Posts Tagged With: Standing Stark book

Mama Coca and a Story of Intent

In 2009 when I heard a reporter on NPR infer that the Indigenous peoples of the Andes were addicts because they use coca, a nutrient in its natural form, I was incensed. I was compelled to speak out in my newsletter and again years later on this blog. We have too many incidents of dominant cultures misunderstanding those who are different than their own, supporting marginalization.

Coca

I met dear friends Dr. Emma Cucchi Luini, a humanitarian doctor who modeled herself after Dr. Albert Schweitzer, and Christo Deneumostier Grill, her research partner, in 2001. Finally, their legacy is receiving more recognition. The Coca Museum in the San Blas District of Cusco is the location of what was their second storefront K’uychiwasi Qosqo. The original storefront was located within the walls of Koricancha in Cusco.

Emma-2

Christo-2

Without their dream and persistent research, alternative coca products like candies, soaps, even ice cream, would not be flourishing all over Peru now. All were derived from Emma’s and Christo’s determination and products to give coca farmers other choices than dealing with narco traffickers or the Peruvian government who paid them a pittance for their crops. They won the coveted Slow Food Award in 2002. Others took notice and started copying their products. Although, in my opinion, none of them match the quality of those from K’uychiwasi. In the process though, nutritional coca products are more available for wider consumption.

coca products

Both Emma and Christo have gone on to other things having accomplished their mission of training the Quechua staff to take over, and encouraging the product spread as they did. But the story of their beginnings should not be forgotten. It’s one of strong intent in the face of much adversity. For that reason, I documented it in my 2004 book Standing Stark. I’m sharing an excerpt here.

…The bulletin board on the wall just outside the tiny shop front had some very detailed information posted about preventing high-altitude sickness. Alongside was an article on Coca-Cola. I thought it mighty strange that a display partnered the story of the evolution of a commercial product with data on medical advice. Then I realized that the common denominator was the use of the coca leaf. The sign over the door said K’uychiwasi Qosqo, Rainbow House of Cusco. Curious, I glanced inside the small space and was invited in by the brightly colored wares…

 A diminutive woman wearing clothing that seemed to swamp her small frame and a large brimmed black hat covered with folk art pins busied herself with something behind the counter. As I walked in, she glanced up, immediately broke into a big smile, her eyes, crinkling up behind wire-rimmed glasses, greeting me. I took a leisurely turn through the shop looking at cookies, candies, teas and artwork. By then, my friend had caught up with me and came in to investigate as well.

Seeing our apparent interest, Emma Cucchi Luini introduced herself and began to tell us of K’uychiwasi Qosqo’s mission. The central purpose of this nonprofit organization was to educate about the uses of the coca leaf and its connection to the Andean culture. Actually, rather than connection, Emma emphasized that the coca leaf was the backbone of this ancient tradition, its practices and health of the native people.

Beleaguered with the discovery of a chemical extraction known as cocaine, the sacred coca leaf is now being threatened with extinction. Through tighter and tighter governmental controls and concurrent illicit operations, the simple coca farmer has been squeezed. Trying to scratch out a meager existence raising the same crops their ancestors have raised for centuries, these people are being directly affected by an encroaching Western culture in which a number of people substitute nose candy and greed for real experience.

In the last couple of decades, the national governments of Peru and Bolivia, pushed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, have targeted the coca leaf as the enemy, totally disregarding its cultural and quite innocent, but important, use by the indigenous peoples. The chewing of coca leaves is standard practice among the natives in the Andes, not to give them a high, but to increase their stamina for living and working in an environment that is often very difficult. Instead of inducing any undue alteration in their normal consciousness, which the coca leaf cannot relay at all in its natural form, its nutritional makeup provides them with energy and a plethora of nutrients not as available elsewhere in their sparse diet. Also ignored is its elevated status in the spiritual traditions and rituals of the Andean Indians. Mama Coca is the plant spirit invoked and Her leaves used in divinations, blessings and ceremonies. An analogy would be the chalice of wine symbolizing the blood of Christ in the communion ritual of many Christian religions.

PeruCoca-2

As Emma so aptly put it, “There are many, many alcoholics in the world. Do they destroy the grape?”

That question certainly does make one think, particularly relative to what other motivations, political or otherwise, could possibly exist for the shortsighted methods used for eradicating cocaine trafficking through a focus on coca crops…

…Enter Emma. With the in-country support of two Dominican friars, this Italian woman founded K’uychiwasi Qosqo in 1999. Christo Deneumostier Grill, a young Peruvian man, has since joined her in her efforts. In addition to educating about the traditional and medicinal uses, they research new ways to use the coca leaf.  In their quarters they help women, girls and young men in need by training them to produce cookies, candy and folk art using the coca leaf as an ingredient. They look forward to eventually create additional goods such as soaps…

…Emma and Christo are currently making small but painstaking steps within the bureaucracy of the Peruvian government toward wider distribution of their coca wares, the regulation of coca being tremendously tight. The only export of the leaf currently allowed is to the Coca-Cola Corporation in the United States. Ultimately, the success of Emma and Christo will benefit the Andean culture and help to maintain the growing of the coca leaf by offering products to be used by mainstream society.

As she finished her monologue, Emma shrugged and opened her hands in a characteristically Italian way and said, “I’m Italian. This cause doesn’t even belong to me.”

Reviewing our encounter in my mind later, I thought to myself, “This is a cause that belongs to the world. It belongs to us all. Emma chose to take it up.”

StandingCover72Emma’s story continued with a recounting of her remarkable life and humanitarian service that took her to dangerous, remote areas in Haiti, Sudan and Bolivia. It was deep in the jungles of Bolivia that she first met the coca farmers who befriended her and further informed her path. They educated her in the chewing of coca and told her of their difficult lives. When she became their outspoken advocate she was thrown in jail in La Paz, beaten and deported to Italy. But that didn’t stop her.

Both Emma and Christo embodied intent and humility. To me, they’re primary examples of the many unsung heroes the world over who believe in something and get it done.

For the complete story and others on the path of intent, read Standing Stark.

Categories: Global Consciousness, Indigenous Rights, Sacred Reciprocity | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Calling to Truth

Any semblance of moisture we received in Northern Arizona has been long gone for months. It’s so hot that airplanes can’t fly two hours to the south. My eyes burn with the dryness, and I squint sharply against the sun. The winds have been so strong the gale seems to penetrate my very being, leaving only the core essentials as it exits. We await reprieve.

In my 2004 book Standing Stark, I wrote of monsoons to frame the spiritual process I would relay.

We have heavy rains in Arizona. They normally start in July and go through August. We call the rains monsoons, which may be hard to imagine for those who have not yet experienced the rhythms of the high desert. Sometimes, though, we have a drought year and the rains start later. The tall pines become over-thirsty, beyond being parched. In those times, all of us develop expectancy—trees, plants, animals and humans alike. We are all in it together after all.

But invariably the monsoons come, often with violent storms. Jagged lightning dazzles the sky and thunder cracks so loudly it can bring us up sharply if we’re not attuned. In a primal way, we are all more susceptible during periods of scarcity.

A threat to collective Spirit is in effect. The tragic loss of lives, the reigning political untruths and senseless decisions that throw working people and the environment under the bus. Those who stand for Truth⎯in all its manifestations⎯can’t help but be affected. What can be done?

A few years ago, an acquaintance told me he respected my activism, and I was startled. I didn’t consider myself so. I actually wanted to flee. To me, activism meant center stage, labeled a radical, fighting the continual fight. It would mean a huge sacrifice on my part. I’m an introvert and can be left exhausted by such engagements if it goes on long enough. But I’ve shifted my perspective.

Wandering in the forest later, we can see the aftermath. In a sea of towering ponderosas, or their kin, there are those who stand apart. Not frequently, but infrequently, there will be those who are now shed of their needles, their skins laid open by the snaking of a lightning strike. Standing stark, they appear to be dead. They aren’t. When I go and put my forehead against their trunks, I feel the elemental filaments that have startled another kind of consciousness within them. Still dwelling in their habitat, they are even more alive than before.

It doesn’t mean taking radical action⎯except to stand against what insults your soul. It doesn’t mean being in the forefront, unless you choose to do so. It does means being actively engaged in what you believe rather than passively going with what you’re given, or assuming you can do nothing to change the tide. Every day there are choices to make. The quality of thoughts you launch into the ether. The words you write and speak. Where you expend your energy. You retain power by educating yourself to spend money only where it supports life-giving, not life-taking. These things do make a difference.

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The fire that discharged their coverings often may move to some of the surrounding brush and trees, those in close proximity. Sometimes it may travel from a tree to ignite nearly the entire forest. But before that could happen it was first necessary for that tree to be burned of its own covering before the fire that began with that One could affect its brethren.

But truly it starts with each of us first to dispense with any untruths, any limiting beliefs, that cling to life within ourselves. Doing the work that must be done to release anything that speaks of “I don’t deserve,” “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not capable,” “It’s not possible.” Moving into wholeness⎯your birthright⎯lends strength to all of us.

The lightning strike oftentimes comes suddenly, a bolt unexpected. But there may well be a stirring before the charge and those who have grown the tallest stand most ready to receive.

In order to be ready, we do for ourselves what we know to do as best we can. Yet, there must be no striving. The striving of the material world has no place in this transmission. We need only send our willingness up as a prayer and stand waiting. Those souls who hold themselves available are struck.

I’ve decided I actually am an activist … in my own quiet way. It’s a step-by-step evolutionary process that has brought me to where, sometimes unexpectedly, I find myself today.

Truth matters. The planet matters. We matter. I smell the moisture coming that will drench the lands.

Categories: Global Consciousness, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Origins

 And so we begin, as all human beings do, in space, expressed by a word, permeated by time. Time is a suggestion we swallowed to hold our world together—creating a kind of comfort, but also terror in the false knowing that what passes has a beginning, a middle and an end. We invented words as conductors for experience, but language is meaningless to the intricate nuances of existence. We collectively convinced ourselves that the ground where we stand is solid matter, when the only foundation we truly have we cannot physically touch.

At the soul level, we long to move beyond what is human-made to That which is not. We hope to know the deeper realms of a reality the everyday eye may have experienced solely through fleeting glimpses—of what it cannot determine. We seek to be promised what we may only have scented through the permeable walls from another dimension. We desire to be inspired by what has stirred our bodies in unknown places with hints of rapture. We ask for the sign when the gift has already been given.

Moray Mist Artwork

Moray Mist
©2002 Carla Woody

There is an old Taoist story of parents watching their child as she sleeps next to them. In her sleeping state, the child moans and frets. She twists in discomfort. The parents cannot help their child no matter how much she hurts. If the child would awaken, she would see that the suffering is nothing but a dream.

The mind is the charioteer of experience, while the body is the vehicle that carries out the orders of its driver. The gift we have been given is the one called possibility, whose intent offers to tie all together, creating strands of a whole life rather than a disintegrated one. The gift we have been granted is what throws light into dark places. The gift held out to us has always been present. But accepting the gift has a price—courage. It is an undying courage that allows any of us to whip the dream horse and startle awakening.

*****

Standing Stark Cover

Excerpt from Standing Stark: The Willingness to Engage.

Categories: Healing, Personal Growth, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Edge of Limitation

For years I led a meditation group. A good number of folks were faithful to this weekly gathering, a quite important factor because every one of them extended their self-intent to the group as a whole through presence and commitment. Consequently, when we came together we were able to dive deeply—immediately.

Resistance

The Resistance
Photo: Carla Woody

We always opened with breathing together, to leave the day behind and connect with each other energetically. Then I would open the circle for sharing before we moved on to guided meditations. One time during the open frame a long-time participant asked a question.

What is the edge of limitation?

It was an astounding question, one I’m not sure I adequately answered in that moment. It was a question that—over time—framed a journey of my own, an odyssey into self-inquiry and the nature of a spiritual journey. I went on to write an entire chapter on this question in Standing Stark and, in the process, generated other queries to further define the question. Some of them are below.

Where is the meeting point between complacency and possibility?

Where is the meeting point between pain and healing?

Where is the meeting point between control and surrender?


Invitation

The Invitation
Photo: Carla Woody

Recently I was camping in Utah with friends. When we get together we’re in the habit of exploring such territory. So, sitting around an evening campfire, I brought up the question originally posed to me. Thoughtful discussion unfolded. We may have had different words for that edge—but we all recognized it. With their permission I’m sharing excerpts of our conversation.

  • …the duel…as one decides or is compelled to take the risk of expansiveness or remain stuck…
  • …looking from the inside, fear is as far as I can go—the limitation…from the outside, I cross the “edge of limitation” as I conquer the fear.
  • …a balance point between growth and fear, then maybe as the high tide mark—which moves and shifts—between those two.

Clearly, the edge of limitation is something you lead up tounless you’re merely fantasizing. New considerations will open to places that are unfamiliar. I use a variety of metaphors to describe that state. Perhaps it’s a dark forest where the path isn’t visible. Maybe it’s a membrane you bump up against; to break through the sheathing involves an identity level shift: how you are in the world. Or it’s a threshold, the precipice where a decision is made to retreat or move forward. So the edge of limitation is the pinpoint in thought, time and space before Separation from the old self of status quo.

Fulfillment

The Fulfillment
Photo: Carla Woody

One time I asked retreatants to do an exercise I drew from NLP. They chose an area of their lives where they experienced a block. Then I invited them to choose two spaces along a line they imagined on the floor. The first had to do with the edge that, if they moved beyond it, would take them through the threshold to freedom. Second, they chose a space along the line, prior to the first space, that signified their degree of resistance regarding the issue. The farther back they stood, the greater the degree of discomfort or blockage. Some had their backs up against the wall; others were poised close to the edge. I invited them to try something out; to physically walk along the line, out of the space of resistance and up to the edge; and if they chose, to cross the threshold to what lies beyond. To a one, they did. Their responses ranged from displays of relief to calm to abject jubilation. Fear vacated and possibility took its place.

Sometimes it’s just that simple to open the way.

Categories: Healing, Meditation, NLP, Personal Growth, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Tasking

Excerpt from Standing Stark.

Rio Paucartambo
Salk’awasi, Mollamarka, Peru
Photo: Carla Woody, 2004

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

The first aspect of beginning is assessing yourself and taking responsibility for your own course, where it has taken you and where you are now. That responsibility will determine your future—the one that exists through the vibration you now exude.

This is the Separation and then the Search. It isn’t really a search as much as it is a surrendering to intent. The giving over is to intent. Then intent takes the lead and brings you what will take you further. It will take you further to recognize your Core Self, the Self that had been hidden from you previously, but the one that had been there all along.

Sometimes the realization comes through sitting still—through patience and listening. It’s not listening to what has been habit, but listening to the quieter place and the guidance there.

Sometimes the realization comes through an action, but only an action made from clarity, from impeccability. Otherwise, it’s an action taken from habit. Then the action will merely tell you something about your habit.

An action arising from the deeper place will have a solid knowing and urging about it. It’s a bodily felt energy that envelops you in knowing. It’s not a feeling of desperation accompanied by inappropriate or castigating internal voices. That’s the dialogue through which the actions of habit are fulfilled.

Actions of impeccability move you along the warrior’s path of utter surrender to the destiny of Knowing and Not Knowing. It is the knowing of the Core Self in all aspects, in all human tendencies, in all that is resident of Source. It is the not knowing of the profound comfort of the Infinite.

It is the mind overtaken by Spirit.

It is the mind having willingly succumbed to the wider wisdom dwelling within and without.

And you have to leave the place of previous comfort and familiarity in order to uncover it.

Categories: Healing, Meditation, Personal Growth | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

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