Posts Tagged With: Chiapas

Unearthing of the One Tribe

Early morning as it was drawing to a close, I reflected on our journey in the lowlands and highlands of Chiapas. I don’t quite know how to describe what I was feeling in this time of unearthing. Some mixture of great gratitude and overwhelm. Not overwhelm in the way I may sometimes feel it at home when I have too much to juggle at once. Rather it was the sense of overwhelm that comes when so much has happened of a sacred nature. You can bathe in it…even though the deeper meaning isn’t yet realized. But my mind’s attempts arising nonetheless.

Words broke through in staccato—bullet points. My hand flew to jot them down. Each one came illustrated with examples from the Maya people themselves.

Sacrifice

The religious officials in the Chiapas highlands carry cargo, a term to describe the responsibilities they take on to maintain their traditions, to care for the saints, to make sure the processionals occur as they have for many hundreds of years. And house the saints well between times so they will receive the prayers of believers. Carrying cargo is a burden taken on for the sake of the community, done through community. Tasks are divided and shift to others from year to year. No one person can do it all. The strain is too great on family finances and time away from the fields. These are not paid positions. They do it because, if they didn’t, a way of life that connects all things would otherwise disappear into the ether from which it emerged.*

Don Antonio

Don Antonio signaling the start of the balché ceremony.

For some, the sacrifice is ongoing. I always think of Don Antonio Martinez, the last Lacandón Maya Elder still holding the rituals of his people, faithfully feeding the gods, laying down the prayers to create balance in their rainforest home. His is not an easy life when others have turned away to foreign religions or the influx of material things, when he is nastily pressured by converts to give it all up. I’m guessing he hangs on because he recognizes his soul would otherwise suffer, and he cannot find it within himself to abandon the gods.

Humility

For me, a clear measure of an authentic spiritual leader or healer is humility. If their ego isn’t making pronouncements, they can approach their work with compassion. Connection to the person in front of them, and their community, is genuine.

Don Xun Calixto, Tzotzil Maya of San Juan Chamula, is a profound example of that for me. Over and over, I’ve witnessed his ability to put his fingers on a person’s wrist, someone he’s never met before, and listen to their blood. Then with gentle words tell them the exact nature of what they need to let go in order to heal, his words confirmed when his patient bursts into tears as he holds them in a comforting hug. The care and precision in which he lays the altar, and how he sinks to his knees and utters the prayers to carry the healing. Or the relief a patient displays when he tells them they can put fears aside because they’ve already overcome their trial.

Don Xun

Don Xun listening to the blood.

Today we don’t think of political leaders having humility, the opposite so often true. In ancient times though, Maya kings and queens were spiritual leaders and protectors. Indeed, they were seen as gods incarnate, walking among the people, making personal sacrifices. Humility displayed itself in the bloodletting rituals they undertook upon their own person. For the kings, thrusting a stingray spine through the penis; for the queens, through the tongue. Their blood dripped onto a paper then burned, taking the blood prayers for good crops to the heavens.

In the Popol Vuh there is explicit counseling against narcissism and pompous behavior. Seven Macaw, a demon parading as a god, claimed to be the sun and the moon. He terrorized the people and puffed himself up with jewels and arrogant proclamations. In doing so, he gained the attention of the Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, who noted his evil and summarily took him out.**

Courage

Depending on the nature of an affliction the people consult different types of healers. An example would be Doña Maria, a curandera who attended us during this recent journey. Her prayers will cure an earache or get an innocent man out of jail.

Doña Maria

Doña Maria making her initial prayers before beginning clearing sessions.

But when someone thinks the ailment involves the supernatural, particularly witchcraft, they will go to Don Xun. And if he diagnoses soul loss, he will be called upon to descend into the Underworld, through trance or dream, with a dire mission. Not an undertaking for the faint of heart, Don Xun must wrestle the person’s soul away from the Earth Lord. In this process his prayers return the patient to wholeness.***

Don Xun

Don Xun laying an altar.

Persistence

In the face of great adversity, I witness quiet persistence, strength and faith in the person of Don Antonio in the tiny village of Nahá.

Emerging from the 1990s genocide in Guatemala and Chiapas, the Maya have not been defeated. Particularly the Zapatista Movement in Chiapas is alive and well. Nonviolent marches protesting treatment by the Mexican government regularly occur. At the entrance of villages, signs proudly declare a people in resistance. While behind the scenes, Zapatistas are not merely complainers but have actively established their own Indigenous schools, clinics and pharmacies using traditional ways.

Integration

Throughout the Indigenous communities of Chiapas, I am consistently reminded of a way of life that integrates spirituality into everyday life…and the grounding that brings. As I’ve returned to my geographic home base in the US, I’m also reminded just how fragile that way of life is with the forces active to destroy. I am aware of the soul loss within this nation ⏤ including my own. And the need to pull together, so that we do not feel as though we are merely one…but the One Tribe.

♦♦♦

* Outward appearances may confuse outsiders into thinking Catholicism is being practiced in the Maya highlands. This is not the case. Instead the saints have been converted. Each one carries the meaning and stories the Indigenous people have given them, and the spirit of the forest permeates the church with trees (pine boughs), mist (copal incense) and fireflies (a multitude of candles).

**The Popl Vuh is the K’iche’ Maya creation story and historical references originally documented in Maya hieroglyphics, transcribed in the 16th century.

***One of the worst curses perpetrated upon someone is due to envy. One person seeks to usurp what another has and, through witchcraft, captures the soul and offers it to the Earth Lord. In the Tzoltil Maya religion, the Earth Lord rules the Underworld and owns all the natural resources. The Earth Lord, represented as a greedy ladino with a cowboy hat sitting on a bull, may grudgingly provide, but may also take away on a whim. In Chiapas when a shaman of Don Xun Calixto’s stature engages with the Earth Lord it is not done through hallucinogens or alcohol but, as described, through trance, dreams and prayer. These undertakings are every bit as real as anything in the material world involving battles and danger.

♦♦♦

All images in this article ©2017 Carla Woody. All rights reserved.

Save

Save

Categories: Global Consciousness, Gratitude, Indigenous Wisdom, Maya | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

When the Fire Speaks

cave ceremony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fire altar

Fire altar before lighting. Photo: Carla Woody

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

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

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

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

Nothing—apart from humans—offers so much resistance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 *****

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

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

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

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

Allies

In January I took a group to Nahá as usual during my Maya spiritual travel program. Nahá is a tiny Lacandón Maya village deep in the Lacandón Biosphere of Chiapas, Southern Mexico. We go there to be with Don Antonio Martinez for ceremony and show our respect that he’s still holding traditions when there’s so much pressure for him to let them go. We also visit with the widows of the late spiritual leader Chan K’in Viejo, as well as spending time at sacred Lacandón sites.

This time we stopped by Kayum’s home. I hadn’t seen him in years. Kayum Ma’ax Garcia is a Lacandón Maya artist of the monkey onen, or clan. He’s also one of Chan K’in Viejo’s sons. He works in acrylics on canvas. In his artwork Kayum conveys actual events, lifeways, creation stories and rituals of a culture nearly gone—as well as his dreams, an important aspect of traditional life. So, in his own way, Kayum is preserving the traditions of his people. I’ve always been fascinated by his art.

Kayum Art

Traveler Frostie Torres purchases a painting from Kayum during our 2007 program. Photo: Alonso Mendez.

But he has little exposure to the world outside his village. I thought to myself, it’s important for his work to get out there, not only to help sustain his family but for others to appreciate Lacandón lifeways and traditions. I suggested to him that he offer his work as archival prints through an online service as I do. But he has no camera, computer or technical knowledge even if he did. Aside from that there’s only Internet at the little lodge where we stay. And the connection is so poor it may as well be non-existent. He had no one to support this possibility, and it was something he really wanted to do after I explained it.

An opportunity landed in my lap, another one that truly matters. The group witnessed the process of this conception. They were excited. I went home and put a vote before the Kenosis Spirit Keepers Board.*

The Allies Gallery is now a program supported by Kenosis Spirit Keepers to sponsor Indigenous artists who have extremely limited capabilities to offer their work. Kayum is our first artist. Proceeds of any of his art sales go directly to him. The same will be true for any other artist we include.

Man of the Wild Acrylic on canvas Kayum Ma'ax Garcia

Man of the Wild
Acrylic on canvas
Kayum Ma’ax Garcia

Our online gallery is now up! You’re invited to check it out and support Kayum through purchase of his work and sharing Allies Gallery with others. We currently have prints available for four of his pieces, in various sizes and formats, and will add more as time goes on.

*******

Kenosis Spirit Keepers is the volunteer-run, grassroots organization I founded in 2007 to help preserve Indigenous traditions, a 501(c)3 nonprofit extension of Kenosis.

Categories: Arts, cultural interests, Lacandón Maya | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Unexpected Music

Place des Vosges

Place des Vosges

We were exploring Le Marais district when I remembered one of my favorite places. Ah yes, just a short distance away. I succeeded in persuading my friends they really must experience the oldest square in Paris. We turned down a side street that opened into Place des Vosges. Its elegant French classical façade spoke to the aristocracy that once lived above the arcades below. It didn’t take much to imagine Victor Hugo striding along anxious to be home to continue penning his novel of the moment. We noticed a bistro just in time for lunch. Salad, cheese, bread and wine somehow tasting so much better than it ever did at home.

Exiting, we started to round the corner that would take us out of the square when we noticed activity across the way under the arches. Some ten or so people setting up—a musical ensemble! We edged closer to watch. A few others began to gather. The discordant sounds of musicians tuning their violins and cellos ensued. And ensued. And ensued. Until finally my friends were getting impatient, wanting to leave. Oh no! Just a few more minutes, I was saying in my head. Feeling the tug of the group, I started to turn away with them.

And in that moment, the cacophony stopped. A split second of silence brought chaos into perfect order as the haunting strains of Pachelbel’s Canon filled the air. The acoustics amplified the notes to such a degree that we were enveloped, rooted in place. The beauty of the moment was overwhelming. I didn’t want to move from that spot. The energy continued to rise as they went on to play Mozart, Bach and Vivaldi. Thankfully, a violinist broke away and began offering CDs. I gladly purchased one and then discovered their name: Classique Metropolitain. What an unexpected gift, an extraordinary dessert, one we wouldn’t have had if we’d not been willing to pause.

Now when I play their recording, especially when I paint, it takes me right back to that split second of perfect order when my spirits soared—to experience it all again, gaining inspiration. Only much later did I discover that Classique Metropolitain regularly frequented metro stations and Place des Vosges playing to passersby, perhaps to lend pleasure to their day.

◊◊◊

On a nearly annual basis, I sponsor a spiritual travel program called Entering the Maya Mysteries in the Chiapas region of Mexico.  I usually go in January and we spend several days in the highlands participating in ritual and religious festivities for San Sebastián. One particular year music was a thread that ran through our time together—sacred and celebratory, vocal and instrumental—something to be expected considering our itinerary. But it was unexpected music, taking the edge off a situation and lifting our spirits or instilling a hush to any tumbling thoughts, that I most savored and have tucked away in that same place where Classique Metropolitain and Place des Vosges reside.

Lalo Ed Adams lives in New Jersey. Some years ago his search for someone going to Piedras Negras brought him to me. He joined our travels, in the process discovering a new name that he wore proudly. On his second trip with me, Lalo came along again wearing the glow I saw develop on the first one. Early on, he brought out a guitar saying he’d learned to play a couple of years ago and now gathered weekly with guitarists back home. During our days staying at El Panchan outside the Palenque ruins, he inched his way from casually playing at our table at Don Mucho’s Restaurant—until fully on stage with microphone and sound system going! I admired his chutzpah and his playing.

One thing about Lalo was that he understood how music can intervene and shift the energy in a moment. We’d been on our way to the Lacandón Jungle village of Najá anticipating the upcoming ceremony with Don Antonio Martinez when the van began to hesitate and sputter. Our driver was worried. “Bad gas,” he said, finally pulling over. We all bailed out; it appeared there would be a long wait while the situation was remedied. It was hot. We were in the middle of nowhere milling around on the side of the road.

Lalo Ed Adams

Lalo Ed Adams (2nd from right).
Photo credit: Bob Moore

It didn’t take long before Lalo pulled out his guitar. I finally couldn’t resist. I joined in with what he later called my “vocal chops”—that hadn’t been let loose in years. Some of the others chimed in until we had a plein air concert of sorts going. It turned a difficult situation to a light one full of fun. We continued to find moments to sing, all the way up to our closing dinner when we essentially took over a restaurant, and the other patrons joined our musical frivolity that ranged from “I Shall Be Released” to “Nowhere Man.”

But backtracking a bit, the latter half of our journey we stayed in San Cristóbal de las Casas in the Chiapas highlands. While we were visiting Na Bolom I heard faint notes of piano music and wandered into a room. Beautiful, I thought. Taking note of the pianist but not wanting to disturb, I examined the religious icons in the room. At leaving, I saw a poster announcing Richard Pierce Milner as the current artist-in-residence with evening concerts being held regularly. In the next day when we were in the Maya village of Zinacantán witnessing the raucous festivities for San Sebastián, I noticed the pianist there with a friend. This time I made sure we met and, on a whim, invited him to come with us. We were on our way to Don Xun Calixto’s home above San Juan Chamula where a special ritual awaited us. In return, I joked to Richard, I must have a concert.

Indeed. A few nights later, after the group had flown home, I went back to Na Bolom. At one time, before it had been the home of Frans and Trudy Blom, or a museum, the old hacienda had housed a seminary. One long room still bore reminders of that time, an altar at one end, religious paintings on nearly every inch of wall. But a grand piano at the other end dominated the space.  The only light source was candlelight. I took a seat. Richard began to play. And I was transported.

Richard Pierce Milner

Richard Pierce Milner at Na Bolom.
Photo credit: Carla Woody

Truly, Richard’s compositions are hard to categorize, a blend of neo-classical and crossover jazz as descriptor not at all doing them justice. What do you say about pieces that snatch you up to share a deeply personal journey with the artist? That wend their way through memories of a moment by the sea, a difficult healing process, or tribute to a mentor now passed? That touch on something not often touched? I can only say that Richard exposes his innermost feelings through his music and extends an invitation for listeners to join him. As I write these words, piano solos from his CD entitled Other Ways of Knowing are taking me back to that candlelit time at Na Bolom when I first heard him play.

◊◊◊
 In these times when so much of life is artificially structured, perhaps even constricted, that we can no longer breathe, do moments other than that—should we allow them—create openings. Chance encounters, courage mustered, intuition followed, and willingness to engage possibilities provide a distinct loosening that allows us to take flight. For me, unexpected music, especially when I find it within myself, has been a theme that has provided a springboard.
◊◊◊
   To see what other bloggers have posted in response to the Daily Post Writing Challenge: Moved by Music go here.
Categories: Creativity Strategies, Music Review, Travel Experiences | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

What 12-21-12 Meant to Me by Lori Clarke, Guest Blogger

Note from Carla Woody: Lori Clarke is a Canadian who traveled with us on the Winter Solstice 2012 program. She has generously offered impressions of her travels and a day she’d been anticipating for many years.

***

The anticipated climax of my trip was to be the day of the end of the Mayan calendar, December 21, 2012.  I have been following this day since my mid 20’s, copying the date into each new years calendar.   In my 20’s, the date seemed a life time away but now in my mid 50’s, the date is actually here… right now…

I decided several years ago that when this date arrived, I didn’t want to be home.  I wanted to be able to say where I was on that date, when whatever happened…or didn’t happen…on the Winter Solstice of 2012.  The end of the Mayan calendar and by some peoples’ interpretation, an accurate prediction of ‘the end of the world.’

Maya Relief

Maya Relief
©2012 Lori Clarke

I left Canada on Dec 8. Our ambitious itinerary kept us busy traveling and participating in healing and fire ceremonies, dinners with traditional families, textile and art gallery tours with our guides, visiting churches, museums and sacred sites.  Meeting our guides, hearing their stories and feeling their passion was inspiring, lifting.  It is very encouraging to learn that there is quite a collective movement cultivating the Mayan culture–the archaeological and historical richness, and striving to find the balance between maintaining tradition and economic growth in an increasingly modern world.  Pride in their ancestral lineage, increased understanding between the many language dialects and unity are essential components for their future.  The Maya were not defeated but very much alive.  Coming together.

Our group of 12 arrive in Palenque on Dec 19.  We spent the day touring the ruins and hear about Maya cosmology.  Upon returning to our lodging after a long, hot and humid day, I laid down before having dinner.  I increasingly didn‘t feel well and ended up vomiting.  After all these years of anticipating this date, how could I be sick and miss Dec 21, 2012.  I didn’t eat dinner that night.    Then, as night fell upon us, it began to rain.  We have not seen any rain on our trip and now, on the eve of Dec 21, it is not only raining but we are having a torrential downpour.   I began to worry if we were even going to the site in the morning if this rain continues.

Temple of the Foliated Cross

Scene from the Temple of the Sun toward the Temple of the Foliated Cross.
©2012 Lori Clarke.

To my astonishment, I woke up in the morning feeling fine.  It was a one-time appellation, no diarrhea, no headache.  Very strange.  But it does continue to rain.  We gather, eat breakfast and catch a cab to the Palenque ruins.    Along the road we pass a large group of walkers.  Maybe a 100 people, all soaking wet, singing and dancing on their way to the site.  Mostly young people, long hair, oddly dressed and obviously free-spirited.  At the gate, we are the first people in line and wait to get our tickets.  While we are waiting, we notice that the rain has stopped.  How timely.  The large group of walkers then arrive and fill up the entrance area.  Moments later, our group was allowed in 15 minutes before the park was officially open.  We quickly walk to the selected area and climb the steps up to the temple (The Temple of the Sun).  To our amazement, we have the place to ourselves, only one security person and us.  The rain has stopped but the grounds are wet and slippery making the climb rather tricky.   We look out over the jungle canopy and observe the low level of clouds, hanging heavy and providing a misty, mysterious mood to the morning.   We had a beautiful period alone on top of the temple looking down at the altar and up over the treetops.  It was a sacred moment.  The rain began again and groups of people started to arrive on site.  How truly special it was to experience this quiet and private time alone in the heart of Palenque.  No distractions from completely being present and absorbing all of its splendour.

However breathtaking this moment was in space and time, it wasn’t what we were expecting.  It had been our plan to see the sun rise above the jungle canopy at 8:36am.  The anticipation of being there to see the first peak of the rising sun on Dec 21, 2012 was exhilarating.  As much as it was disappointing that it didn‘t happen that way, it had to be realized that, unseen to us, the sun certainly did rise that morning.  A very powerful acknowledgement.

It continued to pour.  We all were varying degrees of wet and a little annoyed with all this rain.  But then I had another realization.  Water is life.  The rain is cleansing and water inspires growth, like the planted seed.

My eyes were then attracted to the altar in the centre of this area.  It was great to see it this morning without people sitting on or hanging around it, as was the case yesterday.  The altar is stone in the shape of a cross.  The centre of the cross is also marked, marked with another raised stone.  To me, this represents the heart.  From the heart, energy flows out in all four directions.  Each direction having it’s own strength and character.  Standing at the top, I could see it clearly.

I decided to go down to the altar and stopped for a moment at each of the four directions.  I then noticed that the rain falling on the temple steps was pooling and then cascaded over and down the stairs creating the flow of a waterfall.  I had glad I decided to wear my sandals this morning so I didn’t have to worry about my shoes getting wet.  I chose to be childlike and walked through the puddles.  I intentionally walked up the steps of the highest temple, following the cascading waterfall.  I imagined, feeling like a spawning salmon climbing upwards against the flow.   Reaching the top, I noticed my heavy breath.  After a few moments, I made my decent following the same path down.

As I left this area, and walked between the two sets of major ruins, I felt a strong wind.  As I learned in Peru, I stopped, opened my arms and greeted the energy.  I stood still for a moment breathing in the breath.

Dec 21, 2012  is the beginning of a new era.  What was profound to me on this date is what I already know to be true.  Believe in the unseen.   I saw very clearly, that when we are aligned with a higher power, and are connected at the heart, we will be nurtured and guided so our energy will flow outward in love and be of service to the universe.   Through our own free will, each one of us as individuals will live our life and learn the lessons through our authentic souls.

©2012 Lori Clarke. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Rain at Palenque

Rain cascading over the steps leading to the ball court,
Dec. 21, 2012.
©2012 Carla Woody.

Categories: cultural interests, Healing, Indigenous Wisdom, Maya, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

What Is Renewal? – Part II

In the Part I of What Is Renewal I relayed my experience at a conference back in 2007 put on by the Bali Institute of Global Renewal when a young man asked me…

Do you think it’s time for some traditions to die

so the next thing can come along?

And after my initial shock at his question I recovered enough to answer…

The thought of that happening hurts my very soul.

I don’t remember what else I said and it probably wasn’t as coherent as I’d have liked just because of the powerful emotions washing over me in that moment. But I do know that I thanked him for his question; I said it was personally quite significant to me. He looked perplexed.

Don Antonio lighting the godpots

Don Antonio Martinez lighting the godpots during the sacred balché ceremony of the Lacandón Maya.
Photo: Carla Woody

WE HAVE A HUNGER

Do I understand about cycles, death and rebirth, seasons? Of course. Transition is the nature of the work I do every day. Is it time for these traditions to return to the ether? No! At least, certainly not yet.

Through my experiences with Native peoples over the years, I’ve learned these things: They are people who touch the earth, live close to it, who understand the nature of connection of all things…energy…sharing in community…a global consciousness. They hold these threads sacred in their now fragile traditions.

If you’re reading this article, then you probably belong to a culture that has largely forgotten these things. And we’re hungry for these aspects that are so rare or fleeting in our present-day societies—especially because the pendulum swing seems stuck toward destruction of these values.

Part of my involvement at the conference was to help facilitate a track called “Language of the Soul.” On the final day of that forum, and as a culmination to our activities and discussions, I guided a despacho ceremony—learned from Q’ero spiritual leaders— with those who had chosen that track, about forty people. To my knowledge only one other person there was familiar with the blessing ritual. But all actively participated: folks from such far-flung places like China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Zimbabwe, Australia, United States and others. Afterwards, they made comments about the effect it had on them, such as feeling moved and the sensation of energy for the first time.

BEARING WITNESS

Hopi Harold Joseph sharing traditions in Don Antonio's godhouse

Hopi elder Harold Joseph (left) sharing traditions in Don Antonio’s godhouse after the balché ceremony.
Photo: Darlene Dunning

I fully believe that if we honor Indigenous traditions such as those I discussed in Part I…if we’re willing to sit in circle…to take part in these deeply held spiritual rituals…then we touch what’s timeless. We’re injected. A transmission takes place that gets integrated into who we are in the world.

And when we hold sacred witness to those who have had the difficult and usually thankless role of holding these filaments—and honor them for the stake they’ve held—a sacred reciprocity occurs. There is a ripple that goes out. When there are enough of us engaged in this way, then perhaps it’s time for some traditions to relinquish themselves. That’s hardly yet though, is it?

Isn’t it ironic that this consideration came to me at a conference whose subject matter was global renewal? Maybe it’s easier to create a careful cocoon, to insulate ourselves, to stick our collective heads in the sand and ignore what’s happening around us. I can’t do it.

My soul won’t let me.

I offer spiritual travel journeys with the premise of supporting Indigenous traditions that are so in danger of decimation through influence from Western culture. Through Kenosis Spirit Keepers, the nonprofit extension of my organization, we sponsor Native Spirit Keepers living in the US so that they may sit in circle and reconnect with Maya, Q’ero and Quechua spiritual leaders and community. Through this intangible process I have witnessed the important effect it has—spiritual beauty and strength.

For Western travelers who accompany me, I view our participation and witnessing as a gift of respect, aside from the transformational aspects it has on us.

And the long-term effects are forever carried in our souls.

***

For those who are moved to support this work in preservation of Native wisdom traditions and well-being of the Maya people, please join us for Entering the Maya Mysteries, January 13-25, 2013. Your participation matters. Also see my post on the humanitarian work of Don Sergio Castro. Grandmother Flordemayo of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers will be with us in January blessing our travels with prayers.

Categories: Healing, Indigenous Wisdom, Lacandón Maya, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

What Is Renewal? – Part I

(Original article written in 2007 with additions here.)

Recently I had the good fortune to be invited to participate in a conference on global renewal sponsored by the Bali Institute. It was held in Ubud, considered to be the cultural and spiritual center of Bali. This was a significant gathering bringing together people from many countries with at least one thing in common — a vision for a better, kinder world and the strong desire to make it happen now. I’m still digesting all that happened for me. Part of it I will share with you here.

GLOBAL RENEWAL

Balinese temple figure

Balinese temple figure.
Photo: Carla Woody

It was the second day of the conference and I had arrived early to the Bali Classic Centre where it was held. It’s a site too beautiful for words with temples, lush foliage and meandering pathways throughout. I was standing in the open-air pavilion where people tended to gather during breaks, just enjoying my surroundings, when a young man approached me asking if he could speak to me. He indicated he had seen some literature on the programs I’m doing with the Maya in the Chiapas region of Mexico. In particular he was interested in Don Antonio Martinez, the last Spirit Keeper practicing the ancient sacred traditions of the Lacandón Maya. Then he said something I didn’t at all expect.

 Do you think it’s time for some traditions to die

so the next thing can come along?

 Whether his question came out of earnest interest or a flip attitude didn’t really matter. His words hit me like a shock wave that reverberated in hidden, interior places. This was a question I had come to Bali to hear.

FRAGILE TRADITIONS

Don Antonio and Balche Ceremony

Don Antonio Martinez of the Lacandón Maya during the balché ceremony.
Photo: Carla Woody

While I’m fairly sure the effect of the missile wasn’t apparent from the outside, my mind was immediately flooded with images. I replayed a time earlier that year with Don Antonio in the middle of the rainforest village of Najá, in his lone god house, burning copal in two of his god pots, chanting, invoking connection with Hachäkyum, the principal deity of the Lacandón, and another god in honor of our visit. He’d chuckled softly when the copal in one of the pots had at first refused to light saying that god was shy that day.

There was evidence of hundreds of such ceremonies in the burnt residue in his god pots, mounded to overflowing. He needed to retire these god pots and replace them with new ones. When asked why he hadn’t, he said that since the road had cut through the jungle to Najá it brought too much noise for the sacred renewal ritual. I remember remarking to myself how very little disturbance there was in contrast with what we visitors had at home. But still, it was an affront to the gods.*

Q'eros of Peru

Sitting in circle with Q’ero spiritual leaders.
Photo credit: Monty DeLozier

Another image came to me in the next split second, this time in the high mountains of the Andes in Peru, sitting in circle with Q’ero paq’os, or shamans, and other members of the Q’ero Nation, participating in a despacho, or blessing, ceremony. The absolute sense of collectively touching something beyond what is ordinarily presented, my eyes swept the circle of travelers who had come with me; I noted the ceremony’s subtle and sometimes dramatic effect on them.

These experiences are precious and will perhaps soon border on extinction just like in the Lacandón rainforest and the myriad other places where the footprint of modern society has been placed. A road is planned to Q’ero, which, until this time, has remained isolated at 17,000 feet in altitude with traditions pure and intact.

Hopi Spirit Keepers 2007

The author with Hopis Clarence Washington (lft) and David Washington (rt) at Salk’awasi, Mollamarka, Peru.
Photo: Darlene Dunning

Then my mind came to rest on the memory of the Hopi father and son that we sponsored to the Andes that past summer. I recalled the gratitude they expressed frequently, through tears, to be gifted with the opportunity to be in circle with their Quechua brothers and sisters and what it meant to them.

As I absorbed the ultimate meaning of the young man’s question coupled with these recollections, I was surprised to find tears welling up from my heart, through my throat, discovering moisture in my eyes. And in a cracking voice, this is what I said to him.

The thought of that happening hurts my very soul.

***

Go to Part II.

*In an area now thoroughly infiltrated by missionaries and decimated by logging companies, Najá was the last hold-out until Chan K’in Viejo, their powerful Spirit Holder, passed in 1997 at about 105 years old. Don Antonio, his son-in-law, is now the last Spirit Keeper maintaining the traditional beliefs and ceremonies.

If you are called to support preservation of these fragile traditions—and have a life-transforming experience yourself—I invite you to join us for Entering the Maya Mysteries, January 13-25. Among other opportunities to engage with authentic Maya spiritual leaders, Grandmother Flordemayo, a member of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, will travel with us…lending her prayers to our circles.

Categories: Healing, Indigenous Wisdom, Lacandón Maya, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel, Travel Experiences | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Review: El Andalón (The Healer)

Don Sergio doctoring

Don Sergio Castro attending a patient.
Photo: Director Consuelo Alba & Producer John Speyer

El Andalón is a thirty-minute documentary about the healing work of humanitarian Don Sergio Castro who lives in San Cristóbal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico. It opens with a scene of Don Sergio swabbing a patient’s injury, all the while speaking kindly. He has been doing the same thing for nearly fifty years seeing about twenty people a day. His patients are the poor, coming to him from the town and surrounding area; and he makes the rounds to Maya villages where he’s much needed. The documentary contains several stories like this of a woman who had a severe injury to her leg:

I don’t know what kind of magic he has in his hands…but he heals…sometimes we aren’t so welcome in the hospital…(She breaks down in tears.)…I almost lost my leg and thanks to him I was healed…

My friend and colleague Carol Karasik said of Don Sergio: “He’s known as something of a saint here. He works with not even as much as most Americans have in their medicine cabinet.”

Don Sergio doesn’t charge his patients; they pay him with their blessings or tamales. His generosity has often made it difficult to make ends meet for his own family—or to fund the work to which he’s dedicated. Years ago, some patients began giving him their own traditional clothing. Don Sergio discovered that visitors were quite interested in these samples. He hit upon a brilliant idea and opened his own small textile museum, which doubles as a clinic. From that source and the occasional donation he’s somehow been able to keep going.

But his work doesn’t stop with doctoring. Villagers began asking him to help with other matters, including schools for their children where there were none. They had no help from the government. So far Don Sergio is responsible for raising funds to help them build twenty-five schools.

Ccochamocco School

School in the Q’ero village of Ccochamocco
Photo: Freddy Machacca

This clearly brought back my own remembrance of being asked by Q’ero spiritual leaders to help do the same for the high altitude village of Ccochmocco in the Andes of Peru: now operating since March 2010. It wasn’t an easy task.

With the dip in tourism to Mexico, Don Sergio’s ability to fund his work has been severely affected. At one point toward the end of the film he becomes overwhelmed with emotion. With a hand gesturing skyward he sends a prayer up that he finds a way to continue. It was heart-rending to me.

I somehow stumbled upon this documentary and then queried Carol. As a result we are now including an audience with Don Sergio and a visit to his textile museum in our “Entering the Maya Mysteries” program during our time in San Cristóbal. I have asked participants to bring any medical supplies they can as a part of our offering, aside from a donation I’ll make from Kenosis—and look at ongoing ways to support this self-less humanitarian work.

Viewers of the film will also get a glimpse Don Sergio with Don Antonio Martinez, with whom we engage in the Lacandón Maya village of Najá, as well as spiritual leader Chan K’in Viejo who passed in the 1990s. The village of Chamula will look familiar to folks who have traveled with us.

El Andalon

Film Poster
Director: Consuelo Albo
Producer: John Speyer

I want to personally thank director Consuelo Alba and producer John Speyer for bringing to light Don Sergio’s work; and to Culture Unplugged for sponsoring it on their website. You can view their documentary on Culture Unplugged. It’s well worth your time.

Categories: Film Review, Healing, Indigenous Wisdom, Lacandón Maya, Spiritual Travel, Travel Experiences | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wanderings and Inspiration

This is an excerpt of an article I published in 2006 about what happens when you leave “home” with intent; what can show up to inspire; and a bit about the beauty of the land and people of Chiapas, Mexico.

Lake Najá Photo

Lake Najá
©2011 Carla Woody

If I have an indulgence, it’s travel. On second thought, it’s not an indulgence at all, but one of the significant ways I care for myself. It serves as a gateway to wider experience of the world—and self-discoveries as well. These are intangibles I can bring home, like souvenirs, even if no one else can see them. But they won’t be put away in a drawer or gather dust on a shelf. Instead, they impact who and how I am in the world.

But it’s not just any kind of travel that has this effect. It’s the kind where I choose to step outside time. Having identified specific points in the calendar that the journey will begin and end, with a wide reach in-between, l just let go of any schedules or agendas. So strongly programmed by our culture to have both those things as absolute necessities of life, the residue may linger on for a bit until it clears completely. When the space vacates, it opens a portal toward untold treasures.

Palenque in the Mist

Palenque in the mist
© 2010 Carla Woody

Palenque

Over the years I’ve found myself drawn repeatedly to the Mexican state of Chiapas bordering Guatemala, particularly the Palenque area. The village of Palenque holds no real fascination. Stepping off the bus though, I did feel the familiar sense of anticipation. For as we headed out of town in a taxi toward our destination, climbing a bit in elevation, feeling the balmy air soothing my skin, a part of me sighed, “Ahhhh… home again.”

There was the dirt path alongside the road. Playing over memories of the many different times I traversed there, to and from the ruins, breaking out of the thick, moist rainforest from who knew where, or headed to Mayabel for a cold one in their open-air café, the screams of howler monkeys periodically punctuating the air in early morning or dusk.

The Palenque ruins, and those of Yaxchilán and Bonampak buried in the rainforest, contain a resonance, one captured through history and brought up through time. Unfortunately to me, things have changed and these places aren’t as obscure as they once were, but the vibration endures. Tourists who sprint through won’t experience it though. It takes lingering and opening to what these timeless places have to share. It takes immersion. Only then will they offer up their secrets.

The Lacandón Maya

The Lacandón Maya reside in this region in the depths of the Lacandón Jungle. Their appearance and form of traditional sacred rituals set them apart from the highland Maya. Their creation stories have the familiar ring of what we know from the ancient Maya of that area. For centuries they avoided contact with the outside world, continuing their practices and passing stories down through generations. They weren’t hidden enough. In the last several decades, like an infestation of fleas, missionaries and loggers descended.

Chan K’in Viejo

Chan K'in Viejo

Chan K’in Viejo
©1960 Collin Hanney

The central guardian of the ancient traditions was Chan K’in Viejo, the spirit holder of the Lacandones, living in the small enclave of Najá, a place, difficult to reach, in the heart of the Lacandón Biosphere. As the vast rainforest was whittled away around him, and more of his people were enticed away by Western trappings, he was steadfast in the virtues his tradition brought him. Quietly tending his crops, feeding the god pots with copal, leading the balché ceremonies and telling stories for those who would still listen, he held to the central truth. “The roots of all things are connected. When a tree is cut in the forest, a star falls in the sky.”

By the time he left this world in 1996 he may have sadly marveled there was any light left overhead so open was the view to the heavens! His great concern was also that the Lacandones would have no home and their ancient, esoteric tradition would no longer exist. (To link to a recording of Chan K’in Viejo speaking to his children in 1991, go here. The audio is in Lacandón Maya with transcripts also in Spanish/English.)

Trudi Duby Blom

Gertrude Duby Blom

Gertrude Duby Blom
Date and credit unknown

From the 1950s until her passing in 1993, Gertrude Duby Blom photographed many parts of Lacandón life, thereby documenting people and their traditions, nearly lost to us today. A deep friendship endured. Even today, should any Lacandones venture from their jungle homes to San Cristóbal de las Casas, they have lodging at Na Bolom, the House of the Jaguar. Once the home of Trudi and Frans Blom, it’s now a museum focusing on the life and traditions of the Lacandón Maya.

When my companion and I were in San Cristóbal, we visited Na Bolom, having lingered over the photos and ritual objects. I stood a long time in Trudi Blom’s small bedroom, looking at her personal items, gazing at her clothing still hung in a wardrobe, imagining what it must have been like to live her life.

What inspires me?

People who stand for what they believe, living an un-prescribed life—unless it’s a prescription of their own making. They are fresh and enduring, even if their un-prescribed life is a secret they hold, unknown to the masses, one practiced alone or acknowledged by few.

Then there are the places in this world that have invoked inspiration for many. The collective energy is maintained through the intensity of the ageless offerings and the beauty of the land.

These things are food for the soul discovered through my own wanderings and with those who consent to accompany me.

❖❖❖

To read the complete article go here. To learn more about our upcoming Winter Solstice 2012 and January 2013  Entering the Maya Mysteries program go here.


Categories: Indigenous Wisdom, Lacandón Maya, Personal Growth, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: