Spiritual Travel

Cajun Healers of South Louisiana

Doc Moses Cajun Traiteur 1974 48x36

Doc Moses, Cajun Traiteur, 1974 by George Rodrigue, oil on canvas.

In 2012 I was invited to South Louisiana by Shala Fontenot and Faith Moody, who had been on one of my Peru journeys. I still carry gratitude for their generosity. It was the start of a love affair. I quite fell in love with the people and rich culture of those lands. While there I interviewed Becca Begnaud during her monthly Healing Arts Collective gathering. Becca is a Cajun traiteur, a tradition indigenous to the area that I didn’t know existed. Not only is she well versed in her healing art, Becca is a wealth of information on Cajun and Creole history and lifeways.

Traiteurs are faith healers, a heritage in danger of sliding into extinction. These days they have few, if any, apprentices willing to undertake a trade that involves a lot of personal sacrifice. Most are way up there in years. Traiteurs are known to selflessly give of themselves – many on call around the clock – caring for those in need. If they’re paid for services at all, it’s customarily a chicken or other practical item. They heal through what they call “the gift.” A prayer comes through them for the person it’s meant, often by laying on of hands. But there’s no requirement for the person to be present. Long distance healing is often done as well.

Below you’ll find the original interview I did with Becca during which she talks about her own process of taking on the mantle, and the origins of those who live in the area.

A few days ago, Becca sent me a note about coverage on traiteurs in a local publication. You can read it here. Her message gave me the final nudge to write this additional article, which I’ve been meaning to do for a long time.

Just prior to my return to Cajun Country in 2013, my friend Shala called and said a few cryptic words, “There are some folks I want you to meet.” Nothing more. After arriving, I discovered she’d set up sessions with three traiteurs. Her method: She put out a general announcement to friends and acquaintances, a request for names. When she received the same recommendation three times, she arranged a meeting. Luckily, I had my recorder with me, and they freely answered my questions. I asked each one about the same things: any criteria for being a traiteur, how they received the gift, and what effect it had on them personally. They filled in the gaps.

We pulled up to an unassuming house in the small town of Opelousas, the home of Sostain and Dorothy Lemelle. Mrs. Lemelle greeted us at the door and brought us right into the kitchen where Mr. Lemelle sat at the table. She returned to watching a TV show in the seating area just beyond, but piped in periodically as we talked with Mr. Lemelle.

He was 83 years old at the time, having begun his healing work suddenly at the age of 10 when a veterinarian was unable to staunch blood flow from a horse’s deep wound. His mother told him to point his finger at the horse and send the prayer. He did, and the bleeding stopped. He’d been doing his work ever since. Mr. Lemelle said his mother told him his daddy died six months before he was born, and that’s why he had the gift. No other reason and nothing else specifically done to learn his craft. But he was known many places in the world, regularly receiving calls from far-flung places.

SoustainLemelle-2

From left to right: Shala Fontenot, Sostain Lemelle, Becca Begnaud and Carla Woody.

I experienced his work myself. We sat knee to knee in that kitchen, TV going in the background, as he passed his hands over me and said prayers. I felt an enormous amount of energy, a force moving though my body, flushing out anything that could be out of sorts. Later, I asked him what he felt himself. He smiled and said, “Nothing.” I queried him, was he sure he didn’t experience any sensations, any energy? He smiled even more broadly and insisted, it wasn’t for him, only for the one who sat in front of him. So he didn’t feel anything. About that time there was a knock on the door, someone else showed up for healing. We placed the chicken we’d brought on the kitchen table, thanked him profusely and left.

Mr. Lemelle, a sweet humble man, passed this life in August 2014. He was kindly remembered in the world and left a gap hard to fill. Our unedited interview is below. A bit garbled in the beginning, it’s well worth the listen (27 minutes) and gets clear the more this elder launched into recounting his life.

I’m going to call her Mrs. Benoit, then a 78-year-old traiteur who preferred to remain nameless and didn’t want the actual recording on the Internet. I’m sharing some of her story.

I come from family of 10 and have 10 children of my own. My mother was a traiteur who would treat just two things—the blood and the burns. That was back in the day of the horse and buggy. They would turn into their drive calling out ‘Madame, Madame.’ And my mother would look out the window. If she saw red, then she’d know it was a bad cut. Walking to meet them, she would already be working on the wound. I’d run beside her. I found it fascinating! When my mother got to the buggy they would be squeezing a bandage that was dripping blood. But when they unwrapped it, the wound had closed!

I said, Mama! How did you do that?

She said, it was just prayer. It’s a treatment that was handed down to me from the elders.

Mama, can you teach me?

I’m sorry. I can’t. I can only teach someone of the opposite sex.

So I had to learn from a man or a boy older than me. A woman couldn’t teach me. But they wouldn’t teach me then because I was too young, they’d say. But finally someone taught me at 7 years old. I first learned for the blood. I saw a dog get hit by a car and it was bleeding. I treated him and it stopped immediately. Thank you, Jesus!

I learned one at a time from those who would teach me.

Then my sister-in-law was somewhere and saw this old man. She asked him if something was wrong. He said he was sad because he’d traveled the world and learned all these treatments. But he didn’t have anyone to pass them to.

No one ever asked me, he said. I’d love to meet a woman younger than me who speaks both French and English that I could pass my treatments to her.

She said, Oh my God. This is my sister-in-law’s answered prayer! She’s been praying for years to meet an angel that would tell her treatments from the old days. And she’s never forgotten a treatment she learned.

Thank you, Lord, I said. I called him until he got home. I went and spent 3 days with him. He even taught me the treatment for cancer. When someone needs to come, God sends them.

A woman came to my door. I could hear her coughing before she got there. I said to her, that’s a heart cough. Not a lung cough. She’d just spent 5 days in the hospital, but she was no good. I told her I learned a treatment from an old lady who lived with the Indians. She taught classes, and I went to all of them. I told her, there’s a treatment for that cough you’ve got with some tea. It was blue malva tea. I treat 3 days in a row, pretty much at the same time of day. If they can’t come here I treat them here [long distance]. In 3 days this woman was not coughing. I treated her [with prayer] and she drank that tea.

This lady called me one day when I was doing reflexology. She said [crying], I was making some roux and the pot fell on my shoulder. It burned so bad! There’s nobody around! I’m by myself! Can you treat me?  

This lady I was working on [with reflexology] was a very religious lady. I said, we’re going to treat you. We’re going to pray for you. Me and my friend are going to hold hands. And I’m going to pretend to hold your hand. Did you remove that roux on your shoulder?

Yes, but it burns so! It burns through my body!

I asked the lady to pray with me for the burn. We did it 3 times. She had stopped crying. We did it 3 more times. She came and showed me the next day. It didn’t even blister. I’m overwhelmed when I see something like that! She said when we stopped praying it was no longer there! So it works.

Rebecca Henry is known as a Creole folklorist who runs the Creole Heritage Folklife Center in Opelousas. Located in an old home, it contains items from the early parts of the last century that document African American life of the times. But Mrs. Henry is also a traiteur, and certainly a clairvoyant. Unsolicited, she told me things about myself that she had no way of knowing. I regret not writing them down. While she gave permission for me to record our conversation, and openly spoke of hidden things the others hadn’t, I could see she wasn’t sure about my motives. And even though the recorder batteries had plenty of juice, the record light was on…and even tested prior to beginning our discussion in earnest…when I went to listen to it later, nothing was there. Blank. I tell you this was one powerful woman that I look forward to visiting again.

I have a very strong pull to spend more time in that region. The folks there were liberal with their storytelling. Still, I have the distinct sense that the stories proffered were an invitation to go deeper. I’ve been in such places before. I recognize the waters running there.

 

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Categories: cultural interests, Gratitude, Healing, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Spiritual Travel to Mexico: Maya Mysteries

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

Spiritual Travel to Chiapas, Mexico: Entering the Maya Mysteries
January 18-28, 2018

Early registration discount ends August 28.

Immersion Experience in Maya Cosmology, Medicine,
Art and Sacred Ways of the Living Maya.

A Spirit Keepers Journey co-sponsored by Kenosis and Kenosis Spirit Keepers.
Portion of tuition tax-deductible to support preservation of Indigenous traditions.

Don Antonio Martinez

Palenque
You are invited to step through the threshold… into a true journey of the Spirit. We are honored to offer a special program focusing on the sacred traditions of Maya peoples. Through the timing of our travels we are fortunate to immerse ourselves in Maya Mysteries showcasing the spiritual strength of the Living Maya connected with their ancient origins. We offer you an intimate opportunity, unlikely to be found on your own, engaging with spiritual leaders and healers who serve their people — with the intent that we are all transformed and carry the beauty home.

Join us for ceremonies, curing rituals, ancestral sites and the inherent magic of Maya Land.
Here is just some of what you will enjoy from the mountain highlands to the rainforest lowlands of Chiapas:
  • Maya Daykeeper Tat Apab’yan Tew accompanies us offering sacred ways from his native Guatemala and a fire ceremony connecting with the ancestors;
  • Tzotzil Maya religious leader Don Xun Calixto holds an audience in his home where we learn of his curing methods and calling;
  • Don Antonio Martinez, the last Lacandón Maya elder faithfully practicing his traditions, holds the nearly extinct balché ceremony;
  • Receive a private clearing session with Doña Panchita, curandera of Palenque;
  • Take part in the festival of San Sebastian in San Juan Chamula and Zinacantán, and spend time in a Maya church where curanderos conduct healing sessions — and many of our travelers have deeply spiritual experiences;
  • Carol Karasik — poet, writer, Mayanist — shares the mysteries of Palenque;
  • Experience the passion of Maya artists as they disclose what inspires them;
  • Throughout our time spiritual guide Carla Woody shapes your journey for optimal transformation that continues to unfold long after you’ve returned home;
  • And so much more…

Kenosis Spirit KeepersA portion of tuition is tax-deductible through Kenosis Spirit Keepers, the 501(c)3 nonprofit arm of Kenosis. We believe in the sacred sense of reciprocity. Your tuition includes a financial contribution to support the welfare of the Maya people with whom we engage, as well as other Native traditions.

For this year’s Maya program, your donation goes to support:

  • Spirit Keepers Journey supporting a US Native Wisdom Keeper to make connections with Maya relations.
  • Don Sergio Castro’s textile museum and his humanitarian healing work with poor Maya communities.
  • For more information on what we support, please go here
In January 2013 Grandmother Flordemayo, member of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, traveled with us. She was so taken with her experience that she offered to give her impressions in a video.

Early registration discount ends August 28.
Group size limited. Register today to hold your place!
 Go here for complete registration information, itinerary, bios, past trip photos and travelers’ stories. For more info call 928-778-1058 or email info@kenosis.net.
Registration deadline: December 17.
JOIN US FOR THIS ADVENTURE OF THE SPIRIT!

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

What the Jungle Knows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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Book Review: The Horse Boy

Horse Boy imageThe Horse Boy came to my attention through one of the travelers on my Peru spiritual travel program. Françoise Moreels told me she was so inspired by the story, centered around autism and Mongolian shamanism, that she was compelled to journey to Mongolia herself. With an introduction like that, of course, I was drawn to read it to see what was so remarkable. And truly it is.

Imagine a young couple completely engaged in life. Rupert Isaacson was a journalist and activist for Indigenous land rights, particularly for the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert. Kristin Neff was a professor in educational psychology at the University of Texas. Their young son Rowan just wasn’t developing the way other children did and displayed behaviors that led to a diagnosis of autism in 2004. The book is intimate in detailing all the heartbreak and frustration that comes with parenting a child with such a condition—the daily travails that are so difficult. My great respect certainly goes to these parents.

It became the father’s quest to find a way to heal Rowan. Rupert’s work being more flexible, he stayed home with Rowan much of the time. Unexpectedly, an incident occurred that eventually pointed to a path of healing. One day, Rowan broke away from his father and ran over to a horse named Betsy on a neighbor’s property, a mare known to be difficult. Strangely, Betsy was submissive to the child. And the child’s stemming and outbursts calmed. Rupert knew horses. He grew up with them in South Africa. He asked the neighbor if he and his son could ride the horse, and they did. Consistently.

It had such a positive effect on Rowan’s functioning that, after a time, Rupert had a brainstorm. Why not take Rowan to Mongolia, the place where horses were first domesticated and had become integral to the culture—and particularly their powerful form of shamanism? It took Rupert a few years to convince Kristin enough for her to reluctantly agree. But in 2007, the family began a physically and emotionally challenging odyssey across the remote steppes of Mongolia in hopes their son would be healed.

This is a story of strong intent played out against the backdrop of Mongolian shamanism. I highly recommend the book, also produced as a documentary. As a result of their experiences, Rupert Isaacson founded the Horse Boy Foundation working with autism and equine therapy. Kristin Neff founded Self-Compassion offering training in mindfulness and acceptance.

The Horse Boy by Rupert Isaacson is available on Amazon and elsewhere.

 

Categories: Book Review, Healing, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Of That Time in Iran

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

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

“I think so, too. It’s time,” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Encore – Following Energy: The Key to Your Navigational System

Rio Paucartambo

Rio Paucartambo Cusco Region, Peru ©1996 Carla Woody

Having heard that so many of us had a challenging 2016…in any number of ways…and since we’re at the start of 2017, I wanted to offer you a rerun of this article I wrote a few years ago.  It speaks of following energy, perhaps in a way you haven’t considered. And shares with you an annual tradition of mine⏤featured at the bottom⏤I’ve kept since I discovered it about five years ago. I find meaning and inspiration for the coming year in this way.

***

Several years ago, my friend Hilary Bee, a professional intuitive and spiritual teacher in the UK, told me that I have a strong inner navigational system guiding me. Over time, I’ve learned to trust it implicitly—even when the next step is obscured from my vision.

I call this navigational system intent, and it produces a high frequency of energy. I recognize completely when it’s communicating a path I am to take, choices to make. I’ve learned to recognize the energetic language. Equally, I’ve come to know over time when I’m straying from the path, or it’s time for an evolutionary change. A totally different level of energy accompanies that alert—and a nagging feeling something isn’t right. Of course, taking that fork in the road may initially produce chaos until order—and realignment—produces a deeper order.

I offer you this poem by C. P. Cavafy and then a caveat.

Ordinary people know what’s happening now,

the gods know future things

because they alone are totally enlightened.

Of what’s to come the wise perceive

things about to happen.

Sometimes during moments of intense study

their hearing’s troubled: the hidden sound

of things approaching reaches them,

and they listen reverently, while in the street outside

the people hear nothing whatsoever.*

 While I agree with Cavafy in that the majority of people may be completely unaware, or at least ignore signals, you have an opportunity always to live according to the wisdom of the gods. It’s a fine-tuning process but completely available to you. It requires that you pay attention and then the courage to deviate from any beaten path, sometimes to follow what you can’t readily see.

Here’s a rather dramatic example from my own life. Several years ago, I sponsored two back-to-back programs in Peru. During just one spiritual travel journey the energy is always strong from ceremonies, resident energy in sacred sites and more. With an additional one under my belt and little break between, the veil between the worlds had grown quite thin for me.

After the last group left for home, I was sitting in an Internet café in Cusco. It was the time of Inti Raymi, the festival of the sun, which transforms this usually placid former Incan Empire capital into masses of revelers, huge numbers coming from other locations. I knew that many pickpockets came from Lima to take advantage of the tourists during this time. Consequently, I took precautions. I carefully sat on my coat with my passport and money secured in an inside zipped pocket while I focused on email neglected for several days.

I had been at it for some time with people at computers on either side of me coming and going without any real attention on my part. But then I sensed something, noticing only the color green in my peripheral vision, and went back to my emails. Then again, slight movement out of the corner of my eye. A loud internal voice—not mine—said, Look down! I followed suit. My coat was hanging open, the inner pocket unzipped with passport and money gone!

Literally with no thought in my mind and seeing nothing to go after, I was out of my seat in a split second and onto the street thronged with thousands. Instead of raising a cry with no information to relay, something caused me to turn immediately into the small travel agency next to the Internet café. My hands had a life of their own, clamping onto the arms of two men standing just inside the agency, waiting in line. In a loud authoritative voice I stated, “My money and my passport! My money and my passport!”

They faced me then with shock on their faces as I continued to make the same demand. Both struggled in my grasp; my hands had become pincers of steel. Travel agents and other customers began to turn and get up from seats. The two men managed to turn me toward the entrance in their efforts to be free. One finally managed to duck out the door saying something to the other one, who slipped out of his jacket, leaving it in my hands.

Dropping it, I started to go after the pair but heard a woman’s voice saying, “Are these yours?” She held my passport, money pouch and the green jacket. I thanked her, as well as the others who had risen to aid me. Then I returned calmly to the café and resumed my correspondence.

That night I had a dream: Someone gifted me with a puma.**

As we entrain with a higher vibrational frequency, light energy doesn’t allow us to doubt or contract in fear. It is supreme and grounded. It has peripheral vision. Salk’a—as they call undomesticated energy in the Andes—induces clarity without thought, compassionate detachment and the warrior’s action. This is a state of being we can maintain.

I have a personal tradition. Either during winter or in the first days of spring I seek to remind myself of this Salk’a journey and store further inspiration for the long haul. I want to offer my tradition to you: Watch another of Cavafy’s poems, Ithaca, beautifully set to the music of Vangelis and the resonance of Sean Connery’s voice. This one I fully ascribe to.

********

“Poem by C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard. Edited by George Savidis. Revised Edition. Princeton University Press, 1992.

**Known as puma in Peru, we also know this sleek animal as jaguar, cougar or mountain lion. In the Indigenous Andes, it represents how to effectively navigate the Kaypacha, or Middle World, the one we walk in our everyday life.

Categories: Energy Healing, Healthy Living, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Our Visible Wings

I came across the inspirational short Invisible Wings when it was first featured on Karma Tube in 2015 and have watched it several times since. It touches a soft spot in me. It opens my heart, and I feel the flow of my own life moving through me. It generates reflection and gratitude…all channeled through the words of a 65-year-old tea seller named Vijayan against visually beautiful backdrops.

His use of the metaphor ‘journey’ in the film is important as well as the way he validates it. A bona fide journey isn’t over smooth ground but fraught with challenges along the way. If we meet those obstacles eye-to-eye, it encourages our growth, nurtures the spirit and frees our dreams…to manifest. If we don’t, it harnesses the soul.

All this from a man many may overlook: the owner of a small stall in India where he pours tea, his wife Mohana working beside him. They appear to have little in the way most would see them. But Vijayan carries a dream— to travel the world, to open his heart and mind to other lands and ways of living—and his wife shares that dream. They have traveled the globe. Even though, at the start of their marriage, she’d never been out of her own hometown.

It takes courage to face the Unknown, to step out of your comfort zone. But the comfort zone so quickly widens when you do…no matter that others think you’re crazy or try to hold you back. There is so much beauty to be experienced when you ignore those who remain in the corral.

Whether you take the initiative to make life happen or sit back and let life happen to you, it’s a choice—even if you don’t think the latter is. And while the title of this tribute to Vijayan and Mohana is called Invisible Wings, the wings any of us wear are visible and how we wear them: fully extended, clutched to the side, or somewhere in-between. Others easily see them if they pay attention. And we ourselves can feel them.

Nothing is more valuable than the felt presence of your own unleashed spirit, intimacy with family and friends…and a life fully lived…however you travel. I’m sharing this little film here—short in time but saying so much—with intent that it brings to you the sweetness and consideration it has for me.

Categories: Film, Gratitude, Spiritual Travel, Travel Experiences, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

A Havasupai Elder Speaks

We drove along the South Rim tourist area of the Grand Canyon and wound our way to the west on a dirt road through tall pines. Leaving the throngs of people behind, with much anticipation, we entered a different world. During opening circle for our spiritual travel program to Hopi just the night before, I’d let the folks know an opportunity had presented itself.

The Grand Canyon is sacred to the Hopi. They emerged into this middle world in ancient times from a point deep in its interior, and the Havasupai people have called it home for at least a thousand years. A relationship exists between these peoples. So when my Hopi partner Char Joseph contacted the Havasupai Tribe inquiring if there was someone who would speak to us about their ways, they were happy to oblige saying…all too often they were forgotten.

We pulled into Supai Camp, once the tribal winter home on the rim where just a few remain. The traditional dwellings are long gone. In 1934 the National Park Service (NPS) tore down or burned the homes without notice to the residents who were away at the time. I Am the Grand Canyon documents more than a century’s devastation of the Havasupai at the hands of the US federal government, NPS, Grand Canyon Association and Sierra Club. In the book, Havasupai Mack Putesoy testified how their homes were burned to the ground with all their belongings inside. Effie Hanna said she lost things she’d been saving all her life. In place of traditional homes on their aboriginal lands, the NPS built cabins and forced the residents to pay rent.

However, I knew none of this at the time we approached the home where we’d been invited.

Havasupai Girl

Havasupai girl, circa 1900. Photo credit unknown.

We were greeted at the door by Colleen Kaska, daughter of Daniel Kaska who was chairman of the Havasupai Tribe in the 1970s. Elder Daniel is now quite frail but welcomed us. He wanted to tell us the story of the Havasupai, People of the Blue-Green Waters named after the beautiful canyon waters running through the area they now mostly live. Colleen shared in the storytelling.

Their aboriginal lands once encompassed areas from the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River and the San Francisco Peaks west to Ashfork and Seligman. In the warm months they lived in what is now known as Cataract Canyon in the interior of the Grand Canyon and grew crops. In winter months they dwelt on the rim in order to hunt.

Once the Santa Fe railroad came along and interest in the Grand Canyon grew as a tourist and recreational site the Havasupai were squeezed and began to suffer. In 1882 President Arthur declared the majority of their aboriginal land belonged to the American public. The People of the Blue-Green Waters lost their plateau hunting-herding lands and many thousands of acres. They were barred from rim watering holes by cattlemen and the NPS…and relegated to Cataract Canyon. This narrow 518-acre tract doesn’t see sun during winter months, and historically endured flash floods that sometimes took out homes and people.

Colleen had been relating this history in a matter-of-fact way. The more she spoke, the sadder I felt. I had no idea what we would learn when we came through this family’s door. But I didn’t anticipate such a story. I’d thought of the NPS and Sierra Club as entities that conserved beauty…not those who wrought devastation upon peoples of the land (I thought) they were to protect. I said, “This all must be heartbreaking.”

Colleen paused, became still. She had a faraway look in her eyes. “Yes. But when I walk our aboriginal lands⎯the ones taken from us⎯I know it is of my people. My ancestors are there.” The tone of her voice made clear that knowledge gave her strength.

Elder Daniel spoke haltingly of the century-long struggles to be recognized by the federal government, to regain any of the land taken from them, including his own personal involvement as chairman in this quest. Finally, in 1976 they succeeded to a small degree: 185 acres returned to the Havasupai with 95,300 acres named “Havasupai Use Lands” but controlled by the NPS.

Daniel Kaska and Apabyan Tew

Havasupai Elder Daniel Kaska & Maya Daykeeper Apab’yan Tew. Photo: Colleen Kaska.

K’iche’ Maya Daykeeper Apab’yan Tew was present as a sponsored guest on our spiritual travel program. He wanted to know about Havasupai ceremonies. He asked Daniel, “Do you have a story about some time of a spiritual nature you remember?” Daniel shook his head. It seemed the focus for so long had been a fight for acknowledgment, some recognition of their worth, that there was no energy left for anything else.

Mike Weddle⎯Kenosis Spirit Keepers board member, Daykeeper and musician⎯visiting from Maryland was able to join our group for just two days. He brought his flute. I invited Mike to offer Daniel and Colleen a prayer song. The music was sweet. When it came to an end, there was silence. Then Daniel began to sing in words and tones that entered every one of us. The energy seemed to shift.

When we all expressed how it touched us, he uttered softly, “It’s a funeral song.” And then, “We are a lost tribe.” It was painful to hear of such loss.

Our visit was over. We formed a circle outside under the pines and invited Colleen to join us. Elder Daniel was unable to do so. Apab’yan offered a Maya prayer for the People of the Blue-Green Waters and the land.

A few days later I received a note from Mike who had to leave for other business.

I think we all felt the same as elder Daniel Kaska told his story of loss and betrayal, going to Washington where no one would listen, voting against the government deal when his own people would not listen, and his final ‘I don’t know what will become of us’. When he sang his beautiful song, and then said it was a funeral song, I almost wept.

We were invited by Colleen to join a singing ceremony 8 am Saturday at Red Butte. I did go to represent us but there was no one there. There are two forest roads on each side of the Butte, but no people, no cars, and no singing.

So I climbed the switchbacks to the very top of the butte, the summit. At the very top there is a crossing with 4 paths going in the 4 cardinal directions. I’m sending a photo. Colleen called this the Supai place of origin.

I felt that in just 2 days I had been witness to the place where the Supai began and perhaps the place where they end. As there was no one else there to sing, I did the singing, and I sang the Maltyoxb’al, the [Maya] great gratitude song, for the arc of the Supai nation.

Red Butte

Red Butte where the Havasupai were born to this world. Photo: Mike Weddle.

redbutte3

Four Directions at the summit of Red Butte. Photo: Mike Weddle.

When we held our closing circle at the end of our week with the Hopi and Havasupai people, I spoke to the group.

I never know in advance how things will unfold when we hold a sacred container of pure intent. Things I can never predict come in ways that affect us all. I believe the most important thing we did during this journey was sit in respect, listen deeply to this Elder’s words and witness the grief he carries.

Sometimes that’s all we can do even in the face of our own helplessness at such recognition. And that acknowledgment matters.

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Note: Elder Daniel Kaska singing recorded by Apab’yan Tew.

Go here to learn more about Spiritual Travel to Hopi: Sacred Guardians of the World,  and check back for next year’s March travels.

Categories: cultural interests, Healing, Indigenous Rights, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Café Amazonia

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

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

Cloud forest

Into the cloud forest of Manu.

 

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

cabaña café

Private cabaña café

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

 

Jungle compound

Jungle compound.

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

***

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

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

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