Posts Tagged With: sacred reciprocity

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

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

Film Review: Beyond Right and Wrong

beyondrightwrong

Beyond Right & Wrong: Stories of Justice and Forgiveness. Co-directed by Lekha Singh and Roger Spottiswoode.

Directors Singh and Spottiswoode have taken the beautifully hopeful line from a Rumi poem…

 Out beyond ideas of right and wrong doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

 …and shown us examples of people who have done just so. I will give you this warning: It’s a difficult documentary to watch. But the rewards of doing so are many.

Some of it is inconceivable. How do those we would think of as victims—or their families—set aside horrendous acts done to them and move on? How do those guilty of such acts face what they’ve done…and the survivors…and live with themselves?

The documentary features acts done in the name of war:

It focuses on the personal stories of selected individuals who entered the tricky area of forgiveness and resolution. They came together in person, the one who undertook the act and the one who was devastated by it. The film uncovers raw emotion and struggle. Initially, a couple of the perpetrators put up defenses…justifications. In the beginning, some of the victims just could not face the gut-wrenching grief, fresh all over again in their presence. But all found the courage and finally a sense of forgiveness and resolution through various means begun through first coming together.

In watching their stories, I immediately thought of the places in my own life that were relevant. I’ve never had experiences to the level these people have. Many of us haven’t. But we’ve all had loss in some respect. We’ve all done things we regret.

The film subliminally invites personal consideration and the act of letting go. While war is the rationale here, each one of us is the instrument within our own lives as to how we respond to circumstances, what we do with what occurs.

I’m certain that forgiveness is not for the one who performs the wrongdoing, although they will benefit through being forgiven. If we don’t forgive then our lives remain tainted with the act—emotionally, mentally and even physically—and we pass the effect on. The same is true for the weight of guilt carried through a lifetime.

It’s not common knowledge that I’ve been a conflict mediator on a professional basis for nearly 30 years. I’ve always done it as a sideline. I believe in mediation and the magic that can happen within its forum. Years ago I mediated victim-offender cases, in this case juvenile first-time offenders. I still mediate parenting plans for divorcing parents for the county where I live. I can think of no better reason to come to forgiveness and collaborate than for the sake of children and interrupt a pattern.

Resolution can be a long, slow process. But it doesn’t have to be. From my private practice I’ve found Neuro-Linguisitic Programming (NLP) processes and rituals addressing forgiveness, grief and loss to be highly effective whether the other person is physically present or not. Here’s an article of mine published in an NLP professional journal back in ’95 that gives a case study example. (Go to subtitled material under “The Grief/Loss Process” and “The Forgiveness Process”.)

You may view the film for free here. You can purchase the documentary within a kit, which also includes a group and self-study guide, as well as a book The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict by The Arbinger Institute that brings the core material in the documentary into our everyday lives for personal and global effect.

The 2012 documentary has received the following prestigious awards: Best Social Impact Film by Sundance Collective, Best Avant Garde Film by the American Psychological Association, Official Selection of the Hamptons International Film Festival, Introduced United Nations Resolution on Mediation by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and more.

Film length: 1 hour, 22 minutes.

Late-breaking news! Jo Berry, who is founder of UK-based Building Bridges for Peace and one featured in the documentary, is coming to Arizona in late September-early October for speaking engagements and film screenings.

I am pleased to announce Kenosis Spirit Keepers and the Quad City Interfaith Council are co-sponsoring a film screening and talk “Making Peace with the Enemy” by Jo Berry to be held on September 28, 6:30-8:30 PM, at Prescott College Crossroads Center, 215 Garden Street, Prescott. Admission is free will offering at the door with no one turned away.

Other currently scheduled venues in Arizona are below.

Categories: Compassionate Communication, Film Review, Healing, NLP | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Music Review: A Deeper Surrender – Kirtana

A Deeper Surrender

Eleven years ago I received this CD as a gift, and it never gets old. I was embarking on a solo camping trip up to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The friend who gave it to me hoped it would help hold the intent of the trip—and indeed it did!

 The sweetness of Kirtana’s voice is enough in itself, and the love songs she sings automatically touch something inside. When I realized that she was disclosing the nature of her relationship with the Divine Beloved, it deepened the effect even more. Throughout my journey north and then home, this sacred music compelled me to witness evidence all around me and within me of That which permeates everything.

Available on Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby.

Categories: Gratitude, Music Review, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Prayer Journeys of a Singing Bowl

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

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

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

Then Hilary asked me to be a bowl carrier.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perubowl-3

Gi Thomas passes the singing bowl to Doña Carmina.

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

Perubowl-4

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

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

P1050533-2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: Gratitude, Healing, Meditation, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Film Review: Q’ero Mystics of Peru

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

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

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

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

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

 Our work is sacred.

We will not forget or lose this knowledge.

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

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

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

Spiritual Integrity and Preservation

In 2009 an important tradition began, first started by Hopi elder Harold Joseph who accepted an invitation to accompany me on my spiritual travel program Entering the Maya Mysteries. As his religious leader’s emissary, the purpose was to reconnect with relations, those from Hopi migration paths. When I make these invitations on behalf of Kenosis Spirit Keepers, it’s without expectation of outcome. I’ve come to know that as long as we within the circle hold the container sacred…what fills it is rich, often with significance I never could have predicted.

The effect Harold had on Don Antonio Martinez, the last Lacandón Maya elder maintaining his timeless traditions, during a very vulnerable time is well documented in my article The Last Spirit Keeper available for download here. Equally significant are the indications Harold saw during our travels through Mayalands that validated his people’s oral history and common thread with these relations of the south. At certain sites he made offerings and prayers. Over these years several other Hopi Spirit Keepers have replicated what Harold started.

Don Antonio Martinez and Harold Joseph

Don Antonio Martinez and Harold Joseph at the Lacandón Maya village of Najá in 2009. Photo credit: Darlene Dunning

This coming January, Merle Namoki, Sun Forehead Clan, from Shungopavi, Second Mesa will continue the tradition, strengthening the bridge of relationship and respect, laying down prayers. A few years ago, Merle said to me, “…We all need to pray to keep our Mother Earth and Father Sky in balance…”

Mike Weddle is a member of the Kenosis Spirit Keepers’ board who, for more than twenty years, has immersed himself in the sacred ways of the Maya of Guatemala. In his essay Are the Maya and the Hopi Two Branches of the Same Ancestral Tree, he compiled examples of common practices linking the two. He also talked about the protectiveness that Hopi people have over their sacred traditions—in order to preserve them.

The intent I hold for spiritual travel has remained the same from the start. It is not to co-opt Indigenous traditions. It is to offer respect through our presence and to hold space that these sacred ways continue. Merle stated the need so well. If in the process we visitors are deeply touched—and we are—we bring this difference home. Who we are in the world is influenced…and felt by our families, friends and communities. Core spiritual elements are strengthened.

The anniversary of an important date is coming up for me. In late Spring 2008 I held my breath as I opened an envelope from the IRS…and exhaled with great relief to see that Kenosis Spirit Keepers was given status as a charitable organization, our nonprofit extension. It was signed and dated October 15, 2007.

Kenosis Spirit Keepers logo

In this post about the continuity of traditions, I also want to express much appreciation to those who have made donations over the years, and certainly to those who have traveled with me…holding reverence, making the circles and sponsorships possible. Through your spiritual integrity, this work continues. Last but certainly not least, the folks who have served on the board since the inception of Kenosis Spirit Keepers, worked hard and assisted with direction and decisions…I have gratitude.

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If you are drawn to support connections between the Hopi and Maya peoples, join us January 18-28, 2015 in Chiapas, Mexico for Entering the Maya Mysteries. A portion of tuition is tax-deductible to support the travel of Hopi Merle Namoki and the humanitarian healing work of Don Sergio Castro in impoverished Maya communities.

To read more about the unusual occurrence that inspired the founding of Kenosis Spirit Keepers see The Ninth Evolution of the Spirit Keepers Journey (with video).

To learn more about the Maya worldview, listen to an excerpt of my interview with Tat Apab’yan Tew, K’iche Maya Daykeeper, who is part of the Maya spiritual travel program.

 

Categories: Gratitude, Hopi, Indigenous Wisdom, Lacandón Maya, Maya, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Energy That Finds Its Source

Sometimes it’s powerful to change things up in your geography, to experiment and see how you may further engage creativity…and The Muse. In the last several months, I’ve done just that—albeit unknowingly—and have been fairly astounded at what has unfolded.

I meditate first thing in the morning, usually before dawn. Over the last thirty years of doing so, it’s set the stage for my days and provided a consistent segue for insights, higher guidance. But I’d never considered using it as a tool for my artwork. It happened accidentally.

I would undertake my daily ritual in the back room, sitting cross-legged with straight back, always in the same spot for as long as I’d lived in this home, an anchor to the process. One morning for no apparent reason, I chose to meditate in the front room. Whenever I feel complete, I come back with “soft eyes”…slightly defocused…slowly returning, integrating the state with my day ahead. That morning my gaze came to rest on the easel and canvas I’d been painting for a while. And suddenly I experienced the piece in a whole new way. I saw things I hadn’t seen before. I felt a previously undetected presence, perhaps waiting until I’d opened a door and it could reach through and guide me. I’ve continued this change in geography while keeping my long-time meditation ritual. My artwork has more depth and meaning. I feel the intent of pieces is coming across in a way I’d just hoped for before. I had the beautiful feedback from a couple from Canada who approached me—after seeing My Magdalen Heart in person—saying they’d experienced the piece literally speaking to them.

The Inner Chamber

The Inner Chamber
Mixed media on canvas
©2014 Carla Woody

People have puzzled over the creative process for eons. Some ascribe to a belief that the source of creativity rests within the self absolutely, which places enormous pressure if you find not so much coming through. Others are certain it comes from another source, perhaps a higher power. Author Elizabeth Gilbert spoke eloquently on TED regarding this controversy.

I believe it’s a combination of the two. First, I have the choice to say “yes.” Then it’s a matter of showing up consistently, having faith that something will be delivered…and being patient with the process. I recognize that I’m a vehicle. I’ve chosen to develop certain skills. But, for me, there’s no mistaking when I’ve tapped into another realm entirely outside myself that moves beyond the mundane. My senses are heightened and the energy moves—whether through brush on canvas, fingers on keyboard…whatever the art form—to find ground. There’s a distinct collaboration…and it’s something else again when your subject matter starts communicating with you. Strange as it seems, that’s how it’s happening for me these days.

When I was writing Portals to the Vision Serpent my practice was to begin writing after meditation, at least five days a week for at least three hours at a time. Again, I didn’t realize at the time I was accessing my craft through an altered state of being. It was as though I watched a movie and wrote down what unfolded in front of me. One day I reached a point in the book where I needed to get a main character down to the rainforest of Chiapas, Mexico but had no idea how. Within a few days, a completely new character stepped forward to introduce himself from the shadows where he’d been hidden. It turned out that he provided the way; the novel moved on.

The poet Mary Oliver said, “…The part of the psyche that works in concert with consciousness and supplies a necessary part of the poem—the heart of the star as opposed to the shape of a star, let us say—exists in a mysterious, unmapped zone…Say you promise to be at your desk in the evenings, from seven to nine. It waits, it watches. If you are reliably there, it begins to show itself—soon it begins to arrive when you do. But if you are only there sometimes and are frequently late or inattentive, it will appear fleetingly, or it will not appear at all…”

If it hasn’t yet happened for you in the way you desire, I believe it can. It means opening yourself up, stepping outside your comfort zone, changing up your geography. It’s an agreement you make…an intent you hold…and then let go.

Such an energy finds its reciprocal Source.

Categories: Arts, Creativity Strategies, Meditation, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution, The Writing Life, Visual Arts | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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