Spiritual Travel

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: , , , | Leave a 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.

***********

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

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 Vision Comes

On the second day of our time on the Island of the Sun in Bolivia an opportunity presented itself. Local Aymara spiritual leader Mallku Roger Choque offered to take us to a closely held sacred place, one little known to outsiders where even few locals venture. The ancient ceremonial purpose of the site off the Island of the Sun was verified some decades ago when archaeologists found ritual artifacts on the lake bed at its base.

Clearly, this was another gift being handed to us. The first gift occurred the day before when sponsored Hopi guest Suhongva Marvin Lalo had discovered the Hopi migration petroglyph on a huge stone slab at the ruins of Puma Punku, outside La Paz—significant validation of the Hopi migration path. My spiritual travel group also included five sponsored Q’ero Wisdom Keepers making this journey to return to their Inka origins, as well as participants from across the US and Canada.

Given the cue by Mallku Roger we descended from the high point where we were lodging to the boat below. Not long after we headed out, waves washing behind us, this Aymara paq’o, or medicine person, laid a large weaving out on the floor of the boat’s front interior. Crouching down, he removed items from his bag. Soon it became apparent he would be leading a despacho ceremony, a prayer offering. Others squeezed around the altar, getting as close as we could in that cramped space.

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Mallku Roger Choque. Photo credit: Carla Woody.

And a memory surfaced, one of being on a boat and, so much the same, engaged in despacho ceremony the previous year on a private journey with a few friends. But that time we had been leaving the Island of the Moon, ancient site of the Mystery School for Inka priestesses. And after our prayers were all placed in the despacho, and it was tightly wrapped, I was beckoned outside to the boat’s back deck. The package was placed in my hands. I remember standing, watching the waves recede as we plowed through the waters. Raising my hands I released the bundle to send it arcing over the waters. Time slowed down. It seemed to hover for a few moments before slipping into the lake…and some kind of energy was emitted. We all felt it. I tried not to engage my mind then about what it might mean, if anything.

I came back to the present as one of my Q’ero friends stood before me offering me a kintu for the Pachamama—Mother Earth—coca leaves in proper placement. Taking them into my own hands, I began breathing my prayers into the coca. Another kintu was given for the Apus, the mountain spirits. My friend came back to receive the kintus that would be placed in an earthen vessel, along with the others. I gazed out at Lake Titicaca, so incredibly vast, then turned my attention back to the ceremony.

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Despacho ceremony on Lake Titicaca. Photo credit: Carla Woody.

And in that split second, a vision distilled. I say vision but can I say a precise image appeared? No. It was more a sense that something was being woven together. Can I say that I was given a commandment? No. But I was receiving a precise direction. It produced the feeling of something inside settling and becoming solid. A calling I didn’t question. But it still involved asking permission. I sat there with the knowledge.

By then the boat had approached our destination. But first the vessel that held all our prayers and blessings was lowered carefully into the shallow water and came to rest.

That night after dinner I asked Hopi, Q’ero and Aymara spiritual leaders if they would gather in circle with me. I told them of the vision I’d received during ceremony: to invite Hopi, Q’ero, Aymara and Maya Wisdom Keepers on a pilgrimage in 2016 nearly replicating the one we were making this year from Bolivia to Peru with one difference. The culmination would be on Q’ero. While others have brought different traditions together in various locations on a much grander scale, the direction I’d received involved a journey of an intimate, humble nature. I felt that others across the lands who would assist in holding such a space for this pilgrimage would emerge to support it. I asked the Wisdom Keepers if they would tell me what thoughts they had. One by one they spoke agreeing wholeheartedly with this vision.

Only Mallku Roger was silent. When all had finished speaking their piece, he turned to Marvin, our Hopi guest, and said in a strong voice, “I see your pain. And I have the same pain. Your pain is all our pain.” He gestured around this circle of his Indigenous brothers. “We are to help each other. I will never abandon you. We will never abandon each other.”

He spoke at length on the Eagle Condor Prophecy, then turned to me. I swear his eyes bored into my very soul and wouldn’t let me go. “This is like a weaving. We cannot do this alone. There are those who are connectors, people who help. Your vision is correct.”

In that moment, the last vestiges of doubt that periodically played inside my head over the years about the work I’ve dedicated myself to…when I’d get tired…when my faith got called into question…when it seemed like I was swimming against a tidal wave with little forward motion…dissipated.

Later I wondered if last year—when I slipped the despacho into Lake Titicaca—something had been set into motion. One more evolution. Each time it’s never about predicting what is to come as a result. One can’t. But it is about engagement…full engagement to the calling.

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To read about the discovery of the Hopi migration petroglyph at Puma Punku and more background, go here.

To learn more about the 2016 Heart of the Andes spiritual travel program in Bolivia and Peru, the intimate pilgrimage honoring the Eagle Condor Prophecy as noted in this writing, go here.

 

 

Categories: Global Consciousness, Hopi, Indigenous Wisdom, Maya, Q'ero, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

A Hopi Discovery in Bolivia

It was the first day of The Heart of the Andes. This year’s spiritual travel program included Bolivia as our starting point with culmination 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.*

Prior to setting foot in Tiwanku, said to be the Creation Place where Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo first emerged, we made a stop. On a high windy ridge overlooking the area—a ritual site— Q’ero paq’o friends led a despacho ceremony. Offering sacred cornmeal to each of us, Hopi Suhongva Marvin Lalo made his own prayers to the land as we all released our intent to the winds.**

Marvin had begun to share his feelings and his mission for coming on this journey.

Hopi Elders talk about and remind generations after generations of Hopi oral history, including the migration stories of various clans after the flooding of Palatkwapi, a unknown ancient village located somewhere in the south. Exact routes, established villages, and events have long been forgotten with time. Still, ancient ceremonies remain intact with clans responsible for carrying religious ceremonies through thousands of years of migrations to present-day Hopi villages where the ceremonies are still practiced today.

The Heart of the Andes journey offered an opportunity to connect with ancestral history, to visit the land of the ancients and its descendents, the Q’ero. To what extent my experience would take me, I didn’t know. The first despacho ceremony, I experienced a strong connection as I was presented with a Chakana; a sacred stone necklace and woven cords tied to my wrist. I gave thanks with offerings of my hooma.

At Tiwanku, Marvin already noted the possibility of his own people having set foot on this land. We wandered the ruins, a place of ancient mystery. We were all especially moved in a ritual square, the interior lined with stone faces—a portal perhaps.

Finally pulling ourselves away, in the last half hour before closing we ventured over to an adjacent site. Puma Punku may be the biggest mystery of all. Some conjecture it may have been a docking point, as thousands of years ago Lake Titicaca also covered this area. Now what was left were huge toppled stone slabs and much smaller structures fashioned with extraordinary precision … seemingly impossible for those times. It cannot be explained to this day.

And it was here that Marvin—who had traveled south all the way from Hopi Land on a mission for signs that his people had passed this way—found the Hopi migration petroglyph. The one that was known to point the way to his ancestors. The one that pointed north.

 

Atypical of other petroglyphs I’ve seen all over the US Southwest or elsewhere, it was large. I’d say three feet, maybe more. Also curious, there was a large serpent petroglyph in front of it, as though verifying the direction.

Even that large, it was easy to miss. The sun was at that point in the day when its rays glare as it’s headed toward the horizon ready for the night. Light bounced off rock surfaces, washing out details. Even with sunglasses my eyes were at its mercy. I missed it.

But not Marvin. He zeroed in on a symbol he knew to be his people’s…and his hair was on fire.

Hopi Migration Symbol

Hopi migration petroglyph at Puma Punka, black and white to better view. Not pictured in its entirety. Nor is the serpent petroglyph pictured. Photo credit: Janet Harvey.

What does this mean exactly? In 2008 Hopi Harold Joseph came on our program that included Puno. On the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca, we went by boat to the reed islands. There Harold saw the reed boats with serpent heads that he knew from Hopi oral history. He took a replica back to Hopi to show his father-in-law, the last great oral historian of the Tribe…who got tears in his eyes when Harold presented him with an artifact that he already knew.

For Marvin and his Elders, how do you explain the presence of the Hopi migration symbol at Puma Punka if the Hopi had not been there? He talked with excitement of sharing this discovery with the Elders. When our guides spoke of a great city that once existed in this region, now lost, and the great flood that took it, he listened. Geologically, it appears valid. The same story exists in his oral history. The locals even raised the idea that the place we know as Atlantis and the great city they cite are the same.

After we came home, Marvin offered his words, to be included in this documentation, more overview of his time with us in a land he found not to be foreign to him.

The Q’ero and spiritual guides honored me by inviting me to sit in on the ceremonies and observe. I recognized the po.nga (altar) and offerings to be similar to Hopi. At one point I was asked to pray with my hooma for them: to ask the deities’ especially Hopi to help and assist the people to prosper. I quietly prayed, gave offerings of hooma, drank the cool tasty water and bathed symbolically at the springs.

Each day I visited archeological sites with our group and host. Visiting the great Titicaca Lake, to hear a local legend of a great city, which was flooded thousands of years ago sitting at the bottom of the lake. The more I saw, the more I was reminded of how the structures, stone walls, the land and historical stories are similar in the Hopi Southwest. The migration symbol is common to the Southwest but seeing it in South America helps support our Elders’ stories of Hopi migration from the south: ‘Palatkwapi.’

Suhongva Marvin Lalo

Suhongva Marvin Lalo, Island of the Moon. Photo credit: Carla Woody.

When we know our origins, it grounds spiritual identity. We know our place in the world through all the places our people traveled, the ground their feet have touched. It goes beyond mere belief. I’m not sure the word ‘faith’ is even sufficient.

And when you’ve followed something that you know, even as you don’t know what’s ahead or why…and it comes to some kind of fruition in a way you couldn’t even have imagined…that instills something for which I have no words.

That’s what happened for me on this journey. Next year it will be ten years since an eagle and condor flew together overhead at Huaypo Lake outside Cusco after a despacho ceremony with Q’ero friends. And I had an immediate vision of bringing Hopi people to Peru on my 2007 program…not knowing any Hopi…not knowing it was their migration path…not knowing how it would ever happen…not knowing of the Eagle Condor Prophecy.

I have no words.

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* Viracocha, Creator-Sun God, is also known as Inti.

** Q’ero paq’os (meaning priests, mystics and/or wisdom keepers) traveled to Bolivia from their home in the high Peruvian Andes as sponsored guests and experience the site of their origin for the first time. At important points in the journey they guided despacho ceremonies, a prayer ritual.

Suhongva Marvin Lalo of Walpi, First Mesa in Northern Arizona was our sponsored Hopi guest for the purpose he mentions in this article. Marvin consults for the Hopi Cultural Center in validating sacred sites and artifacts.

For more on why Kenosis Spirit Keepers has been sponsoring Indigenous guests on our spiritual travel programs, go here.

 

Categories: Gratitude, Hopi, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

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