Posts Tagged With: Re-Membering Process

Book Review – Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O’Keeffe

GeorgiaI’ve read biographies on Georgia O’Keeffe. But this is different. You might think because this is a novel it’s a poof piece. It’s not. The author portrays the relationship between O’Keeffe and her patron-photographer-husband Alfred Stieglitz from the first enchantment to its lingering disintegration. It’s written from the painter’s perspective. While no one can ever get completely inside someone else’s head, it’s evident that Dawn Tripp has done the extensive research necessary that makes the book plausible. Believable. This is essentially a book about the precise care and manipulation Stieglitz gave to the creation of O’Keeffe’s public persona from the point she was moldable to when she was not. It’s a story laid against the backdrop of their great talents and marriage—the play between Steiglitz’s control and O’Keeffe’s internal conflict. It’s about the position women were historically placed and their treatment … and how this woman claimed her rightful recognition as one of the greatest American artists. Perhaps there’s an argument that O’Keeffe wouldn’t have made it there without Stieglitz. But I don’t find merit in it. She was a force all her own.

As an artist myself I appreciate the way the author wrote from an artist’s sensitivities on the form. That, too, made the book believable.

…It occurs to me now that art is exactly this: making what’s unseen but all around, visible. Having that sort of faith…

And it pained me to read what she wrote of O’Keeffe going blind. She enlists the gardener’s help:

…to lead my left hand onto the first sheet of paper… He leaves and I’m alone. I paint shapes—a wave, a circle—the circle slides like grace over the page. I make forms that echo those early abstract forms I made when I was no one, and it occurs to me that art is a separate country, outside the body, outside time, like death or desire, an element beyond our physical selves we are traveling toward…

 

Available on Amazon and elsewhere.

 

Categories: Book Review, Creativity Strategies, Visual Arts | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

The Fierce Quiet Place

We give a gift to ourselves when we allow connection with our innermost being. This is the one untouched by circumstances but fierce in its inviolate sanctity. The silence in this place is so loud you can hear it, so palpable you can feel it. And yet there’s no adequate way to express the comfort and inspiration it brings. Comfort here meant as nurturing. Coupled with inspiration, it urges us on…through…and beyond…to what we can’t yet know. And the circumstances of our lives⏤the challenges⏤fall away. It doesn’t mean they’re not there but are approached differently. A state of grace through the chaos and surrounding confusion.

And that Fierce Quiet Place wants expression in any way we can. It creates a portal and finds its way into the material world through narrative art, music, poetry and prose, ceremony and ritual…a touch…complete presence we give to others. It’s funneled from non-ordinary reality that exists out-of-time to land here.

This is what I’ve recognized more and more. And knowing that when I give myself over to that Fierce Quiet Place the most beautiful things happen. I live from a deeper place. I meet people who hold similar expression. I want to introduce you to one of them through the way it happened.

In February I completed This Is My Walk in Life, an oil painting. Over the course of its creation, it came to life. The portal opened. A silent dialogue ensued and conveyed itself as best I could onto canvas. It was not a casual process.

This is my walk in life

Title: This Is My Walk in Life Oil on canvas, 20×24. ©2016 Carla Woody. All rights reserved.

This is the description I gave it.

We all have a walk in life, perhaps chosen before we set our feet on Mother Earth. And amidst hardships there’s unexpected joy. If we open our eyes to it, there’s magic in fleeting moments when we truly experience what life is. This painting is inspired by the Lacandón Maya women of the rainforest village of Nahá in Chiapas, Mexico.

Then at the end of March I met Laura Weaver. She came from Colorado to take part in the fire ceremony guided by Tat Apab’yan Tew during our Spirit Keepers Series. I didn’t know she’s an accomplished poet. I’m quite sure she didn’t know I’m an artist and writer.

Then a few weeks ago I saw a poem she wrote in March.

 A Way of Walking

There is a way of walking

from point A to point B

as if there is nothing

of significance in between.

 

We have been taught to move

in straight lines, to lay life out

along a grid of efficiencies.

But there is another way to navigate.

 

This way carves a serpentine road

full of mysterious meetings.

Along this path, the directives come

from the world itself speaking

 

through all of its voices. And because

something else is guiding us—because

we are listening—at the next crossroads

we turn left instead of right—

 

and find a never before seen village

where an old man harvests golden apples

he offers to those who pass by. And over

the silken hills, cowbells sound out

 

like ancient monk song, and the last

of the sunlight breaks through the rainclouds

so that everything is shimmering and awake.

And the oak tree that cracked in last

 

night’s storm is dripping with honeycomb

and bee hum. And as this moment swells

and blooms open with its own fullness,

suddenly the idea of Point A & Point B

 

makes no sense at all. For now

you have no idea who you are

or if you have arrived. You only know

that you are everywhere.

I couldn’t help but note the strong similarities in the titles of our respective works and common message. Then yesterday I read her poem Making Passage which reaches an even deeper platform. I urge you to read it. It will speak to your soul.

I don’t think I’m presuming. When the Fierce Quiet Place is fully expressed we all say the same thing. Only the variation in our medium is different.

Earlier I described Laura as an accomplished poet but that’s not quite sufficient. Her words have a way of gently, persistently making their way inside us on a path all their own and touches the universal. And—in my experience—I feel heard. Even held.

 ♦♦♦

♦︎ The reprint of A Way of Walking is used with permission. Subscribe to Soul Passages and receive Laura Weaver’s poetry as she publishes.

♦︎ My original oil This Is My Walk in Life is currently available. Inquire for more information. Archival prints are available here.

 

Categories: Arts, Creativity Strategies, Spiritual Evolution, The Writing Life, Visual Arts | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Traveling with Pomegranates

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

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

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

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

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

Available in print and ebook on Amazon and elsewhere.

 

 

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

A Word

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apparitions

Apparitions. Mixed media on panel. ©2014 Carla Woody

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

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

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

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

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

 *****

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

A Hopi Discovery in Bolivia

It was the first day of The Heart of the Andes. This year’s spiritual travel program included Bolivia as our starting point with culmination in Cusco, closely replicating the initiation journey of the first Inka couple Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo. Directed by their father-god Viracocha, they sought a most holy place to build a city—a place of the sun and navel of the world.*

Prior to setting foot in Tiwanku, said to be the Creation Place where Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo first emerged, we made a stop. On a high windy ridge overlooking the area—a ritual site— Q’ero paq’o friends led a despacho ceremony. Offering sacred cornmeal to each of us, Hopi Suhongva Marvin Lalo made his own prayers to the land as we all released our intent to the winds.**

Marvin had begun to share his feelings and his mission for coming on this journey.

Hopi Elders talk about and remind generations after generations of Hopi oral history, including the migration stories of various clans after the flooding of Palatkwapi, a unknown ancient village located somewhere in the south. Exact routes, established villages, and events have long been forgotten with time. Still, ancient ceremonies remain intact with clans responsible for carrying religious ceremonies through thousands of years of migrations to present-day Hopi villages where the ceremonies are still practiced today.

The Heart of the Andes journey offered an opportunity to connect with ancestral history, to visit the land of the ancients and its descendents, the Q’ero. To what extent my experience would take me, I didn’t know. The first despacho ceremony, I experienced a strong connection as I was presented with a Chakana; a sacred stone necklace and woven cords tied to my wrist. I gave thanks with offerings of my hooma.

At Tiwanku, Marvin already noted the possibility of his own people having set foot on this land. We wandered the ruins, a place of ancient mystery. We were all especially moved in a ritual square, the interior lined with stone faces—a portal perhaps.

Finally pulling ourselves away, in the last half hour before closing we ventured over to an adjacent site. Puma Punku may be the biggest mystery of all. Some conjecture it may have been a docking point, as thousands of years ago Lake Titicaca also covered this area. Now what was left were huge toppled stone slabs and much smaller structures fashioned with extraordinary precision … seemingly impossible for those times. It cannot be explained to this day.

And it was here that Marvin—who had traveled south all the way from Hopi Land on a mission for signs that his people had passed this way—found the Hopi migration petroglyph. The one that was known to point the way to his ancestors. The one that pointed north.

 

Atypical of other petroglyphs I’ve seen all over the US Southwest or elsewhere, it was large. I’d say three feet, maybe more. Also curious, there was a large serpent petroglyph in front of it, as though verifying the direction.

Even that large, it was easy to miss. The sun was at that point in the day when its rays glare as it’s headed toward the horizon ready for the night. Light bounced off rock surfaces, washing out details. Even with sunglasses my eyes were at its mercy. I missed it.

But not Marvin. He zeroed in on a symbol he knew to be his people’s…and his hair was on fire.

Hopi Migration Symbol

Hopi migration petroglyph at Puma Punka, black and white to better view. Not pictured in its entirety. Nor is the serpent petroglyph pictured. Photo credit: Janet Harvey.

What does this mean exactly? In 2008 Hopi Harold Joseph came on our program that included Puno. On the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca, we went by boat to the reed islands. There Harold saw the reed boats with serpent heads that he knew from Hopi oral history. He took a replica back to Hopi to show his father-in-law, the last great oral historian of the Tribe…who got tears in his eyes when Harold presented him with an artifact that he already knew.

For Marvin and his Elders, how do you explain the presence of the Hopi migration symbol at Puma Punka if the Hopi had not been there? He talked with excitement of sharing this discovery with the Elders. When our guides spoke of a great city that once existed in this region, now lost, and the great flood that took it, he listened. Geologically, it appears valid. The same story exists in his oral history. The locals even raised the idea that the place we know as Atlantis and the great city they cite are the same.

After we came home, Marvin offered his words, to be included in this documentation, more overview of his time with us in a land he found not to be foreign to him.

The Q’ero and spiritual guides honored me by inviting me to sit in on the ceremonies and observe. I recognized the po.nga (altar) and offerings to be similar to Hopi. At one point I was asked to pray with my hooma for them: to ask the deities’ especially Hopi to help and assist the people to prosper. I quietly prayed, gave offerings of hooma, drank the cool tasty water and bathed symbolically at the springs.

Each day I visited archeological sites with our group and host. Visiting the great Titicaca Lake, to hear a local legend of a great city, which was flooded thousands of years ago sitting at the bottom of the lake. The more I saw, the more I was reminded of how the structures, stone walls, the land and historical stories are similar in the Hopi Southwest. The migration symbol is common to the Southwest but seeing it in South America helps support our Elders’ stories of Hopi migration from the south: ‘Palatkwapi.’

Suhongva Marvin Lalo

Suhongva Marvin Lalo, Island of the Moon. Photo credit: Carla Woody.

When we know our origins, it grounds spiritual identity. We know our place in the world through all the places our people traveled, the ground their feet have touched. It goes beyond mere belief. I’m not sure the word ‘faith’ is even sufficient.

And when you’ve followed something that you know, even as you don’t know what’s ahead or why…and it comes to some kind of fruition in a way you couldn’t even have imagined…that instills something for which I have no words.

That’s what happened for me on this journey. Next year it will be ten years since an eagle and condor flew together overhead at Huaypo Lake outside Cusco after a despacho ceremony with Q’ero friends. And I had an immediate vision of bringing Hopi people to Peru on my 2007 program…not knowing any Hopi…not knowing it was their migration path…not knowing how it would ever happen…not knowing of the Eagle Condor Prophecy.

I have no words.

********

* Viracocha, Creator-Sun God, is also known as Inti.

** Q’ero paq’os (meaning priests, mystics and/or wisdom keepers) traveled to Bolivia from their home in the high Peruvian Andes as sponsored guests and experience the site of their origin for the first time. At important points in the journey they guided despacho ceremonies, a prayer ritual.

Suhongva Marvin Lalo of Walpi, First Mesa in Northern Arizona was our sponsored Hopi guest for the purpose he mentions in this article. Marvin consults for the Hopi Cultural Center in validating sacred sites and artifacts.

For more on why Kenosis Spirit Keepers has been sponsoring Indigenous guests on our spiritual travel programs, go here.

 

Categories: Gratitude, Hopi, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

How I Released My Monkish Ways

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Visitation

The Visitation
Mixed media on board.
©2011 Carla Woody

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

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

Winter Solstice

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

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

***

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

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

Video: Jo Berry on Making Peace with the Enemy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Film Review: Human

Human Documentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch the trailer on You Tube.

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

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

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

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.

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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: , , , , | 4 Comments

The Wabi-Sabi Path

More will likely unfold from my Camino Francés pilgrimage for sure as the effect settles itself into my life. But I want to share these insights from The Essential Way, the special journal blog I kept, coming from my recent return home. I hope it gives you a sense toward the beauty of the journey and dimensions expressly woven together—but unintended by me—that made it what it was.

Traditional corn crib in Galicia area of Spain. ©2015 Carla Woody.

Traditional corn crib in Galicia area of Spain.
©2015 Carla Woody.

The Essential Way

At this writing I’ve been home from travels twelve days after leaving home nine weeks prior. My pilgrim certificate says I finished the Camino in Santiago de Compostela on June 14, my pre and post Camino not counted. Yet it all seems so very long ago. Perhaps it’s due to an enhanced “now-ness” I’m experiencing. The past having served its significance and the future unpredictable, not yet reality; the present doesn’t feel like limbo but something solid at every moment.

Somewhere along my Camino I realized there were two significant aspects in play. The first had to do with clearing mental, emotional, spiritual elements given perfect opportunity to arise through the physical challenges that came about. In an uncanny way, the walk had become my own personal healing timeline stretching way into the past. Thought forms would come to call uninvited. Some quite old to see if there was still…

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