovision provides it in print with many different examples to explore with step-by-step instruction.

Oakley states that, although much of the book is taken from the teachings of one specific teacher, he believes any paq’o would validate them. I’ll take it one step further. The tenets covered in this book are found at the core of all Indigenous traditions I’ve worked within: Maya, Hopi and Andean, as well as others where I’ve had exposure.

Highly recommend. Available in print and e-book through Amazon and on Oakley’s website.

♦︎♦︎♦︎

 Oakley will be covering the material in his book during a weekend workshop June 3-5, 2016 in Rockville, Utah to benefit the Heart Walk Foundation who work within the Japu Q’ero villages in the areas of education and agriculture. For more information, click this link to a pdf flyer: Andean Cosmovision Workshop

Categories: Book Review, Indigenous Wisdom, Meditation, Q'ero, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

The Fierce Quiet Place

We give a gift to ourselves when we allow connection with our innermost being. This is the one untouched by circumstances but fierce in its inviolate sanctity. The silence in this place is so loud you can hear it, so palpable you can feel it. And yet there’s no adequate way to express the comfort and inspiration it brings. Comfort here meant as nurturing. Coupled with inspiration, it urges us on…through…and beyond…to what we can’t yet know. And the circumstances of our lives⏤the challenges⏤fall away. It doesn’t mean they’re not there but are approached differently. A state of grace through the chaos and surrounding confusion.

And that Fierce Quiet Place wants expression in any way we can. It creates a portal and finds its way into the material world through narrative art, music, poetry and prose, ceremony and ritual…a touch…complete presence we give to others. It’s funneled from non-ordinary reality that exists out-of-time to land here.

This is what I’ve recognized more and more. And knowing that when I give myself over to that Fierce Quiet Place the most beautiful things happen. I live from a deeper place. I meet people who hold similar expression. I want to introduce you to one of them through the way it happened.

In February I completed This Is My Walk in Life, an oil painting. Over the course of its creation, it came to life. The portal opened. A silent dialogue ensued and conveyed itself as best I could onto canvas. It was not a casual process.

This is my walk in life

Title: This Is My Walk in Life Oil on canvas, 20×24. ©2016 Carla Woody. All rights reserved.

This is the description I gave it.

We all have a walk in life, perhaps chosen before we set our feet on Mother Earth. And amidst hardships there’s unexpected joy. If we open our eyes to it, there’s magic in fleeting moments when we truly experience what life is. This painting is inspired by the Lacandón Maya women of the rainforest village of Nahá in Chiapas, Mexico.

Then at the end of March I met Laura Weaver. She came from Colorado to take part in the fire ceremony guided by Tat Apab’yan Tew during our Spirit Keepers Series. I didn’t know she’s an accomplished poet. I’m quite sure she didn’t know I’m an artist and writer.

Then a few weeks ago I saw a poem she wrote in March.

 A Way of Walking

There is a way of walking

from point A to point B

as if there is nothing

of significance in between.

 

We have been taught to move

in straight lines, to lay life out

along a grid of efficiencies.

But there is another way to navigate.

 

This way carves a serpentine road

full of mysterious meetings.

Along this path, the directives come

from the world itself speaking

 

through all of its voices. And because

something else is guiding us—because

we are listening—at the next crossroads

we turn left instead of right—

 

and find a never before seen village

where an old man harvests golden apples

he offers to those who pass by. And over

the silken hills, cowbells sound out

 

like ancient monk song, and the last

of the sunlight breaks through the rainclouds

so that everything is shimmering and awake.

And the oak tree that cracked in last

 

night’s storm is dripping with honeycomb

and bee hum. And as this moment swells

and blooms open with its own fullness,

suddenly the idea of Point A & Point B

 

makes no sense at all. For now

you have no idea who you are

or if you have arrived. You only know

that you are everywhere.

I couldn’t help but note the strong similarities in the titles of our respective works and common message. Then yesterday I read her poem Making Passage which reaches an even deeper platform. I urge you to read it. It will speak to your soul.

I don’t think I’m presuming. When the Fierce Quiet Place is fully expressed we all say the same thing. Only the variation in our medium is different.

Earlier I described Laura as an accomplished poet but that’s not quite sufficient. Her words have a way of gently, persistently making their way inside us on a path all their own and touches the universal. And—in my experience—I feel heard. Even held.

 ♦♦♦

♦︎ The reprint of A Way of Walking is used with permission. Subscribe to Soul Passages and receive Laura Weaver’s poetry as she publishes.

♦︎ My original oil This Is My Walk in Life is currently available. Inquire for more information. Archival prints are available here.

 

Categories: Arts, Creativity Strategies, Spiritual Evolution, The Writing Life, Visual Arts | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Float: Losing Your Skin to Deep Relaxation

In the 1983 my life began to change drastically. I was living in Germany and suddenly exposed to many influences unavailable⎯or at least drastically hidden⎯in Ohio where I’d lived for the previous seventeen years. I regularly attended weekend seminars in Wiesbaden through the international branch of the Association for Humanistic Psychology featuring researcher Dr. Stanley Krippner’s work on dreams and shamanism, scientist Dr. Valerie Hunt’s research on the human energy system and others. And I was immersed in a progressive, experiential master’s degree program on human relations through the University of Oklahoma’s satellite program that exposed students to such areas as Virginia Satir’s family systems work, sacred Native American rituals and even Robert Monroe’s studies in out-of-body experiences.

It was somewhere in here that I heard about neuroscientist Dr. John Lilly’s sensory deprivation tanks, initially emerging from his interest in trance states and what happened⎯physically and mentally⎯to astronauts when freed from gravity. The late Edgar Mitchell, who went on to found the Institute of Noetic Sciences, is a good example, seen here in this beautiful tribute video We Are One.

I remember thinking: I wonder what it would be like if I no longer identified with my body or mind? I’d already been meditating for about five years, a practice begun as recovery from a serious health issue. After the first few years I’d begun to experience⎯what seemed like at the time⎯strange sensations in my body. Having no one to talk to about these experiences, it was a relief when I went to Dr. Hunt’s seminar to learn that energy was something present for everyone. We just need to open our awareness to it.

But there was no floatation tank available, and my desire to experience it went underground. Years later through meditation, ceremony and being in an altered state of consciousness for days through spiritual travel I would sporadically lose any sense of boundaries. The only way I could refer to it was “losing my skin.” These rare occurrences were spontaneous, nothing I could call on myself. But the sense it brought was merging with the Universe⎯not unlike what Edgar Mitchell described.

Then about a year ago I came across some information online indicating there’s been an upsurge in interest in floatation tanks, state-of-the art versions, and more prevalent opportunities to dip a toe in. In fact, there are several sites in Arizona alone. Indeed, it seems to be going as mainstream as massage therapy.

So a couple of weekends ago when I was in Sedona with close women friends, I suggested we make appointments at True Rest. We all held anticipation for the hour-long session. I’m sure with different thoughts going through our heads as with any unknown experience. There were three uppermost in my mind. I’ve never had claustrophobia but wondered if I’d have any anxiety being completely contained in a small pod. That was a needless concern. The young man on staff was very careful to introduce every aspect of the experience, through video and demonstrating each feature on the pod, including how to alleviate any sign of claustrophobia. The second thought in my mind was whether it would be like “losing my skin.” It was and more. The third had to do with sleep patterns and whether it would help. For years, I’d been experiencing cyclical issues with sleep. I was in the middle of one and sleep deprived.

The young guy on staff had offered his own story having to do with a broken back, intense chronic pain and no sleep, which had resolved through regular float sessions. So I was hopeful.

The float rooms and tanks are private with shower. The water in the pods is body temp and they’re filled with a huge amount of Epsom salts, causing the body to automatically float. There’s an option to have light or complete darkness, as well as soothing music or none. My initial experience was floating on a warm sea that graduated to being in the womb. And before long I did “lose my skin” and had the sense of being elevated somewhere in the clouds or beyond. Periodically, I would feel gently thrust through the earth’s core. A purely kinesthetic experience of nothingness, with movement, quite hard to describe. At one point I had a fleeting thought to breathe in and out of my third eye and was presented with extraordinary visuals and energy. As I breathed in, I was looking from above into billowing light and energy emerging through the third eye portal. As I breathed out I was in an underground cavern standing at the edge of a lake leading to light in the distance. I was in two places at once and witnessing from a distance, the image begging to be documented on canvas.

Pyrenees

Pyrenees, Camino Frances, 2015.

There was a sense of timelessness. After “no time” the filter began swirling and drew me back, letting me know the hour had somehow ended. I showered off and went to the other dressing room. My body was more relaxed than I could remember, even after a very good massage. I looked in the mirror and swear I appeared ten years younger.

But the best news is the longer effect it’s had on me. Since this initial float I’ve slept quite well at night. Only once did I resort to the herbal sleep aid I keep on hand. I feel rested upon awakening. The visuals are still vivid, waiting to be transferred to canvas.

After the float when my friends and I returned to our lodging I was drawn to sit outside where it opened to a creek and wilderness area beyond. I felt absolutely present with nature, a comforting stillness inside. I sat there for quite some time until I got up to leisurely shoot images of the ducks and light on the red rocks. Only in retrospect did I realize the float had provided this segue to absolute Presence.

Each friend’s experience was different; the common denominator was deep relaxation. When I spoke to the young man about the depth of my own initial experience, he said I was probably predisposed due to all my years of daily meditation practice. I intuitively knew how to put my mind and body in a state; the float took me the rest of the way. In all the literature I’ve read, including the classic book by Michael Hutchinson The Book of Floating: Exploring the Private Sea, experiences similar to mine do begin to occur after a series of floats, number depending on the individual. Long-term effects being: stress management, healing, pain management, enhanced creativity and sleep, increased problem solving capabilities, and spiritual consciousness. It’s even said to have effect on addiction and weight loss, which makes sense if the aforementioned attributes are in place.

Of course, the ultimate intent is to have such a Zen state integrated through daily life. It seems to me that, in addition to my daily meditation practice, a monthly float will help create such a passage. There’s no need to have the background knowledge that ushered me into my first session, just a desire to glean the benefits.

To find a floatation location in your area, go here. I do recommend True Rest in Sedona, with other locations in Arizona and elsewhere. The premises were quite lovely and spotlessly clean, and staff was welcoming and informative. Groupon coupon discounts are sometimes available.

Categories: Creativity Strategies, Energy Healing, Meditation, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Book Review: Traveling with Pomegranates

Traveling with PomegranatesI had just finished reading The Invention of Wings and was so taken with its sensitivity and historical significance that I went online to see what else Sue Monk Kidd had written. That’s when I discovered Traveling with Pomegranates, a memoir written by mother and daughter. What initially attracted me was its framework: spiritually oriented travel to sacred sites. Since I sponsor spiritual journey programs myself, it was a natural draw. I found so much richness in this container.

The content is drawn from the personal journals of Sue Monk Kidd and daughter Ann Kidd Taylor as they journey to sites in Greece, Turkey and France, touching down in-between at home in South Carolina, over a few year period. Mother is poised on the cusp of her fifties. Daughter is barely twenty. Both face age-related life events, desires and the all-too-often wrestling…internal questioning… that comes as a result. I suspect they would have engaged with these universal aspects anyway. But the process was marked out in two ways that probably intensified it and kept it rolling. First, it was the awareness they gave to each other during their travels, based on their relationship, even as they were going through their own worry and self-discovery. The perspective and emotional content based on age was prominent.

The other significance had to do with the way each of them engaged the iconic historical and mythological feminine figures based on their travel to particular sacred sites. And how the unfolding carries forward over time, strengthening itself through further focused intent and journeying. I know this through my own experiences and witnessing others in my travels who do the same.

The special treat for me was Sue Monk Kidd’s disclosure of her own process as a writer—inspirations and tribulations. At that point, she was known for nonfiction, kicking up a bit of a fuss in theological circles with The Dance of the Dissident Daughter. Yet her heart called out to write novels. She’s frank about the self-doubt but finally plowing forward anyway. We don’t often think about bestselling authors or others of acclaim in that light. It makes her human in our eyes, encourages us to stay the course.

This is a book that caused me to reflect on my own stage of life: where I’ve been, the Great Unknown yet to unfold, and opportunities to embrace living even more fully.

Available in print and ebook on Amazon and elsewhere.

 

 

Categories: Book Review, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel, The Writing Life | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

A Word

This is the time when many of us look back over the last year to note how things have evolved…and to the future for what we want to come into our lives next. Goal-setting is just too dry and linear for me. There’s no juice to it. Besides, it reminds me of all those many strategic planning retreats I facilitated with executives and their managers when I was an organizational development consultant so many years ago. I think they despised the sanctioned process as much as I did. Then after all that drudgery the plans always ended up in a drawer somewhere, merely lip service paid. By the way, that’s one of the major reasons I stepped out of that line of work. It was like banging my head against the wall—and I’d much rather put my attention where it can make some kind of difference.

I prefer the organic, a framework that gives rise to things I couldn’t predict but end up having so much more effect on evolution, maybe revolution—my own and others’—than I ever could have dreamed up. There’s a core element to it, a sort of intent. A few years ago, I shared an excerpt from my book Standing Stark in a post called The Tasking relating to this subject. The first few lines are below.

Set your intent and let it go. Your intent is your beginning. Worrying about the details detracts from the intent. In your strong intent, the attraction will take care of the details.

I want to offer you a ritual that leads in this direction. I am part of a small women’s circle. We gather in a member’s home once a month, have deeply personal conversations and share a meal. I have much gratitude for these women. There’s trust that goes beyond mere friendship. We hold space for each other in a way I’ve not ever been held except by my folks. For the last few years in December we’ve come together for special purpose. I don’t think they’ll mind if I tell you. Good things need to be shared. And the process is also similar to what I’ve suggested to students over the years.

We each choose a word for the next year. Not just any word. Not one taken lightly—because we’ve seen well enough through experience how the word will make appearances in our lives in ways that shape us. It will bring experiences in the mundane, the beautiful, the difficult. It acts as a teacher, and through this learning we are consciously involved in our own process and communion with the Infinite. It’s for those who want to delve deeply.

I can liken it to the wazifas of the Sufi tradition. Through wazifa practice, chanting one or more of the Ninety-Nine Beautiful Names of Allah, you’re essentially calling in an attribute, one you ask to open within yourself.

The difference here is that you don’t have to chant the word, although you could use it in meditation or some other way to remind yourself. The beauty is, that once you’ve chosen your word, you’ve made a declaration. The word has been released to the ether and will come back to you as most beneficial. Note beneficial doesn’t necessarily mean easy.

Apparitions

Apparitions. Mixed media on panel. ©2014 Carla Woody

A personal example from December 2014: I knew I’d been hovering at a threshold for quite some time. I’d been patient for a few years. But I was also quite ready to step through and get on with it…whatever it was. For 2015 I chose: Momentum. In my personal translation I view momentum as something that builds upon itself, a movement that keeps on delivering. It did and will likely continue since I’ve embraced it.

When I look back on my last year I’m astounded at the turn my life began to take almost immediately. It started with the depth and breadth of the container we engaged with during the January Maya program. Within a few months I walked the Camino de Santiago, one of the most difficult yet beautiful things I’ve done for myself. I knew this going in.

Through the summer I recovered and integrated but was aware the pilgrimage wasn’t yet complete. There was another part that was to come. It would determine my level of integration to date and carry its own outcome, which it did and laid the groundwork for something else. If you haven’t already read about the happenings during the October-November initiation journey in Bolivia and Peru, take a look at A Hopi Discovery in Bolivia and A Vision Comes. In this entire year-long process my creativity and relationships have deepened; I’ve gained an added state of presence that I’m shown in so many ways large and small. I feel different. I’ve been graced. And it looked many different ways over the course of the year.

So it may come as no surprise that in December during our special purpose gathering…after sitting with my choice for 2016, considering carefully, I chose: Grace. With all its many nuances—potential ways it may visit—to polish any rough edges, this is my choice.

Choosing a word to inform your year isn’t necessarily for the faint of heart but does come with untold benefits in the long-run. If you’re tempted to invoke yours, I encourage it. Such an act enlivens you.

 *****

If you want to choose a word but just the right one remains elusive, take a look at the Positive Qualities Chart. It shows root and related qualities. This is a tool I offer students during my Navigating Your Lifepath program. I notice the chart’s author now has one for Divine Attributes as well.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Creativity Strategies, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Spiritual Travel to Hopi, March 2-8

If you’re subscribed to The Lifepath Dialogues, then I’m guessing you’d be someone who would engage in our upcoming program on Hopi in Northern Arizona—such an experience unlikely available to you on your own. Only in the last two years has it been possible to hold this in-depth program…in all respect…sanctioned by the Hopi religious leader.

Hopi TEW KSK Final-low

Since 2007 the nonprofit I founded, Kenosis Spirit Keepers, has been sponsoring Hopi Wisdom Keepers on spiritual travel programs to Bolivia, Peru, Guatemala and Mexico to reconnect with their relations from their migration path up from South America.

Now for the first time, we are sponsoring an Indigenous relation of the Hopi from outside the US. We are honored to bring Apab’yan Tew, Maya Daykeeper, spiritual leader, dancer and musician, to Hopi to share traditions and witness similarities to his Maya traditions as the Hopi have in his own homeland.

Apab'yan-15-1

These are spiritually-oriented programs, also supporting preservation of Native traditions in danger of decimation. In fact, a tuition portion of all spiritual travel programs are tax-deductible for that purpose. The elements are carefully put together to give you an experience that builds upon itself…and continues to evolve long after you’ve returned home.

For more information or to register, go here. Any questions or comments are always welcome. Feel free to contact me directly. Registration deadline is January 29.

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

How I Released My Monkish Ways

I don’t even remember when I began citing The Monk. It could have been after I had a past life regression back in the early 1980s…and there he was. It had something to do the Inquisition. Even as I witnessed him, I felt all the grief, guilt and overwhelming hopelessness at the state of the world. It was a visceral experience that, over the years, I automatically pulled up whenever I thought about that trance experience. I’m also clear it was hovering, always just beneath the surface. I don’t really know at this point what I believe about past lives: whether they’re real or not. Or if regression is just one tool among many others to uncover what was already there, lodged in the recesses of the mind but unknown. At any rate, I had an over-the-top response that stuck.

For years I’d toss off these words: I’m a monk. I’d usually laugh when I’d say it, as though whatever it was I was talking about was a tendency I just couldn’t help.

Understand this: I know about metaphors, what they presuppose, how they shape what we get or don’t get. My words were totally unconscious…until one day this metaphor—that I’d added to my operational identity—hung in the air before me demanding my attention.

We all use metaphors as a way of speaking about experience. A metaphor is not the experience itself but how we relate to what we’re describing. Language is peppered with them to the point we can mostly agree on their meaning. Advertisers are savvy in using them to attract us to their product. The best writers tuck them with precision into their prose to take us where they intend.

The important thing to know is how the language you use reflects your inner experience and mindset. Once you’re trained in this area, it doesn’t take much listening to someone for a short period of time and have an understanding of their reality: unconscious beliefs and thought processes that predict responses and behaviors that are played out over and over.

The trickier part is to recognize aspects within ourselves as well as what we note in others. We all live behind our own eyes and ears after all. The elements may not be so readily visible. However, you do know if your life is working the way you want or if it isn’t…or needs fine tuning.

If you think about a monk what comes to mind? A bare, solitary cell. An ascetic. Vow of poverty. Others first and foremost. Never self. Communal living. Life of prayer, quiet holy works. There are sides that are useful and those that aren’t depending on your perspective.

Take The Seeker. There’s a desire for something, attributes of curiosity and risk-taking. But The Seeker continually seeks and doesn’t find. And may take a series of missteps, which feed the cycle of seeking. The Seeker hasn’t yet determined internal values to the degree there’s clear discernment regarding choices or the path sought. By maintaining The Seeker, unending options prevail.

The Starving Artist is similar to The Monk except the religion is art. I’m an artist but readily sidestepped that one. It just didn’t stick.

You may now realize it’s useful to learn the language of metaphor, understand the significance and uncover those you live by. If you find any not working for you, then decide where you want to be and an operating metaphor that aligns to it.

I found some very old notes, somewhat incomplete, from a workshop I used to do on this very subject. I’d jotted down a quote I think came from Joseph Campbell.

New life can only be created by metaphoric mutationsynthetic re-creation of the old, and the old must be surrendered for this synthesis to take place. To give up one’s belief concerning some structure of reality, there must be an image that stands for the new goal or framework, even if the specifics or that goal are unclear. You need a strong image for the new goal to break completely with the old systems and risk your life for a new one. It’s the equivalent of asking a passionate question, until all ambiguity is erased and you really believe in your question. It will be answered; the break-point will arrive when you will suddenly be ‘ready.’ Then you must put your hand to the plow and not look back … or walk out onto the water unmindful of the waves.

Not long after The Monk made himself consciously known to me, an opportunity emerged.

Paul and Phoebe Hoogendyk answered a calling—of the kind Joseph Campbell described—received nearly twenty years before. Paul had been gifted with a greenstone, sacred to the Maoris, all those years ago, and then began receiving messages about a sacred journey they were to undertake. The purpose was to connect energy lines of sacred places in the world and leave a portion of the greenstone as an offering in each—holy intent, holy work.

In those earlier journeys they somehow found me and joined my spiritual travel groups in Peru and Mexico. It was a privilege to take part in their ceremonial process for the greenstones that now rest at 18,000 feet in a lagoon on Apu Ausangate, a most sacred mountain in the Cusco Region, and in the middle of Lake Nahá just outside the Lacandón Maya village of Nahá deep in the rainforest of Chiapas. They traveled to other remote areas of the planet to do the same: Tibet, Hawaii, Mongolia, the Arctic Circle and elsewhere.

I could hardly believe all the time had passed. The eleventh greenstone journey was imminent, next to the last. This one to the Orkney Islands in the northernmost part of Scotland. The Monk continued to pace back and forth in the forefront of my awareness. This land of standing stone circles was calling me for purpose, although I didn’t readily know what that entailed. I joined with other friends in late November 2011 meeting in Glasgow, a time when the snow falls and winds cry like banshees in that wintry place.

A thought began to surface about releasing my ‘monkish’ ways. How? It hadn’t yet taken form. I wanted to be respectful. The Monk had served his mission well. But he was ready to move on…and I was ready for him to move on. It was mutual.

The Visitation

The Visitation
Mixed media on board.
©2011 Carla Woody

As we went to the Isle of Skye and then on to the Isle of Lewis and Callanish Stones … the answer began to come. And I would know the place by the energy that drew me. As we approached the Ring of Brodgar—an ancient sacred site entirely open to the elements where the wind howled and whipped—I felt it. I paused for a while making sure. Then I walked up to the first of the megaliths, placed my back firmly against its support and gave my oath, I release my monkish ways. I went on to do the same at each of the still standing stones, twenty-seven in all of what is believed to be sixty. And each time the wind reached in and snatched the words from my breath, taking with it bits of The Monk. The wind has always been my friend this way. And a presence was dispersed across that land. I think he’s happy.

Following a ritual or other forms of deep work such as this, undertaken with sacred intent, there’s always an integration process. As things settled out and found new meaning, some elements of The Monk remain but have shifted to a real sense of richness I hadn’t previously felt. I still spend a lot of time in solitude. It allows me to immerse in creative pursuits that feed me. I have learned how important it is to give to yourself first…so you can continue serving others well. I do still have to remind myself of that fact. But now it doesn’t take me long to readjust. I can absolutely serve what I believe in without becoming a martyr. That’s a line I now won’t cross. A metaphor in itself that I won’t invite in.

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice
Mixed media on wood panel.
©2015 Carla Woody

Things evolve over time. This process for me has been no different. I note that Joseph Campbell indicates: You need a strong image for the new goal to break completely with the old systems and risk your life for a new one. The word “goal” doesn’t work for me. I prefer intent as a core element. I don’t yet have an image or an articulation. But I know it’s there. I feel it. It continues to guide me along this deeper path to an as yet unknown dimension holding the intent.

***

The eleventh greenstone rests in the waters near the Stones of Stenness in the Orkneys. To learn more about the greenstone journeys and the work of Paul and Phoebe Hoogendyk, go here. At the bottom of that page you’ll see the symbols of the twelve journeys. Click on each one to read their story and location. The third volume of Set By the Ancients, the story of the greenstone will be available in the first part of 2016.

Categories: Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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