Posts Tagged With: Whole Health

Film Review: The Grounded

It’s apropos that I’m reviewing The Grounded documentary at this point. I’ve just returned from a weekend in Utah where I attended a workshop by my old friend Oakley Gordon introducing the material and practices from his book Andean Cosmovision, which I reviewed last month. The two are connected.

Steve Kroschel is an independent filmmaker and naturalist. His work has been featured on the National Geographic Channel, BBC, PBS and feature films. In 2012 he stumbled upon the power of connecting to the Earth⎯sometimes called “Earthing” or “Grounding”⎯because of his own physical pain issues. He discovered that, if he would lie directly on the ground, or even bury himself in soil, his pain lessened and overnight…dissipated. He slept better, too. Curious, he undertook research to determine how Grounding affects life force. He came up with a way to conduct Earth frequencies through a cable and attached it to cut flowers in a container of water on a table inside his home. Sitting immediately beside those flowers were others that were not connected. Those receiving the energy lived significantly longer.

Not everyone can or wants to walk barefoot outside frequently or bury themselves in earth. Steve invented devices that people could use on an everyday basis and began distributing them for free to the population of Haines, Alaska near where he lives. Soon he had a pool of local folks using them on a regular basis, participating in his research. Results were largely consistent with his own experience, some quite remarkable. One man was in a wheelchair, his legs paralyzed for 25 years. First, he was able to move his legs and feet slightly. Ultimately he was able to walk haltingly with a walker.

Steve knew that if he could get some well-known figures on board with his discovery, to show them proof, then this message of healing would likely reach a wider audience. That was his goal: a drug-free, natural approach to health and wellbeing available to everyone. He was able to gain the interest and endorsement of the late Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, environmental scientist Dr. David Suzuki and others. Today he collaborates with Dr. Laura Koniver in this work documenting changes in pain levels, macula health, osteoporosis and more.

Of course, Indigenous peoples have known since time immemorial that Mother Earth is alive, as is the entire Cosmos.  These energy properties are available through intent and connection. Merely sit on the earth, or raise your hands to the sun or moon and experience an elevated sense of being. That’s what Oakley’s book is about: his learnings over 22 years from the teachings of the Andes. I validate what he is now teaching through my own experience over time with Andean and other Indigenous traditions.

Here’s what’s particularly important about Steve Kroschel’s documentary. There are a lot of naysayers out there, those only too ready to dismiss the effects discussed here as “New Age” or devalued out of hand, particularly by those with interests in Big Pharma. With the clinical proof and testimonies offered in the film, there’s no denying the powerful regenerative effects all around us…for free.

The Grounded is well worth your health to watch: 1.25 hours. Available streaming on You Tube.

Or, at least view Prescription Is Earth, the shorter version that contains most of the salient points in 18 minutes. Also streaming for free on You Tube.

For more information on Grounding, see Steve Kroschel’s website.

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With thanks to friend Betina Lindsey for pointing me to this film.

 

 

 

Categories: Energy Healing, Film Review, Healthy Living, Indigenous Wisdom | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Release

Stopped short. Pain out of nowhere…and it recurred over and over with increasing frequency and intensity. It was a mystery. I hadn’t hurt myself in any way that would warrant it. I couldn’t even track what movement caused it. But the laser-like sensations zeroed in on my trunk, and the points shifted inexplicably, as if it wanted to remain elusive. It literally brought me up sharp, halting motion.

I began to have real concern, particularly on how such transient pain, consistent only in its constant appearance, would affect my ability to be fully present. An important journey was coming up—my Heart of the Andes program in late October. Those 2014 travels involved riding a horse and hiking at elevations up to 16,000 feet on our way to the Q’ero village of Ccochamocco.

Arrival in Ccochamocco

Arrival in Ccochamocco in late October 2014.
Photo credit: Sage Garrett.

By that time, I had already attempted to address the issues in ways I thought would work to loosen things up: Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, network chiropractic, regular chiropractic, energy work. All gave temporary relief but not what was needed.

I’ve been a spiritual mentor and practitioner of holistic health for over 20 years. I knew that, more than likely, this physical challenge I was dealing with had a strong, integral mind-body-spirit component.

I remembered back to the mid-90s when a man came to me with severe pain originating in his neck and radiating down one arm. He told me it was so severe he’d gladly cut his arm off to get rid of it. That’s pretty severe. He’d been medically diagnosed with osteoarthritis. The doc told him there was nothing he could do about it.

But I was listening to his language as he spoke about the progression of the pain and asked him: What was going on in your life when you first noticed discomfort? He’d identified a time nine months prior. He thought about it and said with surprise: It was the break-up of my relationship, and I had no control over it! I then guided him through processes to resolve any lingering grief, and then forgiveness. His pain disappeared entirely. It happened in one session.*

During the processes we used, he also realized he’d been conflicted about issues within the old relationship that resolved during our work. I followed him for about a year after that. The only time he’d had any slight recurrence of pain was when he wasn’t being true to himself, which he adjusted. The body has a wonderful way of giving us signals to those things we attempt to push aside or are unaware of in the first place. Hence, we’re supported in our spiritual development this way if we pay attention.

I knew to ask myself these questions and did so. Indeed, I identified an exact point a number of months prior when—out of nowhere—something occurred that went against my values and caused a foundational break for me. Isn’t it interesting how the body can mirror…and what better place to reflect such a thing than the first chakra region, that of foundation?

The truth is: This was an area of my life I’d been uncomfortable with for quite a while. I just didn’t want to look at it. I was forced into it through the circumstances. It had to do with loyalties and impeccability. Qualities I hold highly. But I finally had to answer a question a few folks had directed to me in the last years: Why do you maintain such loyalties when it’s really not beneficial?

I began to do the self-work I knew needed to be done, and over the next couple of months lost the emotional charge to the event that instigated this deep work. In fact, I became grateful for the incident. I experienced relief and so much more alignment. I felt some slight physical discomfort during my Peru program that dissipated entirely over the course of the journey.

But then I returned home.

I address re-entry with the folks on my spiritual travel programs, counseling them how we’ve been in a beautiful, expansive cocoon, an altered state really. It’s necessary to create such a space so that such deep learnings can enter and gain a heart-hold. When we return home though, things at home haven’t changed even though we have. It’s a time of integration and realigning those things hanging out there not fully addressed.

There was that pain again right on cue.

I finally asked my massage therapist, Rhonda Hamilton, if she had any ideas. She’s well plugged into the alternative healing community in our area. She recommended I make an appointment with Ruth Backway, a physical therapist in town who has an excellent reputation. I called for an appointment and was told by the receptionist that she had a long waiting list. But through some miracle, Ruth called me back and got me in within a few days.

I was not in good shape when I showed up at the end of her workday. This woman knows what she’s doing. And my body responded readily as though it had been poised for release. When I left session that day I’d say I was about 80% better. Over the next few weeks I saw her, I vastly improved to the point of complete release.

Release is the operative word and state here. Unbeknownst to me, my entire trunk was twisted to the left. Bizarre. How do such things happen when nothing to cause it occurred? She directed her work on the fascia in that area of my body, the slippery membrane that holds organs and muscles in place. Her approach was painless, a gentle holding until the fascia let go….as though all it wanted was acknowledgement. Isn’t that what we all want?

Ruth had questioned me closely on any accidents I may have had over the years. The only one of any significance I could remember was relatively minor when I was 18. But it was the one I mentioned. In my own practice I always pay attention to what is mentioned, even if it’s not the most obvious. We carry our own wisdom.

Ruth had me recall exactly what happened… and I remembered even the angle of impact…which it turns out was mirrored in my body in the present issue. The question she in turn asked me to consider: Why is this coming up all these years later? We’re talking 40+ years after the fact, especially with such force, when there was no visible injury or emotional trauma at the time. An old pattern stepping forward perhaps?

Why am I telling you all this? Sometimes things hold on…or may have gone underground but affect us in ways we don’t discern…for years. Sometimes there’s a conflict, generating an attempt to go two ways at once. It stops us in our tracks. Sometimes these aspects look for an avenue of recognition, maybe through related issues or correct timing. They become exacerbated.

Any mind-body-spirit residue must be fully identified and released in order to move through the next threshold. When it’s something deep, we can’t address it fully ourselves—even if we have all the tools—and it takes guidance outside ourselves, someone who knows what they’re doing and can see the forest for the trees…and the way out.

With Maya spiritual leaders Don Xun Calixto (l) and Apab'yan Tew (r) in January 2015.

With Maya spiritual leaders Don Xun Calixto (l) and Apab’yan Tew (r) in January 2015.

I am so glad I did. The momentum through the threshold is palpable.

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*To read an article originally published in Anchor Point Journal on The Effect of NLP on Physical Pain and Trauma relating the case history in this post, go here.

Categories: Gratitude, Healing, Healthy Living, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a 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

How to Lose Your Mind and Regain Your Life

Americo Yabar and Carla

Don Américo Yábar and Carla in 1996 at the Yábar ancestral home outside Cusco.

Nearly 20 years ago, Andean mystic Don Américo Yábar looked me straight in the eyes and advised, “When you lose your mind, you’ll go far.”

I must have given him a blank look at the time, being so in my head as I was. It took me a while, but I finally caught on. It’s been my focus ever since to follow a path of integration. Not losing my mind completely though, I find that it does serve me in certain ways to navigate this culture.

It’s more about losing the smallness the habitual conscious mind often demands. It provides rationalizations that can keep us in our “place” through habit; or the part of us that wants to control—which we all have to some degree—that loves the hard edges of logic and facts. We miss so much if we think things must be seen and known in order to believe they exist.

There’s an aspect within any of us that generates resistance when we consider a larger life than the one we’ve been living, to align fully with the Core Self. That’s because we’d step outside boundaries, ways that are known. That’s a normal response. But it’s only through opening to what is out of habit that we move beyond what has held us back, grow and discover what’s possible.

No invention or transformative process has ever come from thinking inside the box.

Rio Paucartambo Cusco Region, Peru ©1996 Carla Woody

Rio Paucartambo
Cusco Region, Peru
©1996 Carla Woody

My work is with folks who want to live through their deeply held values. A while back I was mentoring someone right upon the threshold, ready to move into transition. She knew the direction she needed to go. Yet, a part of her was petrified; she literally felt frozen in her body, unable to make a decision. We used a process that moved her into the reality she envisioned in order to try it out, well beyond all her worries. As she “looked back in time” she said, “Why was I so scared? Make it all such a big deal? It seems like nothing now.” With the portal established, she took the option her heart told her to take.

If we make decisions through the Core Self, where spiritual values and intent reside, choices are always pure. No subterfuge. No rationalization. Only what speaks of compassion, integrity and unconditional being. Only what’s most beneficial for all concerned and contains clarity.

For me, it’s about following energy. It’s a felt sense. This is the part about losing my mind. I recognize when I’m once again at a crossroads, which can happen in any moment, and the true direction beckons. It’s compelling. I know it holds truth, even if I can’t put it into words. This is so whether it has to do with my work or personal life. The part about using my mind comes in very handy with grounding things into everyday reality, strategies to put something in place. I believe in integration—not either/or.

Interchangeably, I may refer to this portal to Cosmic Consciousness as the Infinite, Core Self, intent or place of the heart. You’ll have your own reference. It’s a felt sense of interconnection with All That Is. You develop the alliance by becoming your own Witness—gently catching yourself, fine-tuning your beliefs and resulting actions—then losing your mind to integration with the heart’s wisdom.  And repeat the process until there’s no need…because we’re human.

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Note from Carla: If you find yourself consistently bumping up against blocks or clarity has taken a vacation, take a look at Navigating Your Lifepath. For over a decade, folks have made significant positive shifts in their lives using my program—and kept the changes.

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

Interview with Dianna “Snow Eagle” Henry, Seed Saver

Flordemayo documenting seeds.

Grandmother Flordemayo documenting seeds.
Photo credit: The Path

Grandmother Flordemayo had twice mentioned Dianna “Snow Eagle” Henry to me during my visits to the Seed Temple in Estancia, New Mexico. Each time she lamented, “You just missed her! She was here helping but went back home.”  Home turned out to be Arkansas. When Flordemayo began to establish the Seed Temple, which Kenosis Spirit Keepers helps support, she called Dianna to consult her expertise regarding seed preservation. Dianna has gone back and forth providing service ever since.

The last time I was there, Flordemayo put a book in my hands. Dianna’s coffee table book Whispering Ancestors: The Wisdom of Corn is an illustrated treasure trove of information on Native varieties, some lost to time and then resurrected. In certain ways it takes you back in time by identifying which Native Tribes carried different strains, planting instructions—and hints at the esoteric, ancestral knowledge in the Seed Collective. I was intrigued.

Native Seeds

Native seeds.
Photo Credit: Wisdom of Corn.

Dianna consented to an interview for The Lifepath Dialogues. Below you’ll find the audio recording uploaded to You Tube. She graciously shares how the seed-saving path opened to her, rather unexpectedly as passions sometimes do, and the ways that spiritual knowledge from seeds began to come. One of the many things I appreciate about Dianna is her willingness to follow a path that’s unknown but fueled by intent. She shares it all.

Kenosis Spirit Keepers is pleased to sponsor Grandmother Flordemayo, Dianna Henry and Greg Schoen for events in Phoenix on January 31-February 1, 2014. Greg is also a respected seed saver with many years’ experience and will take us “down the rabbit hole” into the mysticism of seeds. You can read his article about Rainbow Corn in Mother Earth News here.

This Friday night talk and Saturday experiential workshop will directly benefit the Seed Temple’s preservation work. You’re invited to join us and know that—as you are receiving the teachings—you’re also benefiting the wider work of global consciousness.

(Note: The benefit dates mentioned in the recorded interview were changed so that Grandmother Flordemayo could also personally participate, offer her knowledge and prayers.)

Categories: cultural interests, Healthy Living, Indigenous Wisdom, Interview, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unexpected Music

Place des Vosges

Place des Vosges

We were exploring Le Marais district when I remembered one of my favorite places. Ah yes, just a short distance away. I succeeded in persuading my friends they really must experience the oldest square in Paris. We turned down a side street that opened into Place des Vosges. Its elegant French classical façade spoke to the aristocracy that once lived above the arcades below. It didn’t take much to imagine Victor Hugo striding along anxious to be home to continue penning his novel of the moment. We noticed a bistro just in time for lunch. Salad, cheese, bread and wine somehow tasting so much better than it ever did at home.

Exiting, we started to round the corner that would take us out of the square when we noticed activity across the way under the arches. Some ten or so people setting up—a musical ensemble! We edged closer to watch. A few others began to gather. The discordant sounds of musicians tuning their violins and cellos ensued. And ensued. And ensued. Until finally my friends were getting impatient, wanting to leave. Oh no! Just a few more minutes, I was saying in my head. Feeling the tug of the group, I started to turn away with them.

And in that moment, the cacophony stopped. A split second of silence brought chaos into perfect order as the haunting strains of Pachelbel’s Canon filled the air. The acoustics amplified the notes to such a degree that we were enveloped, rooted in place. The beauty of the moment was overwhelming. I didn’t want to move from that spot. The energy continued to rise as they went on to play Mozart, Bach and Vivaldi. Thankfully, a violinist broke away and began offering CDs. I gladly purchased one and then discovered their name: Classique Metropolitain. What an unexpected gift, an extraordinary dessert, one we wouldn’t have had if we’d not been willing to pause.

Now when I play their recording, especially when I paint, it takes me right back to that split second of perfect order when my spirits soared—to experience it all again, gaining inspiration. Only much later did I discover that Classique Metropolitain regularly frequented metro stations and Place des Vosges playing to passersby, perhaps to lend pleasure to their day.

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On a nearly annual basis, I sponsor a spiritual travel program called Entering the Maya Mysteries in the Chiapas region of Mexico.  I usually go in January and we spend several days in the highlands participating in ritual and religious festivities for San Sebastián. One particular year music was a thread that ran through our time together—sacred and celebratory, vocal and instrumental—something to be expected considering our itinerary. But it was unexpected music, taking the edge off a situation and lifting our spirits or instilling a hush to any tumbling thoughts, that I most savored and have tucked away in that same place where Classique Metropolitain and Place des Vosges reside.

Lalo Ed Adams lives in New Jersey. Some years ago his search for someone going to Piedras Negras brought him to me. He joined our travels, in the process discovering a new name that he wore proudly. On his second trip with me, Lalo came along again wearing the glow I saw develop on the first one. Early on, he brought out a guitar saying he’d learned to play a couple of years ago and now gathered weekly with guitarists back home. During our days staying at El Panchan outside the Palenque ruins, he inched his way from casually playing at our table at Don Mucho’s Restaurant—until fully on stage with microphone and sound system going! I admired his chutzpah and his playing.

One thing about Lalo was that he understood how music can intervene and shift the energy in a moment. We’d been on our way to the Lacandón Jungle village of Najá anticipating the upcoming ceremony with Don Antonio Martinez when the van began to hesitate and sputter. Our driver was worried. “Bad gas,” he said, finally pulling over. We all bailed out; it appeared there would be a long wait while the situation was remedied. It was hot. We were in the middle of nowhere milling around on the side of the road.

Lalo Ed Adams

Lalo Ed Adams (2nd from right).
Photo credit: Bob Moore

It didn’t take long before Lalo pulled out his guitar. I finally couldn’t resist. I joined in with what he later called my “vocal chops”—that hadn’t been let loose in years. Some of the others chimed in until we had a plein air concert of sorts going. It turned a difficult situation to a light one full of fun. We continued to find moments to sing, all the way up to our closing dinner when we essentially took over a restaurant, and the other patrons joined our musical frivolity that ranged from “I Shall Be Released” to “Nowhere Man.”

But backtracking a bit, the latter half of our journey we stayed in San Cristóbal de las Casas in the Chiapas highlands. While we were visiting Na Bolom I heard faint notes of piano music and wandered into a room. Beautiful, I thought. Taking note of the pianist but not wanting to disturb, I examined the religious icons in the room. At leaving, I saw a poster announcing Richard Pierce Milner as the current artist-in-residence with evening concerts being held regularly. In the next day when we were in the Maya village of Zinacantán witnessing the raucous festivities for San Sebastián, I noticed the pianist there with a friend. This time I made sure we met and, on a whim, invited him to come with us. We were on our way to Don Xun Calixto’s home above San Juan Chamula where a special ritual awaited us. In return, I joked to Richard, I must have a concert.

Indeed. A few nights later, after the group had flown home, I went back to Na Bolom. At one time, before it had been the home of Frans and Trudy Blom, or a museum, the old hacienda had housed a seminary. One long room still bore reminders of that time, an altar at one end, religious paintings on nearly every inch of wall. But a grand piano at the other end dominated the space.  The only light source was candlelight. I took a seat. Richard began to play. And I was transported.

Richard Pierce Milner

Richard Pierce Milner at Na Bolom.
Photo credit: Carla Woody

Truly, Richard’s compositions are hard to categorize, a blend of neo-classical and crossover jazz as descriptor not at all doing them justice. What do you say about pieces that snatch you up to share a deeply personal journey with the artist? That wend their way through memories of a moment by the sea, a difficult healing process, or tribute to a mentor now passed? That touch on something not often touched? I can only say that Richard exposes his innermost feelings through his music and extends an invitation for listeners to join him. As I write these words, piano solos from his CD entitled Other Ways of Knowing are taking me back to that candlelit time at Na Bolom when I first heard him play.

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 In these times when so much of life is artificially structured, perhaps even constricted, that we can no longer breathe, do moments other than that—should we allow them—create openings. Chance encounters, courage mustered, intuition followed, and willingness to engage possibilities provide a distinct loosening that allows us to take flight. For me, unexpected music, especially when I find it within myself, has been a theme that has provided a springboard.
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   To see what other bloggers have posted in response to the Daily Post Writing Challenge: Moved by Music go here.
Categories: Creativity Strategies, Music Review, Travel Experiences | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Interview with Becca Begnaud, Cajun Traiteur

In October 2012, I was visiting friends in Lafayette, Louisiana—Cajun Country—and fell in love with the area. My time there was made that much more interesting by meeting Becca Begnaud who is a traiteur, a Cajun prayer healer. I was invited to interview her for The Lifepath Dialogues during a program of hers. To me, the outcome was fascinating. We cover a lot of ground. Listen to Becca as she talks about what it means to be a traiteur, Cajun culture and challenges on the path as a healer. It’s worth 38 minutes of your time.

Interview on You Tube.

Interview on You Tube.

I will be returning to Lafayette shortly. Becca will be sponsoring my work for her Healing Arts Collective. You can find the details of the November 15 talk Timeless Pathways for Today’s Spirit Keepers and November 16 workshop Asking the Answer in this downloadable flyer. I’ll also be giving a talk in Baton Rouge on November 14 at The Red Shoes, a center for personal and spiritual growth. I’m very much looking forward to returning to this area, rich in so many ways.

Categories: cultural interests, Gratitude, Healing, Interview, Personal Growth, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Review – Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection

Full Moon Feast

Jessica Prentice is a chef and food activist in the San Francisco Bay area who is an avid proponent for locally grown foods. In other words, she urges us toward tradition. Full Moon Feast is a book about food and more with stories from Indigenous cultures of appreciation for what nourishes. It also tells of challenges and confusion related to relationship with food. Jessica advocates for small farmers who choose to uphold commitment and passion toward their way of life. At the same time, she documents methods of modern food production that have lost their humanity and encourage disconnection from our food sources and each other.

The author calls us back to a more engaged, mindful way of nourishing ourselves by connecting us to what food once held—the circle of life. She grounds the meaning and timing of food selection by our own natural rhythms and the thirteen lunar cycles. This book comforts and takes back to our roots—easily forgotten in a fast food universe. And it’s full of tempting recipes like Salmon Cured with Maple and Juniper, Summer Berries with Lavender Créme Anglaise or Sourdough Cheese Herb Scones. If you allow it, Full Moon Feast will deepen your appreciation for the food in your life and cause you to start searching out locally grown produce as it did me. The book is available through Amazon and bookstores. 

Categories: Book Review, Healing, Healthy Living, Indigenous Wisdom, Sacred Reciprocity | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Seed Intelligence: Indigenous Perspectives and Our Collective Birthright

In October 2010, Flordemayo was in Los Angeles attending a conference. At break she returned to her room on the 23rd floor. Before lying down to rest her eyes, she noticed an emerald green glow on the wall. When she opened them again the light had taken up the entire wall and a vision unfolded. “There was a panoramic landscape and everything was emerald,” she said. “It was so beautiful that I said to myself, ‘I’m going into this light.’ I have absolute memory of walking in a field dialoguing with everything. I noticed a mountain to my right. Then everything began to change! At the top, it split and there was movement like an avalanche! The forest and everything in it came tumbling down—trees, animals, stones, water. It crossed the road below and I saw that all domestic life was being swept away! I thought, ‘I have to get to my cornfield!’ I was praying and running as fast as I could, and then I’m grabbing the yellow corn, the blue, the red, the black…and then I grabbed all the rainbow corn I could grab! I bundled all the corn I could carry up in my long skirt. But I couldn’t run fast enough! I heard a voice from above, ‘Flordemayo! What are you doing? The military is coming!’ I answered in a cry to the Universe, ‘It just doesn’t matter anymore!’ Then I was standing in the hotel room again facing the wall. The emerald light was gone. I had tears in my eyes. I fell back on my bed. I was devastated.”

Flordemayo

Grandmother Flordemayo
Photo credit: Linda Rettinger

As a young child, Flordemayo was recognized as a seer. By the age of four, she had already begun her training as a curandera espiritu, a healer through divine spirit, a gift inherited through long family lineage, originating from the Maya highlands of Central America. She is a member of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, standing for peace and healing of the Mother Earth. When messages come strongly, Flordemayo knows to answer them—no matter the obstacles.

What is the timeliness of this vision?

Apab’yan Tew is an Ajq’ij, a Day Keeper, and spiritual guide of the sacred K’iche Maya tradition from the village of Nawalja’ in Sololá of the Guatemalan highlands. His ceremonial work most often takes place in caves, engaging with resident energies of the natural site and timing of the Tzolkin calendar in conjunction with needs of communities or individuals. Like Flordemayo, his gifts evolved from childhood until he ultimately answered the call through a series of difficult shamanic challenges.

Apab'yan Tew

Apab’yan Tew
Photo source: Apab’yan Tew

Apab’yan elaborates on the Maya worldview: “We cannot be who we must be without the land. Another principle is that the body we have is not really ours. It is lent from the Mother Earth herself. So if you create any kind of danger to your body, you are also hurting the Mother Earth. What the Earth produces and what we produce is part of the same cycle, the same system. We are not separated from the Earth—and the Earth is not to be thought of as just another provider of goods. The term that is used in the West is ‘natural resources’ as something to be taken, something to be transformed. For us, we don’t use this term. We use the term ‘elements of life.’ It is our life! It is not a resource.”

In Indigenous traditions, every aspect of life is integrated and sacred. This Maya spiritual leader is quite clear that to surpass a cycle creates imbalance. Nothing should be moved from its place in the Universe. His people think of the seed as a living feminine entity, not a commodity. There is a proper way to carry her, to talk to her, the Sky and the field in the act of sowing according to specific timing. This in itself is a ceremony, integration of a flow that already exists and must not be taken from those like himself who hold these ways close.

There are those who seek to eradicate the sacred ways.

Apab’yan talks about the Maya ways of respect: “It is our purpose not to take more than we can give back. But it is also our purpose not to change. We must not touch what is not ours. It is not ours from the beginning. It is ours to have a dialogue. The seeds talk to us. We have five seeds. Only one of the five is for us. One is for the Sky. One is for the Earth. One is for the brothers in the fields. Maybe there’s a crow that’s going to come. The last one is for anybody who needs it. In my harvesting, maybe I’ll have some extra seeds to give to someone or sell them. There’s no harvesting for commercial purposes. But we have extra if someone needs it. We are Corn Beings. So we must not even play with the seeds.”

He believes there is no current problem with GMO seed infiltration in the high altitude area of his village: “You don’t sell milk to a cow!” For the Guatemalan highlands, there’s not enough room for the politics of Monsanto. What the West calls “organic” these Maya farmers have been doing for eons—and the best selection has long ago been made. However, he sees a danger as any of his people become more influenced, perhaps by emigrating and then returning home, to set aside their ancient ways of living.

That same protection isn’t available to Native and heritage farmers in the US. Five years ago I sat in a conference session and heard a Zuni man sadly express the fear he held: the real possibility of GM seeds blowing into the fields that he and his ancestors had planted with their pure Native strain for hundreds of years. It was disheartening and outrageous.

If the spirits of Earth and Sky are no different than the seeds they sow, the food they eat, what their bodies are made of…then to tamper with any part is an outright act against religious freedom and quality of life, rights the US constitution is supposed to uphold. For giant agribusinesses to also attempt to spread their seed where people have few rights equates to preying upon those who have a voice but are ignored. When spiritual tradition falls apart, grounding dissolves; detrimental influences make additional in-roads; suffering takes over—a process proven over history. Spiritual pride is lost; ethnic groups are additionally marginalized.

A grassroots movement has sprung up.

Learn About GMOsPeople are starting to come together, much as in past times of threat or needed change. Coalitions are appearing like GMO-Free Prescott, a small, volunteer-run nonprofit organization in Prescott, Arizona specifically formed to educate and support everyone’s right to choose food and products that have not been genetically modified. Founder Shea Richland states, “I got involved due to health issues when I was leaving ‘no stone unturned’ to find answers. The more I learned, the more concerned I became. When the documentary Thrive was being shown in our area, I felt it was an opportune time to do more. So, GMO-Free Prescott was born. If people were walking what the Native people teach, then our organization wouldn’t be necessary.”

Winona LaDuke, an Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) enrolled member of the Mississippi Band Anishinaabeg, is known as an environmental activist. She is the Executive Director of Honor the Earth, where she works on a national level to advocate, raise public support and create funding for frontline Native environmental groups. She lives and works on the White Earth Reservation. Her organization offers a number of naturally derived products that may be found via Native Harvest online to help fund the White Earth Land Recovery Project.

Winona LaDuke Source: Native Harvest

Winona LaDuke
Source: Native Harvest

She shares this: “When I was a young woman, my father would listen to me patiently, with great compassion, as I explained to him the many environmental issues facing our community and the complexities of the world. His name was Sun Bear, or Vincent LaDuke. He used to tell me, ‘Winona, you are a smart young woman, but I don’t want to hear your philosophy unless you can grow corn.’

I remembered this for many years but was not as smart as he thought. It took me until the turn of the millennium to become a corn grower. I thought about this often and wondered about the corn varieties my ancestors in northern Minnesota would have grown. I began a quest, one of many. The first corn that came to me was a Bear Island Flint corn, eight to twelve inch, multicolored cobs. The seeds were gifted from Ricardo Salvador, then a professor at Iowa State University. He had found them in a seed bank. The corn came from an island in the middle of Leech Lake Reservation, where I later learned, after many interviews and much research, that our people often grew corn on islands, away from predators, in micro-climates surrounded by water. Ingenious. We began to grow. Then, I moved onto Manitoba White Flint, the northernmost varieties of the Ojibwe, grown about 100 miles north of Winnipeg.”

Winona notes the importance of growing Native seeds and seed saving: “Never a crop failure after all these years with this corn! It is hearty (with) twice the protein and half the calories of market corn. And it is resilient. (Through) frost, drought and high winds, it stays. We were the northernmost corn growers in the world. And yet, we had lost much of our corn and our seeds. So, we have grown that corn now for a decade. Again…resilient. Monsanto’s crops failed in 2012, but ours did not. We are grateful. That was the beginning. Today, we are growing an 800-year-old squash, found in an archeological dig in Wisconsin. And we are growing many other varieties. It is our hope to create a northern Anishinaabe seed bank.”

The vision that Flordemayo received was a strong message coming from the Creator to uphold the welfare of our interconnections. As she accepted what seemed like a monumental task, things quickly began to fall in place—as it so often does when a vision is true. Exactly the funds required to purchase the forty acres of land that came available near her home in Estancia, New Mexico appeared. She established the Seed Temple as a volunteer-run project under her nonprofit organization, The Path. Smaller donations came to excavate the underground seed vault, construct the classroom building that covers it, and to create its accompanying medicine circle and fire temple. Flordemayo said, “You can’t have plants without water. We need a place to go and pray…to hold the spirits of water and plants in prayer.”

Rainbow Corn

Rainbow Corn
Photo: Greg Schoen

Local volunteers and those from some distances come regularly to continue building and advise. Greg Schoen is one of them. He’s impassioned about seed preservation: “Crops are being stripped and ‘dumbed down,’ the diversity bred out of them. When we do this to the corn, we do this to ourselves.” He got his start as a seed saver in the mid-1980s receiving his original “Glass Gem” jewel-like kernels from Carl L. Barnes, a mixed blood man of Cherokee/Irish/Scots ancestry now in his eighties living near Liberal, Kansas. Over the years, Greg received other Native varieties from Carl, planted them himself and gifted them to such organizations as Native Seeds/SEARCH in Tucson, Arizona.

“I think of corn as holding a knowledge, like a recordkeeper. Sometimes when Carl would grow corn in his fields, Native strains that had gone extinct would re-emerge. When Native people here lost the corn they carried, it’s like they lost the central point that anchored them to the land, like they lost their language. So, when Carl would reintroduce their ancestral corn to them, they would light up. It would be like you were wandering in the desert and your ancient scrolls were returned to you!”

Greg freely gifts baggies of “Glass Gem” seeds to anyone who wants them. In the coming year he will plant at the Sufi community near Silver City, New Mexico where he now lives. When asked what direction the Seed Temple would take, he said, “We’re starting to provide educational support to seed savers. There will also be a ‘seed lending library.’ Individuals can take portions of the seed stock of one of more items from the seed bank, with the agreement that they will grow out the seed according to proper growing practices, and return a portion of the seed produced to the seed bank. Those are just some of our plans.”

Flordemayo affirmed Greg’s statement and added, “The seed has a spirit, but it doesn’t have a voice. We are giving the seeds a voice! We are welcoming Native and heritage seeds from growers. The only restriction is that the seeds are organically grown; and we know where they came from and who is growing them. So we need to have documentation in receiving them.”

Kenosis Spirit Keepers is the volunteer-run nonprofit I founded to help preserve Indigenous wisdom traditions. We see the Native seed issue as an integral aspect of Indigenous spiritual traditions and are helping to support the Seed Temple. More is still to be done in the way of construction and obtaining all things necessary to start up and maintain. One way Flordemayo plans to help fund the project is through classes in the growing and use of medicinal herbs, sacred bathing, and vision and dream work. She has turned the Hogan, located next to the seed vault, into the Temple of the Golden Child, which will be used for this purpose.

More and more independent seed saving operations are being established in pockets around the globe. Greg Schoen continues to quietly do what he can to preserve our heritage by sharing his passion, experiences and seeds with others on a similar track. Shea Richland believes so strongly in our birthright for health and well-being that she reluctantly stepped into the public eye to form GMO-Free Prescott and educate regarding our choices. Winona LaDuke works at the national level through organized environmental activism. Flordemayo answered a vision. Apab’yan Tew performs ceremonies for the well-being of the planet in the dark recesses of caves.

It takes all of us, each bringing our own way, in the face of such forces that would act against us, to support and maintain our collective birthright—and succeed.

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This article is being incorporated into the Anishinaabekwe (Ojibwe) Farming Curriculum that will be part of the Tribal Community Colleges in the region where Honor the Earth Foundation is active.

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Kenosis Spirit Keepers is sponsoring Grandmother Flordemayo and seed savers Greg Schoen and Dianna Henry for events on January 31-February 1, 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona. The proceeds from ticket sales go to support the seed saving project founded by Grandmother Flordemayo. For information and to purchase tickets, please go here.

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Sources:

Interviews with Flordemayo, October 17, 2012 and February 1, 2013.

Interviews with Greg Schoen, October 17, 2012 and February 8, 2013.

Interview with Apab’yan Tew, November 6, 2012.

Interview with Winona LaDuke, November 27, 2012.

Interviews with Shea Richland, November 9, 2012 and January 2, 2013.

Categories: cultural interests, Indigenous Rights, Indigenous Wisdom, Sacred Reciprocity, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

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