Posts Tagged With: Mysticism

How to Lose Your Skin and Be Consumed

The title is not what you may at first think. It’s not about being eaten alive in the literal sense. But I did want to get your attention. It is about being consumed to the degree that you come alive in ways you may not have experienced.

I found the work of Will Johnson through Future Primitive, a podcast co-produced by Joanna Harcourt-Smith and José Luis Gómez Soler. Joanna interviews guests using a framework: What is it like to be in sacred communion with our living Earth? Will is a Buddhist practitioner with Sufi leanings dedicated to breathing practices that wake up the body. He’s long been offering retreats and teachings through the Institute of Embodiment Training, now in Costa Rica.

What first caught my attention was a statement Will made early in the interview. He was at an event and looked out over those gathered, noticing how very still, even stiff, people were in their sitting meditation. That let him know most of those gathered were not breathing fully, nor engaging the body as part of the process. Shallow breaths.

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©2015 Carla Woody.

I reflected on my own daily practice that has evolved over 35+ years. I was all about the breath, particularly in the early days, directing it in such a way that it opened my energy field and sometimes instigated involuntary movement. Then later for several years I participated in the local Sufi circle, especially zikr, which was anything but inactive.*

Listening to Will, I began to wonder if I’d become complacent. I no longer actively use breath or chants in the way I did in the past, but sit first thing in the morning, say a prayer of gratitude, then close my eyes. When I do, I become engulfed in palpable energy that ebbs and flows. It’s always there no matter how long I sit – 5 minutes, an hour or more. I feel tremendous connection. The witness part of me has noticed there are often times it appears I’ve stopped breathing for periods, but am not holding my breath. When I do finally take another breath it’s subtle. I call it “the breath of no-breath.” I’ve read about such occurrences in literature from Kriya Yoga. My body is quite still but doesn’t feel stiff in my awareness. What I’ve come to has worked for me.

But I decided to undertake the method Will calls the Hollow Bamboo Dharma Practice that focuses on the body and actively uses breath to open six points, freeing energy. This method can lead to a state of unity he calls the Great Wide Open and being breathed by the Divine, Universe, God or whatever anyone may call the Force Field of Creation.

I’ve experienced the state he describes. I call it “losing my skin” where there’s a sense of no separation, a state of being permeated by All That Is, in a way hard to describe, slipping into it with no intent of doing so—that gives deep comfort. Time disappears. I disappear. In the times it has occurred, I’ve almost always been meditating in nature. I can remember one time it happened during a prolonged Sufi retreat. The difference is my experiences have occurred spontaneously, infrequently. I don’t know really how such a sacred unity occurred.

Because of the pandemic, stay-at-home orders and uncertainty of the world, I decided to enter retreat and use this new-to-me approach to meditation as a framework. In his generosity, Will has on his website downloadable audios of a 3-evening presentation where he introduces his philosophies related to what he teaches, and the actual practice he calls Breathing Through the Whole Body. He’s quick to state this shouldn’t be considered a technique, that it’s a natural way of breathing and will feel that way over time.

Of all his books, I chose to get his newest one, Breathing as Spiritual Practice: Experiencing the Presence of God, because the title appealed to me. It turned out to be rather synchronous. I hadn’t read the description very carefully. This book is largely from his personal journaling over his own 10-day retreat several years ago using what he teaches, with each chapter given to one day. I decided to read a chapter each day of my own retreat, usually after I’d done the meditations according to his direction introduced in the audios. When I started reading the book, I found his retreat site to be one where I’d stayed myself, albeit for a very brief time, just a taste with a promise to myself to return. So, his recounting of Christ in the Desert, an isolated Benedictine monastery of silent retreat, in a box canyon at the end of 13 miles of bad dirt road in northern New Mexico, was already alive within me.

Here I’m offering a synopsis of my own process in retreat using the methods on the audio tapes.

I normally sit on my sofa cross-legged with a straight back. To make sure my knees were lower than my pelvis per his instructions, I transferred my meditations to the floor and sat at the edge of a zafu, legs crossed with knees on the floor. I noticed it straightened my spine completely, allowed me to elongate more and sit much taller without effort. The first instruction was about body awareness. I noticed immediately that, in this posture, my sacrum was unhappy and the muscle around my right clavicle was tight, exactly the place my massage therapist always goes after. It was achy but wasn’t unmanageable. This told me I was compensating and, as a norm, ignoring discomfort. This is the kind of thing Will said would be noticeable if you’ve been numbing out pain in the body. On point.

In the audios, Will is good about gently guiding the breath, spot by spot, introducing subtle movement, until the last sequence where you’re breathing in the six directions he identifies. I soon recognized I hadn’t done really deep breathing in years, which was the second point. The idea is to begin your breath in the belly—no problem there—and continue the in-breath all the way up to the uppermost sacs of the lungs at the top of the ribs…up the neck and into the cranium. Wait, what? The cranium? Now I can tell you it’s possible. But for me, not at first…

First time out of the bag, I was able to take in breath until my chest swelled. But I hit a wall when attempting to continue to the top of the ribs. Persisting over a couple of days, I guess I finally experienced body memory. My breath then found the pathway and continued right up into the cranium. Really. Well, I’m not so sure if it was actual breath but perhaps the energy of the breath. Something physical happened though. First the base of my skull popped and then it felt like my entire cranium subtly began moving with the breath.

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©2015 Carla Woody. 

One of the other things wonderful was that, through the breath, I was receiving an inner massage that affected my outer body and relaxed those spots that were protesting. My lumbar let go almost immediately. It took more for that muscle below my right clavicle to release. But I could feel, at the end of 10 days, it was stretching outward and loosening.

It doesn’t take long to get into the state. Once learned, your body knows the way. A by-product, thought also dissipates in such a way there’s just a feeling presence. Even if thoughts return—because they will—it’s easy to return to the breath, and they release.

I did have something occur that was distinctly unpleasant but wasn’t surprised because it had happened once before. About 20 years ago, I was going through a very difficult phase in my life. In order to maintain equilibrium, I was meditating long hours a day. It had a profound impact on my wellbeing. But when you do so, it loosens things that have been trapped, or consciously shut off, deep in the psyche that can come to the surface in different ways…in order to release.

I normally do not remember my dreams. When I do, it usually has to do with some deep spiritual meaning, awe inspiring but not scary. I have so rarely had nightmares in my life, they wouldn’t number the fingers on one hand. But during that time long ago I’m referencing, I had some kind of waking dream where I was surrounded by lepers reaching for me, brushing me. Like something biblical. I felt it all. I was terrified. I started to move and leap out of bed when a voice said to me…Just go into it. Merge with it. Like the story goes, invite the demon in to tea. I did that, and the fear and revulsion released. A sense of calm replaced it.

I’ve never had such a dark night experience recur until about 10 days ago. I think I was on Day 5 of my retreat when I had another waking dream like some godawful place out of Hieronymus Bosch or Dante’s Inferno, and I was in the middle of it. My chest was heaving. I felt electrified. I leaped out of bed, my entire body shaking. The visuals stopped but my body was still there. No saving voice this time giving wise counsel. I had to walk around for a while to calm myself. I was up the rest of the night.

As if it had arrived on cue, two days later reading Will’s Day 7, he had a similar dark night. Not necessarily the same content but within the same spirit.

At least I’d had some previous experience of this territory, and wasn’t caught by surprise. I’m quite sure this was brought on by the pandemic, the global chaos, level of death and destruction of what is familiar. I’d been aware of how very calm I’d been about the whole thing, even had some remarking on that. Not at all cavalier. But stopping short of entering the horror, which as somewhat of an empath, I can easily do. So, it’s no wonder fear of the unknown and real grief for this worldwide devastation had to surface, in order to break any internal paralysis, and be released instead into the realm of compassion.

It’s not pleasant to go through such things, but I don’t at all begrudge them. It’s part of the spiritual path. It’s just good to know the possibility exists. I was glad to see Will brought that particular aspect up in his writing.

In the book, he mentioned you could do the practice of breathing through the whole body anywhere, suggesting when laying down or walking out in nature. I tried both but didn’t have the same effect as I do during sitting meditation. Laying down I didn’t feel the full energy of my body as much. Walking out my front door onto trust land may not have been the best place to try it out in nature. I was too distracted by the roughness of the trail. I suspect I will get better at these other settings with more practice, once this way of breathing is second nature.

My practice continues. I recognize what I’ve undertaken here has health benefits, increased my physical energy and my sleep is so much better. I have a keen appreciation for the spiritual aspects. I didn’t yet get to the place where I lose my skin but imagine that may come. I’m grateful for this additional way of breath, body and energy and am incorporating it into my early mornings.

***

* Quoting Pir Shabda Kahn, Spiritual Director of the Sufi Ruhaniat International: “The mysticism of breath is central. Repetition of sacred sound is central. And the art of living wholesomely is also central. Our effort is to learn to live in the breath twenty-four hours a day. The actual practice is to outwardly connect with the breath, be conscious of the breath, and let the breath fall into its natural rhythm of inhalation and exhalation. And we combine sound and breath. We put a sacred phrase ‘on the breath.’ We do this in meditation, and we do this throughout the day. It could be Om Mani Padme Hum. So, we might put Om Mani Padme Hum on the in-breath and then again on the out-breath, and breathe it out throughout the day, throughout our life.
We recite sacred phrases out loud. Repetition is important. Sound has an effect apart from meaning, based on the rhythm it creates in our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies. One of the phrases we recite is called ‘zikr.’ The phrase is La Ilaha Ilaha Allah Hu. It includes both negation (there is nothing but God—separateness is a false notion) and affirmation (experience yourself as the ONE).”

To read this interview in full, go here.

 

Categories: Book Review, Contemplative Life, Meditation | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Breath, Energy and Lifeforce

[This article includes a free download of a breath meditation at the end.]

It seemed to me like something was coming. I had a similar sense when I was in my late thirties. Back then, I knew something was hovering on the horizon, but I just couldn’t see what. It turned out to be a big shake-up in my life. A time of new awareness. Clarity. A recognition I could no longer live the way I had. That recognition led to significant choices that placed me squarely on the path I’ve been on ever since. I still don’t have a word for it…this walk that chose me. But know when I’m aligned to it, and when I falter. This is at the personal level.

What I’ve been sensing, as many had—long before it happened—is global upheaval. Now here it is. Something like this had to happen to rip the foundation out from under us. Something big enough to stop us short. Indeed, it has. Collectively, we couldn’t go on much longer without things coming apart in a catastrophic way. We’ve been forced into lockdown, to shelter-in-place—a phrase I’d never heard before now.

I prefer to say that we’ve been called into retreat. We have things to consider, foundational things…each of us.

I know I do because I’m relieved to be here, at home, having been forced to reschedule commitments and journeys all the way into next year. I see open space stretching out in front of me and relish it for the rich possibilities it brings. It’s been a very long time since I allowed myself to meditate for longer than an hour during daily practice. Not so now.

After a few days, it’s no longer about allowing. I’m naturally slipping into those longer hours, finding it to be a familiar place that I haven’t stepped into in a long time but always remember…because significant clarity came from that space. And I became different as a result of being there.

But it wasn’t at all a place of mind but rather a space of Unity with the Absolute from which Silence is naturally delivered…and unseen, unheard but felt guidance is offered. And the entry is through breath and energy. You could say mysticism is the by-product.

I’m looking to emerge from retreat with another perspective. I’m holding out for a deeper way of living and appreciating.

For several years, back in the late 90s to early 2000s, I held a regular meditation circle. I’ve never had any religious affiliation so felt free to borrow from Sufi, Buddhist or any other sources that that worked well to enter a non-mind state.

There was one meditation I used frequently with the circle I called Chakra Breathing. People found it particularly useful to deepen their state of being, relaxation and alleviate physical issues. I’ve had folks use it pre and post surgeries to support healing. I actually created it for myself in my late 20s for healing purposes. They asked me to record it.

It occurred to me that some may find it useful in the environment we find ourselves now.

We’re all in this together after all.

Connection

Download Chakra Breathing here.

Please feel free to download and share this 20-minute meditation.

Intended to accompany meditative practice, this recording uses the breath as a conduit to still spaces against a backdrop of Tibetan bells. Chakra Breathing is a tool to cleanse and vitalize the energy centers of the body and lead to that inner sanctity called Silence.

Categories: Contemplative Life, Energy Healing, Global Consciousness, Meditation, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Nurturing Core Silence

My invitation to meditation came nearly forty years ago. As many such things that arrive, it was of necessity, and I was unconscious of it in the moment. Thankfully, that time I paid attention to the part of me that knew—but back then would usually ignore…until I didn’t. A strong message: I must come down out of my head in order to live. You can read this as a metaphor, which is valid. But it was also a physical reality. I had driven myself into the ground until my body rebelled with a clear communication. It took that. I wasn’t listening. It stopped me short and laid me flat. It was serious. A hard learning curve.

It was in the recovery process the pull to meditation became pronounced. Now I would say I was just following the energy. Even that phrase is a poor descriptor. For some things, there are just no words. I had no real framework at the time. Even though “meditation” had become a buzzword…if there were classes where I was living at the time, they were underground, and I wasn’t part of the network.

I turned to research. How I came to these classics—Human Energy Systems by Jack Schwarz and Joy’s Way by Brugh Joy—is lost to time. Although my well-worn copies have remained on my bookshelf as a testament. Their content was a fit for me. I was able to come to my own method using breath and energy. Experiential. Of the body and beyond the body. I didn’t know what I was doing, frankly.

I began a practice that has stayed with me to this day: I got up at least an hour earlier than I did previously so as not to be rushed. (This is the point, isn’t it?) I sat. The mental chatter was an aggressive distractor. Finally, after quite a while, I started getting the hang of it. Then something totally unexpected started occurring.

Pain, pressure and weird sensations that—with my eyes closed—felt like my body was strangely contorting. It was only in opening my eyes, that I would discover I was still sitting upright, never having moved. Much later I would understand I was experiencing blocked energy. I learned through contrast as I began to kinesthetically experience flow in, through and around my body, stronger and stronger over decades. It’s been my saving grace. It’s affected how I live. I don’t know where I’d be without it…this gift from beyond my self.

Silence

It used to frustrate me there’s no Mysticism for Dummies book. No explicit instructions. How could there be? Any true book on mysticism, usually the most obscure, only allude to the elements of the path, always veiled, sometimes through metaphor. There are no words. It’s also a protection from ourselves. The mind loves to get wrapped around the right way to do things, losing out in the process.

What I’ve found most useful is not to read much in this realm. So much better for me to immerse myself and be present. Becoming aware through experience. When later if I stumble across something that documents the elements I’ve come to know experientially, it serves to validate something whose territory is already familiar.

silence bookOn that note, several months ago I stumbled upon Silence: The Mystery of Wholeness by Robert Sardello. There are examples of spiritual literature over the centuries, wisdom writings of great mystics, identifying the heart as the seat of spiritual perception. His writing goes steps beyond in leading the reader to the Presence that resides in the seat of spiritual perception…the wisdom source. This is not something abstract. It’s grounded in full vibration and kinesthetically recognizable. He also offers practices to recognize and develop this spiritual muscle. I’m going to stop here as this is your own area to explore if you like.

Over twenty years ago, I first came upon the word kenosis, coming from Greek, meaning to empty. I identified with it as the path I’ve chosen. The act of kenosis is more though than releasing, letting go. That’s part of the process. But ultimately, it’s about creating the inner spaciousness that invites something else. I resonate with what Robert Sardello gives name to—The Silence and that it comes as grace.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Contemplative Life, Energy Healing, Meditation, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

The Fierce Devotion of Noor Inayat Khan

For nearly a decade I was involved in the local Sufi community. I studied the teachings of Hazrat Inayat Khan who first brought Sufism to the West in 1910 – directed to do so by his own Sufi teacher in India. I attended zikr, a devotional chanting practice, regularly and, in the late 1990s, went to India with a group led by Pir Shabda Kahn, now spiritual director of the the Sufi Ruhaniat International in San Francisco. In Delhi, we paid our respects at the dargah of Hazrat Inayat Khan and, encircling his grave, raised our voices in zikr. The vibrations of this dogma-free Path of the Heart remain with me.

Noor Inayat KhanYet never did I hear of his daughter Noor Inayat Khan in all that time I was so immersed in Sufi practice and study. Somehow, I came across a reference to her on the Internet. Curious because of her name, I did some research and was baffled by what I found.  The source said this first-born child of Hazrat Inayat Khan had been an agent for the Secret Operations Executive (SOE), an espionage agency known as “Churchill’s Secret Army.” I thought to myself, how could a young woman raised within that sacred lineage become a British spy? I delved more deeply and could clearly see what drove her.

Noor’s father — descendant of Indian nobility, Indian classical musician, Sufi mystic — met her mother Amina Begum né Ora Ray Baker — niece to a US Senator, cousin to Mary Baker Eddy who founded the Christian Science Church — at a public lecture he gave in San Francisco. Their love came quickly, but their courtship and prospective marriage were unacceptable to their families. They left the US and married in London. Four children quickly came along.

The family moved frequently and was largely dependent upon the generosity of followers. Her father traveled widely much of the time introducing Sufism to the West and forming centers. The family finally found a home in 1922 in Suresnes, close to Paris center, purchased for them by a wealthy Dutch devotee. Fazal Manzil, meaning House of Blessings, became their home and, for three months each summer, a Sufi school that overflowed with followers. There Noor grew up surrounded by family and community steeped in Sufi mysticism. She was a musician who played traditional Indian instruments and a singer of ragas, taught by her father. She was a poet and writer of children’s stories. Noor was consistently described as gentle, dreamy and shy even into adulthood. In some ways, it was an idyllic, if insular, upbringing. But her life changed dramatically when her father passed in 1927 while in India. Then in 1940 even more so when the family was forced to flee to London as the Germans advanced.

That was the significant point of departure from her former life. This introverted young woman, a practicing Sufi, was set on doing something to defend France. She volunteered for the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and was randomly chosen to train as a wireless operator. Noor was noticed by the SOE and subsequently invited for an interview, then offered a position.

At times she gave her superiors fits for she refused to lie, that necessary tool of a secret agent. They had to reframe the requirements of the job and relanguage things she would need to say in order for it to be palatable for her sensibilities. However, she wasn’t tricked into what she was about to encounter.

Radio operators had about a six-week survival rate in German-occupied territory. Their job of tapping out coded messages back to England made them prime targets by the enemy. Noor was the first woman to be dropped into occupied France, making her way to Paris. She had to move frequently to avoid detection, and faced danger continually. The radio had to be carried in a clunky briefcase, readily noticeable and an instant giveaway if cracked open.

The SOE espionage networks fell apart. One agent after another was caught, interrogated, jailed, executed or, worse, shipped off to concentration camps. Finally, she was the only remaining radio operator. Noor was alone. She was told to evacuate by her superiors back in England. She refused and persisted radioing coded missals on her frequency, Poste Madeleine.

How she remained calm in the middle of terrible danger can only be due to the great spiritual strength she carried. She steadily gave the Gestapo the slip until she didn’t. Enduring lengthy interrogation and torture, she gave away nothing. Dachau was the final stop.

She called out one word in the split second before her execution. Liberté!

Noor is a sacred Sufi word meaning light.

***

There is much to this story not mentioned here. Although posthumously awarded the honors, the George Cross by Britain and the Croix de Guerre by France, Noor’s incredible bravery and all the lives she saved by such fierce devotion went otherwise unsung for years. She was in the company of many equally as courageous but outside mainstream. She wasn’t a white man.

But over the last 15 years she is being given her due. The Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust was founded in London to “promote the message of peace, non-violence and religious and racial harmony, the principles Noor Inayat Khan stood for.” And her memorial was unveiled in 2012 in Gordon Square by Princess Anne.

The 2013 film Enemy of the Reich gives a good overview of her war years. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime.

If you really want to understand how this unlikely young woman was so inspired, risked her life and maintained her unshakeable courage to the very end, read the 2006 book Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan by Shrabani Basu. Available in the public library and wherever books are sold.

Categories: Book Review, Film, Sacred Reciprocity, Sufism | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Teresita

In 1889, a young girl was overcome with a mysterious affliction, some say a response brought on by an attack from a rejected suitor. She fell ill to the degree she took no sustenance and descended into a coma-like state. Nothing could be done either by the ranch’s curandera, the local doctor or the ever-present praying women circled around her bed. As her skin grayed and shriveled, her father had to face a reality. She was quickly slipping away. On the twelfth day, he instructed his men to build a coffin. When finally her breath ceased, heart stilled and no pulse could be found, all knew the worst had happened. After the ritual washing of the body, she was clothed in white and laid on a table in a room with candles, the coffin nearby. There she would be placed the next morning. The women began their overnight vigil, praying as they would. Suddenly, about midnight, there was a scream from one of the women who glanced up from her bowed head to notice slight flickering of the girl’s closed eyes and movement in her body. Then more screams from the rest and a rush out the door…for the girl slowly sat up and began looking around the room disoriented.

Over the next three months, she remained in a trance-like state. Her weakened condition returned to normal over that time, but for much of it she had to be cared for and fed. She showed no interest in food and displayed no emotions or interest in anything. Remaining in her room, she withdrew into herself or sometimes gazed into space as though seeing beyond this dimension.

Then one day, the fugue lifted as quickly as it came…and she began to heal the afflicted merely through her presence, gaze of her eyes, vibration of her words, and laying on of hands. And somehow…she correctly foretold futures. None of these capabilities existed previously.

teresitaShe was 17 years old. Her name was Teresa Urrea, affectionately known as Teresita, the illegitimate daughter of Cayetana Chávez and Tomás Urrea. Soon she would become widely known, throughout Mexico, the US and elsewhere, as Santa Teresa of Cabora and, in some circles, the Mexican Joan of Arc and Queen of the Yaquis.

Teresita’s mother was a Tehueco Indian, 14 years old at her daughter’s birth. Her father was a wealthy landholder of Spanish lineage, a patron owning several ranches. At 15, she was taken into Don Tomás’ home where she made the transition to a girl of privilege – for which she cared little – while alternately being schooled in herbalism by Huila, the ranch’s curandera. Her heart rested with those who had the least, and the Mayo and Yaqui Indians of the Sonoran region.

Teresita first began her healing ways with mothers during childbirth, easing pain and moving babies in dangerous birthing positions. But quickly the incidents moved on to other ailments. There was an uncanny similarity to some of the stories of Jesus. A paralyzed man found he walked after her quiet urging and touch. A deaf boy suddenly able to hear. There were countless others. Now, such fantastic tales could easily be dismissed were it not for the fact that they were corroborated by eye witnesses and consistent over time. When she was unable to dispel disease, she instilled peace and readiness for passing.

Word spread like wildfire. It wasn’t long until the sick and their families, in the thousands, made pilgrimage, setting up camp to wait for audiences with Teresita. In all her short lifetime, she accepted nothing from people for her work. Life for Santa Teresita of Cabora – declared so by the people she served (which brought anger from the Catholic Church) – her father or any of those associated with the Urrea ranch would never be the same again.

The Yaqui and Mayo Indians uplifted her as their champion. Word made its way to northern Chihuahua, and the ears of Cruz Chávez, a rebel mestizo religious fanatic in the remote village of Tomochic. Chávez and followers made their own journey to consult Teresita. Thereafter, he kept correspondence with her until his death during the siege and massacre of Tomochic, perpetrated by Porfirio Díaz, president of Mexico, and the federal army.

Although Teresita’s message was always one of peace and tolerance, she was blamed for the Tomochic uprising, a precursor to the Mexican Revolution. Later discovery of letters between Chávez and Teresita proved her innocent of any inciting. However, the Mexican government continued to hold her accountable for subversive activities regarding insurgence of the Yaqui and Tomochi and feared her influence. At the age of 19, this devout young woman – an Innocent in so many ways – was arrested by the federales. Threatened with execution, she opted for exile over the border to the US. Don Tomás left his wife, mistress, many children and properties behind and accompanied her. Over the next years Teresita would be exploited by a “medical company” for their own gain and a political activist-publisher, a longtime family friend, in support of his cause against Porfirio Díaz. She would live in Arizona, Texas, California and New York, and travel across the US.

Santa Teresita of Cabora would finally return to the small town of Clifton in eastern Arizona where she would live out her days. There she was diagnosed with tuberculosis and passed in 1906 at 33 leaving two young children. Having healed so many, she was unable to heal herself. She is buried next to her father.

Teresita remains venerated.

I will admit to a fascination with Teresita, her life being well documented. I’m not the only one. William Curry Holden, historian and archaeologist, researched her life for 20 years, speaking to those remaining who had known her and going to the places she had frequented, along with unearthing newspaper articles of the time. His investigation culminated in Teresita, a straightforward biography published in 1978 that reads like a good novel.

Author Luis Urrea discovered he was Teresita’s great-nephew after a colleague suggested it in 1978. He thought back to what he considered interesting but false family stories he’d heard as a boy from an aunt in Tijuana describing an ancestor who could heal and fly. Then he found there were those who had written books about her. His lengthy novels The Hummingbird’s Daughter (2005) and Queen of America (2011) fill in any gaps left by Holden with lyrical language and story.

I’ve read all 3 of these books but left wanting more. This spring I may be making a pilgrimage over to Clifton in search of any lingering presence Teresita may have left.

Categories: Book Review, Contemplative Life, Healing, Indigenous Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Article Published in Sacred Hoop Magazine

I am pleased to announce that my article When the Invisible Manifests about my direct experience of speaking with the mountain and earth spirits – Apus and Santa Tierras, respectively – has been published by Sacred Hoop Magazine based in Southwest Wales. When the Invisible Manifests contains background on the open secret of these mystical sessions, and a detailed account of my encounter in Cusco.

SacredHoopCover#99

I’m particularly delighted because this visually beautiful magazine is one of the longest-standing journals on shamanism going back to 1993. Sacred Hoop holds a stellar reputation for bringing accurate articles on these ancient traditions from across the world when so much misinformation and chicanery exists. Their journals are for practitioner and layperson alike.

Now available in Sacred Hoop Issue #99, you can download the digital or print version here. For a free 12-page preview of this issue, go here . See the video version, go here.

 

 

 

Categories: Indigenous Wisdom, The Writing Life | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

When the Invisible Manifests, Part II: A First-Hand Account of Talking with Andean Mountain Spirits

Part II: In which the Apus appeared.

I returned from Peru less than a week ago. My own night experience in the sacred compound, as I’ve given attention to describing it, remains foremost⎯I’ll say in my energy field because my mind can’t hold it or understand what occurred. I’ll admit to being a healthy skeptic for good purpose when there are so many passing themselves off for what they aren’t, sometimes causing great harm. I choose to be vigilant in order to protect myself and any group in my care. After the opportunity to talk with the Apus was offered, I accepted and included it for this year’s journey. Logic offers no answers here and, knowing the steward, I placed trust in him for his offering and the altomisayoq he arranged, one of three he’s worked with over some years.

I hadn’t previously noticed the anteroom where the session would be held. Perhaps the door had been closed when I’d been there before. A few of the group and I ventured inside for a brief look before we went to the temple for preliminary preparations. Immediately upon entering I was aware of the extraordinary energy, so strong it felt like my head would implode and fly off into the cosmos. We didn’t stay long.

The first order was to create a despacho, an offering and prayer bundle to later give to the Apu who governed the surrounding land. We all participated in unwrapping the many chocolates, cookies, candies⎯because the spirits very much enjoy sweets⎯crackers, sea creatures and the rest, while the steward placed all the elaborate piece parts in a particular order. Ultimately, he created a complex structure several inches high, our kintu prayers inserted⎯three coca leaves held together with llama fat topped with a carnation petal. Breath carried our individual prayers on the surface of each one we personally made. Finally, the entire bundle was completely covered with more coca leaves, neatly wrapped in decorative paper and secured. The steward was precise.

We approached the anteroom and filed inside. I wondered how we would all fit as it really was quite small. We numbered fourteen but all managed to find a space on the long benches that wrapped the perimeter, or the couple of chairs finally put in front of the door. The altomisayoq was already in his place in a confined spot in the front corner. The altar to the left stretched most of the space across the front and held flowers, a few capped bottles of soda and beer and ceremonial objects. A painting of Jesus graced the wall above. A waist-high table was immediately against the altar. The altomisayoq was boxed in, no room to exit or other freedom of movement unless he crawled over Marianne and me.

Once all were settled, the steward dropped the heavy curtain over the door. We were in absolute darkness. A few days prior I had prepped the group to have a couple of personal questions ready when it was their turn to speak with the manifested beings. These could be such things as concerns about family, health or relationship matters, advice on a project and the like. While they are not clairvoyant, the beings are wise and give information and suggestions from that standpoint. They can “see” into the body, diagnose health issues and prescribe natural medicines, even surgery, accordingly. If a surgery, they will perform it themselves.* The steward had advised that this space was not yet sanctioned for that purpose. But if a surgery was so prescribed they could go to an audience that would take place elsewhere within a few days. In the darkness, the steward would come get each petitioner and guide them to stand in front of the table to communicate directly with the beings. Marianne would translate the answers given.

We sat in silence. There was no light. My eyes did not adjust to reveal anything other than complete darkness. Suddenly, the altomisayoq chanted an invocation, inviting the beings in by name…then a sharp whistle. My eyes swiveled around the room searching but saw nothing.

Commotion came swiftly. Chaos. Loud flapping of many wings like huge birds⎯or something⎯near the ceiling, it seemed. Whoomp as something landed. Then more. It couldn’t have been but a couple of feet away somewhere there at the altar or maybe the table. Announcements…loud and garbled. The room felt suddenly full of some magnificent energy. Frankly, my mind fled. I couldn’t make sense of it all and have little memory of those first proceeding moments.

Condor image

A condor. Photo: Google, original source unlisted.

I was so confused and, as it turns out, so was everyone else who was having this experience for the first time. I wasn’t sure who or what had shown up until later when their identity was confirmed for us. Those present: Santa Tierra Madre Ascunto de Calca, Señor de Ausangate, Señor de Soqllacassa and Señor Sacsayhuaman Cabildo. †

Ausangate image

Apu Ausangate. Photo: Carla Woody

I was glad the petitions would go in an ordered fashion beginning on the other side of the room for I certainly wasn’t ready yet. I grant that the young woman who was the first of us to approach had courage…when she’d never even been outside the US before or encountered anything like this. A soothing grandmotherly voice welcomed her to the altar and asked, “What can I do for you?” She haltingly asked her questions and received the guidance, then was led by the steward back to her seat. It went like that around the room, the majority speaking to the Santa Tierra. For some it was quite emotional. There were tears. One asked to speak directly to Señor de Ausangate for a matter that directly required his intervention. When he spoke, there was great power and presence. It was a male voice. Some asked for healing or insight to a health issue and later reported a sense of relief and physical uplifting.

Other than times anyone was speaking, noise-making⎯pounding like a drum, a pop, stomping, clicking together of stones or crystals, rustling⎯emitted periodically from different places at the altar. Once I saw sparks, like static electricity up near the ceiling, but nothing else. Across the board, I noted how fluidly answers came, kind wise counsel. There was no hesitation, no searching around for a response.

My turn came. At the altar, the steward stood immediately next to me holding my hand, the other arm wrapped around me. Gentle support. I needed it. The energy was overwhelming. For one who is well used to public speaking and does so easily, I found myself barely able to put any words together. I was disoriented. I had my prepared questions but they wouldn’t assemble themselves to come out my mouth. They finally did though, and Mamita gave her practical, logical response to one and feeling response to the other. Both things I already knew and was validated.

The steward told Mamita I represented the group and had an offering for Señor de Sacsayhuaman, with respect and recognition as the holder of the land where we assembled. When we came in earlier, he’d placed two despachos on the table. The other was from Marianne for a special personal petition.

Señor de Sacsayhuaman bombed into the room. Much to-do. The despacho sounded like it was being torn to smithereens and inhaled…and I felt more waves of energy engulfing me. The offering accepted, my time was done. But instead of the steward leading me back to my seat, he turned his attention to Marianne, who was on his other side, for her petition and offering. His comforting physical support gone, I had the strong urge to grab onto him like a little kid hiding behind a parent⎯although I restrained myself. The woman who sat next to me on the bench later told me, when I never returned, she thought I’d been spirited away by the Apus…

Marianne stated her request fluidly and made her offering, no stumbling around. But then she’d done this several times before. All was then complete. We once again heard the voice of the altomisayoq thanking these manifested beings profusely for answering his call. Mamita’s voice overlapped his, speaking for the Apus and herself, giving blessings and saying goodbye. Again, chaos moved the air, flapping of many wings…silence. The magnificent energy in the room had vacated.

A few seconds later, the steward turned on the lights. All was the same as when we entered. All were in their original places except myself and Marianne at the altar. The despachos were as they’d been placed on the table and appeared to be untouched. One exception: The bottle of beer on the altar was now uncapped.

Before she left, the Santa Tierra⎯Mamita⎯advised that if we wanted to be in contact with her, we could burn a white candle. We wouldn’t see her, but she would be there.

I have mine.

To read Part I of this accounting, in which the foundation is laid, go here.


*From someone who had undergone a surgery by the Apus, it is a physical matter that involved some pain. When over, a thin red line remained on the person’s body for some time at the site of the surgery. There was no blood or stitches. The explanation given was the wound closed up immediately. The result was relief. This from someone who is credible and would have no investment in relaying something other than the actual experience.

† Santa Tierra Madre Ascunto de Calca was the director of this session. She is also known as the Virgin Maria de Lares Calca. Calca is a village in the Sacred Valley near Cusco. Apu, being Quechua, also translates to El Señor. Apu Ausangate is considered the supreme witness, one who has powers of increase and healing. Apu Soqllacassa has nursing capabilities. Apu Sacsayhuaman Cabildo is a keeper of knowledge and wisdom.

 

Categories: Andean Cosmology, Indigenous Wisdom, Q'ero, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

When the Invisible Manifests, Part I: A First-Hand Account of Talking with Andean Mountain Spirits

Part I: In which the foundation is laid.

An open secret exists just beneath the bustle of everyday life in Cusco. It’s actually a phenomenon that occurs in pockets across the Andes. It’s unknown to outsiders, even expats who have lived there for decades…unless they accidentally stumble upon it and are invited. That’s exactly how it happened in this case. I’m no longer amazed how one thing leads to another because I’ve been shown over and over that I’m led to what I’m supposed to experience and who I’m destined to meet that supports this work.

It all started two years ago when I needed to find an appropriate place near Cusco to hold a ceremonial space for the teachings of Don Alberto Manqueriapa, a respected jungle paq’o.* I queried my long-time friend Christo who told me of a hidden compound, a site with small temples and a garden honoring all sacred traditions, its stewardship held by a spiritual man of great humility and sweetness.† As I was then at home in the US, I asked another friend, Marianne, if she would make the connection and see if we could make arrangements for a time during last year’s spiritual travel program.

At the high stone wall, an oversized wooden door opened into a place not unlike something you might see in a movie. The informal garden held small altars and religious statues from world traditions placed here and there. A huge domed adobe oven sat across from a cloistered seating area. Several chickens, a fancy breed with feathered topknots and naked necks, scratched the dirt in-between. I’ve since noticed the collective intake of breath for those who haven’t entered here before. Indeed, it was of some other world, not Peru. Yet it contained all that, too. It was inclusive.

A few steps beyond were the temples, one round and the other a small antechamber. Then the kitchen building and living quarters. Flowers, shrubs and trees took up every bit of remaining ground. It sounds as though all should be strewn over an acre or two. But part of its beauty and the stillness it lent had to do with how all fit in a surprisingly small space, the sacred and daily life coexisting, one within the other. As it should be.

At our first visit, the steward told us how he came to be there after intense dissatisfaction with a material life, traveling to far reaches in search of his soul, finally finding himself in Peru where this special place was unexpectedly given to his care. He was soft-spoken, unassuming. He did not pronounce but simply told his story as though still amazed it had all happened to him. When he talked briefly of the angels and how they spoke directly, it caught my attention but not long at that point. We experienced Don Alberto’s teachings there, and I’m quite sure whatever was resident helped us receive them.

Little did I know how all this would evolve over the coming year, for my friend Marianne took to heart the steward’s mention of the angels⎯what the local people also referred to as talking to the Apus, with an altomisayoq as intermediary.‡ She said to me, how did she not know about this when she’d been living in Cusco for thirty years? But then she’s Dutch by birth, not Cusquenan. Over the year between then and now she attended a number of these sessions, introduced to them through the steward.

Moray-Apus

Apus of the Sacred Valley. Photo: Carla Woody.

It’s said that during the times of the Inca, people’s sensibilities were developed to the extent they could communicate with the Apus in daylight. As those capabilities waned, such visible encounters would have somehow overcome them. Now it’s all confined to complete darkness with the necessary presence of an altomisayoq. But only to call in the coordinates for these beings to materialize in the place where the people are gathered to receive them and request counsel. The altomisayoq is not a medium. Those Apus, Santa Tierras and Mamitas of sacred places or villages who manifest during a session are completely separate entities from each other and the altomisayoq. They speak directly in their own voice to the petitioner, not through the altomisayoq as channel.

It’s hard to know how common this practice is today in remote Andean villages. With sadness, I heard that it is no longer so in Q’eros as no altomisayoqs remain in the villages, having passed long ago or moved to Cusco or elsewhere. But there was a time when the Apus did still appear there to give counsel when called upon. Q’ero Santos Machacca told me of the time when they were consulted about his grandfather’s health. Don Manuel Quispe, who passed in 2004 at 99 years old and well-known to many westerners, was the intermediary and provided his rustic home. There were offerings of chicha⎯a fermented drink⎯and coca. The Apus somehow entered through the thatched roof with a great flapping of wings, announcing their arrival by first landing on the back of Don Manuel, bending him double before taking their place on the mesa with much stomping and noise-making. In most ways, the process has not changed.

I was soon to find out…and truly believe the ambience of the hidden space, and sacred way the steward held it, set the stage for what was to happen…

Read Part II in which the Apus appeared here.


*Paq’o is a Quechua word with no direct translation, the closest being a cross between shaman and mystic in the Andean tradition.

†This steward prefers to operate beneath the radar, as do most altomisayoqs working strictly within their communities, knowing that those with pure spiritual intent will find their way to what is offered. Any mention of their name in writing on the internet is strictly forbidden in their lineage. To maintain respect, the exact site location and name of the holy men who provided our direct encounter will go unmentioned.

Apu is a Quechua word that translates to mountain. But the meaning goes deeper. The Apus are the living entities of the Andes, no less than Pachamama (Mother Earth), Mama Quilla (Mother Moon), Inti (Father Sun), Mama Cocha (Mother Ocean) and other elementals comprising the world. As mentioned, angels are also referred to depending on the influence of Catholicism, so prevalent in Peru, or other world traditions where the reference is generally accepted. An altomisayoq is the name given to the highest level of Andean priest, one who communicates with other dimensions. They are said to have been initiated directly by the Apus and thus able to call upon them for the benefit of the people. While increasingly rare in these times due to the great sacrifices required of them, there are a number who live in or near Cusco.

Categories: Andean Cosmology, Indigenous Wisdom, Q'ero, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Film Review – Jesus Was a Buddhist Monk

Years ago I began to read books by researchers challenging the resurrection of Jesus as traditionally depicted in the Christian faith, as well as the role Mary Magdalen played in Jesus’ life. So when I stumbled upon the BBC documentary Jesus Was a Buddhist Monk, I was naturally drawn.

Carla-WarriorSpirit-Low

Prophet Series: Warrior of the Spirit. ©2013 Carla Woody                  

It asks questions that, for some, would be considered heresies around the resurrection:

Would a man really die after only 6 hours on a cross (when it would normally take several days)?

Was he drugged?

Was he rescued?

If he didn’t die, where did he go?

Then the film methodically goes into the politics of the times, why a resurrection story might be a strategic means to an end, legends and historical references of Jesus’ appearances in other parts of the world after the crucifixion. The viewer is asked to contemplate the boat that landed on the shores of Southern France, the Cathars and findings of the Knights Templar. And what of a man named Issa, a long life in Kashmir and a burial site in Srinagar?

The documentary does a neat job of asking the questions that deliver answers depending on your perspective. And, if you’re so inclined, follow the threads to additional research.

Available for free streaming on You Tube. 49 minutes.

Categories: Film Review, Global Consciousness | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Spiritual Travel to Mexico: Maya Mysteries

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

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

Early registration discount ends August 28.

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

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

Don Antonio Martinez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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