Posts Tagged With: Qero

What the Jungle Knows

When so much has been charted, made dry and predictable there are those drawn to what is uncharted, unanticipated, not quite so visible. By venturing into these places, material and nonmaterial, we learn of ourselves⏤what we’re made of and can truly be. A quest for lost treasures. An ascent is one thing. But the point when we grow wings and fly is only probable after the great descent and excavation.

The classic 70s film Chac: The Rain God contains a powerful illustration of such a journey. On the surface level, it’s about a Tzeltal Maya village in the highlands of the Mexican State of Chiapas whose rain-starved crops are devastated. Led by the cacique, their village chief, a small crew of men seek a diviner who will petition Chac, the rain god, to have mercy on them and send moisture to the land.

Insert the deep structure … Such a diviner—a Holy Man—is not easily found. He lives far from the village, a personage unknown: a foreigner at best, a witch at worst. But the need for such intervention is so great, they attempt to hold their fears at bay and proceed. When the diviner is finally found, he demands a price.

Being a Holy Man, he knows there must be a payment, an investment signaling commitment, for a coveted desire to materialize. He exacts a journey into the jungle, a place well feared by the highland villagers. The jungle is not just the jungle … but the Underworld where things are hidden and unfamiliar, waiting to reveal themselves to a vulnerable passerby. In the shadows of a ceiba tree, an owl shapeshifts to human form and slithers down a branch. Was mysticism extending its offer or was it merely a trick of the mind? They come across the dreaded Lacandón Maya, who call the rainforest home, and wonder if they’ll make it out alive. Or was the threat just a legend? Who in the group will persist? Who will fall away? Who will find it possible to walk at the edge of reality across a waterfall?

A few months ago I read Exploration Fawcett, a book compiled from Col. Percy Fawcett’s manuscripts and field notes on his quests into the Brazilian Amazon searching for the Lost City of Z. It was first published in 1953 by his surviving son Brian. Whether his father and eldest brother found the site they sought remains a mystery as they did not return. But their undertakings in the jungle, told through Percy’s own words, contain the same central elements I describe above. Others sought to replicate his journey and found their own, documented in David Grann’s book on the same subject, also a newly released movie.

There is no shortage of such books. I’ve read many of them: Wild, Tracks, To the Field of Stars and others. Whether the expeditions were initiated as spiritual journeys, that’s what they became. Each one has its own special challenges depending on the physical environment. But the central theme in all of them speaks to the human hunger toward personal potential that challenges of the journey inward bring.

More than anything, here I focus on The Jungle as a metaphor containing the lost city that was not at all lost. But merely waiting for rediscovery once we step outside the comfort zone.

***

You are invited to join us on these upcoming journeys that range from the highlands to rainforest places. Click the link for more information including detailed itinerary, photos, travelers’ stories and more. A portion of tuition tax-deductible to help preserve Indigenous wisdom traditions.

I offer you an intimate opportunity, unlikely to be found on your own, engaging with Indigenous spiritual leaders and healers who serve their people — with the intent that we are all transformed and carry the beauty home.

October 24-November 3, 2017: Spiritual Travel to Peru. Registration discount until June 23. It is a privilege to sponsor a special program focusing on sacred traditions linking the peoples of the Andes and the Manu rainforest.

January 18-28, 2018: Spiritual Travel to Chiapas, Mexico. Registration discount until August 28. Immersion experience in Maya cosmology, medicine, arts and sacred ways of the Living Maya in the highlands and rainforest.

 

 

 

Categories: Global Consciousness, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Those Who Carry Planetary Consciousness

In 2008 Kenosis Spirit Keepers sponsored Hopi Harold Joseph on my spiritual travel program to Peru. The intent being an opportunity for two relations—Q’ero and Hopi—to share a journey from Cusco to Lake Titicaca along their common migration path. Two videographers also came along to document the nature of this work of the heart. Jacob Devaney, of Culture Collective and now blogger for Huffington Post, was one of them.

Last week Jacob contacted me via email related to writing about his experience and said, “My time in Peru was so profound it took me 7 years to even start writing about it… Thanks, Carla! The magic continues to unfold.”

Hopi and Q'ero

Hopi Harold Joseph with Q’ero Wisdom Keepers. Photo: Darlene Dunning.

I can tell you those were quite the momentous times. We fellow travelers were privileged to be there and participate in the circle with these Wisdom Keepers still so committed to their core traditional values. Those who carry consciousness for planetary wellbeing are becoming an endangered strain of humanity.

Thankfully, the track that called me back in 1994 has continued, deepening in so many ways I couldn’t have predicted. In this year’s program Hopi Marvin Lalo from First Mesa will be meeting his Q’ero relations for the first time. Our journey begins at Tiwanaku, the legendary Creation Place in Bolivia, and travels along an initiation path all the way to the Manu rainforest in Peru. Marvin is so excited.

Jacob’s article is titled Wisdom of an Andean Mystic:

This is not your usual story of going to the jungle to try Ayahuasca…

Few people realize that the Hopi Tribe of Northern Arizona have clans that are descendants of tribes from the northernmost to southernmost tips of the Americas (and quite possibly beyond that). The Q’ero are believed to be descendants of the Inca, who fled high into the Andes where they successfully hid from outsiders until recent decades. Kenosis Spirit Keepers had created the cultural exchange program, and Don Americo Yabar was playing a central role in translating between cultural leaders. I was brought along by Carla Woody to help document and assist my Hopi friend, Harold Joseph…

Read the entire article on Uplift.

Categories: cultural interests, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Travel | 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

Speaking Truth

I’ve been reviewing some of my archived newsletter content and came across this paragraph I included in my old “Metaphors for Life” column back in 2009. This one bears repeating. Knowing the truth, or backstory, instead of taking something at face value is always a good idea before opening your mouth to speak, particularly when doing so could inadvertently create damage when none is deserved.

The Media Mantra on Coca

Despacho Photo

Despacho, or prayer offering, containing coca leaves.
Photo credit: Peter Coppola.

Several weeks ago while driving into town I was listening to NPR. A BBC correspondent who had been in Bolivia was being interviewed about the political situation there. During the course of the program, he made a side comment that he’d had a problem with altitude sickness. Then in a sneering tone said something to the effect, “You know what they did for it? Brought me coca tea. You know what they use that for!”

The reporter had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, but merely passed on propaganda. If he had bothered to find out what coca is really about, he’d have discovered it’s largely the spiritual and nutritional mainstay of the Quechua culture. Coca in its natural form is not a drug. Nor do they use it as such, but instead in sacred ceremonies and as a food source. The black market for coca, for purposes of processing into cocaine, is only sustained through demand from the USA and Europe. Take care of the issue at home and the black market trade virtually disappears.

By making the statement he did, especially on NPR, the reporter helped spread an assumption that the Quechua people who chew coca must be addicts. Out of ignorance, people often pick up a carefully manufactured mantra meant to further a misguided cause, parrot the message and create more damage.

Categories: Compassionate Communication, cultural interests, Healthy Living, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Sacred Reciprocity – Part II

Excerpted from Navigating Your Lifepath by Carla Woody.

THE NATURE OF TRUE COMMUNITY

In Part I, I wrote about ayni, which can be loosely translated from the Quechua as “sacred reciprocity.” In my estimation, it bears exploring over and over again, as we can dip more deeply into the meanings that rest beneath the surface. Ayni is not merely a concept, something nice to talk about, to the people of the Andes and other Native peoples. It is an actual day-to-day practice so embedded that they don’t even question it.

Carla and Q'ero Waikis

The author greeting Doña Carmina and other Q’ero waikis (friends) before a despacho (blessing) ceremony outside Cusco.
Photo credit: Oakley Gordon

In Western culture we think more in terms of giving and receiving. I give you something. You owe me something in return. In the Andean tradition there’s a much different flavor to giving and receiving. It has to do with the support of the entire community, not just one person.

If one person knows how to do something very well and the other person doesn’t, the one who has the skill automatically shares the teaching. The reciprocity comes to the first person in two ways. First, the teacher is validated for her knowledge base and may also learn more through the teaching. Maybe even more importantly, the entire community benefits because there are now two people with added value instead of just one.

COLLABORATION ONLY WELCOME

In 2004 I heard a radio program on global cultural change called “Andean Harvest” on Worlds of Difference that lent a further distinction to ayni and its influence. The interview took place in one of the mountain villages in Peru and had to do with the potato crop, of which there are a few hundred varieties. The challenge had to do with the farmers growing more of the different kinds of potatoes and getting them to market. To do so would give the opportunity to increase their livelihood. As a part of this undertaking, they were being advised by outside sources.

But the farmers rejected most of the sources’ advice. In the interview one of the elders said, “We will do nothing that would put one of us in competition with the other.” He went on to explain that introducing competitiveness would negatively impact the overall health of the community. What he said gave me pause and a great deal of consideration by contrasting it with my home culture.

THE WORTH OF WHO WE ARE

In Western culture, competition is considered healthy, naturally a part of our capitalistic society. Sports teams compete. Sportsmanship behavior is encouraged. But there are a few other strange, although familiar twists, which get in the way and preclude the practice of true ayni as yet.

The programming of our society says that success means we have to “be somebody.” That translates to a profession: doctor or lawyer but not “merely” a mother or father. If we define our worth and identity through career choice, or lack of thereof, there’s a huge convolution to the psyche; it sends the ego scrambling. The natural follow-on is one of competition, individual gratification, the need to “win” in order to be validated. The behaviors that come of this particular mindset produce not community, but a fractured society generating discordant energy.

Competition introduced into locales such as those in the Andes would create confusion, disrupting their underlying spiritual tradition. People there are known not so much by what they do, but by who they are. Many of the shamans and mystics that I have come across in Peru and elsewhere can determine who we are by seeing our energy field. That tells everything. A light energy field and the intent to evolve are what garner respect, not a livelihood.

Witnessing our own thoughts and actions is a slippery slope at best. The ego has all kinds of rationale to convince us that what we do is for our own good and that of those around us. Coming from the culture we do, unconsciously ingesting what we have, we perform a service to ourselves, and ultimately our communities, by being alert and wiser than the ego mind. The Core Self insists on it. Here are a couple of questions to consider.

– How do you find the level of competition around you?

– How can you make space for and “sponsor” others?

***

Go to Sacred Reciprocity, Part I.

Categories: Indigenous Wisdom, Personal Growth, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel, Travel Experiences | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What Is Renewal? – Part I

(Original article written in 2007 with additions here.)

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

GLOBAL RENEWAL

Balinese temple figure

Balinese temple figure.
Photo: Carla Woody

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

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

so the next thing can come along?

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

FRAGILE TRADITIONS

Don Antonio and Balche Ceremony

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

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

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

Q'eros of Peru

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

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

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

Hopi Spirit Keepers 2007

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

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

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

The thought of that happening hurts my very soul.

***

Go to Part II.

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

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

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

Review: El Andalón (The Healer)

Don Sergio doctoring

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ccochamocco School

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

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

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

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

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

El Andalon

Film Poster
Director: Consuelo Albo
Producer: John Speyer

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

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

Review: The Spirit Hunters

Alto Madre de Dios

Rio Alto Madre de Dios flowing through Manu.
Photo: Oscar Panizo

This 1994 film documents the beliefs, traditions and everyday life of the Matsigenka—The People—an isolated tribe of the Upper Amazon in the Manu region of Peru. The documentary opens with breath-taking scenes of the rainforest and moves into the story of a particular village. It relates the communal focus, hunting practices—and a matrilineal culture, unusual for most parts of the world.

We’re provided a look into exchanges between Glenn Shepard, an American anthropologist then living with the Matsigenka, and elder healer Mariano, who is also a gifted storyteller, an important role since their tradition is completely oral. In a walk through the rainforest, Mariano points out medicinal plants and shares their use. The film is packed full of interesting material on the ritual use of plant spirits: how shamans leave their bodies to gain knowledge and see the future. Even the dogs are given plant medicine to help in a hunt. And it relays warnings on how witches can steal people’s souls. One of my favorite jungle sounds is the primeval roar of the howler monkey. So I was particularly taken when I discovered here that the Matsigenka believe they carry a shaman’s soul.

Pasqualito

Don Pasqualito and his newly made flute.
Photo: Alonso Mendez

Another interesting note was contact the Matsigenka had with the Inca. For me, that piece of information brought back fond memories. I arranged for half my 2009 spiritual travel program in Peru with Don Américo Yábar to be spent in Manu. I invited three Q’ero spiritual leaders to accompany us; the Q’eros being the descendants of Inca priests and holders of that ancient tradition. Since my friends live at very high altitude, going to the jungle took them way out of their element. They were quite excited and it was a delight to watch them, particularly when they found bamboo. They spent much of the time making flutes and testing them out! We didn’t meet any Matsigenka but it was a return trip to the rainforest for these Inca descendants.

But back to “The Spirit Hunters.” Truly, this film is worth your time. It’s a glimpse into an Indigenous people who live a simple life, but it doesn’t romanticize the lifestyle or protect our Western eyes from the perils. More than anything it reveals a rich imprint, a complex belief system that guides their days.

Written and produced by Kim MacQuarrie. Narrated by James Earl Jones. The film is 50 minutes. Watch the complete film on Culture Unplugged. To learn more on the Matsigenka here’s an article by Glenn Shepard: “The People of Manu.”

Categories: Arts, Film Review, Healing, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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