Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Great Spirit Makes A Way




"From the pine tree learn of the pine tree and from the bamboo learn of the bamboo." Basho.

It never ceases to amaze me how Masauke interacts with the spirits and other native people and how the Great Spirit makes a way for him to do the healing work he does but never charges for. Having arrived with his funds depleted after generously sharing his funds with many people in the desert and particularly with the Wirarica pilgrims, the prayer went down for a financial blessing from the Spirit. People began to arrive, some with blessings and some to be blessed.

The first morning we were back in Texas the phone did not stop ringing. Masauke fell into his zone and negotiated the trade of beautiful feathers for other beautiful feathers and a good amount of cash. I am always amazed that the more he gives to the people who need it, the more the Great Spirit gives to him. While in Mexico, we did not pass a single person who looked like he needed a coin in his cup or a taco in her belly.

In Spanish people always say to him "Que Dios te da mas, may God give you more" and his answer to them is always "He has already advanced me, so I can share it with you", but he takes the blessing because it comes from their heart and it is all they have to give. He always thanks the old lady or the old man then he is on his way. He never doubts that his needs will be met for he says that "He provides for the birds that neither reap nor sow. Christians say that He created us all in His image." Masauke says that sometimes he wonders what He has him doing and sometimes he dare not wonder for he sees so many people blessed on this road. "He will provide the desires of your heart, him they call the Great Spirit".

Masauke tells me "There are two worlds that exist, the real world and the plastic world. Coming from the real world where 50 pesos or $5 US is a substantial amount. It can buy the luxuries like mayonaise and canned corn, a real treat. In the plastic world you poke your card into the machine and get out $500. I wish I could be as happy with my $500 as the old lady was with her 50 pesos and could enjoy a meal or a treat with my money as much as she was going to enjoy her treat."

When he goes to Las Latas, Masauke always provides some support for the widows of his deceased teachers and as well he assists his comadres and compadres by purchasing as much as he can of their sacred yarn art and their beadwork. He pays them a fair price and sells these pieces when he makes his way back to the 'plastic world'. As well, when in Mexico he purchases the components for necklaces which he then assembles using a variety of different stones, beads and prayers. Each of his necklaces are created with the mathematics of the Spirit in mind and carry with them the power and the blessings of the prayers he puts into them. The Great Spirit makes a way for him by sending the right buyers at the time when he has healing necklaces, sacred yarn art, feathers or ceremonial fans to sell. I was amazed at how synchronious the interactions were.

Masauke says "Not because I am anybody or know anything, but sometimes it is great to receive a smile from the Great Spirit. Somehow he lets me know that I am to load the wagon and not to worry about the mule going blind. They say not to worry about the small stuff because it is all small stuff." Masauke never worries about his financial needs being met, because they always are!

Lessons learned: 1) The Great Spirit always makes a way when we trust in Spirit; 2)What goes around, comes around. ie. what you put out will come back to you, 3)The blessings from the Great spirit are indiscriminate. They will be bestowed on anyone who truly walks the spiritual path.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Healing The Community: Esperanza, Peace and Justice




"Speech is blasphemy, silence a lie. Above speech and silence there is a way out." I-tuan

I visited the Esperanza Peace and Justice Centre in San Antonio. Esperanza is the Spanish word for Hope. As I walked into the lobby I was greeted by brightly coloured walls - lime green, purple and yellow. There is a hand painted sign on the wall, lime green with a beautiful floral green border. On the sign, two women dressed in the bright colours I had seen on the indigenous women in Mexico, are holding up a sign that says 'Bienvenidos a Nuestra Hogar", Welcome to our Home". I immediately felt like I had come home. This place was true to my heart, a place of beauty, a place that integrates art and life with hope and healing for all those members of the who have been wounded by domination and inequality. www.esperanzacentre.org.

Esperanza is located just North of downtown San Antonio, in a renovated 1910 building, which was once a car dealership. The entrance way is lined with bookshelves and bulletin boards, laden with pamphlets, flyers and booklets advertising upcoming events and providing free information on numerous topics to all who venture in through their door. There is La Voz de Esperanza newsletter, a flyer announcing the upcoming Cesar E. Chavez March for Justice, a poster offering free HIV testing, pamphlets on women's history, and an invite to an upcoming book launch. I realize that this place is serious about it's commitment to integrating arts and social justice before I even walk through the door.

Passing through the old wooden door frames, I step into a world of women and divinity. A bright pink sign announces the exhibit that is currently inhabiting the lobby and gallery of Esperanza. "Mujeres: Divinas y Humanas, Women: Divine and Human" the sign says. The exhibit, which I take in just momentarily as I am whisked into the main office, is an exhibit of the works of the women of the Castillo Family of Puebla, Mexico. The Castillo family has a long tradition of making beautiful clay works of art and have recently been focusing on arboles de la vida or trees of life, which tell stories of family,community and society.

The exhibits celebrates and honours working women -- the tortillera, the woman weaver, the florist, the woman artist who works in clay -- as the centre of the community. It portrays the integration of working woman's inherent struggle to survive with women's divine knowledge. I later picked up the pamphlet from the exhibit. It quotes one of the artists, Veronica Castillo, as saying that "women are constantly struggling to be respected and achieve their rightful place". The art works are visual protests against the subjugation of women. The artists, women who do not participate in marches or demonstrations, remind us of the strength of women and encourage women to find our voices, our beauty and our inner divinity.

I walk into the deep red communal office space, which also serves as a library and computer training centre and am drawn in by the beautiful artwork on the wall. Almost every inch of the red walls that are not covered by bookshelves or a beautiful artistically aligned row of clipboards, is adorned with a piece of artwork. The centre piece is a large stunning piece with an older Hispanic woman in the centre. The reds in the piece meld into the reds on the wall, causing the women to look like she was peering over a back yard wall, looking into the office. I am stunned by the beauty of this place of work, that looked more like an art gallery than the office of any non-governmental organization I have ever visited. The office in itself shows that they walk with talk of their slogan "Arte es Vida, Art is Life".

The room was a beehive of activity. There were four staff members and two students amidst a cluster of desks with computers, an open working space and a workspace for students. Despite all the activity Graciella, the executive director, and Jennifer, one of the program staff, took the time to show me around and tell me about their programs. They have a long history of working with community healing, in both the traditional and non-traditional sense. Graciella tells me about the Mexican traditional healer who periodically come to share her knowledge and talents with the local San Antonio community. "We always get an incredible line up when she comes to town" she says. Last time she did a meditation and cleansing ceremony that lasted all morning and then spent the afternoon sharing her knowledge about the healing properties of the different herbs and remedies she used in her practice."

Cristal, a local healer and sobadora, also does work with Esperanza, sometimes that involves hands on work and sometime it's as simple as referring a phone call from someone in the community who calls to find out the recipe for a traditional cure that the grandmas used to use. Validating, respecting and preserving traditional knowledge about herbal medicine, curanderismo and Mexican folk medicine is a part of their mandate of hope. Graciella asks how long I plan to be in town and invites me to come back and find out more.

I am given a tour of the Esperanza space. The art gallery takes up most of the first floor besides the office space. We head up the stairs, the walls of which are also decorated with artwork. On the second floor there is an open space with a stage and overhead track lighting. I am told that the space is used for performances, dances and other programing. The kitchen and snack bar is decorated with a group of hanging puppets and papermache dragons left from an earlier performance. Arte is indeed a central part of the Vida of the organization.

I am told that much of the programing that Esperanza offers takes place within the community, the barrio,itself. There the Esperanza staff facilitate community discussions about the history and traditions of the pueblo or people of the barrio. They work on intergenerational programming identifying the knowledge keepers, the viejitas and viejitos and creating opportunities for them to share their knowledge with younger members of the community. Esperanza provides hope for a future where all knowledge, cultures and traditions are equally respected. It works with communities that have experienced marginalization to promote peace, facilitate economic justice and revive and preserve traditions that are central to the local culture of diverse communities, especially the diverse Hispanic communities.

Lessons Learned: 1) Arte es Vida. Art allows us to see the world the way it is and to envision the world the way we would like it to be, 2)Women's humanity and our divinity are both central to our roles as keepers of culture. Honouring and celebrating our beauty and our strength, knowing our worth, is vital to creating a culture of hope, peace and justice, 3)Art and culture connect us with our histories, give us joy and hope, and plant the seed for our self-worth.

Stay Tuned. StayWell and Travel with Spirit, Spirit Traveller.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Anthony Davis' Featherwork, Alive and Well and Living in San Antonio and the Wiricuta Desert




"We do not learn by experience, but by our capacity for experience." Buddha

Donning his spectacles, Masauke starts the tedious work of assembling rough feathers into ceremonial fans. The majority of these feathers were dropped by the birds or found on roadkills along the many highways that Masauke travels. They were found in various states of disrepair. Using his tiny pair of scissors Masauke repairs the tips of the feathers to bring them as close to their natural beauty as these roadkill feathers can be brought.

There is a knock on the door. It is Linda's neighbour. She walks in to the kitchen, says good morning then starts to talk about the power washer she had been using to wash her driveway. "It won't start" she says. She asks Masauke to help her fix it. He gets up, leaving his featherwork on the dining room table. Ten minutes later, with the sound of the power washer engine whiring in the background, he is back. Linda and the two grandchildren who live with her are playing a board game on the other end of the dining room table. Mark, the youngest, is chanting "I want my pancakes" as they play.

Last night Masauke had promised that he would make desert pancakes. He sits down to cut the leather that he uses to wrap the sticks used on the ends of the feathers. Let me put these on so they can dry while I am making the pancakes he says. After cutting and gluing the leather on several of the ten feathers, Masauke gets up to make pancakes. As he whips up the batter, he switches to his military mode insisting that Mark be sitting down at the table with everything ready in front of him before he will start to putting the pancakes in the pan. I order 3 pancakes, not knowing the size of the monster pancakes. Masauke advises me to try one first. I am glad he did not force me to stick to my word as I see the enormous pancake coming off the grill!

Breakfast over Masauke returns to his featherwork. "A few years ago I watched a film about my dad, Anthony Davis," Masauke tells me. "Besides being the president of the Native American Church of Texas for forty years, he was also a renowned feather genius. He brought the talent of fixing feathers for the native people from his native home of Oklahoma, from the Pawnee. This film was about his ability to fix feathers." Masauke says, "It was a well done documentary on the life of my dad, but I took offense at the closing statement that with the passing of Anthony, the talent or ability to fix these feathers went with him. Anthony did not teach me the art of fixing feathers. It is an ability that comes from the proper alignment of your energy so that your creativity can be best utilized. I saw Anthony for many years fixing feathers. I just saw him doing that."

"All the people wanted him to fix feathers for them. I realized that it was just not the feathers they sought. They sought him out so that he could put his energy , his beautiful spirit in the feathers, and like myself I thought that if I had some of his feathers I would have some of his energy, some of his spirit, but the spirit that Anthony had came from a life long relationship with the medicine, something his mother told him. His mother said when he ran a ceremony for her, that this medicine is wonderful. She told him never to leave it and to his last days he never did. It was after his death that I decided to do feathers. I drew on his expertise that I had seen for many years, but ultimately it was the energy and the spirit and the relationship that I have personally developed with these feathers, be they eagle featehrs, macaw, turkey, each bird has a spirit and an energy of it's own."

"Today in Texas, I walk into a tee pee ceremony, normally in the morning, and I am pleased to see all my fans there, in that 90% of the fans used by the local people were made by me. When I make the fan I know how it will be used. I know the many prayers that will be said with this fan, the many gifts that they will make. Before I made my first fan, I came before Anthony's spirit. I said to him. "I would like to start fixing feathers, Dad." "That'd be alright" his spirit told me. Being from Oklahoma, that was the approval I was seeking."

"In the rare moments when I am totally into my featherwork, I sense him watching me. The colours that I use are the native colours of the fire and the medicine. His colours were healing colours, ours, the Coauhuiltecos, are fire colours. We are desert people. I am sure that he approves of me doing it my way. Anthony was world renounced for his beadwork. Myself I do floralwork, the multicoloured feather work combinations that the medicine gives me, and threadwork. The bead work is farmed out. I keep one thought in mind when I fix my feathers, my dad's advice was that one had to be extremely careful not to take anything from the feathers. The beauty is in the feathers themselves."

Masauke looks up from the feathers. He is tightly wrapping black thread around the white leather handles he had glued to the stem of the feather. Peering over his glasses again he continues. "I sought the man who produced that film. I found him in Sedona, Arizona. I told him that Anthony Davis' featherwork was alive and well and living in the desert, operating out of San Antonio, Texas, with more people seeking my work than I have time to fix feathers for. I invited him to the healing centre in Prescott Arizona for a couple of reasons, one of which was to show him my featherwork. We became good friends and brothers, and now I make my way along this road with my featherwork."

"When I come home to rest and see my family, I spend long hours into the night and early morning fixing feathers and I best remember Anthony at this time. Those that knew him were blessed. That he took me as his son was a true honour. Today I carry his fireplace of the Pawnee people. This fireplace is a chawie" fireplace. I have yet to use this fireplace, not because I don't know the mathematics or the structure of the ceremony, but because I have not yet developed the relationship that Anthony had with the fire and the medicine." "As I put the finishing touches on this beautiful scarlet Macaw centre feather," Masauke stops to tell me "Each bird only has 1 of these. These are 10 birds." He says. "This is what they call a peyote fan. My brother, also a road man, awaits the finishing of this piece."

"The waterbird fan whose production you documented, the one that I finished last night, will be picked up this morning. It will be used by a water woman of the Native American church to bless the morning water and the morning food to conclude their ceremonies. The fans are obtained by people that give a generous contribution for the expenses I incur on the road. I have never demanded payment for any of the Great Spirit's work. The path itself is payment enough."

Sitting in front of a bag full of numerous spools of brightly coloured threads, he picks up another feather to measure to see that the threadwork is identical. Adding the glue he continues his work. Having seen the entire production of the waterbird fan, I eagerly await seeing the final touches on this beautiful scarlet macaw fan. I never met Anthony Davis, but I cannot imagine that he would be anything less than proud at the fine featherwork his son is doing. Anthony Davis' featherwork is indeed alive and well and living in San Antonio, Texas and the Wiricuta desert!

Lessons Learned: 1)We honour our ancestors by keeping their traditions alive, 2) Keeping traditions alive involves developing a relationship with the medicines of those traditions, 3) When we honour our ancestors and follow spirit, the Spirit always makes a way.

Stay Tuned. StayWell and Travel with spirit, Spirit Traveller.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Travelling With The Spirit Traveller


Back in San Antonio, Texas, I have had the opportunity to sit down with several of my readers and get some feedback from them. Mario, is one such reader. He is a visually imparied rape crisis counsellor, a Chicano who hails from El Polvo, West Texas. He is a Chicano who is still in search of his Apache roots. I met Mario last July at the Little Big Medicine Sundance in Arizona. He helped many women at the sundance who were still healing from the long terms effects of rape and sexual abuse, including some of the healers themselves.

Masauke, Linda, Mario and I had lunch at Greens, advertised as the first vegetarian resteraunt in San Antonio, where Masauke could barely stomach the veggie burger, diehard carnivour that he is. Linda, Mario and I on the other hand were delighted with the healthy vegatarian fare.

Finishing the desert, Masauke very skillfully set Mario up with a question. Masauke wanted a unique perspective on my blog through the eyes of a blind man. Mario commented that all the time that Masauke had known him he had not asked him for his opinion about anything. Masauke wanted me, the Spirit Traveller, to truly understand my blog and the effect that it had on the people reading it.

After Masauke advise me to be still and listen, this is what I heard. Mario thought for a few moments before expressing himself. He said that the blog to him was a way to journey, that he could see these places that the Spirit Traveller writes of, that he was there. He too had travelled with Masauke and he had visited several places I described including San Rafael and Las Latas, and he was able to re-visit them.

Linda, a healer and Sundancer, who is Masauke's long time companion and who makes a living as a community facilitator, also gave me her response to the blog: The blog for me is a way for me to be there with you. For example when I was reading the entry about learning the lesson about doing what you are told, that one really hit home for me in several ways. I was sitting there and reading it and smiling because I could visualize you all there. It is an opportunity to share that experience since I cant be there and in many cases I long to be there. It is also like I am learning with you or being reminded of some of those things that I need to remember about being out and about in the world. It makes me feel as though I am travelling with the both of you when I cannot be there.

Miranda, a sister in the spirit, healer and an occupational therapist, who works in berevement service, preparing those who are terminally ill and their families for dying sent me the following email: "You are truly blessed little sister. May your blessings multiply as you continue your travel with the compassionate and loving spirits. They protect you well and you are learning to listen in a respectful way. I thank you for the blog. It allows me to travel with you and to have an idea of what it must be like to meet such wonderful, knowlegeable, and spiritual people. Mitakuye Oyasin. Miranda.

Karen, a busy homeopath and midwife, who travels internationally and has spent years providing natural health services to indigenous people, also takes the time to read the blog. She wrote: I read your blog. It was really beautiful to take a little part of the journey. Thank you for writing it and for staying in touch.

Mario had some suggestion on improving the blog. He suggested that the entries were quite short and he interested in more information about the spiritual aspects of the travels. He gave me a lot more feedback from a blind man's perspective. It was at this time that I considered asking for the opinions of the other readers of the blog. I welcome your imput. Please leave comments and feedback for me on the blog or send them to travelwithspirit@yahoo.ca Many blessings...

Stay Tuned. Staywell and Travel with Spirit, Spirit Traveller.

Healing the Community, Healing the Environment : Bashing The Basura



"Do not mistake understanding for realization and do not mistake realization for liberation" Tibetan Saying.

This morning I accompanied Linda and her grandson Mark to the Basura Bash, San Antonio's annual river clean up. Once a year thousands of San Antonians venture out of their homes and head down to the river banks to pick up all the garbage, or basura in Spanish, that makes its way into the river and along the riverbanks. In this one day event San Antonia area volunteers pick up about 24 tons of garbage. According to the Basura bash's 2007 factsheet, the trash and recyclables that end up in the rivers and creeks are carried there by storm drainage, run off and careless humans.

This year for the first time the clean up efforts were expanded to include 6 tributaries of the San Antonio river. When the Basura Bash started in 1995, 400 volunteers turned out to help heal their community. Bob, the Basura Bash committee chair, told me that this year about 2,400 volunteers including many groups of school kids, corporate groups, teachers, ROTC trainees, retirees, and many many individuals were at one of the many sites along the river. For their labour of love, the volunteers receive a free t-shirt and a lunch where they get to hear a line up of talented youth sharing their talents.

We arrived at the Mission Country Park, the main headquarters of the Bash where we were going to pick up our t-shirts and find out which area of the river needed clean up. On our way to the park the main road was cordoned off with a police car blocking the road. We found out later there had been a bomb threat in a nearby area, not associated with the Bash!, and that the police had been defusing a real bomb they had found. We ended up cleaning up the area closest to headquarters because that area had been missed because of the bomb scare.

This year volunteers got the opportunity to vote in the Name The Fish competition. The mascot of the Basura Bash is a large fish sculpture made out of the recyclable metal and other garbage pulled from the river years before. I voted to name the event's mascot Al G. Eater, but the more popular name, Basura Bob, won out.

Linda is a meeting facilitator who facilitates community input around a number of issues including transportation and other environmental issues. Her company has been involved in supporting the Basura Bash almost since it's inception. Linda likes being involved because she loves being outside next to the river. She says that it always feels worthwhile because you can pick up a lot of garbage in a short period of time. "You can really see that you are making a difference. Also, there is always a lot of camaraderie during the event. People tend to support each other. The community comes together to do something for the benefit of the whole community. This event draws people from all over San Antonio, not only those who live or work near the river because people understand the importance of the river to the city both historically and physically."

Linda is hoping that Coahuiltecans of San Antonio this year will adopt the remnant of the river behind Mision San Juan de Capistrano as their clean up project. This is a sacred area for the Coahuiltecans as the San Juan Mission is where they annually comemorate the reburial of their ancestors in the year 2000. The Coahuiltecans are the "mission indians", the ones who built the missions for the Spanish and suffered genocide at their hands. Many of their ancestors were converted to Catholicism and their traditions and cultures were lost along the way. The Tap Pilam Cohuiltecan Nation is actively working towards restoring the culture and traditions of their people.

According to the Basura Bash's factsheet, the most common item collected from the river banks are plastic shopping bags. This was the main item that I came across while on the clean up. It is amazing to see where those seemingly innocent shopping bags can end up, wrapped around tree stumps, entwined in branches by the river and under rocks along the shore. Pulling out those pieces of plastic can be a challenge. Linda tells me that here in San Antonio they have started to make the plastic shopping bags out or biodegradable material. After today's close encounters with disintegrating shopping bags, I think this is a great idea!

In less than 2 hours we had pulled out old table legs, rusty metal fencing, plastic pop bottles, metal beer cans, old carpeting, rusty wheels, and lots and lots of plastic garbage bags. Between the 3 of us we had almost filled 1 bag of recycling and 2 bags of trash all of which we left by the banks for the garbage trucks to collect. Nothing like a good morning's work outside in the fresh air with your toes quishing around in the river muck. It felt great ... exercise, fresh air, healing the environment and working in community.

While picking up the trash from the riverside, I could not help remembering the town of Wadley in San Louis Potosi, where regular garbage collection had only begun less than a month ago. Prior to that the garbage was burned in a pit by the side of the road, not to far from the healing centre. Plastic shopping bags were again the most common item that was visible scattered around the desert and the streets of the town. Plastic bottles were the next most visible item. Every time I would see the smoke rising from the garbage pit I would think of my Environmental Health lesson 101 -- Burning plastic = dioxins. Dioxins cause cancer. I would wonder how much of the health benefits of living a relative stress free life in the beautiful desert environment were offset by the damaging effects of the burning plastics. Until the municipality provided a garbage truck and arranged for disposal outside of the city there were no other options. What difficult choices to have to make!

Lessons Learned: 1) Healing the environment can be a lot of fun! 2) Many hands make light work, 3)Spirit works through other people.

Stay Tuned. Staywell and Travel with Spirit, Spirit Traveller.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Stalking Knowledge in Las Latas Round 3




"Have good trust in yourself -- not in the one that you think you should be, but in the one that you are." Maezumi Roshii

Back in Las Latas the ceremony celebrating the return of the pilgrims was well under way. It was a very rare privilege indeed to be attending this ceremony. The Wiriraca/Huichols carefully guard their culture and their traditions, which is why their traditions have changed very little since pre-Columbus times. Because of their withdrawal to locations way up into the Sierra mountains, they were not subject to the same genocide of their peoples that many other indigenous people in Mexico and other parts of the world. They are considered by some to be the last group of indigenous peoples in the Americas who still follow their original teachings and live in their traditional way.

What I was about to witness was a ceremony that to this date a very small number of outsiders or Tewari's had witnessed in person. I was privileged to be there at the invitation of one of the chief mara'akame's or shaman's, Matsua, the captain of the pilgrimage. The Wira who are chosen as pilgrims hold that 'office' for 5 years. In that time they are responsible for taking care of all the ceremonial needs of the community, while still providing for the needs of their families, something which is not very easily accomplished, especially since there are no jobs and few sources of income in the Wira communities. Most live off the crops they plant, livestock they can raise and whatever they can sell or trade.

During the 5 year period, the group of pilgrims are required to undertake three pilgrimages from the Sierras to Wiricuta. These pilgrimages allow the Wira to hunt or to gather the hicuri, which is sacred to them, as well, the pilgrimage is a time in which the pilgrims revision their world and take their first look at the life of the mara'akame. In the whole community of Las Latas, there are about 10 mara' akames, 4 of them had taken part in this pilgrimage. All the past and present pilgrims turn out to celebrate the return of the pilgrimage. Most of the community comes to honour the pilgrims for the sacrifice they had made on their behalf. They dance with them and rejoice with them and welcome them back to the community. The previous pilgrims make a special effort to offer their support as they understand the sacrifice that this group have made in order to maintain this ago old tradition.

Despite his pivotal role in the ceremony taking place inside the Calaway, shortly after we arrived in the plaza, Matsua came out to greet Masauke and to welcome Linda and myself. Still not sure about the protocol around taking pictures, I missed an incredible Kodak moment when Matsua, who at that point had been up for 4 days and 4 nights, stood facing Masauke, who he greeted as his brother. The dancing was a key part of the ceremony. The pilgrims, who were usually sequestered within the Calaway, a round adobe building with a very high peak roof situated in the centre of the plaza, would periodically blow their horns and then all dance out of the Calaway following the lead mara' akame. They woudl then dance in a single file that moved in a serpent like fashion around the entire plaza. At a certain point the wives and husbands of the pilgrims would join in the dance. The women, who were not pilgrims danced ahead of the men and on either sides. Each round of dancing in the plaza would last between 10 and 20 minutes before the pilgrims would once again enter the Calaway not to be seen by those outside til the next round.

The ground was so dry that prior to each round of dancing members of the community would bring buckets of water and throw the water around the plaza, only to have it quickly soaked up by the parched earth. This was an attempt to quell the clouds of dust that would otherwise cause the pilgrim dancers to have to cover their faces with their scarves. The dancing did not stop, but continued moving betwwen the inside and the outside with a certain periodicity that I would not quite figure out. Members of the community came and went from the viewing spots surrounding the Calaway. Children played in the plaza. Old women brought out pots with finely shredded raw cabbage and cucumber, lime and frijoles, which were spread on something that resembles a very large crispy wafer, covered in chili sauce and sold for 6 pesos. They were delicious, and as there was no other food to be had anywhere, it was just as well.

The ceremony continued on into the night. We went back to the compound where we were staying to have a rest and returned at about 10pm. There were fewer people in the plaza, but the ceremonial fires were still lit and groups of people, including a significant number of young men, were gathered around the ceremonial fires. We took this opportunity to get closer. We greeted the sacred fires and approached the Calaway, where we were able to stand outside the door and look inside. For Masauke, this role as a spectator was very unusual, as he has accompanied the pilgrimage for many years and usually takes part with the activities inside the Calaway. This year, because he had given his place to his other apprentice Jessie, he was in the role of witness rather than participant. He commented on how unusual it was to be viewing the ceremonies from the outside.

As we stood in the plaza in dark, the light of the ceremonial fires behind us, under the dark starlit night, peering over the heads of others crowding the doorway to catch a glimpse inside the Calaway at the ceremony taking place within, I understood completely what Masauke's brother had said about the first night he had stood in the Calaway witnessing a ceremony. He had commented that it felt like he had gone back a thousand years. Peering in to the flickering lights of the candles and fire within the Calaway, in a community where there is no electricity, no 'artificial' lighting, observing the mara'akame performing a ceremony in the same way that their fathers and their father's father's and their father's father's fathers had witnessed the ceremony before them, I tuned in to the thread of time and in that moment understood how each of us is no more than a small whisper in the Symphony of the Great Spirit and yet each of those whispers together becomes such beautiful music.

I could not help but think about my Taino, my native South American and my many African ancestors, wondering how many nights such as this had my ancestors witnesses, how many such ceremonies had they danced at and as I witnessed the pilgrims partaking of their sacred hicuri medicine, I wondered what types of medicines were my ancestors medicines, what types of rituals spoke to their hearts and nourished their peoples. These people in the Calaway were not my people, their medicine was not my medicine, but the ancientness of their ceremony connected me back to a time when their ancestors were doing the same ceremony and somewhere, in some other parts of the world at the same time, my ancestors were also performing their own ceremonies, connected to each other only by a different view of the same ancient stars.

I stood there in awe, looking up at the twinkling stars smattered across the velvet black sky, as the ancient spirits of the Wira answered my questions. I asked them what I was doing there, so far from home, in a land where I knew so few people, and their answer was "You are searching for yourself." "You will not find what you are looking for here" they told me. "Our people are not your people. But we welcome you, as our ancestors would have welcomed your ancestors."

The Wiriraca are a people of peace. Though their lineage can be traced back 3,500 years, there is no history of warfare among the Wira/Huichol peoples. I understood deeply what it meant to be a people of peace that night as I stood under the stars and the spirits of the land welcomed me, and welcomed my ancestors, on behalf of the ancestors that had occupied this land when they had occupied theirs. It was indeed an honour and a privilege for me to have been standing and looking at that particular view of the starry night sky.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Stalking Knowledge in Las Latas 2




"One who conquers himself is greater than another who conquers a thousand times a thousand in the Battlefield" Buddha

The path at the bottom of the hill opened up into a flat field, which was dry as a bone, but still had furrows. Across the field was the Calaway, the ceremonial centre, surrounded by a small smattering of adobe houses. Most of the Wira don't actually live in the valley, but in ranches way up in the mountains where they cultivate corn and beans. We did not head in the direction of the ceremonial centre that I could see in the distance but turned towards the closest compound of adobe houses off to the left of the trail.

Masauke was looking for Julio, the First Singer of the Rain, one of the meri'kame, or shaman/medicine man, who had stayed at the healing centre for a few days just before Masauke and Jessie had gone off on the pilgrimage. He asked Sebastian, Julio's eight year old grandson who had accompanied his grandfather when he had come to Wiricuta to conduct a ceremony for a group of Mexica pilgrims from California, if Julio was there or in the ceremony. Sebastian led us to an adobe room that functioned as a kitchen where his grandmother and a younger woman with a baby were preparing food. Julio we were told was still in the ceremony.

We headed across the field, first to the compound of one of Masauke's other compadre's to greet everyone who had not seen Masauke in almost 2 years and Linda in much longer, and then to the nearby compound where we would be staying. Each of the adobe houses in the second compound belonged to one of Otimio's children. Otimio had been one of Masauke's teachers. He had died just before the pilgrimage was supposed to have begun. In fact, the pilgrimage had been postponed because of Otimio's death, and of his 7 wives, only one had survived him. Both Matsua, the Captain of the pilgrimage and Jesus, Masauke's compadre, were sons of Otimio.

The compound was bustling with people, dogs and turkeys. Masauke greeted Otimio's widow, whose response was the most ancient of greetings, almost godlike, in which the Grandmother blessed herself, similar to doing the sign of the cross before us. She adopted a very humble posture and in her native tongue she addressed Masauke ... 'Masauke',she said, taking his hand and kissing it. Masauke would later tell me that her greeting cum blessing was by far the least deserving honour that he felt entitled to. It was however, a greeting in which she represented her recently deceased husband, for as Masauke says, he is sure that Otimio discussed with her his true heart.

We left our overnight packs in the compadre's one room house and walked across the dry furrowed field and through the gate into the Calaway compound. The ceremony, which had started 3 days before, was still going on inside the building on the far left side from where we sat on a log with our backs to the wall of one of the adobe buildings facing the Calaway. Across from us there were 3 temples, the temple of the Sun, the temple of the Deer and the temple of the Wind. There were people scattered around circular ground in front of the Calaway. There were children of all ages, grandmothers, women nursing babies beneath their beautifully designed blouses, men, youth. The community was sitting on steps,logs, protruding roots, or tiny wooden stools, waiting for the moment when the pilgrims would next come dancing out of the Calaway.

We sat for over an hour before the next round of dancing began. I occupied myself playing hide and seek with a group of young girls. I would hide my face behind my headdress and then peak out at them. They were having a great time. None of them would come very close but they would each look over in turn to see if I was hiding or not. My game with the kids was to continue over a period of at least 3 hours. Masauke later told me that the children were fascinated with the game, not only because I looked very different than the adults they were used to seeing, but also because it was very rare for them to have an adult playing with them and especially to keep playing with them for so long.

To be continued... stay tuned to this same bat channel ...oops, i mean blog entry!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Happy Spring Equinox!!!

"Be the change you want to see in the world" Mahatma Gandhi

Spring Equinox is a time for balance and harmony. It is a time when the length of day equals the length of night. It is the time for manifesting our dreams and for synchronizing our inner and outer reality. It is a time for honouring our mother the Earth and for honouring ourselves.

2007 is the year for finding our purpose, our true path and our personal destiny on this planet. It is a time for doing what makes us feel alive and making mother Earth come alive with the energy of our aliveness. It is the light of spring that guides us along our personal journey towards our true purpose.

This is a time for true forgiveness leading the way to lasting peace. True forgiveness is healing -- healing for ourselves, healing for others and healing for the Earth. We all have experienced physical, mental, emotional, psychic or spiritual wounds, hurts, pain or suffering in the past. Continuing to nurse old wounds, to maintain grudges, to hold on to pain and suffering not only hurts ourselves, but also our mother Earth as the energies manifest in the earth body as violence and wars. Now is the time to forgive ourselves and to forgive others. In the eyes of the creator we are already forgiven.

Let go of the energies of all offenses we have committed against ourselves and others in this life or in any past incarnations ... Embrace inner peace and harmony. Find that balance within.

Today, as the seeds of light begin to grow once again, filling the earth with life, let us ask each of the seven directions [East, West, North, South , Above, Below and Within] to help us anchor purpose, peace and forgiveness in our hearts, minds and spirits and in the hearts, minds and spirits of all sentient beings resident on our mother, Earth. Let us stand together as ONE PEOPLE with all the elders from around the world, with the people from all nations and with the people with the bloods of all nations, as we usher in the light of a new beginning, a new way of life based on purpose, peace and forgiveness.

Today, no matter where you are in the world, do what only you can do, however big or small that may be ... say a prayer for peace ... meditate on the manifestation of your soul's purpose ... dance a dance to usher in the light ... chant a chant to celebrate balance and harmony ... shout out the coming of unity and equality for all people!!

To my sisters in the North with whom I normally celebrate Spring Equinox, I send a shout out ... Ashe... One Perfect Love ... keep your flags flying ... so be it ... so let it be ... it is written ... "Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven."

Today, as I was meditating on the Spring Equinox the doorbell at Linda's house rang. I was the only person here. I answered the doorbell. It was Jessie, my spiritual bro, who I had last seen a month ago as he jumped out of the van as the pilgrimage headed West towards the Sierras and he went hoofing it back east the 2 miles or so to the healing centre. 'Yacko', I said, giving him a hug. 'Ere eMe' was his reply, as he gave me a big bear hug in return.

Jessie, is a thirty something long haired Mexica drummer and Aztec Dancer, who's dance company operates out of New York city. He spends his time travelling between there and San Antonio where he produces videos, drums and is studying the medicine way of the Wirrarica people. He was the only non Wira,Tewari, who was included as part of the spiritual circle of the pilgrimage, as Masauke had given up his traditional spot for Jessie, who had hunted the deer and thus earned the right to do the pilgrimage.

As Jessie was recounting his travels over the past month and I was recounting mine his cellphone rang. It was Masauke, who had left the house several hours earlier. He was checking to see when Jessie was going to come over. As the mathematics would have it Jessie was already sitting in the living room while Masauke was still on his way. When he arrived he conveyed all the messages from the pilgrims, including recounting what one woman had told him about how much the deer that Jessie had brought for the ceremony had helped the community. My bro was pleased with the info. He filled Masauke in on how things had changed for him since the ceremony.

As he was leaving, Jessie told Masauke that he was going to the hospital to drop off some natural health remedies for a man who had broken his neck and was paralyzed. This man had lived for years on a small ranch between San Rafael and Estacion Catorce, about as close as was possible to the healing centre. It was as though Masauke had received a calling card from Spirit. He packed his medicine bag, took out his feather box and his eagle bone whistle and we were off.

I am always amazed at how the mathematics of the medicine world works out. As we got in the van and turned on the radio a program was playing on veterans with spinal cord injuries -- we were on the way to the spinal injury ward of the veterans hospital! On the way we passed a forested green space. It had been raining and was overcast, the light simulating dusk. It was a very rare sight indeed, in the middle of a large city, to see a herd of 12 deer feasting on the budding blossoms. Masauke slowed the van so that we could both bless ourselves with their energy.

We followed Jessie til we reached the hospital. As we entered Masauke noticed the name Z...a, his last name, near the top of the patient list posted near the nursing station. It is a relatively rare Mexican name with that particular spelling, so Masauke inquired at the nursing station as to whether Z...a could have visitors. When the nurses told him he could Masauke told me to follow him and we went off to visit Z...a. We spent 10 minutes talking with Z...a before the nurse came to inform us that Jessie had gone to room 32 and that we were welcome to go, but as the man we were there to visit had an infection, we had to don gowns and gloves before visiting him.

Steve, was in a negative pressure room on the ward, to keep any potential microbes from leaving the room. Donning the yellow paper gown and blue disposable gloves took me back to my days in molecular genetics, getting suited up when going into a containment facility to work on a potentially contagious viruses. Those days seemed like many lifetimes ago when I compared it to heading into a hospital room to do a healing on a patient ... Steve, who had been paralyzed from the waist down since breaking his neck 3 months ago, had not been expecting either Masauke or myself, though Jessie had begun to prep him for what we were about to do.

Masauke introduced both of us and told Steve of our recent trip to Mexico, the pilgrimage, what we had been doing and told Steve what we planned to do with him. Steve was open to this so Masauke took out his feathers, deer tail and eagle bone whistle and began to call in Steve's ancestors and to take him back to a time and place when his body was whole, encouraging him to remember what that wholeness felt like.

As Masauke had been working with Steve for a while when I noticed out of the corner of my eye that there were other people in the outer room suiting up. Before Masauke had finished the ceremony, a tall white woman and a short Asian man entered the room and stood beside Steve's bed. The Asian man was Lama Tongham, who had been in the area doing a weekend meditation retreat. He was there with his host, who was a good friend of Steve's, to do some Tibetan medicine work on Steve. As Masauke finished up and the Lama was beginning Steve's left leg began to twitch. It had not done that before. Steve could feel the energy moving in his body in a way he had never felt.

As Masauke was putting his feathers away, the Lama came over to respectfully ask if he could touch Masauke's healing instument, the feathers and the eagle bone whistle. Lama Tongham was trying to locate the source of the chi, or energy, that we were using. It was very familiar to him, though not from these instruments. He requested that Masauke meet with him to discuss their respective healing traditions before he went to work himself.

As usual, Masauke charged nothing for the healing work. While he bade his farewells and went off to visit with Z...a again, I stayed a while longer in the outer room to watch the Lama at work. When I left to catch up with Masauke he was making arrangements with Z...a for us to come back on Thursday to do a healing on him!! It was all in a Spring Equinox's day's work .. such is the life of the medicine people called by Spirit to follow the medicine way.

Lessons Learned: 1) Always listen to Spirit ... I am only now beginning to learn what is a calling card from Spirit and what is not; 2) Call it mathematics or call it synchronicity, the mathematics never lie; 3) Trust the mathematics! It is ALL mathematics.

Stay tuned. Staywell and Travel with Spirit, Spirit Traveller.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Stalking Knowledge in Las Latas


"God has no religion" Mahatma Gandhi

Back in the Sierras in the little settlement of Nueva Colonia, we got up the next morning and each went off to use the outdoor facilities among the fir trees. In the whole time I was in the Wirarica communities I never saw a bathroom anywhere, not even anything that resembles a bathroom. Bathrooms are a significant advancement and major health benefit in areas where fecal matter can contaminate groundwater sources and thus spread disease from person to person. Deserts around the world seem to be one of the topographies where there is still a consistent underavailability of bathroom facilities. Who knows if, because of the heat and the lack of water, they are somehow not quite as necessary as elsewhere. This is a topic I will reflect on in a later blog, but suffice it to say I quickly adapted to life without sit down toilets. Toilet paper is a necessity I have not learned to do without and in fact have learned never to leave home without!

After having a couple of slices of the bread that Linda had brought from San Antonio, my first multigrain spelt bread in months, washed down with hot chocolate made on our 'luxury' accomodations' one burner propane stove, we donned our Wira clothes becoming Tewaris Wirizado instead of what is more common, Wirrarica Tewarizado -- Wira folk dressed in Western clothes. I had the blue outfit I had worn during the pilgrimage. Linda had left her Wira clothes in San Antonio but borrowed an outfit from their compadre's newest wife. It was a beautiful red and green outfit, made of a textured red cotton with tiny green Christmas trees all over it. As I would soon find out, Christmas fabric is a popular favourite among the Wira women, who wear it all year round, because of the vibrant colours and the patterned borders which are often seen decorating the bottoms of their skirts. Masauke's outfit was the traditional for men , white with brightly coloured embroidered designs of sacred symbols in pinks, reds, greens and blacks.

It took us 20 minutes to walk from the settlement to the edge of the cliff overlooking the valley were Las Latas is situated. As I stood on the side of the mountain before we began our descent into the valley I paused for a moment in awe at the perfect strategic location of the community. It had taken us 2.5 hours by van, then 20 minutes on foot to get this far. It would take another 2 hours to descend into the valley below [our descent was much slower than that of the surefooted, altitude adjusted, Wira folk who passed us nimbly going down the steep path as we, especially Linda and I, often struggled to keep our balance on the rocky donkey trail]. This was indeed the perfect place to retreat when the Spanish conquistadores were ravaging the lands of the indigenous people of the lowlands of Mexico and later when the Church and State was attempting to ensure that indigenous cultures and traditions became a thing of the past.

The Wirarica people managed to maintain their indigenous language, cultures and ancient traditions almost completely intact until today precisely because of their brilliant retreat to many similar location with the ideal topography for disuading all but the most persistent visitors from venturing forth. As we stood at the crest of the hill and Masauke yelled 'Yacko' and a reply came back up from the barely visible figures in the valley below, I further appreciated the reverbrance of the bowl shaped geography. If potential intruders could not be seen, which we could be, then it was likely that they would be heard.

We descended quite slowly pausing at a huge rock that represents the half way mark and passing the campsite where the pilgrims stay on their final night before returning to the village. Everything was new to me, the stories, the history, the landscape. I was like a kid in a candy factory, inhaling every sound, gobbling up each new sight,trying to keep my eyes peeled on the breathtaking valley that was coming ever closer, while at the same time attempting not to land on my butt as the loose rocks scattered beneath my huarachas , traditional sandals made of recycle car tires soles and leather thongs, which continue to be used by most Wira folk. After sitting down on the job a few times, but without falling over the cliff, at last we reached the bottom of the hill.

More to follow ... stay tuned!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Staying Well in Mexico

"There is nothing equal to wearing clothes and eating food." Zenrin Kushu

The long interval between entries is due to my 4 day stay in Las Latas, way up in the Sierras, followed by a still ongoing bout of traveller's diarrhea which incapacitated me for several days. Read about the trip to Las Latas in my next entry, On the Road Again, but for now let me reflect on the joys of eating food and having your body do what it is supposed to with it!

Well, it took 10 weeks in Mexico before Montezuma took his revenge on me. I have travelled many places around the world and this is the first time I have been struck by the dreaded traveller's diarrhea. I am always pretty careful about drinking boiled or bottled water when I travel, but other than that I eat what the locals eat. After spending over 2 months, buying and eating local foods -- cheese tamales and atole de avena in the square in Matehuala, tamales de frejoles from Dona Bertha in Wadley, champurrado and gorditas or chocolate and pan dulce in Real, helado in Catorce -- and cooking and eating sopa de arroz, quesadillas, aguacate, tomate and other veggies, often eating whatever we could find on the road, and after 4 days eating the food that Masauke and his companion, Linda's, co-madres provided in the Wira community of Las Latas, it was after we had dinner at our first 'good' restaurant, a seafood restaurant in Zacatecas, that I was struck by the bug.

Ah, as Zenrin Kushu says, there is nothing equal to eating food! After a night of projectile vomiting, when I really couldn't tell what was coming out of which end, I spent the next 2 days of not eating food and kicking myself for only bringing preventative remedies and nothing for treatment. But of course, I never expect that I, Ms Healthy, would get sick ... that only happened to other people, not to me ... I always do the preventative stuff, the good old oil of oregano and olive leaf tablets, blue green algae and vitamin C and never expect to get sick.

I had a very brief bout with the vomits one day about 5 weeks into my trip, but Dona C, the healing centre's caretaker, had soon fixed me up with teas of estafiata and ohasein, two very bitter local herbs widely used for stomach problems, followed by a limpia with a raw egg, to remove the mal ojo, or evil eye, that Dona C suspected was the cause of my sudden illness. Dona C's reading of the huevo that time confirmed that indeed I had been zapped by the dreaded evil eye. Whether it was the herbal teas that cured the vomits or the limpia with the egg that removed the evil eye I will never know, but certainly by the next morning I was fine. This time it was not so simple.

I had learned how to do the limpia with the huevo to check for evil eyes, so, in between running to the bathroom and lying prone for lack of energy, I did the pasos on myself.. Voila, I thought as I broke the egg and dropped it in the bowl of water, expecting to see more evidence of mal ojo than there was last time, since by that time I had been sick for 3 days instead of only a few hours the time before, but, though I had learned to read the 'easy' cases, I still was a novice at the egg trick, so the complicated picture before me was too much for my sick, tired and unskilled brain to interpret. But, the Spirits are kind... only minutes after I sat down baffled by the egg in bowl, Dona C showed up to check in on me.

Masauke and Linda had gone off to Real and I was alone at the healing centre. Dona C stopped by just in time to pour over the bowl and inform me that indeed there was no mal ojo this time! Well, could it be something so ordinary as regular bacteria, maybe a little amoeba or two, how terribly mundane for me who never gets sick, to admit to being stricken by a common microbe and not something infinitely more interesting, something from the realm of the world of spirits. Well, this time it seemed that the mundane world had won out. The next morning when Dona C came by again, she chastised me for not remembering to drink the herbal tea and marched me off into the desert to identify the two herbs that we needed to make the tea.

We walked down a dry river bed, where there was a bit more moisture than most places, I was looking all around not seeing either of the herbs, as Dona C began to say, look down, look down. I am sure she had spotted the tiny herb long before and was tired of waiting for me to see it. Finally I saw the small sprig of estafiate she was referring to and later another small twig, enough to make the tea she assured me. The ohasein, I had completely forgotten how to identify, though I had spent an afternoon with Dona C and one of her daughters identifying local medicinal herbs about 6 weeks before. Dona C took pity on me and pointed out the second plant we needed for the tea. Heading back to the healing centre, she boiled up a batch, and though it did help in the short term, it did not completely cured the runs.

What to do, Masauke was waiting to make sure I was better so that he could drive back to San Antonio to drop off Linda who had spent a week with us, those adventures are to follow. If I didn't get better, I would be alone at the healing centre, with the runs and none of my usual natural remedies. But, the truth is I was still expecting that my preventative measures would work sooner than later and that I would be fine to head South to the Purhepeche pyramid for the Spring Equinox celebration and to visit with La Guardiana again, while Masauke and Linda headed North to Texas.

What to do, what to do, I consulted the spirits of the desert, asking them before I went to bed on Thursday night whether I should go to the pyramid or stay at the healing centre. Two of the guardians of the healing centre, both teachers of Masauke who have now pass over to the other side, appeared to me that night, but neither had an answer to my question. As I woke up I had three prophetic dreams, in the first I was riding on the back of a dolphin, the second I was watching a group of models that I was about to give a class to when their chief instructor told us all to 'walk this way', and as I was waking up someone whispered, the Ottawa School of Nursing. Well, what kind of mumbo jumbo, is that message, I thought. I was certainly no clearer about what the answer to my question was.

I was feeling much better for the first time in days and joined Linda and Masauke and spent a wonderful day with a collective of women who make natural granola bars in Las Margaritas and visited Dona Domitila, the local curandera and her family who live close by, more to follow in later episodes, I returned to the healing centre and so did the runs! So, what to do what to do. I posed my question to the spirits again that night, but this time, at Masauke's insistence I asked whether I should go north to Texas as well as the other options. After, packing all my bags to prepare for whatever answer would come, I spent an almost sleepless night with the return of the runs. I had not a single informative dream. Disappointed, in the morning I asked the spirits for guidance, we already told you the answer to your question was the reply I received. It was only during my morning meditation that I realized that they had indeed replied before I had asked the question. Walk this way, Ottawa School of Nursing = Go North, Young Woman! It was not an option that I had given them at the time I had asked the question, but the answer was clear.

So, with as little pouting as I could manage, and constantly repeating the phrase of the Great Master, "not my will, but thy will be done" I gave up my plans to head off to the pyramid and caught a ride with Masauke and Linda back to the land of health food stores and holistic remedies. And here I am, chowing down on Acidophilus, colloidal silver, bentonite clay and other wonderful natural remedies for diarrhea. I had forgotten how much of a health food junkie I was until I stepped into the Whole Foods Store and saw all the aisles and aisles of options. I did not miss the traffic, the big houses, new cars and SUVs, but boy, did I miss big health food stores! A synchronistic meeting in Whole Foods with Miranda and Mario, the only two other people of the Spirit that I know in San Antonio, reassured me that I had indeed listened to the directive of Spirit. So here I am waiting for Spirit to guide me on my next steps on my journey. ...

Lessons learned: 1) Eating is such a joy. You never really realize how much until you spend a few days not eating! 2) Always be prepared ... whether it is to follow the directive of Spirit, or to treat diarrhea. 3) The mundane world, the world of microbes and bacteria, deserves just as much respect as the world of brujas and spirits ...

Stay Tuned. StayWell, and Travel with Spirit, Spirit Traveller.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

On The Road Again, Stalking Knowledge in the Sierras

"The fundamental delusion of humanity is to suppose that I am here and that you are out there." Yasutani Roshi

No sooner had we returned from the trip to Morelia and the pyramids, washed our clothes (with a bucket and old fashioned scrub board), taken a shower with hot water ( a recent addition to the healing centre), we were on the road again stalking knowledge in the Sierras. Travelling down the straight roads of the desert, through the endless fields of Yucca and cactus, we headed off to Zacatecas. In Zacatecas we were to meet Masauke´s companion, Linda, who lives in San Antonio. She was to accompany us to the ceremony celebrating the return of the pilgrims in Las Latas in the Sierras.

Zacatecas is a beautiful old, but very lively town, in the state of Zacatecas, about 3.5 hours drive from San Rafael across many miles of desert. Linda´s bus was delayed so we had time to visit the Museo Zacatecano, which had a permanent exhibit of the life of the Wira or Huichol people, who I had already met and who we were about to visit. On our way to the museo we passed a puppet show in a square which was an open space for cultural exhibits, stopped in on an International Women´s Day instillation "Say No to Violence Against Women", observed a political rally, passed by three marching bands, one of which was a Mariachi band accompanying a bride and groom and wedding party as they walked from the church to the nearby reception hall!! Zactecas is certainly a happening city. There is infinitely more excitement here than any of the small towns I had been hanging out in for the past few months!

When Linda arrived we headed off across the plains and around wide mountain roads towards the town of Huejuqilla al Alto. Huejuquilla is the closest town to the Sierras, a small town with a boulevard that I am told looks like Guadalajaras and the traditional old Spanish style square. It has all the typical street vendors, the pushcart selling all manner of fresh fruit with lemon, salt and chili, a delicacy for those who have never tried fruit prepared this way; down the street a stand with helote, or corn, prepared in much the same fashion with a coating of mayonnaise to wash it all down, only for those who are not feint of stomach, as the chili makes your eyes water and I am always mildly suspicious of the mayonnaise jar sitting out in the sun, but suspect that the chili will kill any potential microbes; other stands with children's toys imported from China, plastic household items and various home made sweets are the order of the day. Huejuquilla is home to a large number of Wira people who no longer live in the Sierras. Many of them are still in their traditional dress though many have also become Tewarizado [Tewari= non Wira] and dress in non-Wira fashion.

It was getting dark as we left Huejuquilla, not far out of town we turned off on the narrow road that would take us up hill and over dale to Nueva Colonia, a Wirrarica settlement, 1,300 km above sea level deep in the Sierras. It was dark so my view was mostly of the trees by the side of the narrow road which was currently being widened and reconstructed, hence the numerous detours down precarious dirt paths, or of the cliffs on the other side of the road. I could not get an idea of how high up we were or what the surroundings looked like until we were leaving 4 days later. I could tell by the vegetation that we were quite high up as the firs and evergreens reminded me more of the temperate forests in Canada than any tropical rain forest I had ever been in.

Two and a half hours later, after bumping our way up the sometimes very steep and narrow road and heading over mountain bridges barely wider than the van, passing only a few settlements along the way, we arrived at a complex of long adobe houses surrounded by stands of tall pines sheltering sleeping cattle, all barely visible in the starlight night. Three toots of a horn and several shouts of 'Yacko', the traditional Wira greeting, later, Jesus, Masauke and Linda's conpadre, appeared from one of the door, wiping the sleep from his eyes. Masauke inquired about the status of the ceremony, which we knew was already going on down the hill in the community of Las Latas. Jesus confirmed that the peyoteros or peligrinos, the pilgrims, would be dancing all night that night, Saturday, and that the ceremony would go on the following day, likely overnight the next night and end on Monday.

Tired as we were, and with only two small flashlights to illuminate what I would learn the next day was a very steep footpath down the side of the mountain to the community of Las Latas, we decided to spend the night in our usual accommodation, the van that transforms into a one and a half bedroom, no bath luxury suite. While quite workable for two, it was a very tight fit for 3, Linda sharing Masauke's usual just larger than single bed spot, while I was across the 'hall' in the just barely bigger than half bed unit. Lying with my head towards the window, the breeze from the pine forest wafting in and watching the beautiful display of night stars, I could only think how beautiful life is!

Lessons learned: 1) once again I have to reflect on how little we really need -- a few bowls of rice, clean underwear and a place to lay your head, not much to ask, 2) Life is good! 3) Life is good!

Stay tuned for part 2. Staywell and travel with Spirit, Spirit Traveller.

Friday, March 9, 2007

La Guardiana, The Keeper of Ancient Knowledge

"The merchant said to the boy "Why ask more out of life?" "Because we have to respond to the omens," the boy said, almost without meaning to, then he regretted what he had said, because the merchant had never met the king. "It`s called the principle of favourability, beginner`s luck. Because life wants you to achieve your Personal Legand," the old king had said. but the merchant understood what the boy had said. The Alchemist. Paulo Coelho.

As I made my way down from the pyramid of the moon, I felt truly filled with power. I felt I had been in touch with the ancient knowledge of the spirits of the temple.. They had spoken to me while I was meditating and told me about who I was and why I was here. They told me who my ancestors were and why I was on this path .. Some of what they told me I understood and most of the knolçwledge I received I could not comprehend, no doubt it will be revealed to me later.

My ancestors have been calling for an eternity. The ancestors have spoken to me ever since I was a child, whispering in my ear, speaking in languages I could not understand. They have come to me in dreams, in symbols I had no way of interpreting. Thought they have been talking to me all my life, I am still not always sure what they are saying, or why they have chosen to talk to me, and not one of my brothers or cousins. Why was I the one with this gift, the privilege and the responsibility of being called by the ancestors, of being able to hear their voices, whether or not I can understand what they are saying. Why was it me who was chosen?

I had chosen another life for myself… a much more ordinary life. A life that my best friend now lives – I had chosen to be a doctor, get married, have a loving husband, a few kids, the house on the outskirts of a town, the car, a 9-5 job… all the ingredients for a ‘normal’ life…but somewhere along the way my ancestors began calling me – whispering instructions I did not even know I was listening to, telling me to take this turn here, miss that train there, cross this road at that time, study with that professor, apply for this job, go to that dojo, all seemingly innocent steps along the way, all little steps and one day I woke up and realized that I was no where near the ‘normal’ path… My ancestors callings had taken me into uncharted territory, taken me down a path that no one I knew had gone before … I can’t say when I received the calling – that I do not know -- but somewhere along the road to the normal, average life, I took a fork in the road and here I am following the path of the ancestors.

After introducing me to the spirits and walking me up the pyramid and beginning the ceremony, Masauke descended to say his own prayer and awaited me at the base of the pyramid. After I joined him, we walked to the edge of the compound, which was surrounded by forest. I knew that I was to call the deer, so i called 3 times in Huichol ... Masauki, Masauki, Masauki .. I was looking straight ahead expecting to see the deer, but there was nothing in the woods in front of me. I felt a tap on my shoulder, Masauke turned me around and there behind me was a large buck standing between the trees about 20 feet away. . The buck stood watching us. It did not move as we slowly approached him. We stopped about 10 feet away and could see that the buck was not alone... standing behind him was a doe.

We all watched each other for several minutes. Then as we approached the deer turned and disappeared into the forest. We walked towards where they had been, along the edge of the compound. I could hear them but could not see them. I was calling them but they did not appear. Just as I turned to Masauke to say that they had gone, the buck and doe ran right in front of me as though to tell me that they wre still there. They seemed to say ... speak to la Guardiana ..so we went off in search of her.

The gatekeeper at the pyramid confirmed where la guardiana lived. We bid farewell to the spirits of the pyramids and drove the 6 blocks to the house with the purple gate and the hanging hibiscuses. A young girl answered our knock at the gate . When we told her who we were she asked us to wait while she consulted La Guardiana. She came back a few minuted later asking us to follow her. We walked up the short stairs and through the courtyard to the large kitchen where la Guardiana was standing. As she approached I did a double take. She looked like my mother's older sister .. everything about her looked like a relatve of mine.

She invited us to sit down. La guardiana told us that she was 72 years old. She had been the spiritual guardian of the pyramid for over 30 years. Her role was to help people with meditations, relaxation and visualizations. She told us that she had been given a gift from God and the evidence fo the gift was in the palm of her hand. She showed us the 5 pointed star in the palm of her hand, If was the representation of the Great Star she told us. She had known about this gift since she had been 13 years old when an old woman from the town had seen the star in her palm and had foretold all that would happen to her. Her life had unfolded as the old woman had predicted.

She told us that the spirits of the pyramids come and talk to her, that they ask her for what they want. She had only finished grade 4 in school, but she had written a book because the spirits had come to her and told her what to write. For years she would go to sleep witha pen and paper by her bedbecause she knew that between 3 and 4 am she would be woken up by something that felt like a small animal crawling up her right shoulder. It would feel like a cricket crawling into her ear and once she was fully awake she would write down everything the spirits told her.

At that point she got up and went to the chest of drawers behind her and pulled out a copy of a book about the pyramid with her name on it. La Guardiana had only 1 copoy of the book left and would not let it leave her home. It was all she had left she said. More than half of what the spirits ahd told her had been stolen by the woman who had helped her to put the book together. She had apparently published a book in her own name withthe rest of the material. "The spirits will not look kindly on that" Masauke responded to la guardiana. "She is probably living a difficult life, if she is alive at all. "

La guardiana spoke to me for a while about traditional medicine and about specfic natural remedies she had been given by the spirits. She asked me to come back the next day to do a reading of my energy and answer any questions that I had. We travelled back to Patzcuaro and returned the next morning.. The reading was indeed very powerful and I received an invitation to return for the celebration of the Spring Equnox ceremony, so this saga will continue ...

Lessons Learned: 1) Living as we do in the so called 'modern' world we are no longer atuned to the whisperings of the Spirit, 2) It is beautiful to cross paths with someone wh is blessed with the 'don' or gift of being able to communicate with the spirits, 3) it is wise to listen to the whisperings of our ancestors however unfamiliar we may be with their voices and however distant the echoes of their voices sound.

Stay tuned. Many thanks and many blessings to all those who have allowed the Spirit Traveller to continue on her travels. Thanks also for the many many kilometers of travel provided by the Morning Blessing Way Healing Centre Annex in San Rafeal, SLP, Mexico!!.

StayWell and Travel with Spirit, Spirit Traveller.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Stalking Knowledge: In Search of the Ancient Pyramids

"We shape clay into pots, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want." Lao Tzu

While in Morelia, Masauke was drawn to take me to a Purhepecha pyramid in the nearby vicinity. He had been there some 8 years before and had met with the spiritual guardian of the pyramid, an older woman who had a relationship with the spirits of the pyramid. She is the one takes care of the ancient knowledge that remains in the pyramid. She is the one who has the ability to speak to the spirits of the temple.

Masauke recounted the story of his first visit to the pyramid when the Guardiana had presented himself and the others who he was travelling with, to the spirits as, "I present you 3 Greats", with that Marauke recalls, his companions turned to him and said, Don`t you hear that music, there must be a ceremony in progress inside the pyramids- Masauke had neard nothing, but all of the others he was travelling with had heard the fanfare. They were told that what they had heard were the spirits welcoming them, as though they had been preparing for the Games.

Masauke had forgotten the name of the pyramid but remembered it by its location in the town, which he also could not remember the name of. So off we went in search of this pyramid and in the process discovered two others before we found the right one. At each of the pyramids Masauke presented me tot he spirits of the temples and left me to greet them in my own way, which was of course, a greeting of warriors, a combination of karate katas, tai chi and chi gung.

The first pyramid we found was in the archeological zone of Ihuatzio, the place of the Coyote god, which was also the garrison that housed all the Purhepecha warriors. One of the caretakers gave us a description of what had taken place at the pyramid and showed us the raised roads that surrounded the place de las armas. He pointed out all the ruins that had yet to be excavated because the nearby fields were still owned by private landowners. It was there that I did the greeting to the 4 directions, Sheva Shao Lohan, and a special warrior meditation. This was not the pyramid with the Guardiana, so after Masauke described the one we were looking for to the caretaker, he tokd to try s certain route which would take us to anothe nearby pyramid.

The second pyramid we found was the pyramid of Tzintzuntzan, which was once the administrative capital of the Purhepeche world. Prior to the arrival of the Spànish the complex housed 40,00 people and administered the entire Purhepeche kindom. It is now located in a small village of less than 1000.

The following day, bright and early we were again stalking the ancient pyramids. This time we were sure that we had found the righ one after several people suggested that the pyramid at Tingambato fit the description. It was only about an hour away from where we were. Ever hopeful we set off and after driving up a mountain, along narrow curvy mountain roads, through a pine forest and avocado plantations looking out over beautiful lakes, we finally arrived at Tingambato. We had indeed found the lost pyramid.

The Guardiana was no longer at the pyramid, but Masauke again presented me at the gateway of the pyramid complex. He presentd me to the spirits saying"A la que se han llamada, se presenta" "She who you have summonsed is here" While he was presenting me we were greeted with drums. When he had finished I turned to him and asked if he had heard the drums. He had also heard them. Needless to say there were no drummers in the pyramid comples, the music came from the world of the spirits. I repeated my greeting to the four directions and did a powerful meditation on the top of the pyramid of the Moon. Then we set off to find the Guardiana...

Lessons Learned: 1) I`m still working on the lessons learned at this one!!

To be continued ... Stay Tuned. StayWell and Travel with Spìrit, Spirit Traveller.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Meeting Fellow Travellers Along The Road

"If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him" Ancient Zen Saying.

Masauke needed to go to Morelia come here to close some old circles, to leave behind some old paterns and habits that was still with him for the time he had lives here many years ago. Morelia is in the state of Michiocan, which at one point was the name for all of Mexico. The time in Morelia was a time of many lessons. It was the first place that I found a real kung fu dojo. I also met with the local indigenous women, the Purhepeche women, in the nearby city of Patzcuero. I will recount this in a later entry.

Morelia is a very old city with narrow streets and old stone buildings. There is a large old cathedral in the middle of the square. It is surrounded by palacial mansions, most of which have been converted into hotels or cafes. The governor mansion is also in the square. It is from this mansion the the grito del la independencia, the shout of independence, goes out once a year, following the tradition at the beginning of the revolution. The governor mansion is right in front of the Cathedral. I guess the thinking was that the closer that you live to the house of God, the more blessed you are viewed to be.

The people of Morelia are very Spanish looking, more juera or very light skinned, than in many of the other smaller towns I have visited. Sitting in the plaza in the evening I could have been sitting in Anytown in Europs or Anylargetown in Canada or the US. It is a university town, so at night there is a lot of activity. Unlike other towns, where many of the people selling in the streets have darker skin and most often are indigenous people, in the streets of Morelia there are more apparently 'upwardly mobile' students performing tricks or selling wares than there are people people selling their wares because there have no other means of earning a living.

This juxtaposition of the light skin students selling their talents and the darker skinned indigenous people selling their art and their talents, made me reflect on the power of discrimination, and on what the Western world has come to value. The art that the indigenous people were selling took much time and years of experience to do well, yet their work is not values, less so now that machines can do in minutes what they take hours to do and years to learn. The students are selling their talents to buy an education which will guarentee them a stable and secure place in society. Yet the native people have centuries of knowledge that is being lost and devalued leaving many of them with few alternative than to sell their art for a few dollars or to leave their traditions behind and join the so called civilized world. How much knowledge are we as a global society losing as the people change their ways of life to adapt to the so called modern world!

During the trip to Morelia, Masauke met with several people from the spiritual group that he was a part of while he lived here. One of the people we met was Miguel, a Spaniard living in Mexico who continues to study the medicine way with Masauke's brother who stil maintains a spiritual group in the city. Miguel was 15 days away from leaving the stable job he had for many years and heading off to Spain for 5 months before going to Canada with his wife and family, with no job and no prospects, only a few contacts. Miguel was about to do what I had done 2 months earlier.

Sitting at breakfast he told me that his safe stable job provided him with 2 houses but no joy.. He could support his wife and children but he was slowly dying inside. As he spoke to me and as I recounted my journey that had brought me here Masauke reminded me that he was indeed a mirror for me, that he was reading one of the letters that I had been given by the Great Spirit at the last ceremony he had performed for me.

Miguel and I met each other at exactly the ideal moment, when my faith was being tested and when he was doubting his decision. Miguel later told Masauke that what I had told him was exactly what he needed to hear at that time. It was truly a beautiful meeting of spirits on a similar path.

Lessons learned: 1) Kill the Buddha means that we need to learn to be a light unto ourselves, to learn to be our own light, our own Buddha's, our own authority, 2) The Buddha is neither outside or inside ourselves, we must kill all illusions of finding the buddha, we already are the Buddha, 3) Take the middle road -- learning to achieve freedom takes practice, practice in balancing freedom from with freedom to.

On that note, stay tuned. Stay well and Travel with Spirit, Spirit Traveller.

Oh Tears of Joy!

"Physician, heal thyself" Luke 4:23

To be a healer, one must learn to heal one's self. I have been on the path of learning to heal myself for the past 25 years. It has been a long and windy road. I have placed myself in many situations tht have been physically, mentally, emotionally, energetically and spiritually challenging, each tiem a little more, so that I would push at my boundaries, unblock old blockages, unlearn lessons that not meant for me and undo old habits that no longer served me.

I have been healing myself for the past 25 years and still the work has not been completed. Instead I find this healing work much like removing the layers of an onion, or walking a labyrinth. Each time I remove another layer there is still another deeper layer yet to be explored and transformed. Learning to be who I really am, to follow th path that was chosen for me, or rather that I chose for myself when I incarnated as the person that i am, in this conjuncture of time-space, under the specific alignment of stars that I chose and to the parents tht I selected, learning those lessons have been particularly hard for me. Maybe no more than others I have been challenged to learn the lessons of trust, to learn the lessons of forgiveness and to learn the ultimate lesson, the lesson of love.

These lessons have all be difficult lessons for me to learn ... 1) trusting in that power, the nameless that has no name, that is beyond myself and yet at the same time trusting in myself, 2) forgiving myself for whatever mistakes, errors or misjudgements I believe I have made and at the same time forgiving all others for what I believe thay may have done to me and 3) loving myself unconditionally and learning to love all others, even those that I don't like. Thses have been difficult lessons that I have struggled toincorportate into my life for the past 25 years .. I am still learning tham .. as Socrates and Lao Tzu both said.. To know and not to do, is not to know.

Last week my faith in the Spirit was tested. I had left my jobs in Toronto and taken this sabbatical to learn new healing techniques and to renew my Spirit, to leap into the abyss and trust that I am always taken care of. It is a lesson that most aboriginal peoples who live off the land and trust in the Creator to provide their daily meals, and the Zen monks who travel with their bowl in their hands, and those who are homeless and live off the charity of others, know all too well. It is a lesson we mostly chose to forgot in the West, having structured our lives so that we have a steady and secure source of income.

I too had made sure that I had done all the calculations before I left and made sure that there would be sufficient funds for my sabattical. What I would do when I returned, well, only Spirit would show me that when I was ready to see that fork in the road. Trusting in Spirit, and following the path of many who had gone before me, I jumped into the abyss. All was well for the first two months, but I still had not been paid for some work that I had done before I left. I trust in Spirit enough to know that the money will arrive when I need it to arrive. As the end of the second month approached and the money did not appear, I began to lose faith.

It was then that Spirit once again intervened. Out of the blue, a longtime friend Bev emailed to offer to periodically deposit $20 in my account, as she knew that I was not working and had gone off on this sojourn. I received the email as a true sign from Spirit as it came at a time when I was doing serious battle with the Adversary, some call him/her Satan or the Devil, but this is the spirit that tests our faith in the Great Will, that appears as the darkenss before the dawn, that challenges us to lose faith just before we find that which we have been searching for. I had been doing battle with the Adversary when the email arrived.

I was still not out of the woods and sent an email to all my contacts offering to sell some of the artworks that I had purchased in an effort to support the local people in the different places I had travelled to. I had collected some beautiful yarn art from the Wirriraca people as well as some natural fibre items, all purchased on fair trade principles. I sent out the email in the morning and tears of joy were runing down my face when I checked my eamil the following morning when my father, my brother and a few of my friends all answered my request. A Jewish friend, who did not have space in her apartment for any artwork, offered to give me the gift of chai, or life, a gift of $18. All these replies were the voice of Spirit echoing through the mouths and hands of those I know. It indeed renewed my trust in the Spirit, and in the path that I have been called to travel.

For all those who have generously supported my travels or purchased artwork, I willi ndeed lay down a prayer for you in the desert. May you be blessed multifold and ay the Great Spirit be there for you when you are in need. I will continue along the road of healing myself. This indeed had been a powerful lesson in trust, in forgiving myself and in love ... As Masauke, my teacher often says, if the road to becoming a healer was an easy road then it would be crowded.

Stay Tuned. Staywell and Travel with Spirit, Spirit Traveller