Posts Tagged With: sacred reciprocity

Book Review: The Horse Boy

Horse Boy imageThe Horse Boy came to my attention through one of the travelers on my Peru spiritual travel program. Françoise Moreels told me she was so inspired by the story, centered around autism and Mongolian shamanism, that she was compelled to journey to Mongolia herself. With an introduction like that, of course, I was drawn to read it to see what was so remarkable. And truly it is.

Imagine a young couple completely engaged in life. Rupert Isaacson was a journalist and activist for Indigenous land rights, particularly for the Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert. Kristin Neff was a professor in educational psychology at the University of Texas. Their young son Rowan just wasn’t developing the way other children did and displayed behaviors that led to a diagnosis of autism in 2004. The book is intimate in detailing all the heartbreak and frustration that comes with parenting a child with such a condition—the daily travails that are so difficult. My great respect certainly goes to these parents.

It became the father’s quest to find a way to heal Rowan. Rupert’s work being more flexible, he stayed home with Rowan much of the time. Unexpectedly, an incident occurred that eventually pointed to a path of healing. One day, Rowan broke away from his father and ran over to a horse named Betsy on a neighbor’s property, a mare known to be difficult. Strangely, Betsy was submissive to the child. And the child’s stemming and outbursts calmed. Rupert knew horses. He grew up with them in South Africa. He asked the neighbor if he and his son could ride the horse, and they did. Consistently.

It had such a positive effect on Rowan’s functioning that, after a time, Rupert had a brainstorm. Why not take Rowan to Mongolia, the place where horses were first domesticated and had become integral to the culture—and particularly their powerful form of shamanism? It took Rupert a few years to convince Kristin enough for her to reluctantly agree. But in 2007, the family began a physically and emotionally challenging odyssey across the remote steppes of Mongolia in hopes their son would be healed.

This is a story of strong intent played out against the backdrop of Mongolian shamanism. I highly recommend the book, also produced as a documentary. As a result of their experiences, Rupert Isaacson founded the Horse Boy Foundation working with autism and equine therapy. Kristin Neff founded Self-Compassion offering training in mindfulness and acceptance.

The Horse Boy by Rupert Isaacson is available on Amazon and elsewhere.

 

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

Film Review: The Alma Drawings

You may have heard of the psychic phenomenon automatic writing. But what about automatic drawing?

In her later years Alma Rumball felt the urge to pick up a pen, and her hand began to move on its own. She said, “My hand started to move and I started to draw.” In that moment these creations took over her life and home. Eventually when paper wasn’t enough, her walls, floors and even bathroom fixtures became crowded with repetitive motifs.

Alma Rumball

Automatic drawing by Alma Rumball.

As I watched the film I became fascinated by the remarkable similarity of the symbols and figures in Alma’s work to those in Maya, Tibetan and other world religions. I also noted some resemblance to the technique called automatism introduced by the Surrealists meant to give the subconscious mind free range.

But those don’t appear to be the influences here. Alma was raised a devout Christian and had always led an isolated life in a rural area of Northern Ontario, with very little exposure to the outside world. She never studied art and took no ownership of what she produced. She allowed, “The Hand did them.” And sometimes there were spirits that lived near the ceiling who gave her messages. The Hand—being in charge—would let her know when she was done with a piece when it ceased to move. When The Hand came into her life at the age of 50, she withdrew even more so and claimed to know nothing of religions elsewhere in the world.

Filmmaker Jeremiah Munce covers Alma’s origins, later life and artwork, much through her own words thanks to a recorded interview. The question it puts forth—as ascribed to a number of artists—was Alma’s work directed by a higher consciousness…or the result of mental illness?

Alma Rumball passed in 1980 but left a rich collection of work. Go to the official website to view her art and read articles.

View The Alma Drawings in its entirety on You Tube. Highly recommend not merely as a curiosity but also as a question regarding the creative portal. Released 2005 in Canada, 46 minutes.

 

 

Categories: Creativity Strategies, Film Review, Spiritual Evolution, Visual Arts | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Reflections Forward

Q'eros

Q’eros. Photo credit: Carla Woody

Inclement weather prevailed. Mist drifting into the small valley out of nowhere lending invisibility to what was just a few feet beyond, then dissipating equally unannounced. Splashes of rain turning steady through the night, chill creeping into the bones. Snow in the high mountains. Rays of sunshine breaking through. We soaked up the warmth when we could.

This was the backdrop for four days in the Hatun Q’ero village of Ccochamocco in the Cusco Region of Peru. People in my group kept asking, “Is it always like this?” No. The last time it was mostly sunny with a brief snow shower. We played outside in light jackets with the children and freely roamed the land.

This time we were clothed in as many layers as we could stuff under our heavy coats. Mufflers. Hats. Gloves. Meanwhile, nothing altered much for Q’ero waikis (term for brother, sister or friend). The children still wore sandals with bare feet as did the adults. Layers of sweaters, yes. Heavy coats, no. Bare legs on the girls and women. Their homes: tiny one-roomed huts of local stone with thatched roofs, dirt floors, most having no hearth inside with appropriate ventilation. These things have changed little over the centuries in this high Andean village at nearly 15,000’.

More fortunate, we were housed and fed in the large room of the new community hall that sported a wooden floor. No heat but solid walls and roof. The waikis brought plastic, alpaca hides and blankets from their own homes for us to place under our sleeping bags, barriers from the cold seeping in through the ground.

That was the background. The foreground was this…

The men busily cooking in the entrance room designated as the kitchen producing three remarkably tasty meals a day from simple ingredients. Their constant laughter punctuated the air.

Despacho ceremony

Despacho ceremony. Modesto Machacca Apaza breathing prayers into a coca kintu (prayer offering). Photo credit: Cécile Sother.

A communal despacho ceremony where we all placed prayers for family, friends, global consciousness…our own path… the bundle later taken and burned outside—somehow in the pouring rain—by my compadre Modesto, the father of my godson. But not before, by their request, we visitors formed a tight circle which the waikis entered singing, touching our hearts and hands, wiping down our bodies to release any last vestiges of heavy energy that may have remained. I can think of no words to describe the love in which these actions were given. The transmission remains imprinted in my soul.

Face painting

Lisa Flynn of Santa Fe, NM with her face paints. Photo credit: Cécile Sother.

The children…of all ages. Bright. Curious. Well-behaved. Raised to be happy and free. It shows. There were always at least a handful among us. Sidling up to one or another of us. Reaching out a hand to be held. Lots of laughter during face-painting or hair-braiding time.

Carla Woody

Communing with the mountains and my morning coffee in Ccochamocco. Photo credit: Cécile Sother.

What to say about the land? It’s not in the background. The very terrain, dotted with alpaca and sheep, dramatic, sweeping: Its vibration permeates everything. I know I’ve brought it home, reinforced once again.

Every moment there was filled with magic against the backdrop of hard living—at the level of survival—unlike anything any of us visitors have experienced in our own lives. This was the true initiation presented on this pilgrimage that began in Bolivia…preparing us for its culmination in Ccochamocco, where the highest concentration of paq’os—Andean mysticsreside. Where, in their tradition, an alto mesayoq is chosen by the lightning itself to work with cosmic energies. Where a pampa mesayoq undertakes many years of sacrifice and apprenticeship to learn the ways to honor the Pachamama (Mother Earth). Where the community lives in ayni, sacred reciprocity.

The morning after we returned from Ccochamocco to Cusco I awoke with intense feelings and recognition that I shared with the group as we closed our circle:

I’m feeling much gratitude this morning. After a hot shower and having slept in a warm bed with a good mattress…instead of the hard floor on top of an alpaca hide and a blanket to keep the cold at bay. Q’ero waikis have such fortitude to live in extremely difficult, unpredictable  conditions—subsistence—and yet theirs is also a life interlaced with laughter and sheer joy. It’s also evident to me that their connection to the Pachamama, Apus (sacred mountains) and community is their source. Our culture has much to learn. After yet another reminder of their ongoing gratitude, I can’t help but be humbled again.

And I can’t help but think our initiation, the opportunity always orchestrated by the Universe to be accepted or put aside by each individual, is in what we choose to focus on and how we integrate what we’ve been presented.

Tomorrow I will have been home a week. I’ve only ventured outside my home once to get a few groceries. I placed all other life on hold as I can do little but stare at the distant mountains and landscape outside my own home. Integration has its own way with everyone. This is mine. Tomorrow I begin re-entering my daily life, lunch with a friend and a meeting in town…and see what else the Universe has in store.

***

With many thanks to the gracious, courageous people who joined me in this pilgrimage, making it possible. I continue to be honored by your trust.

Heart of the Andes 2016

Heart of the Andes 2016 bringing together Q’ero, Aymara, Hopi and Maya spiritual leaders, and other intrepid travelers. Pictured here the 3rd day of the pilgrimage after ceremony off the waters of the Island of the Sun at a hidden sacred site. Photo credit: Stacy Christensen.

Categories: Global Consciousness, Indigenous Wisdom, Q'ero | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

The Grace of Ayni: How a Young Q’ero Man Journeys to Maya Land

There’s a point in spiritual development that—if we’re going any further—we recognize something so important that it will guide us the rest of our lives: It’s not all about us. It becomes a natural act to give back in whatever ways we can, large or small. Every time we do it’s an act of gratitude done—not with thoughts of getting something in return—but purely because it’s ours to do, representative of a deeper calling. I’ve written about ayni before, a practice embedded in the way of life in the Andes and other Indigenous cultures. Ayni is a Quechua word loosely translated as sacred reciprocity, a way of living within the universal law of balance and flow.

Ayni travels anywhere in your life: family, friends, those you know little or not at all. Acknowledgement to the Creator, Mother Earth, the ancestors and guides—those seen and unseen—comprising all the threads of this tapestry we call existence. It’s the validation of your presence in its make-up, a particular insight to global consciousness.

The practice has long been a focus in my personal life through what I’ve learned by consistent contact with Indigenous ways. I’m especially invested in exposing participants of my spiritual travel programs as I can—by writing about it, speaking of it and embedding automatic ayni within tuitions that goes to help support the spiritual leaders and their families who have offered their hearts to us. And it goes into the communities to benefit people the travelers have never met.

I make this point because it’s not a natural part of Western culture, which is particularly evident lately. We must be taught that ayni is ours to embrace so the world becomes a better place. In the last few years, I’ve become much more vocal about all this. I talk to people about standing beside me in this work. It does take a global village. Through Kenosis Spirit Keepers, we’ve created Kinship Ambassadors recognizing individuals who are supporting our initiatives in various ways. Our Kinship Circle acknowledges collaborative organizations we’ve worked with to jointly further our common missions.

A wonderful thing has unfolded over the last few years, something that makes my heart sing. Folks are stepping forward to support or completely sponsor areas of the work. They understand the value through their own experiences. I cannot begin to tell you how much it means that they are joining with the vision. This is ayni in action.

With this preface, I want to share a story leading to the most recent occurrence. During the 2014 Heart of the Andes program, we visited with Q’ero friends in Ccochamocco. We spent our days in ceremony, surrounded by the children, awestruck by the power of the land. Ccochamocco is a small, isolated village high in the Andes at 14,500 feet. Residents live in stone huts, with none of the most basic services we have, their alpaca close by. Life is hard there. Yet in its simplicity, in ayni with each other and Pachamama (Mother Earth), the Apus (sacred mountain spirits), Mama Killa (Mother Moon) and Inti (the Sun), these are some of the most peaceful, connected people I’ve experienced. Power is delivered through their natural reverence for all things. We can learn a lot from them.

Our first day in Ccochomocco, a young man made the point of introducing himself to me. He was 17 years old at the time. His name was Santos, son of my old friend Don Domingo, a respected paq’o (shaman or traditional Wisdom Keeper) that I’d first met 20 years before. A few years ago he passed suddenly under unexplained circumstances, a tragedy his family still struggles to endure. It was evident this young man was suffering his father’s absence. He stayed close while we were there, and proclaimed he would follow in his father’s footsteps to undertake the path of the paq’o himself. He meant it. It’s not a light commitment. It’s one of endurance and duty to community, in service to the Cosmos. He set aside his given name Santos and took on a new one: Salqa. In Quechua, Salqa (or Salka, another spelling) means ‘undomesticated energy’⏤the word given to the chaotic energy of The Great Mystery that distills into pure intent.

The next year I arranged a pilgrimage starting outside La Paz, Bolivia and ending 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. As part of this program we sponsored five Qeros and one Hopi along the path of their origins. I made sure that Salqa was invited. I felt it important that, if Salqa was going to commit himself in this way, then it was key for him to know, at this young age, the place of his spiritual origins.

He was thrilled to be part of this journey. Innocence and humility are part of his make-up. He was so eager to learn. Janet Harvey, a return traveler from North Carolina, remembers him this way:

Salqa and I stood listening to our guide describe the significant areas at Raqch’i, the temple of Wiracocha. The guide mentioned one place as the ‘ushnu.’  “Isn’t that a word for ‘navel’?”  I asked. Both of us checked the guidebook he had purchased to find this place on the map. Instead, we became transfixed on the photo of a sculpted image of Viracocha. One of many moments shared with this young/old, playful, wise, curious, creative, helpful, encouraging (for those of us hiking UP the steep path), smiling, thoughtful young man.

During this 2015 pilgrimage I experienced a vision during despacho ceremony that will shortly come to pass in 2016: Qero, Maya, Hopi and Aymara journeying together all the way from Bolivia culminating in Ccochamocco in the high Andes of Peru. But secretly I also held another vision: to bring a Qero paq’o to Maya Land in 2017 to meet those relations in their home environment. A Hopi Wisdom Keeper is already slated to join us there as normal. I had no idea how this would come to pass but have learned to trust and set it aside. The details were not mine to arrange.

This May, out of the blue, I was contacted by another return traveler inquiring about the possibility of sponsoring Salqa on the Maya program in January. Terry Waters of Colorado told me she’d intended to set her reasons for making the suggestion down in just a few paragraphs…and wrote a few pages instead. They were heartfelt. In part, she wrote:

…During our ceremony in Raqch’i Salqa so powerfully expressed himself, clearly from his heart, in the English he’d just learned. His words will remain in my memory. It was like music to my soul…Our Q’ero friends planted blessings in my heart that just keep growing, and I experience this young man as a fine representative of his people, someone who will do great things and impact many souls.

Salqa Apaza

Salqa (left) breathing prayers into a kintu during 2015 despacho ceremony outside Cusco. Photo courtesy of Diane Grupe Marshall.

As ayni took the lead, things were on the wind and developed quickly. In just a few days it was settled. A group of women who traveled with Salqa in Bolivia and Peru bonded together to sponsor him to Maya Land this coming January.

Salqa Bolivia

Salqa Apaza (foreground) on the Island of the Sun, Bolivia, during the 2015 Bolivia-Peru pilgrimage. Photo courtesy of Diane Grupe Marshall.

Diane Grupe Marshall of Montana shared with me:

Salqa is so kind, compassionate and mindful of his traditions. But he’s also becoming aware of today’s challenges and need to preserve those Q’ero traditions.

Maya Daykeeper Apab’yan Tew has agreed to act as his “spiritual father” during the entire January journey. Indeed, he’s delighted to take him under his wing with great anticipation. Since Tat Apab’yan will be on the Bolivia-Peru journey in September-October, they will have opportunity to make a connection in advance. Such mentoring will be a blessing to witness, and I know will add so much for all of us as we hold the space.

As for Salqa, he accepted our invitation and wrote:

 It is a magnificent idea! I will be preparing for such a trip from this early time. I would like to share our customs and traditions…Andean spirituality of the Nation of Q’eros. I am happy to read this message! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to travel and get to know other countries and get to know the Maya brothers. Greetings from the distance and many hugs for you.

Ccochamocco

Q’ero village of Ccochamocco in the Cusco Region of Peru. Photo courtesy of Carla Woody.

And so…this is the story…how the young paq’o Salqa Apaza will make history by being the first of his people to share traditions with Maya leaders in their home communities in Chiapas, Mexico.

And how the grace of ayni has a life of its own and travels on.

***********

You are invited to join us on this important, history-making journey, January 18-28, in Maya Land, and support the tutelage of this young Qero Wisdom Keeper. Be part of the global village.

 

 

Categories: Global Consciousness, Gratitude, Hopi, Indigenous Wisdom, Maya, Q'ero, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Book Review: The Andean Cosmovision

AndeanCosmovision

This is a precious book on a number of levels. First, it is written by a Western man, a dedicated seeker on the Andean path through the teachings of Don Américo Yábar, who has consistently held intent to integrate his learnings back into life at home…and share what he’s discovered over more than twenty years. He touches on some of his struggles to do so coming from a Western intellectual perspective.  This honesty is important. It shows possibility toward core understanding beyond the mind and a way of incorporating it into daily living, an evolutionary process.

I can state these things with confidence having known Oakley Gordon over a very long time, witnessing his process as much as being a fellow traveler on the path. I know his heart. We were introduced to the Andean way through the same spiritual teacher, literally at the same time and place. He has also served on the board of Kenosis Spirit Keepers as Vice-President since our inception.

The book is a primer on Andean worldview. If you want more beyond the introduction, Oakley provides endnotes and anthropological resources. In this book though he writes to you as a friend would, not as an academic. It’s easy to take in and comprehend.

But ultimately it’s a guidebook, a how-to. It’s a compilation of meditations gleaned directly from Don Américo and exposure to other paq’os⎯a general Quechua term for healer, shaman or mystic⎯or created by the author from what he’s learned while in Peru. I don’t think another such book exists. This is important. From my own spiritual travel programs, people periodically express the fear of not being able to recreate the same state of being upon their return home. I share and show them how to do so. But The Andean Cosmovision provides it in print with many different examples to explore with step-by-step instruction.

Oakley states that, although much of the book is taken from the teachings of one specific teacher, he believes any paq’o would validate them. I’ll take it one step further. The tenets covered in this book are found at the core of all Indigenous traditions I’ve worked within: Maya, Hopi and Andean, as well as others where I’ve had exposure.

Highly recommend. Available in print and e-book through Amazon and on Oakley’s website.

♦︎♦︎♦︎

 Oakley will be covering the material in his book during a weekend workshop June 3-5, 2016 in Rockville, Utah to benefit the Heart Walk Foundation who work within the Japu Q’ero villages in the areas of education and agriculture. For more information, click this link to a pdf flyer: Andean Cosmovision Workshop

Categories: Book Review, Indigenous Wisdom, Meditation, Q'ero, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Book Review: Into the Magic Shop

IntoTheMagicShop

My attraction to read Into the Magic Shop was generated through Krista Tippett’s On Being interview called The Magic Shop of the Brain with neurosurgeon and author James Doty, MD. I had no idea who he was. But sincerity flooded his voice as he spoke about the need and effects of compassion. To have a medical doctor speak in this way is so unusual⏤given the hurried, sterile treatment patients in this country normally receive. When Krista asked him to speak of the ritual he underwent prior to neurosurgery, he had me. Rather than having a nurse prep the patient in the operating room he does so himself. After the patient is anesthetized, he shaves the surgery site himself, saying it connects him to the patient as a human being and grounds him in the procedure he is about to take.

From the book:

It is a ritual I do. And as I slowly shave the head, I think of this precious little boy and go over every detail of the surgery in my mind. I cut off the first bit of hair and hand it to the circulator to put in a small bag for the boy’s mother. This is his first haircut, and while it’s the last thing on his mom’s mind now, I know it will matter to her later. It’s a milestone you want to remember. First haircut. First tooth lost. First day of school. First time riding a bike. First brain surgery is never on this list.

What were the influences that made James Doty who he is today with an outlook and behaviors so unusual in his field? He was born into a troubled family where he received no support. He felt alone. He had low self-esteem. But one day he wandered into a magic shop and found his saving grace in an elder named Ruth who was visiting her son, the owner of the store. She saw something in this boy and invited him to return the next day and every day for the next six weeks. She promised to teach him.

…I know how to turn a flicker into a flame. Someone taught me and now I think it’s time that I teach you…It’s going to take a lot of work and you’re going to have to practice the tricks I teach you even more than you did your thumb trick. But I promise you, what I’m going to teach you will change your life…

This is James Doty’s memoir and includes a long learning curve as many spiritual journeys do…because he neglected to include one of the most important teachings Ruth gave him. Ultimately he remembers but not without many trials. And when all her teachings finally took hold, the most powerful magic happened.

Today Dr. Doty is the Founder-Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education⏤of which the Dalai Lama was an original funder⏤and clinical professor at Stanford University School of Medicine.

In many ways Into the Magic Shop reminded me of an all-time favorite book: Illusions by Richard Bach. I always held that the story must be true; Donald Shimoda must have been a real person. I longed for it to be so. But Into the Magic Shop is…without a doubt.

I highly recommend this book. Available on Amazon and elsewhere in print and e-book.

 

Categories: Book Review, Compassionate Communication, Global Consciousness, Healing | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

A Havasupai Elder Speaks

We drove along the South Rim tourist area of the Grand Canyon and wound our way to the west on a dirt road through tall pines. Leaving the throngs of people behind, with much anticipation, we entered a different world. During opening circle for our spiritual travel program to Hopi just the night before, I’d let the folks know an opportunity had presented itself.

The Grand Canyon is sacred to the Hopi. They emerged into this middle world in ancient times from a point deep in its interior, and the Havasupai people have called it home for at least a thousand years. A relationship exists between these peoples. So when my Hopi partner Char Joseph contacted the Havasupai Tribe inquiring if there was someone who would speak to us about their ways, they were happy to oblige saying…all too often they were forgotten.

We pulled into Supai Camp, once the tribal winter home on the rim where just a few remain. The traditional dwellings are long gone. In 1934 the National Park Service (NPS) tore down or burned the homes without notice to the residents who were away at the time. I Am the Grand Canyon documents more than a century’s devastation of the Havasupai at the hands of the US federal government, NPS, Grand Canyon Association and Sierra Club. In the book, Havasupai Mack Putesoy testified how their homes were burned to the ground with all their belongings inside. Effie Hanna said she lost things she’d been saving all her life. In place of traditional homes on their aboriginal lands, the NPS built cabins and forced the residents to pay rent.

However, I knew none of this at the time we approached the home where we’d been invited.

Havasupai Girl

Havasupai girl, circa 1900. Photo credit unknown.

We were greeted at the door by Colleen Kaska, daughter of Daniel Kaska who was chairman of the Havasupai Tribe in the 1970s. Elder Daniel is now quite frail but welcomed us. He wanted to tell us the story of the Havasupai, People of the Blue-Green Waters named after the beautiful canyon waters running through the area they now mostly live. Colleen shared in the storytelling.

Their aboriginal lands once encompassed areas from the Grand Canyon to the Colorado River and the San Francisco Peaks west to Ashfork and Seligman. In the warm months they lived in what is now known as Cataract Canyon in the interior of the Grand Canyon and grew crops. In winter months they dwelt on the rim in order to hunt.

Once the Santa Fe railroad came along and interest in the Grand Canyon grew as a tourist and recreational site the Havasupai were squeezed and began to suffer. In 1882 President Arthur declared the majority of their aboriginal land belonged to the American public. The People of the Blue-Green Waters lost their plateau hunting-herding lands and many thousands of acres. They were barred from rim watering holes by cattlemen and the NPS…and relegated to Cataract Canyon. This narrow 518-acre tract doesn’t see sun during winter months, and historically endured flash floods that sometimes took out homes and people.

Colleen had been relating this history in a matter-of-fact way. The more she spoke, the sadder I felt. I had no idea what we would learn when we came through this family’s door. But I didn’t anticipate such a story. I’d thought of the NPS and Sierra Club as entities that conserved beauty…not those who wrought devastation upon peoples of the land (I thought) they were to protect. I said, “This all must be heartbreaking.”

Colleen paused, became still. She had a faraway look in her eyes. “Yes. But when I walk our aboriginal lands⎯the ones taken from us⎯I know it is of my people. My ancestors are there.” The tone of her voice made clear that knowledge gave her strength.

Elder Daniel spoke haltingly of the century-long struggles to be recognized by the federal government, to regain any of the land taken from them, including his own personal involvement as chairman in this quest. Finally, in 1976 they succeeded to a small degree: 185 acres returned to the Havasupai with 95,300 acres named “Havasupai Use Lands” but controlled by the NPS.

Daniel Kaska and Apabyan Tew

Havasupai Elder Daniel Kaska & Maya Daykeeper Apab’yan Tew. Photo: Colleen Kaska.

K’iche’ Maya Daykeeper Apab’yan Tew was present as a sponsored guest on our spiritual travel program. He wanted to know about Havasupai ceremonies. He asked Daniel, “Do you have a story about some time of a spiritual nature you remember?” Daniel shook his head. It seemed the focus for so long had been a fight for acknowledgment, some recognition of their worth, that there was no energy left for anything else.

Mike Weddle⎯Kenosis Spirit Keepers board member, Daykeeper and musician⎯visiting from Maryland was able to join our group for just two days. He brought his flute. I invited Mike to offer Daniel and Colleen a prayer song. The music was sweet. When it came to an end, there was silence. Then Daniel began to sing in words and tones that entered every one of us. The energy seemed to shift.

When we all expressed how it touched us, he uttered softly, “It’s a funeral song.” And then, “We are a lost tribe.” It was painful to hear of such loss.

Our visit was over. We formed a circle outside under the pines and invited Colleen to join us. Elder Daniel was unable to do so. Apab’yan offered a Maya prayer for the People of the Blue-Green Waters and the land.

A few days later I received a note from Mike who had to leave for other business.

I think we all felt the same as elder Daniel Kaska told his story of loss and betrayal, going to Washington where no one would listen, voting against the government deal when his own people would not listen, and his final ‘I don’t know what will become of us’. When he sang his beautiful song, and then said it was a funeral song, I almost wept.

We were invited by Colleen to join a singing ceremony 8 am Saturday at Red Butte. I did go to represent us but there was no one there. There are two forest roads on each side of the Butte, but no people, no cars, and no singing.

So I climbed the switchbacks to the very top of the butte, the summit. At the very top there is a crossing with 4 paths going in the 4 cardinal directions. I’m sending a photo. Colleen called this the Supai place of origin.

I felt that in just 2 days I had been witness to the place where the Supai began and perhaps the place where they end. As there was no one else there to sing, I did the singing, and I sang the Maltyoxb’al, the [Maya] great gratitude song, for the arc of the Supai nation.

Red Butte

Red Butte where the Havasupai were born to this world. Photo: Mike Weddle.

redbutte3

Four Directions at the summit of Red Butte. Photo: Mike Weddle.

When we held our closing circle at the end of our week with the Hopi and Havasupai people, I spoke to the group.

I never know in advance how things will unfold when we hold a sacred container of pure intent. Things I can never predict come in ways that affect us all. I believe the most important thing we did during this journey was sit in respect, listen deeply to this Elder’s words and witness the grief he carries.

Sometimes that’s all we can do even in the face of our own helplessness at such recognition. And that acknowledgment matters.

***********

Note: Elder Daniel Kaska singing recorded by Apab’yan Tew.

Go here to learn more about Spiritual Travel to Hopi: Sacred Guardians of the World,  and check back for next year’s March travels.

Categories: cultural interests, Healing, Indigenous Rights, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

An Integrated Life

Living in a Western culture your life is compartmentalized. Maybe not across the board but largely so unless you’ve made a concerted effort to change what’s handed to us. That means creative expression is separate from work, which in turn is isolated from spirituality. Possibly the closest overlap may be spirituality relating to family or relationship. Or if you’re in a creative field of work where your deeper needs may be unleashed. Such disconnection results in dissatisfaction—an underlying sense of emptiness and lack of freedom that snowballs over time. Containment. I’m quite sure it wasn’t always that way but probably began with the Industrial Revolution and a move away from the land and community. The fact remains: it’s undeniably present. People attempt to fill the hole with ways that don’t work and are often quite harmful.

I had two reminders recently that initiated this post. A young woman from Los Angeles came into The Gallery in Williams, an artist cooperative where I’m a member. I happen to be on duty. When we struck up a conversation, I identified myself as one of the artists.

“I’m an artist,” she said then gestured to her partner. “But he’s a fine artist.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“He’s a full-time artist. But I work in a corporation. If I ever have time, then maybe I can do a little something.” Her shoulders slumped, and I could see she rarely had the time or energy left over to devote, given her hours and pressures at work.

Full moon over Bolivia. View from Island of the Sun, Lake Titicaca. ©2015 Carla Woody.

Full moon over Bolivia. View from Island of the Sun, Lake Titicaca. ©2015 Carla Woody.

I told her I used to live the same way. But over time I made conscious decisions to realign my life to what I believe, care about and what gives me energy rather than takes it…that it’s truly possible…that I had to do it for my own wellbeing or suffer the consequences. She asked for my contact information and said, “You’re going to hear from me.” Whether I do or not, I sensed we weren’t just making small talk. In those few moments, possibility created a crack in a previously closed space. And as Leonard Cohen said, “That’s how the light gets in.”

The issue: We don’t have many role models within our culture for those who lead an integrated life. I feel fortunate that I’ve had ongoing influences over twenty years. But it didn’t come from my own culture. I began to understand there was another way to live because I witnessed it within traditional Indigenous communities, especially those where I’ve spent consistent amounts of time. That’s how I know what I’ve seen isn’t isolated. Spiritual beliefs aren’t relegated to one day or a few minutes a week. They permeate everything: the way fields are tilled, the manner food is cooked, how children are raised, the things they create, and how communities interact.*

All is soundly grounded in such a way that gives life meaning and depth throughout. I have so much gratitude for this exposure, which has taught me the “how.” After a time of repetitive experiences, I consciously began to change how I live my own life. In the beginning, it seemed radical and difficult. Now it would be so to live any other way. Any aspect of my life organically dovetails into another.

Modesto

Modesto, long-time Q’ero friend and father to my godson, making prayers to the Pachamama (Mother Earth) and Apus (sacred mountain spirits) during ceremony outside Cusco. ©2015 Carla Woody.

I’ve just returned from this year’s spiritual travel program in Bolivia and Peru. Our Hopi program is coming soon in March, an opportunity for a solid week of witnessing what I discuss here. So my thoughts on integration are very present.

In closing circles I’ve heard concerns from travelers whether they’ll be able to experience the same depth at home. Of course, you can. Any deeply spiritual experience lives inside you always—no matter the form of its delivery. It becomes part of your identity and can be readily called into consciousness if you need a reminder.

I’ve also heard comment about withholding such spiritual consciousness, as though it would become tainted, if carried over to another aspect of life—usually work. Why would you want to keep it in the closet? That would cause internal conflict. (Understand I’m not talking at all about proselytizing, a different matter entirely I find an offensive intrusion.)

When you live through your spiritual values, there’s a trickle down effect shaping who you are in the world, what you believe about yourself and others, how you approach matters, what you create. It doesn’t even involve talking about those values. Yet, all shifts. It’s often visible to others as well. Even if they can’t put their finger on the difference.

I long ago realized folks come to engage in these journeys for reasons they may not be able to articulate but are present throughout all the same. It may play out in different forms but the desire for clarity, resolution and integration are primary and inform re-entry home.

We’re all tested all the time. It comes down to belief about possibility, choice and knowing the “how to.” It means staying strong so you can walk through life with grace. It means knowing the full sense of your birthright and giving yourself a chance to own it.

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*That doesn’t mean influences for Indigenous peoples to get off track are nonexistent. There are, mostly coming from Western ways. If they give in to them, the same angst occurs and harms wellbeing…maybe more so because their blood knows another way.

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Invitation: Join us for our December 4-5 Spirit Keepers Series in Phoenix where Eli PaintedCrow, Yaqui-Mexica Wisdom Keeper, and I offer a primer on ways to walk in two worlds—Indigenous and Western—and live through spiritual values. Donation basis.

Categories: Global Consciousness, Gratitude, Healthy Living, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , | 2 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.

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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

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