[ Mensaje enviado hoy por la familia de Ciencia y No-Dualidad en vísperas del solsticio de invierno en el hemisferio norte.]
A veces sólo necesitamos detenernos, sentir y dejar que todo se deshaga. Como lo hace la Madre Naturaleza en esta época del año. Cuando la tierra dormita, los árboles se desnudan y las aves están más en silencio, en lo profundo, la tierra decae, madura y se prepara para un inevitable crecimiento nuevo.
Con el solsticio de invierno (que su etimología es “quietud del sol“), el hemisferio norte de la Tierra nos recuerda la intimidad con la oscuridad, el silencio y la quietud, en momentos en los que no sabemos el camino a seguir. La oscuridad es el paisaje de los sentidos más profundos que no encuentran expresión en la lucha y el logro, en las conversaciones triviales o en las publicaciones en las redes sociales, sino en la maduración y el florecimiento internas.
Como personas en búsqueda de la espiritualidad, a veces podemos dejarnos seducir por la luz, la iluminación, la expansión, y quizás nos perdemos que la vida se sacuda, se desahogue y que descomponga nuestro pensamiento lineal y conocimiento acumulado, y que nos obligue a estar quiet@s y a escuchar.
Sanar el trauma significa familiarizarse con el lado más oscuro de nuestra experiencia, aprender a notar y permitir la incomodidad del enojo, la tristeza, la confusión. Sí, ¡estos también son mensajeros del fondo de nuestro corazón!
Antes de celebrar el regreso de más luz del día, recordemos también cómo honrar la oscuridad por la quietud, la maduración y la fuerza interior que aporta a nuestras vidas.
¡Cálidos deseos en estas fiestas para tod@s! Que tod@s caminemos con bondad y gentileza con nosotr@s mism@s y con l@s demás. ¡Que estés bien, quedándote quiet@ y disfruta del misterio de la vida!
–Mensaje de Ciencia y No-Dualidad, 20 de diciembre de 2021. Arte digital “Nebulosa de Yin-Yang Cósmico” por Mitchell Lindquist
[ Message sent by the Science and Non-Duality family as we approach the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere.]
Sometimes we just need to stop, feel and let it all unravel. Just like nature does at this time of the year. When the land becomes dormant, the trees naked, the birds silent, deep underneath the soil decays, matures, and gets ready for the inevitable new growth.
With the Winter Solstice (meaning “stillness of the sun”), the earth’s northern hemisphere reminds us of intimacy with darkness, silence and stillness, in times when we don’t know the way forward. Darkness is the landscape of the deeper senses that do not find expression in struggle and achievement, in small talk or social media posts but in inner maturation and fruition.
As spiritual seekers we can get seduced by light, illumination, expansion, and perhaps miss on letting life shake up, undo, decompose our linear thinking and accumulated knowledge, force us to be still and to listen.
Healing trauma means becoming familiar with the darker side of our experience, learning to notice and allow the discomfort of anger, sadness, confusion. Yes—these too are messengers from the depth of our heart!
Before we celebrate the return of longer daylight, let’s also remember to honor darkness for the stillness, maturation and inner strength it brings to our lives.
Warm holiday wishes to everyone! May we all walk in kindness and gentleness with ourselves and one another. Be well, be still, and bask in the mystery of life!
–Message from Science and Non-Duality, December 20th, 2021. Digital artwork “Yin-Yang Cosmic Nebula” by Mitchell Lindquist.
[Un pronunciamiento de Acción de Gracias, un regalo del pueblo Haudenosaunee al mundo.]
Hoy nos hemos reunido y cuando miramos los rostros que nos rodean vemos que los ciclos de la vida continúan. Se nos ha dado el deber de vivir en equilibrio y armonía un@s con otr@s y con todo lo que vive. Así que ahora juntemos nuestras mentes como una sola mientras nos saludamos y nos agradecemos como Pueblo. Ahora nuestras mentes son una.
Agradecemos a nuestra Madre la Tierra, porque ella nos da todo lo que necesitamos para vivir. Ella sostiene nuestros pies mientras caminamos sobre ella. Nos alegra que ella siga preocupándose por nosotr@s, tal como lo ha hecho desde el comienzo del tiempo. A nuestra Madre, le enviamos agradecimiento, amor y respeto. Ahora nuestras mentes son una.
Damos gracias a todas las aguas del mundo por saciar nuestra sed, por dar fuerza y nutrir la vida de todos los seres. Conocemos su poder en muchas formas: cascadas y lluvia, nieblas y arroyos, ríos y océanos, nieve y hielo. Agradecemos que las aguas todavía estén aquí y que estén cumpliendo con su responsabilidad para con el resto de la Creación. ¿Podemos estar de acuerdo en que el agua es importante para nuestras vidas y unir nuestras mentes para enviar saludos y agradecimientos al agua? Ahora nuestras mentes son una.
Dirigimos nuestros pensamientos a toda la vida en el agua, como peces. Se les instruyó para que limpiaran y purificaran el agua. También se nos dan como alimento. Estamos agradecid@s que continúen cumpliendo con sus deberes y enviamos a los seres vivos en el agua nuestro saludo y nuestro agradecimiento. Ahora nuestras mentes son una.
Ahora nos dirigimos hacia los vastos campos de la vida vegetal. Hasta donde alcanza la vista, las plantas crecen y hacen muchas maravillas. Sostienen muchas formas de vida. Con nuestras mentes reunidas, damos gracias y esperamos ver la vida de las plantas durante muchas generaciones por venir. Ahora nuestras mentes son una.
Cuando miramos a nuestro alrededor, vemos que las bayas todavía están aquí, proporcionándonos comidas deliciosas. La líder de las bayas es la fresa, la primera en madurar en primavera. ¿Podemos estar de acuerdo en que estamos agradecid@s de que las bayas estén con nosotr@s en el mundo y mandamos nuestro agradecimiento, amor y respeto a ellas? Ahora nuestras mentes son una.
Con una sola mente, honramos y agradecemos a todas las plantas comestibles que cosechamos del jardín, especialmente a las Tres Hermanas (maíz, frijol y calabaza) que alimentan a la gente con tanta abundancia. Desde el principio del tiempo, los granos, verduras, frijoles y frutas han ayudado a la gente a sobrevivir. Muchos otros organismos también obtienen fuerza de elles. Reunimos en nuestra mente todos las plantas comestibles y les enviamos un saludo y nuestra gratitud. Ahora nuestras mentes son una.
Ahora pasamos a las hierbas medicinales del mundo. Desde el principio, se les instruyó para que quitaran la enfermedad. Están siempre esperando y dispuestas a curarnos. Estamos tan felices de que todavía estén entre nosotr@s, un@s poc@s especiales que recuerdan cómo usar estas plantas para sanarnos. Con una sola mente, enviamos nuestras gracias, amor y respeto a las medicinas y l@s guardian@s de las medicinas. Ahora nuestras mentes son una.
Parad@s a nuestro alrededor vemos todos los árboles. La Tierra tiene muchas familias de árboles, cada una de las cuales tiene sus propias instrucciones y usos. Algunas brindan refugio y sombra, otras frutas y belleza y muchos dones útiles. El arce es el líder de los árboles, para reconocer sus regalos de azúcar cuando la gente más los necesita. Muchos pueblos del mundo reconocen al árbol como un símbolo de paz y fuerza. Con una sola mente saludamos y agradecemos la vida en forma de Árbol. Ahora nuestras mentes son una.
Reunimos nuestras mentes para enviar nuestros saludos y agradecimientos a toda la hermosa vida animal del mundo, que camina con nosotr@s. Tienen muchas cosas que enseñarnos como personas. Agradecemos que sigan compartiendo su vida con nosotr@s y esperamos que siempre sea así. Juntemos nuestras mentes como una sola y enviemos nuestro agradecimiento a l@s Animales. Ahora nuestras mentes son una.
Juntamos nuestras mentes como una sola y agradecemos a todas las aves que se mueven y vuelan sobre nuestras cabezas. La Creación les dio el regalo de hermosas canciones. Cada mañana saludan al día y con sus canciones nos recuerdan disfrutar y apreciar la vida. El Águila fue elegida para ser su líder y velar por el mundo. A todas las aves, desde las más pequeñas hasta las más grandes, les enviamos nuestros saludos alegres y nuestro agradecimiento. Ahora nuestras mentes son una.
Estamos agradecid@s por todos los poderes que conocemos como los Cuatro Vientos. Escuchamos sus voces en el aire en movimiento mientras nos refrescan y purifican el aire que respiramos. Ayudan a traer el cambio de las estaciones. Vienen de las cuatro direcciones, llevándonos mensajes y dándonos fuerzas. Con una sola mente enviamos nuestros saludos y agradecimientos a los Cuatro Vientos. Ahora nuestras mentes son una.
Pasamos ahora a Occidente, donde viven nuestros abuelos, los Seres del Trueno. Con voces de relámpago y truenos traen consigo el agua que renueva la vida. Reunimos nuestras mentes como una sola para enviar saludos y agradecimientos a nuestros abuelos, los que son truenos.
Ahora enviamos saludos y agradecimientos a nuestro hermano mayor, el Sol. Cada día, sin falta, viaja por el cielo de este a oeste, trayendo la luz de un nuevo día. Él es la fuente de todos los fuegos de la vida. Con una sola mente, enviamos saludos y damos gracias a nuestro Hermano, el Sol. Ahora nuestras mentes son una.
Reunimos nuestras mentes y damos gracias a nuestra abuela más grande, la Luna, que ilumina el cielo nocturno. Es la líder de las mujeres en todo el mundo y gobierna el movimiento de las mareas del océano. Con su faz cambiante medimos el tiempo y es la Luna quien vela por la llegada de l@s niñ@s aquí a la Tierra. Juntemos nuestro agradecimiento por la abuela Luna en una pila, capa tras capa de gratitud, y luego arrojemos con alegría ese montón de agradecimientos hacia el cielo nocturno que ella conoce. Con una sola mente, enviamos saludos y damos gracias a nuestra abuela, la Luna.
Damos gracias a las estrellas que se esparcen por el cielo como joyas. Las vemos de noche, ayudando a la Luna a iluminar la oscuridad y trayendo rocío a los jardines y a las cosas que crecen. Cuando viajamos de noche, nos guían a casa. Con nuestras mentes reunidas como una sola, enviamos saludos y agradecimientos a todas las estrellas. Ahora nuestras mentes son una.
Reunimos nuestras mentes para saludar y agradecer a l@s maestr@s iluminad@s que han venido a ayudar a lo largo de los siglos. Cuando olvidamos cómo vivir en armonía, nos recuerdan la forma en que se nos enseñó a vivir como personas. Con una sola mente, enviamos saludos y agradecimientos a est@s maestr@s cariños@s. Ahora nuestras mentes son una.
Ahora dirigimos nuestros pensamientos al Creador, o Gran Espíritu, y enviamos saludos y gracias por todos los dones de la Creación. Todo lo que necesitamos para vivir una buena vida está aquí en la Madre Tierra. Por todo el amor que todavía nos rodea, reunimos nuestras mentes como una sola y enviamos nuestras mejores palabras de saludo y agradecimiento a la Creación. Ahora nuestras mentes son una.
Ahora hemos llegado al lugar donde terminamos nuestras palabras. De todas las cosas que hemos nombrado, no es nuestra intención dejar nada fuera. Si se olvidó algo, dejamos que cada persona envíe tal saludo y agradecimiento a su manera. Y ahora nuestras mentes son una.
The intelligence of plants has long been a theme of literature, philosophy, and Indigenous narrative. Scientific research into the chemical interactions between plant species and other living things supports the idea. In The Mind of Plants: Narratives of Vegetal Intelligence, writers and scientists add their personal perspectives in a rich collection of essays and poems, each dedicated to a different plant. In “White Pine,” excerpted here, Robin Wall Kimmerer describes Indigenous reverence for trees, which are “respected as unique, sovereign beings equal to or exceeding the power of humans.”
When I come beneath the pines, into that particular dappled light, time slows, and I fall under their spell. My science brain and my intuitive brain are both alight with knowing. Is it the spaciousness of the leafy vaulted ceiling? Maybe the terpenoids in pine vapors exert a psychological influence, producing an altered state of tranquil alertness. Perhaps it’s the quivering energy of electrical micro-discharge from the needles. Maybe we are humbled simply by their size. Is it the sound of boughs rising and falling, like slow breathing? There’s something there we sense, but cannot name, a feeling akin to sitting quietly in the presence of an elder. So it is, with pines. You want to slip into their circle and listen.
My favorite place to read on a summer day is leaning against the bole of a big old white pine. There’s almost always a hollow there, upholstered in a coppery brocade of pine needles with comfy armrests of the buttressed roots which hold up the pillar of pine rising two hundred feet above me. These piney points above the lake’s water are beloved in the north woods, for the sand and granite below, sun and wind above, and a view across the lake, which at this moment is dancing up white caps in the breeze. In this woodland library, I have one book on my lap and the other against my back. One written on cellulose, one written in cellulose. When I sit with white pines, I wordlessly come to know things that I didn’t know before.
White pine is revered across Indigenous cultures as a symbol of wisdom, longevity, and of peace. They are thanked for their material gifts of medicine, materials, fuel, and food and for their spiritual gifts. Pines are understood as among our oldest teachers; in fact, they are of an ancient lineage in the tree world and have seen much change across the earth. Among some people, white pine is regarded as the “ogema” of the forest, the seat of leadership. The pine, like all trees, is spoken of in my Anishinaabe language, not as an object, an “it” but as a “who,” a person of some standing, whose name is Zhingwak. Charismatic white pines are honored as elders. They are the esteemed companions of the visionary eagle who uses their emergent canopy as nest and watchtower. Zhingwak plays many roles in the canon of Native stories, as a protector of human people and the embodiment of highest virtues. Known as the Tree of Peace, white pine is the iconic symbol of the Five Nations of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy, who taught the people peace through unity, by its five soft needles, bound together as one. The tallest, strongest, most enduring being in the forest is the botanical representation of the oldest democracy on the planet.
Traditional cultures who sit beneath the white pines recognize that human people are only one manifestation of intelligence in the living world. Other beings, from Otters to Ash trees, are understood as persons, possessed of their own gifts, responsibilities, and intentions. This is not some kind of mistaken anthropomorphism. Trees are not misconstrued as leaf-wearing humans but respected as unique, sovereign beings equal to or exceeding the power of humans. Seneca scholar John Mohawk wrote that according to his culture, “an individual is not smart […] but merely lucky to be part of a system that has intelligence. Be humble about this. The real intelligence isn’t the property of an individual; the real intelligence is the property of the universe itself.”
You gotta put one foot in front of the other And lead with love Put one foot in front of the other And lead with love
(repeat all 4 lines)
Verses (call and response) Don’t give up hope You’re not alone Don’t you give up Keep movin on
Lift up your eyes Don’t you despair Look up ahead The path is there
I know you’re scared And I’m scared too But here I am Right next to you
Last chorus: repeat last line two more times
Melanie DeMore is a vocal activist born in the Bronx with a present home in Oakland. She is a solo performer herself, facilitates vocal workshops for professional and community-based choral groups and has taught her “Sound Awareness” program in schools, prisons, and youth organizations in the US, Canada, Cuba and New Zealand. DeMore was a director of the Oakland Youth Chorus for 10 years and is a founding member of the critically-acclaimed vocal ensemble “Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir” and is also a long-standing member of “The Threshold Choir.” She is on the faculty at California Institute of Integral Studies and at UC Berkeley.
Once the world was perfect, and we were happy in that world. Then we took it for granted. Discontent began a small rumble in the earthly mind. Then Doubt pushed through with its spiked head. And once Doubt ruptured the web, All manner of demon thoughts Jumped through— We destroyed the world we had been given For inspiration, for life— Each stone of jealousy, each stone Of fear, greed, envy, and hatred, put out the light. No one was without a stone in his or her hand. There we were, Right back where we had started. We were bumping into each other In the dark. And now we had no place to live, since we didn’t know How to live with each other. Then one of the stumbling ones took pity on another And shared a blanket. A spark of kindness made a light. The light made an opening in the darkness. Everyone worked together to make a ladder. A Wind Clan person climbed out first into the next world, And then the other clans, the children of those clans, their children, And their children, all the way through time— To now, into this morning light to you.
Joy Harjo is an internationally renowned performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Ms. Harjo is the first Native American Poet Laureate of the United States.
The author of nine books of poetry, including the highly acclaimed An American Sunrise, several plays and children’s books, and two memoirs, Crazy Brave and Poet Warrior. As a musician and performer, Harjo has produced seven award-winning music albums including her newest, I Pray for My Enemies. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Board of Directors Chair of the Native Arts & Cultures Foundation, and holds a Tulsa Artist Fellowship. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Witnessing a growing wasteland, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee seeks the threshold that could bring us back to the place where the land sings—to a deep ecology of consciousness that returns our awareness to a fully animate world.
I LIKE TO WALK early and am often alone on the beach, the ocean and the birds my only companions, the tiny sanderlings running back and forth chasing the waves. Some days the sun rising over the headlands makes a pathway of golden light to the shore. Today, the fog was dense and I could just see two figures walking in the distance, until they vanished into the mist, leaving a pair of footprints in the sand until the incoming tide washed them away. It made me wonder what will remain in a hundred years, when my grandchildren’s grandchildren are alive? Will the rising sea have covered the dunes? Climate crisis will by then be a constant partner, and so many of today’s dramas will be lost in a vaster landscape of primal change.
Sensing this reshaping of the seashore, where the waves roll in from across the Pacific, makes my mind stretch across horizons. How this land and our own lives have evolved. One story of science says it was only seventy thousand years ago that humans left Africa on their long migrations across continents, arriving here on the Pacific coast just thirteen thousand years ago, when the Bering Strait was dry land and not ocean; or possibly they came earlier in boats down the coast.1 But how was life then, long before the written word, when we traveled as small groups, communities of hunters and gatherers? What was the consciousness of our ancestors, before agriculture, long before cities or our industrial way of life, and what did we lose as we settled the land, and then forgot it was sacred?
They may have carried few possessions, but their consciousness contained a close relationship to the land, to its plants and animals, to the patterns of the weather and the seasons, which they needed for their survival. Fully awake with all of their senses, they had a knowing, passed down through generations of living close to the ground, even as they migrated across the continent. Today we are mostly far from the land and its diverse inhabitants. Cut off from these roots, we have become more stranded than we realize, and while our oncoming climate crisis may present us with many problems, we hardly know how to reconnect, to return our consciousness to the living Earth. It is as if, having traveled to the far corners of our planet, we now find ourselves in an increasing wasteland without knowing how to return to where the rivers flow, to where the plants grow wild. And unlike our ancestors, we cannot just pack up and move on, because this wasteland surrounds us wherever we look, like the increasing mounds of plastic and other toxic material we leave in our wake.
And sadly, tragically, our consciousness has become divorced not just from the land under our feet but also from the unseen worlds that surround us. Anyone who looks at the animals in the Paleolithic cave paintings in southern France with a receptive awareness can see that the physical and spirit world are infused together. Those early artists were imaging not just physical animals but spirit beings, shamanic, magical. This is part of their mystery and intensity. And this knowing continued for thousands of years, whether experienced in relation with the powerful beings that for the Native Americans are present in all natural things, invisible but everywhere, or expressed through veneration of the kami, the sacred spirits that exist in nature, mountains, rivers, earthquakes, thunder, animals, and people, which until recently belonged to an elemental Japanese consciousness.2 For most of our history the inner and outer worlds were woven together, as shown in the myths and stories that defined our existence.
Have we wandered so far from the source that we cannot return?
Walking the shoreline, watching the little birds searching for insects, my awareness drawn to the sky, the sea, and the shifting sands, I wonder at this gulf between the simple, magical awareness of our ancestors, and our present-day mind, as cluttered as our consumer world. What has happened to our consciousness, now divorced from the multidimensional existence that used to sustain us? Did we need to exile ourselves from this primal place of belonging? And now, as we tear apart the web of life with our machines and images of progress, is there a calling to return, to open the door that has been closed by our rational selves?
When the fog is dense and you can only see a few yards in front of your feet, the world around becomes more elemental. Watching each wave come to the shore is like watching the breath. Sometimes my feet become wet from the rising water, or I move further up the beach. I try to keep my mind empty, part of the sky and the waves, simple, essential. Here nothing is separate, and the inner and outer worlds are closer.
I cannot return completely to a world in which spirit and matter are always united—I carry too many images from a culture that has denied that the inner world even exists. But I can live closer to this threshold, this place where the waves and the sand meet. I can recognize how easily our defined world can be washed away—how soon the waters will rise. And when many of our toys of triviality, the “things” that clutter our houses and awareness, are lost in the tsunami of climate change, I can be like the Moken, the nomadic boat people of East Asia, who knew to go to deeper water when the waters rose. They remembered the old stories, the old ways, the wisdom of their ancestors, and so their boats rode out the storm—unlike the fishermen who remained close to the shore and perished in the tsunami.
Always there is this primary place of belonging in the land and in our souls. It used to be a part of the way we lived, how we walked and breathed. Crossing oceans and continents, we carried it with us, a lodestone for our existence. For thousands and thousands of years, it was an essential part of us, never forgotten, because how could you forget the feel of the rain on your skin, or the sound of water flowing over stones? How could you forget the stories and songs passed down through the generations? It is only very recently in our human history—only a few hundred years amidst thousands—that we forgot, that we lost this thread, that our mind ceased to be a part of both the land and the unseen worlds. That we forgot that everything we can see and touch is sacred, and in our forgetting no longer inhabited a world in which everything was alive with spirit, the wind and the rain, the plants and animals.
Have we wandered so far from the source that we cannot return? Will climate crisis isolate us even more in our cities as nature becomes more unpredictable? As we try to use our science, our computers to save us? Or is the doorway to return nearer than we know, just as in that moment when we awake and our dreams are still present, before they are lost with the daylight? What would it mean to return to this numinous land, alive in ways we no longer understand, where the Earth can speak to us in its many voices? Or more vital, can we transition through this present self-created crisis without this inner and outer knowing, without this awareness that was central to so much of our human journey?
IT IS EASY to dismiss the magical world as just a fairy tale belonging to childhood or old tales. To maintain that what we need at this moment more than ever is hard science, that carbon reduction and loss of biodiversity are our most pressing concerns. And yes, there is important work to be done reducing our industrial imprint, restoring wetlands and wild places. But if we do not remove the rational blinkers from our consciousness, how can we respond to the deeper need of the moment, and recognize that we are part of a fully animate world? If we are to become partners with the Earth, living our shared journey, we have to once again speak the same language, listen with our senses attuned not just to the physical world but also to its inner dimension. We cannot afford to continue to dismiss so much of our heritage—the thousands of years we were awake to an environment both seen and unseen.
And yet this knowing has been censored so effectively from our present mind that we do not even know how to read the signs, how to look and listen, how to be in the space where dreams are woven into consciousness. We may speak about the need for a new story, one that is not based upon exploitation and greed but recognizes the interdependent oneness of the living world. But real stories arise from the inner worlds, only then do they carry the numinous power that can change a civilization. Myths are not rational, but belong to a deeper dimension of our psyche. We can see the emotive power of the false stories that surround us—whether the recent myth of endless economic growth that is the foundation of our consumer world, or the more recent distortions of social media that grip our collective consciousness. We are living these pathological stories without fully recognizing how much we respond to their emotive and psychic power. The cold facts about climate change and loss of species have not changed our behavior, while conspiracy theories and stories of stolen elections have seized our beliefs. Is our collective consciousness only open to dark myths, such as the Kraken, a tentacled creature of Norse mythology that arises from the deep, swallowing ships?3
Now as we stand at this crossroads, do we have to wait for our present society to fall apart? Are we caught in too many patterns of social and economic divisiveness? Where do we find the hidden gateway into the garden—a place where we are no longer exiles in our own land, living by the “sweat of our brow,” but can hear and then live the songlines of the land; where dreaming nourishes our daily life? Our ancestors are still all around us, in our DNA, in the land, in the spirits still present behind the veils of our rational self. In the millennia of our human history, it is only a few years since most of us divorced ourselves from these companions, and decided to walk alone, unaccompanied, no longer understanding our primal relationship to the Earth and Her ways, no longer speaking the same language, singing Her songs. And those few who carried that remembrance experienced the suffering and pain of that separation, as they struggled to stay true to the songs, dreams, and ceremonies in a world increasingly covered with enforced forgetfulness.
Is it enough just to acknowledge that our ancestors lived in an animate world that is still around us, even if invisible to our eyes, intangible to our other senses? They lived in a world of kinship on many levels; not masters, not the dominant species, but part of a living tapestry—just one species among many—in which the hunter asked the spirit of the animal for permission to hunt, and the gatherer for the plant’s blessing to harvest. Here there was no hierarchy but an interdependent world both physical and spirit, all part of one community that could communicate through dance and dream, song and prayer.
If we are to become partners with the Earth, living our shared journey, we have to once again speak the same language, listen with our senses attuned not just to the physical world but also to its inner dimension.
For them dreaming and waking were not separate but part of a multilayered texture of existence, where dreams could guide the hunt and the spirits of animals and plants were welcomed. And sometimes they ventured deeper into the spirit world through visions, and had access to a wisdom that could help their whole community. For example, the Lakota medicine man, Black Elk, who walked this land less than a century ago, had a seminal vision when he was nine years old that took him to where the horses were singing, and the Thunder Beings spoke to him of the destiny of his people, how his “nation’s hoop was broken.” The spirits called upon him to help restore his people through an awareness of all of life’s sacred nature and its inherent unity:
And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shape of all shapes as they must all live together like one being.4
Our present world is divisive, our consciousness fractured. Our collective values produce greed and endless desires. Science and its foster child, materialism, have become a broken mythology, evident in the ecocide it has created. Where are the visions to guide us, the spirits to sustain us, the singing horses to accompany us? Are we still hoping to find an answer in technology, in its soulless succession of ones and zeros? Or can we begin to remember the lands we have left, the spirit-filled world we have abandoned?
MY OWN GARDEN, on a hillside beside the bay, is a place where the worlds come together: colors and fragrances; lavender; buddleia bushes, whose honey-scented flowers are so often full of bees; chamomile, yellow and white; jasmine, a cascade of evening sweetness; and the soft magic of the spirits that are welcomed, at home like the quail with her babies in the early summer, hiding between the plants. This is how the land was always alive, seen and unseen, movement and stillness. And we were a part of it all, our senses attuned in ways long lost. And now, as the Earth is calling out to us to remember Her sacred ways, there is the possibility to return, to walk as our ancestors walked, to be a part of the world coming alive after a long winter, after storms and snow, after a landscape so barren it pains the eyes.
Here, where the land sings, where the worlds meet, is a way to be that resonates with both the soil and the soul. Making a garden sing, for the unseen to be present, is a simple act of welcoming the worlds our ancestors knew, the spirits of the land as well as the beings of light. I have found it is simplest through an openness of heart and a deep knowing that we are surrounded, nourished, and met in ways beyond our rational minds: a multidimensional kinship. The colors of the flowers then reveal a vibrancy beyond the physical, and even the stones in the garden feel awake.5
This is a simple celebration of the wonder that was always around us, and a nourishment we need for our shared journey together into an uncertain future. It is hard to see how the coming decades will unfold. If the year of the pandemic has taught us anything it is how unpredictable the present moment is, how fragile our present systems. We do not know how much of our present way of life will be lost as the wildfires rage and the seas rise. Will we retreat into the bunkers of materialism, or step into a different way to live with the land? But this moment is also an opportunity to return to an essential awareness that belonged to our ancestors, which, although we have dismissed and forgotten it, is not so far away.
On any journey it is necessary to decide what to take—both for traveling and the new life that awaits. This deep ecology of consciousness that embraces a fully animate world can sustain us, giving us access to the wisdom of the Earth, a knowing we need for the turbulence of this transition. Without this quality of consciousness there is the danger we will just remain in the barren wasteland created by our rational mind, will not fully wake up from the nightmare that is poisoning the planet. Maybe the land and its spirits can welcome us awake, help us to fully see, hear, and inwardly sense the garden we never really left.
While the creation stories of North America’s Indigenous peoples teach that they have always been here, that they were created here, science-based theories tell different stories of how the First Peoples arrived to North America. For more than half a century the prevailing theory was that thirteen thousand years ago the Clovis culture arrived, when small bands of Stone Age hunters walked across a land bridge between eastern Siberia and western Alaska, eventually making their way down an ice-free inland corridor into the heart of North America. A subsequent theory is that fifteen thousand years ago the earliest inhabitants arrived by boat, traveling down the Pacific shoreline. While a recently emerging theory is that humans may have arrived earlier, at least twenty thousand years ago, when the Bering Strait was high and dry.
Kami are the spirits, phenomena, or “holy powers” that belong to nature and are manifestations of musubi, the interconnecting energy of the universe. They are revered in Shinto, the earliest religion of Japan. There are, of course, many other inhabitants of the unseen worlds—from angelic beings to darker, elemental forces. For example, the Celtic tradition refers to the three realms: Annwn, the world below; Abred, the middle world of nature and human affairs; and Gwynfed, “the white life,” the upper world or heavens. Nature spirits or devas—which inhabited much of our pre-industrial world—belong to the middle world, while angels, beings of light, belong to the upper world.
Conspiracy theorists supporting Trump have spoken about “unleashing the Kraken.”
This is part of a much longer and very powerful vision in which the Thunder Beings spoke to him, spirits revered like human grandfathers. His vision continues: “And I saw that the sacred hoop of my people was one of many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy.” The whole vision is recorded by John G. Neihardt in Black Elk Speaks.
Sacred landscapes have this quality: for example, the mountains that are the “heart of the world” of the Kogis in Colombia, or mountains and lakes in Tibet imbued with sacred meaning, where protector deities are often painted on the rocks. Some of the land around Glastonbury in England has a similar, ancient, earth magic.
This week we are featuring the inspirational hip hop artist, Nimo Patel who has spent many years at the Mahatma Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Patel has done humanitarian work for underprivileged children in India and created Empty Hands Music to spread goodness in the world through selfless service, music, and love.
I think on our spiritual path, what’s very interesting is we start off as children and then we get conditioned and rewired from a sense of purity and a sense of awareness and a sense of awe and a sense of just being to then conditioned to judge, to plan, to strategize, to hoard, to protect…to do all these things. And then what’s interesting is when we start hearing all these spiritual teachings of the world, it’s about going back to being children…oh no simplify, oh stop judging, oh just do what your heart says. Oh wait, that’s what we used to do when we were kids.
— Nimo Patel
Nimesh “Nimo” Patel’s AwakinCall conversation titled: Rap Star to Service Rockstar highlights his journey letting go of fame and money to service underprivileged children in India (and wherever he goes). We encouraged you to also listen to it.
As we grapple with the first global pandemic lockdown of our lifetime, our daily routines have been upended, and it’s difficult to keep up with new changes. Many of us are overwhelmed by the precarious nature of our health, our loved ones’ well-being, and our financial security. But in the midst of uncertainty and fear, inspiring videos are emerging from the countries most affected by coronavirus—Iranian doctors and nurses dancing in hospitals and Italian residents singing from their balconies. This footage not only uplifts the spirit of those in close proximity, it also brightens the mood of people watching from around the world.
One thing I’ve learned from spending much of my own childhood in times of war and political upheaval is the importance of cultivating joy during crises. While it is critical to be informed about the trajectory of the new coronavirus via reliable sources, to practice physical distancing, and to care for our most vulnerable populations, it’s also time to infect each other with love and fortifying stories. This is actually really hard to do, because we humans are naturally inclined to focus on bad news.
During the eight-year Iran-Iraq War, which killed over a million people, life was far from joyful. We Iranians had become accustomed to daily funerals, food rations, political oppression, and an ongoing threat of bombs and missiles. On top of that, consuming alcohol, dancing, and playing non-sanctioned music had suddenly become illegal under the post-revolution laws.
But even with these external challenges, I observed a few adults’ ability to become scrappy and use all available resources for the essential task of nurturing joy, stability, and a sense of humor. Faced with food rationing, they experimented with new recipes. Faced with wartime blackouts, they told stories and recited poems. As the threat of bombing loomed, they told jokes and made everyone laugh until our eyes watered. Sure, this made us all feel better in the moment, but what research is discovering is that joy and laughter are essential for building the superpower of resilience, and even boosting our immunity and overall health.
Psychologist and trauma expert Peter Levine says joy is an experience of expansion, whereas fear is one of deep contraction. Cultivating joy is an important component of resilience as it increases our capacity to face difficulties. “Imagine if every time you stretched a rubber band, it would become more resilient, so rather than wearing out, it would increase its capacity, able to take more stretches without breaking,” he says.
So even when there are obstacles which cause contraction, that expansion afforded to us by joy comes to our rescue. “The more we increase this capacity, the less overwhelming emotions will be,” Levine says. For instance, trauma stretches us beyond our capacity to deal with a certain challenging situation, and we become overwhelmed with sensations and emotions. The problem isn’t that the sensations and emotions are too strong but that our capacity to hold and process them is maxed out. When we continue to cultivate joy, we gain the ability to feel the overwhelm without becoming overwhelmed ourselves.
Contemplative life flows in a circular pattern: awe provokes introspection, which invokes awe.
Maybe you’re making dinner and you step outside to snip chives from the kitchen garden just as the harvest moon is rising over the easter slopes. She is full and golden, like one of those pregnant women who radiate from within. Suddenly you cannot bear the beauty. Scissors suspended in your hand, tears pooling at the corners of your eyes, you nearly quit breathing. Your gaze softens, and the edges of your individual identity fade. You are absorbed into the heart of the moon. It feels natural, and there is no other place you’d rather be. But the onions are burning, and so you turn away and cut your herbs and go back inside. You resume stirring the sauce and setting the table.
This is not the first time you have disappeared into something beautiful. You have experienced the unfettering of the subject-object distinction while holding your daughter’s hand as she labored to give birth to your grandson; when you curled up in bed with your dying friend and sang her Haskiveinu, the Hebrew prayer for a peaceful sleep; while yielding to your [loved ones]. You have lost yourself in heartbreak, then lost the desire to ever regain yourself, then lost your fear of death. You long ago relinquished your need for cosmic order and personal control. You welcome unknowingness.
Which is why seemingly ordinary moments like moonrises undo you. The veil has been pulled back. Everything feels inexhaustibly holy. […] Your soul had been formed in the forge of life’s losses, galvanized in the crucible of community, fertilized by the rain of relationship, blessed by your intimacy with Mother Earth. You have glimpsed the face of the Divine where you least expected it.
And this is why you cultivate contemplative practice. The more you intentionally turn inward, the more available the sacred becomes. When you sit in silence and turn your gaze toward the Holy Mystery you once called God, the Mystery follows you back out into the world. When you walk with a purposeful focus on breath and bird song, your breathing and the twitter of the chickadee reveal themselves as a miracle. When you eat your burrito mindfully, gratitude for every step that led to the perfect combination of beans and cheese and tortilla — from grain and sunlight to rain and migrant labor — fills your heart and renders you even more inclined to be grateful.
So sit down to meditate not only because it helps you to find rest in the arms of the formless Beloved but also because it increases your chance of being stunned by beauty when you get back up. Encounters with the sacred that radiate from the core of the ordinary embolden you to cultivate stillness and simple awareness. In the midst of a world that is begging you to distract yourself, this is no easy practice. Yet you keep showing up. You are indomitable. You are thirsty for wonder.