Posts Tagged With: intent

An Inspired Life: Xavier Quijas Yxayotl

In late 2013 Xavier Quijas Yxayotl—Huichol composer, musician and artist—shared his life story with me. It was a real privilege to hear of his origins, struggles and inspirations. The thing about Xavier is that you’d normally never know the details of his backstory. But maybe you would pick up there’s something deeper. He carries a sense of humility that typically only comes by having gone through hard times…survived…and having instilled great meaning in his life, touching others through his craft and presence.

Xavier Quijas Yxayotl

Portrait of Xavier Quijas Yxayotl with one of his handmade ancestral flutes. ©2015 Barry Wolf. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

With permission I turned his disclosures into a narrative that was picked up in 2014 by Still Point Arts Quarterly for their Fall 2015 issue. I thank editor Christine Cote for giving this important story space. I can now share the story in its entirety here as Xavier told it to me. I hope you are as inspired as I was.

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 Through the Dark

 The boy fidgeted. He was in foreign territory, held prisoner by his mother’s hand on his arm. They sat side-by-side in matching chairs before the great divide of a massive desk. His mother’s voice rose and fell. Words tumbled over each other as though, if she didn’t get them out fast enough, the man considering them would summarily swat them out the door, no different than pesky insects.

An hour before, his mother pulled him along inner city streets into a massive building. They finally stopped in front of one door among several down the long hall. She smoothed her skirt and combed fingers through his black hair. With a deep breath, she opened the door. The secretary looked up.

“Please, I would like to see the director,” his mother said.

“Do you have an appointment?” The secretary appraised them, noting their dusky skin and worn clothing. When she shook her head, the secretary motioned them to a row of chairs against the wall and picked up the phone. They waited.

The man behind the desk was impeccably dressed in a gray suit matching the color shot through his dark hair and mustache. The lines in his face softened as he listened, shifting attention from the Indian woman before him to the boy, eyes downcast, clutching a notebook in his lap.

“Maestro Caracalla, I am Señora Isabel. This is my son Xavier. He’s different, a good artist. In school he always fights because no one understands him, not the teachers, not the other kids. He’s always thinking. Since he was old enough to hold a pencil, he always draws and writes about everything. He’s like an old person in a little boy’s body!”

The woman continued at length relating how, in the last two years, her son kept running away to live on the streets. Xavier slept in parks, skipped school, survived by selling newspapers and shoe shines. Terrified, she would search and drag him home, if she was fortunate to find him. But the next day he’d be gone again. He wouldn’t do what his father wanted: to set aside these silly pastimes, to work making shoes to help support the family.

“We have seven children. Xavier is the youngest boy. We are very poor. But he is so different and I’m afraid what might happen to him. Is there something you can do?” She finished softly.

Maestro Caracalla gestured to the boy’s notebook, “Is this your work?”

Xavier froze in his chair and prayed to disappear. He didn’t think the Maestro would hit him like his father did, but he dreaded the reprimand he knew would come. He whispered, “Yes.”

“Show it to me then.” The room was silent save the sound of Maestro Caracalla slowly turning pages after scrutinizing each one. Finally he closed the book. Looking over wire-rimmed glasses, his eyes seemed to bore into Xavier’s very soul. He gazed at Señora Isabel then back at the boy, whose reddened face was moist with sweat. “Señora, I don’t think you have any idea what a beautiful child you have. What ideas! His writing doesn’t match his age. He’s not a normal child. You have to do something with him. We have to help him!”

Maestro Caracalla told her to bring the boy back the following Monday, handing over a long list of art materials to buy. There’s not enough to eat! How can we buy art supplies? Guilt flooded Xavier’s mind. He was certain of a dead end. But at the appointed time his mother delivered him to the Maestro. She could only muster a clean new drawing tablet and 6B pencil, keeping even that small expenditure hidden from her husband. The secretary ordered a sandwich for Xavier, although he said he didn’t need anything.

“Ah, there you are,” the Maestro swept in from his office. He took Xavier by the hand and led him down the hall. They stopped in all the classrooms where he spoke to the teachers, “I want to introduce Xavier. He’s coming to take classes.”

That is how an eleven-year-old Huichol Indian boy from the streets came to attend Escuela des Artes Plásticas, the art school in Guadalajara, Mexico—the youngest pupil ever to sit alongside regular university students. They became his peers and friends. Maestro Caracalla continued as his benefactor for six years, making sure he had all the classes he needed: writing, painting, art history and more…

Xavier Painting 1

Painting by Xavier at the age of 18. Photo courtesy of Xavier Quijas Yxayotl. All rights reserved.

 

Xavier painting-2

Xavier with one of his painted pow wow drums. Photo courtesy of Xavier Quijas Yxayotl. All rights reserved.

Continue reading Xavier’s story here and find out how he returned to the Huichol roots denied him as a child, and went on to resurrect ancient instruments lost to time through visitations from his ancestors.

Categories: Indigenous Wisdom, Interview, Music Review, The Writing Life, Visual Arts | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Book Review: Traveling with Pomegranates

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

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

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

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

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

Available in print and ebook on Amazon and elsewhere.

 

 

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

A Word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apparitions

Apparitions. Mixed media on panel. ©2014 Carla Woody

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

An Integrated Life

Living in a Western culture your life is compartmentalized. Maybe not across the board but largely so unless you’ve made a concerted effort to change what’s handed to us. That means creative expression is separate from work, which in turn is isolated from spirituality. Possibly the closest overlap may be spirituality relating to family or relationship. Or if you’re in a creative field of work where your deeper needs may be unleashed. Such disconnection results in dissatisfaction—an underlying sense of emptiness and lack of freedom that snowballs over time. Containment. I’m quite sure it wasn’t always that way but probably began with the Industrial Revolution and a move away from the land and community. The fact remains: it’s undeniably present. People attempt to fill the hole with ways that don’t work and are often quite harmful.

I had two reminders recently that initiated this post. A young woman from Los Angeles came into The Gallery in Williams, an artist cooperative where I’m a member. I happen to be on duty. When we struck up a conversation, I identified myself as one of the artists.

“I’m an artist,” she said then gestured to her partner. “But he’s a fine artist.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“He’s a full-time artist. But I work in a corporation. If I ever have time, then maybe I can do a little something.” Her shoulders slumped, and I could see she rarely had the time or energy left over to devote, given her hours and pressures at work.

Full moon over Bolivia. View from Island of the Sun, Lake Titicaca. ©2015 Carla Woody.

Full moon over Bolivia. View from Island of the Sun, Lake Titicaca. ©2015 Carla Woody.

I told her I used to live the same way. But over time I made conscious decisions to realign my life to what I believe, care about and what gives me energy rather than takes it…that it’s truly possible…that I had to do it for my own wellbeing or suffer the consequences. She asked for my contact information and said, “You’re going to hear from me.” Whether I do or not, I sensed we weren’t just making small talk. In those few moments, possibility created a crack in a previously closed space. And as Leonard Cohen said, “That’s how the light gets in.”

The issue: We don’t have many role models within our culture for those who lead an integrated life. I feel fortunate that I’ve had ongoing influences over twenty years. But it didn’t come from my own culture. I began to understand there was another way to live because I witnessed it within traditional Indigenous communities, especially those where I’ve spent consistent amounts of time. That’s how I know what I’ve seen isn’t isolated. Spiritual beliefs aren’t relegated to one day or a few minutes a week. They permeate everything: the way fields are tilled, the manner food is cooked, how children are raised, the things they create, and how communities interact.*

All is soundly grounded in such a way that gives life meaning and depth throughout. I have so much gratitude for this exposure, which has taught me the “how.” After a time of repetitive experiences, I consciously began to change how I live my own life. In the beginning, it seemed radical and difficult. Now it would be so to live any other way. Any aspect of my life organically dovetails into another.

Modesto

Modesto, long-time Q’ero friend and father to my godson, making prayers to the Pachamama (Mother Earth) and Apus (sacred mountain spirits) during ceremony outside Cusco. ©2015 Carla Woody.

I’ve just returned from this year’s spiritual travel program in Bolivia and Peru. Our Hopi program is coming soon in March, an opportunity for a solid week of witnessing what I discuss here. So my thoughts on integration are very present.

In closing circles I’ve heard concerns from travelers whether they’ll be able to experience the same depth at home. Of course, you can. Any deeply spiritual experience lives inside you always—no matter the form of its delivery. It becomes part of your identity and can be readily called into consciousness if you need a reminder.

I’ve also heard comment about withholding such spiritual consciousness, as though it would become tainted, if carried over to another aspect of life—usually work. Why would you want to keep it in the closet? That would cause internal conflict. (Understand I’m not talking at all about proselytizing, a different matter entirely I find an offensive intrusion.)

When you live through your spiritual values, there’s a trickle down effect shaping who you are in the world, what you believe about yourself and others, how you approach matters, what you create. It doesn’t even involve talking about those values. Yet, all shifts. It’s often visible to others as well. Even if they can’t put their finger on the difference.

I long ago realized folks come to engage in these journeys for reasons they may not be able to articulate but are present throughout all the same. It may play out in different forms but the desire for clarity, resolution and integration are primary and inform re-entry home.

We’re all tested all the time. It comes down to belief about possibility, choice and knowing the “how to.” It means staying strong so you can walk through life with grace. It means knowing the full sense of your birthright and giving yourself a chance to own it.

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*That doesn’t mean influences for Indigenous peoples to get off track are nonexistent. There are, mostly coming from Western ways. If they give in to them, the same angst occurs and harms wellbeing…maybe more so because their blood knows another way.

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Invitation: Join us for our December 4-5 Spirit Keepers Series in Phoenix where Eli PaintedCrow, Yaqui-Mexica Wisdom Keeper, and I offer a primer on ways to walk in two worlds—Indigenous and Western—and live through spiritual values. Donation basis.

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

How I Released My Monkish Ways

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Visitation

The Visitation
Mixed media on board.
©2011 Carla Woody

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

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

Winter Solstice

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

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

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

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

Video: Jo Berry on Making Peace with the Enemy

On September 28, Kenosis Spirit Keepers and the Quad-City Interfaith Council co-sponsored a talk in Prescott, Arizona by Jo Berry, global peace activist, following the film screening of Beyond Right and Wrong: Stories of Justice and Forgiveness. She is one of those featured.

This video includes Jo’s moving words on the process she has gone through, her reconciliation with Pat Magee, one of the men who planted the IRA bomb that killed her father, and the reflections of the audience. For more background and a link to view the documentary free online, read my review here.

This is about our collective humanity and global consciousness. How can we pull together in the face of the alarming increase of violence and tragedy? View the video and film. You will witness how some courageous people are doing so.

I want to express appreciation to those in the Prescott, Arizona community who showed up and engaged. Also, many thanks to Prescott College, who provided the space, and their Media Center for filming the talk and discussion so we can share it with others. The graphic nature of the subject matter was very difficult to view but inspiring at the same time—showing how people can reach deep inside themselves to find common ground and heal.

Such venues to address the increasing violence in our world are so important, especially in these times, to explore what we as individuals can do to stop it. It’s always been the grassroots that have made a true difference. Not the politicians.

If you are in the Prescott, Arizona area and would like to participate in a free skill-building study group using materials provided with the documentary, email me with your contact information. I will pass it on to the person forming the group.

If you are interested in having a film screening and talk with Jo Berry in your home community, email your contact info and I will forward. Jo travels globally with this message of peacemaking and hope.

Categories: Compassionate Communication, Global Consciousness, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Film Review: Human

Human Documentary

Over the last couple of days I watched Human, a series of three films just released by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, consisting of 2000 interviews over 3 years, covering 60 countries, on aspects of being human. The films moved me at such a level that words haven’t yet surfaced enough to string together a cohesive review.

This is what I can write. You could watch this series solely for the cinematography and soundtrack and it would be transporting. But if you also embraced the words, raw emotion and beauty, the courage and honesty of those interviewed speaking directly from personal experience, it will affect your soul. You see only their faces looking directly into the camera against a black backdrop. You hear only their voices, in their native tongue, distilled in a way you cannot ignore, translated into subtitles. Perhaps the best way to write this review is by directly quoting some of them.

In our language we have no such thing as ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ because what is expected of us is that we share and we give what we have…And not only for Aboriginal people, I expect people from all around the world would do the same before money…

…It’s not the gender of the person I love that defines me. It’s the quality of my loving that defines who I am…

…You must love all human beings for what they are deep down. For only the love of all people can save the world…

…What will I leave behind?…It has to do with the meaning of life…

…I’m very happy when it rains. When I drink milk and I have a good life. When I have a good hut that protects me when it rains…

…I always have amazing things happening to me…but that comes from believing in luck or believing in the power of attraction…Just my experiences of traveling the world in a wheelchair, I’ve seen life from a different angle…That’s taught me on a spiritual level to be happy…

…When we work the land it gives back in silence…

…Why did you, the company, destroy the farmers’ lands?…

…Let’s make a human chain so the monks can get away…

…You shall see who controls the world: you the politicians or we the people…

…There’s a universal dynamic and I want to be a part of it…

As the credits were rolling on the last film one of those interviewed is shown saying: You’ve brought up important things for me today. The films have done the same for me. Having watched the testimonies of people spread around the world, I will be making my own daily choices more thoughtfully.

Watch the trailer on You Tube.

View the series of three films for free streaming online on Films for Action. Each one is a bit less than 1.5 hours but may be viewed separately at your leisure.

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Two of the interviewees were also featured in the film Beyond Right and Wrong that I reviewed last month.

Categories: Film Review, Global Consciousness, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Through the Dark in Still Point Arts Quarterly

Fire flute

Xavier playing the fire flute, his own translation of a ceremonial experience. Courtesy photo.

I was privileged to interview Xavier Quijas Yxayotl, who grew up on the streets of Guadalajara, Mexico. Until adolescence he was spurned by peers, misunderstood by teachers and family alike, often abused. Then an unlikely benefactor came forward whose support opened possibilities. But it was the boy who stepped up, seized them, grew his talents and embraced the Huichol Indian lineage his family denied. Especially notable, he resurrected ceremonial instruments of his homeland that were lost to time; the way to do so came through dreams. His is an inspirational story of a boy who answered his calling—against all odds—and went on to become internationally known as a composer, ritual musician, artist and spiritual healer.

I’m delighted to announce that my article Through the Dark is being published in the Fall 2015 issue of Still Point Arts Quarterly, a literary arts journal, with much appreciation going to Xavier for indulging me. Here’s the preview of a story of true intent.

The boy fidgeted. He was in foreign territory, held prisoner by his mother’s hand on his arm. They sat side-by-side in matching chairs before the great divide of a massive desk. His mother’s voice rose and fell. Words tumbled over each other as though, if she didn’t get them out fast enough, the man considering them would summarily swat them out the door, no different than pesky insects.

An hour before, his mother pulled him along inner city streets into a massive building. They finally stopped in front of one door among several down the long hall. She smoothed her skirt and combed fingers through his black hair. With a deep breath, she opened the door. The secretary looked up.

“Please, I would like to see the director,” his mother said.

“Do you have an appointment?” The secretary appraised them, noting their dusky skin and worn clothing. When she shook her head, the secretary motioned them to a row of chairs against the wall and picked up the phone. They waited.

The man behind the desk was impeccably dressed in a gray suit matching the color shot through his dark hair and mustache. The lines in his face softened as he listened, shifting attention from the Indian woman before him to the boy, eyes downcast, clutching a notebook in his lap. “Maestro Caracalla, I am Señora Isabel. This is my son Xavier. He’s different, a good artist. In school he always fights because no one understands him, not the teachers, not the other kids. He’s always thinking. Since he was old enough to hold a pencil, he always draws and writes about everything. He’s like an old person in a little boy’s body!”

The woman continued at length relating how, in the last two years, her son kept running away to live on the streets. Xavier slept in parks, skipped school, survived by selling newspapers and shoe shines. Terrified, she would search and drag him home, if she was fortunate to find him. But the next day he’d be gone again. He wouldn’t do what his father wanted: to set aside these silly pastimes, to work making shoes to help support the family.

“We have seven children. Xavier is the youngest boy. We are very poor. But he is so different and I’m afraid what might happen to him. Is there something you can do?” She finished softly.

Maestro Caracalla gestured to the boy’s notebook, “Is this your work?”

Xavier froze in his chair and prayed to disappear. He didn’t think the Maestro would hit him like his father did, but he dreaded the reprimand he knew would come. He whispered, “Yes.”

“Show it to me then.” The room was silent save the sound of Maestro Caracalla slowly turning pages after scrutinizing each one. Finally he closed the book. Looking over wire-rimmed glasses, his eyes seemed to bore into Xavier’s very soul. He gazed at Señora Isabel then back at the boy, whose reddened face was moist with sweat. “Señora, I don’t think you have any idea what a beautiful child you have. What ideas! His writing doesn’t match his age. He’s not a normal child. You have to do something with him. We have to help him!”

Maestro Caracalla told her to bring the boy back the following Monday, handing over a long list of art materials to buy. There’s not enough to eat! How can we buy art supplies? Guilt flooded Xavier’s mind. He was certain of a dead end. But at the appointed time his mother delivered him to the Maestro. She could only muster a clean new drawing tablet and 6B pencil, keeping even that small expenditure hidden from her husband. The secretary ordered a sandwich for Xavier, although he said he didn’t need anything.

“Ah, there you are,” the Maestro swept in from his office. He took Xavier by the hand and led him down the hall. They stopped in all the classrooms where he spoke to the teachers, “I want to introduce Xavier. He’s coming to take classes.”

That is how an eleven-year-old Huichol Indian boy from the streets came to attend Escuela des Artes Plásticas, the art school in Guadalajara, Mexico—the youngest pupil ever to sit alongside regular university students. They became his peers and friends. Maestro Caracalla continued as his benefactor for six years, making sure he had all the classes he needed: writing, painting, art history and more.

Still Point Arts QuarterlyTo obtain the Fall 2015 Still Point Arts Quarterly—a beautifully illustrated journal featuring art portfolios and featured articles—and read the rest of his fascinating story, go here.

Categories: Arts, Creativity Strategies, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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