Tag Archives: Earth-based spirituality

Calling Upon Our Mother – An Urgent Letter (reblogging)


If the plight of the Earth speaks to you – if the action of Idle No More speaks to you – if you walk the Red Road or care for those who do – please take the time to read this and add your prayers on January 19. This is an action that anyone can take, of any race, creed, or persuasion.

A letter from Terrance Nelson to
Chief Wallace Fox of the Onion Lake Cree Nation

Chief Fox,

Many people have no understanding of how strong a spiritual person you are. When the UN Special Rapporteur came to your community, he had tears rolling down his cheeks as he listened to the children of Onion Lake singing in Cree. At another time, I also witnessed the Onion Lake students singing and for me even though I have Sundanced and am Midewiwin it was still one of the most powerful spiritual ceremonies I have ever witnessed.  I was told that the Special Rapporteur explained his tears. He said, that at the United Nations many indigenous people come there and cry about the problems they face. He felt overwhelmed by the pain of indigenous people. Hearing the children of Onion Lake singing as loud as their little voices could in their own language lifted his spirit so much, that here finally was a powerful sign that our people will not only survive but they will excel beyond expectations. It made him cry with joy.

For over a year now, Dakota Elder Albert Taylor has been asking me to use our power. He has been telling me that we need to lift the pipe. He kept saying, we need to ask for help. He says, “we still have power”. On Saturday January 19th 2013 at the RCMP Station on Portage Ave in Winnipeg, at noon Winnipeg time, the Elders will ask for spiritual help. Albert Taylor asked that my older brother Charles lift the pipe while Elder Taylor will sing.

more…

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Joining to Help Mend the Hoop


538461_10151177571980592_223848733_nI was reading Starhawk’s Truth or Dare this morning, feeling vast blocks of “Aha” falling into place, when I came upon this paragraph, and stopped short…

The ethics of immanence are based on the recognition that all is interconnected. When the earth lives in us, as we in her, our sense of self expands until we can no longer believe in our isolation. When we practice magic – the art of seeing the connections that run deeper than the visible surface – we know that no act is out of context. If we participate in a native American sweat lodge, we are obligated to aid their struggles for land and treaty rights and their battles against forced relocation. We have sunk a spirit root into the living soil of their community. They have fed us. But to be fed without feeding, to take without contributing, is not a road to power-from-within. We cannot grow in strength through being parasites. If we adopt ritual trappings without concern for the daily realities of those we learn from, we become spiritual fungi. But power-from-within derives from integrity, from our recognition of the context of every act, from a consistency between what we say, believe, and do.

It was not a new idea – my husband had been a Pipe-carrier and Sundancer, and supporting his Lakota spiritual family had been an accepted part of our life. But since his death, as I have been seeking my own path as a non-Native woman living in modern-day suburbia, incorporating the teachings that he and I had practiced, the implications have rippled outward…

At the last Sundance we attended, there was a strong presence of the American Indian Movement, reclaiming the ritual for the Lakota people and winnowing out the non-Native Dancers….as they reached the completion of their four-year commitment, it was understood that they would participate in other, mixed Dances. As a clearly non-Native supporter, I was in a minority. I remember one AIM Dancer asking me, not as a challenge but very seriously, “Who are your grandmothers and grandfathers? Where are your sacred sites?”

I could only respond hesitantly – while my known genealogy was Italian and Lithuanian Catholic, digging back into our cultural history revealed Baltic paganism and the ritual healing Graeco-Roman trance-dance tradition of tarantelle. While both traditions had gone underground, pressured first by Catholicism and then (in Lithuania) by Communism, I knew that my ancestors most certainly knew how to relate to the Earth as a sentient being, knew how to connect with the conscious energy in each living being. I could still feel that knowledge in my bones…but how could I honor that knowledge and both sides of my cultural heritage?

This bone-level instinct was what drew me to the Native traditions of this land…the cellular awareness of a time when all the peoples of the world danced in relationship with the living Earth. And today I continue to teeter at the lip of the divide between Then and Now as a family dissident, an outlier seeking a place of balance between the Earth-centered practices of my husband’s spiritual family, my ancestors and the current-day Teachers who inspire me, and the modern, materialist, commercialized, mainstream practices of this culture.

As I watch friends on similar paths, I am realizing that this chasm is one that each of us face at some point if we embark on any sort of journey toward consciousness…there is the attraction to cosmic oneness, to a sacred physical world, to “magic” perhaps, or to altered consciousness and mystical or shamanic practices.

But in this culture of smorgasbord spirituality, there’s no moral imperative to connect with the actual present-day cultures at the source of those mind-altering practices….at least, not until one connects with a teacher of integrity.

Then the awareness comes – that the knowledge in which we’ve been dabbling givewiselyarose through centuries of arduous tradition…and that the people who still practice those traditions have been decimated by massacre, poverty and disease, bereft of their land and natural wealth, and very nearly bereft of their culture and spiritual traditions. And that to honor those traditions requires that, in some way, we give back.

The divide between the cultures in which all was (is) sacred, and those in which nothing is sacred, has never been described so heart-wrenchingly as in the words of Oglala Lakota holy man Black Elk following the massacre at Wounded Knee, 122 years ago yesterday:

My people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream… the nation’s hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead.

In a global sense, not only the hoop of the Lakota nation has been scattered, but the sacred hoop joining all nations in conscious Earth connection. The human and cultural genocide we have seen in North and South America, Africa, Asia and Australia through recent centuries is a modern replay of the genocide that wiped out European indigenous traditions.

And the oppression continues……and with it the resistance.

Most immediate, of course, is the struggle of Idle No More, led by Chief Theresa Spence and supported by Indigenous and non-Indigenous people around the world as she hunger-strikes for a meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to honor Canadian treaties with its Indigenous nations against the expropriation of the land and waterways for resource extraction. Now in the 20th day of her fast, she has received no response from Harper.

Ultimately this is more than a Canadian struggle. It is a global struggle to protect the Earth against the cannibalizing “extraction” of oil, gas and minerals by mega-corporations. The Elder peoples, the Indigenous nations of the world who have held the sacredness of the Earth at the heart of their culture for millennia, are leading the way, but ultimately the survival of life on this planet depends on all peoples of all nations and races following their lead.

All of us, waking up out of our separation from creation and cosmos and rejoining the family of consciously connected beings.

All of us, helping to mend the Hoop of all Nations.

I have been posting news of Idle No More on this blog and on Facebook…and I would like to offer an open invitation here:

Do you feel called to participate in an energy circle supporting the work of Idle No More – the protection of the land, the water, the People and all beings, and the preservation of sacred sites – not only in Canada but also around the world?

If this speaks to you, whatever your spiritual tradition, and you would like to join your  intention with others through prayer, meditation, energy work, drumming, or ceremony at a set time every week, please add your voice in the Comments below:

  • your name
  • the day of the week that would work best for you
  • the way in which you would like to participate, and if you’re willing to connect with others locally to do so
  • your general location (if you’re willing to connect with others locally)

There are many prophecies that address this time in human history…but the one that speaks to me most just now is this, from the Anishnabe tradition:

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Welcome to the Real World


I knew of a physicist at the University of Chicago who was rather crazy, like some scientists, and the idea of the insolidity, the instability of the physical world, impressed him so much that he used to go around in enormous padded slippers for fear he should fall through the floor.

— Alan Watts, Nothingness

Most people would laugh at such a scientist. But as new science steadily addresses realities far beyond the reach of our so-called “common” sense –  I find myself wondering about the craziness of those padded slippers.

After all, what would you do if the theoretical science that formed the framework for your world view suddenly turned out to be visibly, tangibly verified by your everyday sensory experience? If, for example, instead of seeing a floor,  you saw a million swirling points of energy?

I suspect you might be just a little….well, freaked out.

Indigenous cultures have taught such concepts for millennia – for example, that we are all energy beings, and that we are all connected – but despite popular movies like What the Bleep and corroborating data from institutes such as HeartMath Research Center, modern society has a great deal of difficulty accepting the empirical reality of such concepts.

We’re deeply conditioned by our secular-materialist culture to believe that we are isolated individuals, that the boundaries of our minds do not extend past our skulls, that a solid floor is a solid floor, that…well, you get the idea. Even if we  subscribe to the belief that we are all connected, and that we can communicate energetically, a core of skepticism  may linger: without direct personal experience, how can we be sure? And we file the quantum concepts away in an agnostic cubbyhole.

For example, I’ve always held the belief that all beings, from stones to trees, from viruses to gorillas, from crickets to skunks, from krill to whales – and oh yes, also including humans – are sentient, thinking and feeling in their own unique way. These beliefs are woven into indigenous faith and practice around the world, in shamanic cultures from the Amazonian rainforest to the Siberian steppes.  And they’re core beliefs that I’ve held, and tried to act upon, since long before the days of my husband’s deep involvement in Traditional Native American practices.

But it wasn’t till this past weekend, when I was out doing homework for the Land Healing apprenticeship*  I’m now pursuing, that I received a firsthand experience of exactly what these beliefs mean in real life, outside the heady realm of cherished certitude. And I’ll admit – I was mind-boggled.

I was walking a path on sacred land near my home, and intentionally stopped to connect sensorially and at heart level with two trees along the way, as I’d been taught in the first class.  Connecting with each tree individually, I received very different impressions of personalities and attitudes toward humankind (or rather, human(un)kind in one case…passing two-leggeds had not been kind to that Standing One).

I responded politely to the input those trees were giving, and then stepped a little further down the path…and had the mind-boggling sense that every tree in the park was aware of me and assessing me – my intent, my attitude, my reasons for connecting and communicating with their two siblings.

Have you ever stood at a podium in front of a thousand psychics, all of them “reading” you? That’s roughly how this felt. I’d read old folk tales of people wandering into a forest and experiencing the spirit of the wood, panicking and fleeing – I’d never been able to understand such a reaction; forests had always felt like sanctuaries for me.

Now, however, I could understand. While the gaze of these uncountable trees was in no way hostile, it was wary, cautious, penetrating, evaluative…and overwhelming. I responded to the unspoken questions – “Who are you and what are you doing here? What do you want with us?” by explaining that I was a beginner trying to learn the right way of being in relationship with nonhuman beings, and asked them to ease up a little – they were scaring me! And they did. The contact broke, the sense of intense attention faded;  I could breathe again, and continued on my way.

I have been sitting with the aftershocks of that experience for the past week. Even though I’d hugged and talked (privately) to trees for years, even though I’d experienced individual trees as sentient beings in class as well as in the two conversations before the encounter with the entire forest, even though I’d had every reason to expect such a response from the forest as a whole,  the experience of trees en masse, as a crowd of individual personalities, was beyond any of my imaginings.

I remembered the response my husband used to give to such experiences: “Welcome to the Real World”....that is,  however much I believed in interbeing, the interconnection and sentience of all things, I couldn’t know this as reality until I stepped past my conditioning to experience it directly.

And the implications were staggering….

Imagine living in a world where energetic communication not just with other humans, but with every other being was not only possible, but also acknowledged fact…not a fantastical delusion to be treated with antipsychotic drugs, but the foundation of uncountable indigenous cultures. We know this to be the truth…and yet this real-world daily communication has been dismissed by this “enlightened” culture as pagan superstition.

Imagine living in a world in which plants, animals and humans consciously coexist in a delicate dance of balance that leaves their environment largely intact for millennia. We know that this also is true – it shows up in one account after another of intact indigenous cultures, even today.

Just sit with those images for a moment. Imagine being a consciously participating element of a living, communicating, mutually supportive environment, gaining wisdom from every other element.

Now picture our world, with humans isolated from all other beings by an assumption of superiority and dominion, exploiting or eradicating those other beings while we debate their level of sentience and dismiss what knowledge cannot be gleaned by instrumentation and metrics.

Is it any wonder that this culture is crazed and soul-starved? And what is there to be done about it?

I have only just completed my second lesson of the apprenticeship, so I am hardly the one to advise wholesale solutions. However, the old childhood rule for crossing the street does come to mind:

Stop.  Stop assuming, stop numbing out, stop objectifying…

Look. Try looking at everything around  you as a sentient being. What would it be like to get the perspective of an oak…a deer grazing in your garden…a polluted river?

Listen.  Next time you’re about to prune a tree, for example, tell the tree politely what you’re planning to do and why, then ask permission. And wait to see what you hear or sense inwardly.

If nothing else, ask – what if? Even if you already believe that we are all related and all beings are sentient in their own unique way, what if these trees, for example, are not simply standing passively in the earth, waiting to serve the purposes of humans, but are observing and participating in their environment in ways we can’t even imagine – and quite capable of communicating their perspective?

You may be familiar with the Gaia theory of a conscious, self-regulating planet. For many of us it ties in with the Earth-centered values we have carried for many years. Now take it a step further: what if that theory describes not only a living system of interacting organic and inorganic elements, but also a living system of interacting individual consciousnesses – consciousnesses with which we can communicate and interact to heal the wounds this world has suffered?

What if?

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* Deepest gratitude for the insights offered in this entry go to Maria Mihok, teacher of the “Sacred Land: Way of the Earth Healer” apprenticeship, and her training through Stephen Buhner, author of Sacred Plant Medicine and The Secret Teachings of Plants (among others), and the Wilderness Awareness School.

Moving Beyond the Untouchable Topic


I shut down another conversation the other day on Facebook. Didn’t intend to do it…but my comment was one of those that are met with embarrassed averted eyes and even more embarrassed silences.

No, I wasn’t sharing the intimate details of my health,  sex life, or bathroom habits. I wasn’t evangelizing or objecting to the exclusive holiday greeting “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Easter” or what have you (though I do object to such exclusivity, early and often).

So what taboo did I break in this supposedly taboo-free society? I responded to a friend’s posting of Elaine Boosler’s comment: “When women are depressed, they eat or go shopping. Men invade another country. It’s a whole different way of thinking.”

I pointed out that even if women hold ourselves aloof from macho male militarism, as long as we are purchasing goods that are kept artificially cheap by American companies’ outsourcing to regions with lower standards of living, extracting fossil fuels, minerals, tropical woods and other resources from impoverished nations that are happy to sell off their virgin ecosystems for desperately needed cash, and employing workers in sweatshops at below-living wages, that we, the nonviolent women, are morally responsible for the militarism that protects the companies that provide these goods.

It’s the truth that nobody wants to acknowledge. It’s so much easier to blame somebody else – Extremists in Congress, the Military,  the unchecked Corporations otherwise known as The Bigs – Big Oil, Big Coal,  Big Agro, Big Pharma, Big Insurance, Big X – Big Y – Big Z  – when the truth is that none of these powerful perceived villains would ever have gotten their power or grown to their cancerous size without our buy-in…our votes (or non-votes)…our taxes…our energy and dietary and health care choices…our “therapeutic” shopping…feeding them.

But what other choice do we have in our society, we ask? Surely we need oil to run our cars, warm our houses, make the uncountable numbers of plastic and resin and synthetic-fabric products that fill our homes and offices and hospitals and …well, you get the idea…our society is based on petroleum products! Surely we need coal to keep our lights on and our appliances and  computers running – how can a few (hundred) mountaintops and valley ecosystems and species compare to the importance of keeping the power on? Surely we need industrial agriculture to feed our families – not to mention the hungry of the world, isn’t Monsanto solving the problem of world hunger with their genetic tinkering? And pharmaceuticals keep our symptoms at bay, and insurance pays for the rising costs of modern healthcare…well, some of them, anyway…

It all comes down to the core belief that we don’t really have any other options. We’re not in a position to argue – we just have to make the best of the godawful, toxic situation we’ve got, with the Bigs getting bigger every day, the planet getting more compromised every day, more ecosystems and species failing every day, while our balances of money – and hope – grow smaller every day.

And the popular solutions? Work! Shop! Eat! Watch television! Go to the movies or the casino!  Pump up that flabby sixpack at the gym or on WII Fit! Invade another country on World of Warcraft!  Ingest narcotic substances! Reality is a nightmare, so let’s go virtual, or numb out completely! And maybe before it all goes down, science will have found a way to get us off this planet to embrace mankind’s Destiny: despoiling other planets, having trashed our Mother Earth.

What a grim scenario…no wonder nobody wants to talk about it! With our eyes myopically fixed on the situation-as-it-is, our energy and our brainpower enmeshed in our jobs, we’re frantically scrabbling to save what we have, make small changes  (sure, we say, I’m eco-conscious! I’ve swapped all my lightbulbs and I’m a real nut about recycling!).  But God forbid we challenge any core certitudes (least of all our own) or consider making deep changes in our lives….

….because we can’t.

But what if we do have other options? Maybe, as theologian Matthew Fox proposes in Original Blessing, this apparent hopelessness, this paralyzing “I can’t-ism” itself stems from a self-negating certitude* that needs challenging: the certitude that we, ourselves, are somehow insufficient, powerless, not capable of self-motivation, self-management, direct connection with the Divine. The certitude that we need others, more powerful,  richer, more authoritative, more degreed, more ecclesiastically accredited, to employ us, direct us and control things for us.  The certitude that we are isolated individuals who cannot change our own lives… much less our society…much less our world. The certitude that we, alone, personally need to control and drive any change we initiate, and that this is a crushing, impossible responsibility.

As Betty Friedan wrote – “Men are not the enemy, but the fellow victims. The real enemy is women’s denigration of themselves.” Or rather, make that humans’ denigration of ourselves….

But what if we can come up with other solutions…or notice the solutions that already exist, right under our noses…solutions that might start with lightbulbs and recycling, sure, but go much, much deeper….? What if we start to believe that our imaginations, our intent, our love – not just our anger and frustration – can move mountains?

What if, when we (metaphorically) pray for rain, we start carrying umbrellas?

Awhile back I attended an afternoon symposium called Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream, and just recently trained as a facilitator. It’s a multimedia, interactive program developed by the Pachamama Alliance, bringing together the best of millenia-old indigenous wisdom with the most visionary concepts of the modern scientific worldview to create an environmentally sustainable, socially just, spiritually fulfilling culture on the Earth.

In one portion of the symposium, we gather together with others in our community to discuss and discover what we are already doing – and can do. We link up our ideas, campaigns, organizations. Most important, we discover that we are not alone…that there is a groundswell of likeminded people stirring at the grassroots level, group after group arising to save one aspect of the planet, or to care for one group of the People…and another…and another…

We watch Paul Hawken’s “Blessed Unrest” speech and realize that millions of such organizations are working today around the earth…as the Achuar people who initiated the Pachamama Alliance say, it is the spirit of the conscious planet taking action to protect herself, and her life forms…inspiring people to do the work that is needed, guiding them along the way to find the right connections and resources…

We. Are. Not. Alone.

I could quote Goethe at this point, about the Universe acting to support us once we commit ourselves…but instead, I’ll close this post with a story.

Last week I went on a two-day retreat with a very wise and unassuming holy woman. I was struggling with my own forms of confusion and “I can’t-ism” – moving from work with one Teacher to seek a stronger connection to the Light within. In our conversations, she urged me to ask for inner guidance, and listen not only with my mind but also with  my heart and body…to sit in “eyeball to eyeball” conversation with Spirit, however I experienced Spirit, and seek the inner voice, not in desperation or begging or presumptive problem-solving, but in silence.

After our conversation, she sent me to seek and follow inner guidance for the day – whether  to sit indoors and read, meditate, and journal, or go outside to walk the grounds and connect with the Earth for grounding and direction.

So I went outside, asking for direction, noting the springs that arose from the ground and cut across the fields toward a wetland at the bottom of the property. Drawn to follow them, I stood at the bank of a small stream, barely a foot wide, and felt led to step over it, onto a small island completely surrounded by small separate streams. Ahead of me, two trees called to my attention. I approached, and between the trees found a pile of rusted metal junk, and felt the inner calling to remove it.

“How?” I asked, and the inner leading directed me back to the house…where my hostess was talking with her neighbor, a farmer who had been working  for years on cleaning up and restoring the wetland. He was delighted to provide a wheelbarrow and practical advice for the job.  My hostess provided work gloves and boots, and thus supplied, I had the pile cleared within a couple of hours, receiving further guidance in every quandary.

The message was clear: ask for guidance and it would come, step by step…if I consciously remained focused and aware. Whether I chose to say it came from God, Goddess, the Earth, the Universe, the Unified Field, what have you, the guidance came. I was not alone – guided by the Divine, the Earth, and helped by the People, and I could create a change. Yes, a small change…but a change, a beginning.

I believe that this is the key to real and lasting change, not on behalf of the planet, but in partnership with Spirit, the People, and the sentient Earth….and that each of us is capable of that partnership.

And I would like to invite your stories of similar experiences, if you are willing. If you feel called to share, please add them in the Comments below, or email them to me at philamena(at)freshgreenimage(dot)com. Together we can create an empowering affirmation of partnership that goes beyond our individual abilities.

Thank you!

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* Matthew Fox, Original Blessing (Santa Fe, NM. Bear & Company, 1983) p. 120