Posts Tagged With: Mysticism

Review: Companion Books for Sufi Meditation

In May-June of this year I walked the Camino Francés to Santiago de Compostela. During my journey I undertook a daily spiritual practice from the Sufi tradition as a walking meditation. In a post entitled Momentum from my Camino blog The Essential Way, I wrote a bit about wazifa chanting practice, invoking any of the 99 Beautiful Names of Allah, as a spiritual take-along due to its deepening effect on me. I can’t begin to tell you how important the practice turned out to be during this time. I chose specific wazifas that guided me and shaped focus and experience. When my body was having difficulty, they eased my pain and got me up mountains. When the day on the trail became long and my mind grew bored, they brought my awareness to presence and the beauty surrounding me. When I wrestled with uncertainty or issues, they helped usher in clarity.

Prior to embarking I told two Sufi friends about my intent for wazifa practice. Each mentioned a different book as a potential guide: Physicians of the Heart: A Sufi View of the Ninety-Nine Names of Allah and The Sufi Book of Life: 99 Pathways of the Heart for the Modern Dervish. I didn’t know either existed and was happy to learn there were e-book versions. When you’re carrying a backpack with your bare necessities, every ounce counts. Since they added no additional weight, I downloaded both. They proved to be valuable by providing different lenses, sorting perspectives on the same spiritual tenets based on the authors’ backgrounds and interests. All are well-known living Sufi mystics and leaders.

 Physicians of the Heart

Pir Shabda Kahn has been the spiritual lineage holder of the Sufi Ruhaniat International since 2001. In the introduction to Physicians of the Heart he writes about receiving inner direction, shortly after accepting the appointment, to bring forth an English language guidebook on the Beautiful Names to accompany study and practice. He invited three other Sufi teachers to join him in this spiritual work. Faisal Muqaddam is a founder of the Diamond Approach, merging psychology of the human spirit with Sufism. Imam Bilal Hyde is an Arabic and Qur’anic scholar. Murshid Wali Ali Meyer is the head of the esoteric school of the Ruhaniat. Aside from his work as lineage holder, Shabda is a recognized master of raga—Indian classical vocal music—and accomplished musician. This esteemed circle gathered for ten years to undertake deep wazifa study with intent toward producing a spiritual guidebook offering elements to take present-day practitioners to progressive levels of immersion.

For several years beginning in the late ‘90s I attended Sufi retreats featuring Shabda as teacher where he also led wazifa practice and Dances of Universal Peace. In ’98 I went to India with him to study introductory raga. I was already predisposed to embrace Physicians of the Heart without yet laying eyes on the first page.

There are many things I appreciate about its contents. It is easy to see the influence of each contributor’s knowledge, which brings a holistic approach and depth that had been lacking in my own awareness in wazifa practice, even though an effect was still there. I am particularly drawn to their distinction of select wazifas working together along a common theme. For instance, already knowing I was going to work with Ya Fattah I was shown to work with two additional wazifas, encompassing a natural, believable progression: Ya Wahhab (O, Giver of Gifts) to Ya Razzaq (O, Provider) to Ya Fattah (O, Opener). This metaphor is given to frame how they evolve one to the other. It resonated with me.

 …al-Wahhab is the free rain that is given to all, ar-Razzaq is the water that flows in irrigation ditches, and al-Fattah is all the fruit harvested from all the trees that have been irrigated. In other words, al-Fattah is the continuing action of all that will ever be accomplished…

First, a belief in abundance is necessary: There is enough for all. Second, the opportunity accepted, evidenced through work done to lay the foundation. Finally, there’s fruition of all the groundwork, consistently accomplished, so it stretches ahead to be met with each footfall. Should a practitioner encounter inner difficulties working with a wazifa, direction is given toward other wazifas that serve to help transmute limiting beliefs and patterns.

The content of the book covers a lot of ground: Arabic linguistic roots, pronunciation—even connecting to an audio version online—psychological components, Sufi teachings, overview and in-depth explanation of each wazifa. It is a reference for Sufi practitioners.

However, you don’t have to be one to glean value and guidance. I especially appreciate the way the book is organized. I may not be interested in the sound code on which there’s a detailed, technical chapter, but I can quickly find a wazifa, that draws me by the brief description of each one. Then go to the page where that one is discussed in depth and allow the knowledge to permeate my practice in ways I hadn’t foreseen.

Here’s a video treat: the authors speaking about their meetings and practice over ten years that culminated in this book.

Available via the book’s website or Amazon.

The-Sufi-Book-of-Life

I know Saadi Shakur Chishti—Neil Douglas-Klotz—through his books. He is perhaps best known for his translation of words attributed to Jesus from his native Aramaic language. In The Hidden Gospel Saadi compares the King James Version to the translated Aramaic of Jesus’ time. Dry, punitive language is transformed to lyrical prose that holds beauty and hope. In this latter version I can not only engage—but also immerse my soul. I pulled an example to give you an idea.

John 4:24

KJV: God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Translated Aramaic: Those who surrender to Unity, bowing to it in utmost adoration, must do so in breath and harmony, like the sense of right direction that drives the universal winds.

Given that his approach and translations in The Hidden Gospel transformed Jesus—to me—into a believable, approachable, forgiving teacher I was also predisposed to embrace The Sufi Book of Life.

In the introduction Saadi encourages the reader to meander through the book and notice which wazifas draw you…and work with those. This is easy to do because the chapter titles are in English illustrating a sense of what is sought or produced. Below the title is the wazifa in Arabic and guidance as to what is likely drawing you to that specific one. In the following paragraphs he lays the foundation in poetic language. Then draws upon Sufi teaching stories and poetry to embellish our understanding. When I read such writing I automatically find myself riding the Breath of Life to that inner place I’m being directed. It goes in a different way. The practice has already begun.

To return to my chosen wazifa Ya Fattah, the descriptive chapter title says Opening to Unity’s Breath. Guidance indicates I chose that one to: …take the opportunity to experience the Sacred Unity opening you to your destiny.

He proceeds to draw from Sufi teachings and the sayings of Muhammad to bring more depth: If they remember me in their heart, I remember them within my heart. If they come toward me walking, I come toward them running.

At the core we all want such a thing and there’s often fear accompanying the heart’s desire. Saadi names such limiting emotions and elaborates with Rumi’s words: Don’t be afraid of nonbeing. If you want to be afraid, fear the existence you have now…

There’s a section entitled Roots and Branches that offers the traditional translations and variations of the word and sound roots. Each chapter ends with a suggested meditation offering a physical centering point, progression using the breath, ending with a question to consider through the process. Since I use breath and energy in my daily meditations, this is naturally appealing to me.

Available on Amazon.

***

I found each of these guidebooks to be beautifully powerful in their own way. They can be used separately. But I found them particularly useful as companion books for practice.

Categories: Book Review, Meditation, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Review – Sleep Paralysis: A Guide to Hypnagogic Visions & Visitors in the Night

Sleep Paralysis by Ryan Hurd

Imagine this … You wake up in the dead of night. You had settled yourself onto a rough pallet in this rustic adobe room some hours before and drifted off to sleep, feeling the sharp contrast between the cold on your face and the warmth of your body in your sleeping bag.

You’re alone.

But suddenly you’re not alone. A few feet away, the door to the outside flies open and a Quechua man strides in. He crosses in front of your bed, glancing over at you and peeks into the rudimentary bathroom just beyond. Then he turns around and strides out.

About that time, you glance across at the window and see several Quechua faces staring in at you. Strangely, you can see their features clearly in the glow of a light—even though they should have been backlit by the full moon.

That’s when you realize you’re levitating slightly…and can’t move. Your body is paralyzed, hanging in space. You’re terrified. You attempt to scream and nothing emerges. But you can feel the sound building in your throat trying to burst out.

Your eyes dart frantically around the room. There’s a diaphanous figure over in the corner that begins to float toward you. Your heart pounds as you struggle inside your paralysis.

Then the figure sits beside you. You feel a loving energy projected toward you. All your fear disappears.

You awake the next morning refreshed…with every detail of the last night’s occurrence emblazoned in your mind.

This is not a story I invented. It happened to me in a remote site in the Andes—another strange event along a string of others that were similar in the mechanics. When they occurred, there were always other-dimensional aspects for which I had no explanation.

The only thing I could isolate that was different from other experiences I’ve had was the paralytic nature, and this particular type had only thus far happened when I’d been away from home, usually during time set aside for a spiritual activity.

I devoted part of my book Standing Stark to paranormal activity in my own spiritual evolution, not to titillate but to offer readers knowledge toward what may occur during the process in the way of energy, visions, physical sensations and more. Some deeply meaningful, others not so much. There’s little in spiritual literature that addresses these things.

Somewhere along the line, I heard the term sleep paralysis and began to wonder if there was an explanation for my experiences. So when Ryan Hurd’s book came to my attention I had to read it.

Early into his book, there’s a chapter on personality characteristics of life-long sufferers. Some of those he lists pertain to me. Others don’t at all. He goes into various components of the SP (sleep paralysis) experience. Again, there are some common aspects to mine.

He links SP to lucid dreaming, hypnagogic visions and core beliefs. It also may be one symptom of spiritual emergency, a condition validated in the DSM IV, the diagnostic manual for the American Psychiatric Association, that may occur when people are undergoing deep spiritual questioning or other significant life transitions that create chaos. Stan Grof and the late Christina Grof, known for their work in holotropic breathwork, spearheaded research in this area in the 1980s and were central in providing a spiritual emergency network for those who needed support during such a crisis.

There’s a chapter on what Hurd calls The Stranger, meaning the spirit-type figure that appears in “about 14-18% of isolated SP cases” with details on types of experiences. I’ve experienced most of them, some without the SP component in a fully awake state in broad daylight. Much of the information is addressed in relation to what answers scientific and psychological studies can give for something that occurs across cultures and stretches way back in history. It’s particularly prevalent in Indigenous cultures that value dreaming, parallel worlds and the life instruction that can come as a result, as well as those who inhabit places that have strong geomagnetic characteristics.

Hurd offers practical ways to deal with SP and apparitions—and gain self-mastery in the process. These include: grounding yourself, diet, lucid dreaming and out-of-body practices, even ways to trigger SP if you’re so inclined.

This book doesn’t answer everything having to do with the events in my own life, but it’s certainly a good start, guidance always being welcome. I recommend this book certainly if you’re undergoing anything described in this review, or for anyone who is curious.

Available in print or e-book on Amazon.

Categories: Book Review, Personal Growth, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Series Review: Sacred Journeys with Bruce Feiler

In December, PBS aired a series called Sacred Journeys with Bruce Feiler. Given that I offer spiritual journeys myself, it caught my attention. Bruce Feiler is the bestselling author of several books on religion and contemporary lifestyle, as well as New York Times columnist for This Life in the Sunday newspaper. In the program, he goes along with US travelers to six separate sites around the globe as they participate in sacred gatherings and pilgrimages. As viewers we get hour-long glimpses of:

  • Lourdes, France where the young peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous, claimed the Virgin Mary appeared to her over a period of time in 1858;
  • A 750-mile pilgrimage route on the Japanese island of Shikoku to 88 temples and shrines honoring the esteemed Buddhist monk Kobo-Daishi, responsible for bringing Buddhism from China in the 9th century;
  • The holy sites in Jerusalem encompassing Judaism, Christianity and Islam;
  • The annual Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, which mirrors Muhammad’s return to his home as leader of the new Islamic religion;
  • The Kumbh Mela, the largest religious gathering in the world, occurring every 12 years at the intersection of the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers in Allahabad, India;
  • The annual festival of Osun-Osgobo in Osogbo, Nigeria, honoring the goddess of fertility, Osun, of the Yoruba religion.

All features in this series are worth the watch. They’re inspiring and caused me to look at my own reasons for pilgrimages I’ve taken…and the one I’m preparing to take.

The Lourdes segment focused on the annual International Military Pilgrimage that has been ongoing since WWII. This filming showed US veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, carrying visible and invisible wounds, and was especially poignant.

The Yoruba feature was particularly interesting to me, showing elements of initiation rituals. An explanation offered why there were influences from other religions incorporated into Yoruba: As with many sacred traditions, those who are indigenous to the land incorporate the conqueror’s religion in order to stay alive. They become so intertwined in order that the original form may survive, even if hidden. The statement validated what I’ve seen in some Native traditions I’ve known, and sought to explain myself.

Inasmuch as this series is a visual feast for variety of cultures and spiritual rituals, there’s a thread that remains constant: the sense of seeking and renewal. The pilgrims “move between the questions in their lives” and “step outside themselves to reach for higher meaning.”

I found the pilgrims’ expressions and intent in these segments to be no different than those of the travelers on the spiritual travel journeys I sponsor.

Streaming free at PBS online for a limited time. Also available via DVD or to download.

 

 

 

Categories: cultural interests, Film Review, Healing, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Prayer Journeys of a Singing Bowl

Ton Akkermans has had a life-long interest in blacksmithing and lives in the Netherlands. Decades ago he had a memory of ancient Tibet where he made gongs and singing bowls. With this remembrance came the understanding of exactly how they were made in that long ago time and their use. The process was a prayerful one of deep intent—not casually hammered out—for the task he’d been given was a sacred one. Monks carried them as part of their spiritual journey, an ally for meditation, a way to release prayers through vibration when sounded. Sometimes they carried the same one all their years. It held the memory of their spiritual evolution.

Present-day Ton makes the bowls and gongs in the old way and, along with wife Carolina, teaches others. The bowls are imprinted with particular frequencies needed now, a vision toward global healing.

But I knew none of this until my dear friend Hilary Bee, a spiritual teacher in the UK, sent me a note this past July. She reminded me of the beautiful bowl she’d shown me in February when she’d been in the US for a visit. She mentioned Ton’s work, that he’d empowered his students Gabriella Kapfer, Heather Smith Cowen and Quentin Cowen to help further his vision. Thus the Peace Bowl Project of Resounding Earth was founded with a mission, as Hilary told me: “…to make bowls as an offering to the Earth herself, to assist with ushering in a new era of peace and harmony, similar in concept to the Japanese Peace Pole project; and have these entrusted to bowl keepers in different parts of the world…” She said she’d been invited to go to Scotland in September as one of the seven who would make the first of the bowls. The European Sanctuary of the World Peace Prayer Society  supported with the offering of their site.

Then Hilary asked me to be a bowl carrier.

She’d like to make the bowl for me, that my way of talking about the work I do—as a sacred container—was a clear sign to her. I realized in that moment what an honor she’d offered. But, truly, only later did I know to the extent. Of course, I agreed.

She’d asked me to send something for her to tune into as she was making the bowl. After sitting with the request for a while, I put together a package with items representing the Indigenous peoples I’ve worked with most: a Hopi prayer feather I’d been given to carry, an image of Lake Najá with young Lacandón Maya men in their traditional dugout canoe, and huayruro seeds from Peru. I intended to bring the singing bowl to Peru to be part of ceremonies there during our October-November journey in Cusco and Q’ero, and on to Bolivia where I was going afterwards.

Singing bowlWhen I opened the package I’d received in the mail, the energy that issued from it literally took my breath. The bowl and its covering fairly shimmered in their beauty. Through a Skype conversation with Hilary, I learned how deep her own process was. Every indentation in its make-up was an inlaid prayer. There was a network of meditators holding with the intent of the bowls’ forming during that time. Several in Hilary’s teaching circle sent their own bowls along in support. And a young woman named Manuela hand-felted the carrier bag. Her daughter Mayaan made the trim while partner Mark carved the wooden button to close it. Folks across countries gave support. It was then I really began to understand the nature of bowl carrying and just how much had gone into the making. Our conversation was emotional.

I knew that the bowl is not mine. It belongs to everyone.

I sent out an invitation for people to send their prayers. They would be carried in the bowl and resonance released at each ceremony. A number of people responded. Upon my return I wrote to Hilary.

The bowl was present at all ceremonies and circles, sounded separately by everyone, including each paq’o.* After the formal group closed I went on to the Islands of the Sun and Moon with a few folks and a Quechua-Aymara paq’o [Hermógenes] …where at the Temple of the Virgins on the Island of the Moon…after an offering and sounding…I felt the Pachamama breathe beneath my feet. I’m quite sure it was in response.

Despacho in Cusco for a safe journey up to Q'ero.

Despacho in Cusco for a safe journey up to Q’ero.

The energy of this journey was extraordinary for many reasons, a big one certainly due to the singing bowl … and all the prayers spoken and released along the way.**

During despacho ceremony in the home of my Q'ero friend Modesto in the village of Ccochamocco.

During despacho ceremony in the home of my Q’ero friend Modesto in the village of Ccochamocco.

Perubowl-3

Gi Thomas passes the singing bowl to Doña Carmina.

I have never carried a mesa in the traditions of the Andes, even though I’ve been part of the teachings for twenty years.*** I don’t sing Native American songs or hold Maya fire ceremonies. I hold great reverence for Indigenous ways, but I’m sensitive to co-opting traditions that weren’t given to me, or that I have no concrete proof I was born or adopted into. My own lineage was hidden and lost to time.

Perubowl-4

Altar offering at Puma Rock on the Island of the Sun with Hermógenes Romero Sanchez.

But in Bolivia Hermógenes began referring to the bundle I carried to each sacred site and placed on his mesa during offerings …as my mesa. And I realized that I do have a mesa. It was given to me, coming up through time, crossing cultures. And it carries a voluntary responsibility, perhaps one now made visible that I’ve felt for a very long time. This is my grounding.

P1050533-2

Offering at the Temple of the Virgins on the Island of the Moon.

No words suffice for my gratitude toward Hilary for her generosity, spirit and friendship, and all the people who hold the vision of worldwide filaments of peace and healing circling the planet … resonating …

***

 Anyone is invited to send prayers at any time. Just send them to me in a private email. The next journeys this singing bowl will make are to Mayalands in January and Hopilands in March, finishing the year with a return to Bolivia and Peru. But it’s always available and sounded during my own morning meditations.

*************

*Loosely translated, paq’o means shaman in Quechua.

**Hopi Wisdom Keeper Harold Joseph was sponsored on this journey, an emissary of his religious leader on Shungopavi, to seek prayers from Q’ero spiritual leaders for the continuity of Hopi traditions. Harold stopped  a number of areas along our journey, marking the path and laying prayers.

***A mesa is the medicine bundle of a paq’o in the tradition of the Andes.

Categories: Gratitude, Healing, Meditation, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Film Review: Q’ero Mystics of Peru

Seti Gershberg has produced an important documentary containing key elements for Westerners to fathom the mysticism of the Peruvian Andes: the descendants of the Inka who embody it, their history and traditions. The film is rich with interviews of Q’ero mystics and breathtaking vistas that perfectly enveloped this viewer, taking me back to all the times I sat in circle with these beautiful people. The energy they carry came through the screen.

We are offered teachings from the Q’ero worldview about interconnection, the inherent birthright of prosperity for all—not just a few—and how ayni, or sacred reciprocity, creates flow and balance. The Q’ero people are living examples, incarnating the natural laws that we all must embrace for global transformation. Segments show despacho ceremonies offering gratitude to the Pachamama (Mother Earth) and Apus (mountain spirits), and blessing prayers. How lightning is a message from the Apus signaling an individual’s role and healing methods are disclosed.

Paq’os (shamans) outline initiations and practices for the life of a healer and mystic—how the process happens over years of commitment, often with strong challenges. One young paq’o describes how, in earlier years, he helped gather materials for the despacho. Then at fourteen he assisted in the making, but it wasn’t until he was eighteen that he was deemed ready to do them on his own. I was personally glad to see this distinction included. Hopefully, it conveys to a Western audience that such a path does not happen in a weekend workshop; nor is it a romantic undertaking but one of humility and sacrifice to community.

Juan Núñez del Prado, Joan Parisi Wilcox, Elizabeth Jenkins, Holly Wissler and J.E. Williams share their understanding from an outside perspective as scholars and authors but also as practitioners of Andean Cosmovision.

The Q’ero are a people of dynastic lineage and strength, who only within the past sixty years have broken out of indentured servitude, having maintained their core identity throughout. These words are spoken during interviews:

 Our work is sacred.

We will not forget or lose this knowledge.

 Q’ero Mystics of Peru came at an opportune time, just as I’m preparing to return to Peru to be with Q’ero friends in the village of Ccochamocco for an unprecedented occurrence during The Heart of the Andes. Hopi Elder Harold Joseph from Shungopavi, Second Mesa, Arizona, is accompanying us, as an emissary of his religious leader, to seek prayers for the preservation of Hopi traditions. He says: The Q’ero spiritual leaders are strong in their prayers. So they are.

I personally thank Seti Gershberg for documenting the wisdom of the Q’ero Nation so effectively.

Categories: cultural interests, Film Review, Indigenous Wisdom, Q'ero | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Memoriam: Don Miguelito – Paq’o and Spiritual Guardian

A star shines more brightly now. A week ago I received word that Don Miguelito—pa’qo and ever-present guardian of Salk’awasi—transitioned this planet and took his place in the sky.*

I write this to honor him. He touched a multitude of people, both literally and figuratively, in his 90-plus years. For sure, all the people who traveled with me in Peru will not have forgotten him. Memories of him are carried within us.

Maria and Miguelito

Doña Maria and Don Miguelito, 1996.
Photo: Carla Woody

Looking back I realize the many things I learned from him over the years. I never knew the kind of things that are common if we’ve known someone long: his last name, if he’d had a wife or children, if he was born in the village of Mollamarka above where he’d lived. He was a solitary fixture, sometimes appearing in front of his small adobe, hand in his coca bag, when visitors arrived at Salk’awasi. Watching.

But I did know that witches from the small village on the next mountain made their way over to consult with him periodically. We called him Miguelito, an affectionate diminutive, which did not at all express the power he held. Although, it did note his small physical stature. I’d be surprised if he’d brushed 58 inches. He did not demand recognition as some do. He was not flamboyant. He spoke few words. Yet, if you paid attention, you’d be aware of the teachings he conveyed.

If you were fooled by appearances, you’d think he was the gardener. In worn, simple clothing, we’d see him raking one of the many paths that wind through the compound with a handful of branches. He built magic ‘rooms’ where given opportunity by a fallen tree and nearby vines to drape. He kept the flowers

Miguelito 2011

Don Miguelito, 2011
Photo: Bobbie Owens

neat. In his last years, he tended them less. The land suffered his absence, going back to nature—perhaps symbolizing Miguelito’s own symbiotic journey. Nevertheless, he touched the Pachamama, Mother Earth, and created sacred containers, leaving his imprint on the land that will never dissipate.

It was only during certain times that his outward appearance gave a hint of who he really was. We would invite him to the circle. He would come—always at night—dressed in full regalia: brightly colored poncho and hat, carrying his mesa.** We’d make sure he had a small table on which to open his mesa, candlelight and pisco to refresh himself. Contained in his mesa were coca leaves for divinations and smooth black stones that had been struck by lightning. He used them for limpia.***

Miguelito had been struck by lightning himself—twice—a known shamanic initiation in many indigenous traditions. He ran his lightning stones over our bodies removing hucha, or heavy energy.

His coca readings were spot on, seeing things in us that we needed to attend to in order to further the journey and foretold futures perhaps not even a blip on our own radar yet. The coca leaves told him so. My own first experience with Miguelito is forever emblazoned in my mind. I was a real newbie, not really knowing which end was up, feeling my way on an invisible-to-me path. I wrote about it in my first book Calling Our Spirits Home. A bit is excerpted here.

Miguelito was bent trance-like over the leaves, sifting them with his gnarly fingers, muttering under his breath…he picked up a few coca leaves and began chewing them…he spit them out on the table. Moving his hands…he seemed to be noting where the pieces fell…he began to speak…Stopping, he turned and looked me directly in the eyes as though searching for something…Miguelito’s words [translated from Quechua] seemed quite unlikely to me. ‘That storm we had the other night?’ I nodded. How could I not recall it? I had started awake in the middle of the night…Lightning lit up the room from its savage dance across the mountaintops right outside my window…’The lightning was for you and its filaments are inside you now. I’m surprised that it was for you.’ No more surprised than I was, unclear of his meaning…Abruptly, he got up from his chair, came over to me and started rooting through the hair on top of my head with his fingers. ‘Ah, there’s where it went in.’ Seeming now satisfied with his finding he sat back down.

Miguelito 2009

Don Miguelito, 2009
Photo: Shelley Wolfe

He went on to tell me of the work I would begin to do, a large part of it bringing groups to Peru with spiritual intent. That was in 1996. Indeed, the reading held true and has evolved from there to include other Indigenous traditions and countries. The last reading I had with Miguelito was in 2011 when he told me that my work would continue to be difficult. This was not something I wanted to hear but recognized what is typically so when anyone is going against the grain of the status quo and mainstream culture. My intent is in holding the challenges lightly.

Miguelito was not afraid of being blunt. In fact, he used no filters in advising what was causing obstructions. Sometimes I saw people wince. It was always interesting to me in that the same issues would come up for the person to deal with during our travels. He also instituted healings. I wrote of one in the recent post Collective Resonance and Healing how the jungle absorbed a woman’s chronic condition.

He was often out in the dead of night. Perhaps he was communing with the mountains, stars and planets, perhaps spirits that best showed themselves in the wee hours. Now he may show himself in just that way.

On June 23rd I wrote my longtime friend Oscar Panizo and told him of the news none of us wanted to hear. He wrote back, “The glaciers are melting and the times are a-changing. Salk’a energy is returning home.”

So he has.

The Coca Reader

The Coca Reader
Oil on canvas
©2011 Carla Woody

*****

*Paq’o is the word for shaman in Quechua. Salk’awasi is the ancestral home of Peruvian mystic Don Américo Yábar. Salk’a means undomesticated energy. Wasi is place or house.

**Mesa is the Spanish word used for medicine bundle.

***Limpia is the Spanish word used for rituals working with clearing energy in and around the body.

Categories: Energy Healing, Indigenous Wisdom, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , | 15 Comments

Your Identity in Metaphor

The instructor introduced an icebreaker. State your bio in six words. She asked for volunteers. Mine popped out.

Intrepid traveler living in two worlds.

Her eyes widened. Not the kind of thing you’d typically hear in a county courthouse jury room during child welfare training. But my fellow mediators didn’t miss a beat. They know me—at least to an extent.*

Metaphor seeks lodging in our interior differently than cursory words. Language when used at that level connects with the unconscious mind in such a way that it can inform wider awareness, indeed even act as a guide and attract the experiences that fulfill its significance. It is especially meaningful when it emerges through your own process rather than given to you. It’s an invitation I offer to folks I’m mentoring and who participate in spiritual travel programs: Note what metaphor takes up residence.

Apparitions

Apparitions
Mixed media on panel
©2014 Carla Woody

The afternoon icebreaker generated quite a degree of self-reflection that night. We weren’t asked to use metaphor but my mind naturally gravitated toward what it’s used to these days. I thought back to a time when I was asked to use metaphor, to reach inside and discover what emerged relative to spiritual path. We had already been in retreat several days, experiencing teachings and ceremonies. So I was not in the everyday world. I went off to be alone and sit with the tasking. I’m sure I wrote it down in a journal that has since been lost to time. But I’ve never forgotten what came.

 I am the crane whose wisdom runs swiftly under water…and rises with the waning of the silver moon.

It’s been close to 20 years since I attended Nine Gates Mystery School. It was a powerful experience during a time when I was radically re-aligning a life out of alignment with my deeper values. My core wisdom, that which we all have, did not show itself much back then. It lived in that watery place but did compel me to engage in opportunities that would bring me clarity, even if it seemed off base at the time. It’s a refinement process that wouldn’t have taken nearly that long had I my own spiritual mentor. In those days such a thing wasn’t prevalent.

I can’t tell you exactly when the revolutionary path—the chaotic one—smoothed out to the evolutionary one and found order of a sort. But I look up all these years later astounded to find myself an elder grounded in a life that conveys my values. For this I have gratitude.

That night of reflection I realized just how fully the metaphor from Nine Gates predicted an unfolding. I’ve felt something else hovering on the horizon for some time. It appears that an updated metaphor popped out at the slightest invitation, in an unlikely environment, emphasizing one meaning of “two worlds.” I can only wonder what else is in store—seen and unseen—and welcome it.

*****

An invitation to you:

Sit inside your deeper identity. Listen. Allow a metaphor to emerge.

 *****

*I’ve been doing conflict mediation as a sideline for close to 30 years, the last 16 of them in that courthouse with a few cases a month, when I’m in town, to keep me on my toes.

Categories: Creativity Strategies, Gratitude, Meditation, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Film Review: Sunrise/Sunset

Dalai Lama

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
Photo courtesy of his official website.

No, this isn’t an Ethan Hawke/Julie Delpy movie. It’s a 2009 documentary about a typical day with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. He allowed Russian filmmaker Vitali Manski and his crew to shadow him around Dharamsala, India, where he lives, from the time he arose at 3 a.m. until retiring for the night. It’s a peek that’s intimate and reassuring. I concluded that, in some ways, this holy man is no different than many of us. He is seen going through his morning hygiene, saying prayers and walking on the treadmill. He likes the BBC. I like the BBC. And yet, his life is not like any of ours. He elects to spend five months away from the world in meditation. Then, the rest of the time, every minute of his waking hours is scheduled: offering teachings, traveling, attending meetings with world leaders. His is a life of contrast.

The film also points out paradoxes. First, he teaches nonviolence as much as Ghandi did. But his living compound has a fence around it; a troop of guards accompany him wherever he goes to ensure his safety. Secondly, he is sought after by heads of state yet has none of the traditional power they would attempt to garner.

Teachings are sprinkled throughout the film. I noticed the same thing that the filmmaker stated in the last part of the film: The Dalai Lama’s words were simple. There was nothing new to me in what he said. But they caused the filmmaker to view the world differently. This reinforces my belief that simple teachings are most useful, true and provide a foundation for living. If we think we need more, or must have complicated practices, then we’re merely distracted and avoiding the spiritual work.

The only thing I found curious in any part of the documentary was the Dalai Lama’s solution to the world’s overpopulation problem: “more nuns, more monks.”

Watch the 72-minute documentary free online courtesy of Culture Unplugged.

Categories: Film Review, Meditation, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Collective Resonance and Healing

In Indigenous Peru, they have a way of speaking about reality that I find to be true, and a useful way to understand consciousness: There’s a left side and right side. To be clear, it’s not about the left side and right side of the brain—but rather dimensions of existence.

The right side is the everyday world, those aspects that are cultural and hierarchical. It’s anything you can physically touch, any construct of the mind—technique or ritual—ordinary reality held together by domesticated energy.

The left side is the free-floating site of the Great Mystery, the morphogenetic field, seat of creation, where intent resides. It’s non-ordinary reality containing the undomesticated energy that Quechua people call salk’a.

During spiritual travel programs I’ve sponsored in Peru, Mexico, Guatemala and Hopi, there’s consistent evidence for the power of focusing on the left side to create emotional and even physical healing. This is often so outside ceremony, or when there’s been no direct intervention. It may seem as though we’re doing somewhat ordinary things: eating together, sitting on the Earth, even traveling in a vehicle. But everything is occurring—unseen to everyday eyes.

When the collective desire of a group joins with the strong intent of one who offers the container, it has significant implications. An entrainment process develops. The transformation is self-organized on the left side and delivered to the right side to be grounded as a healing of some sort, resolution or even protection. Below are two real-life examples that occurred during my Peru program. The first is a personal experience excerpted from my article The Entrainment of Intent, originally published in AHP Perspective by the Association of Humanistic Psychology in 2005.

Alto Madre de Dios

Alto Madre de Dios, Peru
Photo credit: Oscar Panizo

We had traveled down the Alto Madre de Dios, a tributary of the Amazon. Our boat pushed up on the small sandy beach, the jungle rising sensuously all around us. We all clambered ashore. Our destination was a large stone outcropping near where we would perform a meditation.

I made my way toward the rocks. But I wasn’t paying attention. The place I chose to begin my ascent was slippery. One foot flew out from under me. I went down hard. Bam! I landed on the large stone—full force—on my front teeth, my legs below me in the water. Others rushed to help me. I remained seated at the bottom to do my meditation while the others resumed their climb a short distance away.

Logic said: “Better to rest here.” But strangely enough, while I was certainly a bit rattled from the fall, I had no pain. Again my logical mind said: “You must be in shock.” But pain never came in the ensuing hours or days. Even upon returning to our lodge and noting the hairline crack and abrasions on my teeth, the cut on my shin and huge bruise ranging from ankle to knee, my body bespoke no stress, just the documented lack of focus.

 This second example comes from the travelers’ stories section from Peru journeys where Fairin Woods shares her healing from chronic asthma she’d had since a child, requiring medication.

Manu Cloud Forest

Manu Cloud Forest, Peru
Photo credit: Carla Woody

…A jungle atmosphere had usually been a significant challenge to my breathing. I nearly had a panic attack the first morning as we began a walk into the jungle. I really considered not going on the walk for fear of losing my ability to breathe. I was not carrying my inhaler. I walked through the fear while encountering the inescapable humidity, the decaying and ever-renewing jungle floor, and the all enveloping flora and fauna. It seems the jungle absorbed my fears and cleansed me through the process of the meditative walk. In retrospect many fears and old ways were left behind…

That was in 2005. Fairin remains asthma-free. There are many others over the years who have been willing to publicly share their experiences from our times in Peru, Maya lands and Hopi: the things that touch the soul, old responses vacated, chronic conditions gone, clarity gained.

Expressly due to repeated examples set in front of me, I have a certainty about intent. If the body experiences injury, it is possible to forego feeling pain. Or through a pure energy state, we are able to prevent a physical or emotional response. As we entrain with a higher vibrational frequency, light energy doesn’t allow us to doubt or contract in fear. It is strong and grounded. Our task is to allow the left side in, to trust its delivery and make a place for its translation into our everyday lives—as the Indigenous peoples of the world already know how to do.

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Upcoming spiritual travel programs are The Heart of the Andes, October 24-November 2, and Entering the Maya Mysteries, January 18-28, 2015. Early registration discounts available with a portion of tuition tax-deductible to support preservation of Native wisdom traditions through Kenosis Spirit Keepers.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Energy Healing, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Following Energy: The Key to Your Navigational System

Rio Paucartambo

Rio Paucartambo
Cusco Region, Peru
©1996 Carla Woody

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

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

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

Ordinary people know what’s happening now,

the gods know future things

because they alone are totally enlightened.

Of what’s to come the wise perceive

things about to happen.

Sometimes during moments of intense study

their hearing’s troubled: the hidden sound

of things approaching reaches them,

and they listen reverently, while in the street outside

the people hear nothing whatsoever.*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

********

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

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

Categories: Energy Healing, Healthy Living, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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