In a previous post I told the story of visiting artist Kayum Ma’ax Garcia in his home in the Lacandón Maya village of Nahá during our January 2015 Maya program. During that visit the online Allies Gallery was born. The entire journey was pure magic. The gallery was just one instance of something that evolved organically. As a result, Kayum is able to offer his art to a wider world and has sold some prints. I’m very happy about that, and Kayum and family are ecstatic.
Recently Kayum’s work was featured in Galería MUY located in San Cristóbal de Las Casas. The MUY, now part of our Kinship Circle, gives exposure to contemporary art of Indigenous artists of Chiapas. With their help, we’ve been able to bring more of Kayum’s artwork to you.
To view more, go directly to the Allies Gallery. Kayum rarely leaves his isolated rainforest village. His art is unique. By purchasing through our online gallery, proceeds support this Indigenous artist document a way of life that is increasingly lost.
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.
We are pleased to announce our special collaboration with Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health bringing Coyote Medicinewith Lewis Mehl-Madrona, MD, PhD to Baltimore for a free public talk, January 15, 12 noon-1:15 p.m.
Dr. Mehl-Madrona, Lakota-Cherokee author of the Coyote Trilogy, will share about historical trauma, lessons about community healing and resilience that come from Native communities.
Location: John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 N. Wolfe Street, Room 1020.
To reserve your space contact Nicole Pare, John Hopkins University, email@example.com or phone 410-955-6931.
With special thanks to Mike Weddle, MD, KSK Board Member, and Dr. Allison Barlow, Associate Director, John Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, in their efforts to make this event possible.
I’ve seen the Dakota 38 documentary three times now. Each time it’s stirred something in me that has no words, but much emotion. This film is about the Dakota Wokiksuye Memorial Ride first undertaken December 10-26, 2008 and held at the same time each year since.
In 2005 a dream vision came to Jim Miller, a Dakota Vietnam Veteran—one so terrible that he tried to forget it. He said you have a sense when something was real and “it wouldn’t go away.” What he saw was a dark occurrence in the name of justice, largely hidden in history and unknown to Jim at the time.
On December 26, 1862 at 10 a.m. in Mankato, Minnesota, 38 Sioux warriors were hung in the public square, the largest mass execution in the history of the US. President Abraham Lincoln ordered it so on December 6. Two more warriors were executed the following year.
With the influx of more whites and military, the Sioux had been herded into a narrow strip of land, not allowed to leave the enclosure or hunt. As part of the treaty they were supposed to receive rations. They didn’t. They were starving. To defend themselves, they fought back rather than starve. Atrocities were committed on both sides.*
In the opening lines of the film, Jim Miller talks about what it means to be Dakota—”to walk in harmony with every living thing.” Feeling directed by the Creator, he organized a ride on horseback over 330 miles, leaving on December 10, 2008 from Lower Brule, South Dakota to arrive for ceremony at the hanging site in Mankato on December 26. The Memorial Ride was meant to honor the ancestors and as resolution …forgiveness. This was not an easy undertaking. There were blizzard conditions to be endured. Participants faced conflicting emotions related to racism, something openly discussed. There were many poignant moments when the riders disclosed why they were riding: for ancestors, family, to lay something to rest within themselves. Communities along the way heard about their mission and helped out, unbidden, by providing food and shelter for the riders and their horses, especially in extreme weather.
The film lends hope, portraying people pulling together—even in emotional discomfort—attempting to heal and overcome horrible tragedies that never should have happened. We need so much more of this today. And such things kept in the dark must be known.
View the full-length film free on You Tube. Length: 1 hour, 18 minutes.
*Further research beyond the documentary showed the trials to be a farce, each one lasting about 15 minutes. In the end 303 were slated for execution, which President Lincoln reduced to 38.
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.
View the trailer. Film length 1 hour, 6 minutes. Purchase and view or download through The Path of the Sun.
In 2009 an important tradition began, first started by Hopi elder Harold Joseph who accepted an invitation to accompany me on my spiritual travel program Entering the Maya Mysteries. As his religious leader’s emissary, the purpose was to reconnect with relations, those from Hopi migration paths. When I make these invitations on behalf of Kenosis Spirit Keepers, it’s without expectation of outcome. I’ve come to know that as long as we within the circle hold the container sacred…what fills it is rich, often with significance I never could have predicted.
The effect Harold had on Don Antonio Martinez, the last Lacandón Maya elder maintaining his timeless traditions, during a very vulnerable time is well documented in my article The Last Spirit Keeper available for download here. Equally significant are the indications Harold saw during our travels through Mayalands that validated his people’s oral history and common thread with these relations of the south. At certain sites he made offerings and prayers. Over these years several other Hopi Spirit Keepers have replicated what Harold started.
Don Antonio Martinez and Harold Joseph at the Lacandón Maya village of Najá in 2009. Photo credit: Darlene Dunning
This coming January, Merle Namoki, Sun Forehead Clan, from Shungopavi, Second Mesa will continue the tradition, strengthening the bridge of relationship and respect, laying down prayers. A few years ago, Merle said to me, “…We all need to pray to keep our Mother Earth and Father Sky in balance…”
Mike Weddle is a member of the Kenosis Spirit Keepers’ board who, for more than twenty years, has immersed himself in the sacred ways of the Maya of Guatemala. In his essay Are the Maya and the Hopi Two Branches of the Same Ancestral Tree, he compiled examples of common practices linking the two. He also talked about the protectiveness that Hopi people have over their sacred traditions—in order to preserve them.
The intent I hold for spiritual travel has remained the same from the start. It is not to co-opt Indigenous traditions. It is to offer respect through our presence and to hold space that these sacred ways continue. Merle stated the need so well. If in the process we visitors are deeply touched—and we are—we bring this difference home. Who we are in the world is influenced…and felt by our families, friends and communities. Core spiritual elements are strengthened.
The anniversary of an important date is coming up for me. In late Spring 2008 I held my breath as I opened an envelope from the IRS…and exhaled with great relief to see that Kenosis Spirit Keepers was given status as a charitable organization, our nonprofit extension. It was signed and dated October 15, 2007.
In this post about the continuity of traditions, I also want to express much appreciation to those who have made donations over the years, and certainly to those who have traveled with me…holding reverence, making the circles and sponsorships possible. Through your spiritual integrity, this work continues. Last but certainly not least, the folks who have served on the board since the inception of Kenosis Spirit Keepers, worked hard and assisted with direction and decisions…I have gratitude.
If you are drawn to support connections between the Hopi and Maya peoples, join us January 18-28, 2015 in Chiapas, Mexico for Entering the Maya Mysteries. A portion of tuition is tax-deductible to support the travel of Hopi Merle Namoki and the humanitarian healing work of Don Sergio Castro in impoverished Maya communities.
Mary Trainor-Brigham’s Deep Cinema deserves your time and attention. I found myself re-reading pages and then sitting, to give the words an opportunity to enter my interior space. Immediately evident, this is a book written to connect with your Indigenous Soul, as the author calls it, the one many of us ignore in this Middle World. She guides us to delve into movies and stories so that they play back to us our own humanity, initiatory passages and further potential.
I’ve studied Joseph Campbell’s work in-depth: his instruction on myth, the Hero’s Journey and places we can readily see examples in film and storytelling. Deep Cinema adds to that work in a way that makes it unique by overlaying shamanic templates from Indigenous cultures. We’re then offered the Soul Compass, a model …designed to transform life from a series of dogmatic dictates or chaotic occurrences…into a rich, sacred Self-defining sojourn which we gladly undertake…the key here is that life becomes meaningful… The path from Child as Nest Dweller to Elder as Diamond Cutter and Pearl Spinner shows the gateways—mundane to spiritual, balance of Female as Womb Weaver to Male as Navigator—that we all must pass through in order to morph into the next level of growth.
The author brings her background as art therapist, film critic, actor and scriptwriter naturally into play, pointing out the metaphors in a multitude of films, older to more current, that relate to the archetypal templates she offers. With lyrical language, she draws the reader in. On the Voudon shamanic tradition: …According to the Haitians, a person’s small self is like a fish that gets hooked in the heart and reeled in throughout life by the love of and for their Great Self, sitting on a throne beneath the Sea in Lower World…
I was glad to see The Serpent and the Rainbow movie included as a failure at translating anthropologist Wade Davis’ book by the same name. Instead of portraying the rich layers of the Voudon traditions Davis experienced, Hollywood chose to further the cartoon-like, fear-based image of practitioners. Mary recommends Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti as a true portrayal.
Once Were Warriors indicates the power of film on a population. In the successful translation of Alan Duff’s novel, Maori director Lee Tamahori graphically depicted real-life struggles with alcoholism and domestic violence the Maori people suffered, bringing it back to loss of spiritual traditions and the turning point of re-engagement. It’s noted that one in every three New Zealanders has seen this film. Most importantly: …after the film hit the theaters, there was an upsurge in the number of men seeking help with domestic violence issues, citing ‘Warrior Troubles’…
I had already viewed a number of the movies covered in the book: Whale Rider, Mindwalk, Capote and others. But I’m going to go back and see some again with new eyes and Deep Cinema beside me. As I was reading, I thought to myself it would be really nice to have an index of all the films and where they’re discussed in the book. I was pleased to find just that at the end. Bottom line: Deep Cinema is not just a reference but also an ally for the spiritual journey.
Apab’yan Tew is an Ajq’ij, a Day Keeper, spiritual guide, dancer and musician, of the K’iche’ Maya tradition from the village of Nawalja’ in Sololá of the Guatemalan highlands. He approaches his sacred calling with humility and passion. I am honored that he’s part of my spiritual travel program in Mayalands during which he shares openly and holds a fire ceremony to send prayers and call upon the ancestors.
His words are so important for our understanding of the integrative way traditional Maya people live, as well as other Indigenous peoples. I’m sharing an excerpt of our two-hour conversation with you here with his complete permission.
In just this short excerpt Tat Apab’yan covers a lot of ground. He chuckles over the wave of ‘organic’ farming in the West—as though it’s something new—when his people have had such practices for time immemorial. He puzzles over the Western way, now predominant, of dividing land into property when “…the Sky has no conditions…the rains are for everything…” and discusses the sacred sense of reciprocity in everyday Maya lifeways. “…We plant five seeds…only one is for us…”
I hope you enjoy the excerpt and take his words to heart as I did.
To learn more about Spiritual Travel to Chiapas, Mexico: Entering the Maya Mysteries in February 2016, go here. Join us and experience Tat Apab’yan’s teachings in person, along with those of other Maya spiritual leaders and healers who serve their communities. A warning though: It’s life-changing. Tuitions support the continuation of Indigenous traditions and help the spiritual leaders, their families and communities. A portion is tax-deductible through Kenosis Spirit Keepers, the nonprofit extension of Kenosis.
I’m coming up on the nine-year anniversary of an occurrence so significant that I wanted to share it with you, giving it the special transmission it deserves. In numerology, a secret fascination of mine, the number nine is related to convergence of the three worlds—matter, mind, spirit—holy mission, creation, harmony, rhythm and development. Its meaning is given sanctified space in such religious doctrine as the Kabbalah and Bible, and elevated across a number of cultures: Maya, Egyptian, Greek and more.
Nine years ago outside Cusco something unusual happened that continues to unfold all these years later. In July 2006 during my spiritual travel program in Peru, we were gathered with Q’ero spiritual leaders for ceremony at the edge of Huaypo Lake. We had just come to closure, the despacho burning, prayers ascending…when Q’ero friends began murmuring amongst themselves. Some were pointing directly overhead. A condor and eagle were flying together.
And in the minutes that followed, an inspiration came to me: the compelling urge to somehow start bringing Native people from the US Southwest for intimate circles with their counterparts south. I say “somehow” because I knew no Native people in my home area at the time. Also understand, at the time, I’d never heard of the Condor and Eagle Prophecy.
Long story short: I came home from that journey with a vision. Synchronicities occurred. The next summer I returned to Peru bringing David and Clarence Washington, a Hopi father and son from Shungopavi, Second Mesa, Arizona. More Q’ero Wisdom Keepers gathered with us than ever before until we numbered nearly forty. That journey had incredible affect on us all, especially David and Clarence.
Coming home, I endured intense labor pains to establish Kenosis Spirit Keepers as the nonprofit extension of Kenosis. Anyone who has done this knows what hoops the IRS makes you jump through. It isn’t pretty. I couldn’t have done it without the support of our fledgling board, particularly Doug Easterling and Lucinda Brogden who knew the territory. I didn’t. In October 2007 we became a legitimate nonprofit whose mission helps to preserve threatened Indigenous traditions.
In 2008 Hopi elder Harold Joseph came as our guest to clear the way for other Hopis to safely follow, returning along their migration paths, in the manner given him by the secret society he belongs to. Quietly, he would move away from the group or stay behind while others went on, just for a few minutes then rejoin us. In a number of those places we traveled through in the Cusco and Puno regions that summer, Harold recognized symbols—in a Pachamama cave, in the way the stones were placed in an Inca wall, something carved and almost hidden, in the eagles flying alongside us—which created validation for him.
Harold also paved the way in the highlands and lowlands of Chiapas, Mexico. In 2009 his meeting and offerings to Don Antonio Martinez, Lacandón Maya elder in the tiny rainforest village of Najá, came at a vulnerable time—and made a difference. That story and the effect that followed was published by Sacred Fire Magazine in Fall 2012 and may be downloaded.
Since that time, we have sponsored a number of traditional Hopi Spirit Keepers on programs in Peru, Mexico and Guatemala. With the help of Hopi friends, I’ve started a program in their home villages. Anyone who is drawn may participate and also support preservation.*
In this ninth year from that flight of the condor and eagle and the birth of my personal vision, I’m pleased to offer a video documenting spiritual travel programs with Native leaders and healers from Summer 2007 through Spring 2014.**
In October 2014 Harold returns to Peru with us. Once again he is acting as the emissary of his religious leader, Lee Wayne Lomayestewa. But this time it’s to seek prayers from the Q’ero spiritual leaders for the continuation of the traditional Hopi way of life, now very much threatened. Council will be held in the Q’ero village of Ccochamocco.
Lorna Joseph from Shungopavi will be joining us in January 2015 for our Maya Mysteries program in Chiapas, Mexico. She has heard the stories from those Tribal members who have traveled with us. Now she wants to experience her southern relations personally and what comes from overlapping creation stories. Such validation creates spiritual strength.
The number nine also symbolizes the human gestation period. I never could have predicted all that has occurred since that time I was sitting in circle with Q’ero spiritual leaders in 2006. I had no preconceived notion. Nor do I now.
And yet…I sense we are again upon another threshold with this work. I can feel it. And I invite anyone who wants to be part of it, holding intent, to stand beside me with integrity, and take the step.
We look for the burning bush. But truly, it’s the subtle, quiet moments that open us…
☀ Individuals from different cultures share a meal and discover camaraderie, even though they don’t understand each other’s spoken language.
☀ Two Indigenous people, with common ancestors, put their heads together and compare notes.
☀ A brown hand is extended to a white hand to offer help up a steep trail.
Then the recognition comes: You are my brothers and sisters!
*A portion of tuitions for spiritual travel programs are tax-deductible to fund these efforts. Early registration discount for the October 24-November 2, 2014 Heart of the Andes program ends June 20. Early registration discount for the January 18-28, 2015 Entering the Maya Mysteries program ends September 12.
** Thanks so much to Sunny Heartley who composed and produced the soundtrack for this video with his beautiful Native flute music. Visit his website.
The Lifepath Dialogues offer an invitation toward embodiment of all that is life-affirming and the deeper meaning of sustainability. Themes are drawn from books "Calling Our Spirits Home" and "Standing Stark" and 20+ years as a conscious living mentor leading spiritual travel journeys with Indigenous Wisdom Keepers serving their communities, group and individual programs. Carla specializes in working with people who seek to live through their deeply held values. For more info see the “About” tab. The author may be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow this blog by becoming a fan on the Kenosis Facebook page.
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