Posts Tagged With: Spiritual Evolution

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 …

***

 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.

*************

*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: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Not-So-Secret Access to Consciousness

In The Energy That Finds Its Source, I shared how I stumbled upon a strategy through meditation that greatly affected my artwork in a positive way. I want to build on that by discussing something a number of us do unconsciously—but brought to consciousness can generalize to different contexts of your life. It increases clarity and mental/emotional flexibility, in addition to creativity. I’ll use writing as a springboard for an example here.

One of the biggest challenges fiction writers have is to breathe life into the characters of their stories, to make them believable. This is particularly true if your book is character-driven. You want readers to connect with the story and those in it: to love or hate them. A reader of my latest book Portals to the Vision Serpent wrote to say how she couldn’t stand Sybilla, who features prominently in the novel—until she really understood her. Then she had great empathy. Even if the book is plot-driven, you want the characters’ actions to make some level of sense from their eyes.

We all have a specialized, individual template we live by. Here’s a quick review on how that happens. Your brain codes experiences you have. The original coding usually takes place early in life. The coding becomes your perceptions…translating to the beliefs you have about yourself, others, the world in general, even what’s possible. This template also becomes the filter through which you experience your life. You develop strategies for thinking and living that further reinforce the original beliefs—those that support and those that get in your way. When something significant happens to disrupt the old beliefs, things can shift dramatically.

Characters in a novel are no different. Here’s a way to uncover their templates by “stepping into” different perspectives.

  1. From your “self” position as the writer, note how you experience different characters: the nonverbal signals, the way they speak, your own response to them.
  2. Now taking each character at a time, imagine you can slide right into their body, look out of their eyes, become them—rather than witnessing them—and answer these questions: What is their family of origin like? Based on what they unconsciously ingested then, how do they experience their own identity, who they are? Note the trickle down effect: What beliefs were generated? What about capabilities? Resulting actions? How they experience their environment? This way you can really get inside the hearts and minds of the characters.
  3. Then step back. By being a detached observer you get additional valuable information. Given what you discovered about your individual characters, now you can really get a bead on important dynamics between the major players and incorporate them into your writing.
Secret Access

Secret Access
Mixed media on canvas
©2014 Carla Woody

By using a method like this, you also invite your reader to tag along through your writing, to undergo the same discovery and identify with different characters. They’re playing out the human condition, no different than the rest of us. We are all who we are based upon where we’ve been. But when something of great enough significance interjects itself, triggering a change in one character…it also affects the others in close proximity. That’s how things get shaken up; the story becomes so much more interesting; the characters can grow in various ways.

I realize in the writing of this piece that, because this strategy is so engrained in me, it’s another way of describing what I wrote about in The Energy That Finds Its Source. I was very much in the “self” when I was meditating. But when I came out of meditation, I became the “observer.” When the artwork communicated with me, I may have been in “other” position…or an unexplainable esoteric element occurred…

Of course, you can use what I’ve written here as a guideline to explore other aspects of your own life, not just your creative outlets. This is a brief primer toward self-discovery and relationship dynamics that I use with clients as a springboard for transformation.

I’ve adapted the content of this post from my mentoring program Navigating Your Lifepath addressing how to live through your deeply held values—and thrive.

Categories: Compassionate Communication, Creativity Strategies, NLP, Personal Growth | 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

Book Review – Deep Cinema: Film as Shamanic Initiation

Deep Cinema

Mary Trainor-Brigham’s Deep Cinema deserves your time and attention. I found myself re-reading pages and then sitting, to give the words an opportunity to enter my interior space. Immediately evident, this is a book written to connect with your Indigenous Soul, as the author calls it, the one many of us ignore in this Middle World. She guides us to delve into movies and stories so that they play back to us our own humanity, initiatory passages and further potential.

I’ve studied Joseph Campbell’s work in-depth: his instruction on myth, the Hero’s Journey and places we can readily see examples in film and storytelling. Deep Cinema adds to that work in a way that makes it unique by overlaying shamanic templates from Indigenous cultures. We’re then offered the Soul Compass, a model …designed to transform life from a series of dogmatic dictates or chaotic occurrences…into a rich, sacred Self-defining sojourn which we gladly undertake…the key here is that life becomes meaningful…  The path from Child as Nest Dweller to Elder as Diamond Cutter and Pearl Spinner shows the gateways—mundane to spiritual, balance of Female as Womb Weaver to Male as Navigator—that we all must pass through in order to morph into the next level of growth.

The author brings her background as art therapist, film critic, actor and scriptwriter naturally into play, pointing out the metaphors in a multitude of films, older to more current, that relate to the archetypal templates she offers. With lyrical language, she draws the reader in. On the Voudon shamanic tradition: …According to the Haitians, a person’s small self is like a fish that gets hooked in the heart and reeled in throughout life by the love of and for their Great Self, sitting on a throne beneath the Sea in Lower World…

I was glad to see The Serpent and the Rainbow movie included as a failure at translating anthropologist Wade Davis’ book by the same name. Instead of portraying the rich layers of the Voudon traditions Davis experienced, Hollywood chose to further the cartoon-like, fear-based image of practitioners. Mary recommends Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti as a true portrayal.

Once Were Warriors indicates the power of film on a population. In the successful translation of Alan Duff’s novel, Maori director Lee Tamahori graphically depicted real-life struggles with alcoholism and domestic violence the Maori people suffered, bringing it back to loss of spiritual traditions and the turning point of re-engagement. It’s noted that one in every three New Zealanders has seen this film. Most importantly: …after the film hit the theaters, there was an upsurge in the number of men seeking help with domestic violence issues, citing ‘Warrior Troubles’…

I had already viewed a number of the movies covered in the book: Whale Rider, Mindwalk, Capote and others. But I’m going to go back and see some again with new eyes and Deep Cinema beside me. As I was reading, I thought to myself it would be really nice to have an index of all the films and where they’re discussed in the book. I was pleased to find just that at the end. Bottom line: Deep Cinema is not just a reference but also an ally for the spiritual journey.

Available through Amazon.

 

 

Categories: Book Review, cultural interests, Film, Indigenous Wisdom, Personal Growth, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shadow Dancing

Invitation to Shadowlands

Invitation to Shadowlands
©2005 Carla Woody

Shadows are a slippery aspect of human make-up. At times, we hear their whisper from the background. Other times, they bellow in the foreground. When the shadow side gets triggered we’ll know it through heavy emotions, bodily felt sensations and self-talk we experience. The trick is to recognize what’s occurring and the source. When we attribute the cause to another person and respond in a negative way, be assured: The cause resides within us, not them. Understand this isn’t about condoning true detrimental behavior on the part of someone else. It’s about separating out what’s ours and what’s theirs in order to heal.

Shadows are the parts of us that we’ve disowned and repressed because we don’t like to experience them and what they bring up. Some examples would be: a part that has the need to control, or is critical, or feels like a victim. The source has to do with unconscious limiting beliefs, most often developed early in life. It’s possible to turn these around.

There are also shadow parts that may be underdeveloped in other ways. For instance, there may be a part that aspires to something like creative expression or leaving the “day job” to move into “lifework that matters.” But to date, the aspiration remains fallow, and we focus instead on all manner of rationale not to take even the first step.

Shadow sides usually manifest through relationships, whether with an individual or group. There is a mutual attraction that fulfills a need somehow. Like attracts like in an often, strange convoluted reciprocity. Here’s what I tell folks I work with…

If there’s no investment, there’s no effect.

 This is what I mean by that statement: If we’ve transformed those parts of us that need healing, then someone else’s behavior is no longer a negative mirror. We don’t project onto them what we need to attend within ourselves. We know we’ve moved on when we can be in their presence without responding as we previously did. We notice the behavior, but it has no effect on us, other than awareness. We can go on about our business without getting triggered and responding in the old way.

In healthy relationships, people support each other in positive ways. Support does not mean taking over a role for the other one. It means encouraging and teaching each other through role modeling or, if asked, directly rather than just assuming control when there are no agreements. It means allowing each other to stumble, to see the positive intention behind the behavior, and have empathy. It means being unconditional with each other, even when it’s difficult and where to go from there is yet unknown. If we hold a space toward opening, all benefit.

We’re all in this together. The outcome begins with each one of us. Look at your own life. Explore the dynamics of your relationships. If your shadow side gets triggered in some way then ask these questions of yourself.

  • What do I want from that other person that I need to develop in myself?
  • What do I dislike in the other person that I’ve disowned in myself?
  • What messages from that other person trigger a negative response within me?

Truthful answers to these questions are markers of progress on your own spiritual development, fodder for the deeper journey and healthy relationships that come as a result.

***

If you’d like information on Navigating Your Lifepath with self-guided or private mentoring options, go here.

Categories: Compassionate Communication, Healing, Healthy Living, Personal Growth, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Book Review: Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

200px-QuietBookCoverPeople are often surprised when I say that I’m an introvert. They’re fooled by the fact that I’m articulate, do public speaking, work with groups and engage socially. They assume that I’m an extrovert. I can do the things I do because I’ve arranged my lifestyle to support my biological make-up and preferences. I love to engage when they’re things I care about deeply—BUT I retreat to regenerate myself. Whether you lean toward introversion or extroversion primarily has to do with how you expend your energy and the way you renew it.

However, our culture values extroversion. There must be something wrong if you’re not talking: You’re secretive, have nothing of value to contribute and probably not so bright.

As a child there were countless times when I heard I was “too quiet.” Not by my parents, who are also introverts, but mostly by teachers, causing me to retreat even further into my inner world. As a teenager, it was even more hurtful, especially when it came from friends. All that input translates to: You’re not good enough. It haunted me for a long time.

 Indeed, your biggest challenge may be to fully harness your strengths. You may be so busy trying to appear like a zestful, reward-sensitive extrovert that you undervalue your own talents, or feel underestimated by those around you. But when you’re focused on a project that you care about, you probably find that your energy is boundless. – From Quiet.

Later in life I have often been called “intense” as though something is wrong with that as well. But by the time I heard it the first time I’d begun to value my own sensibilities and could translate the meaning to “passion.” And the years I worked in a corporate environment…meetings were my most dreaded activity. Those who were most vocal blathered on saying nothing. It was an effort for me to keep in my seat. I wanted to jump out of my skin and flee.

Author Susan Cain has gotten a lot of play in the media since Quiet was published in 2012. It’s been on the bestseller list for many weeks running. Nevertheless, I didn’t know about it until I was perusing my local library for CD books to accompany me on a recent road trip to Utah.

I’m writing this review for those who missed this important book like I did. Whether you’re more introverted or extroverted, Quiet contains highly useful information for valuing both preferences. It also contains data on biological differences and distinctions of introversion. If you’re an introvert, it cites numerous studies and other pointers that will validate your value. If you’re an extrovert, it will help you understand the many introverts around you. I was horrified at one story about two extroverted parents who sought psychiatric intervention and medication for their introverted child. When one psychiatrist found the child to be normal the parents moved on for the next opinion.

My most transformative experiences have never happened in groups. That said, there is extraordinary energy that builds when groups entrain to strong spiritual intent, kickstarting a process of opening. Then integration comes through balancing the internal and external. That is the premise underlying any retreats and spiritual travel programs I sponsor.

The highly sensitive [introverted] tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk. They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive. They dream vividly, and can often recall their dreams the next day. They love music, nature, art, physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions–sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear. Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments–both physical and emotional–unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss–another person’s shift in mood, say, or a light bulb burning a touch too brightly. – From Quiet.

The quote below was quite interesting to me. Such practices don’t just occur in Evangelicalism. I’ve personally had experience of being expected to utter prayers and entreaties out loud while in sweat lodge and other ceremonies, although not as common. I remember the first time it happened I was shocked at the intrusion on my privacy in a spiritual setting. To me, such things are so sacred they’re not pronounced aloud. Of course, the leaders didn’t see it as an affront. Now, if such a thing occurs, I pass to those who want to speak these things out loud and remain comfortable with my own way.

Evangelicalism has taken the Extrovert Ideal to its logical extreme…If you don’t love Jesus out loud, then it must not be real love. It’s not enough to forge your own spiritual connection to the divine; it must be displayed publicly.

 There is a compilation of quotes for the book on Goodreads. Ultimately, this is the teaching of the book.

We know from myths and fairy tales that there are many different kinds of powers in this world. One child is given a light saber, another a wizard’s education. The trick is not to amass all the different kinds of power, but to use well the kind you’ve been granted.

There’s also an excellent TED talk by Susan Cain giving an overview. Quiet is available on Amazon and elsewhere in print, ebook and audiobook.

Categories: Book Review, Compassionate Communication, Creativity Strategies, Healthy Living, Personal Growth, Sacred Reciprocity, Solitude, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Your Identity in Metaphor

The instructor introduced an icebreaker. State your bio in six words. She asked for volunteers. Mine popped out.

Intrepid traveler living in two worlds.

Her eyes widened. Not the kind of thing you’d typically hear in a county courthouse jury room during child welfare training. But my fellow mediators didn’t miss a beat. They know me—at least to an extent.*

Metaphor seeks lodging in our interior differently than cursory words. Language when used at that level connects with the unconscious mind in such a way that it can inform wider awareness, indeed even act as a guide and attract the experiences that fulfill its significance. It is especially meaningful when it emerges through your own process rather than given to you. It’s an invitation I offer to folks I’m mentoring and who participate in spiritual travel programs: Note what metaphor takes up residence.

Apparitions

Apparitions
Mixed media on panel
©2014 Carla Woody

The afternoon icebreaker generated quite a degree of self-reflection that night. We weren’t asked to use metaphor but my mind naturally gravitated toward what it’s used to these days. I thought back to a time when I was asked to use metaphor, to reach inside and discover what emerged relative to spiritual path. We had already been in retreat several days, experiencing teachings and ceremonies. So I was not in the everyday world. I went off to be alone and sit with the tasking. I’m sure I wrote it down in a journal that has since been lost to time. But I’ve never forgotten what came.

 I am the crane whose wisdom runs swiftly under water…and rises with the waning of the silver moon.

It’s been close to 20 years since I attended Nine Gates Mystery School. It was a powerful experience during a time when I was radically re-aligning a life out of alignment with my deeper values. My core wisdom, that which we all have, did not show itself much back then. It lived in that watery place but did compel me to engage in opportunities that would bring me clarity, even if it seemed off base at the time. It’s a refinement process that wouldn’t have taken nearly that long had I my own spiritual mentor. In those days such a thing wasn’t prevalent.

I can’t tell you exactly when the revolutionary path—the chaotic one—smoothed out to the evolutionary one and found order of a sort. But I look up all these years later astounded to find myself an elder grounded in a life that conveys my values. For this I have gratitude.

That night of reflection I realized just how fully the metaphor from Nine Gates predicted an unfolding. I’ve felt something else hovering on the horizon for some time. It appears that an updated metaphor popped out at the slightest invitation, in an unlikely environment, emphasizing one meaning of “two worlds.” I can only wonder what else is in store—seen and unseen—and welcome it.

*****

An invitation to you:

Sit inside your deeper identity. Listen. Allow a metaphor to emerge.

 *****

*I’ve been doing conflict mediation as a sideline for close to 30 years, the last 16 of them in that courthouse with a few cases a month, when I’m in town, to keep me on my toes.

Categories: Creativity Strategies, Gratitude, Meditation, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Film Review: Sunrise/Sunset

Dalai Lama

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
Photo courtesy of his official website.

No, this isn’t an Ethan Hawke/Julie Delpy movie. It’s a 2009 documentary about a typical day with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. He allowed Russian filmmaker Vitali Manski and his crew to shadow him around Dharamsala, India, where he lives, from the time he arose at 3 a.m. until retiring for the night. It’s a peek that’s intimate and reassuring. I concluded that, in some ways, this holy man is no different than many of us. He is seen going through his morning hygiene, saying prayers and walking on the treadmill. He likes the BBC. I like the BBC. And yet, his life is not like any of ours. He elects to spend five months away from the world in meditation. Then, the rest of the time, every minute of his waking hours is scheduled: offering teachings, traveling, attending meetings with world leaders. His is a life of contrast.

The film also points out paradoxes. First, he teaches nonviolence as much as Ghandi did. But his living compound has a fence around it; a troop of guards accompany him wherever he goes to ensure his safety. Secondly, he is sought after by heads of state yet has none of the traditional power they would attempt to garner.

Teachings are sprinkled throughout the film. I noticed the same thing that the filmmaker stated in the last part of the film: The Dalai Lama’s words were simple. There was nothing new to me in what he said. But they caused the filmmaker to view the world differently. This reinforces my belief that simple teachings are most useful, true and provide a foundation for living. If we think we need more, or must have complicated practices, then we’re merely distracted and avoiding the spiritual work.

The only thing I found curious in any part of the documentary was the Dalai Lama’s solution to the world’s overpopulation problem: “more nuns, more monks.”

Watch the 72-minute documentary free online courtesy of Culture Unplugged.

Categories: Film Review, Meditation, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Ninth Evolution of the Spirit Keepers Journey (with Video)

I’m coming up on the nine-year anniversary of an occurrence so significant that I wanted to share it with you, giving it the special transmission it deserves. In numerology, a secret fascination of mine, the number nine is related to convergence of the three worlds—matter, mind, spirit—holy mission, creation, harmony, rhythm and development. Its meaning is given sanctified space in such religious doctrine as the Kabbalah and Bible, and elevated across a number of cultures: Maya, Egyptian, Greek and more.

Nine years ago outside Cusco something unusual happened that continues to unfold all these years later. In July 2006 during my spiritual travel program in Peru, we were gathered with Q’ero spiritual leaders for ceremony at the edge of Huaypo Lake. We had just come to closure, the despacho burning, prayers ascending…when Q’ero friends began murmuring amongst themselves. Some were pointing directly overhead. A condor and eagle were flying together.

And in the minutes that followed, an inspiration came to me: the compelling urge to somehow start bringing Native people from the US Southwest for intimate circles with their counterparts south. I say “somehow” because I knew no Native people in my home area at the time. Also understand, at the time, I’d never heard of the Condor and Eagle Prophecy.

Long story short: I came home from that journey with a vision. Synchronicities occurred. The next summer I returned to Peru bringing David and Clarence Washington, a Hopi father and son from Shungopavi, Second Mesa, Arizona. More Q’ero Wisdom Keepers gathered with us than ever before until we numbered nearly forty. That journey had incredible affect on us all, especially David and Clarence.

Coming home, I endured intense labor pains to establish Kenosis Spirit Keepers as the nonprofit extension of Kenosis. Anyone who has done this knows what hoops the IRS makes you jump through. It isn’t pretty. I couldn’t have done it without the support of our fledgling board, particularly Doug Easterling and Lucinda Brogden who knew the territory. I didn’t. In October 2007 we became a legitimate nonprofit whose mission helps to preserve threatened Indigenous traditions.

In 2008 Hopi elder Harold Joseph came as our guest to clear the way for other Hopis to safely follow, returning along their migration paths, in the manner given him by the secret society he belongs to. Quietly, he would move away from the group or stay behind while others went on, just for a few minutes then rejoin us. In a number of those places we traveled through in the Cusco and Puno regions that summer, Harold recognized symbols—in a Pachamama cave, in the way the stones were placed in an Inca wall, something carved and almost hidden, in the eagles flying alongside us—which created validation for him.

Harold also paved the way in the highlands and lowlands of Chiapas, Mexico. In 2009 his meeting and offerings to Don Antonio Martinez, Lacandón Maya elder in the tiny rainforest village of Najá, came at a vulnerable time—and made a difference. That story and the effect that followed was published by Sacred Fire Magazine in Fall 2012 and may be downloaded.

Since that time, we have sponsored a number of traditional Hopi Spirit Keepers on programs in Peru, Mexico and Guatemala. With the help of Hopi friends, I’ve started a program in their home villages. Anyone who is drawn may participate and also support preservation.*

In this ninth year from that flight of the condor and eagle and the birth of my personal vision, I’m pleased to offer a video documenting spiritual travel programs with Native leaders and healers from Summer 2007 through Spring 2014.**

 

 In October 2014 Harold returns to Peru with us. Once again he is acting as the emissary of his religious leader, Lee Wayne Lomayestewa. But this time it’s to seek prayers from the Q’ero spiritual leaders for the continuation of the traditional Hopi way of life, now very much threatened. Council will be held in the Q’ero village of Ccochamocco.

Lorna Joseph from Shungopavi will be joining us in January 2015 for our Maya Mysteries program in Chiapas, Mexico. She has heard the stories from those Tribal members who have traveled with us. Now she wants to experience her southern relations personally and what comes from overlapping creation stories. Such validation creates spiritual strength.

The number nine also symbolizes the human gestation period. I never could have predicted all that has occurred since that time I was sitting in circle with Q’ero spiritual leaders in 2006. I had no preconceived notion. Nor do I now.

And yet…I sense we are again upon another threshold with this work. I can feel it. And I invite anyone who wants to be part of it, holding intent, to stand beside me with integrity, and take the step.

We look for the burning bush. But truly, it’s the subtle, quiet moments that open us…

 ☀ Individuals from different cultures share a meal and discover camaraderie, even though they don’t understand each other’s spoken language.

☀ Two Indigenous people, with common ancestors, put their heads together and compare notes.

☀ A brown hand is extended to a white hand to offer help up a steep trail.

 Then the recognition comes: You are my brothers and sisters!

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*A portion of tuitions for spiritual travel programs are tax-deductible to fund these efforts. Early registration discount for the October 24-November 2, 2014 Heart of the Andes program ends June 20. Early registration discount for the January 18-28, 2015 Entering the Maya Mysteries program ends September 12.

** Thanks so much to Sunny Heartley who composed and produced the soundtrack for this video with his beautiful Native flute music. Visit his website.

Categories: Hopi, Indigenous Wisdom, Lacandón Maya, Maya, Q'ero, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution, Spiritual Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review: Spirit Matters by Matthew Pallamary

 

Spirit Matters

Matthew Pallamary has written an uncensored memoir of his journey through the violent jungle of his origins to the deep interior of his heart and mind—finally delivering him to the Amazon rainforest of Peru and the person he is today. Spirit Matters shows us graphic realities most haven’t seen: dangerous inner city streets, the struggles to leave them behind, and a form of spirituality alternative to mainstream Western culture.

Matt is a respected San Diego writer and workshop leader at writing conferences. Initially known for his horror stories, he became interested in shamanism and Indigenous cultures, producing a book—Land Without Evil—which was recently adapted to stage. Research led him toward experiential understanding of natural substances used for centuries in religious rituals in South America and elsewhere.

Years ago, Matt and I crossed paths in Palenque, Mexico and became friends. I knew he had a rough start; he referred to himself as a Boston street fighter raised in an Irish Catholic ghetto. But I had no idea until I read this memoir; it’s a miracle he made it out alive. Such life experiences instill deep-seated limitations in the mind about what’s acceptable, possible, one’s own worth—or if anything or anyone is safe. The expected path is predictive and short. But Matt had something else operating as well: knowledge that a deeper life was available for him. The honesty in which he describes his internal conflicts, which kept him in a two-steps-forward three-steps-back shuffle for years, is poignant and real.

In this memoir, he also documents academic research on the use of visionary plants in Indigenous cultures, alluding to their use in early Christianity as well but secreted. His experiential research drew him to Mexico and then repeatedly to the Peruvian rainforest where he engaged in intensive ayahuasca ceremonies, over several days at a time, with a shaman initiated to lead them … not a spiritual journey for the faint-hearted. Ayahuasca is known to usher the traveler through a threshold to truth. The truth may be an experience of the Divine, or just as easily a slide into the Dark Night of the Soul. Either way, an instrument of transformation, as he says below.*

 …I saw it in the jungle of the landscapes of my visions, the truth was that the darkness ultimately lived inside me. Ayahuasca had the ability to find and exploit my deepest fears, bringing terror in direct proportion to the depth of the particular fear it tapped into, constituting part of an amazing process of self discovery…

This is a beautiful story of one truly intrepid man, a Warrior of the Spirit if I ever knew one, who found his way out of a dark jungle, when so many of his friends and family did not. Matt Pallamary is someone to be respected for his gritty honesty and intent toward Spirit, aside from his capabilities as a writer. Spirit Matters informs us while providing inspiration.

Available in print, e-book and audiobook through Amazon. Spirit Matters was a Best Books Award Finalist for USA Book News.

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*Ayahuasca is being used in the treatment of drug addiction—its success rate now documented in a clinical study in Canada. Go to MAPS to learn more and download a copy of the study.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Book Review, cultural interests, Healing, Indigenous Wisdom, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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