In Native American cultures, The Great Spirit is a deity intertwined with the fabric of the Universe itself on the large scale and yet personally engaged with the web of living things and the world on an earthly scale. I am creating a spiritual practice by borrowing a little from the Buddhists and the practice of mindfulness, but mostly from the strong connection I feel for the worship of Earth as taught us by our first nations. For those who hunger for the connection of a spiritual practice from someone who is learning to braid her own.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Theory and practice

"We can talk about intensity, or we can experience intensity," reasoned our Shaman. We must've looked lost. He went on to explain, but when we persisted in puzzlement he asked us to stand in a circle. He began a series of easy foot moves, accompanied by his wooden whistle. We followed his lead.You could feel the energy rise from our post-lunch malaise. He played and we danced, movements that included a stomping of sorts on the dirt ground. When we finished he asked, "what is more valuable, talking about intensity or experiencing intensity?" The question was rhetorical.

Worshiping Great Spirit and Pachamama requires us to become part of the Earth and Sky, measured by how closely we are in touch with the sacred soil under our feet beneath a canopy of stars. Worshiping our natural world requires us to get up close and personal, dirt under our nails, inhaling the dank smells of life. And death. We are more effective as agents on behalf of the Earth if we are soldiers whose muddy hands work the land. "Knowing" I need to act on her behalf is like me talking about intensity without feeling it. 

It's no accident upon return from our week inhaling the New Mexico desert we found ourselves in mud, digging out blackberry root octopus with a pitchfork and making sure to cover exposed skin before diving for nettles. We are restoring habitat. To return some of the care Pachamama has given us in a lifetime. To support a beaver family with habitat and year-round water supply. To provide a viewpoint for beaver watchers from our deck (including the neighborhood kids who have learned a bunch). To connect myself closely with my source of life, and every other gardener who's worked the ground and breathed the air I breathe.

Spiritual connection is not an arm chair sport. Connection was meant to be made outside, in the arms of our mother, as one of many living creatures large and small, close and far. I know that in a way I haven't in the past. Though I learned about being in the moment from Thomas Moore in Care of the Soul and I knew how to use my senses in the dirt. I just didn't understand or truly feel the connection when I was digging. Maybe it's because I've added song and prayer I can feel the pulse of the Earth when my hands are in the dirt, especially when it's wet.

You might hear me from the street, deep in the green way below, "Pachamama, Pachamama, Pachamama, Madre Tiera" or "Ancient Mother I hear you calling, Ancient Mother I hear your song. Ancient Mother I hear your laughter. Ancient Mother I taste your tears." It feels respectful to sing the melancholy. Being the die hard optimist, though, I can't help follow with songs of joy. Either way, I feel part of the Earth when I dig now. And when I feel part of the Earth, I am connecting to Great Spirit like those before me.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The choice between personal and natural intelligence

A piece of cultivating spiritual practice is learning to exhibit natural intelligence over personal intelligence. Personal intelligence comes from a single source (our truth), a single point of view that at its best carries a limited amount of knowledge and experience. Natural intelligence, on the other hand, is the amalgamation of personal/earth/sky/plant/ancestor wisdom. Our practice can aspire to act in every moment with the right state of mind--representing the wider natural intelligence.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Tapping into the bright light inside

"I invite you to come to your mat," calls teacher Jo from the front of the studio over her garage.The five of us settle in cross-legged on yoga mats facing her. 

"Now find that bright light down deep inside that is loving and forgiving, the place where you are your best self. This is the place we begin our practice," It makes me tear up every time she calls me to sit in this way-- three years or so. This yoga matches my style, relaxed, taught alternately by Jo and Steve. We do yoga to music here, a unique practice in itself.

"Breathe to recognize your connection to all things around you," and set an intention focused on your joy or well-being." Coming back to my mat--after an injury and an odd schedule that made regular attendance exhausting--exceeds my expectations. 

Because my body is out of practice, each move is a welcome scratch to its itch for exercise. Each muscle I release reconstructs my well-being, a small patch at a time. Today yoga is spiritual practice.  In my internal monologue I say thanks for being able to bend and stretch my now perspiring body. I take off my sweatshirt. As the chatter continues I think "this is double coupons--exercise for body to mind and body to spirit!"


On my way home my mind wanders to herbalist Kevin when he told me of his past where he was an admirable yogi, meditator, mindfulness practitioner in his back-to-back classes and study groups. One day he realized that none of it made a difference unless he was able to apply the skills in every action, in every moment.


After lunch, right before the rain, I take my bright spot with me outdoors to work on behalf of Pachamama and Great Spirit. It is part of my reciprocity agreement (give as much as I take, take only as much as I need). With a group of neighbors we are restoring a wetland area behind our house to sustain a family of beavers, and the astounding results of their industriousness--including a resident hummingbird, and visits by such stars as a golden eagle and a flitting band of cedar waxwing. Here I free a small patch of native ferns from a tousle of acrid smelling nettles with gangling roots easily peeled from the dank topsoil. I reconstruct universal well-being, a small patch at a time. Today recreation is spiritual practice. I sing, "I listen to the birds, I hear them sing. I hear them sing. The birds are my sisters, the birds are my brothers. We sing together and we sing to each other . . . " A quiet sky returns song in a myriad of voices, first the clacks of a raven, then a robin and a flicker call back-to-back, followed by a chickadee, then a nervous bunch of bush tits.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

To be open

As I lay in the tent, my husband ready to sleep in the mummy bag alongside, I ran the tapes of our first day back on the desert. Our shaman led us in a bit of review, and nostalgia. We came this time hoping to connect more deeply with Pachamama and Original Wisdom. For me an intention to be open. When I chuckled my sweetie asked why. "I want to be open," I said . . .  "if I only knew what that means," I laughed out loud. He chuckled at first and then joined me in the belly laugh that encircled our rain fly and evaporated upward into the starry desert sky.

Trying to Open
beyond the reach of the brain

Finger’s taste of Woolly Bear
without insistence on a name . . .
more than fuzz, less than bristle,
delicate costumed ball.

Nostrils filled with basil or sage,
annexed as if by magic
to a distant time and place.

Taste buds depolarized by dusty rock, 
as if saliva is the only remedy 
for such indulgence.

Ears lulled in the moment
where soundlessness 
meets the crashing chorus of crows.

Eyes struck by the glowing edge of a
v-shaped gaggle of geese
synchronized with the appearance of the sun.

A knowing the compost is tired of onions,

longs for peaches and pears.