Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Altar of Grandmother Ocean in San Blas

"No one in the world was ever you before, with your particular gifts, abilities and possibilities. It is a shame to waste those, by doing what someone else has done." Joseph Campbell.

Having deciding to extend my trip a few more weeks I was able to stay an extra 4 days in Puerta Vallarta with Masauke and Linda and the contingent of people we had met in Vallarta. The journey from Puerta Vallarta back to the desert was to take us 3 days, stopping at the altar of the ocean in San Blas and an energy vortex known as the foco tonal in Ocotlan. Masauke, Linda and I were joined on the return journey by a young couple who were going to the desert seeking their paths. They were Javier, my spiritual bro Julian's roommate and Javier's girlfriend, Michelle. How Javier and Michelle ended up in the van, going back to the desert with us is typical of what Masauke would call the mathematics of the Great Spirit.

The day before we left Puerta Vallerta, Javier and Michelle were to accompany Masauke, Linda and myself to the house of Lala, a local traditional healer who has studied the massage techniques of the Purepeche, a group of indigenous people from Michocan, and heals with different forms of energy. Javier and Michelle were accompanying us to Lala's home/treatment centre, as we had only vague directions and were not familiar with the neighbouring town. On the way we stopped to buy a nieve or snowcone, from a roadside vendor. As we were all standing around, each ordering our nieve, Masauke, out of the blue, invited Javier and Michelle to come to the desert to 'take a spiritual step up'. We were leaving a day and a half later.

As the lovely mathematics would have it, Javier and Michelle were planning to take a 1-2 month leave of absence from their respective jobs so that they could go to Mexico City to study with a spiritual leader who was going to be facilitating a session somewhere outside of the city. They had planned to leave the next day but had found out that morning that the spiritual leader had broken his ankle and that the session was postponed. At the time that Masauke had issued his invitation he did not know that Javier and Michelle had their bags almost packed ready to head off on a spiritual adventure, only to find out that they had nowhere to go. The timing of his invitation was impeccable. The young couple decided to ponder the invitation overnight and get back to Masauke the next day. As you can no doubt guess from my earlier comment not only was their answer to Masauke's invitation yes, but they were very excited at the great opportunity!

The rest of the afternoon was spent with Masauke sharing his traditional healing techniques with Lala by doing a session on her. His techniques were very different from the techniques that she works with and Lala spent an equal amount of time telling us about the work that she does and how she does it. She invited us all to a local resteraunt where the conversation about spirituality and healing continued. During the course of the meal Lala mentioned a visit she had made to a well known energy vortex site in a town called Ocotlan, somewhere between Puerta Vallarta and the Wirricuta desert. Her story about her experience at this site was so intriguing that we ended up taking the long way home so that we could visit the Foco Tonal in Ocotlan. That is the topic of another blogentry.

The next day Julian, the young scuba diver instructor, as a goodbye present, arranged for Linda and myself to go diving in a beautiful cove about half an hours drive outside of Puerta Vallarta. It was a very healing experience for both of us for different reasons, me because it helped me to let go of an old trauma I had been carrying around for almost 40 years, of having nearly drown after being pushed under water by a competitor at my first swimming race after my first semester of swimming lessons when I was 7 years old. Although I had gone through scuba training almost 20 years ago I had never been able to do it without experiencing that I'm going to drown feeling [feel the fear but do it anyway was also my motto then].

This time when the ocean floor dropped off and I felt the wall of cold deep water hit me I again felt that panicky "I will never make it to the surface before I run out of air feeling" that I knew so well from my other scuba diving experiences. I had told Julian about my childhood near drowning experience while in the pool training, so when I began to signal that I needed to go to the surface, he signalled asking if I was out of air, then if I was sure that I had to go up. I hesitated a few seconds before responding yes. I am sure that it was because of the hesitation that he realized the reason for my sudden urge to surface. At that point he took my hand indicated that we should swim back towards shore, but underwater. We headed back, only gradually surfacing. It was then that we say the most beautiful stingrays and several large fish. They were my reward for not panicking and staying under water until the wave of panic had subsided! I was letting go of 40 year old traumas and it felt great.

We left Puerta Vallarta later that day and drove to San Blas to leave an offering for Tataearamara, Grandmother Ocean. It was quite fitting that we were to visit this altar after my healing in the ocean only the day before. We slept out on the beach at San Blas and were nearly devoured by tiny mosquitoes which made their way to the beach from the swampy marshland close by. Very early the next morning we found one of the local fisherman who was willing to take us to the altar. it is a half an hour boat ride from the fishing dock, past the numerous small boats with early morning fishermen reeling in their catch that dotted the shoreline. We past the fishing boats and headed out towards a large apparently white rock that looked like a snow covered mountain sticking out of the ocean.

Even from a distance the flocks and flocks of brown pelicans crowding the surface of the large rock were very evident, as were several other species of somewhat smaller water birds. The sacred rock, altar to Grandmother Ocean, as barren as it was, was home to an incredible amount of wildlife. We neared the rock and circled it as the fisherman attempted to get the boat as close as possible to the huge rock on which it was now possible to see the statue of a female deity that had been placed on the top of the what looked like 30-40 foot rock.

Linda, as the elder female, had collected all our offerings and wrapped them in a red cloth. She mad her way to the fron of the boat as Michelle and I held on to her so that she would not become an offering to Grandmother Ocean herself as she tried to place our offerings on the tiny ledge on the side of the large rock without falling out of the boat. The boat approached the rock Linda reached out. We held her. She could not reach either the ledge or the long rope that dangled from the top of the rock clearly a recent addition to steady the boats so that pilgrims could leave their offerings without the waves crashing the boat into the side of the roack. The second approach was successful. She grabbed on to the dangling rope with one hand while trying to place the offering on the ledge with the other hand. Michelle and I were hanging on to her arms and her skirt for dear life.

With Masauke, the only one of us who had made previous pilgrimage to this altar, calling out instructions ... no not there , over there. Eventually Linda placed the offerings in exactly the right spot just as the waves swept the boat back out to sea forcing Linda to let go of the dangling rope. It was done. the offering to Grandmother Ocean completed. We spent several minutes in silence, each with our own prayers, before the gentle ocean breezes and the beauty of the pelicans gliding over the ocean was to bring me back to the here and now of being in a small boat on my way back to the dock at San Blas.

Lessons learned: 1) Always pay attention to the mathematics of every situation, 2) Everything is mathematics, 3) Feel the fear, but do it anyway.

Stay Tuned [my entries are not as regular, but I will continue to fill you dear readers in on the remainder of the lessons learned on the first portion of my travels with Spirit]. staywell and Travel with Spirit, Spirit Traveller.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Sundancer's Sweat Lodge

"Life is an art. The way we live our lives is an expression of our deepest understanding and our whole being" Thich Nhat Hanh

It has been a long road back from the ocean to the desert and then from the real world to the plastic world. It seems loong long ago and oh so far away, but let me recount the tale of the sundancer's sweatlodge or temascal in Puerta Vallarta.

Linda, Masauke's long time companion, a sundancer and a medicine woman in her own right,is a strong woman who casts her own shadow. At the age of 59, after accomplishing a lot of impossible tasks in the Sierras, Linda decided she was going to sundance recognizing the four year commitment that involved. I met Linda 2 and a half years ago at the sundance but did not really get to know her until I started to spend time studying with Masauke. I had heard that Linda poured water for a traditional Lakota sweatlodge but had never had the opportunity to sweat with her.

I had sweat many time in Toronto with the Anishnawbe women. My teacher, a MiqMak elder, Wanda Whitebird, had been teaching me the tradition she follows. I had also sweat with the supporters at the sundance and the women who poured water there followed a variety of different traditions. I had never experienced a traditional Lakota sweatlodge.

The sweat lodge is a traditional medicine that was given to many indigenous peoples. It was given to the Lakota people by White Buffalo Calf Woman. It is a purification ceremony that involves healing the mind, body and spirit. The physical purification results from the sweating and the release of many toxins stored in the body. The spiritual purification comes from going into the womb of the mother, mother earth, which is what the sweatlodge represents, and being reborn, and the mental healing is accomplished by through the prayers that are done on behalf of the group as well as individually. The sweat lodge is a place for leaving that which no longer serves you behind, letting go old emotions, releasing bad habits or old relationships and asking for whatever you want to become part of your life. The gratitude, the petitions and the prayers are a powerful part of the healing. Lodges can be done as a healing for a particular person or they can involve asking for healing for ones self or for others.

Three days after we had arrived in Vallarta Masauke had been invited to perform a blessing at the beginning of a local temescal or sweatlodge. The sweatlodge is not his medicine and Masauke never participates in them, but he has a strong relationship with the fire so he agreed to open the ceremonies. At that temascal, which was a mixed lodge, i.e. for men and women, Masauke asked if there was a women's group who would be interested in a women's sweat, knowing that Linda, his companion was coming to Vallarta in 3 days. The women of Vallarta were thrilled with the possibility of a traditional Lakota sweat and Diana, a young woman, friend of my spiritual brother Julian and his very spiritual roommate Javier agreed to organize the women and make the arrangements with the owner of the site where the lodge was held. Julian volunteered to get the wood for the sacred fire.

I emailed Linda to confirm that the sweatlodge was really on as Masauke, in his usual mischievous fashion, had only told her to bring her feathers because he had left from the desert without his, thinking he was going on vacation. He would later tell me "That's what I get for thinking about taking a vacation!". Linda arrived on Tuesday and the sweat was scheduled for Wednesday evening. The morning of the sweatlodge Julian, who is a scuba instructor par excellence, arranged for Linda and I to take the first scuba lesson in a pool in one of the luxury condominium hotels by the sea. I had scuba dived many years before but at 63, this was Linda's first time trying something she had wanted to do all her life. The experience of connecting with the water, which I will elaborate on in a later entry, was to prepare us well for the sweatlodge that was to follow.

Diana, the young Mexican woman who was to become Linda's chief assistant for that sweatlodge, also a scuba instructor, joined us at Los Tules. At 5pm we headed out of town to a close by suburb where the group had built the sweatlodge. The men agreed to wait in the van outside the property, where Masauke would later hold court for the young men who would arrive. After sweeping the entire grounds and putting the coverings on the lodge frame, Linda was ready to say the opening prayer needed to set the wood for the the ceremonial fire. That done, Linda set the base pieces of wood in the directions they needed to be and then we piled on the rest of the wood and added the 28 grandfathers and grandmothers, the volcanic stones that would be holding the heat for our ceremony.

Under Linda's instruction Diana tended the fire. When the stones were hot enough we made the prayer ties that would carry our prayers and would serve as protection during the ceremony. Two women who were on their moon and one who was 8 months pregnant could not enter the lodge but stayed outside with the sacred fire. The remainder of the group of about 15 women entered the lodge, circling around the now enclosed frame and circling at the entrance way before going in. It was a very large lodge. I was used to lodges that were much smaller.

I sat in the position I usually sit in, facing the door, one of the hottest spots in the lodge, though I expected that would not be an issue because of the size of the lodge. I was wrong! Linda's lodge is very traditional and very powerful. We started about 9 pm at night and it ended about 1 am. It was the first evening lodge that I had ever taken part in. Linda sang some powerful Lakota songs. The women joined in with an array of songs in Spanish that I had never heard. We greeted the spirits, invited them to join us, each said our own prayer and then thanked the spirits for joining us. Even though the fire was dying towards the end, each of the rounds was hotter than the last.

I felt that I was recognizing and letting go of some powerful companions that had been with me for a long time, energies that I no longer needed. Although it was not as hot as other sweats I have been in, there were times when I felt I could not breathe, that there was an elephant sitting on my chest. I was praying constantly. I felt that I was 'pagando caro' as the Huichols would say, paying a heavy price, for what exactly I was not sure, some past emotion, deed, thought or action that I needed to be rid of. It did not want to let go of me and struggled till the bitter end to stay in place. In the end, the power of the sundancer's Lakota lodge had it beat. When it was finally time to leave the lodge, I did feel as though I had been re-born, as if I was crawling out of the womb.

All the women who were in the sweat lodge were incredibly grateful to Linda for all they had learned about the Lakota way of the sweat lodge and for the powerful blessing and healing they had received. I too had to say thank you Linda for the incredibly powerful healing!!

Lessons learned: 1) When you are on the spirit path there are no vacations!, 2) As I have learned in my martial arts training, always be prepared to do anything you know how to do!, 3) Expect the unexpected!

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

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Oceans of Healing

¨"Follow your bliss! If you follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you. The life you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you see that you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. i say, follow your bliss and don´t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn´t know they were going to be. If you follow your bliss, doors Will open for you that wouldn´t have opened for anyone else! Joseph Campbell.

Since we have been in Vallarta, residing in the ´luxury´ van at the foot of the Avenida del la Republica de Chile I have personally experienced oceans of healing and have worked with Masauke on others who have received morning blessings by the ocean. Daybreak finds us on the beach with feathers in hand, I with my pelican feathers and Masauke with eagle feathers on loan from Javier. Masauke plays the flute he bought from a native Totonaco man instead of his customary eagle bone whistle, with two long eagle feathers with stems wrapped in red thread in hand the blessing commences.

Those who have come seeking blessings sit in the sand or line up facing the ocean. Masauke works on our guests with the eagle feathers. The voice, motion and actions of the feathers take the visitors on a journey to meet with their ancestors and other spirits and to connect with the power of the Ocean, La Abuela. I have been given the task of harvesting the energy of the ocean, of removing the energies that no longer serve those who are seeking healing and of renewing their energy with the energy of the abuela. I use my pelican feathers, which have a strong relationship with the ocean to gather the energy, using techniques I have learned from Masauke, from the Purepeche of Michioacan, the curanderas from San Rafael, and incorporating the movements and fluidity of my tai chi, chi gung and other martial arts training.

The energy of the ocean is strong, and as someone whose Taino spirit name depicts my relationship with the ocean waters, I work well with this powerful yet profound feminine energy. I tune in to her movements. She answers me when I call her. I take our visitors to the depth of their emotions held within the waters that flow in the rivers of their bodies. There they connect with emotions and feelings long forgotten, to re-experience them, decide they are worth holding on to or forever let them go.

I too have gone through a long process of using the powers of the ocean to heal myself since we spent 3 days at the oceans of Ixtapas after leaving Morelia, before heading back to the desert. It was there I spent a whole day observing the flight, behaviour and movements of my relations the brown pelicans,whose feathers I now hold. It was there that I began to let go of that which I had been carrying around from who knows how many life times, it is there that I really dove deeply into my own healing so that I could be a good guide for others wanting to heal themselves.

"Physician, Heal Thyself" Luke 4:23. I came to the desert to heal myself and to perfect my techniques for healing others. I was called to the ocean, to the waters of the abuela to cleanse that which I no longer needed and to connect to the power that is my name, my birthright, my heritage. I have been called again to the oceans of the bahia of Vallarta to finally leave behind the old hurts, pains, traumas, ancestral debts that have inhibited the free flow of my energy and created pools and eddies of turbulence in my health and my life. Learning the techniques of healing myself and being able to guide others through stages of their own healing has been a powerful gift from Abuela Ocean and the Great Spirit.

Lessons learned: 1)When we follow our bliss that which we seek will be revealed to us, 2)Each of the element so nature has its own voice and its own power. Take the time to listen to them. You will be surprised at what they have to tell you! 3) When the spirits speak, be they the spirts of the fire or the spirits of the ocean. Do not ignore their voices, they come as messengers from other realms with lessons to guide you on your way.-

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

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Indigenous Knowledge: Lost and Found

"Don´t Seek the Truth. Just drop your opinion." Zen Saying.

We arrived in Puerta Vallarta last Thursday. This was to be the gand finale of my spirited travels for the moment. I was scheduled to return to Toronto on April 15th but the generous support of many devoted readers, friends and family has made it possible for me to continue my travels for another month. Many thanks to those who have supported the Wirriraca people and myself through the purchase of one of their sacred yarn art pieces.

We came to Puerta Vallarta at the invitation of Julian, Masauke´s ´adopted´ son and my spiritual brother. I first met Julian two years ago at the Sundance and had taken him as my spiritual brother while we were both visiting at the Morning Blessing Way healing centre in Prescott, Az. I was glad to have the chance to visit with Julian who had planned to visit us in the desert, but a sudden family matter had diverted his trip.

We arrived in Vallarta to crowds and crowds of tourists,mostly Mexicans, as the second week of the 2 week Easter holiday was coming to a close. We connected with Julian, a 30 something scuba diving instructor, at the hotel where he was giving an in pool scuba diving lesson, and were immediately invited to spend the rest of the afternoon in the pool. Later that evening Julian took us out on the town. Puerta Vallerta is a typical tourist town ith crowds of foreigners, lots of resteraunts, craft stores and places to go drinking and dancing. Julian took us to eat at a resteraunt owned by one of his friends, for a walk through the crowded downtown boardwalk and to one of the local bars that played blues, jazz and reggae. At first it felt like I could have been back in Toronto, or New York or Anylargetown but later the energy of the place really hit me.

What I saw was hundreds and hundreds of people who were lost, who had left where ever they lived to come to makebelieveland, to do what they would not or could not do at ´home´. These were lost people looking for themsleves in all the wrong places. Don´t get mewrong, the setting in Puerta Vallarts is quite beautiful-- too urbanized to maintain any natural coastal beauty, it is a beautiful though artifical paradise that people flock to in droves. It saddened my heart to see and more to the point to feel the energy of so many people who were so far outside of theri centres, so disconnected from themselves. "There is much work to do with people like these" my spirit guides told me. Not exactly what I had wanted to hear.

After spending one night in the hilltop apartment Julian shares with his friend and roommate Javier, a thirtysomething fellow seeker on the spiritual path, who is working as a photographer for one of the local outdoor adventure games, and Javier´s girlfriend Michelle, a recently graduated yoga instructor, we left the crowded noisy downtown for the peace and quiet of a small street between luxury condos that deadended on the ocean. Ah, an ocean side view of La Abuela, the Grandmother Ocean as she is known. Sleeping in the two bed, no bathroom luxury van with none of the conveniences of home was wonderful as it was soo close to the ocean that we could get up in the morning and in 5 minutes we were on the beach for the sunrise ceremony .. more to follow on this later!

No sooner had we arrived than Julian and Javier asked Masauke if he could do the opening prayer at a temascal, sweatlodge, ceremony that they regularly attend. the ceremony was being held on Saturday night. Not one to ever turn down an opportunity to take part in a ceremony or a healing, we were off to assist with the set up of the fire. Having decided he was going to have a vacation for the first time in a long time, Masauke had not brought his feathers. I, on the other hand, having only recently received my pelican feathers.. more to follow on this later, carry them around with me everywhere I go. Just when it looked like Masauke would have to use my feathers one of the group pesenteed him with a mogeri, the feather wands used by the Huichols. He called in the spirits and said a blessing at the beginning of the ceremony.

It was very interesting to me to see how many non natives, mostly Mexicans but also one Canadian tourist [not me!], who were taking part in this North American Native ceremony. There is a traditional of temascals in Mexico among certain indigenous groups, but the ceremony was being done in the North American native tradition which is quite different. I was torn between feeling that this was an apppropriation of another indigenous tradition and being amazed at how ´popular´native spirituality and native ceremonies are around the world and wondering why people who have never met the native people whose traditions they are following are so drawn to those practices. I did not have an answer for my many questions.

The next day Javier and Michelle took us to a nearby Huichol village. It was a very small village an hour outside of Vallarta. We took the highway then drove over miles of bumpy dusty windy mountain roads, not nearly as far or as isolated as Las Latas, but certainly off the beaten track. We arrived mid afternoon. There was no one home! Not a single person in the whole entire village. There were many dogs and chickens runing around but not a person to be seen. Javier suggested we drive to a local beach some hlaf an hour drive away. He thought they might be there. Sure enough he ws right. We arrived, parked and headed towards the beach wehre Javier suggested they would be. I was completely saddened to see the group of Huichols sitting around a fire playing music, most with a large cerveza in their hand. They were gathered right in from to their calaway, their sacred ceremonial centre that they had built on the beach, there had been a very sacred ceremony the night before and the atmosphere was not at all like the attitude at Las Latas.

It made me really apprecaite what the pilgrims at Las Latas had told me which was that they were one of the few communities that continue to maintain their traditions. I felt that I was seeing the loss of a culture and a tradition and it saddened my heart. The people were friendly, inviting us to partake of the fish they were frying aand to join in the circle wehre they were singing but I needed to stand back and just observe as I was so struck by the differences in communities of people who come from the same culture.

We stayed a while. I bought a few yarn art pieces from two of the women and Masauke bought some bracelets. Like in many other places, one of the women told us that she didn´t even want her husband to see how much money she was getting because he would want to use some of it to buy beer and she wanted to buy food for their children.
Traditional knowledge being lost to the world of beer, soft drinks and catering to tourists. It was sad to see but it felt good to be able to talk to the women and to assist them in even a small way.

Lessons Learned: so many lessons.. I am still reflecting on them

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

Friday, April 13, 2007

Visiting the Altar of the Scorpion

"Never Hide, Never Hide. Shine!" Writings on the Wall in Guadalajara.

Having spent a week finishing the current round of consturction at the healing centre, making and rearranging the shutters for the windows, putting up a bathroom door in the chateau, the unit for visiting healers, and bringing running water to the kitchen, we were up at 6 am on Tuesday morning. We went to ask the spirits of the desert for a blessing before we were on the road again.

We headed through Zacatecas towards Guadalajara. It is a beautiful time of the year as the desert in in full bloom. The yucca trees have thelast of the beautiful white blooms that shoot up from tehtops of the trees. The trees must bloom in waves as the last time we were on this road, about a month ago some of the trees were also blooming. The side of the highway islied with tiny speckles of yellow, white and purple flowers. Even the cactuses are in bloom. The tunas, or buds have burst open on round cactuses with beautiful red spines revealing pink or yellow flowers. The maguays, that give us agave syrup, a natural sweetner that diabetics can use instead of sugar, are also sending blossoms out from the 6 foot shoots that I have been seeing creeping up over the past month. The governadora bushes which cover the desert floor are covered with yellow blossoms. Spring has sprung in the desert and all is right with the world!

We passed through Guadalajara, a large, beautiful but very industrial town with miles of highway surrounded by industrial parks, roadside resteraunts and universities, only beautified by the amazing purple trees that are in full bloom. I have yet to find out the name of these trees, but they remind me of the book The Colour Purple when Shug says to Celie, Whoopie Goldberg´s character in the movie of the same name, "I think that God must smile whenever he sees the colour purple in nature. Well, God, the Creator, the Great Spirit must certainly be smiling near Guadalajara Mexico, not only because of these stunning purple trees which are not in full bloom but also because of the masses of purple bouganvillas that can be seen everywhere. Purple red, pink bouganvilas climb over fences,along the side of houses, around trees as they compete with the riotous yellow trees, caled Primaveras, or spring trees, I have been told and the mysterious purple trees.

We pass through endless fields of cactuses, a relative of the maguay, used for medicinal purposes but mostly known for their use in making the famous Mexican beverage -- tequilla. The fields stretch on and on, the green cactuses looking like a patchwork green blanket thrown over the undulating hills. We are on our way to the small city of Chapala about 30 kilomoters outside of Gudalajara. Chapala is on the edge of one of the largest freshwater lakes in Mexico. In the centre of the lake is an island that is sacred to the Wirriraca or Huichol people. Chapala is also a tourist centre. There are more Americans here than any of the places I have visited so far.

As we park the van and head across the plaza to store where we are to buy candles for the offering at the altar of the scorpion, we pass a young man in a wheel chair speaking on his cell phone. When we are on our way back, he is still there. Masauke stops to talk to him. Greeting him ad telling him that it is beautiful to see him here enjoying being alive. He tells him that he was reminded that although his body may be trapped his spirit is always free. Masauke tells the young man, an American, that we are going to ask for a blessing for ourselves and our families adn others who have requested we carry their names with us to the altar, and that we would be happy to mention his name at the altar. We have never met this young man before, but he is delighted that we took the time to stop and talk to him. He shakes my hand and asks us to say a prayer for him.

We head off towards the pier where a groups of coulurful boats are sitting awaiting passengers. We are approached by one of the boatsmen who agrees to carry us over to the island and wait for us for half an hour while we make our way to the altar, say our prayers and ask for a blessing. We climb into the boat which is in a sea of water lillies. The shore of the lake is a green sea, so covered it is with masses of water lilies from the´beach´ which can no longer be used to the edge of the docks where the boats are anchored. A young boy comes to push us out and we are off across the lake. Masauke prepared me for theceremony while we ar ein theboat. I focus on the names of those who have asked for a blessing and on the prayer that I am to say when I get to the altar.

When Masauke explains this altar to me he tells me that "There are many spirits that have appeared to the Huichol people in the history of the people. As in the case of the Catholic people, the many saints that they recognize have different gifts. The spirit that apppeared at this lake was a protector if your walk was upright and also the grim reaper if your walk was not upright. He like all spirits took an animal form and came to reside in a tiny island in the middle of the lake. The animal spirit that he took was the scorpion. The spirit of the scorpion protects us from other spirits. The ones that are in the employ of the adversary. The prayers at this altar are for all things that we need , that our families be protected against sickess, our corn against loss, our livestock agaist disease and a great many other things. My prayer here at this altar has always been that the spirit of the scorpion protect me from myself. That I not fall victim to what is referred to as the weaknesses of the flesh. Among many, the high priest of these weaknesses is ego."

We reach the island passing flocks of waterbirds nesting along the shore of the island. Leaving the boatman by the dock, we head through the resteraunt that has been built, comercializing this once islolated and sacred place. We ask directions to the altar, as it has been a while since Masauke was where. We head over the rocks, behind the windmill and through the bouganvillas to a large rock on the other side of the island. The rock is covered with offerings left by other pilgrims. Masauke later recounts the various visits he has made to that altar with his Wirriraca brothers. He reminds me of how fortunate I am as many Huichols have never been able to visit this particular altar because of its distance from the Sierras, because of the difficulty of transportation and because of the cost of taking the boat across the lake to the island.

Masauke introduces me to the spirits of th altar as he has at all the previous altars and pyramids. He starts with "I present she who you have summonsed..." The rest is between me and the spirits. He leaves me there to commune with the spirits of the altar, to say my prayers ad to leave my offereings. He isnot far away and returns as I finish to close the ceremony. We climb back down ove the rocks and head back to the boat. The energy of the place had made us both very quiet as we reflect on the blessing we have received.

Lessons Learned: 1) Blessings come in many forms, 2) Nature´s beauty is truly one of those blessings, 3) Taking care of Mother nature is taking care of ourselves.

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

Saturday, April 7, 2007

The Bad to the Bone School of Shamanic Leadership

¨The world is like a mirror that you see. Smile and your friends smile back."

Well, here I am back in the desert in San Rafael, SLP Mexico. It has been a long time since I paid much attention to the lead up to Easter, but in Mexico local folks are very much into celebrating the death and cricifiction of Jesus. I accompanied Masauke on one of his trips to Real de Catorce and was amazed at the long long line up of pilgrims flooding into the city for the long weekend to see the re-enactment of the crucifiction and to visit the Cathedral of St Francis of Assis, who around here is better known at Santo Panchito!

In the neighbouring town of Wadley there have been festivities every day since Thursday. Races for children of all ages in the plaza, an annual Saturday night dance that is attended by most of the town and the neighbouring pueblos, the Easter church service and so much more. Family comes from far and wide for the long weekend. Easter here is a big deal.

I decided today that Masauke´s training should be called the Bad to the Bone Shamanic School of Leadership Training. Bad to the Bone is a term that Masauke often uses to refer to a person or a thing he thiks is extra special. The task of learning shamanic techniques, of being an apprentice medicine woman is a diverse and often difficult one, that involves learning many skills that I had never expected that I would learn in the course of learning about healing.

Much of what I have learned, outside of ceremonies and visits to Las Latas and the pyramids, has been learned while building the healing centre or while in the co-pilot seat on one of our many long drives from one location to another. I have learned as much about carpentry, plumbing and general contract work as I have about healing. But then again Masauke does not distnguish training or healing from living life. All must be approached in the same way. It is all about the mathematics, and everything is mathematics.

I have learned the mathematics of carpentry as I assisted in making the cabinets for the kitchen, in puttting the windows into the bungalow and th chateau where i am staying, in constructing and installing the shutters for the windows, in putting up a closet in the bedroon, in installing the door on the chateau. When I arrived in January there were no windows or doors on the chateau where I am now sleeping. There was no bathroom, just adobe walls and a dirt floor.

I assisted in installing the plumbing for the bathroom that I now use, and only this week, in installing running water in the kitchen, so that the dishes no lo0nger have to be done outside!! All the while Masauke was sharing his perspective not only on plumbing but on the medicine way he follows and on the lessonbs that plumbing and carpentry have to teach us about wallking the medicine way.

It has been a truly wonderful experience learning to build the house that you will live in. I have learned about sustainability and about leadership. I have learned what i can only call shamanic leadership skills, which is really about deciding how we will approach life regardless of what life throws our way and trying to figure out the equations for the solutions we have been given, trying to understand the mathematics that are in front of us.

1) Everything in life can be approached in a medicine way 2) Every aspect of one´s life is mathematics. 3) We are often given solutions but fail to understand what the equations are that match the solutions we have been given.

Staytuned. Staywell and Tavel with Spirit, Spirit Traveller.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The Great Spirit Makes a Way continued

"It is going down into the abyss that you recover the treasure of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure" Joseph Campbell.

The other side of the spirit makes a way is that the phone continued to ring right up until the moment that we left Texas to head back to the desert. This time it was ringing with people who were blessed in one way or another by Masauke during the 2 weeks we spent in San Antonio. Whether it was a spiritual blessing,or steppping up to a different level, tomando un paso, receiving an instrument -- a ceremonial gourd or a ceremonial fan, people were calling in and coming by with their love offerings.

Even as we left town headed back to Mexico we stopped to meet people in different locations, often at banks, waiting for a withdrawal or a deposit, to speed us on our way. Masauke told me as we waited in the van outside one of the banks "I guess myself I feel good about the long hours of stooping over, doing the threadwork and featherwork, when I see the reaction, the response from those who end up with these instruments. One´s that they will come before the fire with or sing that spirit song or that prayer with."

Masauke says that on the rare occasion that he finds himself in the native American church ceremonies as an invited guest, "It warms my heart to see all of my children which is what I call my works of art." He remembers each one of the ceremonial insturments he makes individually as he does the healing necklaces, which according to Masauke "are done based on the person´s walk, that is, the energy that the person brings before the altar." This informs him as to which stones to use based on the stones properties. These pieces are more spirit helper pieces of spirit animal piecesin stone personalized to the individual´s personal encounter with the spirit with which Masauke travels.

It is his hope that the person and the piece, the ceremonial instrument or the piece of jewellry, become one whether to promote understanding or to provide protction when they step into the realm of the spirits. "These pieces, this altar and the work tht I do seems to attract only the most advanced and dedicated people that work with the many forms of energy." Masauke calls his altar a place where healers come to heal.

The old traditional native way of bartering is alive and well among those that still follow their traditions. As Masauke receives partial payment from a native carpenter who does fine woodwork, he hands the recipient of a ceremonial gourd and a fan he has yet to finish, the blueprints of a cedarbox which Masauke will take as the remainder of payment on his work.

While waiting in the van I overheard several calls from those who had received ceremonial items. The calls came in from Hot Springs, Arkansas; Albuequerque, NM; Prescott, Arizona. "Brother, I have receives this, I will trade it for that ... that you have. I´ll be in yor neck of the woods the first of next month. Hold that item and I will hold mine." or "Thank you for that beautiful instrument. I´m having a ceremony on April 6th. I will bless it then and use it. I have not seen this quality of carving on a gourd before. Thanks for looking out for me."

Lessons Learned: 1)Bartening is indeed alive and well and living in the true heart of the native spirit, 2) The Great Spirit makes a way for those who follow tha path of Spirit, 3) As joseph Cambell says, it is in going down into the abyss, or letting go of all the traditional securities, that we recover the treasure of life.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Mirrors of the Soul

"Let not one seek others' fault's, things left done and undone by others, but one's own deeds done and undone." Buddha.

Self reflection allows us to discover both our positive and negative qualities so that we can cultivate the positive and eliminate our negative qualities. Thia journey for me has been a journey of self reflection and self discovery. I have met so many incredible people who have been mirrors for me of where i am at in my life an dwhere i still have to go. I have been truly belssed by the Great Spirit to be able to take this long journey of self discovery and have learned that all paths lead home. That we never leave home if we tak it with us and that when we treat others as if they were ourselves we are treated that way by those we meet who others migh call strangers, but who really are just mirror images of our self.

En La'kesh, A La'Ken ... You are my other self. Whatever I do to you I do to myself.